Words of the River

St Francis River in the millstream Gardens Conservation Area near Arcadia, MO.

“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was just not water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.”Hermann Hesse

I love sitting along the river and closing my eyes and getting lost in the sounds of the river. Sometimes I wish the river could talk to me. Tell me where it came from, where it has been and what it has seen. It has such a calming effect on the spirit and it soothes the soul. It is my safe place and where I become one with Mother Earth. It is a mystical place and a place of love.

“So don’t you sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied. Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide.Garth Brooks “The River

Millstream Gardens on an Autumn Day

I headed to Millstream Gardens in Madison County about half way between Fredericktown and Arcadia, Missouri. It is connected to Silver Mines Conservation Area via a trail that runs along the St. Francis River. It’s part of the Mark Twain National Forest. I was to meet a friend and his daughter. We met up around noon. They have a paved trail accessible by wheelchair that goes a mile down the trail to a scenic overlook.

We had a perfect day for a hike. We headed out down the trail. It is an easy hike to the overlook named Cats Paw. Not sure how it got its name but it didn’t disappoint as you an see by the photo below.

We decided to take a trail down to the river. Now this part would be considered hard. Steep and rocky and we had to climb over rocks but it was certainly worth the effort. The scenery was breathtaking. Mother Nature’s beauty at her finest. When they have the kayak races here in the spring the water is usually up quite a bit from the spring rains. I stood there trying to envision the kayakers trying to maneuver their yaks through this swift water around the big boulders that littered the river bed. I think I will lave that up to the professionals.

We didn’t want to leave. It was so peaceful sitting there on the rocks listening to the water rushing past the boulders. We reluctantly started our way back to the parking lot and our vehicles. It is a damn good day when you can share an experience like this with friends. It was a grand day.

Following are a few of the 127 pictures I took. I hope you enjoy them and can feel what we felt being there beside the river. We will definitely be going back for sure. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.

The Changing of the Leaves

St Francis River in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO.

“I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked to the sky and lived. And when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.” – Dodinsky

The temp today was supposed to be in the 60s today and if it wasn’t it was close. I was to meet a high school friend and we were going to kick back and enjoy an autumn day. We met up around 10 a.m. both of us needing a “do nothing” day. Silver Mines is the kind of place where one can do that. It offers so much in the way of nature that it is impossible for someone who loves nature to leave without their spirit fully charged.

We had just camped here the week before. We got a lot of rain Sunday night and the river level had came up. The water is usually very clear but today it was stained. The leaves were starting to change to their autumn colors. By this weekend I think they are going to be in their full autumn colors.

There are so many things you can do. Kayaking, fishing, hiking and camping. Daily picnic sites are available. The trails on both sides of the river are rocky and rough. I would rate them as hard. You can make a loop but you have to cross the damn to do so. It can get pretty crowded on the weekends so I limit my visits to the week days where you are pretty much by yourself. Flash floods can be a problem in the spring.

We headed home around 3:30. On the way out I saw the camp ground hosts. They told me the powers that may be notified them that they were going to close the gates November 7 for winter. They have already turned the water off so if you camp in this last week be sure to bring some water with you.

Persistence

St Francis River in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktowm, MO.

“A river cuts through rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.” – Jim Watkins

Too many times we fall short of what we were trying to achieve in life because we simply gave up. Our life is littered with events that test our fortitude. We have a choice to give up or be like the river. How we face these obstacles determines if we succeed or fail.

Life and the River

St Francis River in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO.

“The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that.”-Eartha Kitt

Life is much like the river. Full of turns and bends leaving us to wonder what’s next and where we are going. We are just along for the ride letting it take us where it may go. As long as we maintain control of our vessel things will work out and we will reach the deep calm waters at the end of the rapids.

Camping at Silver Mines

St Francis River, in Silver Mines Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO

On October 18, a good friend of mine met me at the Silver Mines Conservation Area. This area is named for the abandoned “Einstein Mine” where in 1870 was used to mine silver, tungsten and lead up until 1946 when the mine was closed. The area is known for its Precambrian granite and felsite rocks.

After a brief visit we began setting up camp. I had brought my Bushnell one man tent and Clarry opted for a hammock and tarp. I was amazed with the hammock setup. Clarry had it down to a science. When he was done setting up it looked very inviting. It was only his third time at setting it up. The temps got down into the upper 30s and he discovered some things he would do differently the next time.

After breakfast we decided down the dam on the St Francis river. It was built when they were mining the area. The trail actually goes across the dam to get to the other side of the trail and we thought about trying it but we were going to have to wade to do it and we decided against it.

We talked to another camper who had done it and he told us about two graves on the other side marked by two wooden crosses and the mine entrance was on the other side too but it had been closed off. The trail was pretty rocky and in places you had to climb over big rocks and because of my ankle not being fully healed we didn’t walk the entire trail and headed back to camp. When back at camp we sat around the campfire talking and we had a surprise visitor.

It was a great time. Trees were just starting to color and in another week should be in full color. We pretty much had the place to ourselves. We did meet a gentleman there who came all the way from Chicago to a camp a couple of days. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It would be hard not to feel at peace with yourself while you were here. If you are looking for a place to camp where you can enjoy nature I highly recommend Silver Mines. It is located near Fredericktown, MO off highway D. In the spring when the river level is up they have kayak races.

It’s Been A Year

My cast after surgery.

A year ago today I was rolled into the operating room for a complete ankle replacement. It had been over 40 years since I had taken a step without pain. My doctor said this would take care of that but the healing process would take a year to a year and a half to be fully healed. So the journey began.

