Eclipse Day 2017

The best I could get…

So, we knew last Spring about The Great American Eclipse, which was scheduled to begin here in Marshall on August 21st at 1:10 pm.  There had been a lot of build-up around here, with various folks hitting the media circuit to warn locals of the potential for thousands of extra folks to arrive along the line of the path of totality (where the sun would be blocked out for nearly 3 minutes with a neat “halo” effect around the rim).

Despite the preparation, there wasn’t much we could do about the weather.  In the days leading up to August 21st, the forecast vacillated from “sunny and clear” to “thunderstorms” to “cloudy.”  We proceeded as if we’d get to see it though, so Meg went to school and Brooke kept Calvin home, as the lab school wasn’t going to let a bunch of pre-schoolers outside to stare at the sun.

It was my first day of class, so while I went through syllabi as normal, I abbreviated my 1:00 class to make sure we’d get to stay outside and watch the eclipse.

The setup.

While we were on vacation in Wisconsin, I ordered a special lens filter so I’d be able to get pictures of the sun.  It’s the same material that we had in the eclipse glasses we had, but obviously big enough to cover my 52 mm lens.  While our camera is aging rapidly (Nikon D60) and we only had a 200 mm zoom lens for it, I had hoped I’d be able to get something from it.

“Totality”…

Sadly, at the time of totality, this was the best I could get.  Literally, five more minutes is all we needed for the clouds to part and we would have seen it.  Columbia, MO got to see all of it as the clouds pulled out a few minutes before totality was set to begin.  Heck, even a few minutes out of town, people could see it just fine.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

In the next few minutes after totality ended, I was able to get use the filter to get all the shots depicted in the composite at the top of the post.  I was able to get some pretty good pictures out of that old camera!  Just not as many as I wanted…

Brooke got a neat effect with her kitchenware!

While I was on campus, Brooke stayed home with Calvin, as she didn’t want to brave traffic down to Sedalia (even though she would have gotten to see totality down there, apparently…).  She tried a pinhole experiment using a strainer from the kitchen and actually got a pretty neat effect!

Calvin got to look at the sun!

Calvin was at least initially interested in watching the eclipse, though at the time of totality, he was paying more attention to worms on the ground than what was happening in the sky.

Meg had a series of activities out at her elementary school, so she got a good learning experience out of it.  They stayed outside through totality and for a few minutes afterward.  They came out a few more times after the clouds parted so the kids could put on their glasses again.

Ultimately, we didn’t really notice thousands more people around town, though it did feel a bit more crowded.  The skies got darker, the street lights came on a Monday afternoon, and a lot of students from far away got to experience something cool.

Thankfully, there’s another eclipse coming through Missouri on April 8, 2024.  We’ll have to head to the Eastern part of the state to see it, and I’ll have to cancel class that Monday, but I hear it’s worth it!

Madeline Island 2017: Part II

This post follows a previous one that sets up the first part of the journey!

Beach time!

The next day (Tuesday), was beach day on Lake Superior.  Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island has a relatively lengthy beach to enjoy, with an expansive shallow(ish) area for kids to wade out in.  Meg was tall enough to touch for a solid distance out (30 yards?), but Calvin wasn’t quite big enough.  We had both kids’ life jackets along just in case, but Meg probably would have been fine without it.  Still, it was fun for her to float out on Lake Superior, especially when a big boat would come by to push her back toward shore.

We spent a good 5 hours or so at the beach that day, and it ended up being the nicest day for weather during the whole week.  The water was really cold, but when you’re 3 and 7, that doesn’t much matter.

One of the best pictures I’ve ever taken…

The first night’s sleep went surprisingly well.  It didn’t get all that cold that night (mid-50s, maybe?) and we were all pretty tired, so we all got a lot of rest.  We went to bed earlier than intended because of the vast number of mosquitoes swarming around.  Brooke didn’t really feel like staying up and battling them and, while I stayed up reading for a little bit, I had to turn in earlier than I intended as well.

The next morning, after breakfast, we prepped for a hike near the lake on the the boardwalk.  This is the same hike Brooke and I did 10 years ago but, due to the short legs in tow this time, we went a bit slower.  Calvin still fits in the Ergo, so we had him in there for awhile, but he wanted to get down for the last half of the trip out.  Overall, the hike is very flat and clean due to said boardwalk, but you get to see some of the local flora and fauna.

