Shaw Nature Reserve sits 25 minutes outside of St. Louis in Gray Summit. This idyllic plot of land, operated by the Missouri Botanical Garden, constitutes an easy, nearby getaway. Even on a weekend afternoon, you can ramble along any of the reserve's fourteen miles of trails and rarely (if ever) come across another person. No car alarms, no emergency sirens unspooling like endless crimson ribbon -- just blessed silence, the sentinel of the trees and the tall prairie grasses and wildflowers. Away from the billboards and the sprawl, the Midwest is a beautiful place, friend. A stroll through Shaw Nature Reserve is proof enough of that. Take Interstate 44 to exit 253, then follow the signs.

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