I have to admit the first three days I was in intense pain and the pain pills did very little to alleviate the pain. On the fourth day I got some relief but I was still in a lot of pain. I was beginning to wonder if I had made the right choice.

I was on crutches longer than was expected because when he went to secure my new ankle to the leg bone the bone splintered and an extra screw was needed and the bone had to mend before I could put weight on it.

Second cast

I received a new cast and then eventually a walking boot. There was still quite a bit of pain and I was experiencing a lot of swelling but I was on the road to recovery.

Six months went by then eight and then ten. I was still experiencing pain but there had been some progress.

I finally got where I could walk fairly well on flat ground but an incline or uneven ground was a challenge. After 11 months I still had pain at times but it was much better. I was really beginning to wonder if I made the right decision.

My foot at around 6 months

I finally made a decision to try the Blue Emu Oil with hemp and see if it would help. To my surprise it was quite effective and the pain began to melt away. I could actually walk without pain.

After a year I went down memory lane revisiting the ups and downs. I will admit that just 3 weeks ago I was wondering if the surgery had been worth it. Yes it was. It’s great to be able to walk without pain. I still have pain at times but I am confident in saying I will be fully recovered in the next six months.

After all the ups and downs it has been worth the pain to get to where I am today. I have started fly fishing again and hope to take my first big hike this weekend. If I had it to do all over again I would make the same choice. I no longer suffer from chronic pain.

My foot today

Weekend In Pilot Knob, MO

My grandson and I attended the 157th Anniversary Battle Of Pilot Knob Reenactment. I tip my hat to the organizers, reenactors, vendors, participants and security. Everything went smoothly and if there was a glitch I didn’t notice it.

The Battle of Fort Davidson was fought on September 27, 1864, near the town of Pilot Knob, MO. Major General Sterling Price commanded the Confederate troops against Union troops commanded by Thomas Ewing Jr. The Confederate divisions of Major General James Fagan and Brigadier General John S Marmaduke drove Union troops, commanded by Brigadier General Thomas Ewing Jr. and Major James Wilson, out of the Arcadia Valley to Fort Davidson. The Confederate troops led three separate attacks against the fort and were turned away. On the final attempt General William Cabell’s Confederate brigade was able to cross the moat but failed to enter the fort and retreated.

That night Ewing, after much consideration, decided to abandon the fort. He ordered his men to blow up the fort’s magazine which enabled Union troops to slip past the Confederate troops guarding the escape routes without being detected. After the unsuccessful attack Price made the decision not to attack St. Louis.

The Missouri State Parks system added the Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site in 1968 and on February 26, 1970 the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The dead were buried in a mass grave and it is marked by a granite monument. It was estimated that the Union troops lost 213 lives and the Confederates lost between 500 to 1,000 lives. There is a Visitors Center located in the park. Inside you will find a research library, a fiber optic display, and artifacts including Ewing’s sword. The American Battlefield Trust has been involved in the preservation of 41 acres at the site.

The Arrival of Fall

Fall has arrived here in Southeast Missouri. Breakout the pumpkin spices, the hoodies and the chili recipes. Let the bonfires begin!

Farmers will begin the removal and storage of their crops. The sky will be filled with the “honking” of geese as they begin their journey to their winter homes. We will soon awaken to cool crisp mornings with frost on the pumpkin. The countryside will become painted with bright yellows, oranges and reds. Mother Earth will show off her artistic abilities. Her forest creatures will be obsessed with gathering and storing their winter food.

Folks will turn to folklore to try and predict the upcoming winter weather. There are two particular methods that are popular in my area.

The persimmon seed. People will look for the ripe fruit and then they will remove the seed. They will split the seed open to see what shape, called a cotyledon, is hidden within. It is said that if the shape is that of a fork we will experience a mild winter. If it is the shape of a spoon we will have an abundance of snow and if it is that of a knife we will have a cold blustery winter so the saying “cut like a knife”.

Another popular legend is the “wooly worm”. The wooly worm is a caterpillar made up of 13 segments representing the 13 weeks of winter. The browner the worm the milder the winter. The blacker it is the harsher the winter. The number of black segments represent how many weeks of bad winter weather we will have.

Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence proving either method works.

Here in the Midwest we are fortunate to be able to experience all four seasons. Here in Missouri there are times you can experience all four seasons in one day. We all have our favorite seasons for one reason or another but as for me I am delighted that the fall season has begun. I can smell the chili cooking and the smoke of the bonfire.

Beauty of Nature

It was another hot day in Southeast Missouri. I had the evening off so I decided to head out to the Bismark Conservation area.

The area is made up of 1,188 acres that surrounds the 220 acre lake, DiSalvo. It is the headwaters of the St Francis River. There are good numbers of bass, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie.

This particular day I went chasing channel catfish. It is hot and the humidity was punishing, two ingredients of pop up thunderstorms. It sprinkled on me a couple of times. There was a thunderstorm skirting to the south. Lightning and thunder.

Mother Nature was presenting me with one spectacular show. I watched intently. The wind picked up and I enjoyed feeling it upon my face. So relaxing.

The fish weren’t cooperating. They had very little interest in the bait I was using, shrimp, hotdogs and night crawlers. At dark the bullhead catfish started to show interest in the shrimp. I ended up catching 3 bullheads before I had to give in and call it a night.

It turned out to be a great evening and it was much needed. Mother Nature was spectacular and gave me some great shots and I had it all to myself.