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Stream Team Adventures! A Special Day on the Joachim Creek. 4/25/2015

May 6, 2015

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 062The Joachim Creek is a little waterway that runs from St. Francois County, through Jefferson County, and out to the Mississippi River. It starts in Valles Mines, MO, gains water from the hills it runs between in Desoto, and then widens out in the valley through Hematite before curving northward at Festus and heading toward Herculaneum. A lively ribbon of water that travels through a handful of eastern Missouri communities. If you didn’t live near it, you may not even know that it is there until it crosses under Interstate 55 and heads toward the mighty river that it adds its flow to. The little Joachim Creek, quiet and sparkling for most of its length.

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(left to right) Ken, Erik, Christine, and Leeann.

Today we were headed to Hematite, MO to clean up a section of it, with the unstoppable Stream Team #4660! Ken Thomas and Christine Endsley are just about the two hardest working, most dedicated-to-this-cause Stream Teamers that I have had the pleasure of knowing and volunteering alongside, and this was the day of their annual Spring cleanup. The forecast had called for a chance of thunderstorms and it had already rained a little during the morning, but it looked like we might have a window of dry weather in the early afternoon.  We arrived a little before noon at the home of Erik and Leeann, who were kind enough to let us use their property for the event. We said our hellos to all the great Stream Teamers that were there that day, signed in, and spent a few minutes socializing. By the time everybody arrived, we headed across the lawn to an old stone barn on the property, to get our safety talk and the plan for the day.

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 029Now the Joachim runs right past the property we were on, at the bottom of a slope to the south, and some of the kids were going to stay behind and clean up what they could find around there and plant some trees as well. Most of us however were going to be heading down the road about a mile upstream to focus on a section of the Joachim on the other side of some old farmland. We consolidated vehicles and drove down the road in a big caravan, pulled off to the left and into a field, and parked near what looked like an old stone silo. It was then a hike through a field, across some train tracks and down into the floodplain, and then out to the gravel bar along the creek.

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 035There was a good amount of area to cover, so when we arrived at the creek we each grabbed a green bag or two and spread out. I chose to climb through a pile of collected logs that had been swarmed by vines the previous year, and was now draped in dry, dusty tendrils of wood, hiding all the garbage that had collected there. It was kind of a treasure hunt, climbing around on this pile, spying the trash within and pulling the logs and sticks and vines out of my way to reach in and get it. One thing I have found is that where wood and debris collects due to floods, the garbage does too. After just a couple of minutes I had nearly filled my bag, fighting my way through to the other side.

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 038After getting an empty bag and scouring the backside, I felt satisfied that the woodpile was now empty. I turned and headed into the low sandy bottomland forest next to it, a small hollow of leafy green plants amid a layer of naturally gathered sticks and glass and plastic. Quite a few people were already working in the area, so I joined them and we made our way to the far side, filling our bags with all the items we could find that didn’t belong in the woods.

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 048After we had found all the trash in the area, we split off for a bit and made our way toward the Joachim, walking down next to a beaver slough, filled by a trickle coming down from the woods and field above it. It was a mucky reflective pool that was home to all sorts of frogs, sitting silently in the mud before hopping into the water without even a chance to be noticed until they were already submerged and swimming to safety on the far side. We walked out onto the beach where the trickle met the creek, and soaked in the charm of the Joachim. It was clear and full of life, splashing along in the shallows over its collection of pebbles laid across it by the current, between the deeper pools that were home to fish and the bugs they like to eat. It had a sense of purity to it, and is a much different waterway than the one I had been introduced to out in Herculanem a few months earlier, near where it meets the Mississippi. A gorgeous creek that moves unnoticed through the landscape, except by the good people in the communities it touches, that work to keep it healthy and beautiful.

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 057After getting to all the areas we had wanted that day, we all started to make our way back out to the cars, turning into the brush a couple more times to search for trash that might be hidden. Once back at the silo, we helped to separate the tires out and load them onto a trailer to be turned into Dobbs Tire and Auto. Last year, Ken Thomas had brokered a sponsorship/deal with them for all Stream Teams within the scope of their stores, in which they would help out to properly dispose of the tires we collected. A pretty amazing feat that has been very beneficial to the cause, giving us an outlet for re-homing the abandoned and wrongfully discarded tires we find along these waterways.

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 083We got back to the house and it was time for food. We all socialized for a bit as we watched the rain moved in, telling us that our time was up and nature wasn’t going to wait any longer. It had been a great day, and as a group the #4660 had removed 64 tires, 200 pounds of metal, and 55 green mesh bags of garbage from the scope of about a quarter mile of the Joachim Creek and its floodplain. Quite an achievement!

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 10687956_1767093686850403_720521073941452214_oThe best part of the event for me though, beyond working alongside some truly inspiring and dedicated people, was that it was the day of my 37th birthday. If there were two things that I wanted to be doing on that day, it was to be surrounded by friends and doing some good in the world, and I got both! The really special moment was after the safety talk when Christine brought out a cupcake with a candle in it, and the whole group sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I really am just about the luckiest guy!

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Ken Thomas, showing everyone how it’s done!

The first time I met Ken Thomas and Christine Endsley was back on a freezing Saturday morning a little over a year ago on a floodplain along the Meramec River in St. Louis County, the ground solid and covered with a light layer of snow, making my first Stream Team cleanup a challenging experience. Something that Ken had said, that I see more true with every new experience being a part of this stewardship program, is that “if I was crazy enough to be out in this weather…I may just be crazy enough to be a Stream Teamer.” It does take a little craziness, but it also shows the overwhelming passion that those two have, which inspires so many others to accomplish some pretty amazing things! The two of them are the definition of what Steam Teams are all about, and I am proud to know them.

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Rock stars, every one of them!

So I hear tell that somewhere below Hematite, the Joachim Creek is home to a lot of tires that need to be pulled out. Ken, Christine, and a handful of other people just recently went on a scouting trip along it, and they have reported that it needs some attention. I know for sure that as long as the #4660 is leading the charge when they head back to remove the tires, I will gladly be there in a canoe right behind them. They are an unstoppable force, improving the health of Missouri creeks just about every weekend, showing all of us how it ought to be done. I wouldn’t miss that action for the world!

Joachim Creek 4-25-15 063Get involved with being part of this great program and go on your own Missouri Stream Team adventures with great people at their website!

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