Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Johnson’s Shut Ins

We took a 3-day/2 night camping trip to this unusual place last weekend.

Patti decided she wanted to go there so she planned it all out. Including picking a campsite that was ½ mile uphill from where we could park our car. We got plenty of exercise just moving things to and from the car and campsite.

The Shut Ins is in the middle of nowhere! It took us about 4 hours – ½ of which were spent on windy little country roads in – did I mention this? In the middle of nowhere? We had to stop a few times for me to double-check my maps and directions.

First off – the Shut Ins are where in Dec. 2005, a Taum Sauk reservoir wall was breached sending perhaps a billion (that’s a B!) gallons of water rushing down the hillside into and around the Shut Ins. Miraculously, no one died but the park was pretty much destroyed.

The camping areas we used have all been rebuilt and relocated away from the reservoir. Everything looked new and now I know why. A lady from St. Louis told us it looks very different now with so much damage being caused to the rocks. I guess they were much taller, rounder and the water much deeper in places.

Secondly - The term "shut-in" refers to a place where the river's breadth is limited by hard rock that is resistant to erosion.

We arrived mid-day on a Friday and proceeded to haul all our gear the ½ mile or so to our campsite. Did I mention this was all uphill from the parking area? A couple of sweaty hours later, we were set-up and ready to go.

We made a quick visit to the Shut Ins to scope out our plans for Saturday.

Saturday morning – quick breakfast and rain. Light rain, heavy rain, lighting and thunder. This wasn’t part of the brochure I read online!

Everyone said the weather should break by noon so we decided to take a drive. Ended up in Farmington (maybe an hour from StL?) and poked around a Walmart. Thought about bowling and a movie but the skies looked less threatening so we headed back.

I’m glad we did. Had a quick lunch and then headed out to the Shut Ins. Spent the next 5 or 6 hours in the water, climbing rocks, rescuing children!, and just enjoying the views.

Even with lower water levels and shorter rocks, there are still small pools more than 10 ft. deep and some larger areas that one guy estimated at 15 ft. deep! People were diving and jumping off the rocks. Anna and Annie even tried it.

I wouldn’t call it rock climbing, maybe scrambling? But you can climb 10 – 15 feet up various sizes of rocks and boulders. I enjoyed this but a couple of times found myself at the top of a rock with nowhere to go but down! Going back down the way you came up is not always possible or practical. I can’t imagine the people who do this on vertical walls hundreds of feet or more higher! I also have some sore muscles in my shoulders and legs – guess climbing stairs uses different muscle groups!

Sleeping was a challenge. The newer location has few (if any) flat or level spots. So they built these wooden platforms big enough for a tent, picnic table and your gear. At first I thought this would be good (and it has its benefits) since I’ve pitched plenty a tent on uneven and hard ground with stray rocks popping up all over. But wood is hard. I sleep on my sides and my rib cages felt like I had been smacked! One night I had to get up and go outside to walk around and even tried sleeping in a chair until I got cold and went back in the tent. I guess the cold pain was worse than the wood pain so I fell back asleep. Made my own bed at home feel so much better!

All in all a fun weekend; with some challenges. Would do it again but maybe in cooler weather, earlier in the summer with a higher water level.

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