Ever since I hiked the Eastern Taum Sauk trail with the scouts I've been wanting to go back and hike the Western half of the trail. So this weekend I did it. Well technically I only hiked as far as Bell Mountain but since I had caught the the rest of the trail when I hiked to Bell Mountain from the highway A trailhead I have completed the whole Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail. Well, even that I will have to qualify because there is a section of the trail between the East and West sections that is closed to hikers. More on that later.
These two maps cover the area I hiked. On Friday night I parked and camped at the North Bell trailhead (top right of the top map). The next morning a friend, Bill Fordyce, picked me up and drove me to the start of my hike at the bottom of the lower map. I hiked all day Saturday and the camped on top of Bell and Sunday morning walked down to my car and drove home.
On these maps you can see several way points marked. For some of them I have pictures and you can also click on the way point number and be taken to a Google map of that area.
TS11 -- Because of the reservoir breach in 2005 the middle section of the Taum Sauk trail,which passes through Johnson Shut-Ins state park has been closed. This temporary drop-off serves in place of a trailhead for those who want to hike the Western Taum Sauk Trail. This sign post was just off the road. It says 13 miles to the Bell Mountain Wilderness but that's just to the edge of the wilderness. I camped about .8 miles past that on the peak of Bell.
TS10 -- 1.6 miles. Power line crossing. You can see it if you click the satellite view google maps you can see it. Not tremendously interesting but I was able to get a good shot that shows that there are pine trees in the Ozarks as well as hardwoods like Oak and Hickory. I think these are white pine. I understand the white pine used to dominate the Ozarks but over time the hardwoods have taken over. Not sure why.
TS9 -- 2.8 miles. Near the top of Goggins Mountain there are glades (visible in satellite view with google maps)
TS8 -- 4.2 miles. There is a side trail here which forms a loop (the Goggins Mountain Trail) which is supposed to be quite nice. But it is also closed for construction (unrelated to the Johnson Shut-Ins construction). Didn't matter anyway because I couldn't find the side trail. As near as I can figure it was somewhere near this boulder field.
TS6 -- 7.2 miles. The remains of an old house are here.
Not interesting in and of themselves but Bill Fordyce, who knows the area well, told me that behind the house is a spring. I filled up my water bottles at this spring.
Crossing for the Padfield Branch which is a creek that empties into the Middle Fork Black River (which empties into the Black River, etc).
TS4 -- 9.7 miles. More glades with a view. Considered the southern tip of Bell Mountain even though the landscape goes down again before rising up to Bell proper.
The view is of Goggins Mountain that I had just come down from to the Padfield Branch crossing. This was one of three places I had cell phone reception on the trail. The top of Goggins Mountain and the top of Bell Mountain proper were the other two. I stopped here and made myself a hot lunch.
TS3 -- 11.1 miles. Fork in the trail.
I was coming from the right in the picture. If I were to have continued I would have come to the the Hwy A trailhead where I started the last time I hiked Bell. (Hwy A trailhead is where the Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail meets the Trace Creek section. Council Bluff lake is a side trail off the Trace Creek section). So at this point no matter which way I went I would be going over trail I had hiked. The picture is taken looking down the Bell Mountain trail which is where I went to get to the peak.
BM2 -- 13.8 miles. The glade at the summit of Bell where I met some fellow hikers. We had planned on coming to see the meteor shower but the weather clouded over so we didn't see any meteors.
The guy in the yellow tent is Bill Fordyce. It was his idea to meet on top of Bell to look at the meteors. He's a really cool guy. He lives up there in the Ozark mountains.
Here was my camp setup.
I knew that the weather was going to be windy so I knew a hammock or a tarp wouldn't be very fun. So I went with the bivy. The temperature wasn't very cold so I used the Air Core pad with just my Nite-Lite torso pad under my shoulder-to-hip area. My legs could feel the cold of the air pad so I put my coat under my legs and I was warm. Actually I was almost too warm. During the night I stripped my thermals off. In a bivy you always worry about condensation. Interestingly I found no condensation on the top of the bivy where I would expect it but I did found condensation under the air mattress. It seems that some of the moist air from my body drifted under the air mattress and condensed against the cold underside of the bivy. Not really a problem though since moisture under the mattress can't get either me or my bag wet.
North Bell Trailhead. -- 17.3 miles. Where I left my car (and where I camped on Friday night). I hiked this last 3.5 miles pretty fast, about 75 minutes. I was with a fellow I met on the mountain. He likes to hike fast as well and do long miles. We're thinking about doing a trip together at some point.
I did some pretty serious hiking on Saturday (I was trying to make it to the summit before sundown). I'm a little sore today. I'm afraid I didn't sleep very well Saturday night because the wind was so loud. It's funny, I always think to use ear plugs in the summer because of bugs. But here it is December and I needed earplugs because of the wind! Not what I expected, but there is always something unexpected when you are backpacking.