Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two Missouri Covered Bridges

We are now parked in St.Charles Missouri, and will stay here for a couple of months.  Consequently my posts will not be as frequent, but they will be appearing occasionally.  John and I are not ones to sit still for very long, and, like yesterday, are apt to head out suddenly on a whim to seek a new adventure.  Last week, on a trip to Farmington, we took a short detour to visit the Sandy Creek covered bridge.  Missouri has preserved 4 of the estimated 30 covered bridges which once spanned its rivers and creeks.
 This bridge was one of 6 bridges built in 1872 to allow passage from the Jefferson County seat of Hillsboro to St.Louis.  It was substantially damaged during a storm in 1886 and repaired using one-half of the original timbers.  It has since been restored several times over the years and at unknown dates was further modified with a corrugated metal roof instead of pine shingles, concrete piers, and one I beam.  As with many covered bridges, it eventually allowed only pedestrian traffic.
As I noted at the beginning of this post, we refused to let overcast skies and a brisk cool wind keep us inside yesterday and took a drive to find another covered bridge.  This time it was necessary to drive north to a location near Mark Twain State Park.  Pictured above is Union Covered Bridge, built in 1871 and served travelers in Monroe County for 99 years.  Notice that the siding is vertical, like most houses.  The Sandy Creek siding is horizontal, which gives it the barn-like appearance.  Supposedly the barn-like appearance made it easier for farm animals to cross the river without becoming nervous.  As you may notice in the picture of the Union Covered Bridge, it has sustained damage over the years from high water, fire and just plain neglect.  I certainly hope it gets repaired soon!  Even walking over the bridge was a bit scarey as the wood flooring has a few loose boards.  In the past overweight trucks damaged its structural timbers.
Our trip to the Union Covered Bridge took us close by Florida, Missouri, the birthplace of Mark Twain.  Over the years the home where he was born in 1835 has been preserved.  He died in 1910 and in 1924 his only surviving daughter, Clara, liked the idea of a park in her Dad's memory.  She was a contralto concert singer and gave local concerts to raise money to buy the land for what is now Mark Twain State Park.  In 1959 Twain's birth home was moved into the visitor's center of the park.  It is a two room structure which once housed Samuel and his parents plus his five siblings and a teenage slave for nine years.  Mark Twain once wrote, "Recently someone in Missouri sent me a picture of the house I was born in. Heretofore I have always stated that it was a palace, but I shall be more guarded now".

Monday, April 13, 2015

Little Grand Canyon in Shawnee National Forest

As I noted in my last posting, we saw some quite a variety of colorful wildflowers in this park.  Pictured below are bluebells.
We also saw two different kinds of trillium, the white variety as well as the dark purple called wake robin.  We also saw large patches of what looked like the poppy flower.  I checked later with the Illinois Department of Resources web site and found out that there is a wood poppy in this part of the country.
One other unusual looking wildflower, which Melissa found, is the yellow bellwort.
Our hike in the park took us along woodland paths as well as 365 feet down into a canyon.  Unfortunately we chose to do this after some hard rains, so the trail down and up was a wet one.  Weathered ledges and steps helped us somewhat in navigating the many streams of water.  Our daughter Melissa was carrying Nathan in a backpack, how she managed this 3.6 mile trek into the canyon is beyond my understanding.
It was fortunate that Melissa's husband Spencer took a break from his studies to join us.  I do not think John or I could have given Melissa and Nathan the assistance needed to climb over wet rocky ledges!  It was enough of a challenge for us to manage on our own, and our walking sticks certainly helped.  At the top of the canyon we had a panoramic view of the Big Muddy as well as the Mississippi floodplain. 
Pictured above is the creek flowing through the park, looks like the Big Muddy backed up into it after the recent storms.  It took us about three hours to hike the loop down into the canyon and back up along Hickory Ridge.  Nathan slept through most of the hike.  We were fortunate it was a cool day.  And what with the abundance of wildflowers in the park, it was a good time of the year to hike this trail.  However, it was a bit wet and muddy.  I think we did good going through the canyon, all of the mud was on our shoes and not our clothes!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Return to Southern Illinois

We probably did return north too soon, not because of cooler weather but because of spring rains and stormy weather.  A few days ago a tornado touched down in northern Illinois, here we have only dealt with strong winds and rain.  The night when strong winds rocked our home we thought it was also hailing, however the next morning we discovered that the wind had brought down a torrent of gum balls on our roof!  Scarey times, but we have survived.  Easter week-end we did have a break in the weather. On Saturday Epiphany church had an Easter egg hunt for the children.  Our grandson Nathan is still too young to understand what that is all about.  He had eggs all around him, but chose instead to pull on the grass.
Nathan took his first steps around Christmas time.  On Easter, early evening, he decided to walk across the living room.  There is no stopping him now.  Today, at a park, he laughed gleefully as he ran up and down some small hills.  He even stopped suddenly and turned around, quite smoothly I might add.  We are still carrying him when we are hiking, but soon he will be hitting the trails on his own legs!
He so loves the outdoors!  Last week we returned to Giant City park.  You may recall my posting on it last year about this time, with one picture of the large sandstone formation called the Devil's Stand Table.  This time I will post Balanced Rock, another one of the awesome formations in the park.
Hiking around this park we saw the first blooming wildflowers of the season, mainly Dutchman breeches.
What a beautiful flower with its delicate fern-like leaves!  Yesterday we hiked the Little Grand Canyon, also in Southern Illinois, where we saw an abundance of wildflowers.  More on that hike in my next posting.