Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Postby photomankc » Fri Oct 31, 2008 2:52 pm

This trip started out with the now customary 4 ½ hour drive to southeast Missouri. The forecast weather for this trip had steadily improved over the week and now it was looking as though Friday would be the worst of it with a little sprinkle here and there and then a clear and pleasant weekend. The drive down was showing that to be true. The sun was breaking through in places and the rain that was present was light. I arrived at the Highway A trailhead around noon and started getting geared up. I kept the pack covered with a trash bag to keep any sudden shower from soaking my gear and I began my hike.

Trip Map:
Image
http://www.cranehome.org/adobe-galleries/bell-peter-cave-2008/other/BellPeterMap2008.jpg

The basic plan was to reach the southern glades on Bell Mountain and camp around there overnight. The views from Bell were great last time I was there but the weather was awful. After camping on Bell I would then hike back down and west towards Peter Cave Hollow and camp there for the night. That area was supposed to have a lot of rock features and seemed like an interesting place to explore. After camping there for the night I would hike back to the car and head for home on Sunday.

Image Image Image Image

The hike up Bell was fairly strenuous. I was doing good to maintain a 1.3mph pace up the hill. Almost immediately I developed problems on my feet. My feet have turned out to be a serious problem when backpacking as my heels get blisters easily. By the time I found a stopping point and took the shoes off it was too late. I had a large blister. I covered it up with duct tape and gave my feet a chance to dry and headed on further. The tape however didn’t last long and before too long I was in poor shape on the feet. I did finally locate a nice spot to camp just behind one of the glades though and setup the hammock and loosened my shoes to make walking less painful while I setup the rest of the camp. There was another glade just below my site that was a great spot to soak in a little sun when it would peek out from the overcast here and there.

I had made it to the top without any real rain to speak of and without using much of my 4 liters of water thanks to cool breezy conditions. The trail was rocky but clear and as easy to walk as a rocky trail ever is. It was actually fairly dry on top of Bell despite the previous day's rain although the ground was a bit damp still in the leaves. Given the fact that a fire would be tough to light and my feet were hurting I decided to forget gathering wood and just walked the ridge to take some photos from the openings and lounged a bit in camp.

For dinner I broke tradition and hauled a 1.2lb can of soup with me to the top. Usually I avoid such meals because of the weight but in this case it meant I would need no water to prepare the food and I could cook it right in the can meaning no dish water needed to clean up even less water I would need to filter the next day!. After eating my chicken and rice soup I set about the final prep for sleeping and got my food hung in a tree south of my campsite. Since black bears have made a return to the area I take more precautions than I would for just rodents with food.

As soon as the sun set I was in bed. About 30 mins later I was dead asleep. I slept well in my hammock and the down mat and down sleeping bag kept me quite warm through the lows 40’s that night. I was startled awake later in the night by a group of coyotes. I had my ear plugs in and everything but they woke me up out of a dead sleep and they were really close. If I had to guess I’d say they were within 100yds of my site. I always got a kick out their yipping on other trips but with them that close I was a little nervous I might get a visit. They quieted down in about 2 minutes and after waiting a while to see if anything was approaching I was back asleep till dawn.

I slept in a little in the morning but overnight the skies had completely cleared and I was greeted with a bright blue sky. I was glad to see that as this would be a much nicer trip than my last time out here so my spirits were high. I broke camp after a little granola and hot chocolate and headed back down the southern foot of Bell. Today was the trek to Peter Cave Hollow and the biggest obstacle would be Ottery Creek. The creek crossing is very close to the Hwy A trailhead and so I decided to just keep the current foot bandages in place as anything I added would be lost as I crossed the creek anyway. I arrived at the east bank of the creek and looked for any way to cross that I could manage with shoes on and there was nothing. It was not overly deep but it was wide enough that there was no easy way over. So I sat down and started removing my shoes. This is where my failure to remember to pack my Crocs was going to hurt… literally. I had to cross barefoot and that was not pleasant with 40+ pounds of pack and camera gear. After crossing I, dried my feet and fixed them up again.

There is a stout uphill climb here as well but you are rewarded with some really nice views of Bell from across the highway. Once you crest the hill the trail follows an old logging road and is well marked as it curves about. Later on down the trail I saw a very large black snake on the hill making its way across the trail. I just waited for it to pass and moved on. I also saw quite a few lizards and chipmunks running as I walked. After you follow the logging road along the crest of the hill you swing north and begin to drop into the hollow. It’s a steep decent and there are not really any heavy switchbacks so the climb out will be stiff.

After the decent you are in the wide eastern end of the hollow. The woods here are pretty brushy and tangled and even with a hammock it was not looking easy to find a good location to camp. After searching a bit I stumbled onto a nice little open area surrounded by pines and there I found a previously built fire ring. My search was done. Although I decided not to camp in that little mini-glade I did see some open woods just beyond and I setup my camp there. It was about 2:00pm by this point and I lounged a bit and ate some lunch and gathered some firewood… before I knew it, it was 3:00pm. I was a little miffed. I wanted to explore to the northwest into the hollow but the sun would be setting down here early and I would need time to get out and back and cook dinner and get set for the night before it got dark. I decided to see how far I could get and my cut off would be 4:00pm to turn around.

