For almost a year, a group of ladies I kayak with, have had August 21, 2017, marked on their calendars, as the date for a float trip in Missouri, on the Meramec River. As the number of "yes" RSVP's to the invitation continued to grow, it was determined that a "larger than normal" overnight rental property was going to be needed. And that explains this photo of a small sign, attached to a fence post, indicating this is the "Meramec Hideaway" ( www.RiverHillsRetreats.com ). And, may I assure you, it earns its name as a "hideaway"! Even though I had two different GPS systems in operation as I tried to locate the property, neither one of them would accurately direct me to it! Fortunately, part of the group had arrived a few hours earlier, and sent smart phone messages with photographs of a certain tree and locked gate, that I should be looking for, in order to know where to turn off the pavement. However, the search was worth it, as the Meramec Hideaway was the perfect location for 19 ladies, and 19 kayaks, to have ample space to enjoy this two night/three day adventure!
The date and location for this adventure all centered around getting to the "Band of Totality" for the August 21, 2017, Total Solar Eclipse. In honor of the occasion, those who wanted to, could purchase one of the custom-designed tee shirts, as a souvenir. This photo shows how the tee shirts have the added feature of glowing in the dark, under the red fluorescent lights we all had to pass through, as we started the cave tour! As an explanation of the design, "WHO" stands for "Women Hiking the Ozarks". This group has a "subgroup" of women who kayak, as well as hike, and that group is known as the "WHO YAKERS". Since the Meramec River area, just south of St. Louis, Missouri, was in the band of totality, and is about a three hour drive from where most of us live, it seemed to perfect location to view the eclipse!
After the gals arrived at the HideAway, and put on our special tee shirts, we headed over to Onondaga State Park ( www.mostateparks.com/park/Onondaga-cave-state-park ), to tour the cave. This photo shows one of the largest rooms in the cave, with its switchback metal and concrete trail, leading up to the ceiling of the room. We all enjoyed the cool temperatures of the caverns, as well as the stunning examples of almost every kind of underground cave formation known. Then, when the tour ended, we drove back to the HideAway for a potluck taco supper. As we swallowed the last bites of that delicious meals, it was back into the cars to drive to the park's amphitheater for a special presentation by a park astronomer, who gave us a WONDERFUL lesson (complete with images projected onto a large screen at the front of the amphitheater) about the significance of tomorrow's Total Solar Eclipse, and what we could expect to see, hear, and feel, as we experienced it.
Next door to the Onondaga State Park, a visitor will find the main headquarters of the massive outdoors concessionary, known as the "Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort", in Leasburg, Missouri ( www.ozarkoutdoors.net ). By renting the Hideaway through their reservation system, it gave us the needed "permission slip parking passes", that enabled us to use their river launch and parking facilities. This is significant because floaters cannot put in and take out, anywhere along the Meramec River, that they choose. The river flows through hundreds of acres of privately owned property. Although using the river through that private property is not against the law, trespassing on a private landowners property beyond the river, is against the law.
Thisphoto shows the kayaks lined up and ready to launch from the expansive gravel beach area, owned by Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort.
This group has several excellent photographers, and the one named Cindy improvised a camera stand on the railing of the kayak trailer, to get this group photo before we started down the river. It is always good to have a "beginning" group photo, so we will know if we ended up with the same number at the end of the float, as what we started with! We call ourselves a "leaderless group of adventurers", and we all sign a liability release before we start. However, so far we have been blessed to say there has been "no gal left behind" on the river outings!
It was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day in the Ozarks, as we prepared our boats and bodies to enter the water! Most of the ladies stayed behind at the launch site, while another group--called the shuttle drivers--headed off to take vehicles to the part of the river where we would disembark.
As the shuttle drivers were passing through Onondaga State Park, we encountered Chris, the Park Ranger we had met the night before at the astronomy program in the amphitheater. He had told the group, that we could find him after wards to get our very own "Missouri Junior Ranger Badge". So when the shuttle drivers saw him the morning of August 21, we eagerly approached him, reminding him of his promise! I took this photo of the ladies who were part of the shuttle crew.
As a former Girl Scout, with the "merit badge mentality" firmly entrenched in my psyche, I persisted until I could ALSO get a photo made of ME with my "Missouri Junior Ranger Badge"! I would not be surprised if Ranger Chris later filled out a report, saying everything was calm in the park on "Total Solar Eclipse" day, with the possible exception of being run down by a car full of older ladies from Arkansas, wanting a souvenir sticker!
When the shuttle drivers finally returned to the launch area, as we always do before a float, we "Circle Up", to say our name, and "number off". This was also when Diana----official "co-RC" (River Coordinator)----made the "presentation" to each of them, of their Missouri Junior Ranger Badge---no doubt, a highlight of their morning!!) Usually, many of us pray silently, asking for God's blessing of a safe float. But on this day, I was VERY THANKFUL that one of the gals (who is the wife of a retired pastor), offered to say a group prayer out loud. After all, we were about to witness one of the most spectacular events that occurs in God's celestial heavens, so it seemed appropriate to acknowledge the immensity of it!
The first part of our "paddle pathway" took us down a stretch of river known as "Tubing area". This means that the guests of the Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Retreat can enjoy their floating circles down the gently flowing river, and be assured there is a shuttle waiting at the end, to return them to their vehicle or campsite. I was amused at this father using his smart phone to take photos of his young son. Apparently the young son was NOT amused, because he later gave his father (and the phone) a thorough splashing!
Visitors enjoying the tubing section of the river can stop as they wish, to play, picnic, or just sit in a chair in the water, and watch the world go by! Since this was my first time to float the Meramec, I do not know if it is always so popular, but on this Monday of the Solar Eclipse, it was wonderful to see families with their children, enjoying the outdoors!
