Trip Date: 2018-Jan-06 * Scouting Mission: 2017-Jan-07 & 2016-Jan-08

 

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The Old Courthouse, located in downtown Saint Louis, is a magnificent building, and an important touchstone in the ongoing struggle for justice and equality.  You can tell what a society values by looking at their buildings — once inside, the Old Courthouse feels like a temple to the Rule of Law.  The arc of justice is long.

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A wonderful time for locals to visit is on January 6th, which is Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas.  On this day, the Old Courthouse comes alive with music and dancing from 1768, as period actors in military dress throw a party for the public, complete with music, dancing and a ceremony involving the “King’s Cake”.

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The event is called the “Twelfth Afternoon Ball“,  and it comes with ladies in long dresses serving pralines, little cookies and hot cider to visitors.  The public is invited to join in the dancing, which is fun and easy to learn. The whole thing is free.

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Street parking is easy in winter, and you get two hours at the meter.  The Metro stops at 8th & Pine, a brisk four block walk to the Old Courthouse.  As you approach, look for the International Fur Exchange building on your right, (now a Drury Hotel), which stands as a tangible reminder of the enormous wealth generated by beaver pelts, and the french fur traders who procured them.  Take a moment to admire the dome, which was modeled after the Capitol Dome in Washington D.C., as well as the Vatican.

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Once inside, stand next to the warm radiators to shake off the cold, and look left at the underground railroad map, then take a moment to explore the Dred Scott exhibit. Watch the short history channel movie as you wish. Use the restrooms as necessary.

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The music and dancing will beckon to you from the center hall, and fancy ladies in long gowns will serve you cider and cookies.  Enjoy the music from your seats while the more courageous members of your party join in the fun and easy dancing.

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Because of the Dred Scott decision, the Old Courthouse is a National Park, and like Yellowstone Park or Yosemite — where most people don’t go more than one mile from the road — most people don’t think to climb up into the rotunda of the Old Courthouse.  This is your adventure.

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National Park

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When you’re ready to climb, explore the side halls until you find the cast iron stairs, which are beautifully crafted and highly unusual.  As you climb each flight, hunt around for the next flight of stairs, until you’ve climbed as high as you can go.

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On your way up, peek inside the historic courthouse rooms, preserved in all their classical revival splendor, and if no other visitors are around, say something, like “hello”,  to experience the amazing acoustics. Maybe you could shout something like “Let Freedom Ring!”, “Once free, always free!” or, “From the Darkness Cometh the Light!”. Imagine the enormous expense, and admire the incredible craftsmanship, and know such a building would not likely be built today.

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Make note of the Greek columns which ascend in architectural order from Doric to Ionic to Corinthian, as you ascend each level.  Some of the columns are load bearing, (made of cast iron), and some are decorative, (made from wood). Knock on the columns to see if you can tell which are made from iron, and which are made of wood.

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The rotunda was designed to carry voices to as many people as possible without amplification, so your climbing adventure will be accompanied by the merry sounds of music and dancing below.  It’s fun to peer down on the tiny dancers, while ascending the upper balconies above. You’re standing inside an old fashioned amplifier!

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When you get to the top, you will be standing beneath the skylight, known as the “eye”, which brings sunlight down from on high.  The very top structure is called a “cupola”, which means “upside-down cup” in Italian.  There are two ways up to the third balcony, which is as high as you are allowed to go;  visitors are not allowed on the fourth balcony.

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See if you can identify the four allegorical paintings by Wimar, representing the British-Indian attack, the discovery of the Mississippi Rive by deSoto, the founding of Saint Louis, and the transcontinental railroad through the Rocky Mountains.  Also see if you can identify the allegorical figures on four walls representing law, liberty, justice and commerce.

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Flag & Dome 2018

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Make your way back downstairs and out onto the East Steps, overlooking the Arch and facing the Mississippi River.  It is here that slaves were auctioned off, as well as the Eads Bridge (to your left) and the St. Louis Post Dispatch (to Hungarian immigrant Joseph Pulitzer).  This is a great spot for a family photo.

