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Backpacking with the SaintsWilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice$
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Belden C. Lane

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199927814

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199927814.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 October 2021

Justice: The Meramec River at Times Beach and Mohandas Gandhi

Justice: The Meramec River at Times Beach and Mohandas Gandhi

14 (p.181) Justice: The Meramec River at Times Beach and Mohandas Gandhi
Backpacking with the Saints

Belden C. Lane

Oxford University Press

The spring-fed Meramec River wanders for 218 miles through six Missouri counties before it flows into the Mississippi eighteen miles south of St. Louis. It cuts across the northeastern corner of the Ozark Plateau, carving out bluffs of white dolomite limestone along its way. The stream passes by Onondaga Cave, Meramec State Park, and Meramec Caverns, becoming a lazy river fed by smaller tributaries and floated by weekend adventurers. Overhanging sycamores and cottonwoods crowd its banks. Springs and caves invite floaters to tie up their canoes and explore. Mussel beds are plentiful, as are crappie, rainbow trout, and channel cat. The name “Meramec,” in fact, comes from an Algonquin word meaning “ugly fish” or “catfish.” I’ve put the kayak into the water at the river’s Allenton access south of I-44 near Eureka, Missouri. Paddling eight miles downstream, I’ve stopped for the night just past the old Route 66 bridge near Times Beach. Today Times Beach is a ghost town, but it’s still remembered as the site of the worst environmental disaster in Missouri history. In the early 1970s, the country’s largest civilian exposure to dioxin (TCDD) occurred here along the banks of the Meramec. Waste oil containing the toxic chemical used in making Agent Orange was spread on the town streets in order to keep down the dust. The Environmental Protection Agency ended up buying out the entire town and incinerating everything. All that’s left of Times Beach today is what locals refer to as the “town mound,” a long raised embankment of incinerated dirt covered with grass. Since 1999, the site has been turned into Route 66 State Park, commemorating the Mother Road of public highways, begun in 1926. Historic Route 66 was the first of America’s cross-country highways, extending from Chicago to Los Angeles. It crossed the Meramec River at this point. Known as “The Main Street of America,” the road symbolized the nation’s fascination with the automobile and the movement west. “Get your kicks on Route Sixty- Six” crooned Nat King Cole in his R & B classic of the 1940s. Today the old concrete bridge over the river goes nowhere.

Keywords:   Hindu spirituality, Meramec River, Native Americans, Ozarks, Quakers, Sierra Club, Thich Nhat Hanh, dioxin, mysticism, satyagraha

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