Tuesday, 20 October 2009

MO trees.. rivers... lakes..

Our stopping off point in Missouri was the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozarks but we didn't have much info about these. From the map it looked as if Route 60 went straight through the forest so we just stayed on that and hoped we would see signs for potential hiking areas. Eventually we saw a sign for Pinewoods Lake so we turned off and at the end of a tiny road found ourselves completely alone with a large lake. There was a rough trail around the lake so we walked the whole perimeter and didn't see or hear anything except wind through the trees and the occasional woodpecker.

Next stop was the tiny Ozarks town of Van Buren which hasn’t cleaned up since the election...

… but according to the delightful guy in the Hawthorne Motel......

... Van Buren becomes a party town in the summer when loads of tourists turn up to take boats out on the (very strong) Current River. It certainly couldn't be called a party town in October although there was a slight air of excitement in the deli and grocery store down the road which seems to be the focal point for the whole town. In fact they were even selling CDs by local bands so I bought a couple and it has to be said that Van Buren rocks. The variation on the Powdermill CD was definitely more engaging than Shund which sounded a lot like all the other bands doing that kind of angsty metal. Shame really because there were also two very short jams featuring a mandolin and jaw harp and if they threw that into the rock mix it could make it unique in its genre.

The river is absolutely central to tourist (and local) activities which explain why we couldn't find many forest trails to hike off Route 60. However, we then discovered an easily accessible part of the ancient Ozark trail which was a beautiful hike through tall autumnal trees and once again we had the whole place to ourselves.

We also went to see Big Spring which appears from nowhere, is amazingly green and provides the Current River with more than 80% of its water and Blue Spring which really is blue although that didn't come out in the photos.

We then drove west on 60 again through seemingly endless trees and ended up in Monnet for the night where we had a great evening at the Bayou restaurant. It was a Saturday night and I think the entire population of Monnet must have been in there.

Sticking to Route 60 all the way through Missouri did make it seem as if the state is one huge forest. It was a nice drive although it was a little sad seeing road kill armadillos. Driving anywhere outside of cities there are always dead animals along the roads and I can now identify road kill from 50 metres. It’s been mostly squirrels, raccoons and groundhogs but occasionally a falcon or a deer and we're now in armadillo territory. I guess this explains the constant presence of turkey vultures above the highways as well. They must have been particularly pleased by the invention of the internal combustion engine!

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