Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pickle Springs Natural Area

This park is located about six miles northeast of Farmington, on Highway 32.  Over the years it has been a favorite place of mine to hike. And you may be wondering about the name, what exactly does pickles have to do with a pool of water bubbling out of the ground?  My same theory for street name works here;  if a street's name does not make sense, then there is a person with that name. And there was a Mr. Pickles who owned Pickle Springs back in 1848, until the early 1860s. According to local legend he was shot by renegades sometime during the Civil War. Because of its permanent flow the spring was a critical source of water for local settlers during the dry summer months. In the picture below there is a waterfall and ledge, under which is located the spring. There are also other small waterfalls and a Pickle Creek which runs through the park.
 The path through this park is 2 miles long and is considered moderately difficult. It has steep cliffs and bluffs, as well as a couple of canyons. Below is a picture of Rockpile Canyon where a collapse of the south wall occurred in 1959, which left a sheer sandstone bluff. Neighbors can still recall the rumbling, thundering-like sound when the boulders fell from the canyon wall.
One  of the most awesome rock formations in the park is that of a special buttress arch, holding up a shelf of sandstone which in turn supports three huge rocks, two of which form another small arch.
You may remember from past postings this summer my discussion regarding hoodoos, or rock pillars. Pickle Springs has these moundlike sandstone formations. They sure occur in many unusual and often fantastic forms! And the ones located in this park are no exception!
Since we last hiked in this park the trail has become a bit more rougher to traverse over. Erosion has taken place and in some places large trees have fallen over the trail. However, its spectacular scenery has never changed and the park has as much natural beauty as some of the places we saw out west this past summer.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Farmington Missouri

It has been close to forty years that I have been returning to Farmington for brief visits. It is where my husband John grew up, and he still has family there. This past week-end was a special time for the town. The high school had its homecoming festivities, and in conjunction with those events, there was a celebration by the alumni of the fifty years the present high school has been in existence. Mainly there was an emphasis on the history of football at the high school since 1919. We got there Friday afternoon, just in time for the parade which included current and past football players, cheerleaders, class homecoming floats, the high school band, to mention a few of the participants in the parade. I have here a picture of one of the floats which featured football players from the past.
 Interestingly enough, the soccer team at Farmington High ranked fourth in state last year. I am more partial to that sport,and our nephew Nicholas is on that team. He is pictured on the float below (he is the one with his back to the camera unfortunately), along with his teammates.
One building of the old high school, which is still in existence, is Truman Auditorium. Alumni of the high school gathered there Saturday afternoon to share their memories. The stage of this auditorium was once used for physical education classes and study hall, as well as musical performances, plays, and graduation ceremonies. It was built in 1937 and now no longer used by the school once the present high school was built in 1960.
In historic downtown Farmington the town held its Fall Festival this past week-end. Saturday morning we enjoyed checking out the booths which had handmade craft items as well as produce from local farms. The town's streets were decorated with straw figures  promoting different businesses as well non-profit organizations. Next month the town is having a food drive so the guy below is a cute reminder to remember the needs of the food pantry. It was all small town happenings in Farmington and a pleasant way to spend a fall week-end.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Calhoun County, Illinois

