Onondaga to Highway DD

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

Onondaga to Highway DD

Postby pipsin » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:49 am

My wife – Rebecca – and I embarked on her first true backpacking trip Sunday, April 10th through Wednesday, April 13th. We had a week of vacation, a wonderful place (my mom’s) for our now 3 year old son, and some new gear I was dying to try out. Despite a few tense moments, we ended up having a blast. Below is a detailed report of our trip, as well as a few updates of trail conditions. Hope you enjoy!

We began our trip on Sunday, April 10th by parking our vehicle at Ozark Outdoors near Leasburg, MO. The staff at Ozark was tremendously helpful. Besides providing a safe place for our truck, they proved to be extremely courteous and helpful. Plus, they are doing some amazing renovating inside their main lobby/office – you should stop in to check it out. After registering our vehicle, changing shoes, and throwing on our packs we left the parking lot at 4:52pm on Sunday.

The weather was threatening a pretty massive thunderstorm, so our goal was simply to cross the Courtois at mile 5, hike a few additional steps, and setup camp for the night. After crossing the creek and collecting a few liters of water, we met two young men who were on their way to do some cave spelunking though they didn’t rightly admit it. They had nothing with them other than headlamps around their necks, some precarious grins, and extremely dirty clothes. What else could they have been doing? We hiked until 7:20pm, decided we were between miles 6-7 on the map, and knew it was time to setup camp. After pitching our Tarptent, cooking and eating a supper of Knorr Rice Sides and tuna, organizing our gear, and cleaning up we resorted to our sleeping bags and had lights out at 8:55pm.

Though we have car-camped many times in the past, I knew this night would be a real sleeping treat for the both of us as it was Rebecca’s first official night in the woods. Adding the stress of our busy day, the fact that we’d be away from our son for several days, extremely high humidity, and the impending storm, peaceful shut eye was highly unlikely. To make matters worse, the two liters of water we had collected at the Courtois Creek crossing was now unusable. After we got situated in the tent I pulled out my MSR Miox Purifier. It requires two SF123a batteries to operate, and despite the test run at home, the unit now warned that the batteries were completely dead. In other words, the only potable water we had was what we had carried from the truck. To make matters even worse, within 15 minutes of lights out, the sky opened up and dumped a load of weather on us. Rain, wind, and lightning for the next 11 hours that was unmatched to any previous night in the woods. We both laid there awake, counting seconds from lightning strike to thunder, wondering which tree would be the first to get hit around us. But, like all other storms, it finally passed.

We were finally able to crawl out of our tent around 8:00am on Monday morning, just after the rain finally quit. The foot of both of our sleeping bags was wet, but other than that, our gear remained very dry. We packed up our things and headed out for breakfast-on-the-go at 9:07am on Monday, April 11th. The morning was absolutely perfect. Besides the standing water everywhere, the next several miles of trail were magnificent. I hadn’t been on the Courtois section since 2006, and knew that the new trail was going to be so much better than the old road walk through this section. The new trail lived up to all the hype. The overlook of the Huzzah valley at mile 8.1 was ridiculous, and only wetted our appetite for more amazing views. We pushed on to Bass’ River Resort and made it to their office at 11:20am.

This would be the only civilized place we’d come to on our trip, and it was well worth it. After drinking several Gatorades, eating our lunches, and deserting on ice cream from their freezer, we discovered something even better. They had two of the exact batteries we needed to operate our water purifier and an SD card for our camera after discovering we’d left ours at home. It was the perfect stop!

We pried ourselves away from the comforts of Bass’, and hit the trail again around 12:40pm. As we crossed the low water bridge and headed up Butts Road we arrived at a situation. There is a split in the road here – the left option is Butts Road, and the right option appeared to be someone’s personal driveway. Knowing that the trail does cross Bass’ personal property I would have opted to take the right road; however, there was one OT marker that was hung in such a way that it pointed to the left – advising trail users to turn left and follow Butts Road. Therefore, that was our decision.

