By Sue Loudon
Winter is fast approaching, so it’s time to enjoy the remaining days of good weather to be outdoors or maybe take a scenic drive to enjoy some fall colors. Here are a few suggestions.
Unity Village, just north of Lee’s Summit, has a 2.4-mile nature trail that was a gift from Carl Chinnery, a longtime friend of Unity. The Rotary Club of Lee’s Summit added features such as signs, mile markers, benches and workout stations. The trail is open from dawn to dusk, and dogs on leashes are allowed. Maps are available at the trailhead and in the nearby coffee shop and bookstore. There’s a natural rock arch a short distance from the main trail that’s worth a visit. Legend has it that outlaw Jesse James and his younger brothers used it as a hideout. Also near the trailhead is the Chapel in the Woods, a place for outdoor weddings. Wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels and foxes are often sighted.
The Rock Island Trail runs 13.5 miles from the Truman Sports Complex through Lee’s Summit. Jackson County has been awarded federal funding for the next 1.5-mile section which will connect to Hamlin Road. Planning also is underway to connect the southern end of the trail to a spur of the Katy Trail. The Rock Island Trail is mainly for bikers, but hikers also enjoy it, especially near the various entrances. The centerpiece is the Vale Tunnel, a 441-foot-long railway tunnel built in 1903 near the trailhead at 98th Street off Bannister Road.
If you want spectacular views as well as a walking or biking trail, drive a little less than two hours east on I-70 to Exit BB and Rocheport, Mo. Slow down or you’ll miss the turnoff just past the bridge to what seems like nowhere! On the edge of Rocheport, Les Bourgeois Vineyards and Winery offers a patio view of the Missouri River. Food, wine and snacks are available Thursday-Sunday; check their website for hours.
At Rocheport you can access the Katy Trail, a walking and bicycle path built along a 240-mile stretch of the abandoned Missouri-Kansas-Texas railway. Much of the path runs along the Missouri River through trees and farm fields, sometimes framed by river bluffs. You can rent bikes in Rocheport, a river town founded in 1825 as a trading post for settlers and indigenous people. A French word meaning rocky port, Rocheport was a stopping point for Lewis and Clark on their way west. The town features antique stores, bed and breakfasts and the Katy Trailhead Depot, which offers more about the history of the area.