Monday, April 25, 2011

Tornado in St.Louis, Missouri

He is risen indeed! Out of great love for us Christ died and rose. We sinners are blessed indeed as heaven is a guarantee for us. The next destination for John and I could very well have been heaven Friday evening. Many of you who live in St.Louis are well aware of the horrific storms which passed through this region that evening. John and I attended Good Friday services at Beautiful Savior Lutheran in Bridgeton. That church is quite dear to us as that was where our children were baptized and confirmed. Many of our friends still attend there. Friday evening, during the service, we heard warning tornado sirens and the lights started flickering. Foolishly we finished the service and did not go to the church's basement until after the worse of the storm had passed. During that time the tornado touched down to the west and east of the church.
 While in the church basement we spent some time catching up with the news of our friends, some of whom at that time were totally unaware that their homes were in the path of the storm. We arrived home safely and tried to locate our sister Julia and her husband Cal. Fortunately they had been in St.Peters shopping and were safe. However, it took them three hours to get home. The roads to their house were strewn with debris, downed power lines and trees. A tornado, with winds from 160 to 200 miles per hour, had cut a swath of destruction within several blocks of their home. Their home lacked power but was all right. It was a miracle that in the St.Louis area no one was killed by this storm. Somehow I see a message of hope here, and that was probably felt by this homeowner who carved a cross into a tree stump in his yard.
We took the above pictures while touring Julia's neighborhood Sunday afternoon. Julia commented that once this had been a heavily wooded area secluded from the noise and traffic of Highway 70. Now instead of looking out over sylvan beauty the residents of this area have to deal with the harsh reality of a denuded landscape.  However, I still find a message of hope as some trees were unscathed and the blossoms of the spring flowering trees did not blow off despite the strong winds.  Also, some homes did escape with only minor damage as you can see in the picture below.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Season of Spring in Missouri

It has been a busy and eventful time since we drove into Missouri a week ago. While in Texas, which has been in a drought, I was quite anxious to feel some rain on my face. Now I regret ever thinking that. Our first stop was in Columbia, Missouri to visit my sister Linda. Shortly after arriving we rushed out to see the many different redbuds in bloom in a park there before a storm hit later that day.  We saw a dazzling array of blooming trees; white redbud, weeping redbud and red leaf redbud (pictured below).
Despite a cool, rainy day Saturday, we were able to get out and hike on the Katy trail on Sunday. Monday we parked our rig in St. Charles and drove to Farmington on Tuesday. Unfortunately we needed to place our cat in a boarding kennel, again.  Tuesday night in Farmington there were storms and tornado sirens. Thursday there was a break in the storms and we hiked at Taum Sauk State Park. Blooming dogwood trees are all over this area, more that I have ever seen in previous years here in Missouri.
We saw many patches of those blooming trees while hiking. With all the rain Missouri has had recently, Mina Sauk Falls had large volumes of water crashing over its boulders.It was a muddy, slippery hike, but well worth the time and effort. Many wildflowers are now blooming, and, besides the main falls, there were many smaller ones and running streams of water along our path. Our return trail took us over the Ozark Trail.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ottawa, Kansas

We are done with the rolling tumbleweed and blowing grit and sand! The wind is still with us, however. Another surprise for us yesterday, as we drove into Kansas, is that we are not done with the rolling plains. In fact, this part of Kansas has some rather pretty countryside. It does help to have your creeks and rivers filled with water, we have seen some rather lush vegetation in this part of Kansas. Blooming redbud trees are everywhere. We saw quite a few of them where we parked  last evening  also.
The picture above is what we see from our home here where it is parked in Ottawa Kansas. We are sitting on a ridge which overlooks the rolling hills of a farming community. Something else great about this campground it that the owner greets each new guest with a fresh bag of popcorn when they enter her cozy office to sign in. It was close to suppertime, but I just could not turn down fresh popcorn! I have one more interesting story to mention before I close this. At a toll plaza stop today we saw an exhibit dedicated to Knute Rocke, the famous  football coach of Notre Dame. He had died in Bazarr, Kansas while on an airplane trip to California in 1931. I did not realize that there was a town with that name here in Kansas. Later, driving further on the Kansas Turnpike, we saw a feed lot with the sign "Bazarr Cattle Pen". Had I not known there was a town of that name I perhaps would have thought it was a misspelling of the word bizarre! But then, how bizarre can a cattle pen be? We will be in Columbia Missouri tomorrow to visit with my sister Linda, then on to St.Louis.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Amarillo, Texas

