Our first stop outside of Kansas was a disappointment. Katy Roundhouse Campground and RV park in New Franklin, Missouri is a private accommodation on the Katy Trail, which is part of the Missouri State Park system.
While we highly recommend the Katy Trail for hiking and biking (we've hiked on it before), we don't recommend this private campground. It's better than nothing for people on the trail who just need a place to pitch tent for the night, and aren't particular about the condition of the bathhouses. Half the sites were overgrown and poorly identified, and rampant poison ivy in the open space made it off-limits for play. In our experience it was overpriced and under-maintained. We've had much better luck with state parks in Missouri and surrounding states. We didn't stay long in the morning.
Karl, Leo, and I took off for the St. Louis Zoo, and Joe and Billy, at their slower pace with the trailer, headed straight for our next campground.
St. Louis Zoo is a gem. There's no entry fee, which makes it worthwhile even for a short break from driving. Parking is steep -- $11 -- but the zoo is located at the end of a road that winds through a public park, and there is free parking along that road. Visiting on a cloudy afternoon, we found nearby parking and had perfect zoo weather.
We were treated to a much larger version of the snake-eats-a-rodent show, as a Dumeril's boa was just starting on a huge white rat when we arrived in the reptile house. We wandered about one-third of the zoo, then got back on the road with time to get to our destination before dark.
Joe found Washington County Conservation Area in Nashville, Illinois by centering the iPhone Google maps search window in his target area and typing "camping" (sometimes there's nowhere else to start). He and Billy were ahead of us with the rig and had started a campfire by the time we got there.
As we pulled into the campground, Leo exclaimed "Oh, it's beautiful!" Our loop was well-shaded with oak and hickory, and had a groundcover of grass, moss, leaf mould and wood chips. Our two days and nights here were rather drippy and damp, but the place didn't run with mud as some campgrounds do. There was plenty of fallen wood not too distant from the campsites, and the menfolk made firewood with the pruning saw.
For other entertainment there was a nice playground, as well as fishing a short walk through the woods at the swampy little lake. The kids caught and threw back a few too-small bass, and watched strange "footprints" move across the water. They later reported that they saw a muskrat jump into the water, so perhaps that was the source of the surface ripples.
The general state of things was quiet, as campgrounds in the woods often are. There were no highway or airplane noises, and any little noise made by campers sort of echoed around the relatively cleared space of the loop. Cozy. We heard great nature noises here, too … red-bellied woodpeckers, plenty of other birds, and some unidentified bigger animals.
Nashville is a nice town, pop. 3200, with a little Kroger grocery, a worn but serviceable laundromat (we hear there is another in town), and the lovely little Coffeehouse Cafe, where we had coffee and nosh while the laundry finished.
We'll visit Nashville and Washington County Conservation Area again.
Next post … things start breaking on the way.