One Grand Palimpsest

“When a page is written over but once it may be easily read; but if it be written over and over with characters of every size and style, it soon becomes unreadable, although not a single confused meaningless mark or thought may concur among all the written characters to mar its perfection.  Our limited powers are similarly perplexed and overtaxed in reading the inexhaustible pages of nature, for they are written over and over uncountable times, written in characters of every size and colour, sentences composed of sentences, every part of a character a sentence.  There is not a fragment in nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself.  All together form the one grand palimpsest of the world.”

-John Muir-

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“One Grand Palimpsest″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 45mm, ISO 100,  f/14, manual blend of two exposures

A Foggy Day in the Missouri Ozarks

“Probably if our lives were more conformed to nature, we should not need to defend ourselves against her heats and colds, but find her our constant nurse and friend, as do plants and quadrupeds.”

-Henry David Thoreau-

Fog

“Fog″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM @ 200mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/8 sec

October’s Warmth

“We love to see any redness in the vegetation of the temperate zone. It is the color of colors. This plant speaks to our blood. It asks a bright sun on it to make it show to best advantage, and it must be seen at this season of the year.”

-Henry David Thoreau-

“October’s Warmth″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM @ 135mm, ISO 160,  f/16, 10 sec

The Autumn Adventures of Ozark Bill Continues – Mark Twain National Forest

During the first day of our short vacation this fall, Sarah and I took the winding, yet scenic Hwy 19 south.  Always a nice drive, it is particularly attractive in autumn.  About halfway through the drive the sky opened up on us, but I did use this opportunity to find a few new places and at least get them on the ol’ GPS.  This stretch of highway contains many potential destinations and we have only begun making real visits or hikes into most of these.  Later, we went back to a place I’ve had on my radar for quite some time, the “Virgin Pine Forest”.  This amounts to a strip of apparently virgin shortleaf pine, many of which are over 200 years old, on both sides of the road.  The wind was very strong here so I let the pines tell their story…

“Screaming Pines″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 27mm, ISO 100,  f/13, 2 sec

Just a short drive from the town of Steelville lies the aptly-named “Red Bluff Recreation Area”.  I have seen photographs of this place and it was as beautiful in person.  Carved over time by Huzzah Creek, these bluffs get their color from the high amounts of iron oxide in the limestone.  This spot was almost indescribable.  Incredibly peaceful and full of singing birds, the first thing I did was take off my shoes and pants and wade into the river to make this picture.  At times like these my city-slicker feet never fail to disappoint me.  Each step was painful and it was then that I realized my mitochondria training regimen was getting me nowhere.  Anyway, this place has lots that would make a return trip worth the drive, including a natural arch and the ruins of an old grist mill site.  Definitely a place on my “return to” list.

“Red Bluff – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 28mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/5 sec

Continuing on Hwy 19, south of Winona is another of our favorite visited spots – Falling Spring.  This spot is out of the way and if the spring is flowing, will never disappoint.  My mind’s eye pictured better autumn colors than were actually found, but it is always a treat to find that vandals have not completely taken the old structure down.

“Falling Spring – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 45mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 2.5 sec

Further west in south-central Missouri Sarah and I visited the Hodgson Water Mill located on Bryant Creek.  This picturesque mill is still in business as a museum/store.  The spring discharges from a cave just behind the building and its 24 million gallons per day powered two underwater turbines for milling operations.

“Hodgson Water Mill – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USMEF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 24mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/6 sec

So that’s a little more from our splendid autumn Ozark trip from 2012.  I still have a few images to share and will hopefully post some in the near future.  I’m quite thankful that there are so many nicely written books available with descriptions of these locations.  I use these books quite often and one of these days I will list them in a post.

