Kayaking on Cedar Creek

kayaking, kayak, cedar creek, missouri, creek, paddling

 

Kayaking.

What a beautiful word.

Peaceful, adventurous, quiet, simple, gentle, relaxing.

When I think of my kayak, this plethora of visions run through my mind. My love affair with paddling started some 8ish years ago when an old co-worker was kind enough to offer up his set of kayaks for us to take out for a spin.

After awkwardly fitting the kayaks onto our tiny trailer, we set off back for Jeff City and threw in at Binder Lake. Robby and I kicked our feet up, soaked up every ounce our sun had to give that day, and floated the day away. It was the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done. (Except go to Key West, nothing will EVER top my Key West).

Since that glorious day on the lake, we bought two kayaks, spent two summers completely obsessed with paddling, had two kids, never had time for kayaking, bought two more kayaks in the hopes of having more time for kayaking, and then had no time for kayaking.

A couple weekends ago, however, the grandparents, oh those sweet, sweet grandparents, whisked the kids away and we had just enough time to throw the kayaks onto the Jeep and head down the road to Cedar Creek.

Kayaking, kayak, cedar creek, creek, paddling, jeep, jeeps

The hubs and I are always up for checking out a new creek (seeing new places=kinda the point of this blog) we can sink our kayaks into. We didn’t have an entire day to spend on the water and wanted to keep it close to home so we decided on Cedar Creek. I cross over the mouth of this creek every single day en route to work but we put in a little farther up stream.

Directions: Take the Columbia Regional Airport exit, turn toward the airport. There is a sharp right turn shortly after you will pass by the airport, continue right and then straight, straight, straight until it turns to gravel. That gravel road dead ends right at the creek. There’s usually several cars parked there as well. A bridge connects that gravel road to the Mark Twain National Forest on the other side of the creek. Just before that bridge you’ll see a path on the right side of the road that’ll lead you down to the creek bank.

cedar creek, missouri, columbia regional airport, kayaking

cedar creek, kayaking, missouri

cedar creek, missouri, kayaking, map, columbia regional airport

Part of the enjoyment and excitement of checking out a new creek is witnessing all the different landscapes that line a creek or a river. Through our years of ‘yaking, we’ve come across some fantastic bluffs, gravel bars, and foliage.

cedar creek, missouri, gravel bar, kayaking

Cedar Creek was the same, but different. It did not disappoint in any regard. Even though we had several shoals we had to walk the kayaks through, they were short lived and we always chalk that up to being part of the adventure.

cedar creek, missouri, kayaking, bluffs, bluffs of cedar creek

After several hours of relaxed floating, we reluctantly had to turn around and head for home.

 

Floating the Meramec River

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After much anticipation, we finally dusted off our old kayaks and broke in the new ones this past weekend. On Saturday morning, we made the hour and a half drive down to Sullivan[ish], MO to take our virgin Meramec River float.

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Robby and I have had kayaks for years. They mostly just take up space (that we definitely don’t have right now) in our garage but we keep them in the hopes that the older our kiddos get, the more use the kayaks will get. This year we even went so far as to buy two more to add to the collection, so that we could bring friends along with us.

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We decided on the Meramec River because it’s supposedly an easily kayakable waterway, it’s not too far from home, we had never floated it before, and we were close to Meramec State Park (we wanted to camp in a state park as opposed to the private campgrounds where rambunctious crowds frequent).

Our plan was to leave Jeff City by 7:30am, but because we had to drop off both children that morning, and of course because we’re us, we were late. I don’t think we left until about 8:30 or 9:00ish. You’ll find that this was actually detrimental to the trip. Read on…..

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We took two separate vehicles which I think is just nearly necessary. You will need one vehicle at your put-in access and one vehicle at your take-out point.

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Photo credit to my good friend and kayaking buddy, Zach Paul

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We put in at the Blue Springs Conservation Area in Bourbon, MO. From here, it is a 10-mile trip to Meramec State Park. Literature I’ve read shows a 10-mile float will take 4-6 hours. Unless you’re our crew. Then it takes 8. Prepare accordingly. Also, this was detrimental to the trip. Read on…..

