My Mom was a freelance writer for the Suburban Journals for many years. Someone recently asked me if any of her articles were still available online. For the convenience of anyone else who would like to read them, here are links to some of them. This is not a comprehensive list, I know she wrote a lot more that are no longer archived online, but it’s a good start!
Castlewood State Park is located along the Meramec River in the southwest portion of St. Louis County between the Manchester and I-44 alignments of Route 66. Parts of the park lay on either side of the Meramec River. The part that lies north of the Meramec River is accessible by car south of the Manchester alignment of Route 66 and includes one of the most scenic views in all of St. Louis County. The photos above were taken from the River Scene Trail.
In the days before air conditioning, one way people used to cope with the heat was by visiting swimming beaches at the numerous rivers in the region. Caves were popular too. Route 66 fans will recognize the names of the fun places “Times Beach”, “Sylvan Beach”, Meramec Caverns”, “Stonydell” and Joplin’s “Lakeside Park”. Fort Bellefontaine County Park was formerly such a destination – the area that is now Castlewood State Park was another.
According to the book “Walks & Rambles in and around St. Louis” by Robert Rubright, the heyday of Castlewood as a resort was from 1915-1950. The swimming beach was washed away by the river in 1945. Some other amenities such as clubhouses, nightclubs and taverns persisted a bit longer. The state of Missouri converted the land to a park in 1979. Signs at the park indicate that while swimming in the Meramec River is not forbidden, it’s not encouraged either and is something to undertake at one’s own risk. Drownings do occur here so be careful.
The River Scene trail is so nice that I have explored very few other areas of the park despite many visits. I need to correct that oversight! There is a steep climb to the top of the bluff but after that the trail is not too difficult because it is mostly flat or downhill. You will have to watch your footing because the trail is rocky in spots and it’s possible to trip on tree roots. Sturdy hiking boots and a walking stick are helpful for safety and comfort. There are multiple scenic overlooks, historic ruins from the resort days and a well-traveled railroad corridor to see along the way. Rail fans will normally get a chance to see a train or two while hiking here and a portion of the trail even goes under the railroad bed in a cool tunnel.
As you can see from this map, the portion of the park that is South of the Meramec River is accessible only by hiking, biking or by horseback. You can take a trail to Castlewood from either West Tyson County Park or Lone Elk County Park.
It’s not shown on this map how it connects but if you take the Stinging Nettle Loop at the base of the bluff, you can follow that trail westward to a portion of the Meramec Greenway, Sherman Beach County Park and the Al Foster Trail which begins in Glencoe. You can also take a side trip on the Rock Hollow Trail, also known as the “Zombie Road”. The Stinging Nettle Loop is great for mountain bikers like me who are pretty much at the beginner level. There are some hills but they are not too high and if you fall you’ll probably land on dirt most of the time. I took a minor fall and didn’t get hurt. More challenging trails that I have not worked up to trying on a bike yet are in the area if you’re up for it. If you are getting the impression that you can spend days or weeks here exploring all the trails that connect near here you are probably right! Bring maps because it can get confusing!
The Interstate 44 / Historic Route 66 corridor southwest of the St. Louis, Missouri metro area is an embarrassment of riches for outdoor enthusiasts. Opportunities for bicycling, hiking, boating, camping, fishing, bird watching and many other outdoor activities are easily available to Route 66 enthusiasts who want to take a healthy break from driving a motorized vehicle. Route 66 State Park is a must-see for the Route 66 fan but there are abundant other interesting choices for outdoor recreation in the area, many with historic connections to Route 66. Route 66 State Park is a great choice for flat walking and biking trails. If you’re in the mood for some hills, take a look at West Tyson County Park. You’ll see the entrance to this park on the way to Route 66 State Park if you take the Lewis Road exit (#266) off of Interstate 44.
