By Don Corrigan
Sometimes a new friend crosses your path – the kind of friend who helps you out. You look forward to a lasting friendship. Then something tragic happens, and you realize you did not say “thank you” enough before they exited this life.
Such is the case for me with Karen Hood Simpson. She helped me explore Missouri caves, trails and waterways on a Missouri Outdoor Communicators’ (MOC) trip in June to the Pulaski County area and the Gasconade River watershed.
Karen, who worked with the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau for more than a dozen years, helped this city boy enjoy some Ozark nooks in the forest and on the river – and to breathe in a little fresh mountain air.
The MOC get-together was at Gasconade Hills Resort, located on a magnificent stretch of river showcasing amazing scenery, caverns and local wildlife including eagles, otters and deer.
She helped with arrangements for a canoe float not far from the cold spring waters that flow into the Gasconade and Big Piney rivers. It was a scenic on-the-water trip in the vicinity of Devil’s Elbow, a bluff area full of lore from a time when lumber men floated timber down the river.
In the evenings, there was time to relax at the Piney River Taproom. One eating and imbibing excursion involved time at the newly-opened Heritage Cultural Art Center on Route 66 in Waynesville.
The culture center acts as a community space and a cultural museum for the region. Its space features artwork depicting the lives and ceremonies of Native Americans once in the region. Those of us on the MOC visit were treated to a unique music performance.
That same evening, we met folks with Cold Creek Mushrooms, a family-owned mushroom farm located just south of Dixon in Pulaski County. This indoor mushroom-growing operation offered up some tasty morsels.
Karen’s Spelunking Specialty
When I conceded that I had no equipment with me for safe hiking below ground, she ran home and retrieved her caving helmet, flashlights and other safety items for me to “cave” in the area. The trip was exhausting, but exhilarating, with lots of hiking and climbing.
The cave explorations were a highlight of my MOC adventure. Obviously, this just would not have happened without the aid of Karen Hood Simpson. And she was there for another activity that I was interested in trying out in the natural surroundings she so loved.
This activity involved a fly-fishing trip with members of the Roubidoux Fly Fishing Association. Waynesville is home to Roubidoux Creek, which boasts sections of Red and White Ribbon Trout areas. Its where successful anglers can catch rainbow and brown trout.
Once again, I did not bring the right equipment for fly fishing on the clear and crisp waters. Well, that’s because I just don’t have the essential equipment for casting and pulling out trout on a fly fishing adventure.
And once again, Karen and the Pulaski Tourism Bureau came to the rescue. Not only did I have a great morning learning how to cast and to fly fish. The trusty “guides” took pains to make sure I continued my new-found angling sport.
I was gifted the boots and the waders that I had “borrowed” to make the angling morning happen. I also was gifted the casting lesson that will guarantee there is more fly fishing in my future.
Given my experience on the MOC adventure and all the help I received from Karen to make great things happen, it’s not hard to understand why I was shocked and saddened to learn that Karen was in a terrible car accident on I-44 on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Karen Hood Simpson succumbed to her injuries on Sunday morning, Dec. 13. Our acquaintance was far too short. Nevertheless I will not soon forget her and the June 2021 MOC adventure in the Ozarks that she made happen.