Route 66 Missouri…

DAY TWO: We woke early… it had rained overnight and our tent held up! hooray!!!!!

We decided to take the canoe trip on the Meramec River, and went down to get a canoe, but were informed that the river was high… almost too high to go out on at all… and so we would have to take a raft instead. So we took the raft and went down to the muddy waters of the river which seemed quite calm.

After taking an unintended dip in the water, we started making our way down the river through a beautiful morning light… It was calm and apart from a few obstacles and easy lazy river float. Of course the aforementioned obstacles did present the occasional problem… especially when Cactus Killer and I decided to each try to paddle in opposite directions, sending the raft spinning in circles towards the beaver dam!!!! We actually got stuck on an exposed tree limb for a few moments… but after that understood the idea of “team work” better and got a lot better at keeping our boat afloat so to speak!

Rest of the river trip was uneventful in that sense, but the most AMAZING moment was when two eagles flew off right in front of us… maybe just ten feet from where we were… they were above us and they were magnificent! It was a privilege to see them so close up… Later on a beautiful black and white butterfly landed on the raft and kept us company flitting from side to side for a segment of our journey….

After the take out point we got our gear together and got back on the road… taking Route 66 past Rolla to around Lebanon Missouri, where we set up camp at Bennett Spring State Park for the night.

posted by Blue Coyote in On the Road and have No Comments

Route 66… the beginning…

DAY ONE: We left Chicago in the morning, and had to drive to the starting point for the original Route 66… but we did it! We started at the actual beginning… driving through the city in the early morning calm before losing our way in the suburbs, then finding it again a few turns later…

The first thing we realized once we were on the road was that the road is something of a puzzle… Even with the directions and the maps and the signs, we still can easily miss a turn or misinterpret a direction and suddenly find ourselves off the Route… and yet, even those unintended detours led to some incredible discoveries…

The road is a collection of imagery… of sensations… of ideas… all threaded together by this ribbon of asphalt… taking us from one to the next. I have decided it is like a “treasure hunt” where we have maps and directions that give us clues, but it is up to us to find the road and keep our eyes open for the delights it has to offer along the way…

Day One took us from Chicago all the way to St. Louis (though we did have to get on the interstate a bit to make up time), and we spent the night camped at Meramec State Park in Missouri… satisfied with our day’s drive and happy to be on our journey!

posted by Blue Coyote in On the Road and have No Comments

St. Louis to Tulsa to Amarillo camping options

After discussion the other day, we decided that we will try to split this segment of the trip with shorter drives over a few days rather than trying to do St. Louis to Tulsa in one day, then have a rest day, then do Tulsa to Amarillo in one day, followed by a rest day, as our original plan indicated (and we can always go back to that formula if we come across something super interesting to do in a specific location).

So, on Day 5, we are spending the day canoeing at Meramec state park, then visiting the Meramec Caverns. The ideal scenario would be, if after visiting the Caverns, we can get a start on the next day’s drive by moving forward about an hour and a half or two hours (not sure how far we can get, depending on hour tired we might be, but any mileage we can do will make the next day a bit easier).

We have the great list of campgrounds put together by the folks at Route 66 News, but i decided to research the National Forest and State Park campgrounds in Missouri and Oklahoma as we might prefer more primitive camping options.

Was able to come up with a workable list of state parks/national forest areas that could make good stopping points along the way (none are that far off the Route 66 itinerary, though they may not exactly be “on” the route itself).

state park locations along the segment from St. Louis to Tulsa to Amarillo.

state park locations along the segment from St. Louis to Tulsa to Amarillo.