Last weekend I parked at the trailhead for the Flint Quarry Trail loop and started my hike. It was supposed to be about three miles, but there are lots of connector trails to other trails and other parks in the area and I was on another trail for some of the time and ended up hiking just under five miles. All the connectors make this trail kind of confusing, so be sure to have a map with you when you set out. Some of the twists and turns on this trail are extreme which makes it pretty easy to see where you are on the map. Without a map I would have felt apprehensive and it’s possible I would have gotten lost. While the trail is hilly and rocky, the switchbacks are really well done and the climbs tend to be broken up into short segments so I didn’t find it overly strenuous. Besides a map and your normal hiking safety gear, I recommend at least two bottles of water – more if you have room, in case you get off the trail – hiking boots with ankle support and a walking stick to make this hike comfortable and safe. The trails in this area are used by mountain bikers and horseback riders, so be alert and give them room to pass.
The main natural attractions on this trail are scenic views from the ridge tops, beautiful forest and intriguing rocky outcrops which were once mined by Native Americans to make stone tools. If you’re into the hobby of letterboxing, there are some man-made attractions here too for you to try to find. I searched for four letterboxes during my hike and actually found one. That’s typical of my usual ratio I must admit!
On the restroom / shower building at the trailhead is mounted this commemorative plaque which marks the transfer of ownership of a portion of the park land from the Federal government to St. Louis County. Like many parks in the St. Louis area, West Tyson’s history includes military use in WWII. The tract known as Tyson Valley Park was reclaimed by the U.S. Military in 1951 for use in the Korean War effort and repurchased by St. Louis County in 1963. The article “The Tyson Valley Area” by Conor Watkins helps explain who owned what when and is a great overview of the history and recreational opportunities in the area surrounding West Tyson.
The Henry Shaw Gardenway has its origin in the founding of the Missouri Botanical Garden Arboretum, popularly known as “Shaw’s Arboretum” as the garden itself is popularly known as “Shaw’s Garden”. In 1923 Missouri Botanical Garden purchased land in Gray Summit, MO to house plants that were in danger from St. Louis city pollution. In 2000, this land was renamed “Shaw Nature Reserve” and is a great place to hike and view nature.
In 1935, a portion of Route 66 from the St. Louis city limits to the arboretum in Gray Summit was dedicated as the Henry Shaw Gardenway. The well-known Route 66 landmark Jensen’s Point in Pacific was named after Lars Peter Jensen, president of the Henry Shaw Gardenway Association. It’s difficult to find much more information about the Henry Shaw Gardenway other than it existed and another remnant, a stone bus stop, is now located in the Shaw Nature Reserve. The CCC participated in highway beautification programs throughout the country in the 1930’s and the Henry Shaw Gardenway was one of the roads enhanced by their efforts. Blackburn Park in Pacific is another landmark extant on the Gardenway that I know of. It’s an intriguing part of Route 66 history that I want to know more about.
The Henry Shaw Ozark Gardenway was/is a modern-era organization with the mission of preserving the Ozark foothills along Interstate 44 and promoting maintenance and expansion of the Ozark Corridor series of parks. Their web site is not currently functioning and I don’t know if it’s still in existence. There is a great map of natural resources along the corridor here – Henry Shaw Ozark Corridor.
In my tutorial “Scrapbooking My Way on the Highway” I explained why I chose an 8.5 x 11 inch page format for my Route 66 scrapbooks and described how 3-ring binders help me to arrange my photographs by geographic order rather than time order. I’ve taken a lot of Route 66 trips and plan to do more in the future, so I like to be able to insert pages from the same area next to pages from an earlier trip. This practice helps me to learn the geography of the road and to document how it changes over time.
When you mount standard-sized photos on an 8.5 x 11 inch page, you are left with a lot of empty areas to fill. This is not necessarily a bad thing because as a result there is ample room on the pages for journaling and small ephemera. Lately I’ve been experimenting with another way to fill those empty spots – with small photos.
There are online companies that specialize in printing 2 x 2 inch photos from your social media accounts. I decided to try out the services of Social Print Studio to see how such photos look in my existing albums.
In the image at the top of this article, I have mixed the white-bordered 2 x 2 prints from Social Print Studio with standard sized-photos on two scrapbook pages that show places and events in the Lebanon, Missouri area. I’m really happy with the results – these small photos really help me use the space more efficiently and the white borders look terrific on colored cardstock.
I also tried using Photoshop to make montages of photos for printing in a 4 x 6 format. This is a great way to print photos from social media that are not of a high enough resolution to print in a standard size. The tiny photo at the lower left was taken from Facebook. Yes it’s small but it’s better than not having it at all! This is a great way to obtain a bunch of small photos to fill in gaps for a very reasonable price! Just cut the montage prints apart and fit the tiny photos in among the larger photos.
