Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Frank Weir -- "The Happy Wanderer" (1954)

I love to go a-wandering
Along the mountain track
And as I go I love to sing

I'm never without my iPod on my daily walks and bike rides.  I usually sing along (loudly) with the songs I'm listening to -- and don't think that I stop singing when I meet another hiker or biker on the way.

I ain't shy, boys and girls.  And I have always been one hell of a good singer.  So why hide my vocal light under a bushel when I meet other happy wanderers?  No-sir-ee, Bob!

When I was in my hometown of Joplin, Missouri last month, I wandered happily on the trails along both banks of Shoal Creek between the low-water bridge in McIndoe Park and the old Redings Mill bridge.  

That's about a three-mile hike with a fair amount of elevation change -- it takes a good hour to complete the circuit.

My starting point is usually the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center just off South Main Street:

I headed north on the east side of Shoal Creek, and after a few minutes I saw these fisherman.  You can tell how shallow Shoal Creek is here:

I came to the low-water bridge after two-thirds of a mile, and crossed the creek:

Heading south on the west side of Shoal Creek, I passed under the Interstate 44 highway bridge.  The graffiti artists had been at work on the bridge supports and the paved trail itself.

Here's an inspiring message:

This graffitist posed a knotty conundrum:

(Think about it.)

Some people never get enough potty humor:

Once you've passed the I-44 bridge, the trail starts to go uphill and then forks.

The right fork takes you to the Wildcat Park chert glades, an almost unique ecosystem.  (There are only 60 acres of chert glades in the world, and almost half of them are in Joplin's Wildcat Park.)

To me, the most remarkable thing about the chert glades is the existence of real-life cactus there.  Chert, which is a very hard sedimentary rock, breaks down into thin, dry soil suitable for plants that are usually found in deserts:

Click here to read an article about the Joplin chert glades from Audubon magazine.

The left fork leads to the mile-long "Bluff Trail," which rises until it is about 100 feet above Shoal Creek.

Back in the day, before they built the barrier, you could pull off the road into this area and make out in relative safety:

The trail goes right along the edge of the bluff -- if you suffer from acrophobia, you might not really enjoy yourself on this part of the hike:

Here's a video that will give you a better idea of what the bluff trail is like:

At one point, you have to hop over this crack in the bluff.  The native Americans who once lived in this area believed this fissure went all the way to the very center of the earth:

(I'm so full of sh*t, my eyes are brown.)

The trail ends at the old Redings Mill bridge -- once used by cars, it is now a pedestrian-only bridge.

The bridge crosses Shoal Creek just above these beautiful shoals:

As I was crossing the bridge, I saw two kayakers going down the creek:

On the way back to the Audubon Center, you pass a cave with a blocked-off entrance:

Shortly after that, I came to the end of the trail:

Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller composed the music for "The Happy Wanderer" shortly after the end of World War II.  His sister Edith wrote the lyrics, which are based on a text by a 19th-century German poet, for the Obernkirchen Children's Choir, which she conducted.  The choir's performance of the song at a music festival in 1953 was broadcast by the BBC, and British listeners loved it. 

The Obernkirchen choir's recording of the song was one of the top five singles in the UK in 1954, and it was covered by many other recording artists -- including Frank Weir, a British jazz musician.

His recording of the song featured a male chorus, with Weir's soprano saxophone solos between verses. 

Here's the original recording, in German:

Here's Frank Weir's cover, in English:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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