Monday, March 30, 2009

RockyPoint SNOW!

Is a March 30th-snow so unusual for the city I live in? Its odd how oblivious I am to the norms of a place as familiar as Swope or even my city.

Last night's storm iced The Hill to bootlace-height. The snow is a wet, melting one; the ground is still defrosted from the few days of nice and our newest precip. has been melting since it landed. A forecast of 4-9inches would have been very accurate if the first few hours had an opportunity to accumulate.
....It was enough to make the glades brilliant. The forest above and below them, too! Oakwood was slick, and a pair of vehicles was parked on the bottom. My wheels spun like last December's ice storm... I started to regret the climb when I hit a slow, bumpy curve only half-way up- but I got to the top with a bed full of wet ice. A single pair of tire tracks marked the road-

I slipped onto the glades from behind the pool and did a short circle around the two finest openings- The ground was soggy, and I never found any serious ice. Soon it was the trees that took my attention- they'd been beautiful and crystal-like before and now they rained slush-balls.

Ghost Town, Ark

"The Ghost town of Rush stands as a mute testimony to the activity of a bygone era.
Zinc carbonate ores were discovered in (the) valley in the late 1890's and the "rush" was on. Soon the hillsides were dotted with mines- sprouting colourful names such as Morning Star, White Eagle, Monte Cristo, Red Cloud, Buelah, Macintosh, Edith and Yellow Rose."

The town is fascinating- but for only a quick moment. A short row of four or five buildings awaits the visitor in the remote Ozark valley of rush. Only a few miles from Hwy 14- this side trip is well worth the left turn from Caney. The Buffalo is in early spring now- Redbuds and anemone's make for a pleasant break from Kansas City's latest bout of winter. The river, in Rush valley, is much larger than the Buffalo I know in Ponca. Still, it is beautiful and clean-looking. A slight green, milky colour today- some good rains lately. The river was the first thing I visited on my trip to Rush. I came to see the mines and did not know that the river was here!
I arrived far too late to brave the unfamiliar trails above the river a spent a sunny, pleasant afternoon by the river. Everything seems pretty soaked and soggy, but a tarp was enough to keep my tent dry on a high-spot of the washed-out campground.
The birds were goin'- it was nice to hear them after the silent winter months. They shouted MORNING, but the smooth walls of the tent were not light enough. My pillow was moist-going on damp, and the bag was wet...
I wanted to believe that the birds were wrong- and that I had time to roll over and space out for a while longer- but a cold, wet sleeping-bag was a miserable thing that I could not ignore. The zipper gave the usual struggle and the bag peeled off of me- I guess that I was already cold enough and the chilly air offered no surprise. I wondered if the grounds had flooded- things were a bit too wet for me to assume that a nightly dew was responsible. Had the river come over it's banks? Had it rained enough to overcome my shallow island?
Sure enough- it was the dew; a thick, slow-rolling fog dominated the valley. It was at first a bit disappointing- and truly weird to feel a light breeze accompany such a stagnant visual. A few finch-things livened up the river-side of my camp, but things were otherwise very still-looking.