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The Dred and Harriet Scott sculpture is to your right. Dred Scott finally achieved his freedom a year before he died. Visit the gift shop on the way out, and check out the children’s books on Lewis and Clark, as well as the excellent selection of children’s books on African American History.  Buy or bring your National Parks Passport, so it can be stamped.

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Use the Restrooms before leaving, and look for the turtle motif on the wrought iron fence facing west, an homage to a quirky custodian who once kept a real turtle in the Courthouse fountain, and complained that the turtle was the only thing in the courthouse that didn’t cause the tax papers money.

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Epiphany at the Old Courthouse in Saint Louis is an excellent adventure for families of all ages; toddlers will get lots of exercise on the stairs, kids will love scampering about the balconies, and teens will enjoy the magnificent building and authentic military weaponry.  It’s a refreshing, short and sweet adventure for the whole family, with a little bit of exercise.

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Finding the event on your computer can be a challenge.  Start with Gateway Arch events; and if all else fails, search Facebook for the  Twelfth Afternoon Ball. The event is hosted on the Saturday nearest Epiphany.  If you miss Epiphany, similar events are held throughout the year, including the President’s Ball on President’s Day.  If you can’t make one of the re-enactment dates, go on MLK Day in January, which hosts the second largest annual civil rights gathering in the nation.

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Here’s your GPS location: 11 N. 4th Street; Saint Louis; 63102. Watch for this information to be uploaded into a collection of adventure maps for sale on Amazon, soon.

 

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Trip #46
Trip Date: 2016-09-17 Saturday 3:30
Attendees: 7 adults + 8 kids
Message: Be Kind to Animals
Wildlife Rescue Center

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A trip to the Wildlife Rescue Center, located near Castlewood Park, is fantastic, and Green Spiral Tours ventured forth on a Saturday afternoon in September.  The best time to visit the Wildlife Rescue Center is in June, when lots of “May Babies” are in residence.

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The Wildlife Rescue Center cares for over 2,500 injured, sick or orphaned animals per year, and releases them with permission on private property.

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Green Spiral has hosted a lot of scouting missions and field trips over the past seven years, and we don’t think we’ve ever seen a better nature program for kids.  Director Casey Philips, who led the tour, is especially skillful with kids.  We had warm-up exercises in the conference room, followed by a tour of the facility, some veterinary practice on stuffed animals, and a quick hike around the lake.

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The WildLife Rescue Center is volunteer run, and volunteer funded; the place is surprisingly big, and it’s all very clean and orderly.  There’s an x-ray machine and a small operating room for treating fractures and emergencies.

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If turtles get run over by cars, or whacked by a lawn mower; the Wildlife Rescue Center zip-ties their shells back together and nurtures them back to health.

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If squirrels get orphaned or injured, they are put into hammocks, and hand-fed by volunteers.

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We got to see a baby opossum who tried to scare us away with his tiny sharp teeth, and we also got to see a baby fox.

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We took a nature walk around the small lake, (actually a bog), full of mallards, frogs, fish and duckweed.

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There’s always a lot of magic, and some bit of mischief on each Green Spiral field trip. The magic was seeing the animals. The mischief showed up in the form of poison ivy, which we narrowly averted when we popped down to explore the creek.

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Poison ivy is tricky, because it can look like a bush or a vine.  Look for jagged edges,  leaves of three (leave it be), and especially, look for an extra long stem on that middle leaf.

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We took about 15 people, which was the perfect sized group, although the facility can handle up to 30 people.  The fee is about $50 fee for 10 participants; each additional participant is $5 per person. Because this is an animal hospital, folks need to be calm, and the age range is limited to Kindergarten and up. To get maximum benefit, definitely organize this as a small group tour; if you have a scout group or classroom, divide the group in half.

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What you can do:

Visit the Wildlife Rescue Center with kids; you will be delighted and learn all sorts of things. Here’s the link to begin organizing a tour: Wildlife Rescue Center

Keep cats indoors. Cats kill and injure a great number of wild animals, notably songbirds.

Sign petitions to protect habitat and clean water.

