spillway washout

July 7th, 2015

north upper

The two spillways on opposite ends of the dam were designed to take the excess water that the overflow drain could not handle. They are a vast improvement over the single spillway we had originally on the south end of the dam that was really little more than a crease in the hillside, much too close to the dam itself.

As Libby said several times on our visit last Friday, it must have been both awesome and terrifying to see the overflow overwhelm the dam’s capacity.

The photo above shows the top of the northern spillway. That gouge in the ground drops four feet before heading down the hill. Had the erosion continued another ten feet (to the right), the dam would have been breached and likely the lake would have been emptied.

Here is another view of the top of the north spillway:

north upper two

I’m trying to imagine the force of the water as it did this. Awesome and terrifying, indeed.

Here is a view of the north spillway from below:

north lower

Even sure-footed, crazy Flike was careful as he made his way down this slope. Most of that exposed bedrock you see had been buried before; only the smooth tops of two parts of it had been exposed. Now it serves as the side of the spillway.

This northern spillway is still somewhat intact. The berm/retaining wall (on the left in the photo immediately above) is still in place, though another big water event would likely chew through it.

The south spillway is pretty much gone altogether.

south upper

This is looking down from the top of the south spillway. The drop off you see in the foreground is about five feet from the slab of bedrock to what’s left of the soil and gravel that had comprised the spillway itself and its berm.

Here is another view from the top:

south upper two

All of that gravel you see down in the pecan plantation is from the spillway and its berm. The flow had pushed rocks the size of tabletops down the hill. Fortunately, none of the plantings (pecans and a few cypress) in the area were damaged. That lonely looking little tree you see on the right was growing in the dry-side of the berm. Conventional wisdom says to remove these as they can fall and pull the earthen wall down with them. I thought otherwise, believing that its roots might actually help hold the wall together. You can see that it survived, though its retention powers were no match for the deluge.

south lowerThis photo shows the southern spillway from below. See the lonely tree at about 9:00? Notice also, the grass at the lower right and how it is all laying down, pointing downhill. That is from when the water went over the top of the dam and flowed down the face of it, which is something you never want to happen.

Fortunately, the dam is still standing and holding back the water. Barring any big water events before the repairs can be made, there should be no utter disaster. Other than to my bank account, that is.

The man who built the dam had come out over the weekend to survey the damage. To his eye, it didn’t seem too bad. (He has an experienced eye. When I had called him, he wasn’t available, his wife telling me that he was out inspecting other ill-fated dams in the county.) He gave me a quote on what he thought it would cost to put things right, and the number came in much, much lower than I had expected (so I will be able to buy groceries for a few more months). He said he won’t be able to get out to do the repairs for a couple of weeks, so I’m crossing my fingers that the rain in the forecast for the next ten days won’t be significant.

near disaster

July 6th, 2015

Flike on dam

Well, we managed to make it down to Roundrock on Friday (July 3) for an overnight stay. There had been a lot of rain in the area, and we were looking forward to a full-pool lake to swim in during the 90+ degree weekend days that were forecasted.

Funny how quickly plans can change.

We had a near disaster at Roundrock in the days just before we arrived.

You can see from the photo above that the lake was at full pool. But if you look closely, you can see that it was more than that shortly before our arrival. The lake had been filled to the top and then over the top. Water had overwhelmed the two spillways and went over the top of the dam itself. This is not good.

Flike is standing in the northern spillway in the photo above. The grass before him is matted down, washed that direction by flowing water. But what you can’t tell from the photo is that most of the grass on the top of the dam is also this way.

side of dam

This is a picture of the side of the dam, the side that is supposed to be dry. It has been gouged and scarred by the flow of water, which must have been intense to rip out the tough fescue that was growing lushly there. This photo is representative of five spots on the face of the dam that had this damage.

Not much more gouging would have been necessary to create a breach in the dam, which would then widen by the flow of the water until it drained the entire lake (and likely flooded my neighbor’s cattle field to the east).

dam poke


I’ve written before about the poke growing on the side of the dam. On a recent visit, I had cut it all down (surprisingly easy), considering it a nuisance that might harbor burrowing animals (that you do not want in your dam). You can see from this photo that the thick roots of the offensive plant had actually helped retain the soil. That gouge on the right is between two former poke plants. (Not so former, though. They were sprouting new leaves where I had cut them a week and a half before.)

