Archive for the ‘Hiking and camping’ Category

It finally stopped raining today.    It’s a darned good thing too; the grass was starting to look more like a hay field than a lawn.   We were really starting to think that we might have to bale it if the weather didn’t cooperate and give us a few dry days.

Not that we are complaining.   After last year’s droughty conditions, all water from the sky is welcome.   But a little moderation once in a while isn’t a bad thing.

In spite of the fact that the weather guessers were SURE that it was going to be a sunny day, the early morning was grey and cloudy.   I decided to go to Bennet Spring and  enjoy the Savanna Ridge Trail anyway.   I figured I would be largely undisturbed since it HAS been raining and all the creeks are up.   I contemplated taking my rubber boots with me, but I didn’t want to carry them along and I knew I didn’t wish to walk three miles in them either.   I thought maybe the water at the slab that is at the beginning of the trail might have gone down during the night.

Not so much:


I had prepared myself by donning my spectacular high tech army socks, so I waded across and proceeded on my way.   Although my trainers were very wet, my feet became more or less dry in short order due to the wicking action of the above mentioned socks, which showed me quickly that they were well worth the $10 a pair we forked over for them.   I completed my walk with no chafing or discomfort, thanks to these items of apparel.

The path was beautiful.   It wound up the hill, spangled with buttercups.


Later on, higher up the ridge, the gold spangles changed to blue, almost as if the sky had broken and fallen to the path.   The Bird-foot violets (some folks call them Johnny jump-ups)(Viola pedata) were blooming profusely.




Off to the side of the path a fern was unfolding its fronds.


Behind it, the Rue Anemonne (Anemonella thalictroides) was blooming profusely.   It made me think of flecks of foam on the sea of last year’s leaves as they broke against the tree trunks.


As I rounded the top of the ridge, I could hear the creek chuckling along merrily.    Most of last summer its voice was silent, but today it was vociferous behind the fog of redbud blossoms obscuring it from view.


It didn’t take us long to descend below the pink fog and discover just how full the little creek was.   No wonder it was talking so loudly.  My favorite waterfall was actually a waterfall rather than a trickle of drops.


Nearby Mother Nature’s graffiti artist had painted all over a log.


I discovered another shy spring beauty (Uvularia sessifolia) hiding below the waterfall.   This is called “Wild oats”, which is a misnomer indeed, as it is not even a member of the grass family but a lily instead.   The other thing people call it is “Sessile bellwort”.


At this point, my camera started telling me that its batteries were getting low.   Hoping that letting it rest would allow it to find some more juice in the depths of the batteries, I turned it off and continued on my way.

The clouds burned off as we walked and it turned into a spectacular day, all blue sky and bird song.  The whitened skull of one of last year’s deer casualties enticed me from the path, and led me to a woodland pond that included frogs in its decor.   We saw a live deer moving through the woods; I was hoping for a new fawn but was disappointed.

As we continued on our way over the ridge I heard a sound in the valley below that I was so rare I almost couldn’t believe it.   The wash of dry gravel bars where I find so many wonderful rocks while walking along them was full of water.


Above the creek bank a lone dogwood bloomed.


I was very glad to see it.  Dogwood blossoms are few and far between this spring.   The heat of the summer and the long dry fall caused most of the dogwood trees in our area to drop their flower buds in order to conserve their strength.   The only ones I saw today were in the cooler north-facing hollows where the water runs when it rains.  Usually they make drifts of white all through the woods, a magical thing that is nearly impossible to capture in a photograph.

I turned back to retrace my steps, rejoicing in the creek valley floor.  It was covered with millions of chickweed flowers forming a lacy back drop for the red trillium, yellow violets, Jacob’s ladder and other woodland flowers.   I refrained from turning the camera on in case something really cool showed up.

Of course it did, and I was glad I had saved the batteries.  An amazing blue flower caught my eye, begging to be photographed.   It was even bluer than the Bird’s-foot violets that had so captivated me earlier.   I had no idea what it was, but I made its portrait anyway,


When I got home, I looked it up.   This is “Blue-eyed Mary” (Collinsia verna), a member of the snapdragon family.  She is an annual flower, and I suppose that accounts for the fact that I had never met her before.   I know where she is blooming, and I intend to go back there and collect a few seeds in a few weeks.   I think this would make a splendid addition to the gardens.

On the way back home I discovered goldenseal (Hydrastis candensis) blooming in the creek bottom.


By this time, the newly holy church goers had made it out into the woods, and I started meeting groups of people as I neared the car park.   None of them surprised me at all, as I could hear them long before I could see them.   I was glad I had started off early, so I got to see deer and hear many birds, which tend to shut up and become very quiet when the chatting hordes of hikers take over my usual haunts.   This is why I usually go out in the middle of the week, when they are all at work.

But I was glad the promise of clouds burning off had enticed me out early to enjoy the beauty around me undisturbed.

Hope you enjoyed the tour….

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I took my camera along yesterday while I was walking Ruby.

