A Wonderland of Rivers and Forests

July Jubilee on the Big Piney River

The highway J exit comes into view and my heart rate is ampin’ as I’m rampin’ up this favorite EXIT to another world.

Take me to the river…wash me in the waters, of the Big Piney River…

As mentioned in a previous post, I have already canceled three float trips this year due to a very wet, stormy spring.  It’s July 9th and I’ve never been more energized for a float trip.

We’re  going to float the lower section of the Piney and this time-and for the very first time -we will stay on the river for three nights and four days.
Hallelujah!

With a promising forecast and having extra time to spend on the river, we’ll have more time to:  fish; snorkel; swim; and kick back UNDER

canopy tent

Trying out the 10×10 canopy tent

Our new 10 x 10 canopy tent…

This worked out great for a three day camp site.  A nice refuge from the sun, with plenty of room for lounging and enough space for keeping things under cover just in case of a popup shower.

And the campsite we’ve selected for the first two nights is a favorite and once again, proved to be golden.  More on this a little later.
It’s about 1pm and around 90 degrees when we launch this extended July trip.  We heard the Smallmouths were biting so it wasn’t long before we’re casting our crank baits into the cool waters.  This time of year, the Crickhopper is clearly our favorite lure.
I make the first catch of the day and it’s a small Smallie.  But I’m smiling because it happened in short time.
Just minutes later, my cousin pulls in a 10-11” Smallie and this one jumped out of the water.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, ounce for ounce, there isn’t a better fighting freshwater fish in North America.

We catch a few more Smallies, a couple of Longears, and I pull in what looks to be a hybrid of a Bluegill and Green Sunfish.  I don’t think we ever caught one of these before(should have taken a pic).

It’s now mid afternoon and the 90plus temps are pointing to the wash cycle.
The waters today are a little cooler than normal for this time of year, but he who hesitates will be (still)colder.
I take the plunge, it’s a bit of a shocker; but it’s still refreshing and only  gets better as I climb to a lofty position to air dry in the sun.

Island in the Stream

Island in the Stream

Paddle on… Next stop

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

At the mouth of Spring Creek on the Big Piney River, MO

It’s a modest little flow here…

looking out from Spring Creek

Looking out from Spring Creek to the river

but Oh the waters run so clear…

Crystal Clear Waters

Oh the waters, the crystal clear waters

It’s always fun to snorkel near a spring/outlet but the very chilly waters can be a challenge.  I like to start off in the warmer part of the river and then gradually work my way closer to the confluence.
However, being that even the river water was cold today, I didn’t stay in very long.

So then we head on down the river, hungry for supper, and eager to arrive at a campsite that we’ll call home for the next few days.

(campsite arrival, adventures in the natural world –  a new post soon to follow)

beautiful bluff

Beautiful bluff along the way to our campsite

Peace on the River

Kicking Off Summer on the Big Piney River

It’s sixteen days past the summer solstice before I finally hear the first song of a Cicada.  And up until about a week ago, my backyard had been mostly devoid of my favorite or any kind of insect sounds.

Last year, the demon drought, this year, the wettest spring I can remember in quite some time(insects must have drowned).

In the St. Louis area, and much of the Missouri Ozarks, it seemed to be raining at least every other day.  And if it wasn’t raining or STORMING, it would still be overcast.
For the past couple of months, I have been acutely sun deprived, discouraged, and certainly depressed.  I’ve already canceled three float trips and I’m still awaiting  my first float of the year.

This just in:

I’m now happy to report that we just had three consecutive days without rain.  The crickets are on the rise and the Lightning Bugs were spectacular last night.

Dare I say it, there’s something here that’s starting to resemble summer?

SUMMER ON!  Head for the river!
Piney bow shot IIaabb

We’re planning to float the lower section of the Big Piney River in just a few more days.

Water surface riffle shot11aa
If we can dodge the rain and miss the storms, we’re hoping for a lazy summer float with one campsite in mind.  Setting up camp once gives us more time for snorkeling, fishing, and time to kick back…

maybe under a new canopy tent (10 x 10) that I found for $20, but only if there’s room in the canoe.  It’s a long narrow box that’s about 4 feet long.
We shall see…

For now, I gotta run, I gotta pack, I can hear the river callin’ me back!

