Category Archives: Route 66

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

Studio:art Grand Opening Saturday December 19, 2015

Studio:art co-op grand opening

Studio:art Grand Opening this Saturday!

New artists co-op and retail store in Maplewood!

I’ve joined a new artists co-op in Maplewood Missouri and I am excited to invite you to our grand opening! It takes place Saturday, December 19 from 10am – 6pm. The address is 740 Manchester Road, Maplewood, MO 63143.

Local art and crafts (including some of mine) will be for sale, plus refreshments and a chance to win a $50 store gift card! It’s not necessary to RSVP, but if you’re a Facebook user you can RSVP at the event page or invite any of your friends that might be interested.

If you can’t make it on Saturday, the store retail hours are:
SUN: 11AM-7PM
MON: Closed
TUE: Closed
WED: Noon-8PM
THURS: Noon-8PM
FRI: Noon-8PM
SAT: 11AM-8PM

I hope to see you there!

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.

Fit and Healthy on Route 66 – Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri
View from bluff at Castlewood State Park in two different seasons

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.

Map of Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri

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!

Castlewood State Park official web site

My photos of Castlewood State Park and the nearby Wildlife Rescue Center

Fit and Healthy on Route 66 – West Tyson County Park

View from the top of one of the ridges in West Tyson County Park
View from the top of one of the ridges in West Tyson County Park

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.

Trail at West Tyson County ParkLast 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!

Tyson Valley Park Henry Shaw GardenwayOn 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.

Scrapbooking with Memorabilia

Scrapbooking With Memorabilia

I was due to give a presentation on “Scrapbooking With Memorabila” at the upcoming “Miles of Possibility: The Edwardsville Route 66 Conference” but it was just cancelled due to problems with the venue. If you want to view the slides and read my notes they are on this page. I will still be there as a vendor.

Mark your calendars! Upcoming events

I hope you can join us for one or both of these events!

September 19, 2015 – Two Parties in One Place: Zwanze Day Spillover – Green Power Challenge Winner in Sutton Loop Park, Maplewood, Missouri. More information at the event link. I’ll be demonstrating Rubber Stamp Carving and Hand Stencil Cutting at the Studio: art tent from 12:00-5:00 pm.

October 29-31, 2015 – Miles of Possibility: The Edwardsville Route 66 Conference in Edwardsville, IL. See the event web site for details. I will be vending some of my hand-crafted items and giving a presentation on the topic of “Scrapbooking with Memorabilia”.

Scrapbooking With Small Format Photos

8.5 x 11 Scrapbook Pages
8.5 x 11 Scrapbook Pages of Route 66 Sites and Events in Lebanon, Missouri

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!

8.5 x 11 Scrapbook Pages of Route 66 Events and Locations Between Springfield and Carthage
8.5 x 11 Scrapbook Pages of Route 66 Events and Locations Between Springfield and Carthage, Missouri

If you are interested in the rubber stamps I used on my pages, here is a link to the year number stamps and the tiny hand stamps come from sets from my faux postage collection. The word “Friends” comes from the stamp set Photo Caption Word Stamps for Road Trips which was designed with road trip scrapping in mind!