She had a grand time.   The other day when we were walking, we were playing the stick game when a group of runners approached.   So I gathered her up and put her on her leash, an action which instantly causes her to drop whatever stick she is carrying at the time.   I’m not sure why she can’t carry a stick and be on the leash at the same time, but there it is.   Anyway, yesterday as we were transiting the spot where we had become leashed and de-sticked, she found the old stick right where she left it.

Now, that is a very happy dog.

The turkeys and deer are going to be happy this winter and fall too.  The acorn crop is exceptional this year.

Last year there were hardly any, and things got pretty tight during the cold part of the year.   But I figure next spring we will have some fat and happy turkeys.

The tall prairie grasses are in bloom right now.   This is a Sorgastrum and I am enthralled with how colorful the flower bracts and anthers are.

The poke weed is colorful too.

Here’s another thing that enthralled me while I was walking.   This is an oak leaf, which is turning color.   But some small caterpillar came along and munched the soft part of the leaf leaving the veining behind, and I just loved how this looked with the super macro lens.

I came across a group of Monarch butterflies taking a nectar break during their migration.   I used my zoom function to get some shots of them from about ten feet away.   If you try to get much closer than that, they leave the area, paranoid souls that they are.

It wasn’t until I got home and uploaded the camera to the computer that I discovered that there was another pollinator enjoying the thistles right along with the butterflies.   Just happened to catch the sweat bee along with the butterfly, and I was so far away I didn’t even know it was in the area!

Serendipity is a wonderful thing!


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“Alas, poor Yorick!   I knew him, Horatio:  a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times…”   (Shakespeare, Hamlet Act V)

This is my river hat.   It is also my travel hat, my gardening hat, my mowing the lawn hat, my walking the dog hat, my bringing in the cattle hat.

It is The Ultimate Hat, Original from Ultimate Hat , Inc.  I has the distinction of being made in the U.S.A. of U.S.A. materials.   Not a lot of products can claim that nowadays, and not a lot of products can exemplify such high quality nowadays either.  I can testify to the quality, the fact that this hat has gone so many places and done so many things with me for so many years is evidence of that.

It was a gift from my brother, who occasionally graces these pages in the comments section under the pseudonym “Connecticut Yankee.”  He gave it to me lo these many years ago, shortly after we moved to Missouri when it became evident that I did not have a proper river hat.  I am not postive, but I believe the year was 1993.

Today, I decided that I needed to replace it.   Goodness knows why — unless it is the extra ventilation provided by the large rents which recently appeared during the ritual washing of the hat, something that happens on the order of about every 3 years (or so).   Apparently, the sweat and dirt were what was holding the thing together, and removal of the same amounted to the coup de grace for the fabric’s integrity.  I’ve already had to replace the chin strap twice.

Here’s something cool:   This hat model has remained unchanged during the nearly 20 years since its original purchase.  Not only that, but it is only $12 more costly than it was when I purchased one exactly like it for my son in 1996.   I guess the company follows the maxim “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I am very sad to replace this item.   Aside from the fact that it was a gift of love from my brother, it has accompanied me on many an adventure.   It has been to Costa Rica, Mexico, Alaska, Germany, and Spain in addition to accompanying me on my travels all over the continental United States.   Rarely do I go anywhere without that hat — it is light, it packs flat, it floats, it shelters my nose and ears from the sun.  It has a classic style that fits in in any culture, and almost any venue.  (I don’t suppose it would be suitable for Ascot, although I might choose to wear it anyway if I was ever inclined to attend that event, just out of pure cussedness.)

God knows how, but I managed to forget to pack it  when we made our pilgrimage to the Far East in 2000-2001, so it did not get to visit Singapore, Malaysia, or Australia.   This omission did provide me with the rationale to purchase a souvenir hat from the ship we were on so that I wouldn’t get fried when we visited the various national parks we enjoyed while outside of Darwin.   That hat did keep the sun off my nose and ears, but it didn’t endear itself to me otherwise.

Once my hat almost drowned me.   The extremely secure chin and occiput straps that keep it firmly on your head in high winds (they really DO keep it on your head) also proved to be quite secure in the river current.  You see, I capsized my canoe in the middle of a riffle and found myself being dragged down the river head first by the force of the river current against the brim of the hat.   The angle was such that the hat kept pulling my head under the water as I bumped downriver through the rocks, and as I gulped my second unwanted drink of white water I finally had the presence of mind to flip the chin strap off my chin.   The hat immediately came off and floated merrily away, unaware of my adrenaline frenzy from the close call I had sustained.   I retrieved it from the eddy below the rapid, and after that I usually didn’t secure both straps!   Not when I was floating, anyway.

One of the most memorable adventures it accompanied me on was when my friend Sharon and I went on a rafting trip (along with her almost daughter-in-law Terri) down the Colorado River from Phantom Ranch to Whitman Wash.

I took this shot of penstemon on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon while wearing the hat.

I had a wonderful time  and took lots of other pictures on that trip, but that one is one of my favorites, and will have to stand in for all the others.

I have worn my Ultimate Hat on countless float trips.

I was floating on the Niangua when I took this shot of a green heron; the hat was with me then too.

