2016-06-11 Trip Date
Scouting Trip # 283

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The Sustainable Backyard Tour began in 2010 in Saint Louis.  It’s a grassroots event, one of the first of it’s kind, and it just celebrated it’s 7th anniversary in 2017.  Known affectionately as the SBYT, this is a free event by locals, who throw their garden gates open to the public each year, to showcase best practices in organic vegetable growing, beekeeping, chicken farming, native habitats, water retention and clean energy.  Typically, over 40 hosts showcase their backyards and gardens every year.  Green Spiral Tours took advantage of the SBYT to visit the celebrated Urban Harvest Food Roof in downtown Saint Louis.  The Food Roof is fantastic!

2017 Food Roof Logo

Located downtown near the City Museum, and above Wave Storage, you can easily park on the street next to Wave Taco, which offers a volleyball tournament arena, several tons of white Florida sand, and a tiki bar serving tacos, beer and margaritas.  To get to the Food Roof, enter through the doors at W-ave Storage, and make your way up the stairs to roof.  When you pop up, expect to be impressed by an exceptionally well designed space and vibrant scene.

2017 Wave Taco

5 staff, 15 interns, 300 volunteers, and several master gardeners help make the Urban Harvest Food Roof what it is today.  It’s a beautiful rooftop farm, showcasing best practices while collaborating with a cluster of food partners.   The Food Roof is the brainchild of Mary Ostafi, an EarthDance Farm graduate; Mary is a trained architect, who brings high design and great intentionality to everything she touches.  The Food Roof is the first rooftop farm in Saint Louis, and is growing into a localized network of farms, gardens, educators and food distributors in north Saint Louis.

2017 Urban Food Roof

There’s a chicken coop and greenhouse on the roof, plus hydroponics, a community garden, test garden, and gathering space for events, educational functions and weddings. It’s incredible, and, it’s beautiful.

2017 Food Roof Chickens

70% of the food generated is donated to partner organizations, including the STL Metro Market (the Food Bus), the Fit & Food Connection, St. Patricks and the kids at Flance. Green Spiral has hosted field trips to both St. Patrick’s and Flance in the past.  St. Patrick’s serves under-priviledged populations, and has one of the first “kitchen incubators” in the country. Flance is a Platinum-level preschool – only the 4th such school in the world – and what happens inside the building is as impressive as the green building structure itself.  It’s exciting to watch these world class, cutting-edge sustainability programs grow, right here in Saint Louis.

2017 Food Roof GreenHouse

Now here’s the best part: if you want to visit the Food Roof, and missed the chance during the SBYT, you can drop-in any Saturday morning from 9 – 12, when the Food Roof is open to the public. OR, you can attend any number of special events, such as workshops, Happy Hours, Harvest Dinners, or yoga.  The events serve as fundraisers to help fund the many programs.  Find the time to visit this incredible and beautiful farm –  on a roof! –  in downtown Saint Louis; you’ll be glad you did.

2017 Test Kitchen

Here’s the link to go on your own: Urban Harvest Food Roof

Here’s the SBYT link:  Sustainable Backyard Tour

Here’s Wave Taco on Yelp:  Wave Taco – Yelp

Here’s GPS to Wave Storage: 1335 Convention Plaza; 63103

 

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Scouting Mission: 2017-Jan-06

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The Old Courthouse, in downtown Saint Louis, is a magnificent building, and the best time for locals to visit is on Epiphany, (the Twelfth Day of Christmas), which falls on January 6th of each year. On this day, the Old Courthouse comes alive with the sounds of music and dancing from 1767, hosted by re-enactors in period military dress and fancy long gowns.  The event is called the Twelfth Afternoon Ball, and it comes complete with little cakes and cookies for visitors to enjoy.

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Visitors are invited to join in the merry dancing, and the party culminates with the “King’s Cake” which has been baked with three beans.  Gentlemen eat the cakes, and whoever gets the bean, gets to be King, which means the honor of throwing the next party.  It’s a jolly festive atmosphere, but the real reason for a family adventure visit, is to climb the stairs of the magnificent rotunda, and get some exercise in winter.

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Explore until you find the staircase on the side halls, and climb each balcony to hunt for the next hidden set of stairs, until you’ve reached as high as you can go.  The Old Courthouse was crafted by hand, at enormous expense, and it is impossibly beautiful and grand by today’s standards.

