You’d think this whole being allergic to autumn thing would deter me from frolicking out in it, but I installed a scaffold framework under my left eyeball so it couldn’t ooze down my face (loaded up on benadryl, I’m still floating) and spent the last three weeks running around all over the place.
We took off for miles two weekends in a row, one to Stockton Lake and one to Silver Dollar City, both during what turned out to be a lengthier than usual peak autumn foliage in the Ozarks. We have the potential for spectacular color around here, but so often get cut short by sudden sheering winds and nasty cold rains that the leaves get stripped off before we have the chance to bask in their glory. THIS year, autumn walked in casually, hung its coat and hat on the rack at the door like a gentleman, sauntered to a comfortable seat and quipped with the waitress before ordering a pot of coffee, settling itself in to regale us with made up tales of courage and daring do. We got more than two weeks before most of the leaves even thought about the oh-why-not leap into whirlygig freedom around my parts, and it turned into a slow almost choreographed Disney-ish promenade that is still happening on my street. Because the last several autumns have been so disappointing, I had my camera *ready*. There is no “I’ll go back and get that tomorrow” in Missouri. And now, true to nature’s ways, here come the cold winds and rain, and tomorrow the magic part will be all gone, just in time for the spooky Halloween part.
All the thumbnails click out to full size.
The hardest part is trying to catch the real magic on camera. Some of the trees around here go through more than one color change that slowly dots through the trees until you see everything from green to yellow to orange to red to bronze and brown all at the same time on one tree, and it’s stunning, but it keeps changing so quickly that the next day the variegated colors are done. Another tree might turn a bright yellow, then shade to a slightly oranger yellow, kind of like peaches, and then get a burnt sienna overlay that makes it look delicious when the sun hits just right. And while some of the tamer red maples go red all over and lose their leaves quickly, the wilder indigenous ones will flame up more slowly, with the red creeping through the green and then the edges of the red leaves crisping up like the edges of a berry pie in the oven, until brown laces all the red leaves. When the bright sun comes out, the trees glow, and I’ve never been able to truly catch that quality on a camera, even an expensive one. The pictures will come out brighter and more colorful, but you have to be *in* the woods under the canopy while the sun comes out to be part of the glow, like the magical Elven wood Lothlorien. In the upper left corner of this first one you can see a little leaf sticking up that is yellow AND red with the slight brown edging that I was talking about.
Persimmon trees remind me of peach pie.
By now, regular readers of my silly survey blog are recognizing my aspie ‘train spotting’ quirk as a tree obsession that goes into synesthesia overload when all the colors come out. Since I grew up in the desert without a lot of trees, and now I’m surrounded by them because I live in the woods, it’s all magical. I LIVE IN MIRKWOOD, guys. Yeah, *spiders*. The Ents around me may not be fully awake, but the whispering never stops.
People living along the coasts might be surprised to know that we get some of your seagulls coming through the heartland. Hundreds of them circled in while we were at Stockton.
No idea what this was about. We get a few fun loving eccentrics hiding out in these hills.
I don’t think I had been on Glade Top Trail in over 20 years. I’ve been sandwiched in between metro and tourist cities in a rural covenanted subdivision for so long that I kinda feel like I’m caught in a rat race. I lived on hundreds of acres near national forest during high school, so yesterday was awesome to get out and really breathe, even if it was only metaphorical. My histamines shot through the roof, so I had to crank up the benadryl a little.
My dad is one county over. The countryside from here to there is like night and day. This is still pretty tame a little over halfway to his house.
Most tourists come through the Ozarks and think they’re seeing rugged and beautiful, but it’s usually from the comfort and safety of people milling around a theme park or zipline. Seeing ‘the woods’ from a highway isn’t the woods. My first 14 years were spent in New Mexico thinking that ‘woods’ were the pine trees in the Colorado mountains. I couldn’t imagine the kind of woods in “Where the Red Fern Grows”, more like jungle growing right up out of steep jagged flint, the bones of the earth. We moved to the Ozarks when I was first hitting high school, and we lived in The Woods, creepy and magical, just like in fairy tales. “Wild thing from the wild woods, what do you want?” (Kipling, Just So Stories) Our dog was part coyote, one of our cats was half bobcat. I know because I saw that thing born from a stray cat out of the woods, the hugest ugliest tailless kitten we ever saw, and only room for one. I don’t know how that birth didn’t kill the mother. That kitten was bigger than she was when it was only half grown and never would tame down. Also, have to add this, us kids walked a mile one way just to get on a school bus, regardless of the weather. One day we stepped over a black snake stretched across the dirt road, well over 5 feet long. Never catch those and keep them in a jar, by the way, they really smell bad.
You don’t properly leave ‘metro’ until you’ve passed this point, the highest elevation for miles before a twisty plunge into another world decades behind this one. It’s kind of like traveling back into the 1970′s for me, but back in the 80′s it was like going back to the 50′s. Every time I travel through this countryside I imagine Hobbits traveling by pony to far away places, and how hard it would be for me without the highway. I think we take highways way too for granted nowadays.
And at that point I passed a house that has never had electricity. That’s a pretty rare thing, even in the most rural areas, and it’s right on the highway. I’ve been in that house, the people are sane and normal, they just like living without distraction. I doubt they have the kinds of anxiety issues that plague nearly one fifth of American adults, including me.The United States of Anxiety
We picked up my sister before we went to Dad’s. She lives down this magical road. Do you believe in fairies and pixies?
