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!