Outfitters on the Big Piney River:

Boilingspringsresort.com

Wildernessridgeresort.com

Richslastresort.com
___________________________

Hope to post again soon after my return.

Peace on the River

April Magic on an Ozark River

Swallottail on Bluebell blossom

When the Bluebells drip Swallowtails
And the sun peeks through the trees

You understand
the Bottomlands become Fairylands
Bluebells in the Bottomlands; Jacks Fork River
Sorcery in seclusion
just above the river

So conjure the time
for this April portal call
Bluebells; Jacks Fork River
This temporal beauty transforms,

Delivers
___________________________________________________________________________

Or better yet, find a little creek that wanders back into the woods.  Park your canoe, climb up the bank…

Immersed in Spring

Immersed in Spring

Wowsers, what a site!  Hey, that’s me sittin’ by a woodpile and our campsite is already set…yeah, I’m already there J
Seriously though, on this particular trip of the Jacks Fork River, what a great discovery!
*convenient parking on the nearby creek
and easy for unloading
*just enough firewood for storytelling’ (and sometimes swappin’ lies)
*no rain in the forecast=No tent tonight
*did I mention the Bluebells?
And April is the one time of year when we can camp in the woods.  It’s a golden opportunity to experience the depth of spring by immersion…
It’s everywhere we are; spring has us covered.
We set up camp in a jiffy.  No tent tonight, but we’ll tie a tarpaulin to trees-
shelters us from dew bombs that Woodland Fairies drop throughout the night.

And as evening approaches, we have a simple plan.

Hearty Irish stew(previously frozen) cooked on the Coleman in a porcelain pan, and there’s plenty of firewood close at hand.
Heat n’ eat and easy wood pickin’s – very nice!

After supper, it’s almost dark and I can feel the cold air falling and hear the whippoorwills calling…
I feel a sudden spinal shiver.

And so,
we strike up the favo(rite) ritual of comfort and light
Our rite of passage into the night
good campfire

It’s not much longer till the fire is at a roar.
I’m warming to the core as I look up above the fire and see the canopies of trees, the underside of newest leaves,
awash in firelight aglow.

 

It feels like we’re tucked away in a cozy little den from an old storybook, or Tolkien Middle Earth scene.

It’s a beautiful spring night, the sky is clear, the Big Dipper appears,
and right on cue, Mr. Hooty Hoot(the Barred Owl) calls from a little upstream.
Pretty soon the moon will be arcing over the bluffs and across the river.
Then high up in the hills, the Whippoorwill instructs us to be still.
It’s well past midnight as my head hits the pillow.  I’m thinking about the exuberance of spring, the mystical feel of it’s transient, enchanting beauty…
As I start to drift off, I hear a favorite melody(verse) that will mythologize my dreams,

 

And no one knows where the clear creek goes
when the moonlight fades in the forest

but the Peacock screams and the gypsy dreams
Of a time gone by before us

-Gypsy Forest; Ozark Mountain Daredevils

 

Peace on the River
Post Post Notes: (We always look forward to seeing the Dogwoods and Redbuds in bloom too, but hitting that time window at the right time with the right weather and water conditions has always proved to be difficult.
Please check my “archive/spring” posts in “Seasonal”/ more spring photos.

Hope for the Hellbender

Under a large flat rock in an Ozark stream

Dwells an ancient aquatic sentinel

With a Gaia messenger scheme

Calling all good earthly stewards

Protect these precious waters

Please the fish, the frog, the turtle and the toad

Let the mystery of this peculiar amphibian, continue to unfold
_________________________________________________________

He goes by many names:  Snot Otter;  Water  Dog;  Devil Dog, to name just a few.

But he mostly goes by, or is more commonly called , the  “Hellbender.”

Perhaps his bizarre appearance summons imagery from the depths of  a Dante vision.  Moreover, some have suggested that he’s hell bent on returning there.

 

As for me, I call him Harry.

Yeah, I feel a certain kind of kinship with this bewildering, curious creature.