The image below shows two more pages that utilize the 2 x 2 photos from Social Print Studio. I like to mix emphemera in my albums and I have a lot of brochures and brochure-sized items displayed in pockets. On an 8 x 11 inch page, after I install the pocket there is no room for a standard sized photo but as you can see there is room for 6 small photos!
Here is a press release about an endangered historic bridge on Route 66 in Missouri:
“Hazelgreen, MO: Route 66 enthusiasts from all over the world will gather at 3:00 p.m. at the west end of the Gasconade River Bridge near Hazelgreen, MO on Saturday, March 14 to voice their support for a Missouri Route 66 and Ozarks icon, that being the bridge across the Gasconade River in Laclede County, Missouri. This ever-growing group of organizations and concerned individuals has worked tirelessly to save this bridge, including, at this point, seeking to have the bridge placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over 200 people are expected to attend the rally. Having recently received notification that the bridge is indeed eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society (LL66), a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has come forward as this group’s supporting organization moving forward.
Following the 3:00 p.m. rally, attendees will meet with other activists, historic preservationists, members of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, Laclede County Government Officials and officials from the state to discuss the Gasconade River Bridge and what can be done to save this historic structure. This meeting will be held at 5:00 p.m. at the Lebanon-Laclede County Library, located at 915 S. Jefferson St. Everyone with questions, specific interests, or desired involvement in the bridge is welcome to attend. The intent of the meeting is to discuss plans of action, forming of a committee, and discussion of any developments or findings since the last rally in December 2014.
Despite the fact that it was relatively short-lived as a highway, US Highway 66 (Route 66) is, without a doubt, the most famous road in America. It is important in the history of US transportation as the first national highway linking Chicago and Los Angeles, but its significance in American history is much more far-reaching. Route 66 is symbolic of the major changes in American life during the first half of the 20th Century. These changes included the proliferation of automobiles, the development of roadside culture, and the westward migration of Americans during the depression and post-war years. However, more than anything else, Route 66, the Main Street of America, the Mother Road, has become an icon of progress, hope, opportunity and adventure in America.
One of the reasons Route 66 is such a strong visual and physical experience is because of the way it was designed and engineered. Unlike new interstate highways, which are more efficient and meant to handle thousands of cars at high speeds, Route 66 has a more human scale, and as a result, people feel more physically connected to it. It is narrower, tends to have grassy shoulders (which means less pavement) and motorists can drive it more slowly without slowing the flow of traffic. As a result, the landscape unfolds instead of whisks past.
Scenic Byway Routes like Missouri Route 66 have value not only for aesthetics and preservation, but also as a way to promote desirable forms of tourism and increase income in regions. Foreign and domestic tourists alike are interested in visiting the various points of interest, and the natural wonders of the physical and cultural environment offered along the Missouri Route 66 Corridor. Economic development opportunities in the Laclede County Route 66 Corridor are greatly based on corridor travel experience, as well as land uses and infill opportunities in the various communities.
Intact bridges may be contributing features of large historic landscapes, or may be considered as individual resources. Intact bridges and individual sections of roadway may be representative of early engineering, workmanship and changes in road-building techniques during the period of significance, and of common patterns of use. These resources are important as tangible links with specific events and emerging technologies, such as completion of the first stretch of 4-lane highway Route 66 in Missouri, as well as for their overall role in the development of the highway system. The presence of intact historic roadways and bridges can also serve to strengthen connections between other types of resources, such as landscapes and groups of buildings.
The Gasconade River Bridge is significant because of its actual experience of the road, the kinesthetic experience that is dependent upon a sense of place created by intact landscapes as a contributing property along Route 66.
The Gasconade River Bridge has the ability to evoke a sense of place and experience. This historic structure, dating to 1924, is fully intact and reflects its period of significance, making it a perfect candidate for the National Register of Historic Places. The goal of this group of concerned citizens, passionate Route 66 enthusiasts/preservationists is to ensure the restoration and preservation of this historic Route 66 Bridge.
