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Annual Poosey Fall Driving Tour
By Bill Wehrle C-T Outdoor Editor
October 20, 2015

CAPTION: A large number of the 1,454 visitors to the 29th annual Poosey Driving Tour last Sunday drove SUVs and pickup trucks, but some went through the area on horseback or in wagons or buggies powered by the original horse (or mule) power.


C-T Photo by Bill Wehrle

The weather was beautiful, fall colors were gorgeous, the Royals weren't playing and folks just wanted to get outside. All of these factors combined to bring the largest crowd in the 29-year history of the annual Poosey Conservation Area Fall Driving Tour to the almost 6,000-acre natural area northwest of Chillicothe to drive through, relax, and enjoy nature's bounty. The final count was 1,454, over 200 more visitors than in the previous record year. "Despite the largest-ever crowd, no one had to sit in line for any length of time and the entire noon to 4 o'clock tour went smoothly," said Phil Sneed, MDC resource forester and area manager. "We had visitors from as far away as Oregon who came out to enjoy Missouri's wonderful fall colors and learn a little bit about wildlife habitat management. My thanks to all my staff people and the courteous visitors that made the entire afternoon tour go smoothly." Lots of people chose horses and mules over motorized transportation for the tour. Next year will be the Poosey's 30th Driving Tour, and MDC will be planning something special, Sneed said.

The Poosey Conservation Area's annual "drive through" tour of a Conservation Area may be the longest running such event in Missouri. It was organized and offered 29 years ago to see if citizens would be interested in being able to see "up close and personal" the wildlife management techniques used by MDC in areas not normally accessible by the public in vehicles. Interest and the number of visitors annually has continued to grow and other Conservation Areas are now offering similar activities. This event helps the Department achieve its stated Mission "To protect and manage the forest, fish and wildlife resources of the state to facilitate and provide opportunity for all citizens to use, enjoy, and learn about these resources".

The 29th annual tour began at the Pike's Lake entrance on the northeast corner of the Poosey Conservation Area and proceeded on several miles of interior roads used by MDC personnel to work on the area and not usually open to driving by the public. Each vehicle was given a "Tour Guide" at the beginning that contained an explanation of wildlife habitat management practices at 13 enumerated stops along the way. Starting with the fishery at Pike's Lake, these included other subjects such as fallen trees use as wildlife homes, old field renovation, invasive plant species, farming for wildlife, prairie management, a walnut plantation, streams and bottomland forests, oak-hickory forests, glades, and ending at the legendary Panther Den Hollow. A "demo" area just past midway was staffed with MDC and Quail Forever personnel, offering explanations of wildlife management practices, particularly regarding quail, and including historical information about the area known for over a hundred years as "Poosey", a "woodworking for wildlife" exhibit, and even archery instruction for youngsters using 3-D targets. Since a lot of visitors were using horse and mule horsepower to tour the area, this stop gave the horses and mules a chance to catch their breath from carrying riders and pulling wagons and buggies up some really steep hills on the first half of the tour. As always, the last tour stop at Panther's Den was probably the most popular one, as visitors gathered to stare up at the big limestone bluff towering above the creek to look for the cave entrance where legend states that a panther was tracked down and killed after it had killed an early settler's child. The limestone bluff face contains many dates and names carved into it, going back nearly a hundred years. Years ago this area was a popular location for weddings, family and community gatherings and picnics. It's not hard to imagine how this big bluff and the legendary cave attracted folks to this area in the early days. MDC's annual driving tour offering a glimpse of this wild area as it may have been so many years ago and demonstrating the modern wildlife habitat management practices that are making it attractive to a wide variety of critters, gives interested citizens an opportunity to use modern transportation to access areas that would be difficult to get to and take a long time if they had to walk.

Next year's 30th anniversary of the Poosey Driving Tour should prove even more interesting, so put the 3rd Sunday in October on your "to do" calendar.