During this time, rain was heading into our general area, so we didn’t stay out there much past lunchtime.  We headed back to our campsite as clouds continue to get dark, just after noon.

Rained a bit…

That afternoon was on-and-off rain.  It got heavier at points but, at least then, the tent was doing a great job keeping the water out of the clothes, sleeping bags, etc.  We had some card games in case something like this happened and, for a time, the kids were pretty well entertained.  We enticed them with an ice cream trip to town for later in the afternoon, though that trip was really playing “double duty” for our ulterior motives…

Ice cream? Yes, please!

Our internet connection was virtually non-existent at the campsite, nor did we have any phone service, so text messages, phone calls, etc. couldn’t get to us.  Going into down, we were able to check and see whether we were going to get to go on the cave tours we had scheduled for Thursday morning.  As we couldn’t really check the weather forecast either at the campsite, we also were checking such things while we entertained the kids with ice cream.

At the time, we (and the tour company) were hopeful that things would clear up for Thursday morning, so we proceeded expecting that we’d still get to go.  We had a deposit down on the trip and hadn’t paid the rest of the bill yet, so the spots were reserved.  After the ice cream, we went back to our campsite for awhile.

Brooke’s extra special stew sounded really good in the rainy weather…

Around this time, the rain let up enough to get dinner done.  We still had the kids play in the tent while Brooke did the heavy lifting, as the site was quite muddy now and we didn’t want Calvin rolling around everywhere.

I should note that Calvin was actually really good about taking showers on this trip.  Up until now, he’d taken a few showers at our house, but any evening I wanted to go (which was every evening…), he wanted to go with me, so he and I stayed pretty clean, all things considered.

Meg and Brooke, on the other hand…

Set up a “living room,” of sorts!

We set up a “living room” in part of the tent after the rain started to pick up.  I’d also noticed that a puddle had formed near the side of the tent where the kids were sleeping, so we moved our air mattress over to the other side, so the kids could sleep on the “living room” side, just in case water started to seep in.

Ultimately, we made the right call, but for the wrong reason.  That night, it felt like the skies opened and Niagara Falls fell from the sky.  We later found out it was only, like, less than an inch that was recorded, but it sure felt like more than that on our tent (perhaps it was more on the island that was recorded in nearby Bayfield?).

Still, as it had been raining nearly all afternoon and into the evening, water began to seep in from the roof of the tent over Brooke and I (so it would have hit the kids, but we had changed places!).  It was coming in along a length of the tent, but not specifically along a seam.  My only guess is that so much rain fell, it just pooled and seeped in through the tent.

Brooke and I moved down to where the kids were, but as they were sleeping sideways relative to the rest of the tent, we were kinda “scrunched up” while the kids were stretched out.  Needless to say, without the air mattress and while in the fetal position, we didn’t sleep all that well.  It only rained until 1:00 am or so, but it was enough to make our lives difficult.

The next morning, we went to town, but it was still raining, and more was coming in.  We’d already decided that if the tour was canceled, we were just going to head on back toward home, as rain was scheduled to continue and it wasn’t going to dry out before Thursday night (you know, when we’d like to sleep on said air mattress again).

Sadly, the tour was indeed canceled.  It was canceled before we even got there, but as we didn’t have phone service, we didn’t know that until we got to town.  Still, the company refunded our money in full, so while it was disappointing we didn’t get to go, we at least got our money back.

After returning to the campsite, we left the kids in the car while Brooke and I packed up.  It took us a few hours (in the rain…) to pack as much as we could and shove the wet tent into the car-top carrier.  We were going to stay in Cedar Rapids that night and Brooke had called ahead to make sure we could just move our reservation date up a night and they said the could do it.

We made the trek to Cedar Rapids, leaving Bayfield a little after noon (after crossing on the ferry, which was more full than usual due to trucks and campers), and finally got to Cedar Rapids at 10:00 pm that night.  It shouldn’t have taken 10 hours to make that drive, but spotty rain showers and the lack of highways slowed down our progress.

Regardless, it was nice to sleep in a great bed again and take a shower…

Our old stomping ground in Iowa!