The Mark Twain National Forest contains near 1.5 million acres across the Missouri Ozarks.  Make some time to pay a visit, as it belongs to us all, except the areas that are logged… ;=)

“Mark Twain National Forest – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 37mm, ISO 160,  f/9, 1/5 sec

Big Spring 2012 – Autumn

This year Sarah and I timed our autumn trip into the Missouri Ozarks perfectly.  The autumn colors were near their peak and more spectacular than I can ever remember.  As is one of our favorite customs, we reserved one of the cabins at Big Spring State Park, located within the Ozark National Scenic Waterways.  Built in the 1930s by the CCC, rustic is the perfect description for these cabins and the nearby lodge.  We were a week or so earlier than normal this year and the cabins were a bit more full than usual, so we were not able to get a choice cabin that does not have a long flight of stairs.  Once I got all the unnecessary equipment and supplies we carry up these stairs and inside the cabin, we were ready to have some fun.

“Big Spring Cabin – October 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 50mm, ISO 160,  f/11, 0.3 sec

Located a few miles from the town of Van Buren, Big Spring is in contention for one of the largest springs on the continent, pouring an average of 286 million gallons (13 cubic meter/sec) a day into the Current River.  I have never visited the spring without being mesmerized by the beauty and sense of peace that the spring presents as it flows from the base of the limestone bluff.  Autumn and spring time are by far the best times to make a visit.  The cool blue waters that seem to come from nowhere contrast nicely with the warm autumn colors displayed by sycamores and other trees that take hold along the bluff.  The image below showcases the watercress that is found here and in most of the large springs of the Missouri Ozarks.  Although watercress is an exotic species, it is now naturalized across most of the country, and does not seem to present much of a problem with the delicate ecosystems that these springs create.

“Watercress Garden″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 23mm, ISO 160,  f/9, 1.6 sec

Placed nearby the spring is this early Ozark settlement period structure.  These maples frame it nicely.

“The Autumn Homestead″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM @ 121mm, ISO 160,  f/11, 2.5 sec

As I have told anyone who has had the patience to listen, my idea of a perfect morning, one I could relive every day until the end of my days is getting up and hitting the trails surrounding Big Spring before sunrise.  The temperature is quite chilly, the air saturated to the point of a nice fog and I am usually greeted with the the crepuscular greeting of a Barred Owl.  Who cooks for me?  Why, Sarah will have some of the best french toast imaginable to go with my cup of french-press when I get back to the cabin sometime around mid-morning.  I better get to hiking these hills so I can burn some of those calories 😉

The morning this image was made was definitely memorable.  I actually carried my bird/wildlife lens along with my landscape gear.  Just past the confluence of the spring effluent, where those crystal-blue waters flow into the lazy Current River I eagerly watch the eastern sky.  Will this finally be the morning I see some color?  Yes indeed!  However, just after setting up the gear and getting ready to capture this scene, an Eastern Screech Owl starts vocalizing maybe 20-30 yards up the wooded slope directly behind me.  What to do!?  Go after the owl in attempts to finally get a photo of that bird or take the sure thing of a quickly changing landscape?  I decided to be satisfied with leaving the bird alone and concentrated on the sunrise while listening to one of the most beautiful songs imaginable.  There was no real fog, but what a morning!

“Current River Sunrise″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 40mm, ISO 320,  f/14, manual blend of three exposures

I also joke that I always take the same composition every time I visit the spring.  Here it is from this occasion.  I can’t help it and I won’t apologize.  I will hopefully get an original idea one of these years, but until then…

“Eternal Composition″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 24mm, ISO 100,  f/14, manual blend of two exposures

So, there is a bit of detail and a few of my favorite images from this autumn’s Big Spring visit.  It is surprising that so many people in the StL area have never even heard of Big Spring.  But I’m not complaining.  Let them take their expensive vacation to the popular destinations.  If I can have this place to myself, as I almost always do on these morning hikes, I’ll be satisfied and want for nothing.  Until the next time, I’ll be pining for my next visit home.

“Sarah & Bill – October 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 32mm, ISO 160,  f/9, 1/5 sec

Transitions

“When you come to observe faithfully the changes of each humblest plant, you find that each has, sooner or later, its peculiar autumnal tint; and if you undertake to make a complete list of the bright tints, it will be nearly as long as a catalogue of the plants in your vicinity.”

