Forest March in February

The truck rumbled and rattled and crackled along the gravel road back to the park office;  I was sitting in the bed, relaxing in the open air.  The cool air  and the speed of the truck felt brisk, though it was fortunately offset by the pleasant warmth and radiance of the sunny day.  The truck and its passengers were all given shadowy, temporary stripes as we drove through acres and acres of beautiful Missouri forest.  The forest seemed to march with pride alongside us.  The still-green pines and cedars were attempting to outshow the leafless deciduans.  Only a few brown and brittle leaves still bravely clung to their oak and hickory homes.  But the eye cannot miss the occasional grand oak, burly and rugged.  Those grand trees seemed to command their offspring and their companions: oaks, hickories, hackberries, honey locusts, persimmons, walnuts…  From our truck bed, all of the trees seemed to be marching.  The trees closest to the road marched swiftly, while the trees several yards from the road trudged at a moderate pace.  The tree ranks closer to the horizon seemed only to saunter across the countryside.  All, however, were marching under the sky flag of blue, white, and light.

This grand and relaxing procession ended one of my first service outings with the Sierra Club EMG at Hawn State Park.  I had joined friends and strangers to help remove some old fencing.  Like many parks in the area, most of the land at Hawn State Park has been purchased from or donated by private landowners.  For one reason or another, old cattle-fields were left to the advances of the forest and many forgotten fences were overtaken.  The wildlife that returns with the forest, however, has to deal with the hazards of barbed wire and the possibility of injury when crossing half-buried, brittle fence.  Thus, our group set out to tear down some of these old fences and open up the back country.

I must admit, I feared the cold would make me slow and useless.  However, I quickly warmed up through activity and sunny exposure. March.  We slowly followed the rusty, dilapidated fence line.  Snip.  We snipped a section of fence.  Pull.  We pulled the fence and flattened any messes.  Fold.  We folded the metal wire fence into neat stacks.  Flag.  Finally, we flagged the fence for finding later;  pulling all of the fence bales from the forest would be another day’s work.  Indeed, I found myself helpful during this outing.

This part of Missouri reminds me of the Black Hills in SD.

This part of Missouri reminds me of the Black Hills (This Photo taken near Sylvan Lake, SD).  Didn’t take any photos this time on the outing.

This is what I need.  This is what anyone stuck in the city, stuck in the office, stuck in suburbia, needs; some sun and some nature to offset the constant exposure to man-made constructs and rat races.  Go outside!! “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”  ~John Muir

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The Sound of Silence

**We had a nice evening snow a couple nights ago over the St. Louis metro area.**

I stand outside on my front lawn.  It is a dark, chilly night.  The snow falls quietly, blanketing the grass and creating white shadows atop the trees’ leafless branches.  Our dead end street is filled with tire tracks, mainly from lost folk who turn around at our driveway (three-pointers, we call them).   The rabbits and squirrels have yet to fill the yard with their own tracks.  This little space of the city is quiet;  however, I am occasionally reminded by the roar of buses and the squeal of sirens that city life is bustling still at this hour, less than a block away.

Above me, the wandering snow clouds are aglow with the light (pollution) of the city.  Every now and again, an airplane thunders overhead, overwhelming the sound of the nearby traffic and disturbing my snowy solace.

If you can appreciate the sound of silence, surely you can understand the need to silence the sound.  Dissonant noise and trespassing light are indeed forms of pollution.  And like other forms of pollution, there are remedies.  For noise pollution, remedies include source-noise reduction, increased vegetation, and even sound fencing.  I’m particularly partial to increasing vegetation wherever possible in the city…particularly when it involves living architecture and/ore native landscaping.  For light, several options can be employed, like simply re-aiming lights, putting up shields, adding motion-sensing & time controls, using lighting that may reduce insect attraction and bird disorientation.

Bryce in the Snow, a Nice Wintery Show

Along the long road from Missouri to San Francisco and back in February, we visited Yosemite, Death Valley, and Zion National Parks.  For the next National Park, we took a long 1.1 mile tunnel leading out of Zion Canyon and made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park.  The view of snow-accented hoodoos from several viewpoints, at elevations greater than 8,000+ ft,  were magnificent.  The cool air smelled clean.  The hoodoo amphitheater was splashed with red and orange rock, white snow, brown and green, patient and hardy trees, and a bright blue sky capped this gift from God.

Could stay here all day and run out of memory on my camera!

We were among a handful of visitors on this day.  It’s a pity that traffic goes to the Grand Canyon and bypasses the grand canyons of Utah.  Nevertheless, since I’d never seen the Grand Canyon before…that was the last stop before the push for home.

Frigid Walk in the Forest

**A couple winters ago, I took a walk in a nearby forested area just before a winter storm arrived**

The trail is quiet. God’s Creation is often best enjoyed in solitude. Only birds join me on my walk. Some sparrows, cardinals and robins actively scamper about, chirping loudly. A cardinal watches me. I am a curious spectacle on such a cold day. I walk on. The forest floor is littered with fallen leaves, dormant grass, and fallen tree limbs. Some lively green grass and moss and lichen add a splash of color to an otherwise simple landscape. The red twigs of sleeping Acer rubrum also stand out.

I walk on. The trees about me sway ever-so gently. A few ragged leaves still cling to their warm-weather homes, on the branches of oaks and maples. In the midst of so many trees, the blotched-white trunk of the sycamore stands out like a sylvan beacon.  It is cold, but not windy. It is the calm before the next snow storm. More snow will soon join the remnant white dusting that still hides in the shadows of the forest.

I find myself at a clearing with the sun to my face. In the frigid cold, the distant eternal fire warms my chest. I stand for several minutes staring into the tall grass, mesmerized by the thousands of minuscule movements as each gentle breeze blows by. The trees behind me also nod to the breezy passerby. The view above me is consumed by a cool blue ceiling, with only a few gleaming white clouds. The foreboding snow-storm front slowly approaches on the distant horizon.

I begin my trek back; my back now garners the warming attention of the sky-fire. I unsuccessfully pursue my shadow back into the forest. Every tree, bush and vine, cast cool shadows on my back as I hike on. A lone bluejay has discovered me and saw fit to alert the area.   As a more forceful breeze brushed me by, I made my exit from this winter wonder land.