Before there were cans

Yesterday afternoon I walked around Forest Park in St. Louis, and today, I went to Horseshoe Lake Park in Illinois. However, on the way today, I spotted a Pumpkin Patch festival and had to stop to check it out. Which is my way of saying I have a few photos to share. (More will be posted to Tinfoil Project).

It has been a disappointing fall, for the leaf color just isn’t going to be there this year. Too dry too late, and the weather continues slightly sultry. I may be able to get some color in the Ozarks at the end of the month, but it’s not going to be as vivid as the colors were last year.

I looked all around Forest Park yesterday for some Fall color, knowing that you and I would both be disappointed by my not finding something bright and cheerful and just saturated by rich hues. However, about the only spot of bright color I ran into was in the bridesmaids dresses of a wedding party having their photos taken at the Park. It was a pretty color, too –like the deep red/orange of a new fall leaf. Everywhere I went, I seemed to meet up with the same wedding party of bride in fancy white dress, groom and groom’s men in black, and the bride’s maids in their lovely scarlet frocks. I remember thinking to myself the photographer must be a terror to have them whip around from place to place so quickly.

It was when I was wandering around the Great Basin area, with the fountains and the lake, and the very picturesque bridges that I discovered the truth. Towards the west was what I thought was the wedding party I had been seeing, including the ladies in their lovely frocks. However, towards the east, I could see another wedding party and the ladies in this party were also wearing red. They were having pictures taken on one of the bridges and I could see waiting behind them another wedding party, and the maids in it were also wearing red. It was a variation, true. The first party’s ladies wore a rusty red; the second wore more of a ruby red; and the last a bright apple red. But red, nonetheless. What are the odds?

I was standing there, marveling at how similar all of these wedding parties were when I noticed another limo bus pulling up, with another wedding party. The door opened, and I held my breath. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be. Then I spotted a bright flash of color as satin spilled out of the door.

Red! Arrggghhh!

Later as I thought about all of these weddings and the brides and their choices of what must be the popular color this Fall, and how even this pretty color lost its appeal when repeated over and over. A nice reminder that every autumn photo doesn’t have to be brilliant orange, scarlet, and yellow to be special; and I need not stop and take a photo of every orange butterfly sitting on a purple flower.

Did I happen to mention that I have long legs? And no, I’m not that oddly shaped — I was wearing a jacket and carrying a camera bag. The head is mine, though.

However, that’s not to say that I’m going to walk away from color, and that’s why I enjoyed my visit to the Pumpkin Patch. It was held on a farm along Highway 111 on the way to Horsehoe Lake, and it seemed to be quite a party. There was live country music, and a haunted petting zoo–a haunted petting zoo, can you dig it?– as well as a corn castle, and hay slide. This in addition to the more traditional tractor pull, horse drawn carriage, and hayride.

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There was also a few other rides, but simple small fair stuff.

People could buy already harvested pumpkins and squash, or could pick their own. The ones in the field seemed pretty picked over, but I noticed that there were some nice pumpkins that were just set around, detached from the vines. I figured the farm must seed the field each day of the festival so there’s always good pumpkins in the field. A clever trick, and no harm to the act.

Today I saw my first silver colored pumpkin. I’ve seen white ones before, but silver?

From there it was only ten minutes to the lake. It’s more popular than I like, but enough space to allow one time to oneself. I was particularly taken with was the beautiful blue water in some areas and the green algae close to shore in others. I also rather liked the dead trees that had fallen into the lake. There’s something esthetically pleasing about these trees–a bittersweet beauty in their graceful, bare, limbs. They remind me of Audrey Hepburn.

Fishing is popular in this lake and there were several fishermen out when I was there. I watched one pull a fish from the lake, pull it off the line, toss it on to the grass with others, before re-baiting his hook and throwing the line back in–in one smooth motion. Takes years of fishing to get that proficient, but a lot of people depend on the local fish, and game, for their meat.

There’s an island that can be reached by a built-up ridge intersecting the water. The hike I followed was on this island and was supposed to be 2 miles, but after the Pumpkin Patch, I was already tired and the distance seemed longer. It was also quite warm, though a lovely breeze was blowing. Not many birds this time of day, but lots of grasshoppers and other insects. I watched heron in the lake, but didn’t get close enough for any decent photo.

About half way around I met two older ladies out walking their dogs, and we ended up chatting as I petted their pups. They lived in Illinois but had just spent several weeks traveling across the northern part of the states to Maine and back. They were so delighted by their trip that I kept asking them questions about it, just to hear them talk.

In Maine or Michigan, I’m not sure which, they had picked blueberries from bushes and had them for their breakfast, and I gather this was their first time exposed to blueberries in the wild. Both kept talking about grabbing handfuls of blueberries, and how they tasted so much better than anything they’d had before.

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Isn’t it wonderful to meet people who take such a delight from such an simple activity? I grew up in an area where huckleberries grew wild and we would pick them every year; even then, I could identify with these ladies–picking berries and then putting them directly on your pancakes for a late morning breakfast is an immensely satisfying experience.

About like going out to a pumpkin patch for your own Halloween pumpkin. Or catching your fish directly from a lake. Sure beats going to K-Mart or the Mall.

Photography Places

Way of the butterfly

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

It wasn’t all work and no play this weekend. I also explored two new conservation areas: Weldon Springs and the new Columbia Bottom. I found both of these through the Missouri Conservation connection, which is probably the best online nature site I know of — check out the interactive maps.

The new Columbia Bottom conservation area is quite large, and borders the Missouri on one side, and the Mississippi on the other, and meets at the confluence of both rivers. The confluence isn’t that impressive a sight: two big old muddy brown rivers meet, becoming one bigger old muddy river — Old Muddy itself, the ‘sip.

