Category Archives: Outdoor Fun

Aquatic Macro Invertebrates at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

Mother crawdad with babies
I used my childhood crawdad catching skills to hand-catch the most “Macro” invertebrate of the day – a large mother crawdad with tiny babies clinging to the underside of her tail. We released all the animals back into the water after we had a look at them.

Aquatic Macro Invertebrates are animals without a backbone that live in water and can be seen with the naked eye. I’ve had an interest in these creatures ever since I can remember. When I was young I caught a variety of water invertebrates such as water beetles, clams, crawdads and snails and attempted to maintain them in my aquariums. I was thrilled when my brother’s aquarium started to grow hydra even though they predate on tiny fish, because I’d read about them but never thought I’d see any. I currently have small colonies of freshwater shrimp in three of my aquariums. Many aquatic invertebrates are insects that live part of their life cycles in water but have an adult flying stage.

When the Litzinger Road Ecology Center offered a training workshop for volunteers on how Aquatic Macro Invertebrates are used to monitor water quality, of course I had to attend. Master Naturalist and Stream Team member Cliff Parmer taught us some Aquatic Entomology facts then we went outside to Deer Creek to learn how to take a scientific sample of water invertebrates.

Read more on the Schnarr’s Blog: Aquatic Macro Invertebrates at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

Prairie Restoration at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

I’m a volunteer at the Litzinger Road Ecology Center in Ladue. Volunteers and on some occasions the public are invited to educational events on the premises. I recently attended a session for volunteers to learn about why the prairie sections at the center are periodically burned and an introduction about how to start a fire, control the fire, and perform the burn safely.



Tallgrass Prairie at Fort Bellefontaine County Park

An example of a restored tall grass prairie at Fort Bellefontaine County Park

Read more

How I Use My Garden for Self Care

mygardenLife can be stressful at times. If we don’t take time for self care our health can suffer. I recently saw an advertisement for a workshop about gardening and holistic self care. I was not able to attend and learn some new things, but I can think of a lot of ways in which my garden already helps me with my own self care.

Read more on the Schnarr’s Blog: How I Use My Garden for Self Care

Fit and Healthy on Route 66: Two Sections of the Lower Meramec – Part II

Points of interest on the Lower Meramec River
Points of interest on the Lower Meramec River

It was only a few days after my participation in Operation Clean Stream on the Meramec River that a fellow member of the St. Louis Adventure Group Meetup suggested a float from Sunset Hills to Arnold. Kelly was trying to experience some sections of the Meramec that he had not yet floated and I’d never been on that stretch either so I agreed to join him on September 2, the Friday before Labor Day.

This part of the Meramec would not be everyone’s idea of a great place to paddle because it doesn’t have the fast-moving crystal clear water that many of our Missouri streams are known for but I enjoy large rivers and bodies of water that require a lot of paddling. I don’t mind semi-urbanized areas because I enjoy exploring around bridges and other large scary structures. When I was a kid, on occasions when my Dad would take us boating on Lake of the Ozarks or Table Rock Lake, if he piloted the boat too close to a dam or bridge I would scream and cry. I don’t scream and cry if I get close to a bridge now but I do get a weird kind of thrill from it. I probably would scream and cry if I got too close to a dam – even the little tiny one at Creve Coeur Lake gives me a queasy feeling!

Kelly’s plan was to meet at what would be our takeout point, Arnold City Park, where his neighbor would meet us to kindly help us with our shuttle. Our put-in point was at Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills, a 10 mile float by river but only a 10 minute drive from one point to the other. This route is a very efficient way to get in a lot of paddling for a small expenditure of driving time.

090216

On the left is Kelly with our boats at Minnie Ha Ha Park. Since it was a weekday and the holiday weekend had not started yet there were a few people fishing but not much traffic on the river – most of the time we had it to ourselves with only fish, turtles and birds for company. The picture on the right is of George Winter Park, located where the river bulges out in a strange manner as you can see from the map at the top of this article. Kelly explained that much sand and gravel has been and is being mined from the vicinity causing lake-like sections that are a lot of fun to explore.

090216_2

A few times during the day we pulled onto a gravel bar to stretch our legs a bit or eat lunch. There are banks that are too steep or muddy to climb out of the vessel but also plenty of gravel bars that are just right. The picture on the right shows the Hwy. 21 bridge in the distance. This section was toward the end of our float and we’d been paddling against the wind for quite awhile so a little time to sit back and drift while taking pictures was welcome.

090216_3

This last pair of photos shows the remains of the boat ramp at Arnold City Park on the left and the Lemay Ferry Rd. and Hwy. 55 bridges on the right (the Hwy. 55 bridge is the one in the distance). Flood damage has rendered this boat ramp pretty useless to all but small watercraft like ours. If you can’t hand-carry your boat down to the water look for another boat ramp to use. The rocky shoreline was not that easy to disembark from either, I did it without falling on my butt but it was close. My footwear for the day was imitation Crocs – something sturdier would have been safer for scrambling around on the rocks and debris.

