We went for a hike a couple of weekends ago. The weather was perfect, sunny yet cool. We picked the perfect trail for the last great day of 2005 – the Al Foster trail which is actually cooperative endeavor with the city of Wildwood, the Department of Natural Resources, St. Louis County Parks, the Meramec River Recreation Association and The Great Rivers Greenway District. The end in Glencoe intertwines with the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific Railroad which is a miniature steam railroad that runs every Sunday afternoon May through October. The trial follows an abandoned railroad line along the Meramec river and thus is blessed with two great attributes – it’s very flat, and its very scenic.

Tree on bluff

OK, as you can see from the photo, the flatness of the trail doesn’t mean the scenery is flat.
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The sky was a gorgeous blue, the shade of blue it gets when the humidity is low, a shade you don’t see too often in warm weather around here. The leaves hadn’t started turning color yet. We were enveloped in green as we walked along, the miniature railroad to one side, the Meramec on the other. The trees arched overhead so that you walked in a tunnel.

Shaded Trail
But you weren’t enclosed everywhere. A stretch of the trail runs through an open glade – the site of an old gravel operation on the river. The ground isn’t dirt here, it’s pea gravel. We were actually hot while walking under the open sun.

Open glade
When we came to the end of the railroad, we made an inadvertent discovery: The road less traveled. Yep, it exists, and you can find it just off the Al Foster trail. But you better hurry, before it gets developed. It was pure luck we found it, because we decided to follow the train tracks through their turnaround Y instead of the path. When we came to the end of the track, we could see a trail leading off away from the main trail, and it looked like we’d have to jump a ditch to make it back to the main trail. So we decided to follow the other trail, the road less travelled and it made all the difference. We wondered at the presence of a paved road out here, but since the crown was leaf free, we figured we weren’t the only people who had been on it recently. It followed a little creek that meandered its way to the Meramec.

The road less traveled
After the hike I wondered at the road so much that I did a little research. It turns out we had come across the legendary Lawler Ford Road, AKA Zombie Lane. John Fischer, who oddly enough we met biking on the trail, my source for all things in this part of St. Louis County, knew of the road and told me that when he was a teenager the road was where you took your girlfriend to scare her so that she would – hey, this is a family blog!

Despite the name, or perhaps because it was daylight, we came across no zombies. Just more scenery, this time a forested valley.

Forested valley

So I took advantage of tools not available even a year ago, and so you can check out a map and satellite view of the road. Way cool. But the point is to notice how the road, which starts out on the map as Lawler Ford, and then changes to Quail Hollow Estates, is just a line on the satellite map, unlike the other roads, and has no houses along it, also unlike the other roads. I don’t know when it was abandoned and closed off, but we hiked up to the point where we made another discovery: The end of the road. Two giant discoveries in one afternoon! It seems that sime time in the past the creek eroded the road, and must have washed out the bridge that used to cross it, leaving nothing behind but a concrete wall in the middle of the creek. Ok, we went a little past that point, but since it was obvious that we had long left the trail we wanted to be on, and had no idea where the creek led, we turned around and finished the Al Foster Trail. I leave you with a picture of the End of the Road Less Travelled. Gape in wonder.

End of the Road Less Traveled
That’s all folks!