I just was not quite ready to leave Texas today and also felt that I wanted to drive into Amarillo since we are currently just about 10 miles out from it. So we drove into the city this morning, our first destination was Cadillac Ranch,  located west of the city on I-40. In a working grain-field of the ranch is half buried nose-down 10 cars. The roadside sculpture is called "Hood Ornament of Route 66".  Despite a brisk wind blowing across the field and the presence of cow patties, there were quite a few people besides us there to view the sculpture. John was a bit more fascinated with them than I was.
Speaking of Route 66, we spent some of our time in Amarillo at historic Route 66 and Sixth Street. It is a mile of specialty and antique shops, as well as numerous restaurants. The antique shops had everything imaginable.
Our other stop of the day was at the Helium Monument Sundial. Helium has been extracted from the gas wells of Texas since 1918. It is produced as a product distilled during natural gas production. Over the succeeding years large quantities have been stored underground in an area northwest of Amarillo. It has proven valuable over the years for industry, science and for our military and space programs. One of the many uses of helium is to preserve historic documents (as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution). When the monument was erected in 1968,  historic documents, books and artifacts were placed in sealed time capsules within a helium atmosphere. The plan was that the four individual columns are to be opened in 25, 50, one hundred and one thousand years from the time of the filling of the capsules. In one of the time capsules is also a $10.00 savings bond which will be worth $1 quintillion when the capsule is opened in the year 2968.That was our day in Amarillo. In Spanish amarillo means "yellow". There probably is an interesting story behind that !

Monday, April 11, 2011

Canyon City, Texas

Before I discuss Canyon City I have a bit more to add about our trip Saturday. It is also an excuse to show you a few more pictures from that excursion. I mentioned in the last posting that John and I hiked in Caprock Canyon. On one of the trails we came upon a natural rock bridge. The white coloration in the rock layers is caused by the presence of gypsum. In the picture below John is peering under the bridge. In the background note the light coming into the opening at the other side of this cave-like structure.
Our last stop Saturday was in Tulia for supper. Tulia has, in the middle of one of its streets, an original obelisk  placed by the Ozark Trail Association in 1913 to guide traffic across several states. Distances to and from St.Louis and El Paso are delineated on the sign. Just think, John and I have only 928 miles to cover in the next week to get to St.Louis!
Canyon City is located near where we are currently parked. It is the town where West Texas A and M is located and on that campus is the biggest history museum in Texas called the Panhandle-Plains Historic Museum.  It was the best place for us Sunday afternoon when a fierce wind was blowing. I strongly recommend this museum if you are ever in this area. It covers the cultural, economic and geological history of northwestern Texas. It has a Plains exhibit which traces 14,000 years of human habitation and has many American Indian artifacts. There are also other exhibits dedicated to western heritage, petroleum, paleontology, decorative and fine arts, to name a few.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tule and Cap Rock Canyon

Yes, there are more canyons in this part of Texas, however they are not as big as Palo Duro. We drove 260 miles on Saturday checking them out. John did admit that our trip could have been a bit shorter had he realized that there was only one entrance to Cap Rock State Park! Other than that one park and Palo Duro State Park, the rest of the land is owned by ranchers and farmers. Most of the land is quite rugged, as you may notice in the picture of above, and only fit for cattle ranches. The other picture I have here is of a cap rock. In my last posting I talked about the composition of the rock layers in the cliff walls of the canyons. What I did not mention is that there is also mudstone and siltstone in some of those layers which makes for a rock formation that is quite friable. Cap rock is the top layer that erodes slower than the rest of the layers which are underneath it, as you may see in the rock formation pictured below. The Caprock Escarpment is a long narrow rocky formation as high as 1000 feet that forms a natural transition between the flat high plains to the west and the lower rolling plains to the east. Our drive yesterday covered a small part of that escarpment.
Some of the erosion which occurs happens by fierce winds blowing across the plains. The wind we had today had to be at least 50 miles per hour. Fortunately we did not have that strong of a wind yesterday when we were hiking in Cap Rock Canyon. Still, there was a lot of grit and sand blowing into our faces, adding to the fine red sand which we were walking on. Pictured below is another awesome formation which we saw yesterday, it also shows the eroding effects of wind and water.
In Tule Canyon is Mckenzie Lake, which currently has a very low water level. There are many warning signs around it saying that for the present there is to be no water skiing or diving down into the water from the cliffs.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Palo Duro Canyon