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The skylight at the top of the cupola is called the “eye”, and allegorical figures are painted on the walls depicting law, liberty, justice and commerce. Some of the columns are made of cast iron and some are made of wood. Knock on them to see which is which!

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Look down on the dancers below, and peek inside the courtroom doors.

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The Old Courthouse is a National Park, and stands as a touchstone for the courageous struggle for freedom and justice, as it was the setting for the famous Dred & Harriet Scott case, which in part, sparked the Civil War. Be sure to visit the Dred Scott exhibit and add something new to your understanding about the battle for individual rights gone awry. Dred Scott eventually did become a free man, shortly before he died.

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Be sure to visit the gift store, which has an excellent selection of books on Lewis and Clark, as well as possibly the best collection of children’s books on African American history.  Step out on the East Steps, to see the Arch and stand on the spot where slaves were sold, along with such items as the Eads Bridge (to your left) and the St. Louis Dispatch to immigrant Joseph Pulitzer.  This is a good spot for a family photo.

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Because of the delightful dancing and music, not to mention easy parking, Epiphany is a great time for local citizens to visit the Old Courthouse, to get some exercise and cultural appreciation. The event is free and suitable for all, from toddlers to grandparents. On your way out, hunt for the turtle motif on the fence, an homage to a quirky custodian who once kept a turtle in the fountain.

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Every kid should visit the Old Courthouse at least once, to touch a monument to the dream of American equality, and to reinforce in the next generation the shared value of governance by the rule of law, without which we surely would be ruled by tyrants. Go anytime your schedule allows, but if you go to the King’s Ball on Epiphany, or perhaps the President’s Ball near President’s Day, the adventure is twice as fun.

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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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As with so many things in life, the trick to picking strawberries is to begin with the end in mind.

2014 Index Begin with End

 

In this case, the end begins in the kitchen, for a short trip to the strawberry fields, especially with industrious little helpers in tow, can easily leave you with hours of afternoon work in the kitchen, attempting to “preserve the harvest,” when you might rather be napping.  Here’s a simple smoothie recipe for those of you with young children at home, from one of our Green Spiral families:

 Insert Recipe Here

 

Located near Creve Couer Lake off Page Road and the Maryland Expressway, Thies Farm is a long favored Green Spiral strawberry picking destination, and it’s nice to watch their eco-tourism business grow.  2014 was the FIFTH year in a row that Green Spiral Tours hosted a field trip to Thies Farms.  It’s important to “Know Your Farmer” and deepen children’s understanding that food comes from the land.  Strawberry picking is a good first step in building ecoliteracy in children and it’s best to do it during preschool, or sometime during the “magic years”.

 

Miles of Smiles

Miles of Smiles

 

Thies Farm now has three locations; here is the GPS location for the strawberry fields in Maryland Heights as well as the phone number: 314-469-7559.  Call before you head out to make sure the strawberry fields are open. Farmers live outdoors, and they are getting better at using technology. Still, the phone beats Facebook on most days.  Green Spiral almost never cancels a trip due to weather, and neither should your adventure group, but do know that strawberry picking is one of the few things you can’t do in the rain. The fields open at 9 am and you will want to get there early to beat the heat.

2014-05-31 Jack Shuff

You will get hot, and you will get dirty.  Children’s clothing will get strawberry stained, and so will your knees.  Take a sunhat or hoodie, and a bottle of water per person.  Short rubber boots are nice for kids.  The strawberry window lasts for about two or three weeks, and it’s easy to miss during the busy, busy month of May. You can often catch strawberry season just as school lets out for summer, weather depending.  Strawberries need sunshine to ripen, but if it starts to get hot, know that your strawberry window is beginning to close.

2014-05-31 Evelyn Ryan

People want to know if it’s okay for kids to eat strawberries in the fields, and Farmer Dave once told me it was okay.  That said, there is a big difference between a toddler nibbling on one precious strawberry, and a teenager mowing through dozens of strawberries that belong to someone else (the farmer).  Obviously, the important thing is to teach children that strawberries are precious, and should not be thrown on the ground or carelessly dropped off the back of a wagon.

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Real Food Comes from Sunshine, and Dirt.

Strawberries are on the dirty dozen list, and many people ask if the strawberries are organic.  They are not, as it is difficult to grow organic strawberries at scale.  The best way to get organic strawberries is to be first in line at your local farmer’s market, or grow them yourself. Thies Farm is often spotted hanging out with EarthDance Farms, which is a stamp of organic approval.  Here’s what Farmer Dave has to say their IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices. https://www.facebook.com/notes/thies-farm-greenhouses/integrated-pest-management/281999848483956

Thies Farm

Now in three locations!

