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Stream Team Adventures: The Abandoned ICE chest of Zahorsky Woods! 11/1/2014

November 6, 2014

2014-11-01 11.24.32It is a cold Saturday morning at the start of November, and I am following Bernie Arnold and Brian Waldrop down Highway 19, out of Cuba, MO and into the woods along the Upper Meramec River. I am in a line of vehicles driven by Stream Teamers, and we are on a mission today. We turn on Route O and head into the forest and downhill for about four miles, winding through some of the prettiest countryside a person could be lucky enough to travel through. Little homes and hollows, along the worn paved road, down into the river bottom. We cross a bridge, follow the river on one side, and soon enough our convoy turns left into the Riverview Access Conservation Area.

2014-11-01 14.55.26We all head to the boat ramp and start to unload the canoes and gear. It is a small band of river advocates on this frosty morning, and we are patiently eager to get to the adventure before us, with a cautious consideration of the lack of warmth in the air. Jay, Fred, Ken, Christine, Bernie, Brian, and myself, along with Mike who is to be our shuttle ride. The trip today is from Riverview Access downstream to Bird’s Nest Access. An estimated eight miles (if I remember correctly), according to our fearless leaders. We plan on picking up garbage that we find along the way, but the main target over all others is an old convenience store ICE chest that has been sitting abandoned in the Zahorsky Woods Nature Preserve for the past fifteen years. With the help of some dedicated people from The Nature Conservancy, and of course Bernie and his mean reciprocating saw, the ICE chest is stacked in pieces on the river bank, waiting for our canoes to arrive to float it out, as an actual road to its location is non existent.

2014-11-01 12.39.02So we don our hats and gloves and extra jackets and waders and rubber boots, and we put off from Riverview Access and head down the Meramec. The air is cold, with the bright sun low in the sky, angling a deficient warmth through the undressing trees on our right side. It is one of those mornings where the air has a bite, and the sunlight is misleading. But the water is clear and the wind is weak, and we have the entire river to ourselves. This isolation is a rare thing in my experience as I am usually floating only on some of the warmer Saturdays when all the other recreationists are there too…but summer is over…so says the thermometer.

2014-11-01 13.24.45As we floated down the river, stopping here and there to remove a random beer can or piece of plastic “something-or-other”, I was taken aback by how clear the Meramec River was. This is the closest toward its headwaters I have floated it, and even closer to Leasburg it is still pretty transparent, but I am more familiar with the mud filled behemoth that it is, in and around the St. Louis area. This was clear, like glass. A plane of shimmering crystal surrounding me, to the point that I wanted to avoid dipping my paddle, as if it would somehow break whatever spell of tranquility possessed the water I was floating in. As though I should keep still, and just let the current move me along. It was truly beautiful, and as we traveled to our destination appreciating the now warming of the sun and the soft descent of autumn leaves in the scene before us, a bald eagle broke over the tree line and followed the river in front of us, landing in the trees just ahead. Yeah, there is magic here.

2014-11-01 12.36.56And that’s how it was most of the day. We came to a spring feeding into the river, bubbling up from below a bluff. We stopped to check it out, take some pictures, and made sure to grab the beer cans that had been left on the hill next to it. Garbage has no determination when it comes to the sanctity of special places. Arriving at our primary destination, we took a couple minutes loading the trash bags and panels from the ICE chest, and chatted with the people from The Nature Conservancy. Then it was back off on the river for the last couple of miles. About a half mile before our take out at Bird’s Nest Access, Ken and Christine spotted some tires up on the bank, which was about six feet up from the water. A ledge of soil, dried out tree roots, and thorny vines. But it was no match for the climbing skills of Bernie and Jay, who spent the next fifteen minutes tossing tires, an old TV, and an abandoned cooler down to us in the water. We added them to our collection, shuffling and settling our trash how we needed it to keep the boats righted, and we headed into the last leg of our trip.

2014-11-01 15.08.21We got to the boat ramp at Bird’s Nest around 3 pm, and unloaded all the canoes. All the scrap and tires went in the back of Bernie’s truck, and we loaded all the trash bags into the canoe trailer, finally hanging and strapping the canoes above them all on the rack. It had been a good haul. The stack of scrap that used to be an ICE chest, twelve tires, five or six big blue Stream Team bags of trash, and various other dumped pieces of households gone by. Turns out that where we found the tires, people have been dumping on the side of the roadway up the hill above it. It all makes its way into the watershed, and it ruins it for all living things. Please dispose of your trash where it properly belongs.

2014-11-01 13.29.36I love going on these adventures, to float down a river somewhere, cleaning it up as we go and making a natural place even more beautiful. It would be really awesome to not find any trash, and maybe one day that will happen if we can all be more mindful outdoors enthusiasts. But what I really enjoy is getting to travel the river with these great people that have been doing it for years, who dedicate so much of their free time to preserving the forests and waterways. Brian, Bernie, Ken, Christine, Jay, Fred, and Mike…you are the salt of the earth. All Stream Teamers are. I am glad to be counted in that group, and that I get to be a part of days like this.

2014-11-01 13.18.39For more pictures from this float, click on this link.

Check out the “Mighty” Arnold 211 Stream Team (that I am a member of) at their Facebook page here.

And to find out more about Missouri Stream Teams, go to their website here.


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