Category Archives: Winter

A New Cheap Daypack

The old free Sierra Club daypack had served its purpose. It had carried water bottles, oranges, apples, sandwiches, M&Ms, peanuts, deer sheds, assorted rocks, a wide variety of feathers and more treasures my two youngest girls discovered on our explorations over the last twelve years or so.

Because of that, I had been watching the price of a cheap daypack at Walmart for weeks. As soon as the fall deer season was over and the pack was marked down from about $50 to $25, I bought it.

This morning the dog and I tried it out with a windy almost warm hike at Elam Bend. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the pack — a Mossy Oak Highland Internal Frame — when I bought it but I knew it would certainly be better than the old flimsy Sierra Club pack. So when the hiking bug wouldn’t let loose I thought it would be dumb to waste a relatively warm February day and filled the Mossy Oak with some water, a few treats, warm clothes and a bit of gear and tried it out.

The pack, weighing about 20 pounds loaded, did all right. In fact is was much better than the old Sierra Club, which had no waste belt. The Mossy Oak was fit snug and comfortable during our two-mile or so hike. The pack turned out to be much larger than I first expected — 64 liters. There’s a couple of storage compartments, another small one on top, plenty of zippered internal storage pockets, a couple of side pockets perfect for water bottles or tent poles, and a place for water bladder. In fact the pack is large enough I plan to try it out as a weekend pack later this year.

And as far as discoveries this hike, I didn’t come across any I needed to bring back with me. It’s more fun when my girls make their own discoveries. The only thing is that now that they’re both in high school our explorations are fewer and fewer. That’s just the way it is, though. We’ve still got three granddaughters and a grandson who I’m sure would enjoy scaring up a flock of wild turkey, finding an abandoned bird’s nest, wondering if a coyote or hawk or something else that scattered bluejay feathers as leftovers and marveling at the dozens of Canada geese fly overhead toward their summer homes.

March snow

This morning I picked green onions from my garden to make coleslaw. This afternoon my narcissus is covered in snow. Snow in March, you ask? Yes, this is Missouri.

It’s been snowing off and on all afternoon but now it’s sticking. Of course it will all be gone by tomorrow and by Monday the temperatures will be back in the 70s. That’s just the way it is and the way it’s likely to be at least until late April or early May.

I can remember one April several years ago when nearly three feet of snow kept me from town when we lived not too far north of here near Russell, Iowa. I don’t think that’s going to happen here this year but who knows. Although I’ll be wearing shorts again next week tomorrow’s just the first day of spring.

Gulf Coast

Windchill. Whiteout. Wintry.

Anytime a meteorologist uses one of the “W” words it’s time to think of places where weather forecasts include “sunny,” “bright,” and “pleasant.”

And when you hear one of the “W” words too often it’s time to go beyond thinking and actually doing. For us it was an all too short trip to Gulf Shores to spend time at a beach house my wife’s parents rent every winter. Our two teens, my wife, and I joined her brother, his wife, and their two boys for nearly a week with Grandpa and Grandma on the beach. The youngsters got to play in the sand and the adults got to take a break from winter in Missouri.

We tried to avoid the tourist traps all too common along the coast and instead visit places like Fort Pickens State Park on the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the National Naval Aviation Museum. There are plenty of other sites of interest beyond the t-shirt and seashell shops lining the highways. Try Big Lagoon State Park, Naval Live Oaks Reserve, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, or ride the ferry to Dauphin Island and spend some time at the Sea Lab there.

February is snowbird season on the Gulf Coast. It’s too cool to swim and warm days on the beach aren’t guaranteed. If it rains, visit someplace like Joe Patti’s Seafood Market or the National Naval Aviation Museum instead of the overabundant souvenir shops. Make seafood, walks on the beach, and sand castles and kites with kids priorities. Then, when you return home, those last few weeks of winter will be a bit more tolerable.

Emmett and Leah Seat Conservation Area

Less than a mile north of town three turkeys crossed the highway ahead of us. With snow melting on a free Sunday afternoon, getting outside seemed like a good idea and the turkey running down into the ditch seemed like a good sign we had made the right decision.

Emmett and Leah Seat Memorial Conservation Area is a good place to explore, especially on a warm winter day with snow melting all around. The youngest had hoped to find a new hill to sled down but I warned her we weren’t likely to find such a spot. Sledding was short but creating a mermaid out of snow on a frozen lake was worthwhile.

We found several spots where ice fishermen had recently been, as well as a well used deer crossing on the lake. We also visited the archery range and Walker Cemetery while there. Seat Memorial Conservation Area covers more than 3,400 acres with more than a dozen ponds and is managed for bobwhite quail. It’s also home to trophy sized whitetails, a healthy wild turkey population, and plenty of rabbits and doves. And the fishing’s not bad either, winter, spring, summer or fall.

Winter Fun

It snowed Saturday night and again most of the day Tuesday in this part of the state. The kids didn’t get the snow day they had hoped for this morning so no photos from the most recent snow, at least not yet, but here are a few shots of my children (and one of Dad) from winters past.

Kids of all ages — as well as parents — should play outside, especially in the winter. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, fly to Colorado and learn to snow ski. Just get outside and play, especially when they close school because of the snow.

Elam Bend

What better way to begin a new year than with a hike? A relatively warm day was the perfect time to explore Elam Bend Conservation Area south of where we live. Identify animal tracks in the snow, look for whitetail sheds, walk across a pond or two if the ice is thick enough and, if you’re lucky, startle a turkey or deer.

Elam Bend covers more than 1,400 acres along the Grand River. There are no designated hiking trails but there are plenty of Missouri Department of Conservation roads to explore. There’s fishing along the river, deer and turkey are plentiful, and I’ve seen quail and pheasant a time or two. There’s also a shooting range and primitive camping. Old Havana Trail runs through the east side of Elam Bend where you can find the Newby Cemetery from the late 1800s and a boat ramp that provides a great place to end a Grand River float trip after putting in at Gentryville.