Current River Section – Powder Mill to Klepzig Mill

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Current River Section – Powder Mill to Klepzig Mill

Postby murstew » Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:22 am

Current River Section – Powder Mill Campground to Klepzig Mill and back, Jan 3 - 5

What a way to start out the New Year. Checking the weather forecast prior to the New Year’s holiday, I saw that the weather this week was going to be excellent for some time in the woods. With sunshine and mid 40’s during the day, dropping into the 20’s at night, winter backpacking couldn’t get any better.

After surfing the OTA website and trip planner, reading some of the forum topics, and reviewing a book borrowed from the local library, The Best In Tent Camping: Missouri and the Ozarks, by Steve Henry, I decided to hike the Current River section from Powder Mill campground. An out and back solo hike, 2 days out and 2 days back with 3 nights of camping. But all good plans…

It took approximately 5 ½ hours to drive from the Kansas City area to Powder Mill on Monday, January 3rd. As expected, the campground was empty when I arrived around 4pm. To my pleasant surprise, the National Park Service has eliminated the camping fees for this time of year. It’s always nice to camp for free. Additionally, for those that don’t have cell reception at the campground, there is a pay phone at the ranger station. $1 change for a 10 minute call.

The sun was starting to go down quickly, so I decided to forgo the hike down to Blue Spring. Got a fire going, cooked some dinner and ate in the dark. It was starting to get cold and was considering jumping into the sleeping bag, maybe read a little, and just go to bed early…it was 6:30pm.

Then out of nowhere, all of a sudden, several vehicles drove into the campground and down to the river access. There was all sorts of light and the noise of boats at the access, and it made me curious…what are people doing on a Monday night on the river in January?

The boats took off up river, and I could hear them in what seemed like they were moving back and forth across the river…what are they doing?

After about an hour, the boats showed back up at the access. One of the guys drove his vehicle up to one of the campsites, right next to the access. He started a big fire, and curious, I made my way over to chat and to see what they were doing. He explained to me that they were gigging for suckers, do it twice a week from this spot. Friends and family, fathers and sons, cousins and uncles, and other close friends. Sure enough, another one of the guys shows up and starts setting up a propane fryer with 2 baskets, poured in what seemed like 3 – 5 gallons of oil and fired up the propane. Very friendly these guys. Then, not long after, the rest of the crew showed up with enough fillets to fry up for everyone for dinner. Using a scoring tool, they cut slices into the fillets, and then passed them along to be breaded, and to the fryer. Like an assembly line, everyone had a task to get these fish fillets, prepped, and fried. It was pretty neat to watch these guys go at it. Along with fried potatoes and fried dough, everyone had a good filling dinner, me included. My experience is mainly with Crappie and Catfish, never had sucker fish before. It was really good. No fishy taste at all to the fillets that I had. Would recommend giving this fish a try if you have never had it.

I knew nothing of this tradition of gigging sucker fish and having a river side fish fry. Yellow Suckers and Hog Suckers, I’ve floated over them many times on canoe trips, but never knew how good they tasted. It was very enjoyable learning about this Ozark tradition, and I really appreciated the hospitality of the folks that happily allowed me to be a part of their lives for a few hours. Just as quickly as they showed up, they packed up and were gone.

Here are a couple of write ups I found about gigging for suckers:
http://www.anglerguide.com/articles/533.html
http://www.nighthawkpublications.com/jo ... l170-4.htm

I awoke the next day to the sun and the sight of a bald eagle flying over the river. Though much more common now than they used to be, when I see a bald eagle, I stop whatever I am doing and just watch. Always a treat.

Had coffee and breakfast, got my gear packed up and hit the trail from the campground. My plan was to try to do around 10 miles. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my body was not going to allow itself to go that far. Each time I would stop and check the map, I found that I was not nearly as far along as I thought I was. The hiking was great however, not a cloud in the sky and very mild temps. No need for jackets, gloves, or stocking caps.

By the time I hit the Indian Creek crossings, my body was starting to holler at me a little. My feet were feeling sore, though no blisters…yet, and my shoulders were getting tight. One good thing about solo hiking is that it’s OK to talk to yourself, out loud, and I was having a conversation with myself as to how I wasn’t going to make 10 miles. Geez, I don’t think you’re going to make 10 miles. So now where are you going to stop to camp for the night? Man, am I ever getting tired…I know, you are making me sore…all over. Doesn’t look like you’re going to go 30 – 40 miles on this trip like you thought you were. Wow, you’ve only walked 5 miles, you really are out of shape!