 

Take Highway N, south for 2.5 miles to Blue Springs Rd

At the Bourbon, MO exit, off I-44, take Highway N, south for 2.5 miles to Blue Springs Rd

 

The access point is at the end of Blue Springs Rd

The access point is at the end of Blue Springs Rd

Two of us stayed at the conservation area with the kayaks, while the others took the vehicle with the trailer to leave at the campground. This took them right around an hour to do. Like I mentioned already, having two vehicles really is necessary but the time it took them to go to a check-in and vehicle drop off, and then returning to spot #1, was detrimental to the trip. Read on…

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I agree with the aforementioned literature (I use that term loosely mind you) that this particular river is a great float. The steepest I found it to be was probably about 5-6 feet. There were many gravel bars along the way and it wasn’t crazy busy like you’d find on the Current, Huzzah, or Niangua Rivers.  The views were great, lots of bluffs lining the river and an awesome cave that everybody but me played in (Um, there’s darkness and bats and the unknowing in there!). The river wasn’t dirty but the water wasn’t clear either which was slightly disappointing but not a deal breaker.

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Because we had so many setbacks (and because we goofed around A LOT) we didn’t hit the state park grounds until about 8:00pm. It’s getting a little dark around that time and of course the THUNDERSTORM OF THE CENTURY SHOULD HIT AT THIS EXACT TIME RENDERING YOU HELPLESS TO THE ELEMENTS.

This happened. On us. Photo credit to my good friend and kayaking buddy, Zach Paul

This happened. On us. Photo credit to my good friend and kayaking buddy, Zach Paul

Literally, as soon as we saw the take out access, the clouds opened up and dumped massive amounts of rain on us. We took cover (barely, just barely) under a state park signage post. This kept only our heads a little dry. Standing in the rain, in your swimsuit, freezing, and not being able to do anything about it is a terrible way to end such a great day. My poor, poor Robby had to walk through the pelting rain to seek out our truck. Which was a feat in and of itself since Meramec State Park is so ginormous that he didn’t even know where his truck was in relation to where we were at that time. Thank the good Lord above, he found the truck and came to rescue us. We were a sopping, wet mess and all in quite a mood by this time. We laughed about our misfortune the next morning but there was lots of silence in the truck that night. To top it all off, we obviously couldn’t set up our tents in this nastiness and the closest hotel that wasn’t booked full was 45 minutes away in Rolla! What a drive after all this nonsense we just went through! And we were all so looking forward to camping! But we made it in one piece, it was quite the experience, and we’ve lived to tell about it. Although, I’ll be okay if I never have another one like it.

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Tell me, what’s your favorite stream or river to float on?

Dillard’s Mill and Upcoming Dillard Days

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I have now been blogging about [mostly] Missouri travel for over one year. When I came up with the idea for this blog, I had one story in particular that rang through the forefront of my mind. Now here we are, an entire year later, and I’ve still not told the story about Dillard Mill.

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I’ve told you before than Robby and I are starstruck by old, historical buildings. Old homes, old, half way falling down buildings, etc.

Several years ago, we were gravel-roadin’ on a cold, winter Sunday afternoon. We had been driving for a couple hours when we stumbled upon a sign that said “Dillard’s Mill. Turn Right.”

Neither of us had heard anything about Dillard’s Mill but we were elated to see the building so well preserved. It also has one of the most gorgeous creeks (complete with a cascading waterfall) running right alongside it.

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We spent an hour or so meandering the property and indulging in the gorgeous views. The mill was locked but a sign on the door told us that it occasionally is open to the public.

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Several months after we found the old grist mill, we returned for a kayaking trip. We put in down from the mill and paddled up towards it. This was the worst part of the trip as the water level was too low through a lot of this part of the creek, therefore leaving us to drag those heavy things about half way up it.

But when we finally got to the large pool of water just beside the mill, we were totally rewarded. This was the clearest water we had kayaked in for a long time.

I’m a horrible judge at distances but I’d say the bottom was about 15-20 feet down and you could see straight to the bottom, just as if you were looking through the window at it.

Robby spent his time fishing and I just propped my feet up to take in some sunshine. It was so relaxing.

So, the point of this story is this. On Saturday, May 11th (that’s this Saturday folks), the state department that runs the property is having a festival aptly named Dillard Days.

I myself will be stuck at my “day” job on Saturday, so I need one of you to go enjoy the festival for me!

Please find more information at the link: Dillard Days Picnic

Tell me all about your trip there!

