Thursday, November 4, 2010

Enhancing the Golite Ultra 20

(Note: In this post I describe a DIY project that several people online have talked about doing but I have never heard of anyone who actually did it. So I decided to share my experience.)

I have written in a previous post about my Golite Ultra 20 down quilt. This has been a good quilt for me but, as others have noted, the temperature rating of 20 degrees was optimistic. I have read that the weight of down used was about 9.5 ounces (270 grams) of high quality (800 fill power) down. The Nunatak Arc Alpinist, a very well respected down quilt, has a 20 degree temperature rating with 11 ounces of down so I do think the people at Golite went a little cheap on the fill. (Because of widespread complaints the newer version of the quilt has more down I understand. The new version doesn't have the "20" in the name and is rated a 3-season quilt.).

This hadn't bothered me very much when sleeping on the ground but in a hammock it was a problem. The reason is that on the ground I put my ccf pad inside the quilt such that it forms a U-shape inside the footbox of the quilt such that my feet don't actually touch the quilt. In the hammock I don't do that and my feet were always cold. After investigating I realized that the baffles in the footbox were only partially filled with down. Here's a picture of my hand inside the footbox. You can clearly see the shape of my finger.

So I decided to buy some down from Thru-Hiker. He sells excellent quality down (900 fill power). The smallest bag you can get has 3.1 ounces in it. Here is the bag next to the quilt.

The mission was to put the down into the quilt. My wife was surprisingly willing to take on this project. She is a very competent seamstress. The first task was too pick open some seams with a "seam ripper" tool.

Once we had made a small hole we tried several methods of inserting the down. A funnel and a pencil worked pretty well but soon we realized that we could go even faster just using our fingers.

For those unfamiliar with the terminology of down sleeping bags and quilts you need to know that inside the quilt are "baffles" made of very fine mesh material. This keeps the down from shifting around too much and leaving cold spots. The areas between baffles, where the down is, are called "chambers". Most of the apparent "seams" you see in a down quilt aren't seams at all. They are just where you see the stitching that holds the baffles to the shell material of the quilt.

We filled the two chambers at the foot end (the part with black fabric) with extra down and then turned to the very bottom of the quilt, where the soles of you feet touch. This was somewhat laborious because there are three small chambers down there.

The quilt was definitely underfilled before. But I worried a bit about putting too much down in each chamber. At the foot end we certainly got close to doing that. If you overstuff the chambers then the down will not be able to fully loft and the insulating value of the down will be compromised. But afterward as I compare the feel of it to well-constructed winter down bags (such as those sold by Western Mountaineering) that I have handled it seems comparable.

The foot end was certainly the high priority. But after stuffing those chambers as full as we dared we still had at least half the down left. So we decided to continue on up the quilt and fill in the chambers that go across the body. This is made a little more difficult than you might think by one of the nice features of the Golite Ultra 20. Many quilts and bags have baffles only running across the body. But of course this means the down can shift to either side of you. The Golite Ultra 20 has additional baffles that run the length of the quilt and keep the down on top of you. This means that we couldn't open the seems at the very edge of the quilt and have access to those important top chambers. So we picked apart the seams where the lengthwise baffles meet the horizontal baffles.

The result is very nice looking. Because of the comparative emptiness of the quilt beforehand the "enhanced" quilt looks like the chambers are full without being overly full.

Inside the quilt feels positively luxurious. The material that Golite uses is very soft to the touch and now that the chambers are bulging with down your feet in particular feel like they are nestled in warmth. I'm really looking forward to trying the improved quilt this winter!

For those interested in tackling this project I will add two points.

1. Thru-hiker's down is REALLY excellent. The tufts of down are huge and fluffy and there are very few feathers to be seen. I highly recommend it. And the quantity (3 ounces) is just right for this project.

2. Working with down involves some clean up, as you can see from the pictures above. However I was surprised how easy it was. We have a Dyson, bagless vacuum cleaner and I was stunned at how well it worked. In just a few minutes the room was completely clean.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Very Rocky Trail

Last week I returned to the Mid-State trail with my brother. We intended to follow it from the Jo Hays vista trailhead to Laurel Run Road. Since I had previously hiked a few miles of this before and the trail had run more or less along the ridge and since both trailheads are located along the ridge I reasoned that the trail must follow the ridge for the whole distance. That's basically the hike we took but when I returned home I found that my copy of the Mid-State Trail guide had arrived and a quick perusal showed me that we had actually done a combination of the Mid-State trail and the Jackson trail. The Jackson trail ends at Jo Hays vista on PA26 near where the Mid-State trailhead is so I guess it's an easy mistake to make.