The next morning, we got up and swam in the indoor pool for a bit after breakfast before loading up the car again and heading into Swisher, IA to see the old house (it’s still there!) and visit Kava House for some coffee.  Sadly, Jazzy Chestnut wasn’t “on tap” that morning, but we brought 2 lbs back for Mom and Dad while we were there.

A little after 1:00 or so that day, we made it back to Marshall!  Though we had to cut the trip short, it ended up being nice to pick up Edie from the “doggie hotel” a bit early, we got to dry out the tent (and everything else…) really well, and we had a full Saturday and Sunday to acclimate to “the real world” before work on Monday.

We had a good time!  We’ll have to make another trip up north someday to get those cave tours done.  But next year…we have other plans…

Madeline Island 2017: Part I

The ferry to Madeline Island!

A little over a decade ago, Brooke and I went up to a wedding in Minnesota and stopped off in Wisconsin for a brief camping trip on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior. We went to Branson earlier this Summer with the Linsenbardt side of the family (that I still haven’t posted about yet, so I need to do that…) and then had two months of school for Brooke and me, so we decided it would be nice to return to Madeline Island, this time with two youngsters in tow.

Hangin’ out in Duluth on the way up North.

Rather than making the nearly 12 hour drive in a single trip, this time we Airbnb-ed a place in Duluth, MN, about 2.5 hours from our ultimate destination.  We made a similar decision last year on our way to Colorado, and it was still a good call.

The house we stayed in was a two-story, where another couple were staying upstairs and we were staying downstairs (with direct access from the outside).  The kids slept on a futon while Brooke and I got a king-size bed.  Worked out pretty well!  We were pretty tired after hours on the road, but after briefly taking some stuff inside, we went to a local restaurant for dinner, after which, we tried getting some local beer.

FYI: Minnesota is still backwards and doesn’t sell beer (or any alcohol) after 6:00 pm on Sundays.  Apparently, they just started selling any alcohol on July 1, 2017.  Seriously, people.  What are you doing.

We’re on a boat!

After a pretty restful sleep, we hopped back on the road heading toward Bayfield, WI, where the ferry crosses over to Madeline Island.  We grabbed some groceries (bread, chips…) and local beer (because Wisconsin isn’t as backward as Minnesota…) at the store and then waited a few minutes for the ferry to take us across.  Meg and Calvin, of course, very much liked getting out of the car and walking around on a boat, so despite the necessity of going on this particular ferry, it served as something of an “event” for the kids to enjoy.

The drive from the docks to the campground is around 6 miles, so it didn’t take all that long to get over there.  Like the last time Brooke and I went, we reserved a “backwoods”-style campsite that was pretty private, but close enough that the shower houses were a brief jaunt away.  The state park was pretty crowded with quite a few pull-behind trailers, as well as tents, so separating ourselves from all the rest of the noisy families was probably a good call.

The pretty significant downside, however, was the mosquitoes.  In that backwoods camp, the mosquitoes were pretty intolerable.  And resistant to Repel Lemon Eucalyptus.  And ignorant of citronella candles.  Seriously, they were bad.

A home away from home.

New for this trip, Brooke picked up a screened-in shelter from Aldi for $40 (woo!), and while that helped the bug issue, it still wasn’t perfect.  Some non-biting insects were always flying around at the top of it, but at least they left us alone for eating.  However, she’d always want to leave the doors slightly ajar when cooking for logistical reasons, so more bugs would get in.  We’re glad we have the shelter, and it definitely helped, but it wasn’t perfect.

Gotta eat something, right?

The weather early on was quite pleasant, with highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 50s.  That first night went pretty well and the kids were just fine going to sleep around 9:00, when it was dark enough.  Brooke and I were going to stay up with a fire, but the mosquitoes also didn’t really care about smoke from a campfire, so unless we wanted to put on pants, long-sleeves, and Brooke’s bee gear, we were out of luck.

The next morning, Brooke made some pancakes on our new propane grill, which was also a big plus for this trip.  I tried cooking steaks on the open fire the previous night and, while they were edible, I couldn’t get the fire consistently hot enough to get them “medium well” as I tend to prefer it.  We picked up the steaks at the grocery store in Bayfield and they were just a bit bigger than we probably should have gone with.  Ah well.  The stove, on the other hand, worked great for the rest of our meals.  Brooke’s French Press was also a big help.