One of the things we like about going to Roundrock is that we can unplug. We rarely get a cell phone signal at the cabin, and the day of this visit was one of those signal-free days. I had to drive about a mile up and over the ridge before I could use my phone. When I could, I called the man who had built my dam to let him know I had a near disaster. (Another strong rain might be enuf to breach the dam.) I didn’t reach him at first but got his wife. She said that he’d been getting a lot of calls like mine recently. In fact, he was out touring other lakes and ponds with damaged dams when I called. I finally did get to talk to him, and he said he would try to get out to see the damage. I told him we would be there until the following afternoon.

But as the day passed, Libby and I saw little reason to stay the night. I think we were dispirited by what we’d found. Plus, the temperature never got warm enuf for us to swim. The lake water was muddy brown, which wouldn’t be a problem. But part of us thought that we could be in the water when the dam finally gave and we were washed away with all of the fish. (That wasn’t going to happen, of course, but even the idea of it was unnerving.)

We could have slept in the beds in the cabin comfortably and rose to a breakfast of tea and oatmeal. Or, as Libby pointed out, we could be home by dark, sleep in our own beds, and I could get in an extra day of running I hadn’t expected.

In the end we did decide to leave. There really was no need for us to be there when the dam builder examined the damage. He would know better than we did what needed to be done. It’s likely that we will be back down to Roundrock very soon. Unfortunately, there is rain in the forecast for the area this week. Fortunately, the already leaking dam will continue to drain down the water, so it’s possible that any influx from rain will not overfill the lake. And the two spillways (what’s left of them, which ain’t much) will still draw off water before it reaches the top of the dam. Also, it was a 6-inch rain that had caused the damage, and that is not in the forecast.

So, the coming weeks and months will be interesting and stressful.

Also, thanks, Gay Marriage. LOL

Skywatch Friday ~ Ozark Blue

June 26th, 2015

Ozark sky

This was the vault overhead as we hiked about our little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks on the first day of summer. Within a couple of hours, they sky had filled with gray clouds and the temps had dropped, making our refreshing dip in the lake a little cool.

first day of summer

June 25th, 2015

round rock 1

Yeah, I know, it was last Sunday. So I’m a little late with this post.

After more than a month away, Libby and I (and the dogs) took ourselves out to Roundrock on Sunday, which also happened to be Father’s Day, but with my children now flung to the four winds (and one in Europe at the moment), it was just the two of us (and the dogs). So off to the woods we went.

This is the time of the year that gets me glum when I visit the cabin. Nature is taking over again. The battle, that I think I’m winning in the winter to keep the weeds and scrub at bay and have some open, clear space around the cabin, takes a big turn against me in the early summer. With all of the rain we’ve been having, the scrub is growing vigorously in the gravel perimeter, and my attempts to pull it out are negligible. So I mostly didn’t bother after a while.

We had no agenda for the day (other than to swim in the full-pool lake), and we worked our non-agenda vigorously. Our biggest venture from the cabin was to cross the dam — the overflow drain was working as designed — and down the southern spillway. The photo you see above is from that part of my forest. That round rock is about the size of a tennis ball.

Here’s that same rock, shown using the flash on my camera:

round rock 2

We wandered around in the pecan plantation a little; they and the few cypress I’ve planted there are doing fine. Then we took ourselves back to the cabin for lunch.

Not long after that, we went for a swim. The temperature was over 90 degrees, and with the recent influx of rainwater, the lake was blessedly free of floating algae, so in the water we went.

And then the clouds began to gather and the temps to drop. I paddled around for maybe an hour, but the water was only warm for the first foot below the surface. Any kicks swirled up colder water from below. That will change in the weeks to come, of course.

Libby stayed in the water longer than I, but it wasn’t much longer before she was out and drying off.

We had a nice day in the woods and decided it was time to make the two-hour trek home. So we changed into dry, bug-free clothes, packed our things, and drove away.

We were about twenty minutes down the road when Libby realized she had left her iPad in the cabin. Well, life can’t go on without that, so we turned around and retrieved it then began our journey home a second time.

We got home without further incident, and now I’m looking toward our next visit.

still alive, still around

June 8th, 2015

blue eyed boy

Sorry I’ve been absent from the blogosphere lately. I haven’t been to Roundrock in weeks. I haven’t done any organized runs to tell you about. I’ve been the usual frenzied busy at work. And everything has been Kenneth lately.

