Monday, 28 May 2012

Long Weekend in Columbia, MO

On our Canadian long weekend (May 19-21; Victoria Day; thank you Queen Vicky for your birthday present!) we took a trip to Columbia, Missouri, a place we had encountered on our drive out west last year. It's a smallish University town/city with lots of funky places to visit, vegan restaurants and brewpubs, in fact, some of the best brewpubs we know (and we know a lot of 'em). We also did a fair bit of mini-hiking while there in nearby state parks. I'll focus on the parks in this late mini-report.

We arrived on Friday afternoon after more than a few misadventures. It became almost like the movie "Groundhog Day" as we attempted to get from St. Louis (we had flown in there) to Columbia. I won't go into the details because I'd probably punch a hole through the keyboard from typing stressfully hard.
Anyway, suffice it to say that we made it. A visit to the Main Squeeze restaurant and Broadway Brewery soon made us forget the preceding nastiness.

The next morning, Saturday, dawned very warm, and it just got warmer. We headed out to Rockbridge SP relatively early and headed out on a trail (after saving two box turtles from the busy road). We did about 4 miles on this trail, which led to the natural rock bridge of note and on the trail across the road (Gan's Creek Ridge trail), but I can't be sure because my Garmin Forerunner decided to stop working. I don't know if it was the thick tree canopy or not, but it should have worked on the ridge trail. Very frustrating. Anyway, here are some pics courtesy of Mike:

Boardwalks and overlooks throughout the forest made for great views! From here, I could hear voices through the dark patch in the left of the photo!!!??? Little did I know.

This is the other side of the "dark patch", the actual rock bridge that gives the park its name. You can go right inside this and it is lovely and cool, with water flowing broadly through.
Here Mike is inside the cavern looking back out at me.

The ridge trail across the road was exposed with lots of long grass. It was becoming quite hot, but luckily there was a breeze. The long grass posed its own problems, however, as we were to discover after returning home.

Lots and lots of butterflies!!!!
On to Jefferson City for lunch at Prison Brews (really cool place!), then poke around the historic district of town. Back to Columbia to clean up and on to Flat Branch Brewing Co., one of our favourite places. They have really good cask conditioned ale and a wonderful housemade vegan burger. After dinner, we walked about a mile on the MKT trail (a rails-to-trails path) that goes right from the brewery and eventually connects to the long distance Katy trail. They've done a nice job of making the trail accessible and friendly for families and visitors:

While at Gan's Creek on Saturday, we saw that they had a "wildenress" trail which is our cup of tea, so we opted for this on Sunday. It was an incredible walk, about another 4 miles, a lot of it quite hilly, with great overlooks:

Lovely trails, lovely woods.

The big surprise! We came around a bend in thrail, up on a ridge, and there was this still-wet snapper ambling along! Must have been a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. They travel quite far to do this.

That evening, we decided to check out Ragtag Cinema, an alternative film house, and saw two films: "Footnote", an Israeli film about the life of an aging academic and his disfuntional relationship with his son and others, and "Kid with a Bike", a French film dealing with how both utter rejection and unconditional love can affect a 10-year-old.  If this theatre was near me, I'd be hanging out there constantly. The seating is a "ragtag" collection of sofas and armchairs in the smaller theatre, and the cafe/bar that is part of it has microbrews, wines, coffee and edibles that you can take in the theatre. Great, attentive audience, too.

Monday we had to make our way back to St. Louis to fly home, but stopped at Graham's Cave State park for a 3-mile amble enroute. Very cool place: built up, but not overly so, and very well-maintained. The cave is an archaeological site that has provided a lot of valuable info about the early indigenous people.

Again, beautiful forest walk.

The cave - impossible to give scale (those white blobs on the left-hand side of it are large signs), this cave must have been a incredible find to the people who lived here. Shelter for the entire group, reliable water nearby and great hunting.

We flew home that afternoon. Our flight was an hour late, but that didn't really affect us much. What a great weekend!

And now for a footnote...remember I mentioned that the long grass at the ridge trail caused some problems? Turns out that Mike picked up some ticks, probably there. One large female Lone Star tick and five seed ticks. Not surprising we didn't notice them until much later. There probably had been more seed ticks originally, but they are really, really tiny. Anyway, I now know how to effectively remove ticks (it can be tricky!) and a quick trip to the doctor will be in order if any symptoms pop up. So far, a week later, none. We don't really encounter them here, but now know some preventive measures for the future. Live and learn.....hopefully not the hard way.

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