Don’t worry, she’s a big believer in electricity, even though she’s hand quilting a project from scratch. I don’t have the patience for that. I noticed she’s got a bumper crop of persimmons, the equivalent of deer candy.
Dropped a bunch of homemade goodies in my dad’s freezer (it’s his birthday, he’s 83 now) and put him in the front with the atlas. All us kids grew up with an atlas, learning to ‘navigate’. We’re all sort of obsessed with maps because of that, me to the point where I took a cartography class in my resource planning degree program so I could learn the history of how they are made, and even make one myself. I loved visiting the big map room in the college library, but back to Dad. He refuses to join our modern age, so it was all about that atlas, although he eventually got so fascinated by the Tom-Tom that he couldn’t put it down.
All roads lead to Rome, they say, so it wasn’t long until we were driving over the historical Rome bridge, originally built in 1913 and closed to traffic for a time in 2007 for severe structural deficiency. But little things like that don’t stop anyone from driving over it. Never saw a warning posted this time.
:update: 7-24-15 I just found out the Rome bridge has now been dismantled, but it’s well documented with really good pictures on Facebook.
We overshot and wound up way on the other side of Glade Top, thanx to a sign being shorn right off a metal pole, possibly from a tornado that skipped through awhile back. We had to turn around and go back up this highway. Can you imagine how beautiful this scene will be in a few more weeks when the foliage turns?
We eventually arrived, and x marked the spot on the map.
There are plenty of places to stop and take in views all around.
We probably saw a hundred squirrels and a couple of wild turkeys, but I was more focused on trying not to look down the sheer drop offs along one side of the road. My sister’s girl made up a ghost story during a field trip to Glade Top about a young married couple who plunged to their deaths in a Model T, and the story gets retold to this day. Kinda makes you wonder if most ghost stories are started by kids, and they’re around so long it becomes ‘fact’. That was almost 20 years ago. Note of trivia- my sister’s mother-in-law’s family owned the Glade Top property until the government incorporated it into the Mark Twain National Forest.
I’ve always had a hard time driving along steep drops, so I asked my sister if she remembered how we’d ask to ride in the back of the pickup when Dad took us up mountains so we could plan on bailing and leaping out before he slid off and rolled down a steep mountainside, and she totally remembered it. Dad would drive as close to the edge as possible so he could get a better view, and more than once we felt a tire slip. I utterly trust my dad, he has never ever let anything bad happen to us, but more because he walked the line of faith than held an arm in front of us. I grew up feeling like I need to be ready to bail in case of utter disaster and annihilation, even though it never happened. To this day I feel safer in the bed of a pickup than I do in the front seat, and I still have nightmares about driving up 90 degree inclines and clinging for dear life to the steering wheel and praying the whole vehicle doesn’t just fall off the road backwards. Come to find out, so does my sister… It was very hard for me to sit through watching the Titanic sinking because I know what hanging onto the pickup felt like going up and down steep hills. As I got older I realized I could get out and walk, and I did, far enough away so I’d be clear of where the pickup might roll. But it never did.
That atlas gave us stuff to bicker about several times. Dad was like a robot caught in a logic loop over the ‘missing’ road numbers (take a plat map if you go!), and my sister finally grabbed the atlas and became the navigator. I knew before I ever got to Dad’s it would be like this, having grown up with the guy, so I got a big kick out of the whole thing. And it turned out I was right, we had crossed over into Taney County, and then cross back into Ozark County as we twisted around the little mountain.
Missouri still has execution laws.
Finally reached a nice picnic area near the top. They keep it fixed up because there are so many local groups and activities on Glade Top, including the Foxtrotters (horses) and the annual Flaming Fall Revue: A Barbecue and Music Event. You can see the old fire tower still standing. When our kids were young, people would still climb it, but I think now they’ve got warnings on it now because it’s getting too old.
After Glade Top we went out a different way to Theodosia to eat lunch at Cookie’s by the marina. Scott couldn’t resist the homemade malt.
Then we cut back through around Glade Top. I found the whole drive to be very satisfying after a hectic year in my own life.
And I’m a little envious of some of the people living on the rolling land around there. You never know where people will lose themselves when they’ve got the money to live the sustainable life, and I was a little surprised at a few of the ‘mansions’ tucked away in the hills.
For those who read the pre-drive post and are curious, no, Dad never did start building his coffin yet. In a couple weeks it’ll be 3 years since Mom died, and it’s really hard being alone after a long marriage. I’m also thrilled that this drive experiment went so well, I’ve barely been able to travel or sit in a car very long for about 5 years, and apparently the stuff I’m learning in physical therapy and strength training is working really well. I was able to control my pain levels just by getting out of the car every little bit and doing certain extension exercises, and if I can maintain that kind of control, I might be able to start traveling again. #veryexciting
:edit: I caught my sister on video talking about when she stayed at a cabin at Star Valley Retreat right there at Glade Top Trail, so if anyone reading this post is wondering about where to stay if they come scout out the Glade Top Trail side of Mark Twain National Forest, you can keep up with their current events and specials at Star Valley Retreat on Facebook. :edit: Oops, looks like they have closed, sorry about that.
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