It’s deeply rooted in my re-cognition of the trials of life and the anxieties of a very uncertain future.  For my own life, and certainly his.
(And I can’t resist the allure of assigning alliterative nicknames for my friends on the river)

 

The first time I laid eyes on Harry, I was genuinely transformed by a completely new frontier of discovery, at least in my life.  It was my wake up call(from the natural world) that there were strange and wonderful things STILL left to explore, discover, and experience.

Never in my life had I ever seen such an unusual, exotic creature- that resembled some-thing from a Ridley Scott movie set or a living fossil from the dinosaur ages.

 

Though the sad truth, now…

This awesome aquatic salamander may go the way of the dinosaurs all too very soon.

 

*There are two subspecies from the Cryptobranchidae family(giant salamanders) found in Missouri waters:  the Ozark Hellbender; and the Eastern Hellbender.

 

(The Hellbender is a “sentinel organism,” also known as an “indicator species,” which is highly sensitive to changes in environmental/water conditions and sometimes serves as an early alarm system to watchful biologists.)

 

The Missouri Department of Conservation(MDC) states that:

“Hellbenders are a major indicator of the overall health of a river or stream; if there is something in the water that is causing their decline, it can affect other species, including us, as well.”

 

*Both subspecies are on the Missouri endangered list and the Ozark Hellbender is also listed with the federal Endangered Species Act.

 

*But diagnosing the plight of the Hellbender is proving to be a difficult puzzle to solve.
Of course the usual suspects are being considered such as:
water quality; habitat degradation; human intervention/activities; and still more.  And they do have an impact.

But the trouble with Harry is much more complicated-it presents some real mysteries yet to be unraveled(more on this in later posts).

 

*Recent estimates – Ozark Hellbender:  there may only be 600 to 650 left in Missouri; and a mere 100 to 150 individuals in the state of Arkansas.
Still more alarming, that means there’s only about 800 left in the whole world!
(as the Ozark Hellbender is endemic to only these two states)

 

*Recent estimates – Eastern Hellbender:  only 600 to 800 individuals left in the state of Missouri; unsure of its total numbers in the U.S. as it ranges into some of the Eastern states.

 

Furthermore, the MDOC has reported that both subspecies could be extinct in Missouri in less than 20 years.

That’s not even a cosmic blink for this astounding amphibian who’s been a resident of Ozark streams for at least 6 million years and comes from a family(Cryptobranchidae) lineage that dates back to the Jurassic period.

 

This devastating decline of the Hellbender has me agitated and deeply concerned.
But it just now occurred to me as I ponder this post; it’s December, the season of hope.

 

And I have good tidings to share with the world!

 

The St.Louis Zoo, Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Announced they have been successful in captive breeding of the Ozark Hellbender species for two consecutive years now.
The importance of this development is HUGE!

 

Read all about it:

http://www.stlzoo.org/about/contact/pressroom/pressreleases/hellbender-breeding-of-three-populations/

More information on the Hellbender:
http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/hellbender

 

It’s good to know that there’s hope for even the Hellbender at Christmas.

Best wishes for Peace at Christmas

(* sourced from MDC)

 

Spectacular September on an Ozark River

Floating in September has blossomed into one of my favorite times to be on the river.
The greens of summer still linger while there’s a surprising display of colors from a cast of late bloomers that are flourishing in brilliance all along the river- just before the fall.

Yet the crisper hints of autumn are falling into place:  the water is a bit chillier; the crickets are slurring to a slower cadence, and the temps are mellowing to the mild.

This perfect month of transition is a privileged time to be on the river…

Bluff on the middle section of the Big Piney River

Taller Bluffs on the middle section of the Big Piney River

And this time we floated the middle section of the Big Piney River.  It’s an exceptionally scenic stretch along with some of the tallest bluffs on the Piney.  It’s been three years since we’ve floated this section of the river.
We’re primed as we head out under sunny skies that deliver a daytime high of 77 to 79 and very low or no humidity.

Classic September weather!

