Making Our Mark

Today was going to be the last sunny day until midweek, and it would have been a shame to waste it inside. I remembered a hike I had intended to take once in the summer, Bluff View at Meramec State park, but didn’t because of the spider webs across the path. Today seemed an ideal day to try it again.

And it was an ideal day–in the 50’s, with a gentle cool breeze, and not a web in sight. Like the earlier hike, Bluff View is also a moderately difficult hike, with very rocky ground and steep hills, and narrow paths that border a cliff overlooking the Meramec River. Unlike earlier, though, the terrain was more familiar. And dry. In fact, other than having to use caution with footing, today’s hike ended up being more of a enjoyable walk than a challenging hike.

There are a couple of shelters made by the old CCC (Conservation Corp) back during the depression, along the way. Kids had spray painted messages over the one I visited. In particular, “Leslie + Jeff” featured prominently, along with various exclamation of people ‘rulz’ and ‘Jesus Savs’.

I usually get annoyed by graffiti, but wasn’t very annoyed at the marking, primarily because the shelter itself is a marking as such: a shelter that really wasn’t needed, funded by a society that was both crufty and benevolent; built by men desperate to feed their families during one of our darkest times. The trail that led to the decision to create such a shelter is one that grew over time, rather than developed naturally–the markings of thousands of hikers like me who saw the hill and had to climb it, just to see what was at the top. And it was these same hills that provided home to ancient Indian people, who used to carve pictures of animals and gods into the rocks to celebrate a hunt or protect a new child. At the most, Leslie and Jeff were just leaving this generation’s scent on stone long claimed by humanity.

The rest of the trail was without much to remark, other than the casual mention of the quiet only broken by my footsteps and the beautiful weather and how wonderful it is to stand at the top of a tall bluff and see for miles around. But Missouri in Winter tends to exist in shades of rust and brown and gray, with an occasional slash of blue or green — I’m not sure I can continue to remark on this tree or that rock without resorting to, ‘There was a tree’ and ‘there was a rock’; or variations such as ‘there is a tree on the rock’.

The best part of the hike was getting back to the car and feeling like I hadn’t walked enough. Say now, this is progress! Especially after my dismal showing in the earlier hike. So I treated myself to a gentle walk along the road that parallels the Meramec by the campgrounds.

There were a few hearty souls out camping, friendly as always when in the back woods–nodding their heads and saying hello, or stopping to chat. Yes the same ignoramuses who threw aside the chance to toss Bush out will smile at you, and tip a finger to their hats in greeting as you pass.

I noticed a group of large, predator like birds flying in circles overhead and a man and his wife passing told me they were turkey vultures. I was surprised, because I know what an ugly bird this can be, but they were beautiful and graceful in the air as they circled. I continued walking, trying to take a photo of the birds, but without a telephoto, this would be impossible. As they flew, they overlapped each other and dove and circled, but never made a sound, quiet as death itself.

(I shamefully confess to feeling no small amount of relief when the birds suddenly found something to land on across the river because it did seem as if they were uncannily matching my steps for the longest time. I know these creatures sense of smell is keen; were they trying to tell me I needed a shower after my hike?)

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