I'm a nature fan-boy, and I know it. It's not hard to get to start gushing, to loose all control of my enthusiasms. To the point of being tiresome, in fact. I've seen that glazed look in my friends' eyes, watch my co-workers suddenly remember urgent tasks that require immediate attention. It's fine.

But luridly colored fungus? My! The excitement! The orange! The relief to an otherwise unbroken green and brown! Nature! Cool!

But the nice thing about Missouri is that we're never more than twenty minutes from having our perspective corrected:

In this case, courtesy of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and of the need to provide campers with clean, reliable water. If I sound sarcastic for saying so, then I don't mean to be, because in a lot of ways the DNR's water tank says more about the park--and for the possibility of finding a wild, natural Missouri--than any neon fungus ever could.

Our parks and wild lands are infrastructure, to considerable degree the accumulated savings of Missouri's Gilded Age boom, part and parcel with the increasingly abandoned industrial works that line the riverfront in north and south St. Louis.

And this not a bad thing. If we hadn't had the surpluses of the Gilded Age, it's likely we would not have today's surplus of public woodland so close to St. Louis. And if the DNR hadn't developed Meremec State Park, it's likely we wouldn't have the Meremec River.

It bears repeating: if the DNR hadn't developed Meremec State Park, it's likely we wouldn't have the Meremec River. The Meremec was supposed to be dammed, but it wasn't, because the people of Missouri had visited the Meremec valley and had come to love it for what it is. No facilities, no visitors. No visitors, no love. No love, no river.

Parks--and the modern infrastructure they contain--actually add more to wild Missouri than they detract. It's the infrastructure that by a circular sequence of cause and effect makes it possible for me to go all fan-boy over a bit of fungus.