Give generously to the Wildlife Rescue Center, as they are completely volunteer run, and they are doing such great work: http://www.iGive.com/WildlifeRescueCenter/?p=19992&jltest=1 #iGiveDoYou

Urban Wild Adventures – Trip Date: May 31 & June 2 2016

To know your city is to love your city, and Green Spiral has long known Saint Louis to be home to some of the most amazing parks and playgrounds in the country. As the world becomes a more hectic place, nature places and quiet oasis will play an increasing role in the identity of this Great City.

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We have many treasured parks in Saint Louis, but the crown jewel of parks is certainly Forest Park, recently named the #1 Best City Park in America: https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/the-15-best-city-parks-in-america.

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World class destinations like the Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum and Muny are easy to find in Forest Park, but for those of you looking to get off the beaten track, here’s a short loop we’re calling the “Crawdaddy Walk”.  It’s a two hour excursion at a very leisurely pace, suitable for all ages, including the stroller set.

2016-06 Forest Park Map

Park and meet your playgroup at the Inclusion Playground next to the Visitor Center, and be sure to pack your own water, unless you like paying $2 for bottled water.  Know that the playground is the first inclusion playground built in the city and there is a secret pollinator’s garden nearby.

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Call up Jean Turney, education coordinator at Forest Park Forever, and have her meet you at the blueberries growing right next to the building. Jean’s job is to help folks learn how to use the park for fun and educational purposes, and she organizes Teacher Academies in the Summer.  561-3287

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Begin your walk between the parking lot and the tennis courts and head for the Mary Orr MacCarthy Bridge, or the “Love Lock Bridge”. On your way, you can have kids pick clover; tie them together to make some clover crowns!  Know that there is a famous bridge in Paris, the Pont des Arts, which has grill-work laden with locks.  Lovers carve their initials into padlocks, affix the locks to the bridge, and throw the key into the river, thereby sealing their love forever.  Looks like we now have a “Love Lock Bridge” in Forest Park, so if you’re a lover, go ahead and affix your lock, it’s the “good kind of trouble” to get into.

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Continue walking along between the creek  and the Boathouse, an area we call “Cottonwood Corridor”.  If you travel through in June, the cotton puffs will be floating through the air like snow; see if kids can catch some cottonpuffs.

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Stop and sample the service berries growing on bushes to your right.  Service berries are important bird food, and edible for humans too.  The service berries ripen in early summer, and get their name from the “olden days” when the ground was too frozen to bury the dead.  When the service berries came ripe in late May, the ground was warm enough to excavate a deep hole, and a service could finally be performed. Thus the name” service-berry.  Thank you Bellefontaine Cemetery for the story!

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Continue following the path until you find the water-play area on your right.  This is a great area to play in the water.  Our creeks and waterways are in bad shape, and questionable for young children for a multiplicity of reasons including sewage and radioactive contamination. But because the River des Peres was long ago used as an open sewer and buried under the park in advance of the World’s Fair in 1904, the surface water in Forest Park today is pretty close to tap water, and the cleanest natural water-play area we can find for kids.  It’s kind of sad that we’ve contaminated so many waterways as a society; therefore, it’s important to educate yourself and thus join the fight to clean up and protect our waterways, if nothing but our own enjoyment. Technically, there is “no swimming” in Forest Park, but Green Spiral happens to know that the park rangers will turn a blind eye towards kids frolicking in the water.  If you do get in trouble, put big tears in your eyes, and say “…but I want my kids to touch a creek at least one time in their lives before they grow up,” and put on your best and most sad pouting face…  Back to the self-guided tour:

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great place to fish for crayfish.  Bring a paperclip on a string, and fix some cheese to the open “hook” of the paperclip.  Drop the paperclip in the water, and when a crawfish clamps on to it, hoist the little feller out of the water. We forgot our paper clips, but did find a dead crayfish. By the way, Missouri is a hot-spot for crayfish biodiversity, due to our plethora of magnificent spring-fed rivers.

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“Crawdaddy Cove” is a great area for a family picnic, and you can almost always find frogs, turtles, minnows, green herons and egrets. This is the best place for spying wildlife with kids that we’ve found in Forest Park so far. Remember to bring your hand sanitizer and sun protection. This is a wonderful destination for a picnic dinner in the evening, thus avoiding the “witching hour” at home. On the official map, this place is really called the “Post Dispatch Lake Riffles”, but we think “Crawdaddy Cove” is more romantic.