I spent a few moments walking the bank of the Buffalo and then cut up a small, flowing stream. It didn't seem like I would see the sun today.
The low bridge leading into the NPS campground had flooded overnight- not threateningly so, but enough to send a loud, shattering wall of water over the top of the truck when I drove over. The flooded portion of the road was dry last night- it was very swift over the road, but covered only fifteen feet or so of road.
I rolled back towards the little town and walked around the few buildings. The dawn's thick clouds have certainly transformed the abandon, rotting buildings! I think it adds something to the sense of dead I found in the town- like it made the ghost-town even ghostlier. The top photo is of the post office/general store as it stood and functioned until only a half-century ago.The trail was short and easy- the old mines and relics of sorts lined every inch. An old ore cart lies off one side of the trail.. stiffened by rust and protected by the high wall that it served to create. Ore tracks- complete with mini-railroad-spikes- were abundant. These too were dying.
I explored around some of the old mine deposits- small bits of lustrous sphalerite were everywhere. Miners called this "Rosin Jack" and relied on it after the depletion of richer Smithsonite ores. Smithsonite was not too hard to find either- "turkey fat" was the name given to the bright yellow, bubbly, fatty-looking zinc crystals. One excellent vein runs down the wall of a bus-sized boulder up-hill of the largest mill.
Rush is a National Parks area though- and it is illegal to enter mines or to collect any of the gravel-sized bits of zinc or laying around. Signs that read DANGER KEEP OUT were posted in front of several mines that'd been gated or locked for the protection of visitors and bats alike. Up and down the hill here- and even across the river- there are many smaller digs and tunnels from early mining operations. The larger ones are big enough to walk in, and are blocked only where they have caved-in on themselves. Cave-ins were a scary part of Rush's history, and occurred more frequently when sophisticated blasting and drilling techniques were introduced to the valley shortly after WWI started. Such things became necessary when miners were forced to dig deeper into the mountain to fetch the ores.
I spent hours pacing the areas above and below the mines- crystals, minerals, old mining equiptment- it was all to be found. An ancient coke bottle and a HUGE platte of druzy quartz were my most memorable finds...
The fog lifted by mid-afternoon, but the sun remained hidden.. High clouds turned into stormy ones and the long ride from rush was gifted with all sorts of wonderful weather happenings...
Awsome clouds over the boston mountains and a thin, twisting rope tornado that never made it all the way... It rained for some hours and the sun set just as the back-end of the storm system glided past. .. rainbows came and went (had a triple going for a second!!!)... the winds picked up with a vengence and I rode a heavy tailwind all the way home-
It just dont get much better...

ponca for a night

An eve of stars and one of clouds- The deep Ozarks are beautiful and refreshing in nearly any condition. The flowers- delicate spring-ones- are the most unusual, attractive feature of this North Arkansas spring. It looks and feels like there should be mushrooms out, but there is not much around.
We used a different route- hit the Lost Valley area of the Buffalo River by way of hwy 74 and Boxley.

The upper Buffalo is right there- a quick drive-by and short stop to check for elk and photographs- no elk. A group of three or four swans, though!

Their rusty heads were familiar, though I could not ID them as trumpeters without a book...
Just remember that green-banded swans are always trumpeters (Tundra swans like the blue tags!)
This couple displayed tag numbers 1P7 and 2P7 in a small private wetland just south of the national forest campgrounds. I would love to know where they came from! Why are their tag #'s so close?
My mother and I did a bit of running around this afternoon- in addition to visiting the swans, the river and whatever mountain that is on the other side of Ponca, we took Lost valley trail back to the cave and falls; the dramatic Valley here is covered in the same flowers as the road was-
anemone's, beauty's, bloodroots, hepaticas, toothworts, trout lilies and -my favorite- those soft pink Duchman's Breeches.
The dirt is moist and fertile- growing things are everywhere- still there is something more impressive...the same thing that captured my attention on the long drive south and that which has altered the entire span of the Ozarks so dramatically.....Sawdust, fallen trees- mangled, shattered branches- The destruction is as bad on the ground as it is in the standing forest. The winter's disabling ice storm is still wreaking havoc on the healing mountains. Rumor has it that places a little further east are still without power- almost three months after the storm.

The campgrounds filled up quick; we claimed the last spot and tried to tune-out the noisy neighbors for the night. The stars were awesome! I made three exposures pointed north; at 5.6, a forty-minute photo was far too bright. This one was made in only twenty.
On day II mom explored more of the Buffalo. I was dropped off on the top of the hill- almost three miles north of Ponca. Here was shown to be a trio of old lead mines. They date back to the turn of the last century and I knew nothing about them except for where they were supposed to be on the map.