“This bridge personifies Route 66 through the Ozark region,” states Roamin’ Rich Dinkela. “Even if you’ve never heard of Route 66 you know when you see this bridge that you’re seeing a living part of history. Much like the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, this structure reels in people from all over the world. I know it sounds crazy, but people young and old have a hunger for history. What will they learn about if this bridge and others like it are replaced with homogenized, sterilized, lifeless concrete structures? Nothing! They’ll see it in a book and wish they could have experienced it. As they thirst for more knowledge about our historical byways, they will gravitate toward the regions that make preservation a priority. We can do this; we can save this bridge.”
Tens of thousands of tourists, mostly traveling abroad from other continents, descend upon the Mother Road ANNUALLY to live and experience the past. To these tourists, it’s the dream of a lifetime. Replacing the bridge with a modern structure would alter the canvas of Route 66 through the Ozarks, consequently interrupting that dream. According to a Rutgers University study released in 2012, more than 5 million people live and work along Route 66, more than 85% of Route 66 tourists visit historic places and spend over $38 million a year in Route 66 communities! Route 66 tourism boasts annual gains of $262 million in overall output. Our historic landmarks and pieces of infrastructure such as the Gasconade River Bridge should be kept available for tourists to experience.
Samples of testimony from around the world:
Anja and Wolfgang Werz (Germany): “Several thousand tourists from Germany traveled each year the Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. An important reason for them is to ride on the trail of American history, including historic bridges such as the Gasconade River near Hazelgreen, MO. If all the historic attractions of Route 66 are gradually removed, it is for the tourists no longer interesting to come to the U.S. and travel The Route 66.”
Monique and Willem Bor (Netherlands): “Many tourists from the Netherlands like to drive the Route 66 and see all the old buildings, bridges and stretches off Route 66. Please be careful with the remaining attractions because else tourist will no longer be interested in Route 66. Lately many old motels are disappearing, they were demolished or they burned down. Preservation is very important so… preserve the historic Gasconade Bridge!! Be proud of what’s still there!”
Publicity is the most instrument force we can ask for. We want to make sure our community is seen and heard. Missouri’s historic infrastructure is important, and right now it’s in the most critical condition. Our leaders need to recognize the need for maintenance and preservation of our aging highway system. While we still have these historical structures around, it’s imperative we preserve them for the sake of our growing communities. It’s not just a bridge, it’s not just a road, it’s a landmark. People tell stories about it, pay thousands of dollars, fly thousands of miles to see it, and they marvel over it. What will we leave behind for our children? Help us fix our historic structures. Help us get the attention of Jefferson City and Washington DC. We look forward to seeing you at the rally!
So far in the St. Louis, MO area we’ve had some really nice weather in April which is an intoxicating antidote to the awful winter we just endured. I’ve been finding it very difficult to stay indoors to actually do any work (except in the garden of course!). As if I needed any more motivation to get outside, I’ve recently tried out a couple of applications that really help pump my enthusiasm.
The first is one that a lot of people have heard of but I only discovered it last week. It’s called MapMyRide.com and since I like to hike, ride my bike, kayak and explore the outdoors, there are a lot of things I can do with this app. On my computer, I can plan out a route and then send it to my smartphone. I can use the smartphone app to record an excursion then look at the map later on my computer. Why would I want to do this? I can look at the map in satellite, road map or topo map view and see if there is anything interesting I missed that I might be able to find on a return visit. Some features are only going to be visible on one of these views so to be able to toggle back and forth is a great help. If I want to share my adventure with others I can take screen shots of the maps to make them into a graphic. Topo maps sometimes show old roads and old place names and can be a help when researching an area. For people who like to explore old roads such as Route 66, the satellite view is a great way to find things that are very difficult to see from ground level. For example, this old cut-off piece of Route 66 had to be shown to me by a guide and I didn’t remember how to get there again. Now I think I’ve found it with the satellite map and will be back to see if I’m right.
What if you are in an unfamiliar area and want to find a bike trail? Or you just want to find some new ones in your own area? You can set the app to show bike trails and zoom out to move along your route. When you see some green lines, zoom in to see details about a trail! It doesn’t seem to have a feature for finding walking trails only but most bike trails are also ok for walkers to use so it’s a good start. When you record your workouts, MapMyRide also tracks the calories burned for you and you can enter in your meals to use it as a calorie counter. And all of these features are in the FREE version.