For much of this past week we have been in the panhandle of Texas. The combining factors of a drought and strong southwesterly winds have created many grass fires. We were in the town of Andrews (which is west of Odessa, Texas) on Wednesday and the wind there brought in whiffs not only of petroleum from the oil wells, but also the smell of burning grass. We learned that there was a grass fire occurring that evening about nine miles out of town. This area of Texas is called the Permian Basin and is famous for containing vast amounts of oil and gas. Driving from Andrews on Thursday, going further north into the Panhandle, we started seeing less of the dry plains and more of lush green land.  Fields of peanuts and cotton seemed to have adequate water. We also saw large feedlots of cattle grazing on green grass. Apparently this area has a couple of underground aquifers which is providing needed water. Our location now is in Canyon City, about 17 miles from Amarillo, Texas.  We are also 10 miles from Palo Duro Canyon, one of the most picturesque areas in Texas. It is the second largest canyon in the United States, measuring 120 miles long and 1,000 feet deep. Over the years the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River carved its way through the canyon. The first trail we took today in the canyon was along this river.
It was exciting to see a river bed that has water in it! The water level is low, but at least there is some present.
We hiked about three-quarters of that trail (roughly a mile) and then decided to go against the directions of a park ranger and try for the Lighthouse Trail instead. We wanted see more of the rock formations of the canyon. There are signs before the trail head warning that heat exhaustion can occur while hiking it. We started out on the trail during the hottest part of the day and was successful in at least walking about four miles of it. A cool breeze kept us from getting too hot and there were juniper trees and ramadas which offered shade and a place to rest. A ramada is pictured below.
We managed to see the Lighthouse rock formations off in the distance. I did not get a good picture of them, but did get one of the Capitol Peak. It has a hoodoo at the south end which you may see also see in the picture below.  The canyon walls are quite beautiful with their different rock layers (layers of shale, clay, sandstone, and gypsum) which have subtle hues of yellow, blue, purple, gray, red and white. The colors are even more awesome when contrasted against the green vegetation of the mesquite, juniper and cottonwood trees.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Our Arizona Trip

We spent the past five days traveling through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Gold Canyon Arizona was our final goal, and where my nursing school reunion was held. I was surprised to find out that one of the meeting places (where we caught up with my with my former classmates on Friday) was at a place John and I had visited two years ago. That area was near Canyon Lake in the Superstition Mountains. Saturday, after spending a day of  reminiscing, drinking and eating, John and I were able to get away and do some hiking in the foothills of the mountains at sunset.  Spring is happening there; you may notice the blooming yellow blooming bush in the middle of the picture below. There were also other cacti with beautiful flowers on them.
We left for Texas on Sunday, and, while driving through New Mexico, encountered a detour which we had not planned on. Due to winds up to 50 miles per hour and consequent poor visibility, state troopers would not let us continue on our planned route to Deming. We were directed onto a highway which took us over the Mimbres Mountains in the Gilia National Forest. That was a beautiful mountain drive with some fantastic vistas over mountain canyons and pine forests. We got out a few times and found ourselves confronted by a very stiff cold wind. What a change from the 90-100 degree weather of the past two weeks! Today it is 60 degrees here in Alpine.
Just before arriving back home here in Alpine Texas, we were treated to the sight of about 8 pronghorn antelope feeding in a field by the road. They are supposed to be the second fastest running land animal, second only to cheetahs.
We got in earlier than planned, which made for one less day in the kennel for our cat. He has been pacing and crying ever since we brought him home. Seems that as he is getting older he just does not do well being separated from us! But at least he survived the traumatic experience. It was a good kennel, as far as we could tell. KC would  probably tell us a different story if he could talk.