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Sunday, November 2, 2014

October 2014 -- Long Branch Lake State Park

We took advantage of midterm break to go camping.  We took my nephew Racin to Long Branch Lake State Park.  I hadn't been there in years, but it hadn't changed much.  The weather was cool and it rained about every night, but the days were clear enough.  We enjoyed walking the dogs around the sparsely occupied campground, while the dogs enjoyed trying to run after the two fawns that seemed to perpetually hang out there.

Racin and I took a short bike ride down the visitor's center on the first day.  I picked up a map of the park there, and we rode back on some interesting off-road trails.  I made measurements on the map to plan our our next day's ride: a circumnavigation of the park of about 17 miles.

It was sunny and cool when we headed out in the early afternoon.  Right away, we saw a covey of quail next to the prairie.  One bird just stood there and watched us pedal by.  I told Racin he'd never get as good a look at a bobwhite again.  After we turned north  Racin spotted a baby snapping turtle in the middle of the road.  We put him in my little seat bag until we came across a pond adjacent to the road and threw him in. There were a number of butterflies sunning on the road as well. We were chased by one dog, but it was kind of old and friendly looking so I wasn't worried.  As we were turning east there was a pretty horse in a corral, and Racin started calling to it in a high-pitched voice.  The horse ran up to the fence, presumably to greet him.  This fence was missing the top wire, and I was sure the horse had the ability to jump it.  Fortunately, it did not.  We visited the launch ramp and hiking area on the north side of the lake, passing a road-killed deer with a turkey vulture in close attendance.

I wanted to keep us off of Highway 63 as much as possible, and took us south on Jewel Road.  We hadn't gone far when we came across an apple orchard/beekeeping place that was open for business.  We went in and they gave us free cups of apple cider.  They had an observation hive that was fascinating to me, as I hadn't seen one in awhile.  I started talking to the owner, and we had a long discussion about bees.  They also had some neat antiques in the place--old radios and guitars.

We continued south on Jewel until we had to turn east, where the road, which had been gravel, turned to mud.  We stayed in the driest areas as long as possible, but where it turned south again there was not a dry spot to be had.  Sticky mud accumulated on our wheels, brakes and forks until we ground to a halt.  Even while we were able to pedal, our rear tires would slip constantly.  I fully expected an overt rebellion from Racin, but all he had to say was, "This is awesome!".  I found a tire iron in the road, which proved useful for getting the mud off.  Still, progress was slow.  Finally, the mud ended and gravel resumed.  Was it mere symbolism that there was a church at this junction?  This section of mud was more strenuous than all of the rest of the ride together.  We took photos and went south on 63.  I was worried about the traffic, but there was a good shoulder and plenty of grasshoppers to run over for entertainment.

I looked very carefully before we turned west on Jungle Road.  I didn't want to get into any more mud.  There were some minor hills, but no more mud.  Another dog came out to greet us, a young lab, and very friendly.  We saw a flock of turkeys down in a draw on this leg of the trip.  We turned onto Visitors Center Road and went past the proverbial visitor center, where we had been just the day before.  As we turned north again, we bypassed the quaint trails in favor of the most direct route back to the RV.  I stopped and showed Racin that you could actually eat the seeds of the Smooth Sumac.  He had asked earlier what these bright red shrubs were.

We collected leftover firewood from vacant camp sites.  Consequently, we had a camp fire to grill our dinner and to make s'mores for dessert.  Racin had brought his 12-string guitar along, and I had my charango.  We had some great jam sessions in the evenings.  We went through just about every song I can play.  That was a lot of fun.

After we returned, I used a pressure washer to get the mud off our bikes.  It was ugly, as the mud had dried on by then.  Our shoes got a similar treatment.

Stacey and I went to the Autumn Folk Life Festival in Hannibal. We took the dogs.  It was good socialization for them, except everyone wanted to stop and talk about Big Guy.  We went to the new dog park afterwards.  By then they were tired, and another dog was a big distraction, but I did get him to jump over the bar a few times.  He had also cut his toe and we had visited the vet earlier.  Shortly after that, he developed a huge lump on the side of his face.  I'm still unsure whether it was a lymph node or salivary gland.  In any case, another visit to the vet, and lots of pills, and it has begun to shrink.

I've been photographing the last of the insects for the year.  A seeping tree in the back yard was a big help. We collected aquatic invertebrates from the pond at north campus, which allowed me to photograph some strange things, including a big leech and a water scorpion.  On our visit to Fall Creek we discovered a patch of jewel weed (AKA touch-me-nots), and were diverted from insect collecting by picking the pods and making them explode.  Short videos are included in the slide show below, but I think you'll have to click through to see them.

I took the last kayaking trip of the year (I assume), paddling around the Mississippi below the dam here.  I didn't catch any fish, but there were some good bird migrations going on.