Taum Sauk - Highway A to Highway N

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

Taum Sauk - Highway A to Highway N

Postby John » Mon Oct 01, 2007 2:05 pm

I backpacked this section of trail with Adam R. this weekend. We were accompanied by Mark S. for a little over half the trip. It was the most exhausting trip I've taken in a long time! And beautiful, too.

Before I start the narrative, I need to give Adam a huge gold star. Adam is a student at UMR and agreed to accompany me on this maintenance backpacking trip, neither of us realizing how strenuous it would be. I'm trying to imagine myself in college, giving up a nice weekend to work to the point of exhaustion. I probably would have gone swimming or found a good party. Adam instead volunteered on the Ozark Trail. He's in the running for the "Best New Volunteer" award! Thanks so much, Adam!

We started our trip on Saturday morning at Highway N, about 1.5 miles south of Johnson's Shut-Ins. I ran the chainsaw and Adam swamped as we ripped through two dozen trees, about 1.5 miles westerly to the power lines. The trail past this point is in a wild area and we can't use mechanical equipment, so we returned back to our vehicles at Highway N and then headed over to the Highway A trailhead.

There we met up with Mark and strapped a bow saw, a grass whip and loppers to our backpacks. We hiked over to the south glades of Bell Mountain, putting up some rock cairns and sawing a tree or two along the way. We descended to Padfield Branch where we set up camp.

Adam and I brought lightweight ramen noodles for supper and shared some instant potatoes with cheese sauce. When Mark pulled out three cans of Fosters beer, we knew we in the presence of a trail gourmand. Mark dined on homemade pasta, smoked oysters, Ghirardelli chocolate and a bacon-cheese omelet for breakfast. He eats like a king (and shares like a prince-- thanks for the food, Mark!)

Just before nightfall Adam saw a feral hog. During the night he heard a few mammals scurrying by his tent, probably on their way to the campfire and leftover cottonseed oil from the oysters! I myself heard nothing except the tinkling waters of Padfield Branch as they dripped over limestone rock shelves. The moon was near-full and lit up my tent with a cool glow with masks of cedar boughs. I slept VERY well.

The next morning we hiked up to the tornado damage area. The Ozark Trail got lucky as only a short section of trail was clipped by the tornado's path. Other places were not so lucky-- there was a lot of property destruction on Highway N and I think the Goggins Equestrian Loop got hit twice. The prior afternoon we could see a big swath of downed trees from the Bell Mountain glades-- not as bad as the F4 tornado that hit the Victory section a few years ago, but still a significant amount of damage.

This portion of trail was cleared of deadfall last winter, but the lack of canopy meant the trail was severely overgrown. I got out the grass whip and started swinging while Adam and Mark hit the saplings with loppers. We switched off, put up some cairns, marked some trees and took the bow saw to a couple of leaners. It was a pretty scary area when we arrived, but it's in nice shape now. Well, as long as you disregard the thousands of nearby trees that were plowed over or snapped in half. Opens the view, though.

At this point Mark headed back to camp to spend the night before backtracking to Highway A. Adam and I pushed on to Highway N to clear the rest of the trail. About an hour later we stopped for lunch at the top of Goggins with a commanding vista of the Ottery Creek valley and the hills to the west.

When I tried to get up from lunch I realized how tired I was. Manhandling the chainsaw the day prior, lifting all those rocks for cairns, swinging the grass whip, hand-sawing trees--- it all caught up with me. That in addition to carrying around a pack and tools over the unforgiving rocks on Bell and Goggins. I was beat. Adam, who flies down the trail at an amazing pace, looked a little ragged, too.

We slogged through the next few miles, vowing each hand-sawed tree would be our last. At least that was my vow, which I kept breaking until we started our descent on the east side of Goggins. After wrestling with a good-sized pine, I had enough. Adam looked relieved, and we hoofed it out the Highway N and headed home.

We left about eight trees over a half-mile stretch just west of Walker Branch. Most are step-overs, but three are waist-high. They are relatively easy to navigate, but we still have one more trip ahead of us.

I wish I had more time to enjoy the scenery, which is spectacular along this section of trail. The rock is amazing. Big open rhyolite glades, huge boulders, scree fields and a small wet-weather waterfall. Their are several transition areas at Padfield Branch and on the east side of Goggins that add a lot of diversity to this section of trail. It's scramble in places and an overall superb hike. Five stars!

(Six stars if you count the one I'm giving to Adam).
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Postby aroth87 » Mon Oct 01, 2007 3:39 pm

Yea, I was pretty beat after lunch too. Between humping loppers, a hand saw, and signing supplies in addition to my pack, I was starting to get worn out. Then I drank a little too much at lunch and was water logged for a little bit :).
John tried to be funny near the end too. We got to the power lines, where we had stopped the chain saw work the first day, a little sooner than we thought. He suggested since we were ahead of schedule that we should go back and hand saw some of the trees we passed up. I told him that he probably didn't want to carry me the rest of the way back to the truck...
Overall I had a great time. I got to get some exercise, see a bunch of beautiful scenery, hike a new trail, and help get some trail back into shape for more people to enjoy.
As for Mark's food, lets just say his food alone probably weighed more than all of me gear combined :D. He was very generous though and it looked really good.
I'm glad I could be a part of this outing. Its not one I will soon forget.

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Taum Sauk - Highway A to Highway N

Postby hikesalot » Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:01 pm

Adam, you gotta watch out for old John 'Henry' Roth. He'll work ya half to death and then some.
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Postby aroth87 » Mon Oct 01, 2007 8:48 pm

I'll take being worked half to death over hearing anymore midget stories :wink:.
Count yourself lucky if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

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Location: Lenexa, KS

Postby ChrisS » Tue Oct 02, 2007 7:15 am

Sounds like a tough day! At least the weather was nice.

Lets see, while you were eating your noodles, we were having freshly caught trout on the banks of the current. :wink:
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Postby laforbes » Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:11 am

John, I enjoyed reading your trip report. You are a talented writer!
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Postby Steve C » Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:09 pm

aroth87 wrote:I'll take being worked half to death over hearing anymore midget stories :wink:.
Count yourself lucky if you have no idea what I'm talking about.


I've got a pretty good idea of what you're talking about!
Steve C
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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:49 pm
Location: Kirkwood, MO

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