Onondaga State Park- RV weekend Sept 25-27

We had planned to go to Onondaga Cave Campground with two sets of friends from Vicky's work at the Hospital and also my parents who were in town for a couple of weeks from Florida. I made reservations at a family campsite months ago, but when the day arrived to go, noone could make it but Vicky and I. So off we headed for a quiet weekend in the RV.

We arrived Friday night around 5 pm and set up the RV.

This particular campsite has room for 2 RV's and some tents or hammocks, we were expecting a party!

 The evening was lovely and I was looking forward to seeing the Super Moon later in the weekend from a really dark site.  We made a fire and sat out and just relaxed until about 10 pm.

The night was awesome with temperatures down in the low 50's and we sleep with all the windows of the RV open and the breeze.
The next morning we took our usual walk around the campground to see all the other RV's people have and say hello.

The campground was full by mid-day but last night had been really quiet and it seemed we did not have any real partiers in the campsite this weekend. We also didn't seem to have many giant RV's. Most were of the same order as ours - trailers and 5th wheels.
We did find out that there was going to be a Green Fest at the Pavilion starting at 10 am. This was going to support and foster the "Green" lifestyle. We decided to walk down and check it out.

 Missouri State Parks sponsored a band and their were tents with Merchants selling their crafts. Pottery, Bird Houses, Alpaca wool items, etc. Of course Vicky had to pick up a thing or two!

The highlight for me though was a surprise Microbrew tent. They were surving 2 oz samplers of some Missouri Microbrews.... no limit to the number of samples you could ask for!

 Oh I was in beer heaven... I actually learned about a new brewery in Southern Missouri and the beer was really good.

Piney River Brewing Company

After we went back to the RV for a nap! Then after we got up we went to look at the Meramec River that flows right next to the park. There is an excellent river outfitter right next to the park Missouri Outdoors and there were lots of people on float trips later in the day.

We stayed around the RV, made dinner and watched some movies and just enjoyed the day and quiet.
We sat outside until late and I hung the awning lights

We had another awesome fire and the evening was very quiet again.

We had planned to stay another day and come home on Monday, but with no one else there Vicky decided to work on Monday, so we packed up and headed home in the morning.

Hopefully we can plan another weekend when everyone can make it. 

Irish Wilderness- Missouri Hang September 18-20, 2015

It was time once again for our Missouri Hammock Hang Event. We have actually had this event planned since January of this year. The setting is the Irish Wilderness area in southern Missouri. A rugged 18 mile loop. Since this is as much a social get together as a formal hike (Disco and Gideon) planned it for 2 1/2 days, with some of the members meeting up Thursday night at the trail head for any extra night under the stars.
The official start was Friday morning at 10 am at the trail head.
Over the last week or so the weather had broken, with much lower temperatures and reduced humidity all around the state, but the last minute forecast was that the humidity and higher temperatures would return for our weekend adventure.

As you can see from the map above, the Irish Wilderness (White's Creek Trail) is located in the southern portion of Missouri, about 4 hours drive from St.Louis and about 5 hours from Kansas City.

I had done the White's Creek trail once before but it had been 10 years since I had been down this way either on this trail or the Ozark Trail south of Van Buren, MO.

I had to leave at 4 am to get to the trail head by 8, but it was a beautiful drive down and a beautiful day (if hot Temps in 90's today with high humidity.)

 The small pond (Camp Five Pond)  that marks the parking lot/Start of the trail (above)

The cast of characters above for the adventure (Hoot, Tiffany, MoHiker79, Gideon, Disco, Skygzr, Myingon) 

The start of the White's Creek Trail and the mileage posts

The only wildlife I saw was a couple of box turtles, but we heard, Owl, Coyote, Whippoorwill, and Woodpeckers.

 Disco below shows off his new Zpacks Cuben Zero pack

Missouri is known as the cave state and along the White's Creek Trail it is easy to see why. The cliffs along the creek bed are lined with caves.

