Category Archives: Outdoors

Finally on the water

About year after we visited Smithville Lake to look at sailboats for Father’s Day, we finally have one of our own. On Thursday, we launched our 1981 Tanzer 26 on Lake Jacomo, spent the night on it, and moored it Friday.

I’d say our first time out on the water in some 15 years a success, even though we didn’t actually sail. Fuel line problems kept us in Sailboat Cove but our stay was pleasant and the people who helped us launch and provide advice as we moored for the first time ever  were a big help. The Jacomo Yacht Club family is the greatest. We look forward to potlucks, sailing, and making more new friends.

 

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Father’s Day at Smithville Lake

Once you’re children are old enough to drive, Father’s Day changes forever. With a daughter working at the pool and another at Missouri Scholars Academy in Columbia, my wife and I had our pick at what we wanted to do this holiday. Let’s just say that the empty nest is fast approaching and my dream of owning a sailboat again is growing stronger. That’s why we took a road trip to Smithville Lake just north of Kansas City, Mo.

There’s fishing, there’s camping, there’s hiking, there’s swimming beaches but — best of all — there’s sailing. I’m still several months away from sailing my own boat again but I got to keep the dream alive, at least a little bit on this hot, windy Father’s Day.

Easter weekend hike

So much can happen from day to day, especially in the spring. On March 30 we headed south to Bella Vista, Ark., to spend Easter weekend with family. That evening we visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville too look at the newest displays there. The next day, with temperatures near 70 degrees, we decided to visit Tanyard Creek Nature Trail to see how much water was coming from Lake Windsor over the falls of Tanyard Creek.

Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri had been inundated with rain so the creeks, rivers, and lakes there were higher than usual. That, combined with the pleasant weekend weather, made Tanyard Creek Trail a popular place to visit. The 2.2 mile, easy trail is dog friendly and has several features other than the falls. There are identifying markers throughout, such as at an Indian bluff shelter and another at an old homestead, as well those identifying native plants and trees along the trail. There are also a static bridge and a swinging bridge over the creek as well as plenty of rock to rock crossings for the more daring.

The mayapples were coming up and the redbuds were in bloom when we were there but we found no morels. We did, however, find icy roads and about a dozen traffic accidents as we headed north through Kansas City to our home some 300 miles away. Remember: Spring if fickle, especially when you live in Missouri.

Christmas Eve Hike

 

Yes, we’re going to have a white Christmas this year. So, with a bit of snow on the ground and shining sun, we decided to take a little Christmas Eve hike, let the dogs run, and get in a bit of exercise before hitting the eggnog. Surprisingly, we were the first and maybe even the only ones to visit Elam Bend Conservation Area.

 

Our youngest got to try her hand at driving on snow for the first time, we saw four young  bald eagles feeding on a road-kill coyote, and the dogs spooked a deer ahead of us on the trail. Now the dogs are tired, the Christmas cookies are baking, and we’re patiently awaiting Santa’s arrival. Merry Christmas.

Thanksgiving Geocaching

When November weather nears 70 degrees you have no excuse to stay inside, not even with a belly full of turkey, dressing, and cranberry relish. And if the weather is that nice the day before Thanksgiving, you definitely need to get outdoors for a hike to earn the next day’s dinner.

Thanksgiving took us to my in-laws in Bella Vista, Ark., so when the afternoon before Thanksgiving turned more than pleasant I told my two youngest daughters we’d better take advantage of it. We decided to hit a couple nearby trails for some easy hiking and a bit of geocaching, both of which are plentiful in Northwest Arkansas.

We found several geocaches. We also found waterfalls, caves, old homesites, and much more. We barely scratched the surface in the number of geocaches and trails to visit and will explore more next time we visit, just as we did when our daughters were toddlers when we lived in nearby Gravette, Ark., and Rogers, Ark., where the youngest was born.

 

Grand Trace Conservation Area

The camping bug had been nibbling away at me for quite some time. The problem was we were tight on funds. And I didn’t really want to spend a weekend in a state campground, hearing loud music I cared nothing about, and having car lights swing through the tent in the middle of the night. And we had recently added a dog, a clumsy puppy that we weren’t sure how he would react camping. So with that in mind I set up camp at Grand Trace Conservation Area near Bethany, Mo., for free camping and no neighbors and waited for my wife to get home from work.

Grand Trace is a 1,562-acre conservation area with a primitive camping area. There’s no water, no vault toilets, no actual hiking trails — nothing but a few fire rings, a gravel road, a couple of ponds, lots of timber, and more peace and quiet I had experienced in quite a while. One car came down the road Friday. Three came Saturday, one was a Missouri Department of Conservation agent, but not a single one came by after about 5 p.m. It was like having your very own campground.

Actually there were a couple of other visitors. Each morning and evening a cottontail would come by camp to nibble at clover. And each day, all day long, a bird — a mockingbird, perhaps? — tweeted a variety of songs from atop a pine over our heads. There were only a couple of drawbacks. One was that tick season was in full swing but we treat the dogs each summer for ticks and fleas so that wasn’t a major problem. The second was we became hot and dirty at times and came to the conclusion we need to invest in a camp shower. A pleasant breeze kept us comfortable most of the time. And as for the new puppy, well except for trying to get into the tent when it was zipped and awakening us at 6 a.m. each morning by jumping onto to our bed, he did great. Both dogs got all the exercise they needed. In fact so much so that after we got home they didn’t even want to go outside and explore the yard like they usually do. All they wanted to do was just lie around and nap.

Spring Fishing

After getting a new fishing license for the first time in a couple of years, this morning seemed like a good time to, uh, test the water.

I grabbed a rod and reel, a tackle box, my camera, a water bottle, a boiled egg, an apple, and, just in case I felt really lucky, my fly rod and some flies. It’s a good thing I took the egg and apple because not a single strike was to be had on the ponds at Emmett and Leah Seat Memorial Conservation Area. All I caught was morning solitude, the smell of blackened earth left from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s controlled burns this spring, and the sound of birds.

In fact except for a half dozen swallows sweeping insects above a pond and two turkey vultures having a road kill squirrel for brunch there were few bites of any kind. I did, however, lose two lures. But I’m happy to say I lost them to submerged logs and not to a tree limb like the one pictured above.