That’s probably enough for now!

Garden Update: Late June

Moving along quite nicely!

There isn’t much to talk about right now, but I did want to note a few goings-on from the last few weeks with regard to the good ol’ Marshall Homestead…

The green beans, tomatoes, soup beans, pumpkins and watermelons are all moving along pretty well!  There are some tiny green tomatoes on the plants and the green beans are flowering, so all’s well on that front.  The green pepper plants are still pretty small: two of them are looking good, while the other two are on the short side, and are getting encroached by “volunteer” tomato plants from last year.

Wrecked ’em…

Other than that, Brooke laid waste to the remaining lettuce, pea plants and carrots this weekend and ended up with a substantial carrot crop. The lettuce had gone to seed a week or two ago, so it was time to end them, and the carrots had been in for months now, so it was time to pull them up.

After hours of processing (that, thankfully, I had very little to do with), we ended up with ~15 lbs of carrots, 12 lbs of which Brooke chopped up, blanched, then vacuum-sealed and dropped in the freezer.  Last year, we also got a lot of carrots, but we left them in the fridge crisper for far too long and then ended up “floppy,” which isn’t exactly great if you like raw carrots.

Still, despite Brooke’s metric ton of time working with them, she’s pretty satisfied with the haul of organic carrots she grew.

In other news…

Otherwise, a few weeks ago, Brooke checked out her beehives and removed 6 shallow frames-worth of combed honey.  There’s more in there, but some frames had brood and others weren’t quite full yet.  Our new hive from late-April is also doing well, so Brooke put the super on it in hopes we’ll be able to get some honey from them later this summer, too.

Honey!

Brooke will scrape off the wax from these and likely make some candles (among other things), and she’ll extract the honey along with her Dad this weekend, as he’s got some frames to process, too.

Generally (as I can’t remember if I ever explained this…), honey extraction involves removal of the wax cappings, insertion of the frames into a cylindrical drum, and then spinning them around to use centrifugal force, pulling the honey out and allowing it to drop down to the bottom of the drum, thus letting you fill up jars of honey.  It’s a messy and time-intensive process, so while you could get honey directly from these frames, it’s a lot easier to process a lot of frames all at once, saving you clean-up time.

Therefore, we will figure out how much honey we got this weekend. 🙂

Evil. EVIL!!!

The last thing I wanted to mention was that Japanese Beetles have arrived in Marshall.  The two pictured above were on our neighbor’s tree, but we’ve seen them on our trees, too, as well as on our sunflowers.  We’ve got multiple leaves that look like those pictured above.  Our understanding is that this crop of beetles were spending their time reproducing and laying eggs, all of which will hatch later this summer and wreak havoc.  Hopefully, our growing season will be mostly done by then…

Still, we put in some praying mantids last week in an effort to kill off insect-derived pests while not spraying anything on our flowering green beans, as that would likely affect our bees.  We’ll see if it work…  We ordered the mantids and put them in a cage (an old bee package) back in late-May and it took almost 3 weeks for them to show up.  There were 10s, if not 100, of them in that package before we released them on our green beans, so hopefully they do their jobs.

That’s about it for now!

Meg’s First Backpacking Trip

We own quite a bit of backpacking gear, much of which I’ve had since before Brooke and I were married when I’d go on trips over Spring Break in high school and college.  After we had kids, obviously, it got a little more difficult to be gone for multiple days  on trips without the family.  Thus, now that I’ve got a 7-year-old to indoctrinate in my interests, I thought this summer would yield an opportunity for a little daddy-daughter time out in the wilderness.

I hadn’t done much backpacking in Missouri, as most of my trips were to Tennessee and Arkansas (with a single trip to Colorado back in 8th grade).  The trails I’d done in Missouri were relatively far south and didn’t have much access to water.  In searching for “beginner backpacking trails” that would be suitable for a 7-year-old first-timer, I came across the Bell Mountain Loop Trail near Salem, MO, as part of Mark Twain National Forest.  The trail represented a 10 mile loop that had good overlooks, had access to water at least at one point, and was rated as relatively easy for beginners.