Our float took about five hours including a stop for lunch and maybe an extra hour and a half or so for shuttling, loading and unloading. We could have added more padding miles by more thoroughly exploring all the little coves and inlets but we only did a few. If you float this section, a map would be a good idea because the geography can be confusing. There is not a lot of shade along the way so make sure you have plenty of sunscreen! Watch out for jumping Asian carp – I don’t know if there is anything you can do about them but be aware just in case. None hit me or jumped in my boat but a group splashed me pretty good and put a momentary scare into me! The myriad of parks along the Meramec are worth exploring on foot and by bicycle. The natural flood cycle of a river can take things away but it also gives by making some land suitable for recreation rather than development. Enjoy!

Fit and Healthy on Route 66: Two Sections of the Lower Meramec – Part I

The Lower Meramec River, which runs from Sullivan, MO to the Mississippi River, is not one of the most popular sections to paddle. If you enjoy lake paddling or exploring large rivers, you might want to take another look at the Lower Meramec. I paddled two sections recently and enjoyed it tremendously.

On August 27, 2016 I joined some other volunteers to participate in Operation Clean Stream, sponsored by the Open Space Council. On this day there were several locations we could pick from. I brought my own kayak this time so I chose a route that was not serviced by an outfitter.

I checked in at Castlewood State Park in Wildwood and met a great group of people at the put-in point on the beach. This fun and hard-working group of volunteers and I headed downstream toward our eventual takeout point at Green Tree Park in Kirkwood.

Operation Clean Stream put-in point at Castlwood State Park
At the left is my group getting ready to depart from the Castlewood State Park boat ramp. On the right is a sandbar where we stopped to clean up trash. On the shore you can see a couple of land volunteers.

At one point I had to paddle upstream for awhile to go back to that sandbar because I thought I had lost an item there. It turned out I hadn’t lost it but I did learn one thing – it’s pretty easy to paddle upstream (perhaps up to Route 66 State Park?) so it’s possible to go for a solo paddling outing from here without worrying about a shuttle. Just paddle upstream for awhile then downstream again to get back to your vehicle.

Some interesting bridges
On the left is an interesting bridge that appears to have vegetation growing on top. It’s right before the Hwy. 141 bridge. On the right is the 141 bridge and a railroad bridge just beyond it.

aug27_4

Taking photos like those above could be hazardous to your safety if you are not careful! The current is pretty swift here so I probably should have concentrated on steering the kayak. It was pretty awesome to see all the logs stuck in and on the bridge from the Flood of 2015 which was of historic proportions – can you believe the water got that high? This bridge is not far from Simpson Lake, where I participated in flood cleanup in February.

aug27_3

I’m pictured at the left with Eric and Kim. On the right are Simon and Tim at the takeout point at Greentree Park, displaying part of our haul. It’s only about a six mile float from Castlewood State Park to Greentree, but it took us a good part of the day because we stopped a lot for trash. Trying to retrieve trash from a boat in a current will really test your paddling skills – you have to be able to maneuver in and out of tight spots, enter and exit frequently without tipping, be able to approach and dock alongside obstacles safely and have a good idea how far over you can lean to grab something. You’ll exercise different parts of your body than you’re used to – a great workout!

Stay tuned for Part II – Minnie Ha Ha Park in Sunset Hills to Arnold City Park.

Links to more information:

Operation Clean Stream’s September Newsletter with news of the cleanup – Includes news of a matching grant to benefit the Meramec Route 66 Bridge at Route 66 State Park.

My article about the August 14, 2016 cleanup

Here is a photo of my Dad at the cleanup at North Riverfront Park

My article about Castlewood State Park

Fit and Healthy on Route 66: Operation Clean Stream at Ozark Outdoors in Leasburg

finished_leasburg_map

On August 14, 2016 I joined a number of other paddle sports enthusiasts at Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort in Leasburg, MO for a day of cleaning trash from the local streams as part of Operation Clean Stream. We had our choice of different route lengths. I selected the 9 mile route which placed me with a few recreational floaters on the Bluffs section of the Meramec River. Other volunteers who opted for shorter routes were taken to put-in points on the Courtois and Huzzah rivers. Ozark Outdoors provided breakfast, trash bags, vessels, paddling gear and transportation. At the end of the day we dropped off our trash and equipment on the beach at the resort. Since I was the only volunteer to choose the long route, I was one of the last if not THE last to finish.