The combination of MapMyRide and the weather had me so amped up last week that I walked 12 miles and rode 5.35 miles on my bike in six days. That’s not a lot for some people but it is for me. I’ve also started logging my miles on another web site also called 100 Missouri Miles, where the Governor and First Lady challenge you to match their active miles. It includes running, walking, hiking, geocaching, rolling, cycling, paddling, riding, swimming and skating. Missouri residents can use this site to motivate themselves to keep up with other active people. You also get badges when you reach certain goals. There are also features for finding interesting trails and events. A great way to enjoy the “Best Trails State” in America!
Fort Bellefontaine County Park on the banks of the Missouri River in North St. Louis County is one of my all-time favorite places for a hike. It’s more than just beautiful – it’s exciting and mysterious. History buffs will get a thrill here because in 1805 it was established as the first United States military fort west of the Mississippi and is the spot where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped on their first night heading west and on their last night of the return trip. The fort also played a role in the war of 1812 and was a trading post where Spanish, French and American traders did business with Native American tribes. The military moved to Jefferson Barracks in what is now South St. Louis County in 1826 and the Fort Bellefontaine site was later taken over by the City of St. Louis who established Bellefontaine Farms, later the Missouri Hills Home for Boys, on this spot. In the 1930s, there was a public beach here and the WPA built a Grand Staircase down the river bluff along with other stone structures intended to draw visitors to the area. The remains are quite a sight. At the top of the Grand Staircase a cannon is displayed. This bugs me because it gives the impression to the uninformed that the Grand Staircase is actually the fort, but unfortunately there are no remains of the fort to be seen. There is one small building on the site believed to be built from old fort foundations, but as far as I know all the other stone work you see here is from the 1930s.
I grew up in North St. Louis County and did not know of the existence of this place until the time of my first visit in 1990. Although the park was acquired by St. Louis County in 1986, as far as I know the only way to visit it in 1990 was by canoe – this is what I was told by my friend Rich, a fellow member of the St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley Outdoor Club. He heard about it from the faculty mentor of our group, who was an avid canoeist and outdoorsman and knew about all kinds of interesting places to explore. Rich proposed that the two of us put a canoe in where Highway 367 meets the Missouri River, stop off to see the Grand Staircase, continue to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and cross the Mississippi over to the Illinois side to visit the spot where Lewis and Clark began their trek to the Louisiana Territory and have a picnic lunch. Then we would continue down the Mississippi to pass under the Chain of Rocks Bridge and over the Chain of Rocks falls and take out at North Riverfront Park where we would leave a shuttle car. Canoeing or kayaking the Chain of Rocks falls is not something to be taken lightly even by very experienced paddlers. Fatal accidents are possible.
Well how could I say no to an action-packed itinerary like that? March 2, 1990 had fine weather for such an adventure and all went smoothly. I remember the date because it was one of the most exciting of my life! In the present day, the Missouri River shoreline has been cleared of brush immediately in front of the Grand Staircase but in 1990 that was not the case. After pulling the canoe up on the bank we had to bushwhack through the brush to get to the staircase – not that difficult to do in late winter when there were no leaves on the branches – it was fairly easy to see where to go. The first look at the Grand Staircase was not something to be forgotten and it was many more times as exciting as it might have been because we were not sure we were supposed to be there. We dared to climb the staircase to the top of the bluff and we saw some of the Missouri Hills Home for Boys Buildings. Most were in good repair but I remember one that was more of a moss-covered ruin and we watched snowmelt dripping from it in the bright sunshine with delight at the beauty of the architecture. A nearby stone gazebo still had some of the wood roof structure in place at that time.
In the second half of the 1990s, word began to get around that this was a park you could actually go to officially and it became a regular hiking spot for my family and I.
To visit the park, take the Bypass 66 Route westward from the Chain of Rocks Bridge and make a right on Bellefontaine Road and continue until it dead ends. There is a guard gate. Stop there and an attendant will write down your license number, get your name and issue you a parking pass. They usually know why you are there but if they ask just explain that you want to hike. There are a couple of parking spots you can choose, I like the one near the top of the bluff at the Grand Staircase. You will discover that there is a lot more to see than the Grand Staircase. At the base of the bluff is a hiking trail. If you take it to the left, you will follow the Missouri River upstream for a bit until you reach the spot where Coldwater Creek terminates in the Missouri River. Along this segment of the trail are a number of interesting ruins and information signs.
