The End is Near.

Summer’s end, that is. Naturally, that means I enter almost-panic mode, thinking of all the stuff I want to do outdoors before it gets cold.

Plus, the candy corn is out. If that’s not a sure sign of the apocalypse, I don’t know what is. We go through pounds of it every year. Its siren song lures me from faraway aisles in the grocery store.

But back to summer.

We spent the weekend at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. The kids and I had never been there. Greg last visited before the breach of Ameren’s reservoir destroyed everything in its path. It is what it is, but after viewing the restoration, Greg determined that Ameren should rebuild all our state parks. The glossy brochures! The campground with 100A pedestals! The fancy faucets in the showerhouses that allow you to change the water temperature by waving your hands on either side!

Friday night we attended a camp naturalist talk. I think this is the first we’ve attended this summer. It was a spider sniff, and the kids eagerly searched for spiders around the amphitheater. Laurel gave a mini-lecture to the naturalist and others about how Daddy Longlegs are not  spiders but harvestmen.

This summer – the fourth hottest on record for us – revisited us with a vengeance on Saturday with temperatures in the upper 90s. It wasn’t bad in the morning though, so we went for a morning hike along the scour caused by the reservoir breach. It was very interesting – we were particularly enamored with the warning signs telling us that if a siren sounded we should immediately proceed uphill 200 steps. Gulp. The walls of the reservoir loomed above us.

climbing the rocksevolution spiralin the boulder field


The hike was nice – we followed a trail to an overlook of the scour caused when the reservoir broke, then we walked along the scour to the visitor’s center. There the kids checked out backpacks with lots of interpretive material in them to occupy them back at camp.

Ethan was more interested in biking of course, until his tire blew out. Yes, folks, that would be the THIRD tire he has blown this summer. I don’t understand it, except that they really must not make bike tires the way they used to. Greg and I rode our bikes a lot as kids and never blew a tire. So whatever. Here’s a big middle finger to the bike tire manufacturers we’ve encountered.

No trip to Johnson’s Shut-Ins would be complete without, well, a trip to the Shut-Ins themselves, so we went down there in the afternoon on Saturday. So did everyone else. The difference is that because we were campers, we got special parking privileges. We endured plenty of nasty looks as we drove past those walking really far and those waiting in line to park with the proletariat.


Seriously, this is exactly what the park should do, so kudos to them. If I’d paid for a campsite and then couldn’t visit one of the main features of the park, I would be pissed.


more of the shut-insoverlooking the shut-insnavigatingThe breach scour

So yes, it was crowded, and Greg and I are not fond of crowds at all, but we stayed as long as possible before bailing for ice cream in Lesterville.

We were tired after all this and the kids were bickering so we determined we would NOT be attending that evening’s camp naturalist program about frogs…until the naturalist came by and told us that she had told her boss about Laurel (uh-oh) and her boss suggested Laurel play the part of the frog’s mother in the mock frog funeral planned for that evening’s program.

So that was that. I took the kids to the program while Greg built a fire. Ethan was a pallbearer, Laurel sang and played that part. It was a cute program, but Ethan was so exhausted. The idea of a frog funeral absolutely traumatized him, even though the fake eulogies read were really quite humorous. As soon as we piled into the truck to go back to our campsite, the dam burst (Ethan’s, not Ameren’s) and though he knew none of the funeral was real, he cried heartbreakingly all the way back in mourning for Freddie the Frog. No amount of cajoling could work him out of this crying jag. Trust me. I tried.


It was clearly time to come home on Sunday morning, and after sleeping in until almost 9 a.m. (!) we ate breakfast, packed up, and headed back to St. Louis.

All in all a great time. Here’s to a long and glorious Fall. After all, I’ve got fall crops in the garden. No early freezes!