Here’s the best scenario (with some options):

The first possible National Forest stop is near Rolla MO, about an hour and a half west of Meramec state park. At the Mark Twain National Forest, dispersed camping is allowed. According to the main campsite page for the forest:

<< Dispersed Camping areas have few, if any, amenities or other facilities. Primitive Camping is allowed throughout the forest except in day use areas, administrative sites, within 100′ of springs, stream, caves and other natural features or archeological sites, or where otherwise prohibited. Follow Leave No Trace principles and protect the forest resouces. >>

Depending on time, we could try to find our own spot, but might be best if we head for the Cole Creek Trail, which is actually for horses, but hikers are welcome and primitive camping is allowed along the trail. The reason i suggest this, is because we have written directions to the trailhead, and if we tried to find our own location, we might spend a lot of time driving around looking for an entry point, etc. If we chose Cole Creek Trail, we will have to leave the jeep at the trail head and hike in a bit…

If we can drive a little bit further, about 2 hours west of Meramec (and a little bit east of springfield MO), is Bennett Spring State Park, in Lebanon MO.

So we sleep at one of these locations, then pick up the route in the morning of Day 6, with a goal of reaching the Keystone state park near Sand Springs, OK, which is just outside of Tulsa. If we need to stop sooner, there is a state park, Twin Bridges State Park, which is not that far off the route a bit east of Tulsa.

Then, on Day 7, we head for Crowder Lake state park, which is a good halfway point between Tulsa and Amarillo. But also has some interesting activities. We have some other alternatives for that night, too. Either Red Rock Canyon state park, which is a little closer to Tusla side, or Foss state park, which is a little closer to Amarillo.

Then Day 8, we get into Amarillo as planned, but a little more rested (hopefully) and ready to explore!

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comments (2)

Caves and choices in Missouri…

Locations of the caves along the route

Locations of the caves along the route (coming from St. Louis)

On around day 5 of the trip we will be in the St. Louis area and will likely be staying at the Meramec State Park and the current plan is to spend part of the day canoeing the river, and then do a guided tour of the Meramec Caverns

In doing some research about the area and looking at our trajectory i see some options:

Apparently Missouri is a state with lots of caves (second only in the nation to Tennessee), and right nearby in the State Park where we will be staying is Fisher Cave, and not far away is an additional state park with another cave/cavern (i am still not sure what the difference is between a cave and a cavern)…

It seems people have mixed reviews of the Meramec Caverns (see reviews here), and according to their own site, the cavern tour takes visitors on “well-lighted, walkways”… and the whole location seems like something very kitsch (which could be charming and part of the route 66 experience) with a motel, a campground, a riverboat ride, their own canoe rentals, panning for gold, etc…

Fishers Cave has a positive review (as a more “real” cave visit), and i actually called the park and spoke to a woman at the information desk there who said the cave tour at the park is definitely more “naturalistic” than a visit to Meramec, but still a solid 90 minute visit that includes about a mile or more of walking…

There is also the Onodaga Cave state park with a cave and a cathedral cave tour… it is a little further from St. Louis…

So question is… which cave/cavern do we want to visit…

here are the issues as to how they relate to our trip:

First, do we want something kitsch-y and touristic and definitely a Route 66 icon (Meramec), or do we want a more naturalistic experience (Fisher or Onodaga)…?

Second, which is most interesting? Meramec seems like the bigger, more elaborate (3rd largest something in the US, Jesse James hideout, a cavern versus a cave) choice for sure… but will the theatrical lighting and walkways make it less interesting than a more “natural” cave experience with flash lights and dirt floors (Fisher)… or will it conversely make it BETTER…

Do we want to take advantage of some of the other kitschy activities… like panning for gold… at Meramec Caverns… or is it more convenient to do everything at the State Park (canoe trip from there and cave tour without having to leave and drive to another location)… if we want to we can also choose to consolidate at Meramec Caverns (they have a campground and canoe rentals/shuttle for trip downriver which is probably about the same as the one offered from the park, though their campground might be a bit more “packed together”… think about the place we stayed that one time on a private campground in virginia… however, i cannot guarentee that the State Park is any “better” in terms of campground spacing)…

If we are staying at Meremac State park, going back to the Caverns requires us to backtrack a little bit (not that long, so we can do it if we want to), and if we wanted to go to Onodaga, it is even further away from St. Louis… (but as it is an end-point of the day, i would probably prefer closer to St. Louis, unless there was a real reason we preferred the idea of staying at Onodaga)…

see the relative locations and distances on here: View Google Map

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comments (2)

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