Bliss Spring was our objective for today (above and below) . It was 8.1 miles. Mostly everyone made it intact. 
 We grabbed our water and headed away from the spring (too buggy) and headed uphill a short ways to find a better view and maybe some breeze for the evening to hang our hammocks.

Hung up for the night

Night view panorama of our perch on the hill in the trees and off the main trail.
 The Eleven Point river was just below us and there was quit a bit of activity on the water all night, didn't make for the most peaceful wilderness experience but it was fine
It was a Friday night after all.

The trail is quite overgrown. It was full of thorns, poisen ivy, chiggers, spider webs, and sometimes just plain NO TRAIL. We had hopped that by picking the end of September the temperatures would have cooled and the trail weeds would start to die back.... we needed to give it another month.

 Very few markers and never when you need them

Beautiful trail thistle

I got off the trail (lost it) for about 10 minutes and when I bushwhacked my way back to the trail I almost ran into this big guy in his web 

 Still more "maybe" trail

 Today we were only going 5 miles to Fiddlers Spring. It turned out to be a very adventurous 5 miles.
We all split up starting the day just above Bliss spring and decided to hike at our own pace. Last night Myingon had arrived late in camp with some help from Gideon, but seemed fine.
Hoot and Tiffany and MoHiker all left together earlier than the rest. I followed about 30 minutes later and then Disco followed finally by Gideon and Myingon.

 I caught up to Hoot, Tiffany and MoHiker by White's Creek campground/River access and we waited for about an hour for the rest of the group to catch up. Little did we know that Disco had taken a wrong turn on the previous bluff and would bushwhack for a couple of hours to regain the trail. Gideon was with Myingon who was struggling and in a real act of leadership got Myingon to the White's creek campground, which we had left earlier and then waded/ swam down the Eleven Point river (50 degree water) in order to find a campsite occupied by boaters that he could persuade to come and pick up Myingon and take him to the nearest location where he could either wait for us until Sunday or get a ride back to his car. ( Amazing generosity and commitment) 

So the 4 of us (Hoot, Tiffany, Mohiker, myself) left White's creek campground and continued toward Fiddler Spring not knowing yet what was happening behind us.  We stopped at White's Creek Bat Cave and then Mohiker and I carried on, with Hoot and Tiffany lagging behind. 
Myself and Mohiker stayed on the official trail and arrived at the campsite in just under an hour, having walked through a nest of seed ticks and were covered! Hoot and Tiffany took an easier "alternate" and got into camp about 30 minutes later. The three of them discussed walking out the additional 5 miles (it was 2 pm at this time and they had been in camp around 45 minutes)  They all left leaving me the only person left in the designated stopping point for the day. About an hour and half later Gideon makes it to camp with the amazing story told above, having gone the official and very ugly last half mile that MoHiker and I had done, but worried that Disco should have been well ahead of him given everything that had happened today. We waited without setting up camp, in case we needed to do something, but after only about 30 minutes Disco came into camp following the same shortcut Hoot and Tiffany had used and told us all about his adventure on and off the trail today. 
Fiddler Spring (above)

In the end it was just the three of us for the last nights camp. Everyone relaxed and rested after the most eventful 5 miles we could remember on a trail.

 We had a very pleasant night around a fire and we read out limericks (the added activity for this hike in the "Irish" wilderness was to create a limerick, with a little prize to the winner) The others had read theirs to me before they left and MoHiker's was particularly good and I let him know if his was the best, he would win and we would send him his prize (a lovely pocket knife supplied by Disco)
As it turned out Gideon, who was going to win because of his outstanding commitment this weekend, also had the best limerick and had memorized it as well.
The hike out in the morning was only 5 miles and we all agreed that we would stay in a group today and hike out together. The trail still had some surprises (above) as we had some bushwhacking through thick brush and through a beaver pond. This trail had really been great fun as none of us were really in any danger of being lost (all had maps, or GPS, and compass), but one of the disappointing things was how much trash was on the trail. I am carrying a big bag of trash collected over the last 2 days in the photo above and the lawn chairs below were actually just abandoned on the trail and left for trash. We collected them and hiked them out with the trash. 