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When you are ready to depart, walk towards the main road, and over the “Bridge of Swallows”, which has lots of swallow nesting under it.  Continue walking past the Dwight Davis Tennis Center, and ultimately back to your car.  This is about a two hour adventure, conducted at a leisurely pace. Many thanks to talented nature guide Angela Wildermuth for scouting and leading this adventure with her Spring series of adventures called “Urban Wild Adventures”, which takes families on nature hunts at parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.

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Now here’s your homework:

  1. Count how many creatures you can find on your walk and have the kids make a note in a journal you keep in the car.
  2. See if you can name any plants, or make a crown made of clover.  Simply tie them together as you would make a “daisy chain.”
  3. Come back to the Visitor Center someday and ask for the free ipod walking tour that teaches you about the history of Forest Park, and walks you past the Art Museum and Picnic Island. It’s very well done; many thanks to the Trio Foundation.
  4. Comment below with your observations and improvements on the map and adventure for the benefit of others.
  5. Love your City. Get out and get to know it. To know it, is to love it.

TripDate: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Use this Green Spiral Map

along with the blogpost from

“Becoming a Wild Family”

to explore Shaw Park

in Clayton.

2016 Shaw Park Map

This is part of the

Spring Series of

“Urban Wild Adventures”

featuring fabulous nature guide

Angela Wildermuth

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Becoming a Wild Family

We went on our weekly park tour today!

Kentucky has their horse derby 🏇and we have the leaf race 🍃…

… Read on to find out who won…. 😉

We began the tour of Shaw Park at the playground. It’s quite a fun park that tries to draw upon the aesthetics of nature!

Angela always engages the kids right away by telling them what the park has in store for them!  She quickly drew the kids’ attention to the Sensory Garden.


She passed around samples of the plants that could be found in the sensory garden and had everyone touch and smell the leaves and flowers.

She also had a scavenger hunt list for the kids to check off.

Simone was in charge of our family’s findings.

She took the hunt very seriously…

The boys listened and hunted but in a much less organized way.

Some of…

View original post 488 more words

Follow Green Spiral Tours nature guide Angela Wildermuth and this beautiful Wild Family into the parks and playgrounds of Saint Louis…

Becoming a Wild Family

Angela led us on another fantastic park tour today… And the kids were so engaged and excited to hear all that she had to teach!

She began by leading a child-led discussion about spring and any interesting things found so far in the wild. She then passed out some hand drawn maps and gave the kids a sort of preview of what to look for! This really got the kids excited!

Then we were off to the creek!

This rock is limestonewith lots of potholes – made from a rock, trapped in a crack, and swirled around and around and around by moving water.

After that- we were on the look out for a sideways sycamore tree.

Next on the map to find:

ring-around-the gigantic Burr Oak Tree

Back to the creek bed… To find Quartz!

Task:

  • knock two rocks together and sniff
  • If it smells like smoke, it’s…

View original post 220 more words

Faucet Water Org

Trip Date: 2016 March & 2016 December
Field Trips #35 & 48

In the wake of the #Flint Water Crisis,  Green Spiral Tours hosted two “Drinking Water Tours” to the water intake & treatment facility at Hog Hollow.

Most drinking water in America, including the city of Saint Louis, is managed by city municipalities, but the facility at Hog Hollow is operated by Missouri American Water, a private company.

Hog Hollow

This facility provides water to the County, and thus about 80% of the region’s population.  Here’s the good news and the bad news:  we have an abundant supply of fresh clean water coming down the Missouri River, with no urgent threat, except for the serious situation at the the West Lake Landfill.

Great Rivers Greenway

Saint Louis is defined by its rivers: the Missouri, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers meet just upstream from the city, and the Meramec River meets the Mississippi just south of the city. (Map courtesy of Great Rivers Greenway.)

There are four water treatment facilities on the Missouri River and two on the Meramec; these six facilities supply all the drinking water to the Saint Louis region. In this day and age, everyone should know where their water comes from.

