Friday, June 19, 2009

Alpine Shop Announces Early Open for "On Your Way Saturdays"

If there's one thing you can count on when you're ready to leave for a day (or a week) of adventure, it's that you'll realize you're missing something right before you leave.

Alpine Shop has a solution with our new early morning hours each Saturday at our Kirkwood location. Starting June 21, we’ll open the doors each and every Saturday at 8 am and we’ll have coffee and donuts waiting for you when you come in. PLEASE NOTE: "ON YOUR WAY SATURDAYS" ARE AT OUR KIRKWOOD LOCATION ONLY. That way, you can grab the gear you need... and fuel up with some energy at the same time.

On Your Way Saturdays: Alpine Shop Kirkwood now opens at 8 am every Saturday morning.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Amazing Tanagers

Most of us spend a great deal of time outdoors in the months April-October in Missouri and Illinois. For the most part, we are casual bird-watches (birders). In the Past three years I have gained a profound interest in our beautiful summer migrating birds; especially tanagers and wood warblers.

Two-three weeks ago I spent about some time on the North Fork of the White River in southern Missouri, hiking, flyfishing, and photographing migratory birds. I was astounded at the colors that the tanagers presented. Some were still in their mating season molt, and had multiple combinations of colored feathers; all with some red and yellow. The mature male birds, that had arrived weeks earlier, had the full red feathering. They migrate every spring from South America to Missouri and Illinois and points north to breed.

There are two types of tanagers that breed in Missouri, the Summer Tanager, and the Scarlet Tanager, both primarily red. The females of both species are primarily yellow-orange with some green hues. They nest high up in Oaks and hickories and do not mind Missouri mixed pine forests. They feed primarily on insects, and spend their summer in our tree canopy.

A good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope brings them in close enough to examine. However, in early - mid May they are building nests and come to ground for grass. Usually the female picks up the grass for the nest, and the male stands guard on a low branch or fence, to watch and guard for her.

The Summer Tanager (more common) is so bright and rosy, that red over-saturation is a photography issue; the Scarlet Tanager, which can be identified by his black wings, requires a larger territory (about 5-10 acres for forest), so there a fewer to see. The Summer Tanager requires only about 1 acre of territory.

They are common in Forest Park, Shaw's Garden, Kirkwood Park, and can be seen just about anywhere there is a grove of trees, in St. Louis. Tanagers are about the size of a cardinal (only slightly smaller). The next time you think you see a cardinal, especially if it is more than ten feet or higher in a tree, look again you might have spotted an immigrant from South America.

If you decide to hike and photograph birds, do not forget to look at the full line of Mountainsmith shoulder bag called the "camera tote" at the Alpine Shop stores in St. Louis and Columbia. You can carry your camera and maybe an extra lens or two, without stashing it on your back. These bags are so easy to use and allow you to quickly draw your camera from your side.

Pictures taken by me with a Canon 5d MK II and a Canon 300 mm f2.8L IS lens with 1.4X teleconverter. Handheld. Click to enlarge.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The old bridges of the Meramec Basin

For older paddlers that floated the Meramec, Huzzah, or Courtois during the 1970's or earlier; you will remember these old Hog-trough bridges.

Prior to the Hog-trough bridge prevalence, there was about 10 years of Corduroy bridges (during the 1920's-1930's) at local fords (crossings that required you to drive through the river on gravel beds). Corduroy bridges where made by placing and nailing logs perpendicular to the banks to create two rails; after that was completed, eight foot logs or railroad ties were spiked to the rails one after another parallel to the current. These were a great improvement over the fords until they became slick with algae and the spikes were exposed; usually the third year. At that point it was not unusual to be pushed off the bridge by current, or get multiple flat tires.

Then about 1930 the hog-trough came into play and the concept lasted almost 45 years. They were most common on the Courtois, Huzzah, and Upper Meramec Rivers, however there were a two on the Current River at Montauk Springs and at Cedar Grove.

During the early 1970's most were replaced by low water concrete bridges or planked over to make it easier for "city folk" to drive across. Eventually, the planking was also covered with concrete.

Finally by the mid-1980's they were all replaced by concrete bridges.

To my knowledge, there was a hog-trough at each of the following locations;

on the Huzzah Creek;

Huzzah Post Office
Harper Ford
Kenner's below Highway 8

on the Courtois Creek;

Hazel Creek
Blount's Ford
Moutrays Place

on the Meramec River;

Cooks Station
Scotts Ford
Blue Springs Creek

Examples below;

(some shots courtesy our Customers; click to enlarge)