(after the record breaking heat and devastating drought of July and August, I’m really energized by these pleasing temperatures that, dare I say, resemble “normalcy” for this time of year)

We’re only minutes into the float when we paddle by a bank that’s lush in Jerusalem Artichokes.  These vivid yellow flowers will adorn almost every stretch of the river.
The yellows with the greens- a radiant scene that feels like summer everlasting…

Jerusalem artichoke with morning glory vine

Jerusalem Artichoke with Morning Glory Vine

And just up ahead, just around the bend, the crown jewel of September…

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower on the Big Piney River/ September 2012

The Cardinal flower(Lobelia Cardinalis).
The most beautiful, brilliant shade of red I think I’ve ever seen.

This float trip would offer some of the best floral scenery that I’ve ever experienced at any time, on any river.

Ahead of us, a glorious afternoon of :  gliding through lively riffles;

Lively riffles are frequent on the middle section of the Big Piney River

Lively Riffles are frequent on the middle section of the Big Piney River

paddling by picturesque bluffs;

Paddling into the bluff

Paddling into the bluff

and dipping into the cooler waters of September.

After a late lunch on a gravel bar, it’s time to take the first plunge of the day.
I hesitate as I ponder how cold this water might be, but not for long.  I dive in and surface with a smile-the water is on the chilly side, but I didn’t feel
“shocked” in the slightest.
I’ve already decided I’ll be in the water at least once or twice more this day.

As we move on down the river, I feel the afternoon waning.  With the September sun fading faster, I’m thinking about our campsite.
I’m also feeling eager and nostalgic as we might be staying at the first campsite that I experienced on my very first float trip.

It sits below and across from a tall craggy bluff  that kind of resembles
a  “cabbage head”(toward the top).  And so it takes its name…

As we come upon Cabbage Head Bluff, we can see(across the way) that
the old site has partially washed away and much of it has been taken over by vegetation.
My heart sinks a bit.
But just around the bend, there’s an extensive gravel bar that will still keep us in view of the bluff.
This will be our campsite.  And it’s just a little past the original location.

After we set up camp, I’m kickin’ back in my lounger that’s pointed, you guessed it, at Cabbage Head Bluff.

Cabbage Head Bluff/ Shadow Play

As evening approaches; a shadow curtain will be slowly gently raised to the top of the bluff

Just in time for the “Shadow Play.”

A favorite time on the river.

Peace on the River

(one or two more posts to follow on “Spectacular September”; Hoping to get away for a late October float this year/in the works)

Hot Summer Float on the Big Piney River

The mercury is pushing 99 as we put in on the Piney some time before one.
We’re slathered up in sunblock, tee shirts on, and keeping the water bottles close as we embark upon the hottest summer float trip – ever.

And despite the demon drought, this lower section of the Big Piney River will provide enough flow(even for our fully loaded canoe) to

 
Exercise Relief!

 
Into the cool waters we dive and revive all afternoon.  There’s not even a hint of the slightest chill, but it’s a refreshing cool that’s truly incomparable.

We spend a lot of time sitting in the shadier channels of the river as we watch the sun blaze the hills and bake the gravel bars.  I am encouraged that the greens of summer are still holding up along the river, and there’s a beautiful blue sky with a few bright clouds.

Piney Bow Shot

Hot Summer Day on the Big Piney River / July 2012

These classic elements of scene never fail me on an Ozark river.

Piney Bow shot

paddle paddle paddle your canoe, gently down the stream…

As we lazily make our way down river, we make a stop for something a bit more ambitious.
We’ve come upon some nice riffles.

It’s snorkeling time!

And with the ideal water temps and conditions today, I’m guessin’ we’ll be in the water for a spell.
Our first sighting is some gilt darters.  They display beautiful colors but they are especially brilliant in the spring.  (I’m making a note that I need to purchase a new wetsuit by next spring)

Gilt Darter

Gilt Darter in the riffles

And in just a short while, a baby Smallmouth Bass swims into view.

Gilt Darter and a baby Smallmouth Bass/ Snorkeling

Baby Smallmouth Bass and a Gilt Darter in the riffles/Big Piney River

There’s also a lot of big flat rocks embedded in this part of the river.

 
It’s a call to start looking for the ancient one, the elusive one,
the endangered one…

 
No sightings of this one today.  But it’s a promising location, so we’ll check it again when the opportunity arises.

