Whites Creek Trail- Irish Wilderness

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Whites Creek Trail- Irish Wilderness

Postby jgoelleraka930 » Mon Mar 28, 2016 10:43 am

My buddy, Joe, and I hiked the Whites Creek Trail in the Irish Wilderness on Easter weekend, 3-26 and 3-27. We arrived at the Camp Five Pond Trailhead around 10:30 on Saturday morning and were surprised at how busy the trail was. The parking lot had 3 horse trailers and between six and eight cars. We fixed breakfast on the picnic tables, enjoying the large pine trees and the scenic pond. We didn't get onto the trail until around 11:30.

I was somewhat nervous about hiking this trail due to the many trip reports where people have lost the trail and were unable to complete the hike. I always carry a compass and a laminated map, which I have attached to the front of my pack so that I can check it often and this definitely helped us stay on the track. We originally planned to hike the trail clockwise, or complete the northern section first and camp at Whites Creek Campground on the Eleven Point. However, we changed our minds and began hiking counter-clockwise with our destination as Bliss Spring on Saturday night. Within 10 minutes of hiking, we came across our first solo backpacker and his dog. We talked for several minutes and he told us that he had missed the switchback at Fiddler Spring because someone had marked a trail going up the ridge with pink ribbons and he had followed them. He said that this added about an hour or so but he was able to find his way back to the trail and complete the hike.

As we continued, the first 3 to 4 miles were a relatively easy walk through the woods. We ran into another group of hikers just before Whites Creek. They had spent a couple nights camping, but lost the trail between Fiddler Spring and Bliss and were unable to complete the northern section. The only map that they had was a picture they had taken of the map on the trailhead. After meeting that group, we descended to Whites Creek. The creek was mostly dry with just a couple large, clear pools. The next location to look forward to was Fiddler Spring. Fiddler was flowing pretty well and exits the mountain under a very large boulder. There is also a nice primitive campsite at Fiddler. We took a short break at the mouth of the spring, had a snack, checked the map and headed back on the trail.

Heading up the hill from Fiddler, we ran into our third group of the day, a father and young son. They too had followed the pink ribbons just past the spring, but they had removed them. The trail loops around and follows the hillside up above the spring. Once we climbed the hill, we had a really nice ridge walk with views of the valley to our north. We came to Whites Creek Cave in less than an hour and marveled at the size of the cave from the entrance. The sign states that the cave opens on 4-30, but does anyone know if the cave does in fact open? I was under the impression that most caves in Missouri were closed to prevent the spread of white nose syndrome.

Leaving the cave, we only traveled west for a few minutes before there is a switchback and the trail abruptly turns north. This was also an area where someone could easily lose the trail. It has wooden steps that continue up the ridge and a well defined tread, but the actual trail heads down into the valley. Once in the valley we reached the spur to Whites Creek Campground. This area near Whites Creek has very interesting karst topography, with many small caves dotting the cliffs. The most difficult part of the trail to follow for us was once we headed up on the ridges above Orchard Hollow. The trail tread was difficult to see due to all of the leaf litter, so we had to look closely as we hiked. We met another hiker named Ryan on the ridge just as the trail turned southwest. He had lost the trail about a half mile down and decided to turn around. We invited him to hike with us and continued following the ridge. There were a couple of trees down in the area where Ryan had lost the trail but after a little scouting and reading the map we found the trail and continued on. The bluffs above the Eleven Point were really enjoyable and the overlook just before descending to Bliss was awesome. We continued on and luckily the campsite at Bliss Spring was empty so we set up camp. The spring was flowing really well and I spent some time exploring the cave on the right hand side of the spring later that evening. We invited Ryan to stay the night with us and we ended up sharing our dinner with him as he had only packed a bunch of Cliff Bars. We went down to the Eleven Point and explored a little before night fall then we had a blast sharing stories around the campfire.

We slept in on Easter and didn't hit the trail until just before 10 am. Before we left, we went down to the old homestead overlooking the river and in our heads pictured the old log home that once stood there. What a view they would have had! We then said our goodbyes to Ryan, as he was staying another day, and began the northern section of the trail. This side was much easier to follow and we did so without any issues. It is very similar to the first 4 miles of the southern portion of the loop and the only sites to see were remnants of old logging tram lines in the woods. We made it back to our car just after 12:30 having completed the trail without any issues, thankfully.

I am sure most of the year this trail does not get much traffic but there were several groups and people on horseback this weekend. Many of them we came across were also on spring break. I would suggest taking a very reliable map, preferably in color, and a compass. This trail would be very easy to lose because it is not signed well and there are a couple of connector trails marked with a dashed line on the map. These trails are not signed. There are white and blue diamond shaped trail markers but they are few and far between. This is a great trail to hike if you are looking for a backpacking adventure with cool springs, caves, and rock formations.
Last edited by jgoelleraka930 on Wed Mar 30, 2016 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Whites Creek Trail- Irish Wilderness

Postby n3870v » Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:27 am

Nice trip report - really like that area. Sounds like you had a great time. I have never seen anyone on the trail the times I have been there. However, on one holiday weekend trip the boat noise on the 11 Point river was terrible as I camped at the Homestead.
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