After walking about a quarter mile up Butts Road we suddenly heard a loud, booming, “Heeyyyyyyy!” Naturally, we turned around to see what the chaos was all about, and I saw panic all over my wife’s face. I’m not sure if she thought we were about to be hog tied and hung in some abandoned barn or if, like me, she felt like she was back home as a child, being scorned by her father. The voice followed up with, “Are you all hiking the Ozark Trail?” “Yeaahhhhh,” I yelled back. “You’re going to the wrong way!”

So, we turned around, walked back down to where the road split, and found the yeller. It was Mr. Stephan Bass himself, the owner/operator of Bass’ River Resort. Despite the gruff, attention-getting voice, he was a first class gentleman. He explained that over the past few months he has witnessed at least four different groups take the wrong turn in the exact place we had. I pointed to the OT marker, and how it’s pointing the wrong direction. He admitted he didn’t even realize it was there, and said he’d make sure to get it corrected so not to confuse trail users. We had a pleasant trailside chat with Mr. Bass, thanked him for his partnership with the OT, and continued our way up and out of his property as he continued feeding his cattle.

We made good time on the next section of new trail. The switchbacks between miles 14-16 were in superb shape. No wash outs. No ruts. It was clean, hard-packed tread. Hats off to all the volunteers who created and maintain this part. From Bass’ to the connection with the Berryman, there were so many wildflowers we couldn’t even begin to count. One little valley between two ridges was absolutely covered with Virginia Blue Bells (at least that’s what my mom calls them). It reminded us of our son, who is in love with all things train. We’ve watched too many Thomas the Tank Engine episodes to count, and the Blue Bells are quite a popular flower on that show. Therefore, we officially changed the flower’s name to Thomas Flowers.

We reached the mud pit between miles 22-23 on the Berryman and it was in rare form. I think it took us 30 minutes, or more, just to make it that half mile. The new reroute is much needed, and will be welcomed with open arms (especially by my wife who deemed to never walk that section of Berryman as long as she lives). We finished the day at 5:20pm, and made it a total of 17 miles for the day. We ended up between miles 23-24 according to the map, and were in bed by 7:45pm. It was such a pleasant night – perfect temperatures for our sleeping bags, and the ground was so soft that it almost felt like our mattress back home.

Tuesday (April 12th) morning we awoke well-rested and refreshed, and ready to hit the trail again. We strolled away from our campsite at 7:39am, made it the 3 miles to Beecher Spring and the Artesian well, and decided to stop for breakfast. After eating and collecting some water from the spout in the well, we continued on our way. Later in the day, after the treatment process had done its thing, we began drinking this well water. I have officially nicknamed it Angel Spit. It was sweet, heavenly, and miraculously changed our spirits.

Shortly after 10:00am Rebecca changed the name of this day of the week. It transformed from Tuesday (as the calendar would suggest) and became Rootsday. Berryman is old and well-used and the tread sinks down into the well-grounded tree roots. It makes for some fun stepping, and attention must be paid so that you don’t face plant every couple minutes. We became even more amazed at the individuals who compete in the annual Berryman 50-miler. You guys and gals must be beasts!

We crossed Highway 8 around 12:20pm, and took a picture. This highway is the one we take to travel from our house (in Belle, MO) to my mom’s (near Fredericktown, MO), and the location of our son for the duration of our hike. Not only that – it was the ONLY place my wife recognized on our entire hike, and it made her realize that we were in the same state in which we live. I suppose it brought some sort of comfort to the both of us. After crossing the highway we made it to Lost Creek. The water was flowing nicely and perfectly chilled. We sat and ate our lunches while soaking our feet.

Pulling away from Lost Creek around 1:00pm, we continued our trek south. There was a noticeable difference in the trail beginning at this point. I would suppose it’s used less, but is in need of some TLC. The tread is great, but the fall leaves have taken over. The trail is so faint in some places you can barely see it – but overall the OT markers stand out well, so it’s easy to spot them. We pushed on that day until 4:25pm, and made it to Snapps Branch between miles 42-43 on the map. It was a total of 19 miles on Tuesday, and our bodies were certainly feeling it.