About  80% of the region’s water comes from the Hog Hollow location, which is located near Chesterfield on the Missouri River:  this facility feeds the County system which includes Saint Charles, Chesterfield, Webster Groves, Clayton, University City,  and some parts of South Saint Louis. North Saint Louis, including Bridgeton, receives water mixed from both the Hog Hollow intake, and the water intake downstream at Charbonnier.

The Missouri River is a fast, deep and fairly clean water source.  In just eleven minutes, we can pull enough water out of the river to supply Saint Louis with a year’s worth of drinking water. Upstream are CAFO farms, industrial facilities,  coal ash ponds, and a handful of nuke plants. The greatest water threat seems to be coming from “nonpoint” sources, including springtime nitrates, nutrient pollution from farm inputs,  and industrial pollution like oil in the parking lot not coming from a pipe.  Interestingly, large pipeline and chemical spills are a valid threat to clean water. All things considered, and relative to the rest of the country, Saint Louis has an abundant supply of fresh clean water,  because we sit on the banks of a fast, clean flowing river. Here’s a nifty new tool that allows you to trace the Missouri river upstream:  Slate.com

2016 Flint Water Crisis

If you’ve been following the Flint Water Crisis, you’ve been watching a catastrophic failure of government at every level, and a lot of finger pointing, as residents muddle through the days (and now years) on bottled water.  Clearly, there is no easy fix in sight, and the story has turned a spotlight on aging infrastructure, corruption in government and weakening water regulations across the country. Here’s what Erin Brokovich had to say about Flint in March 2016, and the situation is getting worse:   We Are All Flint

Indeed, the Flint situation prompted the testing of local Saint Louis schools, and many of them popped up with lead troubles before school started in 2016.  We all know that lead is damaging to young brains;  it enters the water supply at the end point, where the house pipes meet the water main, for example, or where the drinking fountain meets the child. Lead is easily handled and not an issue for our water supply, per se. stl today Aug 2016

west lake landfill overlay

For those just tuning in, we have a landfill loaded with a huge amount of nuclear waste in Saint Louis, and an unstoppable fire now within “hundreds of feet”, so there’s quite a lot of concern about radioactivity slipping into the drinking water supply.  We know from the EPA that radioactivity is currently leaching into the groundwater, and that the groundwater under the landfill is now it’s own Superfund site. The groundwater is expected to seep into the Missouri River by ? 2030? If it’s not escaping into the river already.

Missouri American Water Tower

In March 2016, and again in December 2016, Green Spiral Tours took twenty reasonable and skeptical citizens on tours of the county facility at Hog Hollow, operated by Missouri American Water.  This facility is located upstream from the landfill and the tours were informative and interesting.  Our hosts were clearly professionals who take great pride in their work, and their transparency and candor were comforting. After both tours, Green Spiral participants had not big concerns, and pretty much agreed that the water supply from the County facility is mostly “safe”.

Treating water for drinking is both a mechanical and chemical process. The water is drawn from the river, and then delivered by pipe to settling ponds.  Chemically sticky positive ions, (like lime softening agents and carbon) are added, which cause large particles to clump together as colloidals, and sink to the bottom. This is how most of the heavy metals and radionuclides are removed from the water: they clump together and  “settle” as sediment.

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2016 Best Photo

After leaving the settling ponds, the water is treated with chlorine and ammonia to kill microbes and pathogens, and then disturbed with aerating paddles, again to cause particles to knock together, clump, and fall to the bottom as sediment. Fluoride is added thanks to standards that has not been updated since 1950, and the young mothers were keen to know we have relatively more fluoride in Saint Louis (at .6mg/L) than other cities.  (By the way, fluoride is a tiny molecule, which can be removed by reverse osmosis; the Lancet Journal has come out with this not so great news about the damaging effects of fluoride).

2016-12-09-anthraciteIn the final stage, water passes through a final filter (of anthracite, sand and pebbles) to remove the smallest particles before moving by pipe directly to the consumer.  A dense network of pipes runs beneath the streets of Saint Louis, and the county has the ability to swap water with the city in order to handle the “Super Bowl Flush Rush” or the filling of too many swimming pools in early summer. The county water pipes interface with city water pipes somewhere around Skinker Blvd. As a final note: Missouri American Water adds extra carbon for taste, odor and color, and probably due to a high mineral county,  Saint Louis wins awards for having great tasting water!

