North Fork-Ridge Runner-Devils Backbone 01/19-20/13

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

North Fork-Ridge Runner-Devils Backbone 01/19-20/13

Postby mike » Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:28 pm

January 19th - 20th 2013. Loop hike consisting of parts of the North Fork section of Ozark Trail, Ridge Runner Trail, Blue Springs Trail, and the Devils Backbone Trail.

I have been putting my winter hikes together and since I have never been hiking in this area I thought I would put together a loop hike consisting of the above trails. Using one of the great maps from the Ozark Trail web site http://www.ozarktrail.com/maps/detailed/NorthFork3mile15to25.jpg I planned a route starting from the CC Trailhead hiking north on the North Fork section of the OT, then heading west at the intersection of the north leg of the Ridge Runner-North Fork Loop continuing around then down ending the day at the North Fork Campground on the river.

The second day, pick up the Blue Springs spur trail at the south end of the campground follow it to where it connects with the Ozark Trail on McGarr Ridge (Devils Backbone) follow it west and down to the river and pickup the Crooked Creek section of the Devils Backbone following it until it connects back up on McGarr Ridge with the Ozark Trail and heading north back to the CC Trailhead.

First days mileage was 10.1, second day was 8.4 for a total of 18.5 miles. I think describing the the loop was a whole lot more complicated than hiking it so don't let all the verbiage scare anyone off. Now that I've got past all the technical stuff we can get on with the hike.

Back in December a fellow backpacker named Larry from Corning, AR noticed I was from Paragould, AR (30 miles apart) while reading some of my posts on the Ozark Trail Forums and contacted me about hooking up sometime to hike. We exchanged contact information and I told him I would let him know when I would be heading for the trail.

As promised, I contacted Larry via email to let him know I was heading for the trail on Saturday. We worked out the logistics of where and when to meet over the phone and I gave him the hike plan, phone numbers for the different Sheriffs offices for the area we were to hike, along with my wife's number so he could leave all this with his wife in case there was an emergency. It seems the sharing of this information with the wives started very similar conversations between Larry and his wife and me and my wife. It went something like this:

Wife: Who is this guy you're going to hike with?
Husband: Just a guy I met on a hiking forum on the Internet.
Wife: Have you ever met him?
Husband: No
Wife: You know anything about him?
Husband: I know he likes to go hiking.
Wife: Let me get this straight, you're going to hook up with some guy you met on the Internet and know absolutely nothing about, drive out to the middle of nowhere, walk even farther into the middle of nowhere, and spend two days out in the middle of nowhere with this person. Have you lost your mind??? Does Deliverance ring any bells???
Husband: Uh, I Uh Uh......

Women can sure make you feel dumb at times. Turns out though, Larry nor I are mass murderers seeking our next victim. Larry is a fine fellow and I think we both enjoyed each others company and we do plan to hike together again. Turns out we have a sister in law/daughter in law connection, small world.

On with the journey. We arrived at the CC trailhead to beautiful clear skies and temps in the mid forties. We were on the trail a bit before 9:00AM. Spot the trail dog took point with Larry and I following. This section of the trail was very wide and well blazed. It appears to get a lot of foot traffic as well as hoof traffic from our equine friends. We passed the first intersection with the south leg of the Ridge Runner Trail and proceeded on to the north leg. About 3 miles from the trailhead we turn off onto the north leg of the Ridge Runner Trail.

The trail appeared to have had very little traffic since the leaves had fallen and the tread was hardly discernible for the next few miles fortunately, the trail was well blazed with gray diamonds so it was not too difficult to find our way. Before long we were on a bluff overlooking the North Fork River. The trail followed above the river for a ways then meandered back into the woods again. It wasn't long until we came to the intersection with the trail that would take us to the North Fork Campground.

This spur trail crosses Highway CC then parallels the entrance road to the campground for a ways before terminating at the park road. We walked the road to the very back of the campground and Larry spotted a sight right on the river bank so we dropped our packs there. It wasn't quite 3:00PM so we had plenty of time to setup camp and prowl around a bit before dark.

The temp was in the upper 50's and had been just ideal for hiking. The scenery had been good all day as well. We walked on down to the end of the road to see if we could find the spur trail we would hike out on Sunday. The trailhead was marked and easy to find so we headed back to our campsite and proceeded to unload our packs and setup the tents. Before long we had everything setup so we headed down to the river to filter some water.

Speaking of water, the days hike had hardly any water sources. There were a couple of wildlife ponds in the first 3 miles but nothing that I recall after that until the campground. So if you hike this area be sure to carry adequate water.

By the time we finished supper and got everything cleaned up it had started to get dark. The temp started falling quickly and it wasn't long till we were layering back up to keep warm. Larry turned in shortly after dark so Spot and I prowled the rest of the park checking out the different camping areas, day use areas, and river access. There was enough light from the moon I didn't need a light. We eventually made our way back to camp and hit the sack. It didn't take long for the soft sounds of the river to lull me to sleep.

During the night the cold air settled down on the river valley with a vengeance. We awoke Sunday morning to frost and ice. It really takes some will power to crawl out of that warm sleeping bag and put on cold clothes and even colder boots. We checked the temp on my little thermometer I carry and it reported a balmy 20 according to Larry's eagle eyes. Well they're eagle eyes so long as he puts on his "readers" just as mine are.

We fixed some breakfast and I made some coffee. We proceeded to break camp and get packed up, frost and ice included. Spot was shivering a bit even with his sweater on. He was giving me that "get it in gear old man" look like he knew he would warm up when we got on the move.

By 9:00AM we were back on the trail. Just a short ways from camp we came upon "Blue Springs" a beautiful spring right on the river with cool rock formations. We stopped and took some pics then proceeded with the big climb out of the river bottoms to the top of McGarr Ridge. We were definitely warmed up by the time we got to the top of the ridge.