In camp, we moved lethargically, and every muscle we moved said, “Hey moron, haven’t you used me enough today? Get off my feet. Stop using your shoulders and arms. Move again, and we’re all collectively revolting against you.” It felt great. After setting up camp, eating, collecting and treating water, soaking our feet again, cleaning up and organizing our gear, we hit the sack. It was 7:30pm, and the earliest I’ve gone to bed since the year 2000, when I graduated high school and was hired as summer help in a factory before heading off to college. Back then, I put in five 12 hour days and two 8 hour days a week, and every day began at 3:30am. I’ll take backpacking 20 miles a day with my beautiful wife, blisters and all, over that work schedule any day of the week!

One more thing about Tuesday. Early in the day I had been discussing Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk in the
, with Rebecca. She hasn’t read it, though I’ve urged her to numerous times. Bryson, in the middle stages of his life, decides to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. Without retrieving the book as I write this, I recall one of his reasons for desiring to thru hike. He desires the qualifications to sit with a group of tough and gruff middle-aged men, and have the ability and knowledge to say, “Yeah, I’ve (pooped) in the woods.” I’m here to proudly proclaim that my beautiful, self-proclaimed girly-girl of a wife, has now joined the ranks.

We awoke to freezing cold temps on Wednesday, April 13th. Upon crawling out of the tent, we moved quickly to warm up, got our things together and hit the trail at 7:29am. We hiked the 2.5 miles to Hazel Creek campground and discovered something majestically beautiful – picnic tables. This was the first actual seat we had sat on since Sunday afternoon, and it felt great. We ate breakfast amidst a thick patch of wild onions (Rebecca’s least favorite smell of all time). She swears the grits we ate for breakfast tasted like onions, though mine were perfect.

Water crossings ruled Wednesday. The unofficial count was around 25, and our trekking poles became our best friends. Somewhere between miles 47-48, the trail turns into a recent and happening clear cut forest. It lasts all the way to Highway C, which is a little tricky. The trail is still visible, but there are absolutely no markers, as they’ve been taken down with the trees. We made it to Trace Creek for lunch, soaked our feet, and enjoyed the warm, clear day. As we were eating, a B-2 Spirit (Stealth) Bomber flew overhead – a strange sight while backpacking. I sat there thinking about how quickly we could get to our destination in one of those, but later found out they cost over a billion dollars to manufacture and purchase. I think I’ll stick to my feet and backpacking gear!

As we approached Nazarenko Spring, something was drastically wrong. Not with us. Not with our packs or gear. Something was wrong with the trail. I wouldn’t have believed that what we were staring at was the trail except that I saw an OT marker right in front of my face. The trail here has been remodeled by beavers. They have built a dam, lodge, and several pools of water that need immediate attention. For nearly a half mile, the trail traverses through beaver swamp. We puddle jumped, log rolled, and built our own bridges out of large rocks – it was pretty exhilarating.

After the beaver bog, we made our way past the Council Bluff spur trail, and pushed on. The next few miles are remains of what appear to be a forest fire. I have no idea if it was prescribed or not, but appears to be at least a year old. It was quiet and eerie, but the wildflowers are sure liking it. We crossed the not-so Big River, said good-bye to the Trace Creek section and turned right onto the Middle Fork. We soon crossed what I supposed to be the Big River again, and noticed that a newly constructed foot bridge was no longer where it needed to be. I’m not sure if this was an OT footbridge or what, but it’s all out of whack, though remains fully intact best I could tell. We climbed up to Highway DD and to the parking lot to await our ride. It was 6:23pm, and we had travelled over 20 miles.

It was a neat place to end our hike as we had the opportunity to observe the John Roth Memorial – very neatly constructed. The base is amazing, and shouldn’t have a problem staying put! Altogether, we hiked 62.8 miles from Sunday evening to Wednesday evening. And the best part – Rebecca is hooked. She’s said several times since, “I can’t wait to go on our next trip!”

