Tag Archives: nature walks

Exploring Ozark Hills

Over almost thirty years one thing has remained a constant here. Exploring Ozark hills has been and is a great pleasure.

At first everything was a new discovery. Each flower, tree and animal was something to be written down as special. We bought the Missouri Department of Conservation guidebooks to identify these new discoveries.

exploring Ozark hills for lady slippers
Lady slippers are not common as they are very particular where they grow. We came across some on the north side of a couple of ravines.

Each year exploring Ozark hills took us to new places looking for familiar sights and seeking new ones. Lady slippers hid up a ravine. Indian pipes appeared on the hills.

Even so many years later new plants and animals turn up. Special encounters happen.

I shared these special things first in a local ad paper and now on my website. They fill a book “Exploring the Ozark Hills”.

This was a surprisingly difficult book to write. I split it into the four seasons. Spring, summer and fall had so many possible things to write about, it was hard to choose the twenty-one I included.

exploring the Ozark hills for Indian pipes
Indian pipes grow underground getting nutrition from rotting matter and roots. Only the flower stalks and flowers emerge much as mushrooms do. They appear in the late fall.

Winter was different. When I wrote “Exploring the Ozark Hills”, I looked for themes to fill up the slots. Then I had to find photographs to go with them.

Falling snow is very difficult to capture with a camera. The eye sees it easily. The camera does not unless the flakes are the large clumps that sometimes begin or end a snowfall.

This was one of the first books I wrote. The essays are still pertinent. The photographs are still beautiful. For spring, summer and fall I could go out and find everything again, although some are much more difficult to find now.

The winters here in the Ozarks have changed. This last winter was the first in several when we got several inches of snow. And it was gone in days, not weeks.

Changing weather patterns are making exploring Ozark hills a new challenge again. Only now it takes spraying up to deter the ticks.

Eastern Chipmunks Love Acorns

Driving down my road I occasionally see these little creatures shoot across with tails held straight up. These are Eastern Chipmunks.

Both chipmunks and ground squirrels live in Missouri. The ground squirrels are bigger with different coloring and don’t seem to live in my valley.

Except for an occasional sighting chipmunks aren’t noticed much either. My cats catch those that move into the yard. Their favorite routine is to bring the chipmunk into the house and let it go.

Cats do have a sense of humor and must enjoy watching me try to corner a terrified little rodent, scoot it into a container kept ready for such emergencies and slam the lid on. The chipmunk is then carried off down the road beyond where the cats normally go and turned loose.

eastern chipmunk
Eastern chipmunks give another meaning to cheeky. This one stashed an acorn in a cheek pouch for a secure carry back across the road. The swelling might give the impression of a big tumor, but it’s easily removed.

For some reason I had believed eastern chipmunks, like woodchucks, hibernated during the winter. So I was surprised to see several of them busy gathering acorns on a walk down the road.

Chipmunks do not hibernate. They do stay home in their burrows in cold weather. This means they must gather up a supply of food to snack on. Acorns are popular snacks.

That is exactly what these busy creatures were doing when I noticed them. It was hard to not notice one of them.

Most wildlife wants to avoid people. The birds keep flying off to a tree further down the road. Deer bound off white tails waving. Squirrels streak up the trees.

eastern chipmunk eating acorn
Being a rodent, the front gnawing teeth have enamel only on the front which grows continuously. Gnawing on things like acorns wears it away and keeps it razor sharp. The fingers are long on all four paws and have good nails for digging burrows. What most people see is how cute they are.

Eastern chipmunks often do take off and are only rustling in the leaves. One was determined to get another acorn. It darted across the road about ten feet in front of me, stuffed two acorns in its cheek pouches, sat on a fallen branch to assess what I was up to and darted back across the road.

The little rodent didn’t go far. It raced up a fallen tree and across to a perch on another fallen branch to eat an acorn. I assume it was the same one. I saw two or three others in the area.

The next morning was twenty-five degrees. It warmed up quickly and I went walking. The chipmunks had all stayed in their burrows.

Ozark Quiet Country Road

It’s amazing how fast the trees turn color after a single frost. Walking down a quiet country road is a good time to enjoy the changes.

Black walnuts leaf out late and drop their leaves early. The frost hurried them along. Swirls of yellow leaves blew down looking like a yellow snow storm.

looking down a quiet country road
Fall colors peek through the green. Leaves drift down to pave the road. They blow about with the wind. Birds are quietly eating so the only sounds are the rustling of the leaves and rushing of the wind on a walk down a quiet country road in the Ozarks.

After weeks of calm weather, the winds have returned. Standing on a quiet country road is a time to hear the wind rustling through the drying leaves. The sound is a slow rush punctuated by dropping leaves plopping onto the road.

Black walnuts thud into the grass. On the road the walnuts smash down, muddy rocks hitting a brick wall.

tree turning red
Different kinds of trees turn different colors. Sassafras turns a salmon red. The pasture remains emerald green for now.

A few lizards still dart off. The leaves make it impossible for their speedy flight to be silent.

So many adventure books about Indians mention moving silently through the forest. The Ozarks people get a good laugh at that. Nothing moves quietly through the falling leaves.

mushrooms along a quiet country road
A fallen tree along the road provides a home for salmon shelf mushrooms.

People love noise or it seems so. Their vehicles are loud. The quieter ones have radios blaring.

Having time to enjoy the quiet country road is special. Fall leaves pave the road. Trees range from green to bronze with yellow popular now. The reds are getting a good start.

The creek swishes now as it washes leaf blankets along. Many of the leaves sink down to create warmer places for the fish over the winter.

mushrooms along a quiet country road
A fallen tree along the road provides a home for salmon shelf mushrooms.

Squirrels crash through the leaves as they leap along carrying walnuts up to hiding places in the trees. Other times the squirrel stops to eat and teeth skritch on the hard hull.

Walking down a quiet country road listening to the wind in the trees, watching the leaves swirl down, scattering birds out of the giant ragweed where they are eating seeds, admiring the color in the trees almost makes fall a special time of year. If only winter wasn’t hiding in the wings.

Enjoy the Ozarks through photographs and haikus in “My Ozark Home“.