Before the yelling started…

Things started out pretty good, really.  In many ways, this is the most “in shape” I’ve ever been for backpacking, as the last time I did this, I was a good 30 pounds heavier.  Meg, of course, had gone hiking with us in limited settings, but never with this length of time, or overnight in the wilderness.

We got started on an Ozark Trail spur that would lead us to the Bell Mountain Trail Loop.  The OT section was mostly a dry creek bed, which isn’t great to hike on if you’re an adult, let alone a 7-year-old.  Meg and I had good hiking shoes on, so we were relatively fine, but it did get tedious, and we had to go slower than we otherwise would.  Still, we continue onward and upward until we hit the Bell Mountain Trail (or so we thought…).

Getting tired already…

We went for about as far as we could, but we were hoping we’d get to the main creek for our first night of camping, as it would provide some entertainment for Meg, and a solid water source to get us going the next morning.  We kept going as far as we could, but it was getting darker and we had already gone a good 4 miles with no creek in sight.  Meg was pretty tired (we didn’t start hiking until 4:00 pm, and there was a slight rain threat hovering about), and we were on a flat section of the trail that had some good camping spaces for our tent, so we went ahead and parked for the night.

Reading while Daddy packs up the tent…

The first night went remarkably well!  It dipped down into the low-50s overnight, but we were pretty warm in our tent.  We bought a 2-person Kelty backpacking tent, as traditionally, I’d always relied on a hammock and a tarp – something that doesn’t work quite as well for a 7-year-old.  The tent worked very well, so I think that purchase was well-founded.

Also, the macaroni and cheese I made for dinner that night went over pretty well with the kid. 🙂

Anyway, we kept hiking the next morning and still never ran across the creek.  We did spot a really nice overlook and took a few panoramic pictures with my phone.  We did eventually spot a fire pit that we thought we recognized from our map, so we continued onward.

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

Eventually, we’d gone so far that it was getting late in the morning and we still hadn’t found water.  Not that we needed water right then, but we would need it for cooking later in the day, so I was getting a bit worried.  I was also very confused by a fork in the trail that shouldn’t have been there, at least according to the map.

Thus, we opted to turn around and start heading back.  We figured that there were some ponds we had passed that weren’t ideal for filtration, but could still be used to keep us going until we could get to the car the next morning.  We were also hoping to get moving relatively early the next day so we could hit up Heinrichshaus in St. James before getting to Marshall in time to pick up Calvin from school.

Anyway, we kept going for a few miles and, at this point, I was keeping an eye on my LTE signal so I could try and download a Google Earth file that would show us where, exactly, on the trail we actually were.

So, here’s what happened…

Basically, we saw that sign early in the trip that’s pictured at the top of this page, and it pointed to the left.  We also knew that we needed to take a left to head toward the Fire Ring indicated by the star above, as it would take us down toward Joe’s Creek for water (and there were two creek crossings on the map).  Well, we thought that sign was at the trail fork circled in red.  Instead, that sign was way before that, at the hairpin turn indicated by the red hexagon.

So, we took a left, but we were still on the OT spur and not actually on the Bell Mountain Loop yet.  When we got to the real turnoff, we just kept on heading straight and didn’t notice that there was another trail heading off to the left just over our shoulders.  Literally, there was a small orange flag that was practically impossible to see from the direction we were coming from.

So yeah, instead of eventually seeing the fire ring indicated by the star, we instead saw the fire rings that were actually on Bell Mountain, and the scenic views they entailed.  Also, based on my step tracker’s GPS, we ended up heading toward an entirely different parking lot before we turned around: the “extra fork in the road” we saw, we should have taken a left instead of a right.  Of course, we thought we were heading clockwise on the loop, but instead, we should have been going counter-clockwise.

Anyway, we had turned around, we figured this all out, and we kept trekking back to the car, knowing we wouldn’t cross the creek for water.  We pushed it quite a bit and ended up going 10 miles that way.

Meg was not happy about this.  There was yelling, there was screaming.  There was a lot of “I thought you said we were close!!!”  Technically, we were “close,” but considering that Meg had to stop literally every 2 minutes because her feet hurt, it was taking forever.

It came to this.