After a good session of snorkeling, I have a growing appetite for grilled brats as we paddle to our campsite.  We do a little fishing along the way, but didn’t have much success as we spent a lot of time in full sun conditions.

Snorkeling, swimming, refreshment is certainly the mantra of this hot summer float.

We pull into our campsite well before six.  We quickly set up our campsite(no tent of course) and I gather some smaller wood for our cooking fire.  And then, instinctively, I start to gather some wood for our nightly campfire.  As I drag a heavy piece to the pile, I realize that any earlier concerns about the heat and humidity have seemingly abated.
It’s been a hot day alright(right at 100), but the humidity just hasn’t been a factor.  And it was so comfortable in the evening,  we lit our campfire just before dusk.
Praise to the River Gods!

We had a great night sky for stars the first half of the night, then a crescent moon arced its way over the river as if  to bid us good night.

Peace on the River

Drought times in the Ozarks; Some Rivers still floatable

The heartland of America is facing the worst drought since 1956 and it’s only getting worse.  And here in my home state of Missouri(at the moment aptly named; from the French word Misere, meaning “misery), most or all counties experienced the hottest and driest July in history.

 

The creeks are dry.  Ponds have evaporated.  Corn crops are long dead(or salvaged? for feed products) and withered soybean fields are snacks for the grasshoppers.

Like many of the lower 48, Missouri is in disaster mode and neighboring Illinois has at least 98 of 102 counties already declared disaster areas.

 
So as I ponder the content of this post, I’m feeling a little guilt but also a
lot of gratitude for a surprisingly enjoyable float trip we took in the last
week of July.
The drought has severely impacted water levels on most of the Ozark
rivers, but since many of them are spring fed, there are some sections
that are still float worthy.

You may do a little scraping(travel light) and you might have to get out
of your canoe occasionally, but the refreshment you will experience is well
worth it.

Check water levels at:  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt )

And of course, check with the outfitters on the river.

 
Temperatures in St. Louis had been hovering between 100 and 108 for a couple of weeks, so I was fervently looking forward to some relief from the hellacious heat.

Relief that we would find in the cool spring fed waters of the Big Piney
River.

 
There’s a comfortable reliability that these waters will be cool and refresh.
And when it’s 100 degrees on the river, which it was the first two days of our trip, the refreshment is all the more exuberant.

But I still had a lingering concern that it would be too warm and possibly too humid- TO SLEEP.

A warm muggy night can be a terrible sleep buster.  (we shall see)
(another Piney post soon to follow)

Time Travelers on the Big Piney River

It’s early afternoon as we arrive at our put in site at Baptist Camp access by the new bridge.  There’s a small yet striking little bluff that overlooks a good sized pool that’s just a little upstream from the bridge.  This place has all the attributes of a favorite local swimming destination.  And sure enough, we saw a few kids taking the plunge.  But Yikes!  It’s early April and it hasn’t even hit 70.  I swear I could hear the chatter of teeth from where I was standing.
I put on my vest before we finish loading the boat J

We shove off some time before 2.

Eager to revisit a splendorous section of the Big Piney River that we hadn’t experienced in almost a decade.
Eager to renew, to revitalize an old romance that might have somehow been neglected.

It wasn’t long before the courtship resumed…

Upper Piney Bluff Scene

On the Upper Section of the Big Piney River

The bluffs along this upper stretch are lacking in height, but the rare beauty of their unusual formations brings pause and awe on the river.

We’re looking at rockscape scenes from a sculpting process that began 300 to 400 million years ago!
Sandstone, dolomite limestone, and shale.  “Alche-mystical”  mix that lies below and rises above these clear cool waters.

Upper Piney Bluff Scene

short bluff line on the Upper Piney

Handiwork of the River Gods.
Upper Piney Bluff Scene
And I’m still more wide-eyed with wonder as I ponder the geologic history of the Ozark Highlands.  It was the last region on our continent to appear above the receding waters from the last submergence(beneath salt water seas from the early Cambrian period).

 

And the last will be first.  God knows I love the Ozarks country.

