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Published on: Sep. 20, 2011

I have a beautiful drive to work. Every morning, tree-covered hills usher me off to my day. Every evening, they welcome me home. Throughout the month of September, the lush green of the trees begins to dull, as if the hills themselves are taking a deep breath for their final song of the year. Then, ever so slowly, splashes of color begin to appear.

I eagerly wait for those first hints of yellows, oranges and reds. When they arrive, I know it’s time to welcome another beautiful Missouri autumn. With a little help from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website, I was able to follow the appearance of color across the entire state.

My husband and I are always eager to find last-minute outdoor adventures for our family before our three boys are cooped up for the winter. This year, the month of October yielded three new adventures for us.

Powder Valley

I’ve always had a soft spot for Powder Valley Nature Center in St. Louis—it offered me hours of free entertainment for my boys when they were little. At the time, we lived close by and I could load the two youngest in a double stroller and easily walk their disabled- and stroller-accessible trails. We hadn’t been there in a couple of years, though; so it was a chance to rediscover a long-lost friend. We set aside an entire morning to explore, although we could have easily spent an entire day.

As we entered the nature center, my boys made a beeline for the copperhead, rattlesnake and alligator snapping turtles on display. While the younger boys, Blake and Chris, were giving their father a puppet show, my eldest son, Dylan, was checking out the gift shop. He used his allowance and a few dollars he sweet-talked out of my wallet to buy notebooks for himself and Blake. For Christopher, he bought some small plastic bugs.

Blake and Dylan used their new notebooks to make leaf rubbings from metal templates in the center. Knowing we only had one morning and wanting to hike at least one trail, dam and I tried to strike a balance between letting the boys explore their fill while still keeping the expedition moving along.

Every exhibit fascinated them: peeking inside trees to see what lives there, seeing the inner-workings of a beehive, running their own park through a simulation game, feeling pelts of their favorite animals,

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