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru

Float Trips & Camping ~MO River Style~

 

I’m not finished telling you about my Colorado vacation. I still have things to cover like skiing atop the most gorgeous mountain and of course, driving through the arm pit of the US. AKA: Kansas. Ugh.
But today my Missouri friends, I am going to divulge some Missouri stuff. Float trips and camping. What’s more Missouri than that?

The float trip I’m going to tell you about is not the kind you are thinking of. You know, the Current River (or Bennett Springs or Meramac, whichever region you’re in), drinking all day, jello shots, TONS of rafts and canoes that are all just floating lifelessly by mid-afternoon.

No, no. Now, I’ve been on my fair share of those but the float trip we went on last summer was one of the more laid back style. Robby and I had just bought our pontoon. My friend, Danielle, and her boyfriend, Matt, came along on their fishing boat (it’s a bit of a stretch to say just “fishing boat”. Matt’s boat is fairly massive for a “fishing boat”), two other couples, Lindsey & Jon, Amber & Jesse came along too.

We met up at the Mokane River Access to the Missouri. If you’ve never put in here, know that it can sometimes be a little tricky. The annual juggin’ tournament had just finished so fisherman were still lingering about telling all the tales of the morning. Matt & Danielle (well, Matt really) won 1st place so kudos to him. He was in fish-heaven all day.

We set out with no real plan. Our boat was completely loaded down with coolers galore, tents, fold-up chairs, bags, and probably tons of crap that we really didn’t need but I have some friends who tend to come overprepared. Ahem. Amber…..

Anyways, I don’t know what I had in mind. Our plans had changed to camping on the riverbank, to this, and then back to something else.

What we ended up with was perfect. We floated and boated (Haha. I’m a poet and didn’t know it!) all afternoon. Drinking cold brewskies and soaking up the intense Missouri summer sun. We talked and laughed. We listened to music. We laid there. And did nothing. For hours. And it was great.

 

I adore these gals! Besties for the longest time.

Being a parent is the most wonderful thing God ever did for my life but it’s also the most stressful. I hate being away from Olivia but it’s also good for my soul. It’s good to just go be “Amanda” and listen completely and just be. I enjoyed this trip so much that I’m certain we’re going to have to go again this year.

We actually went towards the end of summer, with Autumn on the horizon and the leaves were beginning to turn. This is one of the most beautiful times to spend on the rivers. The bluffsides are blazing with all the bright colors of this time. Robby has always said that when he lived on the Osage River, the fall was always the best.

 

Heaven, I tell ya. Pure Heaven.

The river was so low last year that there were plenty of sandbars to choose from. This one was just perfect as it was kind of blocked off from the main waterway of the Missouri.

 

Do not judge. I promise we picked it all up. Promise.

 

Setting up shop. I mean, camp. Setting up camp.

Like the 30 year olds that we are, we all passed out at a reasonable time and were up at a reasonable time. The perfect time to enjoy the stillness of the water and air. The time before life begins. We made breakfast. We sat there, none of us in a hurry to get back to “regular life”.

As much as our boat needs a full river, I did so enjoy having this huge sandbar all to ourselves. I’m hoping to have another such trip this coming year. As these winter days drag on and on (yeah, nothing but 20s and 30s for the next week!), I keep these thoughts in my soul and dream of the warmer days to come.

What was your best float trip? What are you looking forward to this summer?

Keep your chin up, folks. Spring is here and the winter days will be gone before we know it! (That’s what Robby keeps reassuring me anyway)

Pan

Finding Beauty Amongst the Dead ~ Missouri Waterways~

Let’s face it. Missouri isn’t very picturesque during the winter. I look outside and all I see is death. Death of the grass. Death of the trees. Death of all my beautiful flowers.

Death. Death. Death.

See? Death.

Therefore, I went in search of the one thing that I can always count on to be beautiful to me. The one thing that is mostly unchanging no matter what season it may be.

Water.

Plain and simple. Water. Rivers. Ponds. Lakes. Streams. It doesn’t matter what form it comes in but living in Central Missouri, we are definitely blessed to be surrounded by some awesome waterways.

I think my high regard of water began when I had first moved to the Lake of the Ozarks. I was in my early 20s and didn’t even live on the water but anywhere I drove, I was always alongside the lake. And I absolutely loved it. There’s a feeling of calmness and peace I get just from a quick glance of the rivers or lakes in our area.

