If you've been stuck in the house during these cold winter days and have the itch to get out and do something, think Missouri State Parks. With more than 90 parks in the system, Missouri State Parks are certain to offer a program or activity to please you and your family and friends.
One program that sounds good to me right now is the new Craft Nights series at Echo Bluff State Park, on Highway 19 between Salem and Eminence. I enjoy doing crafts, and I love Echo Bluff and the surrounding Ozark National Scenic Riverways, plus I know some of the teachers lined up for the series. The idea of driving down scenic Highway 19, having dinner at the stunning lodge at Echo Bluff, then spending the night in one of the comfortable lodge rooms or cabins is enough to have me packing an overnight bag.
The series — called "Eat. Sleep. Craft. Repeat. " — began on Jan. 4 and will be held on the first Thursday of every month. Fees vary, according to the craft taught and the supplies needed. Included in the fee is a tasty snack prepared by the chef in the Creekside Grill.
The first class featured basket making by multi-talented artisan, Reta Barkley of Eminence. Reta is a regular volunteer with the National Park Service at Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR), and can often be found doing basket-making demonstrations at both ONSR and Echo Bluff.
This week's class, from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 1, will highlight the creative wood carving and wood working of Cindy Dooley, of Salem. I've known Cindy for years because she's a teacher at the Christianson Native Craft Workshop (www.christiansonnativecraft.org) in late July at Shannondale, on Highway 19, just a few miles north of the park. I've purchased several of Cindy's carved items, but have never tried any of her carving classes, for fear of losing a finger.
The log vase and wooden flowers are some of the easier items she makes and teaches, so I'm going to give them a try. Why not join us?
The cost for this week's class on wooden flowers and vases is $25 per person, and includes craft, soft drinks and snack. Beer and wine are available for purchase. Reservations are required; please call Echo Bluff State Park at 844-322-3246.
The class on March 1 will be spring grape vine wreaths, taught by Janet Fossey, of nearby Timber. Other topics and instructors will be posted as the year progresses.
For photos and more information, click on "events" on the Echo Bluff State Park Facebook page. For information about the lodge, visit www.echobluffstatepark.com.
Plan to make an outing out of it and either go early or stay overnight to give you time to hike some trails, look for the famed wild horses that roam the park and surrounding area, explore nearby Round Spring, peek into Devil's Well or ride Akers Ferry across the Current River. If you have the right gear, try a winter float on the Current -- you'll see all sorts of things that are obscured by vegetation during summer floats.
For information about programs and activities at other parks, visit www.mostateparks.com.