Saturday, May 9, 2009

Paddy Creek After a Storm

Well the finals are all graded and the grades submitted so I took the opportunity to get away for some hiking. I was originally planning to go Thursday night and come back Friday but something came up and I had to reschedule. It turns out to be fortunate that I did because a very severe storm hit on Thursday night. More on that later.

View Paddy Creek Wilderness (short loop) in a larger map

The map above shows the loop I took. I wanted to do a longer loop but somehow I got on a shortcut trail that makes a shorter loop. I'm going to start a support group for knuckleheads like me who own GPS units and don't have the brains to use them. I had forgotten to load this section of Topo map onto my unit and didn't realize it until it was too late. Hence the mistake.

The Paddy Creek Wilderness is located in Central Missouri, essentially directly southwest of my house. It's farther West than I have gone before. The area differs from the parts of the Ozarks I have explored before in that the rock formations appear to be limestone and not igneous rocks. The Paddy Creek Wilderness is near the Big Piney river which runs through central Missouri and empties into the Gasconade (which in turn empties into the Missouri). The Paddy Creek Wilderness area is the area surrounding the little Paddy Creek (which joins the big Paddy Creek before it empties into the Big Piney). The area is quite beautiful with many limestone cliffs overlooking the creek.

Since it's late spring there's beginning to be more wildlife around although the mosquitoes aren't yet as bad as they will be. This is the first time I've got a decent picture of one of these guys.

He thought I didn't see him and so stayed real still for the photo. I'm not exactly sure but I think this is a Five-lined Skink, also called a "Blue-tailed skink" (note the blue tail). This is Missouri's most common skink.

Being from the desert I'm used to lizards. But I thought that was the only slice of desert I'd find in Missouri. Imagine my surprise when I almost stepped on this right next to the trail! Am I right that this is a prickly pear cactus? Weird.

I arrived in the late afternoon on Friday and it had rained all night. The trail was soaked and all the little tributaries that dump into the little Paddy were full. Here the trail crosses one of these tributaries. It made a nice picture I thought.

But the main story of this trip was the storm damage. It was truly unbelievable. Hundreds of huge trees had been ripped up by the roots. I think I spent half my time off the trail, bushwhacking, trying to find a way around fallen trees. I genuinely think that if I had gone on Thursday I might not be alive today. My hammock could have been tied to one of those trees. Or worse, one could have fallen on me in my sleep (if anyone could have slept during that storm).

Most of the fallen trees were oaks. But many tall pines fell as well and this surprised me. I would have thought that those straight, tall pines provide less of a target for the wind and so wouldn't be as prone to fall over in a storm. But as you can see that wasn't the case.

In the picture above it's a bit hard to get the scale. I'm standing on the trunk and taking the picture. The trunk is larger around than my body and looked to me to be at least 40 feet tall, maybe 50.

This next picture is a bit hard to understand unless you were there. A row of three huge pines fell like dominoes. Note how you can see the rootball of the second tree under the trunk of the first. The third is farther along.

I went super-ultralight on this trip. My lightest hammock, just my poncho for a tarp and raingear, and no stove (just ate cold food). Worked out fine. I'll push this even farther when the weather warms up even more so I can do some serious miles.

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