Yesterday I went to the Meramec State Park to hike and continue my reacquaintance with my film camera. As I pulled off the freeway to Highway 185, I saw a semi blocking the road in both directions, hit by another semi when it had tried to pull into the road from the right. I was close enough to see the drivers and the police and was surprised at how good natured everyone was. People were smiling, even laughing, as they worked to get the blocked semi out of the way.
Eventually, they did whatever they were going to do as the semi crawled around on its own power, limping down the road, a perfect word to use because it literally was limping on its right side. Once it was past, I could see why the reason for the humor – it had been hit by a semi who was hauling what was left of another wrecked semi truck.
I arrived at the park later in the afternoon, and pulled into the Visitor Center to get my bearings. Unfortunately, when I pulled in I stopped dead in the middle of the parking lot to look at my map, assuming no one was around. I didn’t see the Sheriff’s car directly behind me. When I realized I was blocking a car I pulled into a slot, but of course, the office pulled next to me and I thought he was going to give me a lecture, deserved, about how not to drive. Instead, he asked, “Ma’am, do you need help with something?”
Assumption of innocence is a wonderous thing.
“Yes, can you advise me which trails around here don’t have tics and chiggers?”
“Well, this time of year, it’s pretty bad walking anywhere in the Ozarks but this trail over here,” he says, pointing to one off the Visitor Center, “I take my kids on it, and it’s pretty clear.”
Thanking him, and fate for dealing me a patient policeman, I checked out the trail he mentioned, but a crisscrossing of webs across the path dissuaded me. I can’t stand walking through web, I just can’t stand it. Instead, I drove to the end of the park to walk the trails near the Meramec River and Fischer Cave.
Along the way I had to crawl down the road because deer were continuously crossing it. I could see movement in the forest around the road from the corners of my eyes and I was both thrilled and a little stressed because I didn’t want to hit a deer, even at 5MPH. What I almost did hit was a teenager who decided to strap on inline skates and hurtle down the hill towards me, assuming no one was around (or not caring). I pulled over to the side to let him past, wondering who was the ‘dumb animal’ on the road that night – the deer or the kid?
I made my way through the campground at the end of the park, nodding my head at the campers out walking because the weather was fine, real fine, warm, and dry, with a nice cool evening breeze. Instead of a trail I found a path down to the Meramec river—it being low enough for me to walk along the sandy bed.
The opposite side of the river is all tall limestone cliffs covered with trees, many of which are just barely beginning to turn colors – scarlet, orange, gold, but primarily still that wonderful brilliant green of the Missouri forests. Sometimes the colors are so sharp here, so clear and pure, especially when you see them in the early morning or late afternoon that you can almost feel them as texture in the air around you – velvet reds, smooth, cool green, and sharp, rough browns and oranges.
Birds were about, diving at insects over the water, many of which found their way to dine on me – my arm is swollen about the elbow by something that bit me, and I picked up a couple of chiggers along the way. However, being part of the food chain is the price you pay to enter heaven on earth, as my little sandy beach along the river was.
I walked along until I found an area shadowed on both sides, where the river water had pooled forming a semi-lake with branches of dead trees sticking out. I was taking photos of the cliff when I heard a splash and turned around just in time to see an eagle or large hawk grabbing a fish from the water and beating its way to the top of the trees and out of sight. Other predator birds were circling about, waiting their turn, and most likely my absence from their feeding ground. But I couldn’t leave.
I put my camera away and stood there, breathing in that sharp Missouri Green smell; listening to the orchestra of breeze and insect and bird; watching a hawk circling about as it hovered over the fish jumping in the water, all surrounded by that glorious color.