However, too hot to hike at the Bottom so I went over to the Riverfront park area, and crawled among the weeds and the insects to grab some photos of herons.


I did manage to get out for a walk along the Chain of Rocks Bridge. One nice thing about a bridge spanning the ‘sip, there’s usually a breeze blowing. And when you’re covered in sweat, even a warm breeze can cool you down.


It was close to sunset out at the bridge, and as usual for Missouri, the colors of the sunset here are a photographer’s best friend. Check out this photo of the water intake castle — pretty colors, eh?


Weldon Springs was hot and very humid, walking among the trees just after heavy rains last week. My three mile hike was cut short at about 1 1/2, because the weather saps your energy. However, I was able to spend some time watching two butterflies as they worked in and around some flowers.


Whenever the butterflies tried to occupy the same bud, they’d flutter around each other a moment, in a rather pretty ballet of wings, and then they’d move on, one to the flower, the other to another flower. No intervention required on my part.

Photography Places

Katy Trail Biker Salute

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Yesterday afternoon I walked my next section of the Katy Trail, starting at Matson. The day was warm, somewhat humid but manageable with clouds threatening at times to rain.

The drive out was not uneventful. I’m beginning to think that all drivers have so many close calls they must experience in their life, and since I started driving much later, I’m getting them all now. Either that or I like to drive too fast.


Anyway, I was driving along I64 heading to Highway 94 following a pickup truck hauling some kind of trailer full of stuff when all of a sudden the top of the trailer blew off and it started losing its load directly in the road in front of me. There was what looked like large sheets of Masonite, big tree branches, aluminum siding and all sorts of not car friendly objects. Luckily I was far enough back from the trailer not to get hit directly from the stuff, but I was close enough to watch the Masonite hit the road and break apart into big pieces.

“Sh…”, and swerving around the bigger pieces, trying not to run into the semi on the left of me as he was doing some serving on his own and for a minute there was a group of us doing this oddly beautiful dance around the debris and each other but, luckily, no one stomped on their partner “!”

The semi, dragging pieces of Masonite in its wheels, signaled to the truck that it lost its load and just as I was moving up to let him know that he needed to pull over, I saw his emergency lights go on and he started to slow down, move over to the shoulder.


Not long after, when I pulled over on 94 I went about ten miles before I calmed down enough to realize I had turned the wrong direction.

What a drive Highway 94 is south of I-64, with rolling hills and sharpish curves, but in excellent shape. The perfect road for Golden Girl, but I was going quite slowly because the surroundings were that beautiful. It seemed like every corner had a brown state park sign announcing this wildlife refuge, and that park. I kept having to pull over to let other cars pass me as I slowly drove along enjoying the scenery.


The trailhead I picked today started just inland from the Missouri river, winding its way through wine country, past farms and meadow and dense forest. I expected the walk to be pretty, but I didn’t expect it to be breathtaking. I was the only walker because the Katy Trail is more popular with bikers further away from the cities. You can go farther on a bike, but you can’t really appreciate the nuances of the trail except on foot.


The Katy Trail in this location was bordered by limestone cliffs surrounded by dense vegetation. The plants were so close and thick, the depths were dark as night and you couldn’t see through them. Once when I moved close to a large bush to try to peer into the growth, the bush shook with the movement of something in it, most likely scared by my closeness. There really is little harmful life in Missouri, other than the bugs, but it’s unnerving to have this large bush shake violently when you approach it and you can’t see what causes it.


Birdlife. You wouldn’t believe the number of birds flying in and around the plants. And insects of all kinds including beautiful butterflies. The trees overlapped the trail in some parts, and I was reminded of the problems with ticks this state has. But if we deny ourselves the pleasure of life by constantly worrying about what bad thing is going to fall out of the sky and land on us, then we’re missing the point, aren’t we?


One old farm had converted a building into a trailside store for hikers and bikers. It also had a large caged-in area with geese and chickens and roosters, one of which decided to do a little crowing practice in the late afternoon light. I enjoy listening to roosters, but the owner was a bit miffed.

“Emmet, shut up, Emmet!” “Emmet, shut up you crazy bird!”

The place was a marvel of cats running about — big cats — and funky buildings and one silo that was covered in vines. The perfect touch was the Coke machine. A vignette of Americana, and not a bad one at that.


I walked until I reached the Missouri river and explored the shores, watching a couple of artists painting the view, and the ubiquitous fishermen along the shore line. Aside from the roads and the factories, the river is very much as it was from the past.

When I crossed the road to reach the river, a small car was coming along and I stepped to the shoulder, but the driver took the corner short, not seeing me, and brushed past me a foot or two away. Enough to be breezy. I didn’t jump, or yell, just kind of looked at the car as it disappeared in the distance.

Ever have one of those days that you feel like fate has painted a big red bullseye on you? Funny thing is, it’s just this kind of day that you remember later, when you’re feeling philosophical about life — stands out in our minds, except as time goes on, the distance between me and the car will get shorter until someday I’ll be laying on my deathbed, talking to some disinterested young person about the car that ran over my toes.


Altogether my hike was about five miles. The ride home was the best because of the late afternoon green-gold-purple-orange-pink-red color the last light gets here in Missouri. The roads were empty so I let Golden Girl have the ride she wanted, except when I went through Defiance. There I slowed down because the small town was full of Harley’s and other motorcycles — several hundred, with drivers surrounding this small bar with live music blasting out, hoisting beers in salute at the cars driving past.

What a good idea. I turned to the Rock n’ Roll classic hit station and cranked the sound, rolling the windows full down letting the wind whip my hair about, and bringing in the sweet smell of the Missouri green. I waved back at the bikers, as I put the pedal to the metal and headed home.