I even ended up carrying her backpack attached to mine in order to keep us moving. So yeah, my feet hurt, too, but she didn’t really care…

So yeah, we kept on going and eventually made it back to the car, where I had some water packed for our arrival.  We also drove to a nearby creek passing so I could filter some more.

Back in one piece!

It was quite a bit colder the next night, dipping down into the upper-40s, so that was a little less fun, but we still survived the night.  Meg hobbled along for awhile and didn’t really want to walk at all after we got to camp, though she was fine by mid-next day.

All in all, if you ask her about it, she’ll tell you she had fun with the camping aspect of the trip, but the hiking part wasn’t her favorite.  I think I can convince her to go again someday, but we may want to shake these memories a bit before I try again!

Ultimately, it was good to get backpacking again.  If I have to wait until Calvin’s ready, I can live with that.

Okee Dokee Artichokee

Train conductors? They can’t even drive yet…

We were trying to come up with something special to do for Meg’s birthday this year when Brooke happened to notice one of our favorite “family friendly” musical groups, The Okee Dokee Brothers, were coming to Kansas City.  The concert fell around Meg’s birthday, so close enough, right?

A bit of background: Brooke ran across their music 5 or 6 years ago and, though I can’t remember why exactly we listened in the first place (let alone how we discovered them…), my recollection mostly surrounds their fourth album, Can You Canoe?, which was inspired by their trip down the Mississippi River from St. Paul, MN to St. Louis, MO.  For Meg, it was a collection of creative and catchy tunes.  For Brooke and me, it was intelligently produced kids’ music that hearkened back to our own childhood experiences in this region, while also representing great bluegrass-style music.  That album went on to win the Grammy for Best Children’s Album in 2013.  They have since come out with two other albums, one inspired by their hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail, and another around their trip to the Rocky Mountains.

Thus, after church this morning, we went ahead and hit the road for Crown Center, where we ended up at Fritz’s again.  I think we waited a good 45 minutes to get into that place last year before going to Legoland for Meg’s 6th birthday, but this time, the line was considerably shorter (read: non-existent).  We were in-and-out relatively quickly and moved on to the Kansas City Folk Festival.

Seating was limited…

The event itself was pretty well organized, taking place at the Westin hotel in most of its various conference rooms.  Each show took place “on the hour” and ran for 45 minutes, and 5 or 6 shows were going on simultaneously, allowing listeners to move between rooms and get a good sampling of musical styles.  A substantial number of the acts were Spanish language-focused, which was very interesting musically, though difficult to deal with lyrically.  Still, Meg seemed like she was “bobbing her head” quite a bit, even if she didn’t know what exactly was going on.

The Main Event!

The Okee Dokee Brothers went on at 2:00 and were great.  In the picture above, Meg and Calvin are sitting on the floor just in front of the stage, so they had a front row seat to all the action.

This room was packed with families.  The organizers probably should have seen this coming, though to be honest, how all these people had heard of The Okee Dokee Brothers is beyond me.  Still, Brooke and I had to hold up a wall on the side of the room, with Calvin running back and forth from where Meg was sitting and where we were standing.  We weren’t next to Meg at all during the music, but we could see her copying the motions and singing along, as she knew many of the songs already.  So far as concerts go, they did a good job mixing their older stuff with their newer stuff, so that helped out quite a bit, as we haven’t listened to their newest album as much as their older ones.

It ended up being a fun time!  Not a particularly cheap experience, as were were also funding our “attendance” to all of the other bands that were there, but ultimately, I think we all agreed it was worth the trip.  The music was great, the experience was something different from what Meg’s used to, and it was an excuse to get out of the house for a day.

Win/win for everyone. 🙂

State Park #3: Trail of Tears State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

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It’s about time for another one of these posts, right?

Back in early June, 2015, we went on another camping trip with the Montgomerys and tried to find a place somewhat “halfway” between Marshall and the Memphis, TN area.  We tried Trail of Tears State Park near Jackson, MO.

In general, we weren’t all that pleased with this park.  Not that it was bad, per se, but the area wasn’t quite as well arrange for families as the last place.  The sites we selected were near each other, but much more forested than St. Francois from the previous year.  That also meant that Calvin, who wasn’t a great “walker” quite yet, found it much easier to trip on tree roots and rocks, and wander out into poison ivy with relative ease.  Also, we effectively had two separate camp sites, as the map we’d looked at wasn’t exactly clear on the position of the two locations, ultimately putting our tents about as far from each other as possible.