I’m thankful that I married a man that has this same (maybe a little bizarre) adherence to the water. Robby has owned a boat since I’ve known him and all of our time together, both here and our short stent in Nashville, we enjoyed much time together on the rivers.

My poor child was out of milk yesterday and even though she’s coming up on 1 1/2 years old (I swear I don’t know how time has flown by so fast), she still insists on a bottle of milk for nap time. Since I was out, I thought a drive would do us both good. She slept and Mommy went in search of “beauty”.

 

This access to the Moreau River is located on Buffalo Rd just off Highway 54

 

Boat ramp at Honey Creek access: I would recommend only using a boat with a jet prop.
Moreau River: great for kayaking.

 

Gravel-Roadin’: It’s what I do!

 

Moreau River Access just off Highway 50 right outside of Jeff City.

 

Aw schucks, Missouri Department of Conservation. You’re no fun. No fun at all.

 

Robby almost lost our truck in this very spot. But, that’s a story for another day.

 

Old railroad bridge above the Moreau just off Algoa Rd

 

I know this is a terrible picture but there was a truck coming behind me as I was stopped in the middle of the road just to take this shot. I had no time for adjustments.

 

Mari-Osa Access: just off highway 50 outside of Jeff City accessing the Osage River and Maries River

 

 

The Osage River: my favorite. I could sit and stare at this view all day long.

I am definitely ready to get the boat out now. I can feel the breeze in my sun-soaked hair now!

The Good Ole Gulf: Gulf Shores, AL

I’m sitting here at my desk. It’s January. January= Dreary in Missouri. We had the most beautiful weather yesterday. It hit 70 something degrees, sun was shining, and of course I had to work. Poo. I should be grateful for my job and blah, blah, blah but seriously…. IT WAS 70 SOMETHING DEGREES IN JANUARY!!! IN MISSOURI!!! I so badly wanted to soak it up because I know for a fact that weather like that doesn’t come back for another 4 months. Ugh.

So, since I didn’t get to enjoy the sunshine yesterday, I’m going to bring back some sunshine memories.

WARNING: I am about to talk about a trip outside of Missouri. Now remember, I never promised I was just about Missouri. I’m mostly about Missouri. But occasionally, I do get to get out of Misery. Ok, that was a cheap shot. It’s not so bad here. Most days…..

Last May, we planned my first-ever trip to Gulf Shores, AL with my sister, her husband, and their 2 kiddos. We booked a house “right on the beach”. Well, we thought it was “right on the beach” but if it sounds too good to be true, it is right? It wasn’t exactly right on the beach but it was close enough. No complaints.

 

Our view from the deck. Glorious.
Not a bad little house. Not a bad little house, at all.

Most of the homes down there seem to be vacation homes so pretty much everything is available online to rent. Robby’s mom and sister came down during the same week and rented a real nice condo. The house was nice. We had everything we needed. The deck up top was just outside of the 2 master suites and then of course the huge main deck was plenty spacious. The house came equipped with plates, silverware, and the like so we did quite a bit of cooking in.

 

Bonus: My brother-in-law is an expert griller. Mmmmm.

These were some fresh gulf shrimp my brother-in-law bought from some fresh seafood place down there. Red Lobster, eat your heart out. These were to die for!

Gulf Shores is a GREAT place for family vacations. The guys golfed one day. There looked to be quite a few cute little shops that I would have loved to browse through but I was too busy soaking up every ounce of beach time I could afford. Of course we took Olivia with us but she was 7 months old at the time, so there’s only so much time a baby will tolerate sitting on a blanket in the hot before she is DONE. She did do pretty good though and seemed to enjoy the pool more than the beach.

Apparently, the ocean waves are a bit scary for some tots.

