I spent last weekend at my best friend Sara's house in southeast Missouri (you remember her from my post about her birthday party, in the north part of the state). Her husband Justin had been plotting places to take me since they know I have nothing going on in my life but this camera, so I drove down Friday night, we caught up over drinks and laughter, and then late Saturday morning headed out.
We took the old Jeep with the doors and top off, which I'd never been in so it was quite exhilerating. First we headed to Indian Trail State Park, named so because it was a part of the infamous Trail of Tears in the nineteenth century. As Justin pointed out, it was humbling to know we were trundling along the same path that so many were forced to walk, and that some died on.
Every now and then I'd spot something photographable, order Justin to stop, and hop out.
Before leaving the area Justin drove us by the old fish hatchery that was in operation years ago. They had actually built a covered dock, but no one was around, no one but us, the dock, and a Caterpillar.
The weather reports all said that the weekend was going to be interminable; highs in the upper nineties with heat indexes of 105 - 110. Well, at least it wasn't going to rain, right? But we got out there and it just wasn't as bad as we expected. It was hot, but it wasn't sweltering.
Or maybe our pores have just adjusted already.
The next place we headed to was Round Spring, outside of Eminence, MO. Sara had been warning me all day, "you're not gonna believe it, I just know you're gonna love it," and I was trying in my mind to grasp the concept of a spring, but I just kept coming up with a geyser. That, they readily informed me, was not it.
I snapped a shot of a river we passed.
So we got to a pretty park and hiked a short easy distance to what's known as Round Spring and then - THIS.
But it gets better. In fact, it gets bluer. After my initial agog-ness settled in, we went up a handy wooden staircase to get a view of the spring from higher up; then we went down another set of steps to step our feet into the ice-cold waters. Isn't this amazing?!
I mean, who knew this sort of natural phenomenon was in Missouri? The parks department does NOT advertise well enough.
The state's springs get their paradise-blue color from mineral deposits that dissolve as the water makes it way upward from the mouth of the underground river lurking below. We saw another spring that day, but we'll get to that in due time.
In the meantime, we headed to Rocky Falls. Some shots along the way:
The river just above is the Current River.
One of the things that makes rural Missouri so beautiful, especially down here in Ozark country, is the over-abundance of trees. And the landscape is actually quite hilly, so you get amazing overlooks and vistas that just stretch back and back; sometimes all you see in the distance is a wall of trees rising like a Great Smokies or Blue Ridge mountain. It's really breathtaking - and Sara and Justin get to live there!
So we got to Rocky Falls, and realized that it was in fact summer and there would be people up on the rocks by the waterfall, and down in the lake and on the sand bars. So, no opportunity for a fine-art shot of the falls, but it was still a pretty cool place - and the water was perfect! Cool enough to cool our feet and warm enough that we could stay in for a while.
Then, we headed to Blue Spring.
Blue Spring is 310 feet deep; the Statue of Liberty could stand in it and her torch would still be five feet from the surface. It is also the bluest of the springs in Missouri. But gosh, what a beautiful journey just to get to it!
As we neared the spring, about a half mile hike to get there from the parking area, the river that ran alongside the trail moved swiftly, and in the late afternoon light it was really a sight.
Sara borrowed the camera for a little bit, so you'll notice a slightly different watermark on her photos, because I did like one of her shots of the spring the best - the sunlight was really hitting the rock and blowing the highlights in most of the shots, so she got a good one.
By this time we noticed that it had gotten a little hotter - I had a sheen on my arms, which used to only happen during marching band - and it was nearing seven o'clock, so we hiked the half mile back and headed toward home (with maybe a pit stop for vanilla Coke and Malibu rum along the way).
I am super-happy about the photo with the telephone wires; sometimes the setting sun hits the wires along the street by my house just so and it's so pretty, but I've tried to capture it and failed. So I love this photo - and it's also kind of dramatic and imperfect and cool.
(I personally love shooting into the sun. You can never predict what effect it's going to have and ninety percent of the time, it's awesome)
And then the sun was setting - and it was a good sunset, with clouds and color, and if you'll recall from my lamentations way back in this blog, last year's summer sunsets sucked. So we kind of careened around trying to get a good spot that wasn't overrun with trees, and finally - we found it.
No, the sky did not look like this. The secret to a really dramatic sunset? Lower the exposure compensation; here I think it was at -1.3 or even -1.7.
That evening we got a meat lover's pizza from Casey's General Store and sat on the lovely deck (which Justin built with his BARE HANDS) and had dinner and rum and cokes. When the bugs got out of control we moved inside and down to the lower level where I wigged out over Sara's fantabulous photos of her and Justin's trip to Yellowstone and Glacier a few years back, and we watched Pretty Woman. (Okay. Okay. I digress. I would not have taken the 'kept woman' offer)
The next day after church we loaded up the Jeep again to head to Red Bluffs Recreational Area. But first a friendly butterfly decided to pose for me on Sara's butterfly bush -
A mostly shallow river runs below the bluffs, shallow enough to just sit in or float on your stomach. Justin fished for a while. There were other people there and one lady had brought a dog who was pretty excited to be there.
Because the bluffs are kind of, you know, high, I had to switch to my telephoto to get a good shot of the rock.
It was another beautiful day and again, not too hot, and the river made things cool, too.
There was a small school of tiny fish that would come and nip at our feet; I regret that I never got a decent photo of them in the act. Sara and I skipped about a million rocks, and we got pretty good. And I kept finding big rocks and throwing them so that the up-splash would get in her face. What can I say, I never get to play in the water. :-p
That afternoon Sara and Justin fixed grilled steaks, macaroni, green beans, and baked beans for dinner, and Sara had brought real corn from up home where her parents awesomely grow food, so Justin grilled those too. We had Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream for dessert, because it's the only vanilla ice cream that's good and they had it at Casey's, and there are no Casey's in St. Louis.
But eventually I had to leave. :-(
Isn't that always the way it is.
The sunset was nice, on the road to home.