There was a very limited playground, but it wasn’t within walking distance.  There weren’t really other activities available either, aside from hiking, but again, when you’ve got small kids, that isn’t a great option.  At Calvin’s and Meg’s age now, we’d probably have a better time, but back then, it wasn’t ideal.

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I should note that we did have fun visiting!  This state park just wasn’t our favorite, I suppose.  Early June was a little on the warm side, but not unbearable.  Being deeper in the woods meant that the breeze wasn’t exactly…er…breezy…but we got something.

Anyway, we’d probably go back someday, but it isn’t all that close to our house (Jackson is mostly off the highway, but we have to drive a very round-about way to get there from here), so it will probably be awhile before we’re back in that area of the state.

State Park #2: St. Francois State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

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A brisk morning…

We visited St. Francois State Park way back in April of 2013.  Meg had recently turned 3-years-old and this was among her first camping trips (though not her first, because we went to Minnesota about 7 months before this), and probably our second time using our massive “new” Coleman tent.

We took this trip with the Montgomerys, from church, and another couple they knew from work.  It’s been awhile, so I’m thinking back on this particular camping trip and I remember it being quite cold!  Meg, Brooke and I were there alone for Friday night and it dropped to near freezing.  I remember reaching into the second room to make sure Meg was breathing and warm multiple times during the night, so we didn’t sleep all that well.  The second night was markedly warmer, though the other folks who joined us for the trip complained about being cold.  We’d already seen the worst of it, so Saturday night was relatively balmy for us!

With regards to the park itself, they had a healthy number of nice hiking trails that suited our abilities well.  We had Meg strapped to our backs, but thankfully, the trail we went on was mostly level, so it wasn’t all that strenuous.  It also went along a creek for a good portion, so that provided Meg with something interesting to look at while we were moving about the park.

One of my all-time favorite shots...
One of my all-time favorite shots…

The park also had a pretty good playground close to where we were camping, at least within walking distance.  Most of the facilities were close to our camping site too, and everything was clean and accessible.  Meg was potty trained by this point, but we were still having to work with her a bit on sitting on an actual toilet, rather than sitting in an outhouse.

We didn’t really take advantage of any nature talks, at least not that I remember.  I’m sure they were offered, but we were likely busy enough trying to wrangle Meg that we didn’t pay much attention to them.  Firewood was easily accessible, so we’d have to go on some field trips to either buy or find some.

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That Saturday morning was cooooooooold!

Another nice thing about this park was the open areas near the camp site.  With some other places we’ve stayed, the camp sites were deeper into the forest, leaving little “play areas” for young kids to run around without tripping over tree roots or rocks.  The location for the camp site had a nice, open, grassy area across from the tents, so it was easy for the kids to kick a ball or run around the tents.  The adults could also see the kids from a substantial distance, so they couldn’t go hiding behind a tree or anything without us noticing.

One of the other things Brooke and I remember about this park was that Meg, Latham and Ellis played in our tent for hours on Saturday afternoon.  The sun was out, the weather was nice, and the tent had a door that the kids could open on their own.  They’d run around it, move toys in and out of the screened-in area, and they’d be yelling and screaming with delight.  Sure, it got kinda annoying for us (and dirt on our sleeping bags…), but they entertained themselves for a lot of this trip, giving us a nice reprieve from our normal weekend activities.

Meg and Latham playing in the tent.
Meg and Latham playing in the tent.

Overall, we have fond memories of this park.  Compared with some others we’ve attended, this one seemed particularly well-suited to young kids, something we probably didn’t appreciate until we went to some other state parks that weren’t as well organized for such things.

Rocky Mountain Vacation: Part II

Bear Lake was looking particularly nice!
Bear Lake was looking particularly nice!

After hitting up Fort Collins on Wednesday, we began Thursday at the Alluvial Fan. We got going pretty early that day to avoid the crowds, but still had to contend with a lack of parking.  Still, Meg and I made the trip all the way up the fan and she did shockingly well.  I had to help lift her up and hold her hand as she placed her feet carefully on wet rocks.  There was definitely some slippage, but overall, I was pretty proud of her!  Calvin wanted to go too, of course, but there’s no way he could have made the trip except on one of our backs (and that wouldn’t have been the smartest choice…).  Ultimately, he hung out at the bottom of the waterfall throwing rocks in the water, while the rest of the Baumann Clan tossed rocks and enjoyed the nice weather.

