Ozark Trail Through-Hike (237m./27d.)

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

Ozark Trail Through-Hike (237m./27d.)

Postby TwoToThru » Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:07 pm

One might think that 27 days of hiking in the wilderness would be easy to sum up, but I’ve had a hard time being brief. I’ve tried my best and left out too much. Some OTA volunteers we met on the trail said they only knew of ten people who thru-hiked the trail before so I guess we are eleven and twelve.

We had made contact with another hiker on these forums and worked it out that we would all start at the same time so we could save some money on the shuttle. He was planning to walk through the trail and end at a different section than us, so we picked him up there and then drove to the drop-off point. I'd arranged with the Iron County Sheriff's Department to leave my car at the Iron County Hospital. We paid too much for the ride even though we saved by riding together, but there weren't many places prepared to go the distance we wanted. Windy's Canoe who shuttled us. The first day, May 14th, starting at the Eleven Point trailhead, the three of us did six miles and it was beautiful, though rainy. The Ozarks welcomed us with a wild storm that first night. We lost our hiking friend the next day, saw him once more, and noticed his tracks ahead of us for quite awhile.

While trekking through day after day, we noticed and learned about different plants and wildlife. We could identify a number of plants and trees, and learned a few more as time went on. We became intimately acquainted with sassafras, excitedly noticed paw paw, adored the short-leaf pines, cedar, various oaks. We ate a good deal of violet, plantain, sorrel, clover, some briar, some spiderwort, garlic, having salad bites along the way, and collecting our greens for dinner most nights. I whimpered at all of the raspberries that were not yet ripe, and was frustrated that for all the thorny vines were snagging me, the berries just weren't ready (we got a few here and there). Found blueberries in camp the last night, got to eat a few ripe ones in the morning. I learned how to identify poison ivy without a doubt. We saw so much of it, that I'd see it when I closed my eyes at night. The fungus, lichen, and moss were dazzling. Saw something like brown slime jello a few times. Oak seed ball steppin' game was a lot of fun.

We saw different types of tortoise almost every day; saw a number of snakes, toads, frogs, lizards, newts, skinks, salamanders. We saw a variety of crayfish and fish, some of which would come and tap kisses at our legs in the water. We met various jerky, rude coalitions of biting flies. Mosquitos of course, they got worse as time went on; everything did really. The ticks were the most incredible of the creepy crawlies; I remember the first one I saw, and from that moment forth, they just got crazier and crazier. Tiny ones, little ones, medium, finally big ones and all manner of patterns. We could walk through a grassy patch and pick twenty ticks off our pants easy, walk a ways further and repeat. Still, we never used bug spray, just essential oils sometimes. We saw so many moths and butterflies, really pretty ones. They find the taste of our clothing to be very interesting and the little blue ones would flock to our things especially. Millipedes, centipedes, cockroaches, giant beetles, snails, slugs, fireflies, key lime caterpillar, spiders like you couldn't believe (one we deemed the "hot rod spider"), ants galore! All sorts of creepy-crawlies and flying things who found us very interesting. At night, we could hear the roaches hopping, too. It would sound like water drips falling onto the dry leaves, but it would just be the pop sound of them hopping around, so many of them. I preferred hearing them once we got in the tent. Checkout time happened every morning. Checkout time is when you shake all the critters from your boots. Cicadas started hollering during the last week of the trail. The daddy long legs were really big. Once we saw one carrying something like a worm along.

