On the Road Again, Finally

On the Road Again, Finally

I’ll be away for the next three weeks, so I thought I’d get in one more chance to take photos of fall colors. On Saturday, I went for a drive to Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which is 60 miles south of my home in Missouri. It’s located on Lake of the Ozarks and is known for its limestone bluffs and karst formations, as well as for the fire-ravaged mansion known as “The Castle.” I’ve posted other photo blogs of its fall colors in the past, including this one.

It was a mostly sunny day when I left home. By the time I reached the lake, scattered clouds became mostly cloudy as the day went on. The temperatures were in the mid-60s so it was comfortable walking weather. I didn’t do any trail hiking, but I walked about 1 ¾ miles by following the paved and graveled paths. While some trees were bare, many were colorful and the oaks and hickories were getting ready to change.

As I said, I’ll be gone for a few weeks. I left yesterday, Sunday, and drove 700 miles to my son’s home in Cleveland. I’ll stay here for a few days before moving on to Buffalo to stay with my son. Of course, I’ve spent some time (the first visit in eleven months) with my granddaughter, who will be two years old in a couple of weeks, and I’ll see her again on the return trip.

I thought I’d need to stay here for fourteen days, so that I’d be cleared to enter New York State, but NY’s travel restrictions changed while I was driving to Ohio. Now the requirement for all out-of-state travelers is a negative COVID test within three days prior to entering NY, followed by a three-day quarantine in NY, followed by a COVID test in NY.

Coincidentally, I tested in Missouri and received a “negative” notification Sunday morning. Since test results can take up to a week, I’ll drive to NY on Wednesday (within the three -day window),  then test on Saturday. I should have my “negative” result by the following Saturday, just in time for me to see my daughter for the first time in eleven months, just before her baby is born. Since she has type 1 diabetes, her doctors want to induce labor two weeks early to avoid complications. So, she has a “tentative date” of November 17 for her first child, and if everything works out I’ll get to meet my new granddaughter.

My online presence has been erratic the past few months, but for the next three weeks it could be sporadic. I know I’ll have down time while family is busy at work and I’m technically “in quarantine,” so we’ll see how that works out. I have poetry to catch up on, as well as comments on my own poetry to catch up with, so I’ll do what I can. I’ve looked forward to this visit for a while, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

decisions
take new direction
changing leaves

Here are some of those photos from Saturday.
(Click any image for a larger view in a new tab.)

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking with Mark Twain

Hiking with Mark Twain

I’ve always enjoyed taking photos of fall colors, especially when I lived in New York, with its colorful sugar maples. Although Missouri has fewer maples, in the eight years I’ve lived here I’ve taken the opportunity to hike in a few of the state parks and conservation areas in the fall. This year I decided to try something different.  (Click any image for a larger view in a new tab.)

The Mark Twain National Forest covers 3 million acres (1.5 million acres of that is public land), with nine tracts of forests in the southern half of Missouri. On Thursday, I hiked one of the loop trails in the 16,500 acre Cedar Creek Ranger District, which is the one district north of the Missouri River and has 34 miles of trails. Before 1940, private landowners intensively cultivated the land, resulting in depleted and eroded soils. In the 1940s, the Soil Conservation Service began purchasing and rebuilding it, stabilizing gullies and planting trees and grasses. It’s been managed by the U.S. Forest Service since 1953. The Smith Creek Loop covers 5 miles, but I hiked 5.7 miles to cover a couple of side trails for photo opportunities.

It was a sunny day, and the temperature reached 87ºF by late afternoon (a near record). While I could have chosen a cooler day for hiking (Friday’s high was 49º), Thursday was a dry day in the middle of a rainy spell. I started at the southeast corner of the loop, traveling “counterclockwise,” which worked out well as I appreciated the mostly-level stretch of the final mile. This image, with the trail map layered over a Google terrain map, shows how much the elevation changes on the trail.

