Friday, October 15, 2010

Return to the Katy Trail

Several months ago, in the withering heat of the summer, we took a trip to Rocheport, a trailhead along the Katy Trail in central Missouri. We enjoyed the visit so much that we planned a return trip when the temperature and leaves were dropping. KU's Fall Break afforded us the opportunity to skip out of Lawrence for a couple of days and go back along the fabulous rails-to-trails pathway. Photos and comments follow.

Just as on our previous trip, we arrived mid-afternoon and took a short hike to the cavernous rail tunnel that was carved out of the bluffs.

We also ascended a hill offering a nice view of the Missouri River. Unfortunately, the last month of dry weather has dulled the colors this fall season. However, Lea took in the nice view from high above.

The following morning, we hit the trail early and noticed quite a few changes from our previous visit. Not only had many trees shed their leaves as we expected, but much of the wildlife had vanished or gone into hiding. Our impressive frog census from the summer (168 - one dead) was cut down to around six (one dead). We also found a dead zone along the trail with deceased voles (two) and snakes (four in total and two locked together in death in a position that seemed like a fight gone bad for both combatants).
We came upon some evidence of animal activity - deer tracks, for instance, and this nicely carved tree which had fallen prey to a hungry beaver. We also discovered some pockets of life: tadpole and frog ponds.

One of our favorite spots along the trail is close to the trailhead, where a spring shoots forth from the bluff. Little green plants have sprouted out since our last visit, giving the tiny oasis a lush appearance (see below).

Erik took several photos, and Lea caught him at work below...

...just as he was taking this photo of the tadpole pond. One of the tadpoles may appear in this image, but it is hard to tell.

We trekked several miles past bluffs sporting some autumn hues.

Looking up, we saw vultures roosting and planning the next meal.

We also beat our previous record, making it to mile marker 174 (over 9 but under 10 miles).

Our victory sealed, we headed back after a nice, long walk!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Renaissance Festival

As kids, Lea and Erik regularly attended the Michigan Renaissance Festival. Lea's father took her every year, as it was located where he studied to be a priest (thankfully he did not go through with that vocation!). Erik was also an annual visitor - he even donned a costume to participate in the Leonardo da Vinci Model Making Contest at age 13.

This year was Carter's turn to experience a critical milestone for every nerdy thespian/D&D aficionado (Erik was more of the latter way back when). The Kansas City Renaissance Festival dwarfed the Michigan festival (at least as Erik and Lea remember it from years ago). Carter really loved fencing, and hopes to take after his cousin Amelia who is an avid fencer. A few photos follow.

Caterpillar or Butterfly?

Carter has adopted a new personal philosophy. Working in the garden with Lea, he discovered cabbage caterpillars chowing down on our leafy greens. He decided to raise them in a container and learned about different kinds of caterpillars as the population changed over the course of the summer. Some of his caterpillars turned into tiny butterflies, others into moths. Some created their cocoons/chrysalises on the wall of the plastic cup, others under some soil. He raised and released many winged "babies." He decided that one can live life as a caterpillar - not doing much but sitting around and eating - or a butterfly - exploring the world. He prefers the latter.

In addition to raising creatures from our garden, Carter participated in the local Monarch Watch, and released his monarch after it hatched in September. In the photo immediately below, Carter appears to have a horrified expression. In fact, he is trying to stop himself from laughing as the monarch tickles his shoulder.

Last Gasp of Summer

Fall has flown by as work, school, and various activities have kept us really busy. On a beautiful, summer-like day, Carter worked on his bike riding skills. We initially attempted to skip the training wheel stage (after consulting various sources for their recommendations), but changed our approach after Carter couldn't quite maintain balance. He loves riding his bike with the training wheels, and we plan to explore the new Burroughs Creek Trail (a rail-to-trail park less than half a mile from our home). The trail is named for William S. Burroughs, the famous (and controversial) author whose final home is one block away from ours.

A couple of additional posts follow with late summer/early fall updates.