Saturday was one of those strange days when we started the day not knowing how the rest of it would unfold. John's sister Carolyn and her husband Jim were visiting us from Farmington. Saturday morning we went with them to St.Louis Mills Mall and after that we returned to St.Charles. Coming home I think it was some highway sign which got John thinking about Calhoun County. He was surprised to find out that Carolyn and Jim had never seen the area. Before I knew it we were driving past where our home is parked and heading to Illinois! And it turned out to be a terrific day. In the past John and I would make the trip about once a year with our children over to Calhoun County to purchase apples and peaches, usually it was around the time of Labor Day. It is a great day trip driving over rolling river hills through fields of corn, peach and apple orchards. It is certainly a refreshing time away from the busyness of the big city. We took highway 94 east to Brussels Ferry. Brussels Ferry took us over the Illinois River into Calhoun County.
Our first stop was a country store which offers a wide variety of items from hand-made quilts to canned jams, pickles and fruit. It is a is  fun place to browse and maybe purchase an ice cream cone. The building was built in 1929, and for many years served as a vegetable and fruit market.
We did stop at several farm markets and purchased fruits and vegetables grown locally. I did not have any hope of finding peaches this late in the season, but one market did have them. I did not know that there were  October peaches now available (the owner of the orchard said she did not know why they are called October peaches when they ripen in September). What beautiful large juicy peaches they were, I did not even care about how much they cost. Being up in Alaska all summer and missing all the good produce down in the states has made me quite hungry for them. After loading up with fruits and vegetables we headed for home along the river road. At least we thought we were heading for home. We all decided that we had never toured Principia College. That was another wonderful stop. What a beautiful college overlooking the Mississippi River!  We walked around the center of the campus and found the chapel walk trail. On this path are many beautiful vistas of the river. The picture below may give you an idea of what the area looks like.
We also toured the little town of Elsa, and did not return home until early evening. It was a wonderful day, and if you live in the metropolitan area of St.Louis and have never driven over to Calhoun County, then you are missing something very special and unique to this area of the midwest.

Friday, September 17, 2010

St. Charles Missouri

We left Cedar Falls this past Monday, but I did want to show you the large snapping turtle which we saw along the bike path we took there last Saturday in Black Hawk Park. The turtle and black snake were the largest wild life we saw in the park, but, hey, it does not take very much to thrill John and I! And speaking of wildlife, John and I were strolling around the lake at Hellebusch Park in Bridgeton yesterday when we observed a fish jump out of the water to catch a dragonfly who was hovering just over the surface of the water. The fish did not catch his prey. Just before that happened we were wondering if there were still fish in that lake. Even though there is water flowing in and out of the lake it looked  stagnant to us. We had been to that park fairly often years ago, and frequently we would see people fishing in the lake, as well as the presence of many geese. No geese or fisherman when we were there yesterday, which seemed surprising to us as the weather was quite pleasant. We could not say that for the earlier park of the week, when we first arrived. It was quite warm, and it was necessary to turn on the air conditioning in our home, one of several times for us out of the whole summer! Guess we really cannot complain. And last evening we were under a blanket while listening to the St.Louis Symphony out under the stars on Art Hill in Forrest Park. There was quite a cool wind blowing last evening, but the music was fantastic. The symphony played a few selections from the concerts which it will be playing in the 2010-2011 season, as well as other songs from popular show tunes. A display of fireworks over the water in the Grand Basin ended the wonderful evening.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cedar Falls, Iowa

We pulled into a county park outside of Cedar Falls yesterday. I knew that I was going to like this park when I saw the awesome weeping willow tree pictured below. It caught my eye immediately  as we came into the entrance of the campground.
We took a hike into the forest here last evening, and this park also has some grand old oak, hickory and maple trees. There was at one time a grove of red cedar trees along the river which also flows through this park.  Which is how that river, Cedar River, came by its name. We also found the falls while riding our bikes on the river trail this morning. The river trail brought us into the city of Cedar Falls, and, as we were entering the downtown area, we came upon an ice museum. That building was used to store the ice retrieved from the river during the winter months and sold to the citizens of the city during the warmer months. The building was in use for this purpose from 1921-1934.
Near the museum is the falls and the old power plant which it made it possible for the city to become an important milling center after the Civil War.
Cedar Falls has 60 miles of recreational trails which connect various locations in the park. Through the years, when we were taking Melissa and Daniel to colleges in Minnesota and Iowa, I would notice the bike paths in this city and wished we could stop and ride them. So I am finally satisfied that we can now do that. We have a niece Martha, her husband and children who live here, which was the main reason we decided to make this stop before heading to Missouri. Today was certainly a beautiful day for a bike ride, sunny with a cool breeze. On the way back home I just missed hitting a black snake who moved rapidly across my path. Also, on the way home, we stopped at a private residence which had a pile of zucchini sitting out in their yard, free for the taking. Guess it is that time of the year when people have had enough of that vegetable!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Labor Day was quite a cool windy day here in the twin cities. We did load everyone up in two cars to see the sculpture garden, as well as other sites in and around the cities of St.Paul and Minneapolis. The sculpture garden is an 11-acre urban garden that displays more than 40 sculptures, including the charming "Spoonbridge and Cherry". Isaac and Esther were kind enough to pose for me in front of that artwork. The sculpture was my favorite in the garden.
There is also a section of the garden which has a square of concrete benches, on which are written short verses. Some of the prose made sense to me and I agreed with, others were way off the wall and/or I totally disagreed with. The one below brought back memories of meetings at work, or church;  meetings which went on forever until someone had the courage to make a difficult decision.
Tuesday was the first day of school for Esther. Kathy, her mother, also had her first day of teaching at Luther seminary. We attended the opening day chapel service for the 2010-2011 academic year at the seminary with Doug and the children.
 For this service the professors processed in clad in their academic garb. After the service Kathy, still in her gown from Harvard, talked to us for a few minutes before returning to work.
She is quite an accomplished scholar as well as a mother!  Doug and her make a fine parenting team despite having quite some busy times. Tuesday afternoon Doug and John drove to St.Olaf University to move in some furniture which their nephew Kaleb had been storing at Kathy and Doug's house. That left me to baby sit the two younger ones, something which I always enjoy doing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Minnesota State Fair

