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

Chouteau Island


The Mississippi River provides so much recreational diversity throughout its over 2,300 miles, across ten U.S. States. In Missouri, the river bottom is a place that makes all of the life around it possible. It also carries the weight of death, in the form of floods and drought.



St. Francois State Park


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.


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.


Castor River Shut-Ins Natural Area


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.


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


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.


Outdoor USA

Posted in Adventure, Backpacking, family, Hike, Jason Gray, photography, Travel, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on February 21, 2019

Emmenegger Nature Park

Posted in Adventure, art, awareness, Hike, Interlude, Jason Gray, nikon, Park, photography, St. Louis, Uncategorized, winter by Jason Gray on February 17, 2019


Emmenegger Nature Park, named after Russell Emmenegger, the last private owner of the property that would become the Park, is a 93-acre forested area owned by the City of Kirkwood. It is adjacent to a 15-acre Conservation Area named Possum Woods, though it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. For what it’s worth, this is a special bit of tranquility just outside of the St. Louis.


New Blog!


I am excited to announce that my wife and I will be opening a brick-and-mortar shop (explorer boutique, wanderer goods) called KAMP in St. Louis, Missouri this March. Our motto is “Equip, explore, reflect, repeat”, and we hope that you’ll stop by if/when you can.

For those of you that enjoy my outdoor content on this blog, most of that will be moving over to the store’s blog, so be sure to subscribe over there to not miss anything!


Me as Gilligan on Chouteau’s Island

a lot of the Island is floodplain, as the levee is on the opposite side as the Mississippi


Interlude: Castlewood State Park

Quick family hike through one of the Missouri’s best State Parks (and so close to STL!).  I’ve written about the Park in the past, including about its remarkable history, so this post will be a mostly visual tour.