Cave Finding

Cave Finding

Posted on Jan 13, 2018 in Day / Weekend Trips, Places I Go | 0 comments

One of the best things about exploring Missouri is finding and exploring caves. It’s harder than it used to be because most of the caves on public land have been gated, due to vandalism and/or bat disease prevention. But not all of them. Not long ago I was looking at some old USGS topo maps and noticed a cave marked in an area where I like to hike. Naturally me and the girls tried to find it the next time we were there but we had no luck. Recently I made another, more intensive effort. I like hiking in this area because it contains a variety of scenery.  The tops of the ridges often have pine, which transitions to various hardwoods and cedars on the rocky slopes, with sycamore and walnut commonly found along the (mostly) dry stream beds at the bottom.     After hiking across the top of the ridge, the trail started doing down.  There are several areas that are extremely rocky. These areas generally only grow pine and cedar.     The area also has several glades. I like glades because they give a nice open view of the surrounding landscape.   I enjoyed this area where the hill side was covered with these large rocks.   Once I reached the bottom, I started hiking towards the west.  Thinking I was familiar with the area I hiked for awhile without looking at my GPS map.  After awhile I started to get the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. The valley was getting increasingly narrow and steep and there was no water in the stream. So I took out my gps map and realized that I had inadvertently followed a side stream south into a different valley, and then hiked into another drainage from that one. I thought I was hiking west, but had actually done a full 180 degree turn and was hiking back to the east!  On a sunny day I would have caught my folly but it was cloudy so I had no idea.  I remembered how easy it can be to get lost in this maze of hollows and hills where the trails are unmarked and sometimes very difficult to follow. Thankfully I had my GPS! Once back to the main stream I stopped at this spot where there was a small waterfall and snacked on some expired beef jerky I found.  A move I would later regret deeply.     The cave was about 400′ up the steep hillside and it was incredibly exhausting to search for it.  But then I found this indian marker tree.  Legend has it that the Osage, who used to inhabit these parts would bend trees to mark important landmarks, such as a spring or a cave. The tree was pointed straight in the direction of the cave, although it was not visible from this location.     I climbed up a small rocky...

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Rocky Mountains

Rocky Mountains

Posted on Oct 4, 2017 in Day / Weekend Trips, Photography, Places I Go | 0 comments

Rocky Mountain National Park was my first experience with the mountains.  I was about 6 years old and it is one of my earliest vacation memories. I’ve always thought of this place as one of my favorite hiking spots, although oddly enough I haven’t actually be there all that many times. It’s been nearly 15 years since my last visit. Not much has really changed over the years, as should be the case in a national park. With one notable exception… it is MUCH more crowded than it used to be! A phenomenon not unique to just this park. Aside from that, this place is every bit as majestic as I remember from back in the day. The girls and little baby man particularly enjoyed any trail that involved water. Whether it was a lake, a stream, or a waterfall. I have often commented that quality nature photography with small children in tow is a difficult proposition. The best shots often require being in a particular difficult to reach spot at odd times, either very early in the morning or at dinner. Bad weather often makes for interesting shots as well, but who wants to be out in the rain with kids AND camera equipment? The vast majority of what I see is spectacular scenes but with exceptionally boring mid-day sunlight. Which makes for a very ordinary snap shot. So most of the time I just enjoy the trip and if something presents itself I take it and hope that by the end of the trip I’ll have a couple “keepers”! A small series of waterfalls with the Aspens that were just beginning to become bright and colorful!   Aspen trees are rad. Especially in the fall. I have a small cluster of them in my backyard but by the time fall rolls around their leaves have mostly been scorched brown by the summer heat. Nothing like the bright yellow you see in their native habitat!   As much as I love the Ozarks, a scene like this is tough to beat!   A hole in the clouds let the sun shine on this small spot at the base of the mountain.   My original plan was to climb this mountain with Emma but we ended up settling for a slightly smaller one, though not much smaller.   I took this photo while standing precariously on a wet rock in the middle of this stream.  I tried a similar stunt a few years ago while visiting a different part of Colorado but slipped and fell in, jamming my index finger in the process.  It hurt for almost 3 years and the picture ended up being pretty meh. This one turned out better and without the penalty of a bum finger.   Ahh and really what is more glorious than a grove of Aspens backlit by the sun.  Especially with a dark backdrop of Fir trees.  Here in the Ozarks our fall color...