The trail after the 3rd Indian Creek crossing is a pain in the rear. It runs along the creek and is extremely rocky and it’s really tough when you are tired and questioning your ability to keep going. Aren’t the Rocky Mountains out west? I stopped as the trail turned away from the creek to check the map and to rest. Oh great, another hill to go up and over just to get to the mill. I decided then that I would camp around the mill, if I could make it that far. C’mon, it’s only a mile or so. I trudged on.

Up through what looks like a blow down area, over the hill and back down the other side. As I was making my way down the other side, there was a rustling noise behind me higher up the hill. Stopping and turning, there was a deer bounding along. It would be the only deer I saw the whole time.

Soon, I could hear the familiar noise of water on rocks. I passed by a very nice camp spot before reaching Rocky Creek and the Klepzig Mill. Yay! I made it! Now, where am I going to camp? I went up on past the mill and the parking area for the mill, up the trail a couple hundred feet and saw it, a fire ring. Yes! A spot to camp!

I dropped my pack, pulled off my pad, rolled it out, and collapsed on it. I had only gone around 7 miles…that’s it. It was around 3:15pm, and the sun was on its downward path, need to set up camp, get some water, and cook some dinner. But the most important thing to do right then…get those bleepin’ boots off, now!

Had dinner as the sun was going down, Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, purchased surprisingly at the local Wal-Mart. Tasted better than I thought it would, though the meat chunks needed a little more “cook” time. The spaghetti is cut into small pieces, making it nice to eat out of the package. Ate the whole bag. Would consider getting this again. If you are OK with spending $6.50 on a meal, seemed kind high to me, then I would recommend the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.

http://www.mtnhse.com/mm5/merchant.mvc? ... _Code=MHDL

Thought about building a fire…for a second. Too tired.

Didn’t know if it was really necessary, but I hung my bag and food as the last light of the day was quickly fading. Sun is down, it’s getting dark and cold.

Sat outside in the dark for awhile, watching the stars and wondering what kind and size of critters might come about. That didn’t last long, time to warm up in the sleeping bag…it was 6:30pm. Read a little bit, but got cold quickly, and needed the warmth of the bag…it was 7pm. Tired but not sleepy, lying in the dark, wide awake. Caught my first sleep around 10:30pm or so. 3 or so hours of just sitting there…thoughts running through my head. Wow, I completely underestimated how far I could go. I’ve had these boots for 2 years, why do my feet hurt so much. There is no way I can go further into the woods, I’m heading back to the car tomorrow. How can I haul all this crap back the 7 miles to the car? I wonder if I could stash everything out of sight, double time it back to the car with no gear on my back and then drive back to the mill and get my gear? How much could I get for all this stuff on EBay? Are there any bears out here?

Off in the distance, up Rocky Creek, 2 owls were hooting at each other. They went on all night as sleep came and went. Not much of a birder, but the owl calls sounded like a Great Horned Owl. Wonder if this was mating calls?

http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field ... horned-owl

The sound of ice pellets hitting the tent shook me awake between 6:30am and 7:00am. It sounded worse in the tent than it really was. Checked outside, it looked more like corn snow, very light, as if the cold air was freezing the moisture in the somewhat foggy air. By 8am it was done, and started breaking down camp.

I felt good, a little sore. Checked my feet, no blisters, but my heels, balls of my feet, and big toes looked as though they had the potential to flare up. Band aids on my heels. Slow to get going, pack on my back at 10am. I’m not stashing my gear, and there won’t be a bunch of backpacking equipment going up on EBay tomorrow. Amazing what a little bit of rest can do to the body and soul. I’m heading back to the car. Driving home today too…it is way too boring to sit/lay in a tent, in the cold for 12 – 13 hours. The plan was to camp in the campground the last night and drive home the next day…not going to happen.

Up, over, and back down to the Indian Creek crossings. Through the crossings and on to the bluff overlook to take a quick rest and drink. Sat on the bench and was looking out from the bluff just as a bald eagle was flying up to one of the trees on the big island in the river…Yes, another bald eagle (or the same one I saw the day before)! Unfortunately, the great bird stayed perched in the tree. Took some pics, but the eagle was too far away for them to come out, even with zoom. After 15 minutes or so it was time to move on…the big climb was still ahead of me.

And then, there it was. Funny how looking up a big hill makes you notice how sore your feet are. Stopped twice to catch my breath on the way up. Took another break at the top of the hill, and snapped some photos of the surrounding hills. Too bad, the camera doesn’t do the scenery justice. Moving on, heading down the hill, within 100 feet, I felt it.