Last time I sought the mines I started by showing the map to the woman who runs Ponca's general store. I was not the only one who'd asked he about the map- lifted from a privately published guide from the 60's- she warned me of the mines and refused to tell me about them.

I walked for an hour- found some cool stone foundations for building and such- Spotted a possible mound about 2.4miles from town... a "tailings-pile" is the heap of waste-material from a mining operation. When I wondered back into the woods- not far from the road- I found galena, quartz in the many piles of discarded material. the heavy, metallic galena crystals were as large as my camera battery and the crystals and fossils were numerous- The mine's tailing's and the only deep shaft I found occupied me until mid-afternoon- My backpack was stuffed with pounds of lead-crystals and I strolled down the highway. Orange Puccoon coloured the dry areas along the road, and bright verbena was in some places, too.

HWY 74- crossing the buffalo near Ponca, ARK

Tried the Ozark Cafe for a meal, but little towns like Jasper close-up pretty early- Jasper's main strip (all four or five buildings) held only a motorcycle and a few pick-ups.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sibley's River

Mountainmen and Fur traders, as well as many Osage Indians traveled for days to reach Fort Osage- often floating of hiking the river.
It was in 1804 that the area's first non-indian settler, Pierre Chouteau of the Chouteau Fur Trading family helped take Osage chiefs to meet President Jefferson. The President promised to build the Natives a trading post which, thanks to Chouteau, was erected in '08 and named Fort Clark, after William Clark, who noted the area in 1804:
"high commanding position, more than 70 feet above high-water mark, and overlooking the river, which is here but of little depth"

Clark was also the head of Indian Affairs when the Fort was named. The Fort was one of the first U.S. military installations in the Louisiana Purchase and served as a stopover and trading post for river-travelers and the Osage indians. FOr the military, the post meant regulating trade and was a method of establishing peace (and control) with the Osage people.

The fort was given the name Fort Osage and a gentlemen named George Sibley succeeded Chouteau as the Osage Indian agent. George mingled with traders and visitors alike and made for a welcoming host of Fort Osage with his 16 year-old wife... Frequents knew the Fort by the name Fort Sibley.
the year 1821 marked the arrival of J McCoy, founder of Westport on the Santa Fe, and The admission of the State of Missouri to the Union. A year later, the Fort Osage operation was formally ended by the military, and used as a storage area for posts in Leavenworth and along the Osage River near Nevada, MO (Fort Scott). Cut Wood from the post was salvaged by the early local residents until only the Foundation stood at the end of the decade. George Continued supporting the small community that he helped raise with favors and a small trading post.

Independence and McCoy's "Westport" went on to compete with each other (and later St. Joe and LEavenworth) for the area's trade dominance. McCoy's trading post dominated because of it's strategic location only four-miles south of the missouri at it's confluence with the Kaw- then known as 'the Great Bend." The GReat Bend marked the eastern-most point of the river's southern stretch. This allowed merchandise to be floated almost 20-miles upstream (west) of the existing western stop on the Santa-Fe Trail- Independence.
Travelers began skipping the established trading posts to take advantage of Westport's 20-mile advantage and McCoy's business founded modern-day Kansas City.

Sibley passed and the community which he created claimed township under the name Sibley, Missouri. It remained a relatively quiet place as the Civil war ripped border towns like Westport, Leavenworth and Lawrence; Jackson County remained almost entirely pro-south until the Union ended Confederate military operations of the area in '64 (The Battle of Westport)...

1969 meant the opening of the Missouri's first Bridge, located in McCoy's City of Kansas (Lawrence also wanted the Bridge). The Hannibal allowed for railroad travel from the north- thus triggering a great bloom of population and industry (primarily cattle) for the City.

Almost twenty booming years later, and a year after the Hannibal was partly destroyed by a tornado, Sibley got its own fine railroad bridge- The three-span bridge has existed there- just miles upstream of the busy Fishing river since.
KC's Hannibal Bridge was replaced by a two-level bridge after the turn of the century- The Second Hannibal Bridge opened in 1917 and was replaced again by the Broadway Bridge. Bridge #2 had a top deck just for vehicles!