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Eclipse Weekend

Eclipse Weekend

Posted on Aug 27, 2017 in Day / Weekend Trips | 0 comments

Last weekend was a lot of fun.  Obviously the main attraction was the eclipse, but we did a lot of other things as well! When I first learned about the eclipse about a year ago I decided a couple things… 1) I had to be there to see it, with my family in tow.  2) I didn’t want to spend the short moments of awesomeness messing with my camera, so I wasn’t even going to try and take fancy photographs. I just wanted to watch and enjoy it.  I figured there will be no shortage of people taking photos so I can just enjoy theirs! So my super cool family went up to Columbia for a fun weekend. Because I didn’t take awesome photos of the eclipse itself, I’ll just share some photos from all the fun events leading up to the eclipse.   One of my favorite things about this time of year… friday night football games!  Emma is my sports buddy.   This was the first game at the new stadium in Carthage. We’re looking forward to watching many more games there over the coming years.   Saturday morning was the Rivalry Run, a fundraiser 5k and fun run for Webb City and Carthage schools.  Mom and dad ran with us and then we spent the rest of the morning at our favorite saturday hang out, Mother Road Coffee before heading out of town for the eclipse!   The Capitol in Jefferson City is such a rad building that we had to stop and check it out. After wandering around for awhile, we got some exceptionally good pizza across the street and then drove the rest of the way to Columbia. We were already seeing tons of out of state plates… mostly Texas and Minnesota but I also saw a lot of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and oddly enough quite a few from New York as well.   Sunday morning we went to check out a few ideas for where we should watch the eclipse.  While we were out, I wanted to show the girls the giant Bur Oak tree. They had a lot of fun trying to climb it and hopping around the giant roots.   Next, we headed up to Rock Bridge State Park.  This was Carter’s first time to ride in the baby backpack.  We originally bought this pack for Emma.  Seems like so long ago!   We hiked down into the Devils Ice Box, a really cool cave with an underground stream.  It was pretty hot and humid outside, so the cool temperatures inside the cave felt really, really awesome!   Little man enjoyed walking around under the Rock Bridge.   After hiking, we found a Dairy Queen and had some ice cream.  Carter wanted to sit at the man table.   Finally the day of the eclipse!  We knew it was the day when I opened the hotel window and...

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Into the Wild

Into the Wild

Posted on Aug 10, 2017 in Day / Weekend Trips, Featured, Mountain Climbs, Photography, Places I Go | 1 comment

My college roommate and I have a kind of ‘tradition’ where we climb a mountain or do some kind of wilderness activity, generally every other year or so.  Even after we’ve both married and had families, our wives have continued to be supportive of our occasional adventures so we’ve managed to keep it going. Usually we’ll fly to another part of the country, though sometimes we opt to enjoy some of the scenic wilderness here in Missouri. This time we decided on Wyoming, a state with the distinction of being America’s least populated state. The mountain we selected was a remote peak in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. It was a 35 mile round trip hike to the summit. The plan was to hike about 12 miles and setup “base camp”, then climb to the summit on the second day and return to camp.  Then we would hike back out on the third day. We were hiking and sleeping in grizzly country, so we had to take some extra precautions, like storing our food in “bear cans”, carrying bear spray, and I also carried a gun for good measure. The trail started out as a gentle climb through a forest of mostly spruce and lodgepole pine. Being a tree nerd, I always enjoy the sights and smells of hiking in a coniferous forest and seeing species of trees that aren’t particularly common here in Missouri, especially the Whitebark Pine, a species I had never seen before. I recognized it as soon as I saw one – basically it looks somewhat like our Eastern White Pine, but with white bark similar to a Paper Birch.  As the trail climbed, we started encountering lots of very large boulders and slabs of rock, only a hint of the rocky terrain that was still to come.   The first few miles seemed to go by quickly, and then we arrived at this overlook. It provided our first good view of the area in which we were ultimately headed.  It looked SO FAR AWAY, and the terrain was a maze of ups and downs that was not going to be easy. Our eventual goal, the summit of the broad dome shaped mountain towards the right side of the photo was still about 13 miles away.    We stopped for a short lunch break, then carried on.  About 6 miles in, we started passing ponds and lakes.  Some of them reminded me of the ponds at Acadia National Park, while others were more similar to those found in Rocky Mountain. The trail was not a typical mountain approach that basically climbs the whole way.  We climbed up, then down, then back up. It was exhausting!   We crossed this mountain stream by walking across a wobbly log.  This, along with about a million other points along the trail would have been a nice place to stop and hang out, throw rocks in the water, listen and...

