Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “genius loci”

Ste. Genevieve County Vol. 3: Hickory Canyons

This place.  This place was a total surprise.  I’ve traveled all over the world, seen some of the most moving and bold landscapes ever.  And while Missouri is beautiful, it’s not beautiful in the big, super raw, punch to the solar plexus way that, say, the Rockies are or southern Utah or coastal California.  It leans toward pastoral beauty in the farmlands and rugged old beauty in the Ozarks, river beauty along the Missouri or the Mississippi.  But Hickory Canyons was different.  Somehow.  This place was altering.

It is quiet—out of the way, off some gravel road.  The feeling here is the opposite of Pickle Springs.  There are no signs, no catchy names.  Just the ground, just the trees, the water and the rocks.   How good it felt here.  There is some ground that transports you when you cross its boundaries, takes to to another place, someplace otherworldly.  That was not this ground.  This place was very… real.  It caught me off guard and then guided me along the moss-lined path.  This is a place that loosens your skin of the tautness from city life, from jobs and money and stress, that stretches you.  This is a place that beckons your bones to sink into the soil and remember the sacredness of your humanity and your connection to what is under your feet.  You know what Hickory Canyons reminded me of?  A friend.  Not the kind that is only interested in you when they need your ear or your shoulder or your stuff but never remembers your birthday.  No, this place is the friend that makes you stew on a cold day, that calls bullshit when you need it called, that will laugh with you and get angry with you, and always sings to you on your birthday.  How’s that for some geological anthropomorphization?  It’s the best I can do, because the pictures don’t do it justice.  I would walk this trail every day if I could.

Lobelia cardinalis in the sun.

I’d love it if someone could ID this one. I’ve never seen a mushroom like it before.

And there you have it.  A wonderful weekend full of geological wonders, hiking goodness, land-bonding, friends, food, drink, celebration, knitting, campfires, banana boats, and laughter.  It’s good to get out and see the world.

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Ste. Genevieve County Vol. 2: Pickle Springs Natural Area

On Saturday, we went hiking through the amazing Pickle Springs Natural Area.    The state conservation website calls it a natural wonderland, and they are right.  It is absolutely fantastic—full of box canyons, glacial relict species of flora and fauna, waterfalls, and fantastic eroded formations of LaMotte sandstone.  It’s a super short hike at only 2 miles, but it makes up for it in changes in elevation and general marvelousness.

Courtesy of Google’s “My Tracks”. Awesome app.

And because there are so many gorgeous things to check out, knowing that it’s a short hike allows one to meander and pause without fear of running out of daylight.  This is special place.  It has that kind of feeling like how things did in the 1970s when I was a kid and traveling held such a magical fascination for me—everything was interesting and the challenging bits, although sometimes difficult or unsettling, were always pretty much safe.  Maybe it’s all the signs posted naming each attraction that makes it feel sort of like a woodland Disney World ride.  It’s not a bad thing at all.  Actually, it’s rather lovely—kinda mellowed by the touristyness of it, but still a magical treasure.  The forest is friendly and open, and the rocks are steady and protective.  This is the kind of place where you can go to be quiet and observant, to slow your breathing and just be.  Here is Pickle Springs in pictures.  Enjoy.

Just past the welcome sign.

The LaMotte sandstone that is so characteristic of this area has worn away to create very sandy soil. All of the paths here are either sand, stone, or beds of pine needles.

The Double Arch

Something’s hidey-hole in the knot of a tree.

Husband.

A very happy Ronin of the Woods.

Funky plants growing on the wet rocks.

Up to the top.

Our path carved of stone.

In the pine-scented air.

And we’ll end with a gratuitous funky mushroom shot.

There were a some signs and a few places that I didn’t take pictures of—like the Headwater Falls which had no water, and Piney Glade right toward the end.   This is a place that I’d like to return to in each season to see how it changes.  I have the feeling it becomes more of itself in the winter time when it’s quiet and not being visited by people who just tromp through the good parts.  And leave their cigarette butts.   We’ve been here twice, and both times I’ve been surprised by the amount of trash people leave behind in this little gem.  I don’t get it.  Why would you throw trash in the very place that you just came to visit for its natural beauty?   Part of that Disney feel I was talking about.   Argh.  I feel obligated to give back to the land that I enjoy so much by being a good steward of it.  For me, this includes packing out all the trash that I find.   The spirit of a place must be respected, especially when you’re gonna walk on it’s ground.  These bones are far older than we, and will be here far longer, too.  Someday maybe we will all care for this good earth.  Until then, I’ll travel with a trash bag.

Next time, I’ll show you the fantastical Hickory Canyons.  I am excite!

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