Bell Mt to River Oaks Ranch, Courtois Sec. Lower Narrows

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Bell Mt to River Oaks Ranch, Courtois Sec. Lower Narrows

Postby Melissa Rheinecker » Sun Jun 13, 2010 6:08 pm

This is a belated trip report of a fabulous but rainy ultra-light horsepacking trip I took with my cousin from Colorado, Ellen (yep she really does come from Colorado to ride/hike our beautiful trails), and friend and OT member Lucy. Our trip was 80 miles (with sidetrips) from Bell Mt. north to the Lower Narrows Rd on the Courtois Section. We began our 5 day trip the evening of May 13th at Bell Mt North trailhead. We wanted just enough time to get to the rock glade overlooks and set up camp in order to sleep there and wake up to the amazing vista of the St. Francois Mts. When we woke up the next morning however we not only found the view incredible but also found a new friend, a hound dog pup we later named Scout, starving and covered with ticks. At first we thought there must be someone else camping nearby, but no, Scout was out there all alone. After some of our dog Fitz's rations and as much people food as he could eat, Scout decided that he would follow the chuck wagon so to speak and he did for the next 80 miles. This is my 4th trip to Bell Mt. and I love the pink rhyolite and the diverse landscape. On a good day you can clearly see Taum Sauk and the Scour. We did not see any evidence of feral pigs this trip but I'm sure they're out there. Last year about the same time I saw lots of rooting evidence of pigs. Due to the rain, Ottery Creek was roaring, but easily crossable on horseback. We did encounter a section of the trail just past the creek crossing however that has fallen away and is quite dangerous - I will report this on the Conditions Board. We camped the 2nd night just north of the Middle Fork and Trace Creek junction. We had a supply drop at the DD trailhead and carried hay, water and boxed wine about 2 miles to our campsite near Big Creek. The next morning we saw several hikers and bicyclists also braving the rain. We rode the entire day off and on in the rain but still kept our spirits up. It probably does help that we were well prepared for the rain - oil skin dusters and lots of zip locks and dry bags, not to mention that the horses, not us were the ones getting their feet wet. The Trace Creek Section has an amazing amount of water sources - I couldn't begin to count the number of little creeks and branches we crossed! Our third night we camped at Hazel Creek Campground. We shared our campground with ATV campers - I have come to expect this and we got along fine. Our 4th day we began the Courtois Section in the rain of course, our plan was to make it to the Berryman Campground that evening so that we could dry out some in the pavilion. We rode all day off and on in the rain, picked up another supply drop at the hwy 8 crossing and made Berryman about 6:00 pm. The pavilion was such a luxury, we spread all our gear out to dry and Lucy even opted to forgo her tent and sleep on a picnic table. Our 5th and final day in the rain took us through the newly completed part of the Courtois Section, what a treat! The forest was emerald green and with the Courtois Creek glimmering below it buoyed our spirits as we rode through the rain. We arrived at River Oaks Ranch about 5:30 pm on Monday May 17, 2010. Despite the rain, a great time was had by all. We had a fire every night - courtesy of Lucy who was able to magically get water soaked wood to burn, fabulous food - a gourmet menu we put together mostly from Trader Joe's, willing horses, loyal doggy companions and lots of great fellowship of the human kind. I've attached a few photos of our trip.

Melissa Rheinecker
Attachments
Ellen and Lucy in Fern Gully.JPG
Ellen and Lucy in Fern Gully
Ellen and Lucy in Fern Gully.JPG (51.71 KiB) Viewed 1863 times
Ellen and Scout crossing Highway 8.JPG
Ellen and Scout at Highway 8 trailhead
Ellen and Scout crossing Highway 8.JPG (32.14 KiB) Viewed 1863 times
Melissa and Savannah.JPG
Melissa and Savannah
Melissa and Savannah.JPG (34.09 KiB) Viewed 1863 times
Melissa R
Melissa Rheinecker
 
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 9:44 pm
Location: Steelville, Mo./Edwardsville, Ill.

Re: Bell Mt to River Oaks Ranch, Courtois Sec. Lower Narrows

Postby JackW » Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:42 pm

That area you refer to on the hillside above the Hwy A campground (on southern Trace Creek) is in dire need of some major reconstruction. This has been reported to the trail maintenance overseerers, and we should have a resolution soon!
JackW
 
Posts: 37
Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2007 10:11 pm
Location: Town & Country, MO


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