Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hiking Knob Noster State Park's Opossum Hollow Trail

Trail Sign, Your mileage may vary.
It was a late winter day, mid-February, with unseasonably warm temperatures with highs in the 60's when I hiked the Opossum Hollow Trail at Knob Noster State Park.  This is a 5.5 mile trail with several connector trails to shorten or lengthen a hike.  The connectors allow you to break up the trail into three separate loops each a few miles long. I had hiked portions of this trail over past months in training to complete the entire trail. 

Knob Noster SP was originally the Montserrat Recreational Demonstration Area from the 1930's. A part of the Work's Progress Administration (WPA) Program.  The idea behind the project was to create outdoor recreational areas near major metropolitan areas to give people an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. 

The area where the trail is located is old farmland but is now mostly woodland in which you'll find remnants from previous landowners farms and some old road beds. Older maps indicate the presence of several old roads throughout the area.  Occasionally you can find an old road bed along the way.

Sullivan Lake
There are five lakes in the state park all built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's. They are Buteo Lake, Clearfork Lake, Morel Lake, Sullivan Lake and Redbud Lake (now drained).  The trail passes by Sullivan Lake, a heavily trafficked area as evidenced by the well trodden path around the lower half of the lake.

I struggled with the later third of the hike by simply running out of energy.  I had a light breakfast, as I normally do which was a mistake.  According to my FitBit I had burned almost 3000 calories during my hike.  In the future I will need to eat a more substantial breakfast.  

I also ended up with a fairly painful blister on the ball of my left foot as well as calluses on both feet. Wearing my shoes tighter and duct taping portions of my feet should help address that problem in the future.

After the hike I grabbed a quick lunch and returned to hang my hammock in the old pine grove picnic area that had been planted by the CCC boys.  It was relaxing and beautiful. My hammock is an ENO DoubleNest with Atlas Straps.  Its affordable, lightweight and comfortable.

A map showing my route. The total distance was 6.4 miles with 630 feet of elevation change and completed in 4:35 including rest breaks.

Map image courtesy of CalTopo.com

Round Rocks of Missouri

This adventure started more than 300 million years ago. I wasn't around then which is a good thing. Because something pretty drastic happened. It was in 1948 that a geologist first noticed that the area around Weaubleau Creek was different. That something pretty unusual had happened there many, many years ago. It wasn't until 2003 or so that a geologist began digging a little further and has put together evidence that a large meteorite, 1200 feet long impacted in the area just south of what is now Osceola, MO around 310 to 340 million years ago.

Back then Missouri was covered in a shallow sea. When the meteorite struck it created a crater that was 12 miles wide and jettisoned rocks and debris over a much larger area. Geologist combing the area have found evidence of this impact and are continuing to put together the pieces to make their case. The impact site is located north of Coon Creek and just south of the Village of Vista, Missouri to the west of Highway 13.

Close up of Missouri rock ball from roadside park.
But if you go there you won't see anything you'd recognize as a crater. What you can find in the area, particularly to the north and east of the site are what have been called by locals for years "round rocks" or "Missouri rock balls." These round rocks range from golfball size to grapefruit size with some reports of rocks as large as basketballs. Resident of the area find this rocks laying on the surface of the ground or washed out of river banks or road cuts. I found several round rocks in a road cut along Highway 13 and one along a low water bridge in the impact area.

At a roadside park on Highway 8 south of Osceola, MO.
Residents of the area have know for years about the round rocks. They have used them in building projects for many years.

It seems that when the meteorite struck it broke up gravel sized bits of shale that in the soup of silt and minerals that remained after the impact eventually conglomerated to make these round rocks.

There are many geologic wonders of Missouri left to be rediscovered by you. Get out and see what you can see of this wild Missouri.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Late Summer at James A. Reed WA

Sunflowers planted at James A Reed for wildlife.
Photo Credit Amy Petersen
It was a lazy, late-summer morning at James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area.  With the cooler weather we decided to get out and try our birding luck.  This time of year is usually post-breeding for most birds, the young have fledged and are dispersing to feed up for the long migration or in preparation for the winter.