Birds! We saw lots of birds, and heard lots of pretty bird songs. We didn't know who everyone was. We heard lots of woodpeckers, what varying sounds they could make! A dropping marble, a European telephone ring, fast or slow hammering, etc. One day we saw a bird running around and thought it was injured, but it is a classic defense technique to divert attention from a nest. We noticed it nestled into some rocks, a tiny baby with its mouth open for food, and two eggs. We moved on quickly. Wild turkeys can be pretty ridiculous. When they noticed us, they'd make such a racket and they’d fly away clumsily. I mean, most places were so remote that we figured most creatures hadn't seen a human before. Sometimes, when we were still, we could hear them walking about, making a sound like someone was chopping wood. Once when I scared up a turkey, it just ran around back and forth, all crazy. Think it might have had a nest nearby, like that other bird. We watched vultures soar on the thermals and felt envious. After some vultures flew off from an overgrown field we were walking through, my companion found that they'd been working at a dead fawn. We heard whippoorwills each night and when they began to sing, we felt calmed, accepted in the neighborhood. We would hear single singers, and choruses. They would move from tree to tree, sometimes close, sometimes not. Some birds didn't have the song quite right. We didn't know if they were just learning, or if they wanted to sing it that way or if they just couldn't get it the "right" way. You'd hear others singing away like they were trying to teach the new one, and the new one would jump in and try to keep up. We could hear them stumble over the song and pause before starting again. They so often sounded frantic. Sometimes they had a jazzy lilt to the tune. We heard barred owls most nights, too. They say "who cooks for you? who cooks for you all?" but I never knew that they also make a whinny like a horse. One night, I heard a couple of them calling the question back and forth to one another; they were moving around a bit and then they upset another bird, kind of sounded like a turkey, who made a big racket. Maybe they got too close to a nest. Can't imagine that the bird was just annoyed, it seemed like the whippoorwill and owls and frogs and crickets were free to sing out in the night and everybody else accepted it. We sure liked it.

We saw deer sometimes, but not like in Chicago. We heard them maybe as often as seeing them. We tried not to park our campsite through deer paths, but sometimes it was hard to avoid. Sometimes, they'd come along in the night and get scared by us and bound away. The first time I heard one bound down the hill snorting, I had no idea what it was. In the daytime, sometimes we'd see them bounding way, flags in the air. We saw a few squirrels, but not many. We got to watch some squirrels hopping from tree branches one day when being still in camp before dusk. My companion saw a chipmunk once. We thought we heard coyote here and there, we also heard dogs and cows sometimes. We saw cows now and again, Texas Longhorn seemed pretty popular. One day, while taking a break by a stream, we heard something walking around and held still. He saw some coyote crossing the stream, I just saw the back end of one. We went on our way so they wouldn't feel too disturbed. We heard things wander through camp at night or early morning sometimes. We heard some scurrying before a big storm came, critters trying to get home before the rains hit. Two different days we saw two piles of black furballs. No idea where they came from.

Couple maybe five times we saw other hikers on the trail, two or three times we met people riding horses or mules. We heard a lot of gunshots and ATVs in different areas. Passed a regular campsite on Memorial Day weekend. We saw a bunch of people that day, and it had been the first time in awhile so it was very eventful for us. We'd gone seven days without seeing other humans one stretch and near that other times. That was just fine.

We ate well but we still got tired of some things. Despite packing different types of hot breakfast with various grains, fruit, nuts, etc., we still got real tired of it real quick. Couldn't eat as much peanut butter as we'd originally thought. Daytime snack food was good, different fruits and nuts, crackers, jerky and dried seaweed were special daily treats. Nutella and sundrops were very important for morale. We favored fruit leather, and dried pineapple. Dinner varied between quinoa, couscous, lentils and rice, hummus, macaroni & cheese. Sometimes the dishes had dried vegetables and herbs from home; wish there had been time to make more of that. Sometimes we made bread. Sometimes we had ramen noodles. Some nights we had pudding, too. We ate greens we picked on the trail just about every day, sautéed with olive oil, then usually cooked into whatever else we were having. Our diet was all vegetarian except a little bit of jerky for me (soy and mushroom jerky for him). We fantasized about eggs, cheese, and butter (deemed curse words) and made elaborate eating plans for our return to civilization. We ate as much as we could when we went in to town to pick up food.