Strangely, when researching the topic of eating strawberries fresh from the fields, it turns out that the greatest danger from strawberries comes from people “fingering” the strawberries in the grocery store, which is why strawberries now come in those clam-shell containers.  Gross!  As they say “dirt is not dirty, people are dirty;” so fear not the innocent strawberry in the field.

That's me, Jessie, and Virginia

That’s me, Jessie, and Virginia

 

As a nature teacher and busy mother, I encourage you to learn more about the many complex issues surrounding, say, the simple act of strawberry picking. In my estimation, the experience of picking strawberries as children is so indelible, and so important, that it might well be considered part of a “true core curriculum”.

 

2014-05-31 Kevin, Miles, Amanda, Evelyn Ryan Family

 

Nature education, because it occupies the long arc of a child’s life, (along with character development and spiritual practice), resides firmly in the family responsibility camp, and so it’s our job as parents to take the kids strawberry picking at least once. However, it is also true that whole classrooms often follow Green Spiral into the strawberry fields as a joyous end of year celebration, and schools can easily find their part to play in raising the ecoliteracy level of their community.

 

Strawberry Zentangle

Strawberry Zentangle

 

So put strawberry picking on your map, and make sure kids don’t grow up without strawberry picking at least once.  Take lots of pictures, and before you go, think about what will happen in the kitchen, and work backwards from there.

Found it!  Here’s the scoop on what we’ve long been looking for:   the best time and place to go kayaking with kids.

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Missouri is home to some of the biggest and most beautiful spring-fed rivers in the world, and Labor Day Monday is the perfect time to go.  Sadly, families attempting to float our beautiful Missouri rivers are often disappointed by lewd and drunken behavior, obviously not suitable for children. It can all be rather frustrating, and legislation has been introduced to address the problem.

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Meanwhile, Green Spiral Tours has discovered that the Courtois River on Labor Day Monday is the perfect time and place to take kids on their first kayaking adventure.  Ponder this: if your city washes away, knowing how to kayak might save someone’s life someday.  It’s becoming increasingly important to raise resilient kids.

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You are headed for the Courtois River, which is really a creek.  “Courtois is french, meaning “polite river”. In Missouri, we pronounce it the “CODE-away”.  Kids should be old enough to swim, problem solve and respect wild rivers.  Middle School is the perfect age to learn to kayak, but of course people of any age will appreciate this trip.

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Paddle Courtois Jzka WEB

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Start by calculating your mileage to the GPS destination of Bass River Resorts at 204 Butts Road, 65565. Call Bass River Resorts at 800-392-3700 to check the price and reserve your kayak or canoe. You are headed out Highway 44, which also happens to be Route 66, the “Mother Road”. If you have a Green Spiral adventure map, the parade of water towers will help you pass some time along the way.  Exit 208 at Cuba will take you to Steelville, the jumping off point for many a river trip. Steelville is where you stop for food and gas.

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Kayaking COLOR 2017-08-24

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Stop for sandwiches at the Subway in either Cuba or Steelville, and gas up now for a quick get-away at the end of the day.  Then proceed to Bass River Resorts, just ten miles down the road.  If packing your own lunch, BYO+ is the way to go.  (Bring Your Own PLUS” something to share).  Cubed melon is refreshing on the river, as are carrots and frozen grapes.

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When kayaking, or on any adventure, it’s always good to bring friends, and a small group of less than 12 works best on the river. Remember that smaller groups move faster than large groups, canoes will travel faster than kayaks, and you will be limited by the slowest paddler in your group. Teenagers will sprint off and be gone before you know it, so make a plan with them to wait for you at the rope swing, until you get there.  The rope swing is about a third of the way into the trip.

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Bass River Resorts is a big operation; the rest rooms are clean, the sign in process is swift, and most importantly, you leave your car at the “take out” point.  This turns out to be important at the end of the day, when the sun is going down, and your tribe is getting hungry.  Always begin with the end in mind, and know when embarking on river adventures, there’s always a lot of “hurry up and wait”.  This particular trip minimizes the “hurry up and wait”, because your car will be waiting for you at the end of your paddling adventure.

