Monday, April 27, 2009

Lakeside and the marsh

"Old-Lakeside" caught my eye the other day; I felt a need to visit and check-up-on the old marsh behind the building at Gregory and oldham.
I found a jack-in-the-pulpit and several large patches of bright-pink wild geraniums... the marsh looks clean- it looks good! Smart weed is dense enough to clog out some of the edges and floating accumulations of green duck weed are thick on the surface.
One creek is dammed with bags of sand or cement- they appear to have stopped erosion well!

Its mushroom season

Its mushroom season

... the ginger and anemones are going nuts and in accordance with local wisdom the elm's leaf has just outgrown the size of a mouses ear to summon the early spring's morels. Local spots of success in previous years have been disappointing, but the devoted hunters have collected hundreds of pounds from spots new to me.
Ive searched every promising city park- even found a few big ones near the Hogan! And while the Blue gifted me none, a similar urban lowland displayed hundreds of healthy grey and larger yellow morels.

My shroomy expeditions have brought me upon the season's first lethargic reptiles. Snakes and box turtles, mostly...
A few good Black Rats' and a handful of central lined snakes. One big one on The Hill was severely scared across his face, but extraordinarily cooperative when it came to posing for my photos- I still didnt get anything too good.
Mushrooms are just an excuse for most who hunt them- An unnecessary justification for a visit to the finally pleasant outdoors. Me too-
The highlight of the week's short season was never expected to be that 5-lb bag or the hand-sized monster; this week it was Swope's own flowering dogwoods. The bright trees explode from the ridge tops above blue river road and throughout the woods and glades on the hill.
This is the first time I have ever really had the opportunity to see them. Wonderful!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Arkansas Wavellite!

Through the Ozark mountains and into the Ouchitas- I went on a short crystal hunt south, in Arkansas..
The difference between the two mountain ranges is Awesome; the Ozarks are still pretty bald but only an hour south it seems everything is well into the greening process. There is a lot of sandstone and limestone near ponca, which hosted a boom of lead mining operations in the first years of the 1900's. To the south, Mt. Ida sits on an ancient disappeared salt marsh- the source for many of the Aluminum-Phosphate minerals I searched for on the trip. A quick stop near ponca- I checked up on the ol' lead mines I discovered last trip. Near the highway, a small series of century-old tailings-piles or "dumps" marks where I enter the woods- They kind of look like dunes- Limestone waste piles are white or grey and where they extracted the heaviest ore- in the form of valuable galena crystals- is red from a bit of sandstone that they dug into- both matrices are common in the region. The dumps hold lots of cool stuff- druzy, clear and smokey quartz, calcite, galena and some interesting marine fossils like thick crinoid stems and bivalves.The galena crystals appear as large metallic cubes- some are inches, and all have been dulled and darkened by years weathering and oxidation; beautiful crystals in their matrix are not uncommon in the less-hunted upper terraces of the dumps and mines. In the picture below are two of the pieces I found; both have multiple large and small lead-coloured cubes.

... I swung through Lost valley and visited the river- and the cows- on whatever highway that is.South on 7- and hwy27- I found myself camping near Crystal Vista just outside Mt Ida. It was a cool night... I think the early-morning low may have been just above freezing- It felt crisp only for a second while the sun rose- I packed the big camera bag and had a thing of apple cinnamon oatmeal to get me up the steep trail to crystal vista. Some darker clouds rolled on my ascent of Gardner; Lots of large dogwood blooms added a sense of the Ozarks. Most flowers were past their prime- rotting brown along the edge of each petal-
the flowering trees that I spotted along the highway, just south of 44 to state line yesterday, appeared much more fresh and vibrant. I dont think that Kansas City's dogwoods are blooming yet.
At the top of the mountain- amongst the walls and terraces of the old crystal mine- the clouds were (almost) threatening; They looked bad, but seemed to be doing nothing but passing by. I walked the perimeter of the eroded pit, and dug a few shallow holes to expose a handful of points a a small cluster with a cool magnesium inclusion; spent some minutes examining a crevasse in a far high wall and the morning was over pretty quick. I drove a bit down the road and made a right turn onto a worn gravel road. It led me all the way to my wavellite hole in the County Quarry. - I scouted some nearby rock with a knife and a crowbar to find a wonderful patch of bright green variscite and a few tiny, fiberous cones of burnt-orange cacoxenite or wavellite..
The famed Mauldin Mountain locality is currently closed to collecting, but several local miners and business owners have recommended parking down the street and walking in; apparently nobody really minds! I made my presence obvious to several machine operators in the quarry and only got a few friendly waves.
My original hole yielded some brilliant green wavellite crystals- they grow as the small partial-spheres or botryoidal masses and some are very lustrous and colourful. The darkest of the crystals are my favorite- like a deep emerald-green. Some darker clouds continued to sweep the sky and cast shadows on the Ouchita's- the day grew warm and pleasant. A late-afternoon meal at 'Ida's gas station and a pit-stop near the flooded river and I was off on 27. The fields around I-40 were smothered in yellow and wine-coloured clovers grew in patches along my route throughout the state. The warm air followed me home and it was surprisingly comfortable every time I got out of the car!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Jerry Smith Park was- for whatever reason- especially beautiful today; dramatic clouds- a low sun and blue sky- the warm temps and a few wonderful flowers transformed the already-extraordinary park into a more exciting version of itself. It was void of people, and despite a few stormy moments the park was quiet and peaceful. maybe the wind was able to send the sounds of traffic and target practice in another direction- at moments the wind was certainly strong enough.