 

The mid afternoon sun  is softly warming our backs.  Our canoe might have solar sails as we surely glide down from the upper realms, from the source of this ancient river.  I’m feeling an easy peace as I’m drawn into a meditation of the river.  I can hear the water dripping down the edge of my slow, occasional paddle.  It’s a favorite sound that soothes, and it seems my gratitude is rewarded with an unexpected wonder…

We soon drift into the sounds and sights of “Dripping Springs Natural Area.”

Approaching Dripping Springs Natural Area

Approaching “Dripping Springs Natural Area”

It’s a very tiny spring(s) with no significant water flow, but it drips incessantly from the top of a bluff throughout the year.  On a hot day, it would be nice to paddle up to its cool relief albeit small.

 
This natural area is accessible “only by canoe or boat” on the Big Piney River.
Yet another reminder to “put yourself out there” to witness the natural world in ways that most people will never experience.

 
It’s not much farther down the river when we pull up to our campsite.  We’ve hit the jackpot!  There are numerous piles of wood(from spring flooding) and much of it is right “in” our campsite.  And there’s a huge root wad that’s perfectly  perched above a recessed area in the gravel.
It’s beggin’ to be torched!

And with temperatures plunging down to the high 30’s tonight, we’re grateful to have this huge supply of firewood and we won’t expend much energy to gather it.

 
But it’s time for supper and it’s going to be a special feast on the river tonight!  Four Wood Ducks marinated in my dad’s prize winning teriyaki marinade cooked over fire, along with fried rice and veggies.  I ate like a Viking!
With a little help from Andy Griffith, “ummm, ummmmmmm!”
(and my compliments to Dad and the Chef)

 
It’s already dark as we set fire to the huge root wad.  It just seemed a matter of seconds before the flames were reaching ten feet high.  And only minutes later, the flames were 25 to 30 feet high.  As I’m still backing away from the heat, I look up at the shadows of firelight dancing across the face of the bluff.  It’s an unforgettable sight.
Pretty soon the Whippoorwills are calling just beyond the light.

 
It was well past midnight when we retired to our sleeping bags.  It’s a bit nippy, but dressing in layers and wearing a good stocking cap will suffice.
I hear another Whippoorwill calling from above as I drift into sleep.

 
Peace on the River

Up Up and Away on the Upper Piney

It’s April 5th and I’m a little wary of the weather forecast for a scheduled float trip on the Big Piney, April 9 – 11.  The daytime temps are seasonally ideal in the 65 to 70 range; but the night time temps are going to plunge to a possible low of 36.
Ooooowie!  That’s a bit nippy!

I almost quiver thinking about these chilly temps that are usually the seasonal norm, BUT NOT SO in this particularly whacked out year of weird weather.  After all, we were in the central Ozarks just a couple of weeks ago and it was close to 80 in the daytime, and a comfortable 45 to 50 at night.

But it’s April Bill!  There’s new life on the river, the songbirds will be singing, and the whips up high on the hills will be calling me home.

Upper Piney Bluff Scene

Bluff on the Upper Piney / April 2012

Bring those extra layers of clothes,  find a campsite abundant in wood, and waive to the wuss who wallows in bed.

What’s more,
we’re going to visit a stretch of the Upper Piney that we haven’t floated in almost ten years.

It’s a beautiful stretch of the Piney, but it’s water levels have often been too low(for a canoe loaded for two nights camping), or spring flooding has frequently made it too hazardous.
(check the water levels at:  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt )

But this year, we’ll be thanking the river gods for acceptable water levels and plenteous piles of wood.

AND
If memory be a stubborn servant, the beauty of this part of the river will rekindle an old romance that’s enlivened even more by the passage of time and the longing to be closer to it’s source.

lower rockscapes along the Upper Piney

lower rockscapes along the Upper Piney

Wow!  So glad we finally made it back to this splendorous section of the Big Piney River.

Just up ahead: more photos and new experiences on the Upper Piney…

(We used the shuttle services of Boiling Spring Resort and put in by the new bridge at Baptist Camp access.  Great service, friendly people, and a nice resort.  Call weeks ahead to inquire about their shuttle services which are likely to change as summer approaches.

http://www.boilingspringsresort.com/contact.html )

Early Spring Trip to the Ozarks

As mentioned in previous posts, my cousin and I always plan on some kind of wintertime getaway to break the spell of “home cabin” fever.  Our winter getaway usually includes an afternoon hike and spending the night in a cabin that’s near or by a river.