The foundations of Fort Sibley were re-discovered only sixty years ago and it has since been rebuilt to model the Fort as it appeared in 1812. Fort Osage is a National Historic Landmark which hosts many demonstrations of the 18-teen's lifestyles for public audiences and often is the only thing for which the modern 1-square mile village of Sibley is known..
Cooley Lake conservation Area is mile-marker 339.5 on the Missouri- only about 4 miles upstream of Sibley and the Sibley railroad bridge... .
The bridge itself is certainly worth of the paddle, but today I was after the relics of Ft Osage on the HUGE ISLAND SANDBAR that the bridge supports. Only about a quarter-mile downstream of the Fort are the first signs of the island when the river is as low as it is today(7 ft.) I have been lucky enough to find things like trade beads and wet stones on the sandbar, as well as the fossils and bones that are to be found on the entire length of the river.
There is an SUV in the water- only a few yards from the Cooley boat ramp. The thing has been there at least a year and is still sinking; today only about 8 inches of it stood above the waterline. The eight inches have kept the tan paint well- at least in those places that are not torn with bullet and shot holes. The marks have occurred only since the SUV was abandon; the CA is a hot spot for illegal target practice. The river-buoy which float about a hundred yards from the shore are also graffitied with holes.
The Suv is only half-way between the ramp and another Cooley-landmark: The boat. This small runabout has been upside-down and underwater for much longer-

The bend here at Cooley Lake is in a constant state of change- it's small sandbars and levees will be in a different- grown, shrunk and in a different place: Always, though, there will be one or two spots here, in between the new debris, that one could find a bison tooth.

Early-season 70's make the float warm and peaceful. The wind was picking up, but I stuck to the left bank to escape any gusts. I floated past another busted boat and a few appliances- Spotted a good section of the pipe that was used to create the trash-slide-thing for Jeff City's clean up.

A Missouri River mile-marker; It was low and overgrown- Blue?- hardly visible from down on the water. I spotted it as I cruised past, but had to inspect- made a hard sprint back upstream and climbed the rip-rap up to where I knew it was.
MM 338- an old Blue sign much larger than the functioning ones. This one was nailed to a wood post only about three feet off the ground- also covered in the holes of bullets shot from the river.

I took a photo and ripped the vines off of the faded 338. The sign popped off the post; a moment of guilt! I'd never seen one like this before, and now it was dead.
The post was rotten and the nails had no chance- I leaned the sign against it and returned to the boat- I felt guilty for killing the only sign like it- another mark of history here on the river. I was tempted to take it- It was already dead, right?
I started to launch the boat- the cold water inside had turned warm in the sun.

With the sign strapped to the back of my 9' boat I was back on the water- It is only three feet wide, but my kayak was not even two.
I forgot about the wind and traveled to the middle of the channel; the sign hanging from both sides (and the back) of the boat acted like wings!
It was not going to leave the boat- tied with the strong nylon that secures the boat to the top of any vehicle- but it certainly made the boat a bit more vulnerable to a strong side-gust!
I pointed the nose into the wind and the wind gave another push- I worked to get back to the bank that was protected by trees and the straps howled and buzzed like they would on the hwy. Off balance- the nose scooted just an inch to the right and the wind had me!
It whipped around and I was off to the wrong shore. I paddled backwards- lucky to be upright!?
The wind died within only a few seconds to a more manageable speed and long enough for me to slide back into my safe-zone!
Only two miles to the sandbar! The sun baked my shirt- it felt so nice to have the sun back from winter! I took my shirt off and basked for the last stretch of the day's float. The stolen sign made a convenient addition to the back of the skinny kayak- I laid back and felt the river and the sun and breeze.
It is really spring!
More of the sandbar was exposed than Ive ever seen! Much of the new land was gooey mud, but dry gravel was everywhere!
I pulled my things onto the middle of the island- far upstream of the bridge. Today, about two-thirds of the island was upstream of the Sibley bridge- it's length exceeded a half-mile! I crawled towards the bridge- immediately I found pottery and bones. Most of the pottery was of the Fort's era- some cool Indian stuff and lots of crock-lookin' pitchers and jars.
Lots of glass here- jars, bottles and everything else! One small bottle- about the size of a cassette tape and only twice as thick- Reads:
Turns out that the company who made the cosmetic left the NewJersey factory in '48!
By far the best finds of the day were a very mineralized Bison's jaw and teeth and a piece of green slag glass that had been polished almost completely round by the river- I found a matching piece of glass that was not as polished.