As I hiked the trail, it was obvious that some of it follows former roads. Any trace of gravel or dirt roadway is long gone, and if it wasn’t overgrown it would look like a lane winding through the forest. The width of the loop trail varies from 15-20 feet down to a mere footpath crowded by trees. This area is known for hills and bluffs, so much of the trail includes slopes that climb and descend the numerous ridges leading to the bluffs. We can get some pretty heavy rain here, and those old paths offer the perfect course for runoff, so the trail often winds around or parallels those sections. In fact, we had a heavy rain the day before, so there were a few spots that had slick areas that were hidden beneath fallen leaves. Even on some of the narrow, steep sections, hoof prints were evident, as the trail is open to horseback.

The trail crosses Smith Creek, which is about 25 feet wide, but there was no water running in the creek. One side trail took me to Cedar Creek, which is 30 feet wide with a very mild current. The trail led to an old iron bridge that served the road that once ran through there.

I never had to actually cross Cedar Creek, but the trail loop approaches it at two other points. The overlooks there gave some nice views looking down and across the water. The first was about 100 feet above the creek. The second, at roughly 150 feet above the creek, had some impressive formations, with cedars clinging to the edge of the bluff.

Cedar Creek, 100 feet below a limestone bluff

This tract of land is primarily oak, hickory and cedar, but I saw a dead tree that could have been an ash, and I did get some maple photos.

I had the trail pretty much to myself, encountering one pair of hikers, and these two that crossed my path.

Western Black Snake – 4 ft. long

Its been about a year since I’ve taken a hike of three or more miles. This one was was a reminder that I’ve had a couple of health issues since then. My back and legs were feeling it before I was done, but I recovered with no problems. Early this year I learned of a heart condition I’ve had all my life, one that now leaves me briefly winded when I climb a flight of stairs. The downhill slopes were a breeze, but let me tell you, my heart knew when I was climbing, even on gentle and moderate inclines.

Occasional stops on the frequent uphill climbs were the order of the day. I’m only 67 and have a few years ahead of me, but I’m learning that I need to modify my activity, something I’ll have to keep in mind on future hikes. My favorite part of this hike was the overlooks, so the next time I walk this trail I’ll start at the bridge near the northwest corner of the loop and hike up to the overlooks. There and back.

Leaves in the Stream

Leaves in the Stream

What are breadth and width
to a river?  Increase a channel’s depth,
yet curtail navigation.  Obstacles, seen
and unseen, arise.  Shallows appear
that did not exist.  Who are we
to question rain?  The river’s course
was set, yet always in flux,
long before our arrival.  Our standards
are but impositions.  We are
just leaves in the stream.

The top two photos are of the Missouri River at Jefferson City, Missouri. River levels have been fluctuating at or above flood stage for several weeks. It’s latest crest was yesterday, at 31.8 feet, and was the “ninth largest flood” for this area. This view is of North Jefferson City. It lies within city limits and is across the river (and in another county) from the largest portion of the state capital. It’s predominantly farmland (with some homes) and industrial, and is the location of the city’s airport. The area was evacuated a couple of days ago, and the airport was closed. It was once known as Cedar City, but the flood of 1993 wiped out the small community that existed there, leaving just a couple of homes. Just past the bridge markings in the photo is Noren Access, a city park that includes a 100 foot-long boat ramp. The top of the ramp is about 6 feet underwater. Beyond the submerged ramp is a levee (barely showing behind the trees) that extends for miles and was breached, leaving a 30-40 foot gap. The flat level of water in the distance is a farm field that would be dry, if not for the high water.

Looking back through my photos, it seems I’m only drawn to photograph this section of the river during exceptional conditions, but they show that farm field in the background. Below is a photo of the ice choked river of winter, with a level 25 feet lower and the full boat ramp visible. Below that is an example of the heavy fog that can swallow the river, at times. The last photo is looking across the river as kayakers stop for a rest and check-in during the “Missouri American Water MR340,” an annual 340 mile endurance race that is paddled from Kansas City to St. Charles (near St. Louis) and must be completed within 88 hours.