It rained for nearly the entire day, which I didn’t find to be a bad experience at all. My nylon rain poncho eventually soaked through but it was warm enough for me not to get cold and my torso was warmed by my life jacket. The rain was quite soothing and beautiful and it’s nice to see the river in different conditions. Rainy weather proved to be no impediment to picking up trash, in a way it made it a little more pleasant because at least the trash was fairly clean! Every time I stopped to clean up a sandbar I had to bail out the canoe with a Gatorade bottle that I found but that was no big deal. I didn’t bring my phone because it doesn’t hold a charge very well these days so my only photo of the day is of the trash pile (at the end of this article) when I was able to recharge the phone enough to get a picture. The Ozark Outdoors Facebook Page has some photos of the event.

The Bluffs section is very scenic and I recommend it for a great float. I have floated that stretch before but did not use the same outfitter so my put in and take out points were not the same. Ozark Outdoors used land they own for both so I’m not exactly sure where the put-in point is on the map at the beginning of this article. It was at the former site of a resort called The Bluffs which no longer exists.

Ozark Outdoors is practically right across the river from Onondaga Cave State Park. If you’re camping at the park, the resort has a well-stocked store if you need to make a run for more provisions. The resort is large and has a lot of services – cabins, camping, pay showers, ample restrooms, canoe and kayak rental and more. The staff seemed to be organized, friendly and committed to promoting responsible enjoyment of our streams.

ocs_081416
I found the space helmet and the chair, plus three bags of this trash!

There are more water and land based cleanup opportunities on August 27, 2016 – here is more information if you want to get involved!
Operation Clean Stream August 27
Operation Clean Stream 2016 Facebook Page

Introduction to Letterboxing

Letterboxing logbook and stamp
Letterboxing logbook and stamp

What is Letterboxing? It’s a fun outdoor hobby that is kind of like a lower-tech version of Geocaching. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places (like parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, on one of several web sites, or by word of mouth. Individual letterboxes contain a notebook and a rubber stamp, preferably hand carved or custom made. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox’s stamp in their personal notebook, and leave an impression of their personal signature stamp on the letterbox’s “visitors’ book” or “logbook” — as proof of having found the box and letting other letterboxers know who has visited. Many letterboxers keep careful track of their “find count”. Letterboxing is a creative way to enjoy the outdoors!

In this class you’ll get introduced to the basics of the hobby and learn to make two of the items that participants use – a hand-carved rubber stamp and a handmade log book. The skills you will learn while making these items can be used in a lot of other craft pursuits, such as art journaling, card making, scrapbooking, printmaking and much more.

Each class attendee will receive a printout with a written tutorial for that class so if you forget anything we learned you can refer back to it later. All materials are included in the class price.

You will have time for lunch and there are lots of good places to eat or pick up food in downtown Maplewood.

NEW! At each class, there will be at least one door prize randomly awarded to an attendee – probably a craft supply item of some type that relates to the theme of the class. Past prizes have included a necklace kit, a polymer clay frame kit and a craft stencil. That’s my way of saying thank you for coming!

What to bring
It’s not necessary to bring anything but it’s a good idea to wear old clothes in case you get any ink on you. You can bring or buy snacks or lunch. We have a refrigerator for storing food.

What will be provided
I will provide rubber carving material, carving tools to borrow, rubber stamping ink pads to borrow, paper and cardstock to make your logbook and all other materials needed to complete the project during class. Extra supplies will be available to purchase if you want to do more work on your own.

Introduction to Letterboxing
Date: July 16, 2016
Time: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Location: Studio:art, 7403 Manchester Road, Maplewood, MO
More information and registration: Class Signup

Book Review: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer

Book Review: "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer
Book Review: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer

I haven’t written a book review in quite awhile so it says a lot about Jon Krakauer’s writing that I’m moved to write one now. “Into Thin Air” is his personal account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster which is a pretty well-known story. There are two movies about it and several books. I’m interested in outdoor activities so I’ve read a few articles about the incident before reading this book. The articles in no way made me develop an interest in trying high-altitude climbing for myself and this book reinforced my opinion many times over! Just driving my Jeep up the Pike’s Peak Highway in the 90s scared the heck out of me and gave me such a bad migraine I had to take to my bed the rest of the day! I’m very grateful I live at 479 feet above sea level!

I wanted to read this book because I was curious about what it’s like to attempt such a climb and this book gave me a pretty good idea – it’s horrible! Just to get to base camp apparently involves more physical torment than I would ever dream of putting myself through. The kind of person who is willing to try this is a very different breed. I admire such people in a way though I frankly will admit I think they are crazy! Extreme forms of human behavior are interesting to read about.