The Jackson trail is extremely rocky. It follows the ridge of the mountain even when that ridge becomes very sharp and so rocky that no trees will grow. But this means that there are spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. Here are some photos to give you an idea.

There was very little elevation gain or loss on this trip. But as you can imagine the hiking was hard because the ground was so rocky. Afterward my ankles were sore from being twisted at each step.

It was a beautiful hike and we really enjoyed it. When it got dark we stopped for dinner. I was reminded how much I enjoy my DIY woodgas stove. If you haven't made one yet then you really should. You can follow the directions I give in the link above. This time of year it's one of my favorite pieces of gear. It's just so simple and reliable. A full load (about a handful) of twigs boil about 2.5 to 3 cups of water just perfectly. We fired it up three times that evening. The first time was to make some chili mac for dinner and then later (since we were still hungry) we made some Ramen. Then as it got late we made a big batch of hot cocoa. I didn't use a lighter or matches this time. I found that vaseline soaked cotton ball could be easily lit with a firesteel striker.

Since I hadn't been out for a while I was really struck with how much I enjoy being out in the woods. The beauty of nature is soothing to the soul.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rothrock Forest, First Looks

When I first considered moving to Pennsylvania I wondered about hiking on the Appalachian Trail. But then my wife read in a book that hikers consider the Pennsylvania section of the AT to be their least favorite section. Apparently the reason is that the trail misses some of the prettiest parts of the state. So I did a little research and found that the Great Eastern Trail, which parallels the AT for much of its length, runs right through State College and was more carefully designed to hit the nicer areas of Pennsylvania. In fact the Pennsylvania section of the GET was the first section finished and it's called the Mid-State Trail. Ever since then I've been interested to find out where this trail starts and do some miles on it.

I have learned most of what I know about hikes in this area from the website The site is apparently run by someone here in State College. From this site I learned that the MST is not the only trail nearby. The nearby Rothrock State Forest is crisscrossed with many trails. Below is a topographical map of the forest near State College.

View Larger Map

On Saturday I followed some directions from and found the MST. If you look at the northeast quadrant of the map you will see a road called Laurel Run Road. I followed this road up the mountain to where it crosses anther road called Little Shingleton Road. This road is not really a road as it has a gate. I parked my car at the gate. The MST is marked with orange blazes on the trees and follows this road for a hundred yards or so before forking off.

Last post I mentioned the differences in the foliage I have noticed. In the picture you can see one of the main differences along the side of the road -- ferns. There are ferns in the Ozarks but here the numbers and density of the ferns is really impressive. Here's another patch of ferns further on.

After 100 yards or so the MST forks off to run along the ridge of the mountain. The trail is rocky but the hiking is easy because there are no ups and down. Occasionally there are nice views of the valley far below and the next ridge. This picture doesn't really capture the view but it was the best I could do.

I followed the trail for a mile or so and then came this intersection.

Rather than continuing on the MST I took a side trail called the Sand Spring trail. which heads down the mountain. It's very steep in this direction. I found myself huffing and puffing on the way back up. I then continued on the MST until I came to the highest point on the mountain (you can see it in the map). At that point I returned back to my car.

In short I'm enthusiastic. I plan to return for a hike in this location and spend a day or two along the MST -- the first of many I hope!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mount Nittany

Since settling down here in State College, PA I haven't yet taken an opportunity for an overnight trip. But I have spent some time examining the territory. It's beautiful country around here for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

State College is nestled in the Allegheny mountains of central Pennsylvania. Because it's such a small town you really feel close to the woods. Biking around town I notice that it smells like being out in the woods. My house is right near a forested area. In fact I'm surrounded by trees on 3 sides. At the bottom of the hill my house is located on is a creek called Spring Creek where the local kids go to play in the water on warm days. On the other side of Spring Creek rises Mount Nittany, the largest mountain in the area.

Recently we took a little hike up Mount Nittany. The trailhead is just a mile from my house. There are many trails on the mountain and some fine views of the town from the top.