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Unless you like wet car seats, bring a change of clothing and leave it in your car for when you get off the river. Free showers and changing rooms are available when you get off the river as well. Consider buying kids a face mask at the big Bass River store; they will love it.

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2013-09-02 fishing*

If you have coolers, big dogs, young children, or fishermen: get a canoe, and be sure to select the fiberglass “Old Towne” style, which slide more easily over the rocks.   Bringing a low slung chair for the canoe is not a bad idea, as a comfort measure for adults.  Put younger children in a tandem kayak with you, but let middle school kids try their own kayak, or perhaps they could tandem kayak with a friend. Be sure to bring friends for high school and college aged students.

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Two paddle

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Pay your money at Bass Rivers, sign the liability waiver, and ask for the “Blunt Trip” which is a 6 mile paddle, lasting about three hours — if you linger.  There is a longer trip, called the “Berryman Trip” which you can try later, when you have more time. You will be given a bus ticket, and directed to park just beyond the cabins and the horses at the river.  This is the “Take Out” point where you leave your car and jump on the bus.  Slather on sunscreen here, while you wait for the school bus, and use the restrooms one last time.

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Unless you like wet car seats, bring a change of clothing and leave it in your car for when you get off the river. Showers are also available here, where you parked your car. Consider buying kids a face mask at the big Bass River store as a spontaneous purchase. The kids will love it. Give your ticket to the bus driver and get on the school bus.

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Bass River

Bass River

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The bus will take you on a short ten minute drive to the “Put In” point.  The driver will then assign each paddler his or her kayak or canoe.  Ask for a life jacket for kids, and use your flotation device as a backrest in your kayak, unless you absolutely cannot swim, in which case you’ll feel more comfortable with a life-jacket.  You can see the bottom of the Courtois Creek on this whole trip, so fear not:  as the locals say,  “If you find yourself drowning, just stand up!”

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The kayaks are the “sit-upon” type, so wear quick dry shorts and flip-flops.  Bring a sunhat, polarized sunglasses, lunch, drinking water, your camera, field guides, and a bungie cord to lash your dry-bag to the kayak.  Or, go minimalist, leave valuables at home and simply use a plastic bag and a piece of string.

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Kayaks are highly maneuverable, they put you closer to the water, and you get stuck less often.  If you’ve never kayaked before, it’s easy to learn the unique swivel motion required to dip each paddle into the water. Take some time when you first begin kayaking, to practice maneuvering the kayak: go forward, backwards, practice spinning and get comfortable with the paddle. Then start paddling down the creek. In general, the Courtois starts out with high canyon walls, as well as swimming holes, rope swings and ledges; be sure to swim early in your trip, as the opportunities for swimming become fewer as you go along.

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Look! No crowds!*

There is lots of wildlife to enjoy as this trip proceeds. There are tadpoles, craw-fish and frogs to catch, snakes to chase, and large fish to spy beneath your boat. If you stand in the water, little fishes will come to nibble and kiss at your feet.  The torch-shaped red flower you see near the water in September is called cardinal flower; migrating hummingbirds love it.  The bright red leaves you will see belong to the sumac, the first leaves to change, already in September. You will also see lots of dragonflies and blue swallowtail butterflies.

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The Courtois runs down to meet up with the Huzzah (an old English victory cry among sailors), which then quickly meets the Meramec River  (an Algonquian term meaning river of ugly fishes), before all joining the Mighty Mississippi – the Father of Waters.   French, English and Native American, we are a melting pot of waters. If you live in South Saint Louis, you’re floating on your drinking water, so be careful about what you put in it.

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Leaving Saint Louis at a lazy 9 am, you can easily be on the river by noon, including the Subway stop, returning home before 7 pm, including a stop for milkshakes and hamburgers.  On the way home, stop at Dairy Isle, a local independent ice cream shop in Steelville, located near the Subway where you first bought your sandwiches. It’s easy to find, and marked on your Green Spiral Adventure map.

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All scream for Ice Cream

All scream for Ice Cream

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You might or might not get caught in Ozark traffic on the way home Labor Day Monday, so enjoy the sun-kissed feeling, the people in the car and one long last day of being unplugged before fall arrives and school settles in for good.    Bass River Resorts is open all year long, so you can kayak through the changing of the leaves, and even join a paddle on New Year’s Eve!  (Bring long underwear.)

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Watch the Green Spiral Facebook Page for downloadable “Kayaking With Kids” Adventure Maps, and stay tuned for a future collection of family adventure maps featuring this adventure in Amazon books.