As we were walking the top of the ridge I noticed there had been a lot of very recent shuffling of the leaves beside the trail. I kept watching because it didn't appear to have been done by wild hogs or armadillos. Something caught my eye and I stopped and bent down for a closer look. Larry came up and I asked him what some marks in the ground looked like. He said they looked like "claw" marks, big claw marks. That was my thought too and when he agreed I asked "bear"?

We were both leaning that direction and not too much farther down the trail we found a partial paw print that confirmed our suspicions. Neither of us are experts on identifying prints but the size of the prints and the indention's of the claws presented us enough evidence we were pretty sure a bear had been foraging for nuts under the leaf cover. It had to have been earlier that morning because there was no frost on ground where the scratching occurred. I think we were both a little more attuned to our surroundings than usual after our discovery.

It wasn't long until we started down the nose of the ridge and upon reaching the bottom of the ridge we decided to check out a spur trail that went to a primitive campsite by the river. What a great spot this turned out to be. We dropped our packs, took some pictures, and just enjoyed the view for a while.

Back on the trail, we backtracked to the main trail and proceeded on down to where we crossed Crooked Creek. There we picked up the Crooked Creek Trail which will follow the creek a few miles to its beginning and from there back up the hillside to intersect with the top of McGarr Ridge.

The remainder of the hike was quite pleasant with some really cool rock formations, cliffs, and overhangs along the creek bottom. There were also several spots with giant sized icicles. We enjoyed the remainder of the hike and made it back to the truck at 2:00PM. Another great weekend in the Ozarks!

Some things I want to mention about this entire area we hiked: Be sure to take a good topo map with the trail overlays like the one on the link at the beginning of the post. There are lots of unmarked paths that intersect the trails at various points and it would be easy to make a wrong turn and not even realize it without a map and compass. The other is water, carry plenty as reliable sources are scarce.

Some pics of the trek:

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Larry and big boulders


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Mike at Highway CC


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Larry with his cool alcohol stove


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Spot the Trail Dog posing for a photo op


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Campsite next to the river


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Blue Springs


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Mist rising off Blue Springs and the River


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Tree roots searching for cracks in the rocks...Spot searching for who knows what


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Looking down on the North Fork River


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North Fork River at Primitive Campground


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Primitive Campground


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Larry going out on a limb for a better shot


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Big Icicles


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Spot tanking up under an overhang on Crooked Creek


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Even bigger Icicles
mike
 
Posts: 215
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 3:37 pm
Location: Paragould, AR

Re: North Fork-Ridge Runner-Devils Backbone 01/19-20/13

Postby aroth87 » Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:47 am

Sounds like a another great trip Mike! I can relate to hiking with strangers you meet on the internet. I hiked with a guy from St Louis a number of years ago that I met through another forum. My parents were rightly worried but he brought his son and we met at a State Park and we both lived to hike again :lol: . You're spot on about having a good map too, sometimes even with a map it can be hard to determine if you're actually on the trail or if you've ended up on an ATV path or Forest Service road or some other unmarked trail.

Have you ever looked at the bear tracker that MDC has on their website? It looks like there's quite a few bears around that area. I've never seen any bears in Missouri myself, but I've seen signs of them as far north as Council Bluff Lake.
http://mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/applications/BearSleuth/Default.aspx

I really like the parts of the North Fork section that I've been on, I probably sound like a broken record but the southern sections of the trail are my favorite. Its a shame more people don't make it down there.

Adam
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
aroth87
 
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Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:56 pm
Location: Lenexa, KS

Re: North Fork-Ridge Runner-Devils Backbone 01/19-20/13

Postby mike » Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:16 pm

Adam,

That link to the bear tracker is cool, thanks for sharing.

Mike
mike
 
Posts: 215
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 3:37 pm
Location: Paragould, AR

Re: North Fork-Ridge Runner-Devils Backbone 01/19-20/13

Postby DirtRoadRunner » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:55 am

aroth87 wrote:
I really like the parts of the North Fork section that I've been on, I probably sound like a broken record but the southern sections of the trail are my favorite. Its a shame more people don't make it down there.

Adam


Or is it? The southern portions of the trail are a nicely-kept secret, and offer much solitude.

I grew up near the North Fork section in Howell County and love that area. The OT from Pomona to the southern end of Devil's Backbone Wilderness is really nice. I think few people actually hike it - it is a 3+ hour drive from St. Louis and about 90 minutes from Springfield. Most of the use is local and on horseback. My parents still live in the area, so I was able to bum a shuttle from them and hiked the North Fork section end-to-end in 2 days.

And yes, there are a lot of bears in that area. I have yet to see one, but hope to in the future (from a distance, of course ;) ).

If you are good off-trail with a map and compass, there is a lot of great bushwacking in the Willow Springs MTNF Ranger District. Most of the hollows have lots of interesting bluffs, waterfalls, overhangs, and springs. I try to get in a few new bushwacks a year down there, and all have been interesting so far.
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Re: North Fork-Ridge Runner-Devils Backbone 01/19-20/13

Postby aroth87 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:21 pm

I suppose I could have worded my statement better, I'm not very good at saying what I mean sometimes! What I really meant is that the area doesn't seem get the appreciation it deserves. Its a very interesting area and very different than the northern sections of the trail.

I haven't done a whole lot of off-trail hiking though I'd like to start doing more. The more I look at maps the more I get the urge to check out some of the hollows and hills I see that don't have trails to them. I feel like my map and compass skills are adequate but I still try not to go more than a few miles in, especially since I mostly hike by myself.

Adam
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
aroth87
 
Posts: 240
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:56 pm
Location: Lenexa, KS


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