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There was only one other camper at the campgrounds when I pulled in last night.  It made me a little nervous when he asked if I was alone.  I promptly said my dogs were with me.  His next sentence was, “if you need anything, let me know.  I’m going to the lake.”  He had a nice boat and it turns out he was most concerned with fishing.  He fished last night and this morning before I left.  A few more campers also trickled in, so that added comfort to my evening’s choice.  For such a nice lake, I was surprised to not see more people, but I think its downfalls were the noisy trucks trying to make it up the two lane road nearby and the fact there weren’t individual water hookups.

My first stop this morning was Grand Gulf State Park just north of the Missouri/Arkansas border.  The park has a mile long trail that passes by a narrow chasm known as “The Little Grand Canyon”.  It used to be a cave system, but the roofs collapsed.  There is still a small portion with the roof intact which forms a natural bridge.  Matt, the ranger, was very nice, explained the trail, and suggested that I take the stairs down to the canyon.

The dogs enjoyed the morning hike, and we moved on to Eleven Point National Scenic River which runs through Mark Twain National Forest in southeastern Missouri.  Here there is a mile trail to Greer Spring which

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pours out of a cave and also bubbles up from the surface to flow through a canyon before joining Eleven Point River and doubling its volume.  Greer Spring is the second largest spring in Missouri, pouring an average 220 million gallons of water per day into the river.  The area was beautiful, yet the rocks and path by the spring were somewhat treacherous for the dogs, so we didn’t venture much past the spring.  I met Ronnie and his family down by the spring.  He and his wife are organic farmers about 40 miles east of the spring.  His son and daughter-in-law (or vice-versa) and his five year old grandson were in visiting from St. Louis.  They were so nice.  Ronnie was the most knowledgeable of the area. He said the cave was neat and there was a non-working cable car downriver that makes a good picture, but they too stopped because the path was too dangerous for his grandson. They also pointed out to me that the beginning of the trail, the path was surrounded by poison ivy.  Petey had to do his business on the side of the trail, so I hope I don’t end up itching in the next few days!

Ronnie and family

Upon return to my car, I found ANOTHER stray dog.  He was so cute.  At least he had a collar.  I gave him some food and water and called the owner.  He was at least 15 miles from home, so I think he must have been camping with his owner somewhere.  Once again, there wasn’t much I could do for the fellow being in the middle of nowhere. I’m hoping he stuck around the trailhead and

Greer Spring

associated it with food and water since more people were coming and going and a local will help him.  It was very hard to leave – normally I take the dogs in my neighborhood to their owners or a vet.  They are pretty resourceful creatures though.  Last year a lady got lost camping in Colorado and ended up on our property and two days later they found the dog on a different part of our property.

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On my way to my next stop, Blue Spring, I dodged another turtle – up to four now, and spent at least five minutes feeling I was riding the Judge Roy Scream, an old roller coaster at Six Flags in Dallas, with my stomach raising to my throat over every hill.  It was a fun drive!  Blue Spring was truly amazing and appropriately named.  The color, as Reader’s Digest describes it, is like “liquid sapphire”.  I didn’t have the polarized filter on my lens – oh what a shame!  I’m certain my pictures do not do this spring justice.  The spring is Missouri’s deepest spring at 310 feet.  If the Statue of Liberty were placed in it, the torch would be underwater.  While it looks like a still pool, it has an average daily flow of 90 million gallons.  I met Bill, Gary, and Marilyn here.  They came up to the spring by boat.  Bill was nice enough to take my pictures with the dogs! 

Another place…another spring.  Missouri has over 1,100 springs.  I skipped Big Spring which was on the route, but I did stop at Alley Spring.  It’s historic, red rollermill is one of the most photographed sites in the Ozarks.  While there were many mills in the area during the late 1800s, this mill was a very progressive business venture.  It used modern machinery, steel rollers for the grinding, and turbines versus a water wheel to power such machines.  While the spring provided free water, recurring floods and the fact that the mill was designed to process wheat flour for commercial markets in an area where corn was the main crop caused the operation to be only marginally successful.  Today it is used for weddings…someone was getting married later in the evening.

Six miles from Alley Spring is the town of Eminence.  The Reader’s Digest book suggested that I try an ice cream soda in the Rexall Drug Store.  I thought it would be a nice change of pace to mix with the locals.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a Rexall Drug Store on all three streets of the downtown.  In the back of my mind I was thinking…Highland Park had a Rexall Drug store years ago and it closed…I bought this book at least nine years ago…so maybe it is no longer.  There was a Dairy Shack, but I may as well have gone to a Dairy Queen (not that there is anything wrong with that), so I decided to

Dominic

look for a campsite – and I’m glad I did.  I stopped at Round Spring campsite and there were only 6 sites with electrical hookup – either taken or reserved.  I could operate off propane, but I’m too chicken to try it…maybe because once I tried to light a gas fire place where the fire shot out into my face and singed my eyelashes, brows, and hair.  I’ll have to try it soon, as it will be cold in the northeast (unless I can find lots of couches).  The next camp location: I drove in and drove out…no cell service and it looked like it was primitive – mostly tent camping.  I finally decided to drive 50 miles to Montauk State Park.  When I finally got cell service, half way there in Salem, I called for a reservation.  None available, but if I left now, they had a few first come, first serve available.  Out of

Rows of campers

at least 150 sites, about six were open!!!  I guess locals like to camp and fish.  There were fishermen lined up the river every four feet:  some in waders, some on shore.  They were fishing with worms, flies, stink bait, cheese bait.  You name it…they were fishing with it…just ask Dominic.  This campsite was by far the opposite of the night before…at least I finally had cell/internet service for almost the first time all day…or so I thought.  AT&T iPhone = 5 bars…Verizon Wireless = No service, SHOCKING! ETB

Websites:  www.mostateparks.com/grandgulf/map.htm, www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/marktwain, www.mostateparks.com/montauk.htm

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