Onondaga Cave & Fisher Cave

Over the past weekend, Kasie and I spent some time up in St. Louis celebrating our 13 year anniversary!

We went to a St. Louis Cardinals game Saturday evening, a first for both of us. It was a really cool experience, and we look forward to attending many more games in the years to come. Even though the Cards lost, it was still a fun and relaxing experience!

Busch Stadium

Busch Staduim

Cardinals vs Pirates

On Sunday, we spent the day just exploring around the city, visiting a few stores, and then spending some time at Forest Park, including the Missouri History Museum. We ate supper at Charlie Gitto’s on The Hill, an Italian area of the city with some great restaurants. We finished off the evening with some frozen custard at Ted Drewes, a long-standing business along historic Route 66 in the city. I used to think Andy’s in Springfield was busy, but this place has them beat! But, even though there were so many more people, they are very efficient and quick about taking orders and getting you your custard fast!

Ted Drewes on Historic Route 66

On Monday, on our way back home, we stopped and visited a couple of state park caves that I have been wanting to visit for several years now. The first was Fisher Cave, located inside Meramec State Park, near Sullivan, MO.

Fisher Cave

Fisher Cave

Fisher Cave

Fisher Cave

Fisher Cave

Fisher Cave

Fisher Cave

Fisher Cave

Our second cave to visit was Onondaga Cave, at the aptly-named Onondaga Cave State Park, near Leasburg, MO.
While we really enjoyed both caves, I think we enjoyed Onondaga Cave more. There are so many more cave deposits and formation, and the cave lighting helps to enjoy it better.
I would really like to visit both caves again, but especially this one!

Onondaga Cave

Onondaga Cave

Onondaga Cave

Onondaga Cave

Onondaga Cave

Onondaga Cave

Onondaga Cave

Onondaga Cave

Onondaga Cave

Madison County WMA Waterfalls

We have had several inches of rain the past few days here in the Ozarks, so I decided it was time to head out and explore some waterfalls! I visited several waterfalls relatively close to one another, all within the Madison County Wildlife Management Area, south of Eureka Springs and Berryville.

I visited a total of 4 waterfalls, and also hiked a short trail to an overlook atop a high bluff above the Kings River. It was a wet and soggy day, but it sure was great to be out exploring!

Tea Kettle Falls

Tea Kettle Falls

Tea Kettle Falls

Tea Kettle Falls

Tea Kettle Falls

Tea Kettle Falls

Glory B Falls

Glory B Falls

Glory B Falls

Glory B Falls

Eagle’s Nest Falls

Eagle’s Nest Falls

Eagle’s Nest Falls

Eagle’s Nest Falls

Kings River Overlook Nature Trail

Kings River Overlook Nature Trail

Kings River Overlook

Kings River Overlook

Road 299 Falls

Road 299 Falls

Road 299 Falls

Road 299 Falls

Early Spring Snow March 2017

Yesterday, we had some wonderful snow fall all across the Ozarks. I snapped a few pics from around my house yesterday. Two days ago, it was 80 degrees outside, then snowfall yesterday, and most of it will be melted by this afternoon. I love the weather in the Ozarks!!

Forsythia Bush

Forsythia

Daffodil

Daffodils

Snowy trail

Old sickle mower

Old hay rake

Old Ford tractor

?Pear Tree

?Pear Tree blossoms

Oakley

Pond reflections

Pine cones

Snow in brush

Pond reflections

Wintery path

Thunder Canyon Falls – Royal Rangers Backpacking Trip

“Live the Adventure!”

That was our motto for the weekend, as 19 of us from two different Royal Ranger outposts got together and enjoyed each other’s company and God’s beautiful country, down near the Buffalo National River in Arkansas.

We got to the Cecil Cove trailhead, near Erbie, around 7:30 or 8:00, and soon we were hiking down the trail in the dark, crossing Van Dyke Spring branch, then another 1/4 – 1/2 mile down the trail before picking a spot in the woods to set up camp. It didn;t take long for the boys and leaders to all have their tents set up and have some firewood gathered up. The fire was lit, stoves were lit, meals were cooked, fellowship was shared, Rob delivered a GREAT council fire message, and the warm moon-light night sky provided the perfect backdrop for it all.

Saturday was spent cooking breakfast, joking and laughing around, and then soon we were headed down the trail towards Thunder Canyon Falls. As we left the main trail and headed up the small ravine towards the falls, it soon got steep and slick, but ever more scenic and beautiful. When we arrived at the falls, one of the boys from my outpost slipped and fell into the pool at the base of the falls. After a few friendly laughs, the other three boys I brought were soon jumping in and taking a quick swim, before quickly heading back out of the cold water! One boy from the other outpost also decided to join in the fun! These Rangers sure do know how to have fun!!

After drying off and exploring the falls area for a while, we headed back to the main trail, then continued on. Soon, we came to an area of the creek and stopped and had some lunch. It was a good chance to relax and refuel, visit and laugh again. There was a really neat cave that the boys explored for a while, and got really muddy!