I followed the remains of an old road back into the hollow. As you travel further back the valley narrows and the woods closes in. I found the ruins of an old homestead as I traveled and I had to cross the small creek in this hollow several times along the path. As you go deeper the rocky character of the hollow really starts to show. Small rock ledges are present along the creek bed and there are small caves in the ledges here and there. As you go even further the road becomes difficult to follow but at the end is a small pool and tiny waterfall. I imagine in the spring it would be a lovely spot but difficult to reach without waders. By this point I was out of time. I wanted to look further but I needed to turn around and head back to camp which was about a mile away. Although there is no real climbing it’s not an easy path back there. Weeds and sticker bushes dominate the area.

I made it back to camp around 5:00pm. I ate dinner of Mountain House Chili Mac (it was good) and some foil packed salmon and crackers (also good). I was surprisingly hungry today. Usually on the trail I don’t eat much but tonight I ate all the Mountain House and the Salmon and some Freeze Dried Ice Cream. I was feeling good and full as the sun set and got the fire lit. IT was nice to enjoy the fire tonight and as soon as the sun set the temp started falling rapidly. The warmth was nice. I packed up the trash and food and got it hung and got my pad inflated and ready to sleep on. I kept the fire going for a couple hours and then let it burn down as I laid and looked at the stars. With no moon out tonight it was quite a show. I have rarely seen the Milky Way so clearly. I watched as a couple shooting stars streaked by and eventually the fire sputtered out and the cold got to me so it was off to bed.

Again I slept pretty well. This time I hung the hammock a bit too loose but I was not willing to get out in the cold and fix it so I just put up with tossing a bit trough the night. I got a visitor in the wee hours too! A raccoon was apparently curious about my hammock or its contents and was rustling around under me. When I looked out and saw the tail under me I smacked the side of the hammock and it took off like a rocket. That was all the excitement for the night.

In the morning I broke camp early and got on the trail for the car. I had a long day of driving and I was hoping to be home before dark. The hike back went well and my molefoam and duct-tape foot care held up to two days of hiking pretty well. I had traveled 11 miles in all by the time I got back to the car. Then it was another 4 ½ hours of driving back to KC with a stop at Jack n’ the Box for a nice Frisco Melt burger and extra fries!
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Re: Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Postby JackW » Thu Feb 25, 2016 9:34 pm

Stumbled on this post doing a search for Peter Cave. Though it's 8 years later, I wanted to say the description of Peter Cave Hollow west of the OT to the waterfall is very accurate. It's becomes very closed in with many small caves all the way to the small waterfall, and the creek is very beautiful. Though I haven't camped there yet, the area in front of the waterfall would be a nice campsite. But I'm afraid my imagination would get the best of me in this narrow valley, as this area has always felt a little spooky with the old homestead and caves, and the remoteness...
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Re: Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Postby Drift Woody » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:09 pm

I have a 3 day weekend coming with 2 nights on the trail, and Peter Cave Hollow sounds like it might be a good option to extend the Bell Mountain Loop. My initial thoughts are to start at trailhead A and start with the BM Loop clockwise, spending the first night near Joe's Creek. Then up and over the Bell Mountain glades on day 2, completing the loop and hiking past the trailhead (stopping at the car for anything that might be needed) then proceeding N on the Ozark Trail to Peter Cave Hollow to find a place to hang my hammock for night 2.

I haven't had much luck finding any additional hiker descriptions of Peter Cave other than this thread. If anyone has else has explored this area or has any comments on my proposed weekend plan, I would appreciate comments and additional info.

Thanks,
DW
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Re: Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Postby n3870v » Thu Feb 09, 2017 8:13 am

I've spent several nights camped at Peter Cave Hollow while doing different hikes on the OT. It is a nice social campsite, and there is always water in the creek. Wood is a little scarce for having a campfire, its been picked through pretty good. Exploring upstream is easy in the late fall, winter and early spring, but once the foliage comes out, it is very difficult to get through there. I believe the old road that used to go through to the homestead, eventually becomes Cemetery Rd, which is off of Highway A in the small town just before the trailhead. Be reminded that the boundary of the wilderness area is really close to the trail at Peter Cave Hollow and if you go downstream, you will enter private property very quickly.

N3870V
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Re: Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Postby Drift Woody » Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:34 pm

n3870v wrote:I've spent several nights camped at Peter Cave Hollow while doing different hikes on the OT. It is a nice social campsite, and there is always water in the creek. Wood is a little scarce for having a campfire, its been picked through pretty good. Exploring upstream is easy in the late fall, winter and early spring, but once the foliage comes out, it is very difficult to get through there. I believe the old road that used to go through to the homestead, eventually becomes Cemetery Rd, which is off of Highway A in the small town just before the trailhead. Be reminded that the boundary of the wilderness area is really close to the trail at Peter Cave Hollow and if you go downstream, you will enter private property very quickly.

N3870V

Thanks for all that info. Are there some interesting rock formations to explore upstream?
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Re: Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Postby Drift Woody » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:18 am

Can anyone tell me if the summit of Bell has trees suitable for a hammock?
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Re: Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Postby Jim » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:34 am

Yes.
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Re: Bell Mountain and Peter Cave Hollow.

Postby twentybelow » Fri Mar 31, 2017 11:23 am

There are plenty of good trees for hammocking on the top of Bell. I was up there back in January with a group of hangers and none of us had trouble finding great spots that were out of sight and sound from each other.

Thanks to the OP for posting this well-written description of the area. I look forward to getting back there to do some more in-depth exploring.
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