I came home with chigger bites, poison ivy, and what was left of bites from the seed ticks. It was a reminder that there is really no hiking in Missouri from April to the first frost of October, 
A trip to Boo's Market in Potosi, MO., for giant burgers on the way home made everything much better, but any weekend in the woods is really a good one- Thanks Gideon and Disco for another great planned outing

Pere Marquette- RV weekend Sept 11-13 2015

We wanted to get our Illinois sticker for our RV travels, so we picked a weekend that Vicky's friends would be available for some activities. Some of them live on the "other"side of the river in Illinois, so we picked Pere Marquette in Grafton, IL., due to its lovely scenery along the river and excellent food at their lodge restaurant.


 We couldn't have planned on a better weekend to go RV camping. It was sunny blue skies and the humidity around the area has broken. Temperatures were only in the low 70's during the day and low 50's at night. perfect sleeping weather with all the windows open.

The Pere Marquette campground was really nice, with big sites and plenty of large shade trees. 

We arrived around dinner time, in time for me to fix steaks and then have a great sit out by the fire with the stars overhead.


The morning dawned beautifully.
 We planned to hike all the trails in Pere Marquette state park today. There are a total of about 12 miles. We hiked 10 miles with one small loop missed as we had plans to meet up with our friends (Lisa and Steve) in the afternoon

 Wild flowers out everywhere late in the summer

one of the overlooks along the trail

Some great geology along the trails

 Some of the trails were a bit overgrown. Not many people stray far from the lodge and I had a feeling not many people go this deep into the woods.
The trails closer to the lodge were much wider! 

 Overlooks for the Illinois river.
Panorama of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers converging here in Grafton

 We met a couple while walking that said they had just seen a bobcat (stuffed version below from the Visitors Center) and a coyote along the trail.

We left the trail and got cleaned up and then drove across the Brussels Ferry to meet Lisa and Steve for the afternoon.

We went to lunch at Point Pleasant, Golden Eagle, IL.

 It had been a one room school house now converted to a Restaurant/Bar. Very nice small town atmosphere and good food- very talkative young waitress.

A great view off their back deck of the surrounding country side

Back across the Brussels ferry in the early evening. Looking northeast

Looking southwest

Once back in our RV site we started the fire and enjoyed sitting still for awhile!

During the night one of the RV groups got a little rowdy, from too much drink, and has still yelling obscenities until 2:30 am. Surprisingly it must have been harmless as neither the campground hosts or park rangers showed up. Honestly I didn't even get out of bed to look!
The next morning we had plans to meet more of Vicky's work friends and family for brunch at the lodge and then take a river cruise before we had to check out of the RV park.

This weekend had two festivals going on at the same time. The Apple Festival (1st photo below) with arts and crafts from local produce and cottage companies and a Fur Trader rendezvous reenactment going on down by the river (2nd photo below)

The lodge is another example of the fantastic building skill of the Civilian Conservation Corp, (CCC) which can be seen all over the US from the late 1920's through the 1930. 

The Lodge is known for its fried chicken- which was consumed in quantity today (except for Vicky who never misses a chance for good catfish)

 After brunch it was off into Grafton and a trip on the river boat Hakuna Matata (No Worries) and that is what we did for about an hour, having a great ride up and down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. You get to bring your own snacks and of course buy drinks on board.

The Group of river travelers
(L-R: Tom, Deb & Jack, Mark & Pam, Vicky, Steve & Lisa)

I was there

 a beautiful day leaving Grafton harbor

Panorama of the Illinois meeting the Mississippi just south of Grafton, IL.

Back home, putting the Illinois sticker on the RV- a very successful weekend.

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