West Lake MapWhile Missouri American Water operates the county water intake facility upstream from the landfill, the city of Saint Louis operates two intake facilities downstream from the landfill (and also one intake facility upstream from the landfill). Refer to the hand-drawn map. It’s all a little confusing, but the point is that the city and county can switch pipes and swap water at any time, and thus, we all drink the same water.  The city has denied Green Spiral Tours a visit for security and safety reasons.

Water is Life

This brings us down to test results, as well as the question of what is being tested, and what is not being tested for.  For example, drinking water is not being tested for a variety of pharmaceuticals, which are known to be there. Safe Water Standards are set by the EPA and enforced by the State.  Lots can be written about the EPA and the MDNR (Missouri Department of Natural Resources), and you could spend your life lobbying for clean water; thankfully, many people do.  Bear in mind, for context, that the biggest threat to safe drinking water (by far) is e.coli, also known as “poop”.

2014-01-19 Water towersHere are some of the specific questions from our December group, along with answers:  What about testing for specific radioactive isotopes associated with the West Lake Landfill, like radium 226 or thorium 230? Answer: The water tested in 2015 at the downstream Charbonnier facility revealed no detectable gross alpha or gross beta results. Water was also retrieved from the point where Cold Water Creek enters the Missouri River and no gross alpha or gross beta were detected. What about gylphosate? Answer: according to testing results, no glyphosate was detected in the raw water. What about radioactive particles leaking into the pipes? Answer: low emitter radioactive particles cannot penetrate pipes, and the water supply is a closed system. Which water system serves InBev and thus Budweiser Beer? Answer: County water, the Missouri American water treatment facility we visited at Hog Hollow. Question: How much of a problem are pipeline spills, as highlighted by Standing Rock situation, for example? Answer: Actually, kind of a problem.  What about chloramines? Answer: Chlorine and chloramines seem to be a necessary evil.  What about Chromium 6? Answer: Health standards are no feasibly attainable, but clean drinking water standards are met. Like I said, a person could spend a lifetime looking at test results and lobbying for clean water, and thankfully, many people do.  Take a moment to look through the test results of your drinking water by entering your zipcode here: Water Quality Reports

Testing for radionuclides is required every nine years by the EPA, but due to the unique situation at the West Lake Landfill, all four water facilities on the Missouri River were tested in 2015, and here are the results: http://www.amwater.com/ccr/STLSTC_rads.pdf

It is my understanding that the Missouri River is now being tested every year for radionuclides.

Water Gives Me Potatoes

Here are a few articles you may or may not want to read:

Erin Brokovich in Time Magazine: Feb 2016

Half of all US Rivers too polluted: The Wire 2013

MegaBanks: Buying up the World’s Water

 

DOE dumps radioactivity in Missouri River 1993: First Secret City

Water beyond America; Thank you Water.org:  Water.org

Shut Down the Dakota Pipeline on the Missouri River: Before it Spills

Surprisingly, after long insisting that fracking does not contaminate groundwater, the EPA has now come out and said, “actually, it does”: Eco-Watch

i-am-the-riverIn the end,  we all live downstream, and I encourage citizens to learn by doing, by organizing your own “Drinking Water” field trips.


This is a good field trip for middle school students,  high school students, and scout troops. Take about 12-20 people with you when you go, and make sure they are over age 10; names must be submitted for security reasons. Call the main number at Missouri American Water and ask for a tour: 314-469-6050. The tour takes about 2 hours and there is some driving out to the river.  Go in March, when the leaves are just starting to turn green, or go in November, saving your best weather for planting in your garden or exploring the green world with kids. Tell them Green Spiral Tours sent you, and bring Saint Louis chocolates, or other suitable gifts when you go. Now here’s your homework:

Visit your Drinking Water Treatment Facility: Create your own tour or follow Green Spiral Tours.  Visiting a place in real life is entirely different than reading about it on the internet.  You’ll be surprised at what you learn, and what sticks with you. Bring friends who will ask questions you would never think to ask.  Take a moment to blog out or reflect on your experience to integrate the learning into your understanding of the way things work.