Hiking Tour at Poosey Set for This Sunday
By Brittany Tutt
October 13, 2015

The Poosey Conservation Area comprises about 6,000 acres of land just outside of Chillicothe near Jamesport, Missouri. It is not only a great area for hunters, fishers and campers but for bikers, hikers, joggers and anyone who enjoys the outdoors as well. Some might not know that Poosey now has about 11 miles of trail on the west side of Poosey's lake for visitors to enjoy, thanks to the local Green Hills Trail Association. Doug Long, an active outdoorsman and retired Chillicothe wrestling coach / Chillicothe Middle School assistant principal, has played a big part in the Green Hills Trail Association since its inception in 1999. Because of Long's trail experience and passion for trails, he has contributed a great deal of leadership to this 501c3 non-profit organization. The association consists of about 20 volunteers who are dedicated to creating and maintaining area trails (Poosey trails in particular). In 1999, the Conservation Department allowed the Green Hills Trail Association to create a one-mile dirt, primitive trail from the Indian Creek Community Lake dam to the trail head of county road 510. Once the trail association's members proved they were dedicated to maintaining the one-mile of trail, permission was granted by the Conservation Department to add more trail. According to Long, the association added trails in seven phases and would build one or two miles of trail in each phase. "We created the trails little by little," Long said. "We would build and maintain, build and maintain..." The association volunteers, who are mostly mountain bikers, have a passion for creating and maintaining trails for the public, but they have an even bigger passion for promoting outdoor fitness and an active lifestyle. "We call it fun fitness," Long said. "It's very different from exercising in a gym."

On these Poosey trails, hikers, bikers and joggers are surrounded by scenic beauty. There are steep ravines, creeks, ponds, large rocks, a variety of vegetation and a variety of wildlife. Being surrounded by all the natural beauty the trails offer could make one forget he or she is even exercising. Not only are these trails good for one physically, they are good for one's soul as well. Taking in the sites and breathing in the fresh air will allow one to leave the trails feeling relaxed and refreshed. "No matter how bad the world is, you can come out here and escape it. There are no deadlines here," Long said. The 11 miles of primitive, rugged trail consists of a main linear trail with stacked loop options coming off the main trail. A great thing about the "loop" options is one will never see the same thing twice. Each loop is a different distance and has different scenery to offer. For example, the Bobcat Loop is a mile and a half long and the Bottom Hollow Loop is five miles long and features a large pond. However, the linear trail does not feel like a straight line and the loops do not feel like a circles when one is hiking them. There are many twists and turns and ups and downs along the way. There are also rock bridges when crossing a ditch or creek. There is also a lot of variation from loop to loop and even within the same loop. When one is walking or biking through the lower parts of the trails surrounded by trees there is hardly any wind, but that changes when you are out of the timber and by the large pond. The trails are not only created with positive control points (areas of the trail that are appealing to one's eye) in mind, the trails are based around where water will fall when is rains. The trails have to be organized in a way that they won't be destroyed when it rains. "We build trails right. We make them sustainable. It takes a lot physically to build these trails but it also requires a lot of thinking and planning as well," Long said. Pictured: Doug Long with his "girls" hiking the Green Hills Trail at Poosey. C-T Photo / Brittany Tutt

Because the association volunteers consist of about 99 percent avid mountain bikers, according to Long, most pitch in with maintaining the trails to "earn their dirt." This is a phrase volunteers use frequently. They enjoy the trails so much that they feel they should help maintain them, hence the phrase. Each volunteer has a certain part of the trail they are responsible for maintaining. The size of each volunteer's area varies greatly and each volunteer works on his or her own schedule. Annually, the association contributes about 500 hours of volunteer work. Long is retired and is out on the trails almost every day anyway, so he has the largest area to maintain. "Plus, I'm picky," Long said in reference to why he has the largest area to maintain.

Because of Long's preciseness and the hard work of the all the volunteers, the association won the "Outstanding Partner of the Year" award from the Missouri Department of Conservation last year. Nominees were submitted from all the Missouri Department of Conservation regions with one statewide winner. The association hopes to one day have a trail that loops all the way around Poosey's lake. The trails are currently on the west side of the area, but Long said some of the best scenery is on the east side. "I'd like to build sustainable trails all the way around the lake before I'm planted," Long said. Long also said these trails are a wonderful resource for the community and he hopes more people "take advantage of what they have so close home." Sunday will be the perfect time for people to enjoy the trails because the association is hosting the third annual Hiking Tour at Poosey from noon until 4 p.m. The tour will start in parking lot number 20. There will be maps, signage, bottled water and snacks for hikers. Different trail options and guided tours will also be offered to those who attend. Long cautions those who attend to wear appropriate attire.

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