I paddled upstream- over several bouts of rapids and fast water entering and exiting a pair of large box dikes- The sun was low and any shade felt especially cool on my toasty shoulders!
The sign limited the length of a paddles stroke- ended it about six inches short- and hopping the shallow rapids of the river pouring into slow areas was much more difficult than it should have been.
The wind was to my back when I fought the current to cross the river. Sibley's only boat ramp was directly across the strong river from the place where I popped out of the box dike- my mom stood behind her huge dog to watch me loose.
Still, I hit the ramp's shore only a few yards downstream and the last few minutes were easy!
The boat was especially heavy when I lifted it- Ma' helped me carry it to the top of the ramp and empty all of my treasures... Everyday could be this nice!

The road to the Sibley ramp passes over a very cool one-lane bridge!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Osage at the Capital

There is a dump on the Osage river, only miles from it's confluence with the Missouri in Jeff City- it is one that has certainly not escaped the attention of the River Relief. With well over a half-century's crap flowing down the poor hill over the river, it seemed that treasure-hunting was what kept the majority of our 160-someodd volunteers bagging what they could. The most coveted finds of the day included An old steel toy pick-up, a bucket of antique glass and a mangled, shot, mutilated sign reading:

$50.00 Reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person found willingly mutilating this sign

Volunteers pulled over 13 tons of 'trash' from three separate sites along this section of the osage on Saturday.

From the MRR blog

Filling two 30-yard dumpsters of scrap metal and one 30-yard dumpster of landfill, we found (at least):
106 large bags of Landfill Trash

76 large bags of Scrap Metal2

4 32-gallon trash cans of Broken Glass

210 Car & Truck Tires2 large Tractor Tires

2 Tractor Inner Tubes

3 Refrigerators

9 Washing Machines

1 Dishwasher

2 Driers

3 Hot Water Heaters

1 Tricycle

1 mangled Bicycle

......1Car Fender6 large pieces of Styrofoam20 ft. of Corrugated Pipe42 ft. of misc. Pipe1 Cooler7 5-gallon plastic Buckets6 metal Buckets1 cast iron Pot3 Stoves1 Stove Front & Drawer2 Stove Tops & Pieces1 massive Brake Drum1 metal Love Seat Swing11 Box Springs1 Head Board4 Cow PanelsSeveral rolls of Barbed Wire25 ft. of Cable Wire8 Rolls of Fencing7 Chairs1 Lamp1 Toilet1 MO 98 Road Sign2” Copper fitting (Steam)1 Hog Waterer3 metal Hub Cap’s1 Fender from Antique Truck½ of a Car front end Grill & Headlight1 Alternator1 Crank Shaft1 Car Seat Springs2 Tail Pipes1 Drive Shaft2 pieces of Carpet8 pieces of roofing Sheet Metal½ of a Pasture Gate1 double Kitchen Sink1 Counter Top1 boat full of assorted Wire & Fencing1 ancient Boat Motor1 coil of Heavy Cable1 Sewing Machine1 Culvert1 Tractor Gear Box1 Air Filter for tractor1 mini Ironing Board1 Hide-a-Bed Frame8 welded Wire Hog Panels1 cast iron Furnace Grate1 Brush Hog Deck30 corrugated Metal Panels1 VCR1 push Lawnmower1 antique French Fry Cutter1 Snoopy Soap Dish2 sections of a toy Train Track1 headless Raccoon Statue2 Teapots2 Wash Tubs1 toy metal Dump Truck1 See Saw1 Baseball Glove