The bridge markings do not indicate depth. They indicate clearance, as the river is open to barge traffic during shipping season. The river is dredged on a regular basis to maintain a channel with a minimum depth of 9 feet, but flood stage for this section is 23 feet. At that point there is minor flooding along Wears Creek, which extends into the city from the river and past light industry and a couple of homes. The State Capitol and downtown are elevated, but this is a hilly city, and during this flood many of the low-lying parking lots used by state employees were underwater.

We have our extremes. Last week it was tornadoes. For the past month it’s been flooding, with the current levels the highest I’ve seen in my 6 years here. 2013 was pretty close, but the state experienced a drought that crippled farmers just a year before. That’s Missouri.

Graph found at National Weather Service.
(Clicking on each photo will open a tab with a larger view.)

Ken G.

Owl Be Back ~ haibun

Owl Be Back

While kayaking last May, I saw a bird and chicks in a nest high above the river, thinking it was a great horned owl I had seen there previously. It wasn’t. It was a red-tailed hawk. Well, I paddled that same same stretch of the river yesterday, and the great horned owl is back.
(click images to see larger view in new tab)

And there is a chick in the nest with it.

After a short while, the adult flew off, presumably to draw my attention away from the nest. It didn’t work.

high above river
great  nest no longer empty
owl raising new young

Ken G.

Snow Reason to Stay in the House

Snow Reason to Stay in the House
(clicking any photo will open a larger image in a new tab)

I’ve been told that winters here in mid-Missouri are nothing like in the past. Twenty years ago snowfall was more common, often leaving snow on the ground between snowfalls. My experience in seven winters here in mid-Missouri is to see a couple of inches once or twice a month, with at least a week with temps in the mid-40s for a week, each month. Four inches of snow will be gone within a couple of days, and six to ten inches will be gone in a week. I was expecting something similar to happen with the snowfall we just had, but another system is developing, and the mid-West has the potential for another storm this weekend.

We had about a foot of snowfall from Friday afternoon into Saturday evening, with a light powder/mist on and off for the next twenty-four hours. Temperatures have been in the low 30s (F), so it was a wet, heavy snow, weighing down tree branches and providing a good workout for shoveling. That took a couple of hours over Saturday and Sunday, including clearing the street and digging out the mailbox. Our house is on a cul de sac, and by the time the plow gets to my driveway, ¾ of the way around the circle, it has to back up before hitting my neighbor’s mailbox. As it straightens out, it leaves a ten foot gap of snow across my driveway. If I want to get out of the driveway – or receive my mail – I need to clear that.

We still have gray skies today, but I decided to head to the local conservation area for photos this afternoon. A dozen or so people had been in ahead of me, which made the hike easier than it could have been, but there still was a bit of leg lifting in each step. Sunny and 46º is forecast for tomorrow. If that materializes, I may head back for photos in better lighting. Here’s what I have, for now.

The heavy snow has the cedars looking more like pine trees, and some of them didn’t survive that added weight.

There’s not much use for it in this weather, but there’s a fire tower in the park.

Meanwhile back home, our large lilac bush has lost two of its limbs.

And maybe we’ll get our TV reception back, if tomorrow’s warmer weather allows the snow to slide off our dish antenna.

Ken G

Falling for Winter

Falling for Winter
(clicking any photo will open a larger image in a new tab)

The inch of snow we had last night never accumulated on our “warm” pavement and was mostly gone by this morning, with an overnight low of 30ºF. The weather forecast for the next week is for daytime highs bouncing between mid-30s and high-40s and nighttime lows back and forth between high teens and mid-30s. If nothing else, the weather fluctuations here can be entertaining. Here are a couple of views from my house.