Use less fertilizer:  Everything you put on your lawn, garden or driveway eventually ends up in the river, and over-fertilizing lawns is a major offender. Use native plants, which require far fewer fertilizers and almost no pesticides.

Salt is a problem –  lobby your school or government to use salt wisely, and investigate new spray applications, which use a fraction of the amount of salt.

Clean up pet waste – Interestingly, dog poop creates an e.coli problem, so if you want to drink clean water, clean up after your dog.

Eat Local and Organic. Yep, it always seems to keep coming back to that. Farm policy matters a lot, because nitrogen and phosphorous inputs run off the land, into the wetlands and rivers, and ultimately into the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, (which is already quite large and  getting larger). It’s sad, because the degraded habitat kills so many fish and animals.

Sign PetitionsHere’s a bunch of petitions you can sign from Food & Water Watch.  Yes, petitions and phone calls do matter!

Comment below – put your questions below and I will write to Missouri American Water to see if they can be answered.  Here’s a picture of me, Jessie, with an American bald eagle at the water intake facility next to the river.

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This is Angela Wildermuth. She’s an amazing family nature guide.

Her last name means “wild spirit”.

2016 Angela Notepad

Angela is inspired to take families “into the wild” places at the edges of parks and playgrounds all over the Saint Louis area.  Green Spiral has now hosted two series of playground adventures that we are calling “Urban Wild Adventures”.

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In the wilds of Maplewood…

 

This blog debriefs “Winter Wild Adventures” in hopes of getting kids outside in all kinds of weather. You definitely need proper clothing, and friends, to help keep you warm, and overcome that indoor inertia.

If you can find REAL felt or alpaca foot inserts for kids (NOT polyester), and put them inside standard wellie-type rain boots, you’ve just created a pair of warm kid boots for a fraction of the cost of snow boots. Wear wool socks for extra measure.  Buy rain boots a size too big in fall, and as kids grow, take out the wool inserts for spring and summer.

Fit for a prince...

Fit for a prince…

The weather is not likely to settle down anytime in the near future, and families who follow Green Spiral know all about raising resilient kids.  Green Spiral field trips are not for everybody; they’re kind of like “Outdoor Leadership School” for toddlers, kids and families.  But for those who do follow the wild spirit into the woods, the magic and the misadventure makes every extra effort worthwhile.

2016-01-25 Memorial Park (7)

The colder the winter the sweeter the spring, and even rain feels nice compared to ice. Getting outside in cold weather is good for you — and here’s an introduction to the fairly new concept of “brown fat”.  Brown fat is abundant in hibernating animals and newborns, it’s function is to keep the body warm.  But “brown fat” has also recently been discovered in adults as a response to cold exposure.  Brown fat keeps you warm, and it also burns “white fat”.  In short, being outside in winter causes you to build brown fat, which eventually keeps you warmer, WHILE, it makes you thinner!

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Nature doesn’t hibernate in winter, and there is plenty to do. The first three “Urban Wild Adventures”, to the Webster Sculpture Garden, Memorial Park and Tower Grove Park were cold, cold, cold. Kids have less body mass than adults, and thus get dangerously cold faster, so bundle little ones up well, wrap babies close to the body, and bring warm drinks in a thermos for when you get back to the car.  As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

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Memorial Park in Brentwood (near the YMCA), is a fabulous destination for a short cold weather hike, as the secret paths are easier to find in winter, mulched with recycled Christmas trees.  Be careful not to fall into the creek when crossing the stepping stones, and make your way to the bridge with the arch.  Keep your eye on the creek — we had a magical moment when we spotted a great blue heron! It’s nice to have a tour guide who carries along bird books, and that nature guide could be you.

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Along with a moment of magic, every trip has a misadventure; the misadventure on this trip was the sad realization that trash along creeks is highly visible in winter.  On a positive note, mothers can’t stop themselves from cleaning up this pretty planet:  the moms found a lost garbage bag, spontaneously started cleaning up the place, and the kids jumped right in. The nice thing about winter hiking is that you don’t have to wash hands, just mittens! Panera would be your closest cozy stop, across the street in the same shopping center as Whole Foods.