Although the phrase "whitewater", usually indicates a rougher, more difficult section of a river, in the case of this image, the band of "whitewater" is simply a reflection of the sun on a section of the river with a few ripples. Personally, I was thankful that it was such a "peaceful" river. Some people like lots of rapids, but "rapids" is what happens to my heart beat when I encounter a scary section of flowing water!
I am always on the lookout for a photo opportunity to post on a public page on Facebook called "Look at the Front of My Kayak" ( www.facebook.com ). It gives viewers the ability to see the world, as it is seen by kayakers across the globe---there are no language barriers to separate various nations, in pictures that just show the front of a kayak! The only requirement is that the photo must have the front tip of your kayak in it. To me, a photo is more interesting if the space ABOVE the water has a subject of interest, as well as the space of water,in front of the kayak. This sycamore tree growing at a near- ninety degree angle to the river, fascinated me as it defied gravity to stretch out across the river, and provided the "photo prop" I was looking for!
There were numerous other photo opportunities along the river, with some very tall limestone bluffs lining numerous sections we passed.
I was intrigued by the appearance of the openings in one of the bluffs, as they reminded me of man-made Roman arches, liked those made to support the water viaducts of an ancient empire .
We were all in agreement that we wanted to be stopped on the bank (rather than floating down the river) at the time the eclipse reached totality, so the ever-helpful co-RC, Peggy V., who was the lead kayak, scouted out a perfect location. It was a very long gravel bar, that even had a "protected harbor", where the kayakers could get out of their boats, without the interference of the current. Likewise, it was big enough that all 20 kayaks could find a "mooring" for the approximately two hours we would be stopped for lunch and eclipse viewing. It was a wide section of the river, not covered with overhanging trees, so we were afforded a 360 degree view of the path of the sun---it was PERFECT!
While we waited for the big event, I used the little tripod I brought to try to get set up to take another group photo. If you count heads, you will see that we started with twenty ladies and we still had twenty, midway through the trip! Yippee!!
Another "staged" group photo shows us wearing our eclipse shirts, and eclipse glasses, and pointing heavenward, toward to the "big show in the sky", on August 21, 2017!
Ellen is all smiles as she settles in to watch the "First Contact", as the moon "takes a bite out of the sun", in its slow journey to make a rounded disc, that will completely cover the center of the sun.
Withover an hour to wait in the hot August temperatures, the group "kept their cool" by relaxing in the pleasantly flowing waters of the the Meramec River.
Some of the ladies brought folding chairs in their kayaks, and some just used a beach towel to stretch out, for viewing the skies---either way worked just fine!
This is a photo I took during the approximately two minutes of Totality we had, where it was safe to look at the sun without our special light-blocking eclipse glasses. You can see it was darker, but yet not so dark that one could not see their surroundings.
The river took on a glow during Totality, that reminded me of the title of the popular Andy Williams song, Moon River. This photo shows a river not glowing from moon light, but rather, glowing from what happens when the moon's SHADOW covers the sun! It was an awesome sight!
When Totality was over, and we started back down the river, we were surprised to see that on the far end of the same gravel bar where we were located, other "eclipse chasers" from DOWNSTREAM, had used their gigantic boat motors to travel several miles upstream to find a suitable riverside location for viewing. One might think that because there are trucks parked on the gravel bar, that this is a pubic access. However, we found out from chatting with the drivers of the vehicles, while waiting on the eclipse, that it was not public access, and that these vehicles belonged to the landowners. They assured us that as long as we had accessed the gravel bar via the river, and not the locked gate that protects their property from the highway, we were in a "legal zone". (It would have been embarrassing to have to see Missouri Park Ranger Chris again, under the unpleasant circumstances of charges for criminal trespassing!)
Even though seasoned "river folk" recommend AGAINST tying large rafts together, (because they create such a large, un-maneuverable floating barge down the river), we saw a few groups "rafting up" for a lazy, unsteerable float on the Meramec!
When you see how tiny the kayaks look at the base of these tall cliffs, it gives you a sense of scale of how tall they were!
We knew we were nearing the end of our float when we went under the Highway N Bridge, which we had crossed over in our vehicles, earlier in the day.
And, after several hours of floating and paddling and laughing and picnicking and solar eclipse viewing, we reached our take-out point! Yippee!! This group of experienced ladies, has done the job so many times, of packing kayaks into trucks, then tying them down, that we average less than one minute per kayak! Even with twenty kayaks to empty of gear, load into the trucks/trailers, tie down, and head out---we were back on the highway in record time!
Everyone works together, to carry the appropriate kayak to the appropriate truck in the appropriate transit position, in an efficient manner that would boggle the mind of onlookers (who may be thinking such a feat was impossible for a ladies-only group!)Our group used an access open to the public, called Blue Springs, to be the takeout for our float trip.
The public access area that we used for our take-out was called the "Blue Springs Creek Conservation Area". For information on their services and regulations, one can phone the local office at 1-636-441-4554.
Some of the most thorough coverage/photographs of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse was provided by NASA, and is still available on their website at www.eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov An interesting (and very significant to me) "tidbit" I learned about NASA aerospace engineer/space rocket pioneer, Dr. Wernher von Braun, was that he has a reference to a Bible verse inscribed on his tombstone. It is Psalm 19:1.Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork." I am SO VERY THANKFUL I had the opportunity to see that declaration of God's handiwork, in the form of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, and SO VERY THANKFUL to have the viewing experience with a fantastic group of friends, in GOD'S GREAT OUTDOORS!! It gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!! Tricia
ADDENDUM: Those who participated owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to our River-Coordinators, Peggy V and Diana. THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!