The annual meeting of the Ozark Regional Land Trust (http://www.orlt.org/) was held this past weekend in various locations in the Missouri Ozarks. For those who are not familiar with the ORLT, it is a non-profit organization with this Vision Statement: " That people in the Ozarks express their relationship to the natural environment by preserving its unique beauty through responsible stewardship and sustainable economic activity." The business meeting and lunch on Saturday were held at the Ozark Seed Bank (http://www.ozarkseedbank.org/) in the tiny community of Brixey, Missouri. The group then departed for a tour of the Alford Forest (http://www.alfordforest.org/). The Alford Forest is a 4,300 acre oak-pine-hickory forest in Ozark County in central Missouri. ORLT owns and protects 3,200 of these acres. The remaining 1,100 acres are privately owned, but protected by ORLT-overseen, conservation easements. The photos above were taken as the group accessed the edge of a section of the forest where forest manager David Haenke (in green shirt in upper left photo) explained to those present, the use of eco-forestry methods designed to improve the health of the forest.
Next the group drove to a location deeper within the forest with the goal of hiking to the headwaters of a stream that runs through the property. Although it was a very hot and humid day, the green canopy over the access trail helped make the hike more enjoyable. The upper right photo of this collage shows the ORLT Board President, Andrew Thomas, as well as the ORLT Board Secretary, attorney Jillian Hishaw.
Our group found the headwaters of the stream we were following, and took advantage of the waterfall there, to cool off, and go wading in the pool beneath the falls.
On Sunday, the group convened in front of the house at the Elixir Farm, as shown in middle, right photo (http://www.elixirfarm.com/), for instructions on the canoe/kayak trip planned for a long stretch of Bryant Creek, which runs through the Elixir Farm property. The upper right and lower left photos in this collage show some of the structures at the Elixir Farm. Our local guide for the waterways part of the trip was Kyle Kosovich (http://www.longboatoutfitters.com/) . He is shown in the upper left photo as he gives us some details of what to expect during the next few hours on the water. Fortunately, he had done the trip the day before---with a chain saw---so that any large trees crossing the river in such a way as to block our passage, could be appropriately trimmed. This was very helpful, but a few of the canoes tipped over anyway, when faced with an obstacle they could not maneuver around. However, with the temperatures hovering near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, no one seemed too upset about getting an unexpected "baptism" in the cool waters of Bryant Creek. And speaking of preserving the Ozarks, we cannot forget the common practice in the Ozarks, in days gone by, of a church group, all meeting at the creek, for the baptism of one or more of a congregation. Old photography records preserve numerous examples of this Ozark tradition, and I heard my parents speak many times of the "creek baptisms" they had participated in. Such a practice is based on Bible verses like Mark 16:16 that say "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." You will notice that in this blog, there are not photos of actual "in the water" activities. That is because I have been on enough canoeing and kayaking trips to know that my odds of unintentionally immersing my digital camera are pretty high, and there was such an incident with someones digital camera today. So you will just have to use your imagination in this particular blog post to visualize a clear, peaceful stream in the Ozarks, shaded with lush, green, overhanging sycamore trees,flowing beside beautiful limestone bluffs; imagine the sound of water rippling over river-smoothed stones, birds chirping, herons and red-tailed hawks soaring overhead, and great conversation with folks who share a passion for being good stewards of our earth. Better than just visualizing it---why not get out there and experience it yourself!! Wishing you miles of paddling smiles! Tricia