Ken (and his parents and dog) came to Kansas City for the week of Memorial Day, and everything pretty much got put on hold for his visit. He stayed half of the time at our house and the other half at his other grandparents’ house nearby. There was a lot of back and forth between the households, lots of baby holding, lots of meals and smiles and photos.

smiling boy

The little guy (and his parents and dog) have returned to Brooklyn and is reported to miss his Grandpa greatly. Yet despite the lack of my direct, strong and positive influence in his life, his mother tells me he is thriving. At his latest pediatrician visit, he weighed a healthy 17 pounds. He’s off the charts in height (his daddy is six-foot-six), and while he’s certainly not emaciated, he is actually underweight for his height. So he’s slowly being started on solid foods (which his mom says is a great relief since she has been his whole source of food until now).

pensive boy

There is a good chance that we’ll get to see him in July. He’ll be traveling to Portland, Oregon to see his uncle and aunt (#2 son and his wife), and Libby and I will probably go as well to inflict ourselves on them all.

After that, we may see him in New York again for the New York Marathon. Ken is not running it (nor is his grandfather — who didn’t get in), but his mom and dad are, so Libby and I will care for Ken and make sure he’s at all of the appropriate places to cheer mom and dad on.

After that, I’m told he’ll be coming back here for the winter holidays. (I think I’ll finally get him out to Roundrock then!)

the view from the porch

May 26th, 2015

tree down

About a month ago I posted about a dead tree that had snapped off near the cabin. The angle of my photo (seen in this post) suggested that it had nearly fallen on the cabin, but that was not the case.

This view from the porch shows how far away the fallen timber actually was. (I can’t look at this photo and not wish I was on that porch!)

This tree top had fallen into the crotch of the tree you see on the left above. It had thwarted my efforts to tug it free on my first visit. And it intended to do the same when I returned on this later visit. (Notice how green the forest grew in those few weeks.)

Rather than tug it free, I tried a different approach. I lifted the lower part of the tree and then let it fall to the ground. I did this several times, breaking off more of the branches at the top just from the impact. Soon I had enuf of those gone that I could yank the tree free from its neighbor’s embrace and get it to the ground, where it now waits to be transformed into firewood.

Watt’s Mill on the run

May 25th, 2015

waterfall 1
My usual Sunday long run — about 11 miles depending on motivation — ends very close to this waterfall on the Indian Creek. I have wended my way along the paved trail for 10-plus miles and crossed into Missouri shortly before this point. Most of that paved trail follows the creek (or one of the feeder creeks), so as I eat up the miles, I can watch the flow increase. I also get a pretty good view of the herons, ducks, and geese who enjoy the pools and riffles.

This is the site of the former Watt’s Mill, which, in its various incarnations, had stood on this spot for nearly 200 years (which is old for our part of the country). The old mill is long gone, though some of the foundation stones are still in place (as you can see in the photo above) and there is a oft-vandalized plaque trying to say too much in too small of a space. Just up the hill from this spot is an upscale restaurant with lots of windows so that patrons can gave out onto the waterfall.

waterfall 2
Often when I run on this part of the trail I must dodge the Canada geese who are loitering in the way. Sometimes they hiss at me, though I assure them I’m harmless.

Some Sundays the waterfall is barely a trickle. With the recent spring rains it has been more robust. On my run two weeks ago, when low parts of the trail were slick with mud or deep with puddled water, I came upon the waterfall as you see it below.

I had actually shot this video on the day after I had run the trail. We were headed to Roundrock and detoured over here to get cheaper gas (cheaper in Missouri than Kansas) when I spotted the flow. We turned around and took this video, then we went on to Roundrock. I had run this bit of the trail the day before when the flow was more like the photos above. That tree you see on the rocks to the left was not there then. But the overnight rains came and swelled the creek.

When my sons and I did some white-water rafting in Colorado back in their Scouting days, this kind of waterfall wouldn’t have merited any concern. We would have passed over it with ease, without a pause in our conversation. I’m not too eager to give that a try any longer.

good news ~ bad photos

May 20th, 2015

chicks 1

Yes, possibly the worst photo I’ve ever posted on this humble blog (until you see the one below). You may recall that once again the phoebe has built her nest on the front of the cabin this year. I wrote about it lovingly in this post.

And I worried then (I’m always worrying, aren’t I, FC?) that our comings and goings on our last trip to the cabin would cause the phoebe to abandon her nest and the four eggs inside it. As it happened, most of a month went by between our visits (spring racing season), and that gave phoebe plenty of time to sit on her eggs to incubate them.

