Section hiking on the OT

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

Section hiking on the OT

Postby Jbf » Fri Mar 04, 2016 9:23 am

I had been trying for the last two winters to get out for some long distance hiking on the ozark trail. Between my work schedule and weather issues I hadn't been successful. Just when I was about to concede that I'd let another winter slip by without strapping on the backpack, a nice window for weather presented itself at the same time I could take some time off work. Sunday, February 24th through Tuesday, the 26th would be the window.

I opened the maps section of the ozark trail website and looked for a suitable hike. I settled on a 66 mile hike. Highway DD/highway 32 trailhead on the middle forks section (about 1.25 miles), 17 miles on the trace creek section, and the 48 miles of the courtois section, traveling from south to north. Usually my hiking consists of low mileage days with my wife and two kids so this would definitely be a test on mileage and being solo. My packing was pretty standard for an average backpacker with the exceptions of some extra layers to account for the cold nights, a little extra food (too much) to account for the relatively high mileage days, and a heavier sleeping pad. I ended up with 38 pounds on my back including 3 liters of water.

I had several goals for this trip.

1. Get out and enjoy the outdoors and some solitude.
2. Find out if I enjoy solo hiking.
3. Find out what is essential (for me) on a winter hike.
4. Practice some night backpacking (just for the experience).

On the day of the hike my wife was kind enough to get up at 4 am and help drop my truck at the endpoint and shuttle me to the start. By 8 am I was stepping out of the car and kissing my wife goodbye. As luck would have it 3 of the 7 people I would see on the trail were unloading their bikes and starting at the same time.

The hike began with me feeling out my gear and the trail, getting used to the beautiful Missouri scenery, and trying to find a comfortable pace. I was immediately impressed with the quality of the trail (minimal erosion, good signage, easy to follow, and lack of obstructions. A quick pace came easy and soon the miles were adding up. The topography of the ozark ups and downs were a good workout without becoming overbearing. Most creeks were flowing so I soon decided that 2 liters at a time would be plenty. It was a georgeous day and I ended up in shorts and my undershirt within a few miles.

As I settled into my hike I started looking around more to enjoy the scenery. I then, by necessity, had to make up a rule for myself. "When hiking on the ozark trail always stop walking when you want to look around, at your map, or anything else." I stumbled one too many times over rocks and roots before I smartened up. I saw my fourth biker of the morning and chatted about the weather and each other's intended mileage. The rest of the day was a mixture of creeks, trees, rocks, and springs all of it beautiful. I camped around the 45 mile mark on the courtois section, just past Snapps Branch, on a hill, in a mature pine forest. I had just enough time to set up, cook and eat before dark.

Being plenty tired, I probably nodded of before 8 pm. It was a full moon and when I woke up to water the leaves, no headlamp was needed. Big, giant stars everywhere with a full moon as a backdrop. It always amazes me how much brighter and how many more stars are visible when you're away from "civilization". I lingered for a few minutes and attempted to take some pictures of the night sky and realized that my phone (camera) was dead due to a button sticking. Oh well, I guess the trips images are just for me.

Being an early riser, I woke up at 4:30am, drank some instant coffee, packed, and did some night hiking. Surprisingly, following the trail was very easy. The OT markers were reflective and plentiful in this section. I contemplated my agenda for the day and decided I would try for 25 miles, leaving a little less than 20 for the finish. About mid morning I started feeling a hotspot in the middle of my right foot. I rarely get blisters so there wasn't much concern but I mole skinned it anyway.

I continued to hike and decided to take lunch somewhere on the Berryman trail area. This is when I saw the last two people I would see on the trail, an older couple horseback riding. This is also when I noticed that my hotspot had turned into a two inch diameter blister. I tended to it and continued to hike. It was only moderately painful but I couldn't help but favoring it a little bit. It's amazing what a slight variance in a step will do to a person's leg over tens of thousands of steps with 35 pounds on their back. Before the day was over my right knee was sore to the point where I started favoring it. By the end of the next day my other knee was sore from favoring my right knee. What fun.