No reason for us not to attend the fair, as it is only one mile from our niece Kathy and her husband Doug's home in St.Paul. Kathy's sister Martha came from Iowa with her two children Friday night, so, with a total of five children, going to the fair seemed to be the right activity for the day. The day was sunny with a cool breeze, and that made the day perfect. The fair has been dubbed "the great Minnesota get-together" and I can understand why.  I think everyone in the state also thought it was a great day for a fair! And it was a very large fair, there were many things to see and do. Below is a picture of our group trying to figure out which direction we wanted to go, whether to see the livestock or do the midway rides.
It seemed to be the biggest fair which John and I have ever attended. The number of buildings filled with livestock was very impressive. I did not think there were still that many farms in our country today! The first animal building we toured was the horse stables. Fortunately there were a few horses available for petting.
We headed next to the birthing center for the fair. We missed seeing the birth of a calf by one hour. Fortunately the birth had been recorded on video and we were able to see the event on a television screen. It was  awesome to look at a calf who was one hour old, still wobbling around on his legs and trying to make sense of the world he had just been thrust into. His mother went off to eat but she still stopped occasionally to give him a wash over with her tongue. He already looked clean to me! In the picture below he seems steady on his feet but whenever he tried to move he looked like he would topple over any minute.
Everyone loves a parade! We made sure to get over to see the parade after lunch. The fair has a parade daily. It seemed a bit thrown together haphazardly because after we thought it was over with, we noticed some horses and their riders coming down the street after the Minnesota State Marching Band made a second appearance. It was still a fun parade, below is a picture of the Wacky Wheeler. The man riding the wheel could performed some astonishing stunts on it while riding it in the parade.
We put in a long day at the fair. After the children had done the fun stuff on the midway we were ready to call it a day. We had stuffed ourselves on the usual foods offered at a fair; cotton candy, carmel apples, cheese curds, corn dogs and brats. John even try a Scotch Egg. That was not bad tasting; it was a hard boiled egg on a stick, covered with sausage and bread crumbs and then deep fried. Just as nutritious as the rest of the food we had been eating!  With our bellies stuffed and our wallets empty it was certainly time to leave the fair. We were also exhausted. There is something about mingling with crowds that tends to be quite tiring.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Northern Plains Botanical Gardens

