Stumped at Big Oak Tree State Park

Warriorette Shari’s friend Barb Goza Chambers flew in from California to see her Mother, Betty Goza, in January. They always like to go on a ramble when she hits town.

Betty in Walmart last year

Betty Goza 12-19-2019

I don’t pay much attention to people in stores, so I was surprised when Betty waylaid me in the Jackson Walmart last December. If I had been looking up, I’d have recognized that big smile anywhere.,

They decided they wanted to see the Big Oak Tree State Park, in Mississippi county. I’m pretty sure the soles of my shoes melted the last time I was there because the earth’s crust was still cooling.

I shudder when I think of big trees

Jackson’s Hanging Tree in 2010

The Missourian printed a picture of a big tree and wondered if it had set a state record.

Well, before long, we were flooded with people who claimed THEIR tree was a record-breaker, too. Guess who got to drive all over hell’s half-acre taking tree pictures and picking ticks off his young body. The only solace I could take while scratching chigger bites was that each tree was worth five bucks and mileage.

The only thing worse than trees was when the paper made the mistake of running a photo of a couple guys holding up a big snake in front of the newspaper’s front doors. Not long after that, we were given a “No more snake pictures” edict because the huge reptiles were freaking out passersby and the advertising staff.

Note: this wasn’t one of the the big trees. This is the Hanging Tree behind the Cape County Courthouse. The county cut the tree down on a Sunday in 2016 without giving any notice.

Back to the park to look for big trees

What’s left of former co-champion tree

Barb and I decided to head out on a boardwalk to hunt for the promised big trees. We should have read the display at the head of the walk before we took off.

The sign would have told us that five of the 12 champion trees were like this specimen of the former 17’7″ Quercus macrocarpa that fell in 2009.

The day was a bit chilly for the jacket I grabbed, so we didn’t do the full walk. On the plus side, we didn’t encounter any mosquitoes.

The best part of the trip

Google Map showing the park and Mississippi River

The best part of the trip was the journey back to what passed as civilization (New Madrid). We took some small roads that let us parallel the Mississippi River where we could see the chutes, islands and oxbows it makes.

New Madrid was a welcome sight because all that meandering left my van breathing fumes, something I didn’t share with my passengers.

Clouds Over Tower Rock

Tower Rock 07-27-2016_8583If it’s Wednesday night, that means it’s Liver & Onions night at The Mississippi Mud Tavern in Altenburg. Buddy Gerard and I usually top off the evening with a trip down to Tower Rock to check on water levels and see if any boats are passing.

This night, the only boat traffic we heard on my scanner was far, far away and breaking up, so the prospects of seeing a towboat go by was slim. Radar was painting some strong storms around, but they were mostly east and south of our position. Still, these clouds made for a pretty picture. Click on it to make it larger.

I was sort of hoping for a shot like this recent visit.

I ran into some heavy rain north of Fruitland, but Jackson must have REALLY gotten a deluge, based on how the creeks were running.

Sunset Over the Mississippi

Thebes sunset over Mississippi River 03-28-2016I took a grab shot passing through Future City the other night. (If you don’t know where that is, hang on a couple of days.) When I started writing a post on it this afternoon, I ran across some interesting information that needed more than one photo to break up the type.

I looked at the time, checked for when sunset was going to be, and realized there was just enough time to saddle up, drive 30 miles, shoot some new photos and get to Shemwell’s Barbecue for some good catfish before they closed. (If you know where Shemwell’s is, then you probably know where Future City is.)

On the way home, just as I rounded the bend to where Hwy 3 parallels the Mississippi River on the north end of Thebes, the sun dipped below the horizon, leaving this view behind. If you click on the photo to make it larger, you’ll notice a tiny white dot of light in the middle of the shadows on the far bank. That might be coming from The Riverhouse (or, maybe not).


MV Donna Griffin

MV Donna Griffin from Trail of Tears 12-04-2015Road Warriorette Shari came down from St. Louis the other week with a list of places she wanted to go: Old Appleton (where we saw the old Silver Dollar Tavern just hours before it was torn down), the Mississippi Mud Tavern for Liver and Onions Night, the Lutheran Heritage Center’s Christmas tree exhibit, and Trail of Tears State Park.

From the Mississippi River overlook, we were lucky enough to catch the MV Donna Griffin coming upstream. We could hear her talking to another boat to arrange a passing, but I think it was well north of us, so we didn’t get to see that. We could hear a train whistle in the distance, but it must have been on the Illinois side, so we missed seeing two major transportation systems at the same time.

Rigging amazes me

MV Donna Griffin from Trail of Tears 12-04-2015It always amazes me how the pilots and captains can maneuver long strings of barges around sharp bends and between bridge piers. I know those straps have to be bigger than they look in this photo, but still, I can’t imagine how much strain is placed on them when the captain needs to move something that’s a thousand-plus feet in front of him.

Here’s a website with some interesting factoids. It says that a standard barge is 195 feet long and 35 feet wide, although some of the newer ones are 290 by 50 feet.

Let’s assume that the ones in the photo are standard length. The string appears to be two wide and six long. That would mean that you have to figure out where to make your turn from nearly 1,200 feet back. Think about THAT the next time you complain about a parallel parking space being a little tight.

You can click on the photo to make it larger, but I didn’t spot anyone on deck checking us out.

Bald Knob Cross

MV Donna Griffin from Trail of Tears 12-04-2015That little white dot on the top of the hill in the distance is the Bald Knob Cross.

Has had three names

MV Donna Griffin from Trail of Tears 12-04-2015The Donna Griffin was built by Nashville Bridge Shipbuilding in 1965. A website, reports that she was named the Julia Woods until May 2006, when she became the Michelle O’Neil. In May 2009, she was renamed the Donna Griffin. I didn’t find anything that explained who the boat was named for nor the significance of changing the names in May.

A shipbuilding site said Nashville Bridge Company was originally a bridge builder, founded in the 1890s. It was converted to shipbuilding in 1915 and, by the 1960s, it was said to be the world’s largest builder of inland barges. George Steinbrenner bought it in 1969 and added a second yard in Ashland City in 1977; he sold the company to Trinity Marine Group in 1995. Trinity closed the Nashville yard in 1996, when the City of Nashville decided that the downtown shipyard property would be more valuable to the community as a stadium.

She is 180.1 feet long, 50.5 feet wide, and the hull depth is 11.5 feet.

The towboat is owned by Ingram Barge of Nashville, the largest carrier on the inland waterway system.