bluffs, Dome Rock, Lamotte sandstone, Missouri, photography, Pickle Creek, Pickle Spring, Pickle Springs Natural Area, Piney Glade, rock, rock formations, Rockpile Canyon, Spirit Canyon, Ste. Genevieve County, stones, Terrapin Rock, winter
(Part I here.)
The path down from Double Arch Rock took me past the Terrapin Rock, the name for a large worn rock with a spar to the fore that resembles a turtle's head protruding from its shell.
If you look hard enough, that is!
The continuing gentle downward slope took me to the first sign of water in the area on this dry day, Pickle Creek.
According to the Missouri Dept. of Conservation booklet, this shallow stream contains a amphipod that is known only in this stretch of water and isn't even named yet. A relic of the ice age, able to survive thanks to the acidic conditions and microclimate of Pickle Creek.
I peered into the water but didn't see anything. Not having microscope eyes counted against me, alas.
Now the trail took an upward swing, moving through the white and black oaks and shortleaf pine.
It lead across Bone Creek and wound further up, following the line of this creek.After crossing three wooden bridges in total, the path turned to the right and led into Spirit Canyon.
On the far side, the rocks piled higher and higher to form Owl's Den Bluff. I moved further into the canyon and found a very handy bench to sit and rest upon.
Not the first there that day was I, judging by a pack of Pall Mall menthol cigarettes and lighter lying on the seat.The sun was now quite low in the sky, and much of Spirit Canyon was in shade.
The rock wall was decorated with lichens and mosses but I'll have to come back later in the year to catch the rare ferns that sprout from this cliff.
A steep climb took me up onto the only really clear overlook in the entire area, Dome Rock.Here the contrast between the gray bark and green pines was clearest. In just a few weeks, the whole scene will turn to green.
Not yet though. This is my favorite part of the Pickle Spring reserve, with lovely flat rocks to sit and walk upon, the few evergreens and that overlook.
I was lucky to arrive just as the sun went behind some diffuse cloud. Otherwise it would have been bright in my lens. As it was, there was just enough pale light to give a little shadow. I would have stayed a lot longer, but time was pressing.
The trail led down again, steeply here, allowing me to look back up at the Dome Rock bluffs where I had just been sitting.
Then down to Pickle Spring itself, the origin of the name of the natural area and notable for being a rare permanent-flow spring in a sandstone background. Named for William Pickles, the owner of the land from 1848 until his (rumored) demise by a band of Civil War renegades in the 1860s.Permanent but modest.
Still, any water flow is of great benefit to the local flora and fauna and without it we would not have that unique amphipod.
On now to Rockpile Canyon, looking more the result of quarry explosion than any natural process. A recent fall, dating back to 1959, contributing to its freshly minted appearance.
At this point, I was nearly at the end of the trail. All that remained was to climb out of Rockpile Canyon, up another steep path and then onto a high, flatter, area.
Here I found Piney Glade, large bedrock sandstone with a only a few grasses such as the well-named poverty grass and lichens to decorate the wide gray surfaces.
On now to where the trail circuit rejoined its origin, and then the short walk back to the car park.
By now my backpack felt heavy, and I was ready for a cool bottle of water. Unfortunately, the only one I had had been nicely warmed in the car but it was still very refreshing.
A very pleasantly spent afternoon indeed.