A chance encounter in the park…

photo-2So today i was inspired by the incredibly great weather to get out for a long long walk, working towards improving my trail endurance (now that i don’t have Cactus Killer’s hill to train on!)… Was up early, around 730am, and went to the nearby state park here on Long Island.

It was pretty empty so early on a Saturday morning in March, and i set off on a trail i had done before, planning to loop into a slightly longer trail further up. The skies were blue, and the sunlight filtered through the branches of the pine trees in sharp rays. All around were signs of spring. As well as some newly fallen trees — signs of a series of big storms that had effected this area only last week.

And i was just walking along enjoying the fresh air and morning light, when i had the sensation that i was not alone. It’s strange how you sense the presence of someone before you see them.deerInpark

But i heard no one, and looking up ahead on the trail, i saw no one either… i stopped. i listened. then i looked around 360 degrees, and at about my 3 o’clock, across the woods, there were four deer. the deer stopped. they listened. they looked up at me… we stayed for a moment looking at each other, then they continued eating… i went to continue on my way, but my motion must have spooked the leader, and he took off running, and the others soon followed him running along the tree-line of the parallel trail.

deerZoom

photo-3I considered myself quite lucky to see the deer this morning, and smiling I continued my walk. Eventually i hit the intersecting trail, and followed it around. This trail was a bit swampier than the other one, and though the last rain was several days ago, there were still patches of thick mud to cross. I was near the river. There was a small path leading off the trail to the water’s edge, and I decided to go over and watch the ducks… Looking across the water, i saw them swimming in a row… They were awfully BIG ducks… I looked a bit closer, and realized they were not ducks… nor were they swans or geese… I stared at the movement and realized i was just seeing the heads above water… it was the DEER swimming across the river!!!!

I have never seen anything like that before (I didn’t even know deer could swim!!!!)… I waited until they got across, then waded up out of the water — just to be sure i really DID see deer swimming… and then i returned to the trail and finished my 4-mile loop. What an unexpected surprise!

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posted by Blue Coyote in Shaping up for the Trail and have Comments (2)

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)

New York State parks and rivers

So thinking ahead, I know I will be needing to continue the work I started on Cactus Killer Hill once I am back in NY, and have been doing some research into local state parks, rivers, and public land.

Once weather clears up a bit I will need to start using the local parks for “training.”

Canoeing on the Nissequoge River – there are several options listed on the site. The local canoe liveries offer trips on the river that last about 2-3 hours.

Trails in state parks – there are a number of state parks not far from our location that should permit me to keep up with the walking workouts.

Entrance Pass for NY state parks – Empire Passport will allow entrance to state parks for a one time fee of $65.

posted by Blue Coyote in Shaping up for the Trail and have No Comments

Palo Duro Canyon choices…

paloduro-overview

Click on map to see it larger.

When doing the Route 66 Amarillo segment, the plan is to stay in Palo Duro Canyon state park. There are a few different options for that park that we should consider (it is one of the places we need to make reservations for, and is pretty popular in the summer, so we will need to decide this early on).

We have choices between 3 camping options: Hike-in backpack camping, “Developed Primitive” campsites, or cabins. Here are the details…

BACKPACK CAMPING: Back-pack camping is permitted only in the area south of the turn-around. You must hike into the area for at least 30 minutes. Water is only available at the trailhead. Fires are not permitted, although stoves with containerized fuel are permitted. You must carry out all that you carry in.

cactuscamplocationDEVELOPED PRIMITIVE CAMPSITES: There are two camping areas that have been designated “primitive”. (Cactus and Fortress Cliff) The areas have designated camping sites. Each has a table, a shade shelter, fire-ring and water available in the area. They have no restroom or shower facilities. You may drive (1/2 to 2 miles) to an adjacent camp loop for restroom/shower facilities. A maximum of 8 people are permitted in each site.

cactuscampdetailCACTUS CAMP: Of the “Developed Primitive” locations, Cactus Camp seems like the better choice for privacy, as there are fewer sites here and they seem a bit more spread out. It seems from the map like it is not far from the river (or creek, or whatever that water source is running through there). Not sure what the location is like visually (or if it is high or low ground, as the map has no relief). Also, it is next to the day use area (don’t know how close, or if that impacts us at all).

fortressclifflocationFORTRESS CLIFF: Am guessing this site is on the highground, so probably has a really nice view. However there seems to be a lot of sites here and they seem pretty close together on the map. Also seems like it is far from the restroom facilities (and if all the campsites are so close together we might rather use the restroom facilities than go out in the bush when the need arises).

fortresscliffdetailCABINS: There are two CCC vintage cabins perched on the rim of the canyon. Though rustic, these cabins have been renovated and have modern heating and cooling systems. Each cabin consists of two rooms plus restroom and shower. Lighthouse has a day bed with a pull-out. Goodnight and Sorenson have full size bunk beds. Both have a queen size bed. There are no kitchen facilities, but there is a table and charcoal grill located just outside. Cooking is not permitted inside the cabins. Bed linens and towels are provided. A maximum of 4 persons are permitted per cabin. (these cabins are a bit pricey at $110 per nite, but there is another option that seems like it might be a good choice: the Cow Camp Cabins, see below)

COW CAMP CABINS: In 1933, the C.C.C. built four very small cabins near the turn-around area of the park. Referred to as “Cow Camp Cabins”, these have been renovated and are available for rent. Three are one-room, and one has a second small “alcove” room off to the side. Each cabin has a full size bunk bed that sleeps four, a small table with two chairs, a small refrigerator, and a microwave. A picnic table and grill are available on the outside. Bed linens and towels are not provided. (Cow Camp Cabins are $60/night)

newcabin1

one of the "cow camp" cabins

We will be spending two nights here in Palo Duro Canyon (and one of the nights we will be going to see the Texas show elsewhere in the Canyon (and there is a dinner right before it, outside at the same location). I think we definitely do not want to do hike-in camping for the night that we are going to the show because after the performance it might be dark, and that is just too complicated… I kind of like the cow cabins… but would be fine with “Developed Primitive” too… what are your thoughts?

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

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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