Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mapping the Damage at Marble Creek

This past week my daughter went to a girl's camp our church sponsors every year which was held down at the S-F scout camp (on the Swift explorer base). I was asked to go pick up the girls from our congregation on Saturday morning. So I looked for a place nearby to do a hike on Friday with the idea of camping Friday night and picking the girls up in the morning on my way back home.

I looked at the Ozark trail page and saw that the recovery work was well underway on many sections. I felt a twinge of guilt that I hadn't volunteered to join any of these work parties. Then I saw that the post-storm status of one little section of the trail not far from the girl's camp was "unknown" and they were looking for someone to go scout out the damage and report back. I decided to volunteer so I could contribute in a small way to the trail I've come to love so much.

The section is called the Marble Creek section. It's not very long and currently doesn't connect to the rest of the trail at either end (although eventually it will). Perhaps for that reason it isn't as popular as some sections. It's quite nice though. It begins at Marble creek (pictured below).

After that the trail winds with only gentle ups and downs through the forest and then ends in a loop around Crane Lake.

Crane Lake, like every lake in Missouri, is man-made. A dam was constructed in a narrow valley. The southern loop of the trail brings you right next to this dam. The northern loop brings you around quite a ways above the dam with a nice view. I took a picture of the view but it was getting dark and so the picture didn't turn out so you'll have to be satisfied with the picture below, taken from the edge of the dam on the southern edge of the lake.

Mapping the damage to the trail involved stopping at every point where a tree had fallen across the trail and creating a waypoint on my GPS unit. Later I would share those waypoints with the sawyers so they could plan a cleanup. This turned out to be pretty exhausting. No only does it slow you down to stop and enter a waypoint but afterward you have to clamber over the tree or bushwhack through the surrounding forest and then try to find the trail on the other side. The trail itself has seen better days. Lack of use has caused it to become overgrown in places and occasionally I got lost. I had several GPS track files to go by but one was just an approximation and the other two were incomplete. At one point, near the lake, I became totally lost. Then I happened to catch sight of an old trail marker. The trail itself had completely disappeared in undergrowth but I was able to follow the trail markers up through some glades and along the side of a hill, which I later saw was one side of a steep valley where the dam was built.

Some people feel that the hiking season in the Ozarks starts October 1st and ends sometime in April or May. It's certainly true that those are great months to hike the Ozarks. But I have learned a few tricks about hiking in the summer.

1. Treat your pants and socks with permethrin ahead of time. Ticks climbing on clothes treated with permethrin quickly die. One can easily pick up dozens of ticks in just one day of hiking in the summer in the Ozarks. I only saw one on me this time and it was on my forearm from where I had brushed a nearby bush. My legs and feet were completely clear.
2. Take a bath in the hot part of the day. Find a stream or a lake, pull out the Dr Bronner's soap and restore your humanity with cleanliness. Just swimming is fine too because it cools you down. But a bath is nicer. This time I swam in the lake and then went on the rocks below the dam to take a bath in the rushing water.
3. Hike quickly and don't stop until after dark. Mosquitoes can't fly very fast. If you walk at a reasonably brisk pace they can't keep up. You don't even think they are there until you stop and suddenly they swarm you. But mosquitoes also stop flying once it is truly dark. This time I took a hammock with no bug net and found I didn't really miss the bug net because by the time I went to sleep there were no mosquitoes around.