-Henry David Thoreau-

“October Transitions″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 105mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 2 sec

October Splendor

“How beautiful, when a whole tree is like one great scarlet fruit full of ripe juices, every leaf from lowest limb to topmost spire, all aglow, especially if you look toward the sun! What more remarkable object can there be in the landscape?”

-Henry David Thoreau-

“October Splendor″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 21mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/4 sec

Bell Mountain Willderness Loop Trail – Success!

Surprisingly, I found myself in the St. Francois Mountains again yesterday.  I decided to finally attempt the full loop trail within Bell Mountain Wilderness.  I have hiked to the summit and back the same way several times over the past five years or so, a hike that is approximately ten miles.  The loop requires you go down the other side, follow and cross “Joe’s Creek” and its feeder streams along the way and then ascend Bell once again before going back down to the southern trail head.  It wound up being just short of a 13 mile trek.

“St. Francois Mountains – Late Autumn – 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM @ 127mm, ISO 100,  f/16, 1/10 sec

An “Indian Summer” kind of weekend assured I was not the only one with the idea of hiking this summit.  Normally a place where you would be unlikely to see another person, I crossed paths with close to 40 hikers, most of which seemed to be carrying camping gear.  I started the the trail promptly at 8:00 when the temperature was still pleasantly in the low 50s.  Unfortunately when I arrived back at my car  around 2:00 the temp was in the mid 70s, a bit on the warm side for hiking such a challenging trail.

“The Burning Bush″
Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 26mm, ISO 160,  f/18, 0.4 sec

The images above and below this text showcase what makes this area so special – the Ozark glades.  These pinkish, lichen-covered, rhyolite/granite boulders protrude from thin soils and create igneous glades.  This specific habitat is associated with several specialized plant and animal species.  In periods of hot and dry weather these areas seem completely abandoned, but will come alive following a drenching rain.  The image posted below was subjected to a “hand-painted” treatment in computer post-processing.

“Changes″
Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 28mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 0.25 sec

The image below this text documents a perplexing problem with officially designated wilderness areas.  As the law was written, no human management of the land, of any kind, can be performed.  While this law includes items you want a “wilderness” to be protected from, building of structures, new roads, logging and grazing, etc., it also includes management for the protection of habitats.  Although glades exist primarily due to shallow soils and dry, higher elevations, periodic fires also play a key role in limiting the succession of habitat type.  Fires, both natural and anthropogenic in origin, played a key role in controlling secondary succession shrubby tree species such as sumac, sassafras, and especially the eastern cedars.  In many well-managed lands across the Ozarks, prescribed fires are doing their part to control this succession and preserve these habitats.  On wilderness areas, prescribed fires are not legal.  Modern fire-prevention in private and public lands also drastically reduces the occurrence of natural fire.  The glades on Bell Mountain and its nearby slopes are all being choked by eastern cedars.  Given enough time this potentially put many Ozark glade areas at risk as the succession continues to include various oak and hickory species.

“Bell Mountain Glade in Autumn″
Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 26mm, ISO 100,  f/16, 1/8 sec

Bell Mountain is bordered by Shut-In Creek on the east, which has helped carve the distinction between Bell Mountain and nearby Lindsey Mountain.  This creek bottom is a short, but extremely sharp drop from the summit, and the creek is a perennial spring-fed water source.  Joe’s Creek borders the western side of Bell Mountain and is also partially spring-fed.  These two bodies provide many a backpacker with a source of water.  I can’t wait to try exploring this creek after a good wet period.

“Shut-In Creek Bottom″
Technical details: Canon EOS 50D camera, EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM, ISO 200,  f/16, 1/4 sec

An Early Hike on the Ozark Trail – Marble Creek Section

During my fall break I finally visited Crane Lake for a hike on a beautiful autumn morning.  There was not a cloud in the sky and the colors were really popping.  The hike was just perfect and I had several interesting wildlife encounters, including watching a Bald Eagle nearby along the shore as soon as I left my car.  The primary tree in this image is the short-leaf pine, the only native pine of the Missouri Ozarks and definitely a characteristic species of the St. Francois Mountains.

“An Early Hike on the Ozark Trail″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 17mm, ISO 160,  f/16, 0.6 sec