I looked at my topo and picked out a potential campsite just past the 20 mile mark. It looked as if I should arrive before dark with time to set up camp. Plans don't always go the way you want. When I was at my most tired mentally and physically and just wanting to flop down in camp I started a road walk. After several minutes I realized I hadn't seen a marker in a while. I thought I might have missed a jump off back into the woods ( this is a mistake I've made before so I was a little concerned). Backtracking to the previous mark, which was over 1/2 mile, I walked the same stretch, paying close attention. The end result was, I hadn't missed a turnoff, I just added another mile to my day and assured that I would be setting up in the dark.

I climbed my last hill of the day just past henpeck hollow past the 20 mile mark, and completed my 25th mile of the day( not counting the backtrack). It was almost full dark so I was relieved to see many flat areas that would make suitable campsites. After hurriedly setting up camp, I cooked under the vestibule, and settled in to read a book. Deep sleep came quickly. There's nothing like a well earned, exhaustion induced sleep. That only lasted a couple of hours. I was awoken to several coyotes howling greetings in the night. Very cool. After walking through unaccustomed silence for two days, these animals seemed disproportionally loud. I laid awake enjoying the serenade for about an hour. After that it became redundant and a nuisance. Every time I started dozing, I was startled awake by another yip or howl. Sometime toward morning the noise stopped and I gained some more needed rest.

I got up, ate and packed before dawn. A heavy frost greeted me assuring that the temperature was probably in the upper 20's. Sore knee, sore foot, not enough sleep. I knew at least part of the day would turn into a slog. About mid morning it seemed the topography was changing. The level areas became less and less and the elevation gains and losses became more sustained. I arrived at the Bass resort and the openness was a welcome change. I was soon greeted on the road by one of the Bass family and we chatted about hiking and cattle ranching. Leaving the property, I took a break and planned the rest of my hike. It looked like I might be able to reach my truck by 4pm. I soon learned that my estimations were inaccurate.

As I approached some of the bigger river valleys of the hike, the size of the bluffs increased accordingly. The trail makers did a great job of routing to maximize views, not for someone with sore feet and legs. Up and down the bluffs I went enjoying the views. The best was yet to come with the panoramic views of the narrows and the bluffs of the courtois river. The only negative of this area was the constant shooting of a nearby gun range. Kind of lost the feeling of solitude with the constant pop pop pop of the guns.

Up to this point I was able to cross every river, creek, and branch without removing my shoes or getting wet. The Courtois was going to change this. The river split at the crossing and I managed to cross the first section fairly easily. To finish the crossing I had to remove my shoes and wade. Assuming that the cold water would feel good on my feet was inaccurate. Cold, cold, cold.

With only five miles left I was ready to coast in. Another road walk changed the coast into a gut check. Again I hadn't seen a marker in a while and there was extensive logging adding to the confusion. Also the map seemed to be slightly different directionally from the topography. After two backtracks and a wrong turn I eventually found the correct path and moved forward. This area of the hike was full of unique rock formations and was very interesting to hike through.

After sunset, just before complete darkness I arrived at my truck. Strong feelings of accomplishment, relief, elation and sadness moved through me in a way only backpackers can appreciate. Glad I was done and heading home, internally proud of my accomplishments on the trail, but regret that the hike was over. Two hours later I was home showering and laundering my hiking gear.

i would like to thank the members of the ozark trail association for helping create, build and maintain this wonderful trail.
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Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2015 7:05 am

Re: Section hiking on the OT

Postby mike » Fri Mar 04, 2016 9:34 am

Great trip report! Nothing like a little walk in the woods.
Posts: 215
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 3:37 pm
Location: Paragould, AR

Re: Section hiking on the OT

Postby slosh » Sat Mar 05, 2016 9:01 am

Thanks for taking the time to write that and share it with us so we can enjoy it vicariously through you.
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Joined: Thu May 08, 2014 9:45 am

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