To see the end of Coldwater Creek is especially interesting to me because the creek is a major personal landmark. Where I grew up in Florissant, the creek passed close to our house and some of the best times of my childhood were spent on a wooded trail that ran parallel to the creek and linked two parks and a cemetery. It was not an official trail – the local kids wore it through there! My neighborhood friends and I had what we called our “hideout” which we used to furnish with rugs, drapery and a makeup table (!!??) in a tangle of small trees (which is still there!) near the creek in back of St. Ferdinand Cemetery. Sadly the trail is overgrown now and it’s hard to even see where it might have been, testament to the fact that kids don’t play there any more. Perhaps that’s for the best though. Creeks that function as storm drains are not really safe places for kids and Coldwater Creek, which originates near Lambert Airport, besides being known a huge source of fun for many North County kids, is also notorious for possibly being contaminated with toxic waste and there is suspicion that those who spent time in it or near it might be prone to diseases in adulthood.
The creek is certainly not devoid of life. I don’t know if it contains fish, but there were crawdads in it when I was young (which I used to try to catch of course with little success) and there are still crawdads in it now. It also supports fresh water clams. On a recent Fort Bellefontaine hike we found clam shells of all sizes including some almost as big as my hand! Small frogs are present and we saw evidence of predatory birds feeding on critters – large heron footprints in the mud and collections of excreted crawdad parts!
The trail follows the creek upstream where eventually you can see a very interesting ruin of a lodge which is starting to fall into the creek due to bank erosion. Shortly after this ruin the trail turns uphill. This is the only part of the trail that is at all challenging. After the short climb, the trail forks off. To the right it skirts a pond in an open grassy area. This part of the trail is new. If you take the trail left, this is the route we used to take when we first started hiking here. It takes you past a police dog cemetery and a police dog training area. You don’t see that every day!
Whichever fork you take around the pond, you will be led back to a trailhead at one of the main roads that passes through the youth facility. Follow one of those roads back to the bluff top and you’ll be back at the parking spot. There is a shorter segment of trail on the right, which I’ve only actually been on one time. On the way out, stop at the guard shack and turn in your parking pass and leave with great memories of a really unique place!
I belong to a Meetup group called Let’s Hike and recently we went for a group walk at Carondelet Park, the third largest park in the City of St. Louis. The Village of Carondelet was founded in 1767 and was incorporated into the city of St. Louis in 1870. Carondelet Park was dedicated on July 4, 1876. To get to the Park from Route 66 if you are traveling East to West, take Gravois through the South St. Louis area. Shortly after turning onto Chippewa, make a left turn on Morganford then another left on Holly Hills Blvd. On the way you’ll pass through the Bevo neighborhood with the famous and historic Bevo Mill and across the street from the park you’ll see some really unique and beautiful homes. This Route will take you a little bit off of Route 66 but you’ll get a look at some really authentic living neighborhoods that you won’t see anywhere else.
The most iconic feature in Carondelet Park is the Boathouse overlooking a popular fishing lake. There is another lake plus interesting walls and other stone constructions here and there. There are recreational amenities such as horseshoe pits, ball fields, a playground and nicely paved trail for pedestrians and cyclists circles all. It took our group one hour to circle the park twice on foot. Apparently this is also a great spot for birdwatching – check out these photos! If you walk toward the recreation center on the East side of the park and cross the railroad tracks, you will see a very attractive bridge to the north.
Carondelet Park is being linked to the Great Rivers Greenway system via the new River des Peres: Carondelet Connector. This should be complete very soon and when it’s done you’ll be able to get on your bike at Carondelet Park and take the the River Des Peres Greenway all the way to Route 66 at the intersection of Watson Road and River des Peres Blvd. – the round trip would be formidable but doable for experienced riders.
There are plans for improvements at Carondelet Park that sound very interesting, including something very intriguing to me personally, bird habitat development. Get news about what’s going on the park from the Friends of Carondelet Park Facebook page.