I awoke frequently last night. The Park Ranger stopped over around 8:00 PM to collect the $12 camp fee and I was attempting sleep at 9:15. I first awoke at 1:00 AM as any part of my body next to the ground was cold. I have a down sleeping bag and I know that the compressed feathers don’t provide much warmth, but I’m laying on an inflatable mattress, so this shouldn’t be a problem. But I notice the pad is a little spongy, so I’m making contact with the ground after all. Turns out the mattress has a slow leak. Too lazy to do anything about it, I performed the rotisserie chicken dance: I moved to my left side until it got cold, then to my back, then right. Repeat. This wasn’t exactly a deep sleep. Finally fed up, I flipped the mattress over to expose the nipple and provided a few puffs of air and put another layer on up top. Better. Then it started to rain and, while dry, the thunder kept me awake. Mercifully asleep once again, I was jolted awake by what I thought was a raccoon attempting to gnaw on my head through the tent material. But in my semi-conscious state, I mistook a buffeting wind for an animal.
Crawling out of my bag at 7:30 AM, I observed a low fog hanging over matted damp leaves and dormant grass, shrouding the brown leafless trees. The rain had stopped and it was a balmy 58 degrees. Waiting for The Hounds to materialize out of the mist, I pulled my boots on and walked a short distance to one of the park’s main attractions: Fisher Cave, home to thousands of bats. But like everything else here, the gated entrance was locked. A shame really as this is a beautiful park with the Meramec River cutting through its expanse of 6,896 acres of wooded rolling hills and ravines. By the time I strolled back to my site, the fog had lifted to reveal a mottled grey, high overcast. Tearing my site down, I noticed that my sleeping bag was damp on the bottom half. No wonder I froze despite the warm temperatures! I must have been dressed too warm when I first went to bed and soaked the bag with sweat.
I made a brief stop at the State Park Visitor Center, mainly to wash off my helmet visor of all the road spray. I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of dioramas of stuffed local animals in their natural habitat, fresh water aquariums, Native American artifacts, and geology information. I also watched a 5 minute video in regards to the reproductive practices of fresh water mussels. Mussel porn… yeah baby! There are boatloads of these in the Meramec and the video explained how the female mussel will dangle a piece of its innards resembling an injured minnow. When a Bass comes along to snack, the “minnow” bursts and thousands of minuscule baby mussels are dispersed. Most are swept away, but a few will cling to the attacker’s gills, where they’ll live for several months, feeding off the host. Afterwards, they drop off, leaving the fish unharmed. Nature can be so cool!
Hitting Interstate 44 West, my destination is a state park near Joplin, Missouri. But it’s not to be. I cruised along for a little over 100 miles, all the while a crosswind was building. And building. Until I could barely keep my lane. I stopped for fuel and checked the weather. Winds were 35 MPH with gusts over 50. I’m surprised I wasn’t in a ditch. So I checked my destination: 40 MPH gusting to 67!!! That’s it. I reminded myself that I don’t have to be in Mexico on Monday. Besides, I can probably get an early start in the morning and make up most of the lost distance. So my digs are at the Budget Inn at Conway, Missouri tonight.
Missouri: The Show Me State. I think it’s about time they show me some decent weather.