I'm trying to figure out what is different about Pennsylvania as compared with the hardwood forests of the Ozarks. In some ways it is very similar. But there are differences that I can't quite put my finger on yet. Some of it has to do with the plants. The trees seem to grow taller here and the undergrowth is entirely different.

The topography is also different. The hills aren't that much bigger than they are in the Ozarks but they seem bigger. That's because of the way they are shaped. Imagine laying a hand towel flat on a countertop and putting your hands down on the towel about 6 inches apart. Now if you were to slide one hand toward another folds would rise up between your hands. That's how the mountains around here look. They are quite steep on the sides and very long, just like the ground had been folded.

Hikers often talk about how rocky Pennsylvania is and I was curious to see for myself. It certainly is very rocky. There are few places where the trail is smooth. There aren't that many very large boulders or very small stones either. Either would make the hiking a little easier. Most of the rocks you see scattered about are about the size of a typical desktop printer.

I talked to a geologist who told me that we have an inverted topography here. The stones are sandstone from some ancient ocean shore that has been raised up to become the surrounding mountains.

I'll write more soon about some other areas I've explored.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Missouri Hiking Gems

Recently I blogged about my remembrances of the Ozark Trail. The OT takes in some of the nicest spots in the state. But of course there are some great hikes that aren't on the OT. Some of these I have hiked and I thought I should mention them. Especially since one of them turned out to be my favorite spot to hike in all of Missouri.

Last post I mentioned Bell Mountain and Council Bluff lake. These aren't on the OT per se but are both loop trails that intersect the OT. So I count them as part of the OT. I'm going to talk about places that aren't on the OT.

The other thing I will exclude is the Katy Trail. Some people do hike this I understand but it's really for biking. This is a MUST DO if you are in Missouri. It's just spectacular! But I'm going to only consider hiking spots in this post.

I'll rank three such hikes according to how beautiful the hike is. They are all good but not equal in my mind.

Bronze Medal
Sam A. Baker State Park
Some may say that the Mudlick trail in Sam A Baker State Park should be included as a loop trail that intersects the OT because the Wappapello section dead ends into it. However I've never hiked the Wappapello section and so I didn't count it as part of the OT. This park is mostly for people who want to get away from it all and rent a cabin for a few days. There are many cabins in the park near the River. There's even a little convenience store that's open in season. I went in the winter so I had the park to myself. The Mudlick trail goes around the park and is about 15 miles long. If you start at the trailhead and hike counterclockwise then you soon come to the two best spots along the trail. The first is a great bluff view. Here it is in the morning in winter.

The great thing about this bluff view is that you can camp right there in a stone 3-walled shelter -- the only place in Missouri that I'm aware of where there are such shelters for hikers.

A little further on is Mudlick hollow. This hollow has waterfalls and cascades and is really gorgeous. A photo opportunity in any season I would think.

The reason this trail only gets the Bronze is that these two spots are within the first 2 miles of the trailhead. The rest of the hike is pleasant but not spectacular.

Silver Medal
Big Piney Trail -- Paddy Creek Wilderness
The Paddy Creek Wilderness is in Southcentral Missouri, just South of Fort Leonard Wood. It starts at Roby Lake near the town of Roby.

I'm not sure what it is about this place. I just found that I kept going back to it in my mind months after I'd hiked it. The creeks are great and the forest is beautiful. I went right after a big storm so many trees were down and the creeks were running very high (crossing Paddy Creek itself was a challenge, I was wet up to my hips) but I still loved it. The highlight of the hike is the canyon in the middle of the loop trail. The views from the bluffs are incredible and you can camp right at the top if you like.

This is really a first class hike all around. It might have won the gold if it weren't that the competition was so incredible.

Gold Medal Winner
Hawn State Park -- Whispering Pine Trail

I didn't discover this park until quite late. But it's actually one of the closest to St Louis. The camping area near Pickle Creek is full of RVs in season. But you get good solitude on the trail. There are great backcountry camp spots along the trail also. The forest has more pine than most forests in the Ozarks and I think that adds to the beauty. There are two creeks that border this park and both are unusually beautiful. Words don't really suffice so I'll let pictures do the talking for me.

The trail also hits some high spots and from the boulder-strewn peaks you get great views of the surrounding country.

And there are great bluffs overlooking the creeks which provide great pictures from either the top or the bottom.

If someone could only go on one hike in Missouri I'd recommend this one!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ozark Trail Retrospective

Now that I've moved to Pennsylvania I thought it would be a good time for a retrospective of the Ozark Trail. I didn't finish the trail but I've seen a good bit of it.