We ended up changing our route. Originally, we'd planned to go the northeastern route, Taum Sauk. Even though some parts were still closed, we were going to try it anyway. After experiencing some really rough patches of open trail with overgrown trail and down trees that made it really slow to cross miles, and then talking to some volunteer maintenance workers, we decided to go the Courtois route (local pronunciation Coat-away). We didn't have maps for that section, but we were able to get ahold of some because the mowers said they'd leave them in the crook of a tree for us, up aways. So it was settled. This made the trail longer for us, but because they'd also said they'd been working their way south clearing the trail on that route, we knew it would be easier to cross miles. We'd hiked most of the way by then and had seen some rough patches. Between the Rivers was very nice and easy with no shortage of water. Current River was badly marked around the campground area. Karkaughne was really hard with so many down trees. There was a very overgrown section, I think it was Blair Creek. We were there just before the trail maintainers so it is probably better now. Thank you OTA volunteers for helping make the trail easier for us, and for getting us the maps we needed to reroute!

One day we took a rest day and didn't go anywhere but down to the creek to wash. That was a good day, hot as hell so it was nice to hold still. Weather most of the time was either storming cats and dogs, plain old raining, or hot as hell with super high humidity. We started trying to leave camp early in the morning so we could get a ways before the real heat of the day. When the weather was cool and dry, we really took it in, basking. Hard to believe the first couple of days were sort of cool. We listened to the weather radio and just wished they'd stop saying the same thing: mid-to-upper-80's and humid, big storms on the way. Ozark thunderstorms are magnificent, extraordinary, glorious, and terrifying (for me!). Would have liked to have had more rest days, but we ended up finishing a couple of days sooner than planned despite the longer route, just got anxious to get clean, and eat eggs, mostly.

All in all, we spent 27 days and hiked about 237 miles, averaging about nine miles a day. Some days we only went six, and some days we neared fifteen. We had three town stops to pick up food drops at the post offices in Van Buren, Reynolds, and Bixby. Three times we were able to get rides into town, which lowered our miles walked by thirteen. We finished the trail in the morning of June 9th. There was no fanfare at the end, just a trailmarker and a road. When we finished the trail, we had to figure out how to get back to the car which was ninety miles away because of the changed route. We were near Ozark Outdoors so decided to walk there and see if we could scare up a ride to get us started back to the car. Didn't know how many rides we'd have to beg or how long it would take but we figured it would work out just fine. Well, there was a guy there who asked his boss if he could start work late just so he could take us, and he took us all the way in one shot. What luck!

I hope this long, rambly write-up helps others thinking of attempting to hike the whole dang thing. Feel free to post here or send me private messages asking logistical questions. It was a lot of planning seemingly since its not very usual that people do the whole thing in one shot and there is a lot of remote area. The Ozarks are really beautiful and the people we encountered were all very friendly and helpful. It was a tough hike to do but totally worth the effort. I'm glad I'm not still walking but I'm so glad I did.
Last edited by TwoToThru on Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ozark Trail Through-Hike (237m./27d.)

Postby Jim » Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:42 pm

Congratulations. It is a great walk about for sure. Hope ya turn around and head South for a trip, I hear it's even better.
Last edited by Jim on Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ozark Trail Through-Hike (237m./27d.)

Postby aroth87 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:06 pm


Your description of food really made me laugh. I go through the exact same thing every time, whatever sounds good at home always seems less appealing of the trail. Snack foods usually win out (for me its Snickers and Pringles, I never tire of them). I've never been out for more than a week but I can relate to the cravings. Getting Taco Bell after a week of ramen, rice, and mashed potatoes is one of my fondest memories of the trip :lol:

Your weather report sounds about right for this time of year. I'm glad that and the bugs didn't sour your trip too much.

Congratulations again, I know I'm not the only one here that envies what you were able to accomplish.

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"we see the future in leaping flames, making plans in their enchantment which in the brash light of day seem foolhardy" -Sigurd Olson
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Re: Ozark Trail Through-Hike (237m./27d.)

Postby jmoore » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:38 pm

Fantastic experience! I am one of the envious people Adam mentions. jm
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Re: Ozark Trail Through-Hike (237m./27d.)

Postby Sunfire » Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:19 pm

I can only hope that one of these days I can claim the same title as you...an Ozark Trail Through Hiker. Congrats!
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