Before long, it was time to start heading back, pack up camp, and head home. Everyone was a little tired, but really enjoyed the trip. We all stopped in Harrison for a quick bite to eat, and then headed our separate ways home. It was such a good hike, and those Ranger boys sure do know how to “Live the Adventure!”

Heading up Cecil Cove Trail

Heading up Cecil Cove Trail

Noah waiting patiently for me to catch up

Noah waiting patiently for me to catch up

Crossing Cecil Creek

Crossing Cecil Creek

Josef gives a thumbs up!

Josef gives a thumbs up!

Rob and Mark... contemplating...?

Rob and Mark… contemplating…?

Nathanael and his Civil War hat

Nathanael and his Civil War hat

Changing shoes after crossing the creek

Changing shoes after crossing the creek

Andrew double-checking the map

Andrew double-checking the map

Isaiah, Josef and Nathan from Outpost 343

Isaiah, Josef and Nathan from Outpost 343

Heading up Thunder Canyon

Heading up Thunder Canyon

Josef checking out the narrow drainage

Josef checking out the narrow drainage

Thunder Canyon Falls

Thunder Canyon Falls

Striking a pose

Striking a pose

Nathan and Jackson laugh as Isaiah jumps in the cold water

Nathan and Jackson laugh as Isaiah jumps in the cold water

Noah and Nathan take the plunge!

Noah and Nathan take the plunge!

Isaiah and his sub...!

Isaiah and his sub…!

Cecil Creek

Cecil Creek

Dave and Jonathan taking a break

Dave and Jonathan taking a break

A beautiful mushroom along the trail

A beautiful mushroom along the trail

Giant City State Park, IL

Although it is not “technically” in the Ozarks, I thought I would share some pictures from over the weekend of the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois.

Kasie and I met our friends Matt & Kendra over in Southern Illinois this weekend. We camped at Giant City State Park, south of Carbondale several miles. This area of Southern Ill. is not flat like the rest of the state, and is very reminiscent of the Ozarks. Lots of scenic rolling hills and beautiful rock bluffs and ledges dominate the area.

Kasie and I headed east after work on Friday, arriving at the state park a little after nine o’clock that evening. We spent most of the late morning and afternoon exploring and hiking some trails around the park, and even traveled a few miles away to check out a natural bridge located in the Shawnee National Forest, called Pomona Natural Bridge.

We spent the evening just hanging out, eating dinner, and enjoying each other’s company. Today, we ate breakfast together, visited a small farmer’s market, then we had to part ways and each head home.

On the way home, since we were fairly close, I wanted to stop and check out the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The Mississippi was flowing pretty good and somewhat muddy, and you could see the difference in the waters where the two met. We headed across the river into Kentucky to Wickliffe, grabbed some lunch at a very delicious roadside BBQ stand, then turned around and started heading home. It was a great weekend to get away, do some exploring, and most of all see some good friends!

Trailhead to Devil's Standtable Trail

Trailhead to Devil’s Standtable Trail

Kendra and Kasie along the trail

Kendra and Kasie along the trail

Kasie being goofy!

Kasie being goofy!

Kasie checking out the tall bluff

Kasie checking out the tall bluff

Matt climbing around like a mountain goat!

Matt climbing around like a mountain goat!

A large overhang bluff shelter

A large overhang bluff shelter

A large overhang bluff shelter

A large overhang bluff shelter

Devil's Standtable

Devil’s Standtable

Devil's Standtable

Devil’s Standtable

Giant City Nature Trailhead

Giant City Nature Trailhead

Kasie and Kendra hiking

Kasie and Kendra hiking

Some cool rock erosion/weathering

Some cool rock erosion/weathering

Wildflower along the trail

Wildflower along the trail

Exploring the giant city rock formations

Exploring the giant city rock formations

The Giant City rock formations, the namesake of the park

The Giant City rock formations, the namesake of the park

The Giant City rocks rock!

The Giant City rocks rock!

Slight squeeze on your way out of the rocks

Slight squeeze on your way out of the rocks

Small bluff overhang near the end of the trail

Small bluff overhang near the end of the trail

Pomona Natural ridge

Pomona Natural ridge

Pomona Natural Bridge

Pomona Natural Bridge

Panorama of the rivers' confluence

Panorama of the rivers confluence

Looking upstream of the Ohio River

Looking upstream of the Ohio River

Looking upstream of the Mississippi

Looking upstream of the Mississippi

The two rivers' waters mixing

The two rivers’ waters mixing

Centerpoint & Chimney Rock Trails Loop

“Why did you want to do this again for your birthday?!” Those words were echoed more than once this past weekend, as my adventurous wife drug her friend Shawna and I up and down the mountain side and valley along the Buffalo River over the weekend. “This is your idea of fun?!” “Why did we decide to make Shawna’s first backpacking trip such a tough one!?!” Ahh, memories…!

Tuesday was Kasie’s birthday, and for her birthday, she wanted to go backpacking. We haven’t been yet this season (fall thru spring), and boy did we make our first trip a tough one! Kasie, her best friend Shawna, and I, are wore out from this tough but awesome trip!