I've put my hiking history along the OT in a google map. Interestingly I couldn't embed it in this post (can't figure out why). But if you click here it will take you to the google map (best to open it in a new window so you can flip back and forth between my descriptions and the map). I've colored the various sections of the trail differently and put in some notes about when I did each section. Below I will review each section briefly.

Courtois Section
This is the northernmost section of the OT (colored in purple on my map). This is a beautiful section of the trail. About 5 miles in (from the north) you meet the Courtois creek. The trail runs between the creek and a bluff for a mile or so. This is one of the prettiest parts of the entire OT I think. Across the creek is a very high bluff. After crossing the creek the trail climbs this bluff to an area called "the Narrows" where you can see both the Courtois and Huzzah creeks (but the view will be obscured in summer by leaves). Great views here. The rest of the trail is also very pleasant. I only completed this section down to Hwy 8, near the Berryman campground.

Trace Creek
The Trace Creek section is the next section south (red/orange on my map). This section is quite pleasant though not spectacular. There are nice creeks and woods and the trail is not difficult. The highlight of this trail in my mind is really a side trail that comes off of it that is not officially part of the OT. Near the southern end of my map (I only did the northern part of this section) you come to Council Bluff lake. There is a trail that goes around this lake that is just gorgeous.

Middle Fork
Near the end of the northern part of the Trace Creek section is the beginning of the Middle Fork section(colored brown in my map). I really love this section. It has more creeks per mile than any other section which makes for a really pretty trip. It also has Barton Fen.

Taum Sauk
To the right in my map you see some blue trails which don't appear to be part of the OT thru-trail. This is the Taum Sauk Section. Eventually there will be a large loop in the middle of the OT and the Taum Sauk section is part of this incomplete loop. The Taum Sauk section was partially destroyed by a flood and the middle part was closed while I was living in Missouri. But the east and west parts were great hikes. The eastern section takes you from Ketcherside Mountain to the top of Taum Sauk mountain (the highest point in Missouri) and then down past Mina Sauk falls (the highest waterfall in Missouri) to a rock formation called Devil's Tollgate. This part of the trail is quite challenging because it is so steep and rocky. But the rocks are very red in color which makes for striking scenery.

The western part is also very nice. There are many very large glades in this section that offer nice views of the surrounding mountains. Most people though would say that the highlight of this section is a side trail which goes to the top of Bell Mountain. Many people consider this to be the nicest hike in the state.

Continuing south from the Middle fork you come to the Karkagne section (sort of purple/brown in the map). This section was heavily damaged in the storms but is now mostly open. This section has some very nice parts and some less nice parts. The northern part of Karkaghne is nicer than the southern part IMHO. The crossing of the Bee Fork has a gravel bar which I think is the nicest camping spot along the entire trail. The Sutton Bluff area is the most scenic part of this trip and well worth seeing.

Blair Creek
This section (dark green on the map) follows Blair Creek for much of the way but it's southern portion is along the Current River. The Bluffs at Owls Bend, near the southern end, provide the best bluff view anywhere along the trail. The northern section of this trail is less interesting. Although part of that may be because I got lost and ended up walking along dirt roads.

Current River
I would dearly have loved to finish this section. As it is I completed two hikes to some of the most picturesque spots on this section. You can see these two chunks in red on the map. The northern chunk is the trip I took to Klepzig mill. This old mill raceway by a shut-in creek is a must-see spot I think. And the hike there from the north is lovely with many nice river views and fields of flowers.

The southern chunk is from my trip to Rocky falls (a brief side trail takes you to the falls from the main trail). This short hike may be my favorite of all. The whole place smells of hickory, which I love. The glade on top of Stegall Mountain provides great views of the Ozarks. And the falls themselves are beautiful with a wonderful swimming hole at the bottom.

Eleven Point
Near the bottom of the map is a blue line that runs nearly east-west. This is my float trip along the eleven point river. Some people might say I wimped out in this section because I floated the river rather than hiking the trail. But the trail runs right next to the river for quite a ways and my float covered the entire length of the trail. This was a great float. The springs along the river are a real treat and the many bluffs are gorgeous. This river is not as popular to float as the Current or Jacks Fork river so you can get some solitude.

In between the Current section and the Eleven Point section is the biggest gap. I never got a chance to do the aptly named "Between the Rivers" section.

