We traveled to southeastern Missouri the weekend before Halloween and were “treated” to great foliage. Our first stop was Hermann, Missouri.  We ate lunch and checked out the Gasconade Co. Courthouse, which sits high on the banks of the Missouri River, the only courthouse I’ve ever seen perched next to a river. 

Gasconade Co. Courthouse, Hermann, Missouri

We then toured the Stone Hill Winery and, of course, tasted a “few” samples of their award-winning wines. The tour was very interesting and informative. I had no idea that this winery was the second largest in the nation before Prohibition.  After Prohibition — well, they had to start growing mushrooms to make a living.  The cellars are apparently the perfect place to propogate ‘shrooms.  Today, however, the cellars are again filled with barrels of wine aging to perfection.  The smell (and as we discovered later – the taste) was delicious!  We had never visited a winery and really enjoyed the tour.

We then traveled to Bass’ River Resort located near Steelville to check into our cabin. Upon our arrival, we discovered the Courtois Creek had swelled out of its banks and was practically up to our doorstep.  Well, we were pretty high up, but the water was just below us. 

The next morning started off foggy, a great opportunity to get some photos. I have to thank my husband for telling me it was foggy out – I hadn’t even looked outside! I experimented with different exposures and tried not to overexpose because of the sun shining through the bright fog.  Using my histogram was definitely the ticket to help me find the correct exposure in these conditions. I tried to capture a sunburst but even at F22 I just couldn’t get it pinched down enough to work successfully.

The flooded creek was also cause for some excitement when the tour riders for the Berryman Epic started out.  Because the creek was so far out of its banks and so deep, the riders couldn’t safely get across on their bikes, so they brought in flat-bed trailers to haul them across. 

There they go! It took two flatbed trailers to get them across the flooded creek.

It was quite a sight!  My husband said in all his years of mountain biking, he had never seen anything like it.  Fortunately, by the next morning when he raced, the water had gone down considerably and they placed a trailer across the deepest part of the creek to use as a bridge and had no need for the “ferry service.”

Back to Saturday… After the tour riders were ferried across the swollen creek, we took off on a back road to get to the Onondaga Cave near Leasburg. We got about 5 miles down the road and ran smack dab into a flooded creek crossing that had been barricaded. So much for the scenic back route! We re-traced our steps and took the main highway to the cave.

Suffice it to say, the Onondaga Cave was awesome! Our group consisted of probably around 30 people, ranging in age from about 10 up to around 90. The cave was cold – around 57 degrees – so we had to bundle up a little bit. The first thing we saw were tiny, delicate formations called soda straws that looked like – well, soda straws! Eventually soda straws turn into stalactites.  Some other formation types represented in the cave were flowstone, draperies, canopies, stalactites, stalagmites and columns.

The Twins

King's Canopy

 Some of the other named formations we saw were the Twins, King’s Canopy, Queen’s Canopy, and the Devil’s Shower.  There was a river running through the cave which is named “The Lost River” because apparently the experts cannot figure out where all the water sources come from.  The river was a blue-green color and didn’t appear to have much of a current, but once in a while you could see particles drifting along on the surface that contradicted that.

The best formation was saved for last. It was called the Lilly Pad Room, which was divided into two chambers.

Lilly Pad Room

Lilly Pad Room

It’s called the Lilly Pad Room because some of the formations look like lilly pads.  The water in one chamber was especially cool – very vibrantly colored.  The other chamber looked almost alien like with white “drip cups” abounding. I almost wondered if some being was going to pop out at us.  It was really amazing what Nature has created in this cave.

After the cave tour, we ate lunch and took a 3 mile hike on one of the trails at the park. The part that followed the Meramac River bluffs was very scenic; the sun was shining bright and the foliage was brilliant.  It was a great day to be outdoors and enjoying Nature at her finest.  The day wrapped up with a barbecue at the Resort for the bikers, complete with a roaring bonfire.

My husband took off for his race around 8:30 on Sunday, and I met him late in the morning at the Berryman Trail trailhead to give him more water and snacks.  After he left, I had plenty of time to kill. The overcast sky actually was favorable for shooting foliage as it really saturated the colors, so I played with different exposures and compositions. 

Vibrant foliage on the Berryman Trail

Zoom zoom!

 Unfortunately, it then started to sprinkle on and off. I did stay out for quite awhile and took some foliage shots near the trailhead, and even experimented with catching the riders with different shutter speeds as they zoomed by.

I finally went back to the Resort and the finish line, and just a few hundred yards away, found this wonderful little creek scene with foliage in the background and fallen leaves in the foreground. 

Small creek on grounds of Bass' River Resort near Steelville, Missouri

I started to walk up the trail to check it out, but then the skies finally opened up and the rain was too heavy to continue so had to pack away the camera.  My husband finished the 56 mile race in a little over 6 hours. He would have finished sooner but his chain broke a few miles from the finish line and repairing it cost him about 15 minutes.

All in all, we had an “epic” adventure in Missouri!