Viva le polite river!

Kayaking COLOR 2017-08-24

During Year Two of Green Spiral Tours, families experienced many magical moments, and learned directly from local entrepreneurs, farmers, educators and leaders in the sustainable field, at a wide variety of locations throughout the Saint Louis area.

Experience really is the best teacher!  Plus, bringing friends along is more fun and helps create a vibrant learning community.  At Green Spiral, we especially welcome adventurous families who like to write and photograph, will reflect and debrief online, and will share the learning via social media.

Green Spiral hosted 10 field trips in Year Two, (up two field trips from Year One).

Field Trips Include: 

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Pie Making at BEGIN New Venture Saint Patricks Center

We learned how to make pies with “Pie Oh My!” entrepreneur Jane Callahan, at the BEGIN New Venture “kitchen incubator,” a cutting edge program for local food entrepreneurs, located downtown at the Saint Patrick Center. 

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IMG_2358Bocce Ball, Herbaria and Ravioli Tour of “The Hill”

One mother’s testimonyI’ve lived on The Hill for seven

years and didn’t know all this stuff was here!”

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mail“Living Building” Tour at Tyson Learning Center 

Saint Louis is home to one of the very greenest buildings

in the world, a “Living Building” built by Washington University as a lab

and learning center. We got to see it on a rainy day. Closed to the public.  

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2011-05-20 Loden BradstreetStrawberry Picking at Thies Farms at the Creve Coeur location

Still the best place for u-pick strawberries within easy reach.        

Don’t let your kids grow up without strawberry picking at least once!

The best strategy for organic strawberry picking in Saint Louis is still DIY.

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mailRue Lafayette Cafe and Lafayette Park Pond and Playground

Saint Louis has a rich french heritage and it’s important to know at least a little something about it. Renting sailboats for the Lafayette Park pond and eating chocolate croissants is a nice way to start! This was our third year to Rue Lafayette Cafe on Lafayette Park.

 

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2011-06-09 Earthdance (4)Farm Tour at EarthDance FARMS

One of the primary movers in the Saint Louis food movement, 

EarthDance FARMS hosts regular tours on Sunday afternoons in the summer. 

If you want to explore to the front edge of the food movement, it’s a must visit!

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A river runs through it...Arrowhead Hunting 

The historic drought made this year an excellent year for arrowhead 

hunting, and it’s fascinating to hunt for artifacts from past civilizations,

which may be hiding surprisingly near you!

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Crawdad Fishing 

Missouri is home to the biggest spring fed rivers in the world,

and this makes us a biodiversity hotspot for “crawdads” (crayfish). 

We went to catch a few with very young children in Forest Park.

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Schlafly GardenworksSustainable Sensory Tour of Maplewood

The City of Maplewood is a hotspot for sustainability, 

anchored by the Gardenworks at Schlafly Bottleworks. 

We went to visit the gardens, along with sustainable

chocolate maker Kakao, and two healing arts centers:

The Salt Room and Cheryl’s Herbs. 

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mailMetro Journey to the Whispering Wall at Union Station

Union Station is again in transition, and so the annual

Metro Journey to the Whispering Wall was cancelled this year.

We are holding a bright candle for Union Station and know

that this rich cultural landmark will continue to be part of Saint Louis’ living legacy,

well into the future.

 

The Citygarden visit actually happened in

September of 2010 in between tornado storms,

but I’m posting it here while I recreate

historical data after Apple discontinued

supporting it’s web-site, and while I’m

creating a blog site starting at the beginning

of Green Spiral Tours.

Citygarden leads the way in creating naturescapes

for children, and their families, while demonstrating

the viability of economic rejuvenation.  If you build

outdoor places for families to connect with nature,

families will come, and bring their dollars for drinks,

trinkets and more major purchases.  There is pent-up

demand for friendly nature places that is not yet fully met.

You can bring your dog to the Citygarden

and the security officer will give them treats.

Citygarden is quite safe, and parking is easy.

We shall return in the summer to play

in the fountains and water.  Citygarden

is progressive and responsive for

hiring lifeguards and allowing children

to play in the water features.  So often,

beautiful parks are built, and then

children are forbidden from touching.

We applaud all involved with Citygarden

and families thank them deeply for

their wisdom and foresight.

Water is life, and every great garden must incorporate

water.  If you build a water feature, children will come,

and climb right into it.  You can plan on it.