September 19 Visiting my son in Missouri

Shutins to Johns Our planned route today through Southern Missouri meandered through the hills and valleys of the Ozarks.  When we woke this morning, the humidity  was so high that the windows were covered with water so heavy it looked as though it had been raining.  All that humidity creates a steamy murkiness to the skies that dulls the view a lot.  Route 160 through the Ozarks is narrow and winding, and only occasionally opens up enough for a view of the larger landscape.  Again, I was disappointed in the lack of anyplace to stop, or park, or even slow down a bit to take some photos.  We passed some picturesque old barns, farms, and fences that would have been pretty  to photograph.  Instead, we kept ambling along, with not an inch of shoulder on the road, and I took a few very bad photos through the windows so that I could remember how we traveled.

Shutins to Johns (11) The focus for this day wasn’t to spend time seeing Missouri, it was to get across Missouri so that I could visit my son who lives near Joplin, on the western side of the state.  His life doesn’t allow him much opportunity to travel, so it is good that I can go to him. We planned to park in his yard, after he assured us he could plug in the MoHo and there wasn’t any problem with being there. 

Once we arrived, however, it was pretty clear that was a mistake.  John’s home is more than 100 years old, a remodeling work in progress, and the electric system couldn’t handle the 20 amps we needed just to run the air conditioner.  With the temperature in the mid 90’s and the night time temperatures not much less, air conditioning was a requirement and we relocated to a nice park not too many miles away.

Missouri_to Kansas (6) Once settled into the Big Red Barn RV Park in Carthage, Missouri, with full hookups and the air conditioner funning full blast, we relaxed into visiting with John and his friend Shannon.  Supper at a new local restaurant gave us time to talk and laugh together over a good meal, and keep nice and cool while doing so.

It was great to spend some time together, to catch up on family goings on, to share some hugs.  I am hoping that John will make it out west again soon to visit and see his sisters.  The last time he was able to come west, (other than when he was truck driving) was for our family reunion in 2007. John loves Missouri.  He has lived here for most of his life, and his father is close by.  He loves the warmth and doesn’t mind the humidity.  He just laughed at me as he watched the water pouring from my body and my dripping wet hair.

More photos are here, (some the not so good windshield variety), and others of my son are linked here>


September 18 Johnson Shut – ins

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>

ShutIns (3) Heck of a name, right? I found this place on Google Earth, trying to locate a place to camp somewhere between Henderson and Joplin where we are going to visit my son tomorrow.  Hot.  Right now it is hot, about 90 degrees or so with 65 percent humidity.  On a Saturday afternoon, we are sitting comfortably air conditioned in the MoHo, waiting for a bit of evening coolness before we take a bike ride around the campground.

When I picked this park, I had no idea what in the world the name meant, but after today, hiking the “shut-ins”, I now know it is a place where hard rock narrows the river to a wild canyon, eroded boulders forming plunge pools and natural slides just made for summer play.  Even though it is September, the park was full of people playing in the river. We watched families cavorting among the rocks and watched a young boy, terrified and ShutIns (10) stranded high above a rushing torrent, slide down safely into his father’s arms.

Our hike on the Shut-ins trail, however, took us far from the noisy kids deep into the oak-hickory woods surrounding the Black River.  It was hot, but still good to get out and walk 2.5 miles or so in an environment totally new to us. There were lots of lizards, no snakes, but turtles both in the water and on the trail.  Occasionally there was a breeze, just a bit of coolness to blow away the gnats whirling around our faces.  It was fun, really it was.

The visitor center here at the state park is new, only completed in 2005 after a break in the Taum Sauk dam sent 1.3 billion gallons of water raging through the park, scouring the landscape and destroying everything in it’s path.  The Black River Center is constructed from stone and wood and houses truly interesting and informative exhibits about the park geology, vegetation, animals, and the history of the flood.  More than 1.5 billion years of geologic history is exposed here, including several varieties of rhyolites from volcanic activity.  I am from an area of recent volcanic activity in the west, with no idea that volcanic rocks existed anywhere in this part of the world.

ShutIns (21) I took advantage of the free backpacks that the center allows campers to check out, and mine was a “tree” backpack, with several tree identification books, magnifiers, a couple of pair of binoculars, kerchiefs, and coloring crayons, of all things.  The flip chart hardwood tree identifier was perfect and I managed to identify a few trees at least.

As the evening comes, the sky is clear of clouds but still a bit murky, whether from haze or humidity, I can’t tell. Because we didn’t have a reservation, our site is in the equestrian portion of the park, used for overflow camping, and we have a large area to tie our horses, and a manure pit across the road.  May sound a bit strange, but it does give us a very open space to camp, with a night sky that is pitch black except for the stars.