Meg did a great job climbing the waterfall!
Meg did a great job climbing the waterfall!

We then took a drive around Rocky Mountain National Park via Old Fall River Road.  We’d driven past its entrance a few days before.  It’s a dirt road with countless switchbacks that ultimately makes its way up to the Alpine Visitor Center.  It was a fun drive, though a dusty and somewhat slow one.  Calvin actually fell asleep halfway up, though at the top, the kids got to play in a little snow.  We also ran across a late-model Nissan Altima whose transmission belt apparently gave out, yielding no forward motion on its part (Mark tried to help to no avail).

Most of Thursday involved driving around RMNP, seeing some marmots, elk, mule deer, and chipmunks.  The kids enjoyed getting to see the variety of environments, and a few waterfalls, though we could tell that the incessant driving had worn on them a bit.  It was good to take a break from the hiking, but all the driving didn’t really help their demeanor.  Still, at least the adults had fun. 🙂

The next day, we tried keeping things a bit light, as the 5K was scheduled for that evening and, well, we wanted to keep our ankles in shape.  Obviously, the best thing to do is to get up early and go to Bear Lake, right?

Heavy lifting...
Heavy lifting…

As the picture all the way at the top shows, the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  We ended up hiking 2.5 miles or so between Bear Lake and Nymph Lake, and ended up dealing with some cranky kids who either a). didn’t want to hike, or b). wanted to climb every rock they saw.  I can’t say that Friday morning was all that “fun” for us, but at least the weather was good, and we could keep things a bit light.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of napping and watching TV.  Calvin slept for 3 hours that day, if I remember correctly, as he was catching up for not substantially napping the previous 4 days.

That evening, everyone except Mallory, Meg and Calvin ran a 5K around the lake in Estes Park.  The weather stayed pretty good, though a few rain drops fell around the time Brooke was finishing up.  The race itself went pretty well for everyone, though I had some qualms with how it started with a hill on a narrow path, where a lot of people slowed down at the beginning and forced us to try and fit around them by jogging on the side of the adjacent road.  Ultimately, I did about as well as I did in Hannibal a few weeks earlier, and Brooke did about as well as she wanted to for her first 5K.  The elevation affected everyone, to a degree, but being there for a few days (and jogging and hiking…) beforehand made a difference in our performance, I’m sure.

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The next morning, Mallory ran the Half Marathon and placed fourth in her age group, so we were all very proud of her.  After the marathon, the rest of the Baumann Brigade headed out to do some last minute hiking, while the Linsenbardt side headed to the Moraine Park Discovery Center in RMNP to go on a “discovery hike” with the kids so they could complete their Junior Ranger certifications.  This took an hour and a half and, overall, was pretty fun for the kids, as other kids were also along and they finally had someone else to interact with aside from adults.

As you can see, they were pretty pleased with themselves. 🙂

Junior Rangers!
Junior Rangers!

After that, we returned to the house so Calvin could take a nap.  Again, everyone mostly hung around the house (though Meg and I briefly headed out to see a friend of mine from high school who happened to be in Estes Park that day with his family) until dinner, our one night out around the area.  We ended up at Tavern 1929, a place just outside of town that was a part of a lodge.  I’m not sure if it was the fact that we really hadn’t eaten out much that week, or whether we had all done a lot of running recently, or whether it was our last night in Estes Park, but that food was really good.  We all left positively stuffed.  No complaints, except that the restaurant couldn’t install larger stomachs in our bodies.

That night, we packed things up and prepared to leave.  We left the next morning by 8:30 am MST or so (the Baumanns left a little earlier than we did) and made it back to Marshall by 9:00 pm CST.  The kids were both shockingly well-behaved for this portion of the trip, likely because they were watching shows on their Kindles again, and because they were tired from the week behind them.

It was a great trip!  We look forward to returning to Colorado, though next time, we’ll probably try and hit the southern area of the state.  Lots of other national parks to hit up in the coming years, though!