I'm surprised to find it has been 3 weeks since my last post. We've certainly been busy in that time. I left off with us arriving in Wisconsin. During our time there we snuggled with Josiah, spent way too much time on Facebook reading political articles/posts/comments, proudly attended the Womens March in Madison, messed with our truck cap multiple times to finally get it close to how it was, got an alignment on the truck (wish that was done before all that driving on ice), visited Madison's state capitol (beautiful building), met Ivan for lunch, enjoyed dinner with friends then headed South back to Missouri.
Inside Madison State Capitol
First time trying cheese curds, fried cheese - can't go wrong
Josiah is very serious at his first protest
We are basically backtracking and doing what we should have done, and just headed South for the winter! In our hearts we felt we were doing the right thing, unfortunately we never made it to the Sacred Stone camp to see for ourselves what it was all about (we had and since have heard a lot of different sides to that story).
We reunited with Adam the ecological restoration and controlled burning expert. It was a joy to see him again. We spent our first day at the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis followed by lunch at a wonderful little Thai restaurant and warm cookies from across the street. We spent a few days at Adams house then went to his fathers farm in the Mark Twain national forest. It was burning season and Adam hadn’t done any yet, Lucky us! We were his little helpers and that consisted of Oohhs and aaahs the first evening as watched and were on hand if he needed assistance.
Great Thai food at a little hole in the wall
helping Adam process seeds, forgot to mention that part
Lots of fluffy seeds
To explain what little I know, Adam has the land broken up into sections of fields. There are certain fields that burn and some that don’t. The one’s that do are primarily made up of Native grasses and plants that thrive on burning every few years, some reasons are: Certain plants need fire to germinate, for plants to out compete other plants that don’t do well when they are burned, it also effects the soil chemistry. Now, controlled burns start with having the right conditions. Adam spends a lot of time looking at weather conditions to burn on the optimal day and time. There needs to be a few days of no rain. The winds and humidity are key on the day of. Before the burning starts there needs to be a fire break. This he creates by mowing around the area to burn; then, when the burning starts it is done up wind. So if you have a field with consistent west winds you start burning along the eastern edge of the field, this creates an even bigger fire break.
I have a TON of fire photos, here's a sampling from that day...
Burn day was a little too windy, so we waited until evening when the wind shifts and calms down, I think we started around 4-5pm. Since we were there Adam was taking his time and did an easy slow burn. He would gradually go further in and burn another 5-8 feet away from where the fire had burned into. If he really wanted to, once the fire break was sufficient, he could just go along the western edge and use the head wind to burn the field in just a few minutes. He burned 4 fields that evening this way, and it was super fun to watch. We stayed nice and toasty into the evening even as the temperatures dropped to the teens. Well, until the burning stopped at least. Then we crawled into our sleeping bags, me fully dressed in wool, and fell asleep.
The next day he planned on a woodland fire and another prairie field fire. The woodland fire was very different as it didn’t have as much fuel, the flames didn’t get as large and the burn was even slower than the prairie fire the day before. The prairie field that day had a LOT of fuel on the other hand and at one point I felt like the hairs on my cheek were burning off.. it did for a few people. He had a lot more help this day as these fields were larger than the day before. It was a good thing too because a spark did get into a neighboring field that had to be put out.
End of the large prairie fire
Again, I have a LOT of photos and videos, unfortunately not enough time right now to post them.
That evening we dined on a delicious stew of venison, carrots, onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes and love. The next day we rode to O’reillys to buy a new starter relay, the starter was acting up on the truck. Thankfully that fixed the problem, it could have easily been a longer story. We then said our farewells and continued South to Arkansas.
Our first stop was the Buffalo River National Forest. We stayed at Kyles Landing campsite for 3 days. The weather was a wonderful 60-70‘s during the day, and a chilly 20-30‘s at night. We spent the first two days at the campsite, doing only a short hike on one day. Mostly we lounged around taking in the sun, doing warm day activities. We woke the third morning to an unreasonable amount of smoke. We were planning on driving out to a hike so we just got dressed and left. At the trailhead we talked to locals who told us they were doing controlled burns nearby for the next few days. Matthew has asthma so this was a downer. We headed back to the campsite to get our stuff and leave but that smoke had cleared in the hour we were gone. Matthew thought we should take advantage and take a quick hike then decide if we should leave. We did a loop on a trail off the campsite and noticed smoke in the distance. On this hike we got to cross the river, twice. That means we took off our socks and shoes, walked almost up to our knees in freezing cold water, twice. The first time wasn’t too bad, it was only about ankle deep, until the last bit when it reached calf level. I only cried a little that time. By the second crossing my feet were more accustomed and I didn’t cry at all!
He found an oak leaf as large as his head!
First time seeing an Armadillo in person
second river crossing
I don’t know for sure why I do this to myself. I guess it goes along with pushing against my comfort zones. As Matthew calls it, this is type 2 fun - the kind that you only call fun after, not during the activity.
So far our impression of Arkansas is crooked and steep. There are many winding roads. The one we took to get to our second campsite is called the tail of the dragon. We went to Sam’s Throne next, about 30 min South of where we were. The next few days were quite cold, only 30-40‘s. We spent the first day at the campsite working some more on projects and trying to stay warm. I bucked a downed tree for campfire. It was an effective way to keep warm. We also did a short workout at the campsite.
view from Sam's throne
The second day we did a hike around Sam’s Throne to scope out some rock climbing spots. This place has over 100 possible climbs. The rock is beautiful sandstone, with several colors in the rock, some orange, black, green and reds in various combinations. We got very excited. Although it was cold, a lot of the rock is facing the sun and it was warm enough to climb. The next day the weather was going to be similar so we planned to climb. That didn’t happen. It was too cold, just barely got above freezing and cloudy most of the day. Instead the day consisted of keeping a nice warm fire going, drinking lots of tea and typing on our computers (me writing, he programming).
waiting to rappel down, to hike to the rocks in the left of the photo
Matthew rappelling down one of the climbs
Hiking back to camp with the sun setting and moon out
The following day (yesterday) was gorgeous! It was a clear, sunny, 65 degree day. It was rock climbing day. After months of not climbing we just wanted to climb all day long. We kept it simple with only doing toprope climbs. It was a glorious day of climbing until the sun was setting. The quality of climbing is amazing. The rock is beautiful, there are a large variety of climbs and it has huge jugs that make it really easy... at least the routes we were doing. We saw a few routes that are way out of our level, forget about forearm strength, I would need serious tip of the finger strength to do those.
Ok, that's all for now. I've been on the computer for entirely too long today and we need to get food. I hope all you lovely readers are doing well.