The replacement has been ordered, and I look forward to having many fine adventures and to capturing more wonderful images with it on my head.

I haven’t told the old one yet.   I just don’t know how to tell it that it has been made redundant.

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I walked the labyrinth last night, as I said I was going to.   As is my usual custom when there is no snow on the ground, I walked it barefoot.   It was pretty chilly last night, and the dew had fallen, so my feet got very cold.

This reminded me of an occasion oh so many years ago when I was 9 years old and Daddy took some of us kids (maybe all of us, I don’t really remember) on a hike up to Ouzel Falls in the Rocky Mountain National Park.   It was late May.  Now, where we lived, which was 8414 feet in elevation, pretty much all the snow had melted.   However, up at the trail head to Ouzel Falls it was quite a bit higher, and not all the snow had melted.  The farther we walked up the trail  the deeper the snow got, until we were trudging through aged, soft, wet drifts that soaked my boots.   It was tough going in the snow, which at times was almost to my knees.   I was having a hard time making way, getting very tired.  Finally Daddy told me to walk in his footprints so I would not be breaking through the snow.   He shortened his adult stride to make this feat possible, and we continued on for a while.

But finally, my feet got so cold I just couldn’t stand it.   I was not a whiny child, but my cold feet was making it very hard for me to function.   Finally I broke down in tears because  of the pain of my cold feet.   Right nearby there was an outcrop of rock that was all sunny, and it was also not snow covered.   Dad helped me up onto the rocks and made me take my wet boots off, plus my wet socks.   Miraculously, in his pack along with lunch and God knows what other emergency supplies, he had a pair of dry boot socks.  He held my feet in his warm hands until they started to get some circulation back, spread my wet socks out on the rock to dry, and had me put on his dry socks.   They were very large on my little girl feet.   Then he decided that we had probably proceeded far enough, that we would not try to hike all the way to the falls, and we had lunch.   After lunch, my socks were nowhere near dry, but we managed to get my boots on over the extremely large socks, walked back down the mountain and went home.

This memory was much in my mind as I walked the labyrinth because right before I went out there I got a call from my mother.   His heart arrhythmia had overcome the drugs the cardiologist had prescribed, and he had another bad episode in the morning yesterday.  They traveled to their doctor’s office for a consultation.  This time his heart performed its “dance” right in the doctor’s office as he was hooked up to a monitor, where my mother reported that for a short time his heart rate was 8 beats per minute.

That’s right.   Eight.   The doctor called for an ambulance right that minute.

So, while I was walking with cold feet and remembering that other cold footed walk so many years ago with my young and strong daddy, my 85 year old, not so strong any longer father was lying in the hospital.   He is still there.   He’s supposed to get to come home on Friday.

Maybe you’ll get some fossils tomorrow.

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It was a warmish day today, mid-40s and overcast with no wind.   Most of the recent precipitation has now melted although the deeper part of the soil has not so we have some very interesting mud going on, which we are not complaining about because we promised not to while we were in the deep freeze.

The playoffs are going on, as those of you who follow football may be aware.  We are the proud possessors of a DVR, so we don’t have to watch programs when they are on, and then when we do feel like watching them we can zip through all the boring commercials flogging bad beer, fast food and carcinogenic cosmetics.  Anyway, since we have this capability, we decided to enjoy the great outdoors and loaded up our dog and hauled her out to my parents’ farm and went for a walk.

We walked down through the new savannah prairie that is being established on a ridge near my mother’s house (this area under development is 57 acres).   From there we descended into Zay Hollow (which properly is pronounced “holler”).  If you care to see where we were, go to 37°51’59.51″N by 92°50’58.01″W on Google Earth and right there is what we call the Moats’ Place (because it was bought from the Moats’).  In the satellite imagery, you can just see the blue roof of my mother’s house just north of  the bit square field.  Directly south of there you will see a large J-shaped field which we call the Long Field, and just to the east of all that is a depression which is Zay Hollow.

This is the tank in Zay Hollow.

Still has a little ice on it.   We climbed the nose of the ridge at the end of the Long Field and walked back to my mother’s house.   This was taken right at the curve in that long field.

When we got up to the top of that rise where Ruby was in the above shot, we discovered that there were deer grazing.

They disapproved of our presence and took off for the tall and uncut.   You can’t see her, but Ruby is between us and them down in the little dip, running for all she is worth.

Did you notice the man in the photo up there seemed to be carrying something?   He was.   While we were climbing up out of Zay Hollow to the Long Field, we found a quite outstanding rock that demanded to be transported to my garden.

It looks like it’s been there forever, doesn’t it?   He only had to carry it about a mile.

While on our adventure, we discovered a wealth of wonderful fungi and mosses growing down in the creek bottom.

I will just state right here and now that the only thing I have done to the following pictures is crop them.   There has been no playing with light, exposure, saturation or tint.    I am saying this because I find the amazing variety of colors in these shelf fungi to be positively unbelievable myself.

There were some wonderful lichens and mosses too.

Having enjoyed tea with my folks after we got in from the woods, we returned home to enjoy the football game, well exercised and aired out.

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