The Ozark trail, as can be seen from the offical website, will eventually stretch from St Louis down to Arkansas with a large loop around the Missouri Ozarks. The trail splits to form this loop near Council Bluff lake where I went hiking with Grant. Most of my recent hiking has been on the eastern side of the loop (which is still incomplete). This weekend I tried the west side of the loop.
The trail is broken into sections between 18 and 40 miles each. The section I hiked is called the Middle Fork section. I've never hiked a complete section at one time before but this time I did. Of course it's a fairly short section, just over 22 miles.
This trail is just delightful. The thing that characterizes this section is the numerous creeks running with crystal clear spring water. That makes hiking so much nicer because you don't need to carry much water. And of course it makes the trail much more scenic. Perhaps it's because I grew up in the desert but I really love creeks and streams. In fact I took way too many pictures of the creeks I came across because each one looked so good to me. Here are just a few to give you an idea.
I think waterfalls are especially pretty. These are small creeks of course so there aren't big falls. But they are nice to look at. The picture above is of the largest waterfall I saw on the trip. I've read that it is 12' from top to bottom.
I noticed afterward that I took more picture of the small creeks than the big streams. Some of them were a challenge to cross. For a few there was nothing to be done except wade. I guessed this would be the case in advance so I wore my sandals with sealskinz waterproof socks. These socks keep water out but allow sweat to escape in some way. They work pretty well. My feet stayed dry after many river crossings.
The trail, as you can see from the map above, heads west and then turns almost straight south. I started hiking about noon on Friday and made good time, about 2.5 miles per hour, and reached a high plateau just before the southward turn just after 4pm. I camped there for the night. There was a forecast of rain so I set up my poncho/tarp above my bivy in a lean-to configuration.
This is the most common pitch for a poncho/tarp and I found I liked it quite well. It's probably not particularly strong for high winds. The winds that night were very mild but I found it surprisingly robust. If you look carefully you can see that I ran a line from the hood of the poncho backward to a tree. This keeps the wind from pushing the tarp against you when it blows. The rainfall wasn't that significant but this setup kept me very dry.
I set my woodgas stove near my head with some fuel I had gathered the night before so in the morning I could make some hot cocoa without getting out of bed.
The woodgas stove worked out very well on this trip. There was lots of fuel available and I found it pleasant to cook on. For dinner I had Parker Pass Potatoes from Enertia Foods (which was excellent!) and I found that one batch of wood was able to boil my water and then simmer the soup for an additional 5 or 10 minutes or so afterward while I stirred.
The next morning a misty rain was still falling. So I packed my gear (leaving the poncho/tarp up), put my pack on, and slipped the poncho over my head and wore it while hiking.
Later the rain stopped and the fog cleared a bit and I had a very nice hike. I stopped for a warm lunch at about noon. Since the wood was wet I turned the woodgas stove upside down and used it as a support for a block of Esbit fuel.
I stopped regularly to fill up on water from the creeks. It was beautiful, clear water but of course one must always be careful about water borne pathogens (mainly Giardia). Many hikers filter their water but I like my Steripen Adventurer better. It sterilizes the water using UV rays. I fill a wide mouth container from the creek and then stir with the pen. UV light is invisible of course but a blue light shines to let you know it's working. I dislike filters because they are hard work and get harder the longer you use them. Some people use chemical tablets but this seems even worse because it ruins the taste of the wonderful spring water. I do carry tablets as an emergency backup for the Steripen but so far haven't used any.
At the end of the trail I met a friend who shuttled me back to my car. As I waited for him I made another instant soup like I had for lunch. I learned something interesting. It turns out my system can't take more than one instant soup per day. It didn't agree with me. I think I need to bring more homemade food in the future.
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