The familiar feeling of skin sliding on skin…no question, it was a blister, on the ball of my left foot. Only a little over 3 miles to go, that’s less than the trail around the lake at my local state park, Watkins Mill. That trail is easy, and mostly flat and paved. Gotta stop, can’t keep going. Dropped my pack and pulled out the first aid stuff, got a band aid and slapped it on my foot over the blister. What? A band-aid, right on the blister? You can’t do that! It was a band-aid specifically for blisters. I’ve had good luck with them as you can place them directly on the blister, and they stay in place for several days, even when getting wet.

http://www.bandaid.com/productList.do?typeId=4#anchor12 – Advanced Healing – Blister

Checked my heels, OK, but just a matter of time…by this time my feet were starting to cry just a little. Not much further to go though.

A pleasant walk on down to the fields along the river. Why is there so much horse manure on the trail as it runs along these fields? The question was quickly answered as there was a white beast resting on the ground just off the trail ahead. Cool, there are some equestrians out on the trail today, another human being to talk to….ha ha, uh no, no humans, just 10 horses hanging out in a pack in the field. They kept their distance, and their eyes on me as I hiked on by. Explains all of the horse manure. But where are these horses from, who is taking care of them? Surely, they’re not wild are they? Didn’t see them on the hike out yesterday.

Getting closer to the end. Stopped to take some snapshots of the NPS building that used to be a school way back when. Would’ve been neat as a child to have gone to school there, along the river.

My left heel is killing me, there’s gotta be a blister on it by now the way it feels. Oh well, only a mile to go, I can make it, just go slow. It was 2:40pm as I hobbled up to my car. It’s over, I made it. Wonder where the closest McDonald’s is?

Got my boots off. My feet are very angry at me at this point! Nice big blister on my left heel. Got it doctored up, gear in the car, sat and rested a bit. On the road home by 3pm.

A funny thought occurred to me as I was driving home. 11 hours of driving to walk 14 miles. Sounds foolish, but I don’t care, it was interesting experience.


What did I learn on this trip?

1. I am out of shape
2. My feet need some toughening up
3. The original plan was overly ambitious based on my physical conditioning
4. A small tube of Icy Hot isn’t a bad thing to have. Gonna try the patches next time
5. Keep dialing in your pack fit
6. Take care of your feet as soon as you notice any problems
7. The zipper on your pants can also be considered a “pit zip”
8. 13 hours in a tent can make you go stir crazy.
9. It’s kinda scary walking across the Hwy 106 bridge at the same time 2 semi trucks drive across

Overall, I enjoyed the trip. The trail is in great shape and is well marked the entire way, both ways. I would recommend, however, on this section of trail, to forgo the walk from Powder Mill campground and utilize the trailhead down past the NPS buildings and the fields. It shaves off 2 to 2 ½ miles of what I would consider the least exciting part of the hike. But it is neat that you can leave your car at the campground and hike from there if you so choose.

Thought I would see more wildlife than I did. Sure there were birds and squirrels, but only one deer and no wild turkey, with the highlight being the bald eagles, and yes, eating suckers. Of course, with all the leaves off the trees and on the ground, the sound of my stomping on those leaves probably carried quite a ways though the forest and created plenty of warning of my presence resulting in less sightings. Ran across 2 scat piles that were on the actual trail itself, one with seeds, one with seeds and full of hair. My guess is coyote, not for sure though.

Some of the pics of the trip:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/murstew/se ... 637367263/

Also wanted to share one of the homemade items that made the trip:

Energy Bars

1 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 cup sliced almonds (optional)
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Chop raisins.
Cream butter, sugar, molasses and egg.
Combine flour, dry milk, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda,
salt and ginger.
Blend into creamed mixture with skim milk.
Stir in oats, raisins, and half the almonds (if desired).
Pour into greased 13x9x2 inch pan and spread evenly.
Sprinkle with remaining almonds (if desired).
Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 30 minutes.
Cool in pan and cut into 1x4 inch bars.

The bars cook up fairly dense, and have a touch of sweetness, but aren’t too sweet. A nice alternative to GORP.
murstew
 
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Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:32 am
Location: Excelsior Springs

Re: Current River Section – Powder Mill to Klepzig Mill

Postby Sara » Sun Jan 09, 2011 1:46 pm

Yes, there are wild horses in the area. I've only seen them at Round Spring, but was at the Cedar Bluff(?) primitive camping area just up the road from Klepzig Mill last year and met someone who said they were seen in that area and was looking for them.
Sara
 
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2007 11:56 am
Location: Manchester, MO

Re: Current River Section – Powder Mill to Klepzig Mill

Postby Coldspring » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:19 pm

I've seen the horses at Cedar Bluff. They use the trail quite a bit, so if you see horse biscuits it's from wild horses.

You might find it interesting that The Travel Channel's No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain recently did an episode about the Ozarks, and it included sucker gigging on the Current. I think it airs on March 17.
Coldspring
 
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Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:03 pm


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