If it’s late winter and the temperatures are fair, we also enjoy car camping in a wilderness/recreation area(Paddy Creek Wilderness area is a great spot!)

Anyway, we generally don’t plan on floating January through March; besides, we enjoy checking out some of the cabins available in different parts of the Ozarks.  There are some great choices out there and I look forward to sharing that information.

Overlooking the Big Piney River from the deck of our cabin site

Overlooking the Big Piney River from the deck of our cabin site; Obrien's cabin near Licking, MO

MARCH 2012

It’s four days past spring(March 24th)and we’re on the verge of making our first rendezvous of the year.  Due to nagging restraints of the real world, we’re running a little behind as we usually meet up for a winter getaway no later than mid March.  We have reserved a cabin near Licking, MO that sits above the Big Piney River for the first night and plan on going to the “Piney River Brewing Company,” a microbrewery in Bucyrus, MO, earlier that afternoon.

 

And to make things more interesting…

This has been one of the warmest winters on record and temperatures reached an astounding? 87 degrees March 14 in the St. Louis area.  So the freakishly warm winter, the HOT introduction to spring, a weekend forecast of high 70’s/low 80’s, and pushing back our first getaway dates set the table for a weekend with surprising fare.

Already,

we had heard reports that Serviceberry was blooming and even Redbuds were ready to bust out in more southerly parts of the Ozarks.
Another source informed us that not only has he heard the expected Peepers and Chorus Frogs, but he’s also heard Leopard Frogs, American Toads, and even Green Frogs already calling.  And my cousin mentioned that the Bluebells in his garden were already 3” high.
Also, right before our departure, we heard that the Dogwoods were  now blooming!

 

LOAD THE CANOE!  It’s FLOATIN’ time in MARCH!

This added, unexpected bonus to the trip has me singing a favorite song by John Fogerty/CCR.  I have a grin plastered on my face as I drive to the cabin eagerly anticipating a weekend planned with a variety of fun activities.

It’s about 1pm when I turn off the county road onto the secluded lane that leads me to our cabin.  Wow!  This one is a beauty.  An attractive log style cabin tucked in the woods of the Mark Twain National Forest that sits atop a bluff(with a deck) that looks over the Big Piney River and a strikingly scenic valley.  There’s a Dogwood in full bloom by the front porch and a nearby fire pit with a generous woodpile.  This place has all the components for keeping us outdoors, but the cabin interior is also enticing.

 

Check it out here:

http://www.cabins.com/usa/mo/mo_texasco_001/mo_texasco_obriens_001.html

(The gas log fireplace and the full kitchen are just the kind of amenities my wife would enjoy for a fall or winter getaway.  And the quietude and beauty of this scenic location would certainly win her over J )

 

Daylight is burnin’ so we unpack in a hurry and then we’re off to the “Piney River Brewing Company.”  We just learned about this place only a couple of months ago.  Not surprising as they just launched their microbrewery business as recently as the summer of 2010.  We were hearing great things about their craft beers, so we were looking forward to this occasion.

 

And we weren’t disappointed!
Fresh, tasty hand crafted beers, tapped inside a rustic, beautifully restored barn out in the middle of the Ozarks near the Little Piney River, served up by people who love the Ozarks as much as we do, and it was only about a 30 minute(scenic)drive from our cabin.

 

Belly up to the BARn…

We thoroughly enjoyed all the flavor offerings; however, being huge IPA fans, we’re inclined to highlight how much we love the “Missouri Mule IPA.”
And it’s easy to fall in love with the names of their beers that pay homage to Missouri history and our favorite critters in the Ozarks.

Yeah, there’s a pleasant authenticity about these people and their distinctive hand crafted brews.

You’re going to love this place!

Go to:  http://www.pineyriverbrewing.com/home.html

 

Another post covering this late March getaway is soon to follow…

Peace on the River