Lab hike at Cuivre River State Park

DSC07222    Are your best friends in your lab group? Are there lots of friendships and activities in the group? If so, it sure makes all that pipetting go more smoothly, not to mention struggling with R or finding true significance in your data.DSC07228

We took a lab hike on Sunday, meeting up at the visitor’s center at Cuivre River State Park, about 50 miles north of St. Louis. Only six of us could go, jeff smith, Tracy Douglas, Suegene Noh, Cassie Vernier, Tony Cantu, and me. Cuivre River State Park is an interesting area because it wasn’t really glaciated, while the area around it was. It also is an Ozark-like island among rolling farmland. Like the rest of the Ozarks, it has occasional vistas, occasional dry creeks with limestone shelves easing the desolation of steep oak-dominated tick-infested forests, generally lacking in understory except for poison ivy. You earn your natural glimpses in the Ozarks.

In November, hiking is a bit challenging because the thick rustle of leaves covered everything, roots, rocks, step downs, all muffled by leaves. I was glad I brought my hiking poles for what turned out to be nearly a nine mile hike.DSC07193

We hit Frenchman’s bluff early. From there we looked down on the Cuivre River and on a farmer harvesting oats. A bit farther north, around Bowling Green, we might have seen an Amish farmer using horses.IMG_1824

Our food arrangements were casual. We brought something for ourselves and something to share. There was trailmix, apples, pumpkin muffins, jerky, and egg salad sandwiches. Peanut m and ms rounded it out.

I thought a little about safety and brought a bivi sac and a camping pad in case someone got left while others went for help, an unlikely scenario with six.

Levi, the dachshund/Pekinese mix kept things active. We passed a golden retriever and a dalmatian and a couple of other dogs. On this crisp day with brilliant blue sky, the park was basically closed and abandoned. We had to hike up the road a mile to even get to the trailhead. Outhouses were mostly locked. The visitor’s center was closed.DSC07202

We hiked and hiked, getting into the rhythm of simply moving. Here and there were signs of the humans that once lived in this six thousand acre park. We saw a stone well, and a bit of a wooden fence. I picked up a piece of flint that might have been flaked by the first people. I dropped it for another to find and wonder over.

DSC07248Birds were few. A northern cardinal, tufted titmice, and chickadees brought the woods a bit away from desolation. At first I only heard the shriek of downy woodpeckers, but later also saw a red bellied woodpecker, then a pileated woodpecker heavily flying across the path. A spider, a wasp, and a beetle, a poison oozing meloid, rounded out the natural life.

Maybe Wednesday we’ll go out again, for a real freeze may be coming. I hope it brings frost flowers!


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in environment, Missouri natural areas, Ozarks and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s