There are several orphan sections of the trail -- sections which don't currently connect to any other section but will eventually connect to form a large loop. Of these I've only hiked Marble Creek (not on the map I'm afraid). The others are Wappapello, Victory, and North Fork. I've never hiked these but perhaps someday I will.

Lots of great memories. Some of my hikes have been nicer than others. But I can honestly say that I've had great experiences on every hike and seen things I would hate to have missed. It would be impossible to pick a favorite section. If you've never been on the OT then you need to make it a priority in your life and see the beauty of the Ozarks!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pushing it at Blair Creek

On June 14th and 15th I hiked the Blair Creek section of the OT. As the name suggests the trail follows Blair creek for much of it's length.

One of the great things about hiking near a good water source in the summer in Missouri is that you can travel very light. No need to carry a sleeping bag or under-insulation for a hammock and no need to pack in lots of water. That means you can do a lot of miles in a day. On this hike I pushed that hypothesis to the limit.

Below you can see a map of my trip. I hiked the entire Blair Creek section from south to north. At the north end it connects with the Karkaghne section I did back in May. At the south end it connects to the Current River section and was where I started on my Klepzig Mill hike. Since the trail was a point-to-point trail I decided to hike one way and bike back. I nearly bit off more than I could chew with that decision it turned out.

View Blair Creek Section Hike in a larger map
The beginning part of the hike is spectacular. I started late one evening, intending to get just a mile or two in before setting up camp. It was warm and humid and kind of magical because in the dusk I was surrounded with fireflies, blinking all around me. The trail rises steeply and I could see nice views of the river below. Then I came to Owl's Bend Bluff where there is a steep bluff with a great view. I decided to camp there so I could take a picture in the morning. I think it was worth it. Here is the view quite early in the morning.

After the bluffs the trail continues along the river for a bit and then heads north. It crosses a small creek called Little Blair Creek before you meet the real Blair Creek. Blair Creek in most places is 20 or so feet across and about a foot deep. The trail runs along side it for quite a ways. Here's a view of it from the trail at a point where the trail runs along a steep slope next to the creek.

Hiking in the summer in Missouri is not always pleasant. It was quite hot and I got sweaty. So as it got on towards lunch I stopped and took a bath in the creek and washed my clothes. I would have swam but the water wasn't deep enough.

A bit later I got my wish, although not in a way I would have wanted. After my bad experience at Karkaghne I decided not to risk bushwhacking. But it became necessary at one point because a large tree had fallen and blocked the path. I climbed on top of the fallen tree to look around and find the best way to rejoin the path. I was standing on what looked like a large, sturdy branch. Without warning it broke and I found myself on the ground in the midst of the branches of the fallen tree. After checking for broken bones I looked around and realized I couldn't get back to the trail from where I was. I reasoned that since the trail followed the creek I could just go to the creek and wade upstream until I found the trail again. However the creek had become rather deep at this point, although I couldn't judge how deep. My backpack is mostly waterproof so I didn't worry too much about it. But I held my camera and my map in my hand as I entered the water. Soon the water was over my head and I found myself swimming. I must have looked quite the fool swimming up the creek with my backpack on and one hand held out of the water holding my camera and map. But fortunately no one was there to see.

After 50 yards or so I was able to find a place where I could climb out and find the trail. My camera was fine but the plastic sheet protector containing my map had a few drops of water inside. Soon all the ink ran and the map became quite useless.

Shortly after this the trail crossed an open area and became quite difficult to follow. The grass and weeds were up to my armpits in areas. As a result I got some tick bites on my upper body (my legs were safe due to my pants being treated with Permethrin). On the upside there were many blackberry bushes in the field and the blackberries were ripe so I could just pick them as I hiked. That made a nice snack.

A little later I came to an area with a few caves in a small cliff. I walked up a narrow ledge along the cliff to see the caves. One of them was inhabited as you can see below!

That's the closest I've ever been to a Turkey Vulture. Notice the large egg you can see through the lower hole. I assume this cave was the mother vulture's nest and she was guarding her egg. I took this picture and then retreated, not wanting a territory dispute with a vulture.