We are now in St.Paul, Minneapolis. A northwestern cold front moved through in the past twenty-four hours and it is feeling like fall is fast arriving. In  the park we stayed at, in Fargo, many squirrels were dashing around with acorns in their mouths. That is also a sure sign that we are moving into the next season. It is time for John and I to head south. The botanical garden which we visited in Fargo still has a fair number of flowers in bloom. It is a small garden, taken care of by one man. In that small botanical garden there is a woodland section, a butterfly garden, a vegetable garden to feed the hungry of the community, and a garden with plants from "A to Z". The latter garden is a novel idea, and I think that all the plants representing the letters of the alphabet were there. Maybe there was a little cheating with the letter x. That letter was represented with xerescape plants, that is a category of plants which are drought resistant. An end of the summer flower which I like are gladiolas, and there is a patch of them in the garden.
I also discovered a castor bean plant in the garden which is in bloom. I don't think I have seen that plant before. Its leaves and flowers are quite beautiful!
We will be in St. Paul for a week visiting with our niece Kathy, her husband Doug and their three children. After that we will head south to St.Louis.  I  will end this posting with one more picture from the garden.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Norwegian Culture in Minnesota

Our rig is currently parked in Fargo, North Dakota, actually a few feet from the Red River. Today we got away from the subject of bison and cowboys, and went to Norway instead. The Historical and Cultural Society of Moorhead has on exhibit a full-scale replica of a stave church, and a replica of a viking ship. The church was the dream of a local chemist Guy Paulson. The original church was built in Norway in the 1100s when Scandinavia became Christianized and the Viking Age drew to a close. The Vikings in their travels had seen the stone cathedrals in Europe and wanted their country to have similar churches. They constructed theirs differently,however, by using wood and in the Gothic style rather than Romanesque. The portal of this church is adorned with carvings of  lions with vines coming out of their mouths (both symbols of Christ) and the vines are devouring demons. Paulson copied all those intricate Norwegian designs from the original Hopperstad Church and carved them out himself. I mentioned earlier that it was a stave church. You can see those vertical posts in the picture I have below.  You may also notice two altars. The lower one was for the people and for such rites of worship as baptism, and the higher one was for the priest. There is also a "leper's window" at the high altar which made it possible for the sick to attend church and receive communion. The churches in Norway were Catholic until the Lutheran Church later became the state church in Norway.
I also have a picture here of the beams of that church, on which are carved St. Andrew crosses.
In this museum is also a viking ship. Robert Asp started building a replica of a burial ship built around 800 AD in the early 1970s. It took him about nine years to build the Hjemkomst (Norwegian for "Homecoming"). Part of his dream was to be able to sail it to Noway. He died before that dream came true. However, his four children did make the epic voyage across the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean landing 72 days later in Norway. That trip was made in 1982. I have here a picture of the prow of that boat.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jamestown, North Dakota

In the late 1950s the new Interstate highway (94) was making its way across North Dakota. The town of Jamestown decided that it needed a man-made attraction to draw tourists off the new road and into town. Thus came about the creation of a buffalo made of stucco and steel. He stands at the height of 26 feet and weights 60 tons. In the picture above you may notice that John is certainly dwarfed by that statue! We actually came to see the albino buffalo which are in a herd located near Jamestown. There are three of them here and we did get to see them (local people told us that the herd have a wide range to roam in and are not always seen). The matriarch, White Cloud was in one area off by herself and her son, Dakota Miracle born in 2007, was in another field with the other white buffalo, Dakota Legend born in 2008. Below is Dakota Legend. The white buffalo are considered sacred by Native Americans.
We thought we were only stopping to see the buffalo. But near the fields where they are located is a pioneer village called Frontier City. Many old buildings from around the area have been moved to this location. We found an old Lutheran church which had been moved moved here from the town of Millarton. The church was first used as a school in 1883, in 1929 it was remodeled into a church and moved to Millarton. In 1965 it was moved to Frontier Village. Below is a picture of its nave, note the coal furnace!
One of the village buildings has a display of author Louis L'Amour's books. He was born in 1908 in Jamestown. In his lifetime he wrote 120 novels about the western frontier,some of which were made into movies.  L'Amour died in 1988. Speaking of the frontier, in this village is a log cabin built in 1898. The clothes hanging outside certainly gives it a homey touch! Hard to believe that a family once lived in it!
John and I always use to think that paying to ride in a stagecoach was a silly touristy thing to spend money on. But we did do it in Frontier Village. We finally decided that we wanted to have that experience. And riding over the prairie on an uneven trail was certainly a bone-jarring experience, but we were glad we did it.