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St. Louis Diary

The Saint Louis Diary, 10-20-99


Fall break - two magic words and a great chance to leave the books on the shelf and to get away from it all, at least for a couple of days. So I packed a backpack, took a tent and a sleeping bag and, together with another LL.M. student, got ready to explore the great outdoors. When you, just as me, expected Missouri, as a part of the Midwest, to be flat and consisting of endless cornfields, you were wrong. A good part of the state is actually covered with large forests and the terrain is hilly and just perfect for moderate hiking.

After arriving at our camping site, about two hours from Saint Louis, we built up the tent (haven't used such a thing since my military training a couple of years ago) near a clear river and took off into the woods. Our hike on a well-maintained trail took us along several creeks and offered many scenic views over the colorful, turning leaves, which appeared in an amazing variety of different shades of red, yellow and brown against a bright blue sky.

A matter of concern though was the fact, that this was not only the peak season for leave watching but also for weekend bow hunters, trying to prove their manliness by killing some small mammals. And so, every once in a while, something on our path that at the first glance looked like a tree turned out to be an individual, dressed in camouflage and covered with green makeup waiting for some animal to kill. Fortunately we made it back to our campsite without being the object of a hunter's desire.

After refreshing in the river, the water being of drinkable quality, we started a campfire and enjoyed a peaceful evening until a thunderstorm started to develop over us. Within a period of one hour temperatures dropped from 80 to 50 degrees and it began to rain hard. The storm was rather violent and the lightning was very close. This weather, to say the least, was not at all supportive to sleeping in a tent but after a rather unpleasant night the next day turned out to be very nice again. We had a quick breakfast, consisting of beef jerky, bananas and orange juice and then went to see the Elephant Rock State Park. This park contains a hill covered with gigantic granite blocks. Being of volcanic origin, the place in former times has been used as a quarry and buildings constructed out of the stones can be found all over the States. Spending half the day at this place and hiking the rest of the day, we returned to our campsite to restart the fire and grill some sausages, our first warm meal this day.

If you only once had to wash yourself in a cold river on a frosty morning you know how good a hot shower feels. And so, after hiking during the next day I was quite glad to return to my apartment on the following evening. Maybe I am too used to living in a real building but at certain times during this weekend I really felt like one of the "City Slickers", if you remember the movie? But, no pain no gain, altogether it was fun and I might consider doing it again in the spring.

Later, Nils