The northern part of the trail is much less interesting. After it leaves the Blair Creek it runs right next to county roads for a few miles. It was hot at this point and I began to run out of water. I had stashed about 1.5 liters of water with my bike so I decided I'd have to skip the second night of camping I had planned and go all the way to my bike. I arrived before sunset and drank about half the water I had stashed. Then I hopped on the bike and began to ride back to my car. The hike had been about 25 miles and the bike ride was about 32 miles. As it began to get dark I realized this wasn't the best idea I had ever had. After about 15 miles of biking I couldn't go on any more. It was nearly dark at this point. I laid down on the side of the road and considered my options. I was tired and hungry. There was no place to camp since I was biking through farm country. I needed more calories to keep biking but since my food was dry that would require drinking the rest of my water (only 1/2 liter at this point). I elected to try and refuel and make it to my car where I had another liter of water. After eating some snacks and drinking all my water I got back on the bike. The next hour and a half are mostly a blur in my memory. The road had lots of ups and downs. For some of the ups I had to get off and walk because I was too weak to bike. I arrived at my car at about 11:15 pm, grateful to be alive. I felt similar to when I finished running a marathon a few years back. The difference was that I had trained for the marathon!

Lesson learned.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Car Camping at Marble Creek

I don't always go hiking when I camp. Sometimes when I bring one of the kids along we either hike just short ways or just camp right next to the car. This past weekend was one of the latter opportunities.

My three oldest daughters spent the week at "Girls Camp" which is a program the church runs every year for girls between 12 and 18. Natalie just turned 12 recently and so was able to go. We persuaded our oldest, Kimberly, to go again (she doesn't care for camping) so all three of them were there together and had a great time.

On Saturday morning I was supposed to go early to pick them up. So I decided to spend the night before the same area I did last year, Marble Creek. Last year I hiked the trail from the Marble Creek campground to Crane Lake. It was a hard hike because there were so many trees down but I remember it fondly. But I was disappointed that I spent so little time at Marble Creek itself. So this time I took my son, Hyrum, and we spent the night at the campground there. We hung our hammocks from trees near the car.

The creek itself is beautiful. The water has worn away all the soil, exposing the rhyolite bones of the area. Rhyolite tends to crack in straight lines, leaving square blocks or stair steps. So the creek looks as though some giant child has spilled their set of building blocks into the water.

Between these large, square boulders are many nice little pools. In the morning Hyrum and I went for a swim in one. Well probably more of a bath than a swim. But it was fun anyway. It's a great place to go splash around on a hot summer's day.

We hiked a bit upstream to where we could see a waterfall. We found that a dam had a been built at some point, possibly for an old mill that no longer exists, and the water fall was really water spilling over this old dam.

I recommend that if you are coming to hike the Marble Creek section of the Ozark Trail that you spend some time here.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Karkaghne vs Me

View Karkaghne Section Hike in a larger map
This past week I decided to tackle the Karkaghne section of the Ozark Trail. I hadn't heard much about it but it continues on where the Middle Fork section, which I hiked last year, leaves off. So it seemed like a good step on my quest to finish as much of the trail as possible.

Above is a Google map that describes the trip in detail (just click on the markers for my comments). The total distance appears to be 28 miles. However I made it longer by making some stupid mistakes. Mountaineers "conquer" a mountain when the climb it. The best I can say is that Karkaghne and I fought to a draw. I'll describe the blow-by-blow fight below.

I hiked south to north this time. The southern part of the trail isn't as nice as the northern part in my opinion. The trail runs along a gravel road for quite a while and that's not very pretty. In addition there are several places where people have dumped garbage right in the forest. Pretty disappointing.

My first crucial error was in choosing socks. I decided to wear running shoes rather than sandals this time and I choose some thin socks because it was going to be warm. I choose them because there were longer socks then some I had worn before and I wanted protection from ticks (treated them with Permethrin ahead of time). But they were just dress socks and did a poor job wicking moisture. So I ended up with blisters on both feet. I put some moleskin over them but still it made the rest of the journey unpleasant.
Round 1, Karkaghne

The Karkaghne section was hit pretty bad by the storm last year and there were many trees down. However sawyers have done a good job clearing the trail. But there was one section that either hadn't been cleared or had experienced more recent storm damage because the trail became nearly impassable. Bushwhacking around this blockage was harder than I thought. This section has a lot of thorny plants growing beside the trail and bushwhacking through them is very difficult and painful. I was glad to finally get past that.
Round 2, Karkagnhe

After my Klepzig Mill trip, when I was awakened more than once by little critters scurrying in the grass around me, I decided that it was time to get off the ground and "above it all" in a hammock. I also made camp on a gravel bar along the Bee Fork. It was a great place to camp and quite open so I expected not to be annoyed by any critters.

