After the Flood

Reeds with Ice Petals

Reeds with Ice Petals

After the flood the water goes back down, what is left is seldom pretty, but sometimes it is. What you see in the above photo are reeds from Gilbert Lake. Sometime on Friday night, these reeds acted as a catalyst for the near freezing water. Spear like petals of ice formed around these reeds as the water level continued to drop. The picture was taken Saturday morning. The water level had dropped about two inches since the ice petals had formed, leaving them suspended over the morning’s new ice film.

Anne and I spent this weekend at Pere Marquette State Park. We rented a cabin and dined at its historic CCC era lodge. This was our Valentine’s getaway weekend. We had a good time. The nights outside were cold, but the days were warm, in the mid-fifties. We were outside all day and saw lots of beautiful nature and took pictures of much of it too. Unfortunately, we also saw the effects of last December’s torrential rains and flooding. Pere Marquette is on the Illinois River, which of the big three rivers running past Saint Louis, probably saw the least amount of flood damage. Still the damage from the torrential rains was evident on many of the park’s hilly trails. All the rain that fell on Flag Pole hill carved deep gullies down the center of some of the trails.

Still, it could have been worse. The disastrous flood of 1993, has become a boon for naturalists. We saw dozens of different species of birds this weekend. Much of what was once farmland then, is now wetlands. Gilbert Lake now acts as an overflow reservoir for the Illinois. Now that the river has gone back down, water from Gilbert Lake is being released back into it. We came upon the sluice gate a little ways up the old levee road from the ice petals.

Pere Marquette State Park

On Sunday, I got up early and biked in the Park.  I got sixteen miles.  The only occurrence of note was my sighting of swarms of Goldfinches.  There were hundreds of them flocking together.  This actually surprised me because we get Goldfinches at our feeders all winter long.  Maybe only the hardy ones linger?  The first picture in the gallery is from my ride in the Park.

The main event for Sunday was a road trip out into the countryside.  Our destination was Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois.  Anne, Rey and I drove north, first crossing the Missouri River and then crossing the Mississippi River.  We entered Illinois at Alton and then continued driving north, first along the Mississippi, but then along the Illinois River.  At their confluence each of the rivers, Missouri, Mississippi and the Illinois are all about the same size across.  That size of course would be Large, except of course in flood season when that sizes grow to be X-Large or as in 1993, when the sizes went all the way to XXX-Large.

Pere Marquette has a really great lodge.  It was built by the CCC.  Although Anne and I have never stayed there, we have talked about it often.  What we have on more than one occasion partaken of is the lodge’s Sunday buffet brunch.  This Sunday we partook once more and we all feasted well once again.

Here is a story that I related at Sunday’s table, from long ago.  When the boys were little, we once took them to the lodge to celebrate Mother’s Day.  Unlike this last Sunday, Mother’s Day is always very crowded.  We waited in line, the kids “playing” chess along with all the other small children on the giant chess board in the lodge’s grand hall.  Eventually we were seated.  Dan and Dave filled their plates with a couple of mini-muffins each and then a mound of bacon and breakfast sausages, respectively.

Somewhere during the course of brunch a lady at an adjoining table lights up a cigarette.  Dan noticed this straight away and in a conspirator’s whisper, that proclaimed utter horror, he says to me, “She is smoking”.  I say something like it is OK, just don’t speak so loud.  Not dissuaded in the least, Dan turns the poor women and his usual booming voice proclaims so all can hear, “You are going to die!”  I think that Anne almost did just then.

After brunch we marched up the hill.  It is only a seven-hundred foot hill, but it was still a hill.  I think that we walked about three miles all told.  We got some good photos of some of the local fauna, enjoy.  I must say that insects and reptiles are easier to photograph than birds.  Anne’s “rash” is actually Pokeberry juice that she smeared on her arm, as in, “Mark, could you look at this, I think that it looks serious.”  Afterwards, we stopped at a Corps of Engineer’s wetlands area and got the waterfowl picture and the picture of the Alton Bridge.  On the way south we passed going north the stream of cyclists doing the century ride.

Happy Birthday, Dave!