Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Hickory Canyons Natural Area

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I am well aware that much of the country does not think of Missouri first when they think of “outdoor adventure”, and that’s just fine. As a state positioned dead center in the continental U.S., we enjoy an abundance of resources that result from being a point of convergence: the convergence of cultures (and the legacies of those cultures- often this is a struggle too), the convergence of the largest rivers in North America, the convergence of a once sprawling ocean and once soaring mountains, lost in time, but leaving a geological uniqueness found little elsewhere on Earth. It’s all here, and frankly, if you want to flyover it, that’s fine too; it just keeps the crowds down for those of us that choose to revel in it.

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Forest Park on a Sunny Afternoon

Posted in Adventure, art, Fuji, Hike, Interlude, Jason Gray, Park, photography, prime lens, prime lenses, St. Louis by Jason Gray on March 17, 2019

Fuji X-E3 w/Rokinon 12mm f/2

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A couple of months ago, after picking up my new Fuji kit, I decided to test out the system with a leisurely stroll through St. Louis’ largest, and possibly, most photogenic public park. Forest Park is so large that experiences to be had are extremely varied. You can feel almost completely removed from the city on any of its many meandering trails, or totally engulfed by the heights of cultural achievement at one of the Park’s Museums or its outdoor theaters. The Park even boasts an internationally recognized zoo that is frequently listed at the top of “best of” lists for the U.S.

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St. Francois State Park

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St. Francois State Park is a pleasant park with a surprising variety of landscapes to explore. On our visit, we hiked the shortish Mooner’s Hollow Trail (2.75 miles), but still found ourselves transported through Ozark fens and glades, past a gentle cascade, and even across bridge-less streams. Our son, Harper surprised himself (and us) when he slipped into a creek (!!). The cool water was a relief, however, and he was quickly all smiles.

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Cliff Cave County Park

In May of 2018, the new additions to Cliff Cave County Park, in Oakville, officially opened to the public, including 2 miles of trail extension, connectors and bridges to improve access, and a scenic overlook of the Mississippi River (partial view from pictured above). All of this was a project of Great Rivers Greenway, which continues to assert itself as a important steward for the outdoors in the metro area.

I couldn’t make the opening, and I had not had a chance to explore it since, so I took a sweltering June afternoon (100 degrees at midday) to do just that.

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Castor River Shut-Ins Natural Area

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There are some places in nature that you just luckily stumble across. Places that are in the vicinity of your regular spots, that you finally take notice of, and are amazed that you could have missed them all this time. Castor River Shut-Ins Natural Area is not one of those places. It is tucked away inside the Amidon Memorial Conservation Area, down remote gravel roads, susceptible to wash outs after a heavy rain, that dead end at your destination. From St. Louis, it is also a bit of a haul (to be more precise, it is about the exact distance away as to necessitate ten or twelve “Are we almost there?!”‘s from a growingly impatient five year old). That said, it is totally worth all the effort.

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Things to do in Denver (When You’re Not Dead)

Posted in Adventure, art, black and white, family, Hike, Jason Gray, learning, nikon, Park, photography, Travel, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on February 28, 2019

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Friends, here are some things (I call them ‘musts’) to do in Denver when you are not dead. I happened to fit them all into a single day, but you could definitely spread them out over a longer trip.

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Glassberg Family, Phantom Forest and Bittersweet Woods Conservation Areas

Posted in Adventure, art, Backpacking, Hike, Jason Gray, nikon, Park, photography, St. Louis, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on February 24, 2019

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We are fortunate to live in a State with a large number of wonderfully maintained and well apportioned State Parks (did you know that Missouri has more State Parks than Colorado?). With sites like Don Robinson State Park, Lake of the Ozarks State Park (the State’s largest at 17,000 acres), Castlewood State Park, and over 40 others, it can seem like opportunities to enjoy the outdoors are endless. However, if your intention is to really “get away”, the State Parks can be a bit crowded at times. Enter what I think are one of Missouri’s true treasures, its Conservation and Natural Areas.

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St. Louis City Parks

Posted in Adventure, Hike, Jason Gray, Park, photography, St. Louis, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on February 17, 2019

Missouri State Parks

Posted in Adventure, Backpacking, family, Hike, Jason Gray, Park, photography, St. Louis, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on February 17, 2019

Outdoor Missouri

Posted in Adventure, Backpacking, family, Hike, Jason Gray, Park, photography, St. Louis, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on February 17, 2019