1 shot-up Sign that reads: “$50 Reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of any person or persons found willfully mutilating or destroying this sign. The O.J. Gude Co. NY”

1 toy Cash Register

1 soggy book titled “Shaping History”The letter “C”

1 decorative Perfume Bottle ...And this thing; a giant trash shoot cut from materials that floated ashore on the Missouri at Alligator cove, near KC. River Relifers cut the mega-tubes in half and nailed them to the side of the hill so that trash from the largest, steepest dump could be expressed to the boats without all of the busted ankles. We sent dozens of huge trash barrels full of scrap and trash down every hour- the barrels were emptied and recycled back to the top while their contents were sorted, bagged and sent back to the ramp via boats. Genius!

It worked very well; no accidents and several tonnes of trash GONE! The thing was the center of attention throughout the day and even served as a nasty, surprising fast ski-run when paired with the lid of a trash barrel. Congrats RR!

Friday, March 6, 2009


A parkville adventure!

Wow! How sore are your calf muscles after so many hours on a good sandbar?
I spent more than six hours on my feet Thursday...
The river here was the lowest I have ever seen it; under five feet! The low gauge measurement was enough to get me off of the computer and onto the water- I was hiking up a sandbar by noon.

An unusual hike to the first gravel bar; exceptionally warm and beautiful. This winter day would exceed 80-degrees in sunny Kansas City. A sand dredge was piling material on a barge right in front of the baseball diamond and a crowd gathered to watch from the short fence
Someone has marked up the riverside and trail with all sorts of purple "Keep OUT" paint- so much as to have traced the actual property line on the ground with the paint. Leaf-litter, sticks, rocks- all purple.

That's okay- if I am really trespassing here, I am one of a mob of Parkville folks who have no alternative for a river walk.
The sand and gravel seems endless here. Today the sandbars appear more than three times as wide as they are at a more 'normal' river level- though they don't feel much longer.

New logs are exposed- the dark, heavy things are definitely the first thing I notice- After that, though, my eyes cannot brake from the immediate gravel at my feet. There is so much to be found here .

Fossils, crystals, bones, pottery, and more familiar things like broken ceramics and glass bottles from only a century ago. Most of the newer stuff- the trash, plastics and even tires- all floats until it is caught by a log-jam in a flooded river; these piles of light-weight debris accumulate on the higher parks of the bank- often on the first terrace. the ones here definitely need some help- Amongst the stacks and tangles of natural things are many thousands of plastic bottles, a few 55-gal steel and plastic drums, some sports balls and articles of clothing and even what appears to be a stove.

At the start of the sandbars you can still see the barge-dredge thing; it peeked around the bend, under the 'castle' only half a mile away.

There is little to be found on the first sandbars- I slipped around two very dry wing-dikes to get to the best stretch of adventure. Immediately I found bones and bottles that had not been exposed on my last visit. Much of the bar was unrecognizable- A few objects, maybe, about seven feet inland. That yellow toy tonka-thing (it's sat here for years!) was elevated to the height of my chest when I stood at the water's edge- still tangled in a few crooked branches.
Only one set of footprints had reached as low as I had- I'm sure that their owner collected may wonderful things!

A hint of blue- i knew the colour when I saw it glance from beneath a tiny breaking wave. a single sandy scoop revealed a beautiful fossilized bison tooth! It is by far the most colourful Ive found!

It was more that three hours before I reached the end of the longest of parkville's sandbars-
60lbs of bones and a boulder of coal later...