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Independence Day Yakking

Independence Day Yakking

Posted on Jul 8, 2017 in Day / Weekend Trips, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Dad got a kayak the other day and wanted to try it out.  I am always looking for an excuse to kayak, so we took them out over the holiday weekend!  As it turns out, this creek was also the first creek I floated with my kayak when I bought it about 10 years ago.  I can’t believe it’s been that long! We set out fairly early and were in the water by around 9 or so. What dad will learn is that if you go kayaking with me, you will probably end up in lots of pictures. I like the pattern of the darker rocks and lighter gravel on the bottom. There were several places I wanted a get out and explore, such as this little cave. Floating past some pretty bluffs with some unusual orange, tan, black, and grey stripes! Here is my little yak hanging out while I take a quick break. I haven’t had him out much over the last year or so, since baby Carter came, so I enjoy it when an opportunity presents itself! I like parts along the river like this where the water flows fast and is relatively shallow.   It was a very nice day to be floating down the...

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Sandstone Trail

Sandstone Trail

Posted on Jun 20, 2017 in Day / Weekend Trips, Featured, Photography, Places I Go, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Stephy suggested I do a hike or something for fathers day. So I took the opportunity to get in some “training” for an upcoming backpacking trip. After tossing around several ideas, I finally set out for Prairie State Park, armed with my 17-40mm wide angle lens and a backpack full of unnecessary baggage, just to help get me into shape! I have been wanting to visit this park during the summer when wildflowers are in bloom, but the prairie is notoriously lacking in shade. Since I don’t particularly like being stranded in the sun on a hot day, I usually visit this state park only in fall or winter. But today was relatively cool (for June) so I thought it might be a good opportunity for a summer prairie hike! I selected the Sandstone Trail, most of which I had never hiked before. It starts high on a ridge and gradually descends across the prairie towards a small stream. My first impression was how many birds call the prairie home. I didn’t actually see many of these birds because they were hiding out in the tall grass, but I could sure hear them! The sound of all the birds and the wind made for quite a peaceful experience. Various areas seemed to have different assortments of plants. I particularly liked these coneflowers. The trail gets it’s name from the rocky sandstone areas found along the trail, particularly along the stream. Sandstone is not particularly common in Missouri, so I found the geology here interesting. Most of the prairie is rolling, but this spot has some small rock outcroppings and steeper slopes overlooking Drywood Creek, as well as some small groves of trees. It was a little more difficult to explore this spot in summer than it was in winter because of the tall grass and plants. But I still climbed around on some of the rocks. Another bonus of hiking this time of year is the free treats. After crossing back through the stream and beginning the return loop towards the truck, the trail started to wind through a wooded/thicket area where I discovered lots and lots of blackberries just off the trail. Even though I wasn’t hungry I felt obligated to pick a handful, getting my arms torn to shreds in the process, and munching them as I walked. Blackberries are such a cruel fruit! By the time I finished the 4.5 mile loop I had seen an owl, a turkey, lots of tadpoles, several quail, and numerous other birds that I could not identify. If you have never encountered quail, it is kind of a startling experience. Especially if it’s quiet and you are alone on the prairie! Given my obsession with trees, some might find it unusual that I frequent this state park, known for it’s lack of trees. But there are times where the open...

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