If you get to the summit you’ve really achieved a major feat of endurance, but it doesn’t sound like any fun at all. To get back down safely is even harder. Many people make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to try or while earning a living helping others try. There is a lot of money spent, a lot of environmental damage, a lot of cultural changes in the local area and a lot of injuries and mental suffering for some of the survivors in the attempts. Whether or not it’s worth it is a question you will ask yourself if you read the book.

The people in the expedition endured a lot of suffering by their own choice. A lot of people in this world endure suffering without any choice in the matter, so I don’t think this book is exactly inspiring. It is compelling and I won’t soon forget it – one for the permanent library. There are a lot more questions in it than answers and I like that in a book. It will make you appreciate your nice warm bed which is where I read it!

Here are some of my other older book reviews.

 

Decorating Ideas for Battery Powered Candles

LED Water Lights
LED Water Lights
My part-time employer Schnarr’s Hardware sells a variety of battery powered candles. Some are even designed to be displayed in water. I enjoy using these lights for a variety of decorative effects. If you are doing any holiday entertaining or just want to brighten your home during the gloomy winter months flameless candles are both safe and fun!

Read my posts on the Schnarr’s blog for ideas for displaying flameless votive candles and submersible water lights.

Fit and Healthy on Route 66 – Rogers Parkway to Memorial Park

This article was originally published on June 30, 2012 and has been retrieved via the Wayback Machine.

Trailhead for Rogers Parkway, Brentwood, Missouri

If you’re traveling on the Manchester alignment of Route 66 through St. Louis County and are in the mood for a short, easy bike ride or a walk for you or a canine companion, try the Rogers Parkway in Brentwood, Missouri. Brentwood is a small city but has a lot of little parks, most with water, some with restrooms. You’ll pass through several during the route I’m about to describe. You won’t see anything spectacular, but you’ll enjoy charming older suburban neighborhoods with large trees and pleasant shade. The trail is pet-friendly with plastic bag dispensers for waste and a water fountain with a basin at dog’s height. If you don’t know the area well you’ll want to download and print out this map to take with you.

If you’re traveling west on Manchester, start looking for the trailhead shortly after you cross over Hanley Road. The trailhead will be on the right, in between American Locksmiths and Brentwood Place Apartments. You’ll find an asphalt trail heading north that takes you to Broughton Park. Follow the trail until you reach Swim Club Road, where you’ll cross over to the other side of the street.

Intersection of Trails

Continue until you get to an intersection of asphalt trails. Turn right, and you’ll pass some handball, tennis, and volleyball courts. This is Hanley Park. You’ll see some signs along the way suggesting different fitness exercises that you can do if you like. The trail splits in two, and the more interesting route is to the right. You’ll cross a creek and follow along it for awhile on the Lee Wynn Trail until you get to Oak Tree Park. If you feel like doing some hill climbing, you can continue past the park and up a ridge to explore the streets a bit. If you’re not in the mood for climbing a hill, head back the way you came until you get past Hanley Park and back to the intersection. You can turn left here and get back on the Rogers Parkway, or you can turn right and continue for a short distance into Memorial Park. If  you’re hungry or thirsty, there is usually a snack stand set up here. If you care to head toward the huge American flag toward the northeast, you’ll come across a large shopping center that has a Trader Joe’s and a Target, both places where you can pick up some items for a picnic lunch. (If you turn right at the huge flag and continue for a few blocks, you’ll see some light rail tracks – turn left and there is the Brentwood I-64 Metrolink station if you want to explore more of the St. Louis area – bring your bike on board). If you don’t want anything from the shopping center, I recommend turning around in Memorial Park and heading back the way you came at this point – you’re roughly 2/3 of the way through the entire route if you’ve taken no detours.

If you’re on foot, you’re probably satisfied with the length of your excursion, but if you want a little more, you’ll notice some dirt trails on the right as you head back. Explore the small wooded area if you like.

If you’re on a bike, you might want to extend your ride considerably. If so, I recommend looking for Eulalie Ave. (this is the spot where you crossed the road previously upon reaching Swim Club Road) on the way back. It’s a little confusing because if you look left, the road is called Dorothy and if you look right, the sign is missing. Nevertheless, take a right turn and you’ll come to an intersection with Brentwood Blvd. Use the light and cross Brentwood Blvd. here with care – it’s very busy and the drivers are not necessarily attentive to cyclists or pedestrians.

Once you’ve crossed Brentwood Blvd., continue west on what is now Litzinger Rd. Look for four Lustron houses on your left. Continue for several blocks on Litzinger until you get to Tilles Park, a large park in the city of Ladue with a nice trail, more fitness stations, water, restrooms and more. There is a small lake with a shelter if you’ve brought a picnic lunch. Go around the park as many times as you like, then head back to Brentwood Blvd. on Litzinger and cross back over. Make a right when you reach Rogers Parkway and you’ll be back to the trailhead shortly.