Some areas of the park are still thick with young trees and cedars- I imagine if this scene- left- is what Larry Rizzo found when he first discovered the prairie remnants near Sager Woods CA.

The ground-cover was green and beautiful, and the still-bald trees could hide less than they will any other time of year. Pink globs of redbud flowers stuck out all over the park! Strawberries were the only flowers on the ground- some cool weathered crinoid fossils too. ..

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring is Sprung!

Rocky Point is lookin' like the beginnings of Spring. The trees can still be called leafless, but their understories are definitely green!
The clouds this afternoon made the short hike into something much more beautiful than the glades could have been by themselves- the big, fluffy, cottonball-cumulus floated thousands of feet under a higher cloud-cover that seemed to cast a glow on Swope- rather than sunlight.. The soft light kinda reminded me of one of those indoor plant lights.
On the glades, only verbena, pucoon, and some less-vibrant colours were in bloom. The yarrow is thick and lush, but it's bids weren't yet opened. Grasses are still very short- it made it easy to spot a small group of doe around the big bend that is now taken by Larry's tall deer exclosure- above the glades things were just slightly less-colourful. Trout lilies are easy to spot, but not because they are flowering. Their dark, pointed leaves compensate for the brilliant flowers that will come up soon. I trespassed a bit- into the locked pool near the Hogan- in an attempt to save as many of the handfuls of toads that have become trapped as I could. One took a pose against the white pool-floor. I dont think that he was too happy with me- though I wonder if a more imaginative person than I could recognize a bit of curiosity in the toads face... ?
...Last year Bill put a board in the pool to act as a ramp to the surface and give the little guys a chance to save themselves.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Project Blue River Rescue 2009- this FOLNC event has celebrated it's nineteenth successful river clean up- Sunny and warm was the weather- those who showed seemed to be in an almost festive mood! Coordinators did the usual coordinating and volunteers went about trekking the parking lots to undergo a transformation that would leave them warm, tired and with a brand new T-shirt!

I was signed up for the Coal Mine Road site after Wildcat Hollow was cancelled for at least the second year in a row. Coal Mine has been a known dump site for decades- near an ancient cement mill-thing and a bit east of the stadiums. Immediately I was adopted by Bill in a great big Dump-Truck thing- he always treats me!

An hour or two of set-up and FREE DOUGHNUTS and catchin' up with all of those folks you haven't seen since the last Blue River Rescue and each group began to leave for their designated part of the park.
Today's forests glow with just the slightest yellow-green as trees display their first signs of leaves and buds. The city is still generally winter-like and we've had little precipitation. The group of PBRR's most devoted volunteers went about their annual Morel mushroom predictions- unlike previous years, nobody suggested that mushrooms would be up this day of the clean-up. Bill told me that they were being collected near Osceola!

At Coal mine there was a lot of household Crap like clothes and shoes and cookware and such.. We had two groups to attack both sides of the road- (our side was nicer!) One pool of water- only yards from the road- was filled with plastic and busted windows and was the 'project' for our team of giant mechanical toys. The work was wet, and it sure didn't smell too nice, either, but everyone found the day worth-while!

A young volunteer lifted a pair of over sized gloves to my attention; his hands cradled a delicate skink found amongst a shoe-dump. The cleanup is widely recognized as family friendly and draws volunteers of all ages. Lunch was the next order of business for volunteers- the crowds filled lakeside again before a few crews reassembled to finish cleaning individual sites. Some people became nervous to hear gunfire so close, but what came and went in just a few minutes turned out to be a Police Shooting range and nobody felt endangered.
For Coal Mine Road, this also meant the installation of a few rows of cement and wooden barricades to block dumpers from getting too close to the river. I believe that the long row of impassible objects will prove successful, but I guess tat we will have to wait until next year to find out!