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