Like I said, we went in May and I highly recommend it. The weather was gorgeous and the beach only had scattered tourists. One of the locals who owned a condo just beside us said the rest of the summer is pretty packed and that we had come at a great time.
I didn’t realize the new thing was to bring an awning large enough to fit a wedding party in! We had our little beach umbrella for Olivia but now people are seriously setting up these huge canopy-tent-thingys and are leaving them up for the duration of their stay. What this means is that when you come onto the beach in the morning, there’s people’s junk all up and down the beach because they’re too friggin’ lazy to take down and put back up. I know it doesn’t bother some people but it did me. I had never seen such before! So imagine the dog days of summer, beach packed, and people’s personal crap everywhere. Yeah, May was a good time.
We did run out to the Fort one day just to give Baby O a break from the beach. It was neat in it’s own historical way. I have been to so many forts and it’s kinda like, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. So I wasn’t real impressed but it wasn’t the Fort’s fault, I promise.

 

Very Fort-y. Don’t you agree?

 

 

There were, however, absolutely beautiful views.

 

I would have liked to take the ferry to Dauphin Island just to explore some more but Robby talked me out of it. Turd. Oh well, maybe next time…..

You definitely have to take a stroll down the public pier though. The water is so clear you can see the schools of thousands of fish and all the sting rays. It was great to watch sea life performing in their natural habitat.

You can just barely see ’em. The stingrays. See, right there?

We did make a lunch stop at Lulu’s. Lulu is Jimmy Buffett’s sister and this is her famous restaurant. It’s not ocean side but it is harbor side. Open air setting. Good food. Very tourist-y. Who cares?

Favorite Trip Pic:

Look at that sweet, sweet face!

Highlight of my trip:
          Sitting on the beach, alone, book in hand, by myself while I drank several cold ones one afternoon. One never treasures alone time until one becomes a parent. It was fabulous.

Kiddos-a-go?:
Gulf Shores is absolutely kid friendly. Family oriented. Great for small family vacays or large bring-one-bring-all types of vacays.

Pan’s Pick:
           Get up super early one morning and stroll on the beach for seashells. It’s so cliche yet it was so enjoyable for me. Robby stayed in with Baby O while I took a quick jaunt. The sunrise on the beach is nearly magical.

 

Look at ’em all! Just look at ’em!

**Helpful note: The beach crews scan the beaches multiple times each day to scoop up tar balls left from the huge oil spill. I never saw a tar ball although my sis did. Other than these few-and-far-between balls, there is no evidence that there was ever any damage. Thank God for that!

The Famous Leaning Tower of Osage City

Being a new parent is hard. Hard for many reasons but one of those being the lifestyle adjustment you must make for the little one. Robby and I have found that to be one of our toughest battles. Parenthood means not being able to go and do what you please and when you please.

Thankfully, we have parents that love spending time with Olivia, which occasionally allows us to have some Mommy-Daddy time.

Which is just what we did yesterday. Enjoyed a much-needed, long-0verdue river day, out on the Osage. And geez, what a beautiful one at that. We got our solar power recharged (we also got sunburned), as we spent the entire afternoon soaking up those powerful sunrays.

We had to take a jaunt towards Osage City since I learned last week that they’re tearing the famous Leaning Tower down. I’m not from Osage City, I have no ties to Osage City (except the partying I’ve done along the riverbanks there), and I generally don’t care what happens in Osage City.

 

The Famous Leaning Tower of Osage City: early demolition has already destroyed the top right section of the tower.

 

Except for the fact that they’re tearing down the famous Leaning Tower (I know I said this already but I wanted to be sure you heard me).

If you don’t know what the Leaning Tower is, you should take a quick trip down to Osage City. It’s quite the sight to see. This 5 story tall tower is an old grain mill that sits just beside the railroad track and right along the Osage riverbank.

 

Just as I turned back to snap one last shot of the Leaning Tower, a train came rolling by. How picturesque…..

 

Last night, I did some quick internet searching and found where a railroad worker had mentioned that the Leaning Tower was leaning as far back as 1974, when he first started working on the railroad. How the tower could have stayed standing after leaning for so many years blows my mind.

With the construction of an additional railroad bridge, crossing the Osage River at Osage City, the crew has begun the destruction of this landmark, with the completion estimated to be within the next 2 weeks.

 

The existing railroad bridge. The new railroad bridge will be placed in the foreground of this one.

 

Yesterday, I pleaded with Robby to please drive (I guess the proper wording would be steer, since we were on the boat) me by the famous tower for one last look of admiration (and a couple pictures) to hold with me in memory.

If you want to see the Leaning Tower firsthand, be sure to get down to Osage City quick, as of a couple weeks, it will be leaning no more.

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin’ Guru