And it worked. What you see in the poor photo above are four phoebe chicks in the nest, not quite newly hatched, but from what I can tell, they don’t have their eyes open yet.

I had a terrible time getting even this good of a picture of the nestlings. I tried the macro function. I tried without the flash. With the flash. Repeated shots. If you go to that post I linked above, you will see the decent enuf photo I took of the four eggs. The only difference I can figure this time is that the little birds are bigger than the eggs and so too close to the camera for it to focus. As it was, I was pressing the camera to the ceiling of the porch, so I couldn’t have backed off any better.

Still, a bad photo of four silent, unmoving baby birds could suggest that they hatched but hadn’t survived. Mama phoebe was nearby and scolding us, so I was hopeful. And I understand it is the nature of baby wild animals to be silent until a parent is around. So maybe they were just being good babies.

After I took my series of poor photos, Libby and I went for a walk in the woods, wallowing (not literally) in all of the running water in the Central Valley and the ravines that feed into it.

By the time we returned, the gray clouds of the morning had left, and blue sky filled the dome overhead. I hoped that with more natural ambient light, I might get a better shot of the nestlings, so I tried again. (Note: While fine for sitting in, the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparking lake are not well suited for standing on.)

I shot another series of photos, the best of which you see here:

chicks 2


It sure looks as though the nestlings are alive and thriving. They apparently thought I was their mother too since they wanted me to feed them. After I stepped down from the chair, we could hear them peeping.

We took off for faraway suburbia shortly after this, so I think mama phoebe was able to return to her nest and the hungry babies within. It’s possible that the nestlings will be fledglings by the time we return. And if the pattern repeats as last year, there may even be a new set of eggs in the nest by then.

Here is a little better photo of a baby for you:


another turtle

May 19th, 2015

turtle 1

We were rambling the woods at Roundrock last weekend and crossed one of the many ravines that feed into the Central Valley and then into the lake. It was fun to see these ravines with running water, and I even enjoyed the “trouble” of finding ways to get across them.

We had stopped at a particularly pretty spot at one of the ravines, looking for likely stepping stones, when I spotted an odd, smooth rock just a little bit downstream.

Rock it was not but this nice snapping turtle.

I realize it is hard to tell from these poorly contexted photos, but that turtle was much larger than a dinner plate. I’m not sure how old that would make it, but I’d guess at least several years. (I’ve read that they can live to be 100 years old, so my estimation may be low.)
turtle 2

I was initially surprised to find this turtle so far from the lake. This spot was a long way up the south-facing slop, and even though there was water rushing in the ravine on this day, most of the time this area is dry. My guess was that this beast had lived in the pond (at our northwest corner) but had heard about the bigger lake down the watershed and was making its way there.

But it’s possible that this is a female and that she was out looking for a likely place to lay her eggs. As far as I know, the only good place in my woods is in the pine plantation, but while that is good soil, it’s not very sandy, which I understand mama turtle prefers. Of course, my neighbor’s hundred-acre field to the north is also full of good soil (and conveniently fallow this year), so that may be where the turtle was coming from.

We didn’t disturb this turtle, and it seemed to disregard us. I suppose it is possible I’ll see it again. I hope I recognize it when I do.


prickly pear

May 18th, 2015

prickly pear

We made it down to Roundrock on Sunday, fearing that the dam might have washed away given all of the rain we’ve been having lately. Fortunately, nothing so terrible happened. In fact, the lake was up by maybe a couple of inches since our last visit even though there were several streams flowing into it from the ravines to enter the Central Valley. Another mystery.

But in our ramblings we came upon this happy little surprise. We have two robust prickly pear plants growing in plain sight that we’ve never noticed before. Libby found these growing beside the northern spillway. Conditions there seem to be about ideal. Rocky soil that stays mostly dry and gets a lot of sun. The plant you see above, and one beside it of about the same size, looked quite happy, and they are just about ready to flower. (Not sure we’ll be able to see that though.)

Most amazing is that yesterday was the first time either of us had ever noticed these. They must be several years old, and we certainly have hiked up and down that spillway enuf times over those years. Yet they can’t have predated the spillway. This area was scraped clean, down to bedrock and hardpan several years ago. (This is the same area where the bag experiment had been conducted.)

So right under our noses are a pair of plants we’d been eager to find in our woods for years. We did have one plant on the north-facing slope, but in the last two years when we looked for it, we couldn’t find it. Now we have these. Always a surprise waiting at Roundrock.