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Culture

Hiking And Photography Vacations Become "Day Trips" During The Pandemic

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(Ed Minton)
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Most of the people we've talked to this week have taken up new hobbies and interests during the downtime resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This afternoon, you'll hear from someone whose lifelong interests and pursuits have been altered in positive ways by the quarantine. Ed Minton runs the warehouse at the Dairy Farmers of America plant here in Springfield. (Among other things, they bottle Frappuccino drinks for Starbucks.) Ed and his wife have always enjoyed traveling and hiking, and Ed has had a longtime interest in photography.                          

"I've been very interested in hiking outdoors and photography my whole life, but basically I got into it a couple of years ago pretty heavy," he told me. "Just being outdoors, it really relaxes me, lets me get away from the normal day to day hustle. As a young kid, my grandma gave me a camera and I got into photography. And of course, as time goes on you kind of get out of hobbies as you go. But I was always interested in wildlife and photography. And a couple of years ago, I just put them both together and I really couldn't put it down from that point. That was the starting point of it. We like to get out and explore,  anywhere in the United States. We have really in the last two, three, four years, been very interested in traveling. And so we search through the states and find the best hiking spots, the best scenic areas to photograph, and go from there."

Asked who travels with him, Minton replied, "My spouse and one of my children. The other, our son, goes to Rolla University [Missouri S & T]. So right now he's out of the traveling spectrum. But our teenage daughter, she tags along with us."

Ed Minton and his family had gotten used to taking up to four extended trips, of a week or two duration, every year.

"We really love Washington State, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest," he said. "But we travel to Florida. We go as far south, all the way to the border of Mexico, in Texas, just wherever  we could find a good spot that really thrilled us."

But when the pandemic hit a year ago, they had to restructure the way they traveled--and where. "In the past, when we looked at traveling, we never thought about traveling locally in the state of Missouri. And when COVID hit, we really had to scale back on distance. Of course, airlines, it's hard to get a flight somewhere. You can't book places to stay without--there's just different regulations you've got to really look at. So we had to look at all the stuff that Missouri had to offer, (as well as) northwest (and) northeast Arkansas. We had to stay within that boundary."

In the past year they've limited themselves to day trips, said Minton. "Once in a while we will stay overnight at a place, but basically it's pretty much a 24-hour trip at the longest."

Even though their trips are shorter since COVID, there have been positive changes, said Ed Minton.

"We learn the history of Missouri, southern Missouri--and not only that, we don't necessarily have to travel now to see all of this... the karst topography of our--you know, the local caves. We've got lakes and rivers and all kinds of trails just right here. We don't have to make the big trips to get what we are looking for."

And Ed's photography hobby fits right in. "In photography," he explained," originally, I was mostly a landscape and wildlife (photographer), but now I really look for old buildings, old structures, the old way that people lived versus the 'new' way--the big buildings and cities. We'll travel to St. Louis or Kansas City, even Columbia, and just look at the structures of the buildings. On top of that, when we're there, we explore the outer perimeters of the cities--the parks and all the trail systems. So we try to take it all in. And being here, being isolated to Missouri and the northern part of Arkansas, we have really learned a lot that the state has to offer. Nobody really knows what's around them. I think we take it for granted."

He listed some of the regional locales he and his wife have visited over the past year. "Prairie State Park, that's just north of Joplin. It (has) beautiful wildflowers. It’s flat prairies; it's one of the biggest prairie areas around. And then you go to the east of Missouri, and you’ve got Mingo, a national wildlife refuge. It's swamps, lots of reptiles and stuff. You know, southern Missouri is full of caves. And, you know, you just head a little bit north, just the land itself. There's so much geology. And it's really awesome what Missouri has to offer."

Minton and his wife are able to make these day trips nearly every weekend. "We set our sights on going every single weekend," he said. "Last weekend, we went to Ha-Ha-Tonka (State Park near Camdenton, Missouri) and explored that area. We also explored some of the Mark Twain (National Forest). You put a few dollars in the gas tank and you go and you explore, and you have an awesome day."

There is still the possibility of traveling further afield. "We actually do have one coming up in July, I believe. We're going to Washington--as long as all the restrictions get lifted."

But Ed Minton has learned to love what Missouri has to offer during the COVID-19 pandemic.