Sunday after church, we grabbed a quick bite to eat, and were soon down in the Buffalo River area headed to the trailhead. Kasie was trusting kind enough to let me pick out our route that we would be hiking. I have hiked down the Centerpoint Trail before, but only to the Goat Trail and out onto Big Bluff. I have never followed it all the way down to the river. I decided we would start our hike down this trail, and then meet up with the Old River Trail at the bottom. From there, we headed west towards Steele Creek. I have noticed a trail on the map before that heads up from Steele Creek and back up to the Centerpoint trailhead, called the Chimney Rock Trail. I figured this would make a good loop we could follow, and at the same time hike some new trail as well.

We got to the trailhead and started down the trail around 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon. The trail heads down hill a little the first mile or so, but not too bad. Near the beginning there were a couple of open vistas that opened to the Buffalo River valley below. After a mile or mile-and-a-half, the trail starts heading down hill at a pretty good clip for a while. I guess it has too eventually, since the elevation drop down to the river is 1200 feet!

centerpointtrail01

centerpointtrail02

After about 2.5 miles, you will come to an area where there is an obvious camping site, and then a trail takes off to the right. This is the Goat Trail, which leads out onto a ledge in the middle of Big Bluff, the tallest bluff along the Buffalo River. This ledge is about 300 feet above the river, and offers some fantastic views of the river and valley!

goattrail01

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bigbluff04

bigbluff05

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bigbluff07

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After exploring Big Bluff, we continued on down, down, down to the river, another mile and a half or so, and met the Old River Trail. We started hiking up the Old River trail, crossing the river twice, and camped for the first night across from Jim Bluff. We had Jambalaya and Brats for dinner around the campfire, and boy was it a treat!

centerpointtrail03

The next day, after the girls decided to sleep in until 9:00!, we finally got around, I cooked some breakfast burritos, we packed up camp, and started up river some more along the Old River Trail. I believe we crossed the river another five or six time before we reached Steele Creek campground. The river was pretty low, and I didn’t even have to change out of my boots to cross the river except for one time.

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After arriving at Steele Creek, and hiking across to the other side to the campground area, we promptly enjoyed a seat and relaxed for a while, eating some lunch and gaining some much needed energy for the climb out to the pickup. We had already planned to come back down to Steele Creek for the night after we reached the pickup, so while we were there, we unloaded all of our camping gear and set up camp. This eliminated a lot of weight, leaving us only water and a few snacks to carry in our now mostly empty packs.

steelcreek04

steelcreek05

When you leave the campground, heading up river, you cross the Buffalo one more time. It was really low here, and we just hopped a few rocks to make it across. After a bout a hundred yards, you will come to the Chimney Rock Trail intersection on your right, and leave the Old River Trail. Almost immediately, the trail starts the nearly 1200′ climb back up to the top. It climbs at a pretty good clip for about a mile, then levels off for a good while as it passes within only dozens of feet from Hwy 43. After half a mile or so, the trail swings away from near the road, heading somewhat northeast, and climbs a little bit, but not too bad. There were a couple of shirt steep climbs on this section, but not too bad. After another mile or so, the trail has swung back northwest, and is near the highway again.

chimneyrocktrail01

chimneyrocktrail02

Along this back section that is out away from the road, we saw signs everywhere of wild hogs. The ground was all rooted up and disturbed as far as you could see into the woods. And then, all of a sudden, we heard a noise. We stopped for a minute, and there in front of us, we saw a wild hog cross the trail, running away from us as fast as he could. He was a pretty good sized one, at least 200 lbs. Several hundred yards later, we ran into a whole pack of wild hogs, at least 8-10 of them. Some were smaller/youth ones, but there were at least two that were at least 150 lbs+. Kasie and Shawna did not like the sight of them at all. Kasie was a little nervous the rest of the hike out. After another mile or so, we ran into one more small pack, about 3-4 of them. I think she was glad when we finally made it back to the truck!

After the trail swings back next to the road, it starts climbing again at a pretty good clip. It levels off some, then dips a little here and there before climbing again. Within the last few hundred yards of the trail, the view finally opens up into the river valley below, and was a welcome sight! It was a tough climb out, but we made it!

Soon we were quenching our thirsts and driving back down to Steele Creek to spend the night. Since we were “car camping” the second night, we brought the little charcoal grill and had pork chops and corn on the cob, and whopper candy for dessert. The whoppers were Kasie’s “birthday cake”!

steelcreek06

The next morning, we got around and headed on over to Jasper, then south towards Mount Judea and up to Sam’s Throne. Kasie was really wanting to hike on over and climb up on top of the throne, and Shawna has never been to Sam’s Throne. It was windy up there on the bluff’s edge, but it sure was beautiful and sunny!

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samsthrone12

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After exploring Sam’s Throne for several hours, we packed up and headed back to Jasper. We enjoyed a late lunch/early supper at the Ozark Cafe, always a delicious treat!

It sure has been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I am trying to change that (famous last words, I know!). We have a couple backpacks coming up later this month with Royal Rangers, and another one in December. And who knows, maybe some other exciting events to post about between now and then!

February 2016 Desktop Wallpaper

Wallpaper_February2016

February 2016 Wallpaper