From my back deck…

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From my front porch…

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And the same view three days ago…

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Ken G

Fall Color, Finally

Fall Color, Finally
(clicking any photo will open a larger image in a new tab)

In late October or early November, I make a point of going to Ha Ha Tonka State Park, sixty miles south of my home in mid-Missouri. I’m seldom disappointed by the fall colors the landscape has to offer. I made the trip on Monday, with temperatures in the sixties and partially cloudy (wispy) skies.

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The patches of red that are visible are dogwood.

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There may be few maples in our area, but they draw my camera like a magnet.

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This view is one that I never fail to photograph. It’s the outflow from a natural spring found at the base of one of the bluffs. The water (56,000,000 gallons, daily) can have an amazing blue hue on a cloudless day.

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I spent several hours walking 4.5 miles of trails within the park, with an elevation change of a couple hundred feet, from the Castle down to the water, and then up again along the bluffs.

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This tree, now bare, sits on the ledge visible in the photo above it.

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The area has numerous karst formations, including this natural bridge.

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Designed to be a home, later a hotel, The Castle at Ha Ha Tonka is bare stone walls, the result of a devastating fire in 1942.

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A great photo of The Castle in its prime can be seen here.
Meanwhile, within five miles of my home, this bluff always offers a spectacular autumn view.

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And in my back yard, this hickory.

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Sadly, the colors don’t stay forever. This is the same tree, three days later, after rain and a couple of cool nights. I’m sure the other trees are soon to follow. Oh well, there’s always next year.

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Ha Ha Tonka fall photos from the last two years can be found here and here.

Ken G

Gray Walk, in Living Color ~ haibun

Gray Walk, in Living Color

Two days ago, we had 80 degrees and 80% humidity. And overcast. Yes, muggy – wanting to rain. But I thought I might get some photos of milkweed at that “breakout” stage, with fuzzy seeds clinging to pods, so I headed to a local conservation area to walk the trails. I had been there a few weeks earlier, taking photos of monarch caterpillars, but I knew those would be gone for the year. As it happens, the milkweed needs another week, so I continued my walk, expecting few photos with the poor lighting provided by a cloudy sky.

Until I was surrounded by color. As the path enters a large meadow, there is a broad expanse of flowers, and flying from plant to plant were hundreds of monarch butterflies. I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to take photos of these beauties as they moved among the flowers, more concerned about fueling up for the great flight ahead of them than they were about maintaining any clear line of sight with my camera lens.

As it started to sprinkle, I continued my walk into the woods, looping back after a mile of shelter from the rain to come back to those flowers. The sky was no clearer, but the rain had stopped, so I took a few more photos before heading out of the park. With fifty yards to go before reaching the parking lot, random raindrops started falling and I made it into the car just as a steady rain began to fall. This morning I woke to 46 degrees.

preparing for flight
butterflies feed on asters
milkweed drying up

(clicking any photo will open a larger image in a new tab)

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Persimmons

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Ken G

Mid-MO Old Car Show

Mid-MO Old Car Show

I can’t go to a car show without taking pictures. They could be the same cars from a previous show, but I’ll try for a better photo. Maybe there’s better light, or I have a new idea for “lines.” I look for lines, curves, configurations. We attend an annual car show that’s held in conjunction with an outdoor Oktoberfest, and I have to take photos.
A lot of photos.
My wife has the patience of a saint.

(clicking any photo will open a larger image in a new tab)

1937 Nash Ambassador Truck

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Mid-MO Old Car Show_2

1966 Ford Mustang

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1964 Volkswagen Beetle

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1928 Ford Phaeton

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1922 Ford Model T Truck

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1931 Ford Coupe

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1939 Ford Coupe

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1928 Studebaker 4-Door

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Chevrolet Bel Air

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1936 Buick 41 Series

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1960 Ford Thunderbird

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1956 Plymouth

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1958 Chevrolet Pickup

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1936 Ford Coupe

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1948 Ford F1 Pickup

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1955 Ford Crown Victoria

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1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

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1957 Ford Thunderbird

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Ken G.