Being the post-breeding season for most birds it was unusually quiet.  Indigo Buntings were calling as usual.  This species seems to enjoy calling well into the day and long after other birds have gone quiet.  We enjoyed a few Bell's Vireos,  getting a good look at one male.  There were also a number of House Wrens, one apparently feeding chicks in a nest box.  The undulating flight of the brightly colored American Goldfinches were very common.

We surprised a Cooper's Hawk eating his morning breakfast and enjoyed the soaring flight of a lone Turkey Vulture.  The Barn Swallows that nest on the floating docks on the lakes around the area were all hanging out on trees and bare branches around the lakes.  I saw none still on the nest.  We enjoyed the presence of one lone Green Heron trying hard to appear like a limb on a log.

One special treat was to see several fields of planted sunflowers.  Sunflowers are planted for wildlife including doves, quail, pheasants and turkeys, along with songbirds. Our two hour trip around the wildlife area was just what was needed after a long, hot summer.  The anticipation of fall is strong in my bones. I look forward to more adventures outdoors.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How about a river cruise?

Our Reception Committee
Having lived most of my life in Missouri, first in St. Louis and now in Kansas City I have always been acutely aware of the presence of the two rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi. These rivers bordered my imagination, locating me in my known universe.  I have always been aware of their flow and their presence like the tides to the moon.

So on a recent trip to the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois Amy and I decided to take a drive along the Mississippi River to look for some birds and enjoy the day. As expected there was a fair number of industrial areas along the river but there were also a lot of recreational and natural areas along the river as well.

I was impressed with how much the river was used by people.  I saw boaters, swimmers, fishermen, campers, cyclists and more using the river and the area along the river. It provided a strong contrast to the almost non-existent use of the Missouri River in and around Kansas City. Even St. Louis where I grew up didn't use the river for recreational purposes quite to the extent that the folks of the Quad Cities used there portion of the mighty Mississippi!

There may be many reasons for the difference between Kansas City's non-use of the Missouri and the Quad Cities extensive use of the Mississippi.  First, there is clearly a lack of vision today as to the recreational benefits of the Missouri River. When I drove across the I-29 bridge into Kansas City and looked at the rather anemic Richard Berkley Riverfront Park (Its actually just a handful of skinny trees, a bike path and a parking lot or two) I wondered at the lack of vision. It could be so much more, a much more attractive place to play and possibly work.

Perhaps its more than just vision.  I know that the Levee Districts around Kansas City can be quite difficult to work with(I've heard impossible). These privately controlled districts own the levees and pretty much refuse to allow any access across their levees.  Add to that the various political entities that would have to work cooperatively on both sides of the river and you can see why their is little recreational use of the Missouri in and around Kansas City.

Getting to the heart of the matter may be the lack of the immediate presence of flood control measures on this section of the Missouri, unlike the flood control on the Mississippi.  The Army Corps of Engineers has a Lock and Dam located right in the Quad Cities.  They also control a good portion of the park land that we saw on either side of the river. So their presence has had a positive effect on the recreational opportunities in the area even as they may have upset the natural habitat of the river for such species as the Least Tern or the Pallid Sturgeon. This may be the real explanation of the differences between Kansas City and the Quad Cities.  The historic lack of cooperation between the various county, state and city governments in the Kansas City region would make an organization like the Corps essential in the creation of the recreational opportunities that they have in the Quad Cities.

How about a river cruise?
The bottom line for me as that I would love to see us move away from treating the Missouri and Mississippi like an open sewer and start maintaining it for conservation and recreational purposes.  Wouldn't a springtime stroll along the river or a dinner cruise on a steamboat be a better use of the river than just treating it like a sewer and trash dump?  How about a nice canoe trip down river on a summer afternoon rather than dumping old appliances onto its shores? How about allowing some areas along the river return to their natural pre-settlement uses as wetlands and habitat for deer, waterfowl, and turkeys? It just takes vision.