Just wanted to leave a few last notes in regards to trail conditions:
1. The OT marker at the end of the road walk through Bass’ River Resort should certainly be changed. It was pointing to the left, up Butts Road, instead of to the right onto Bass’ property. Mr. Stephan Bass said he’d make an effort to get that changed. I wholeheartedly believe that he will do so, but OT workers may need to double-check with his efforts.
2. I know the mud pit in Berryman is scheduled for a reroute, but I just wanted to echo any previous comments about its shape. We were there after a big rain, which I’m sure made it worse, but it was VERY bad this go around.
3. The trail south of Highway 8 is in great shape as far as tread goes, but leaf blowing would do wonders.
4. The clear cut between Hazel Creek and Highway C needs some new markers. We counted twice when we had been moving for more than 20 minutes and hadn’t seen a single marker. The trail is very noticeable, but markers would grant some additional peace of mind.
5. The beaver situation near Nazarenko Spring needs the biggest attention. I’m not too educated on how they work and move, but the area seems like it could turn into a large problem if something isn’t done. Again, we were there after some big rains, so that may have played a part in how wet it was through there.

All in all, the trail was in superb shape, and we can’t wait to hit it again soon. Thank you all so much who spend countless hours building, maintaining, and loving the OT.

Mitchell & Rebecca
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Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 4:57 pm

Re: Onondaga to Highway DD

Postby Sara » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:56 am

The burn on the south Trace Creek section was prescribed. It was April of 2010, so you are right on the time frame. At least they are getting better about notifying people in advance. We had no idea and did trail maintenance while it was still smoking. The trail was actually closed, but we entered from a logging road so we didn't see the signs.
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Re: Onondaga to Highway DD

Postby aroth87 » Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:34 am

What a great trip report and I hope you don't regret getting your wife hooked! My wife and I share an interest in photography, which makes it easier to justify purchases (because we can both use it :P), but it doesn't take long to acquire a lot of gear...

At the moment I'm trying to get my wife to go hiking with me as well. She likes to float and has been to a handful of OTA events and had a good time but I'm still trying to find the right place and right weekend to see how she likes carrying a pack. Kudos to you for being brave enough to make your wife's first trip a 60+ miler :lol:

Did I mention that you wrote an excellent trip report? I wish I could describe my trips half as well as you did yours, unfortunately I have to rely on my photographs to share the experience and even those aren't very good. I had to smile when you told of the dead batteries in your Miox. Sitting down at camp and finding you forgot something is a feeling I'm all too familiar with. I once cooked up some ramen for dinner only to find that I'd left my spork at home. Luckily it was just ramen and I could eat it chopstick-style with some twigs. You were lucky to have Bass Resort just down the trail, no water treatment would have been a trip ender for me since I never have enough extra fuel to boil my water.

I can relate to your wife's sentiment on the Berryman, I don't like hiking there either. I doubt I'll ever plan a hike there again. When I lived in Rolla and it was 45 minutes away it was fine for a quick trip but now that its 5+ hours away I'm more picky about where I choose to go and for various reason Berryman won't be my choice.

I wasn't aware of the damage near Nazarenko Spring, it sounds like quite a sight! There were a lot of us in that area for the Memorial Dedication that did some hiking but I don't know if anyone went up that way. I do know the washed-out bridge your talking about. Its made of telephone poles and was planted in concrete on one side and now lays along one bank of the small-looking stream it used to span. It made me stop and wonder what it must have been like the day that happened.

I hope you all get out on another trip soon, I can't wait to read your next report!

My Photos

"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: Onondaga to Highway DD

Postby pipsin » Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:48 am


I don't know what you're talking about when you say your photos aren't very good. I don't know you from Adam (how funny is it that it fits in this case) but I've looked at all your OT photos you've posted online and I'm quite envious. The reason my trip report doesn't include photos is because the ones we took do no justice and yours certainly do. We use a point and shoot digital camera, so our photos for memories sake are quite lame.

In regards to being brave for taking my wife - she loves to run - and by loves I mean I think she would replace me for running if running could interact a little better. Therefore, she looked at the hike in terms of cardio workouts, and most of the time she was leading and setting the pace. I'm more than a half foot taller than her and have a good stride - so I have no idea physically how she did what we did over three days and a couple hours. She's a force to be reckoned with.

Thanks for your reply. The report was quite lengthy and I didn't realize how long I had rambled on until I officially posted it. Good to know I didn't bore you to tears.

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