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Here’s your map should you want to catch up with Green Spiral Tours, or simply organize your own playgroup adventure.

2016-01-25 map Memorial Park

 

The Tower Grove Park trip was even colder, with one or two misadventures. But know that Tower Grove has a secret natural playground, and Angela took us there. Our destination was these “gnarly knee trees” underneath a bald cypress tree.  This type of natural wonder cannot be landscaped – they’re very old and only grow in the wettest ground.

BUT! it snowed, covering up the gnarly knee destination! And, sadly, one of the cars got broken into —  so always remember “Adventure School Rules #3” – remain aware, and always lock valuables away and out of sight.

2016 Adventure School Rules

HOWEVER! Tower Grove has a pony! Who knew? AND, it was early February, so we saw the earliest sign of spring: witch hazel in bloom.

2015-02 Tower Grove pony

Tower Grove is a known birding destination along the “Mississippi Flyway”, so you might want to  return around Mother’s Day, with a picnic, when the songbirds pass through. We learned that a bird sanctuary is planned to be installed in Tower Grove Park soon. By the way, Hartford Coffee is a nice place to warm up, with quality coffee or hot chocolate.

 

Mr. Cypress Tree

Blackburn Park in Webster Groves is an amazing park to explore, and Angela & the families ventured forth in the rain, which seemed like  fun after the first three cold trips. Blackburn is famous for it’s sinkholes, and the kids had a blast jumping in and out of them; but be careful, what happens if the sinkhole doesn’t let you out? Remember, these are true off-the-beaten adventures and not sanitized, canned experiences, so you have to stop and assess the risks and hazards.  Fortunately, most kids have highly developed survival skills, and in this world, they need to be encouraged to take more risks, not fewer.  As always, use your own judgement.

Sink into the goodness...

Sink into the goodness…

By the way, ponchos are better for kids than umbrellas, because ponchos are cheaper and last longer than umbrellas, plus, nobody gets poked in the eye! Here’s a darling blog by a “Wild Mom” which tells you all about the adventure to Blackburn Park, and how to become a “Wild Family”. Imho, wild families have more fun, AND they are going to save this beautiful earth:

Becoming a Wild Family

The trip to Lindberg Park in Maplewood resulted in a great horned owl sighting as well as the welcome sight of wild purple crocus flowers — the first wink of spring! Also found: rabbit fur from owl hunting, as well as multiple groundhog burrows.  Teach kids to look up, down, and all around.

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Kids don’t learn about nature by osmosis or by magic; they must be taught directly how to pick up trash and put on wool socks.  Schools are not particularly set up to teach kids about nature, so the amazing nature teacher in your life is likely to be you. Hopefully this blog inspires you to get outside and shake off the winter doldrums.  As a tip to future trip leaders, it works well to meet your playgroup at the playground, to get the ya-ya’s out, so when the nature hike begins, everyone is in a calm mood of ready awareness.

Think on these things?

Think on these things?

In short, Winter Urban Wild Adventures, are good for you, good for kids, and good for Saint Louis. Be inspired to launch your own trips with the maps provided, or follow Angela Wildermuth on future “Urban Wild” adventures, by watching for future Green Spiral emails or following the Green Spiral Facebook Page.

Now here’s your homework:

  1. Go to your favorite park and get off the beaten track.  Look along the edges, where the wild things might be.  Look up, look down.  Collect nature items as you go, and arrange them in an interesting way at the end of your explorations.  Take a picture of it, along with the kids, for your photo journal.  Mark it with the date and location. This is a “Goldsworthy”; following in the footsteps of famous artist Andy Goldsworthy.
  2. Buy wool socks, rain boots & ponchos, and train your family to get outside in all kinds of weather.  Get your friends to come with you. Tell yourselves how resilient and awesome you are becoming with each passing day.
  3. Create a winter terrarium by collecting a small sample of soil, plus a small patch of frozen moss.  Put it inside a pretty jar with a lid, spritz it with water and set it on the kitchen table.  Prepare to be amazed at the tiny creatures and ferns that unfurl as the terrarium warms. Toss the soil and moss into the compost pile when the tiny riot of life has played itself out.