The Karkaghne section takes it's name from a mythical forest creature. That's a tidbit you learn on the Ozark Trail website. I didn't think about that much until about dusk when I was just finishing setting up camp and I heard some LARGE ANIMAL running directly toward me across the gravel bar. I summoned my loudest angry bellow (the one I save for dogs who harass me while biking). It had it's intended affect and the animal wasted no time in fleeing the scene. I did get a look at it and I think it was probably a coyote or perhaps a large dog. After that I enjoyed a campfire for a while and then slept soundly.
Round 3, Hiker

The next day the trail climbed out of the valley that the Bee Fork flows through and up to the Sutton Bluff area. I thought there was a side trail to find the bluff but I couldn't find any such thing. So I ended up bushwhacking, following my GPS. You'd think I would have learned my lesson from the bushwhack the day before. This one was even worse. The area off the trail was extremely overgrown also choked with fallen trees. A few times I was genuinely afraid I'd get stuck and never be found. After and hour or two of this I found the trail again. Then I found that the best view of the bluff was from the trail itself as you can see below. So my bushwhack was not only painful but worthless.

Round 4, Karkagnhe

At the bottom of the bluff is a campground with a river flowing through it. I stopped for a rest and a swim. The water was cold but refreshing. The swimming hole is at the base of another bluff.

Afterward I tried to find the trail again but it seemed to have disappeared. I was afraid that Karkaghne had won again. But a camper saw me and told me that he had seen OT trail blazes about a half mile down the road. He even took me there on his ATV. So I'll chalk that up as a victory, even though I needed help to do it.
Round 5, Hiker

The rest of the trip was quite nice. The trail was much better and the views were quite nice. The trail runs along high ridges and you can see the surrounding valleys quite well in places.

I ended up back at my car at about dusk. Karkaghne nearly had me a few times but I figure any time I don't give up I win.
Decision, Hiker

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More Pictures of Klepzig Mill

In my last entry I posted only a few pictures of my trip. Normally I'm a bit embarrassed about my photography so I don't put very many pictures in a post. But I've received some requests for more pictures of the mill so here they are.

The mill owner originally built a concrete dam across the shut-in creek (a real travesty since it's such a beautiful spot!) which forced the water down this raceway toward the mill wheel. The dam is now gone. There are just a few places where you can see residual concrete stuck to the rocks.

Since it was springtime and the leaves were out the view of the mill is somewhat obscured from the across the creek. However there is a nice photo during leaf-off time at this post by another blogger, Jeff Moore, at his blog, Missouri Backpacking

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Klepzig Mill

I'm continuing my quest to see the sights I've been meaning to see here in Missouri before I move to Pennsylvania. This past weekend I returned to the Current River section of the Ozark Trail to visit Klepzig Mill. I had heard that it was one of the nicest spots along the trail. It's the site of an old grist and saw mill located on a shut-in creek.

This was an out-and-back trip. The map above shows the path I took. I started at Powder Mill, where the Current River and Blair Creek section meet. Klepzig Mill is at the very bottom of the map, a distance of about 6 miles. I arrived late on Friday and hiked in the dark for about a mile or so. I slept on the ground with my poncho pitched above me. During the night it rained but I stayed dry. During the night I was awakened by some rustling in the grass as some little critter was coming toward me. I shined my light and saw a little armadillo scurry away. That's a first for me -- to see a live armadillo (as opposed to a dead one on the highway).

Spring is in full swing and the Ozarks have exploded with grass and leaves and flowers. The air was full of the scent of flowers.

The hiking was pretty easy and the weather was great.

Klepzig mill is on a shut-in creek. That means a place where a creek is confined to a narrow channels because of a large rock formation. I have a bunch of pictures but none really do the place justice. Here are the best ones.

While there I had a swim in the shut-in creek. It was cold but very refreshing.

After hiking back to my car I drove a few miles to another place I've been wanting to see: Blue Spring. It's one of many springs in Missouri but probably the most picturesque. It's apparently 310 feet from where the water comes out of the cliff up to the surface of the pool. This depth, combined with dissolved minerals in the water give the distinct color. The spring seems quite still but in fact the flow of water is significant. A good-sized creek begins it's life at this spring.