Fairly Well ~ quadrille

Fairly Well

Fallen leaves and sunshine
hike with me, up hills and down,
along bluffs with a broad view
of a narrow river, past turkeys
with no interest in fair weather
or health, mine, much improved
over last year’s near collapse
on this very same trail.

This poem is my response to Quadrille #140: Let’s Go to the Fair!, the prompt from Linda Lee Lyberg at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, which is to use a form of the word fair in a 44-word poem (excluding title), with no required meter or rhyme.

Contrary to my thoughts last year, stamina is no longer an issue for me. In October 2020, I hiked a 6.1 mile trail in The Mark Twain National Forest. The hike should have taken 3 hours or less, but took 5 hours for me to complete. I was so winded that I needed to stop every 100 feet or so each time I climbed a hill – and there are a lot of hills and inclines on this trail. It turned out I had iron deficiency anemia. Two iron infusions in March of this year corrected that. I hiked the same trail this afternoon – in fact I hiked nearly 9 miles in 3 ½ hours — with no difficulty. It was a beautiful day for a hike, but most of the leaves have already fallen. Here’s a link to a blog about last years hike, with some colorful fall photos.

Image: Smith Creek in the Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri
~~ click image for larger view in 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 “clockwise,” 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.

Ascension Dissension ~ with audio

Ascension Dissension

He knows his body knows,
communicates when it states
its intentions, dissension
its main talking point.
Lest he forget, he will soon
regret letting desire trump
prior warning signs. Aches
will wake joints that protest
at his best efforts to continue
as if nothing has changed,
but range of motion is not
what it used to be. See,
Ken is no spring chicken.
You can bet that when
he tends to forget, something
like a six-mile hike will
remind him of what he should
already know. Take it slow.

The prompt from Peter Frankis at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, MTB – Let your words ring out, asks us to write a poem that combines sense with sound. I’ve used alliteration, assonance and internal rhyme to achieve that.

I spent most of yesterday hiking 6 miles through a National Forest. The repeated inclines across ridges, as I followed bluffs above a river, took a toll on my body. After dinner, I made a list of maladies and aches, wondering if I could somehow use them in a poem. Reading the prompt this morning answered that. Maybe I’ll describe my day in a photo blog this afternoon.

Lichen My Mossy Missouri Hike (photo blog)

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Autumn maple leaves, Osage Trail/Clark Hill Historic Site, Missouri

Lichen My Mossy Missouri Hike

The vertigo I experienced last week lasted nine days, with Monday and Thursday as the worst. The rest of the time was a little worse than being light-headed – as long as I was careful about standing, turning and sitting too quickly. By noon on Monday, I was feeling fine, so I did some yard work, mostly raking leaves, with no issues. I wanted to be sure I’d be able to go hiking on Tuesday.

I was a little light-headed when I woke on Tuesday, but feeling fine well before noon, so I headed out with my camera. I’ve been jonsin’ to get some fall photos, and it was a great day for it – 54° and partly cloudy – except for the leaves. It doesn’t look like we’ll have much in the way of fall colors this year. Still, it was a nice day for a hike. I could try again in a week, but it will be into November. The oaks will have started turning, but they don’t offer much color.

I started at Clark’s Hill Historic Site – just 13 acres at a point on the Missouri River that was a campsite for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Osage Trail (0.5 mile, one way) has a couple of steep climbs through forest, before it ends at a deck on the bluff, overlooking the former confluence of the Osage and Missouri Rivers (That confluence is now 5 miles away). The only interesting color was from a yellow maple tree. Of the few other maples I saw, half were already brown and the rest hadn’t changed yet. I’ve taken some nice leaf photos here in the past, so it’s worth the short trip.

From there I went to Painted Rock Conservation Area, 1500 acres that includes the Osage Bluff Trail, which weaves on and off bluffs that overlook the Osage River.

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Osage River & Bloody Island Overlook
Osage Bluff Scenic Trail

There are the remains of a stone Indian burial cairn, and pictographs on one bluff face are visible from the river (not from the trail). There are a few more maples here, but with little color in those that had changed. As it happened, clouds moved in and I had overcast skies by the time I came out to the first overlook – not a great day for photos, so most that I took were of moss, lichen and rock formations.

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As always, I enjoyed the hike, nearly 2 miles, including some off trail exploring to get my best photo of the day, beneath an overhanging rock formation, looking out on the river – testing my balance just a little bit more than I should.

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Osage River seen from Painted Rock Conservation Area
(click for larger view)

Ken G.