OT-Goggins Mtn-Taum Sauk-Bell Mountain-4/20-21/13

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

OT-Goggins Mtn-Taum Sauk-Bell Mountain-4/20-21/13

Postby mike » Tue May 07, 2013 4:32 pm

Weekend of April 20-21, 2013, Ozark Trail-Goggins Mountain to Western portion of Taum Sauk section to Bell Mountain loop then out on Taum Sauk to Highway N and a road walk back to the truck for a 34 mile loop of sorts.

It had only been a week since I hiked the Middle Fork section of the trail so I was hesitant about asking the wife if she was OK with me being gone again. Her reply was; I'll help you pack. After 40 years of marriage and us working together I think she enjoys some time to herself. So with her blessing, Spot the trail dog and I head for the Missouri Ozarks early Saturday morning.

Our destination was the Goggins Mountain camp ground at Johnson's Shut-ins state park. This is where we will start our hike on the Goggins Mountain trail. There were heavy rains in the area Thursday and early Friday so I figured all the creeks would be flowing. The forecast was for clear to partly cloudy skies with highs in the low 60's and lows in the 40's, just perfect for backpacking.

We arrived at the campground a little after 9:00AM. I put my boots on and hoisted my pack then headed for the trail head for Goggins Mountain. There was a new sign in place describing the area that I looked over and just past the sign was a creek that looked to be just deep enough to top my boots. As usual I tried walking on water and for a change managed to get across without topping my boots. Turns out you cross this creek three times in less than half a mile and I managed to keep dry through all three crossings!

The trail runs along side the campground which is quite large and surprisingly enough was half full. Looked like most of the occupied sites were folks with horses and there were a few getting saddled up. The trail around Goggins Mountain is very popular with the equine folks and I believe it gets more hoof traffic than foot traffic.

Once we passed the campground the trail started the climb up the mountain. It was just steep enough to get the old ticker really hammering, on me anyway. Spot would run ahead a 100 yards or so then run back to me and give me that "are you coming" look, wish I had half his energy and stamina. He's still like that after 15 to 20 miles which absolutely amazes me.

I think we were about 2 miles into the hike when I heard some commotion behind me. I turned to check it out and saw it was a group of folks on horseback. I stepped off the trail so they would have plenty of room to get by. Spot was behind me with his head poked out between my boots with a look of sheer terror in his eyes as the horses made their way by us. Turns out there were two large groups we ended up waiting on. After they passed us we headed back up the trail.

My map showed the connector trail from Goggins to the Ozark Trail was was 2.5 miles. No connector at the 2.5 mile mark so I kept going as there had been no sign of any side trails. After walking a few tenths farther I was getting concerned I had missed the cutoff and was debating on backtracking when low and behold there it was. Turns out it was 3.1 miles instead of 2.5 and was well marked so we hung a left and in just a few hundred feet we came out into a glade area with an outstanding view, OH YEAH!

The views up to this point had been pretty limited due to trees and vegetation but this spot had me breaking out the old camera. The pictures just don't do justice to the real live view so if you really want to see it you'll have to hike up there.After gawking around for a bit we headed on up the trail.

We were now on the western portion of the Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail. For about the next two miles the Ozark Trail pretty much parallels the Goggins Mountain trail heading in a northerly direction. The Goggins Trail follows the top of the ridge line where the Ozark Trail is on the west side of the ridge line a few hundred feet lower. There were some great views and we even came across a small waterfall that was flowing due to the recent rains.

It wasn't long until we started making our way downhill off Goggins Mountain heading for the Padfield Branch creek bottom. Once we were down in the bottoms the trail followed the creek for a ways to the remnants of an old homestead. The house had totally collapsed but a small out building was still intact. We prowled around for a bit and found a pretty little spring just past the ruins. I always have to take a moment and try to imagine what the area would have looked like back when folks lived here and the hardships they must have endured trying to make a living in this rugged country. Really makes me appreciate how easy we have it now.

We headed away from the homestead and back on the trail to the creek. The trail took us across the creek and where we crossed there were some gorgeous cascades and downstream from them a small water fall. I bushwhacked downstream off the trail to get a better look at the little fall and to take some pictures. Back to the trail we started the climb up the southern end of Bell Mountain. We had climbed for maybe three tenths a mile and came to a glade area with a beautiful view of the valley we were just in. Another half mile or so of climbing and we were rewarded with an even more outstanding view. I found a high spot on the pink granite rocks in the glade and dropped my pack. It was time for some lunch.

As I was sitting there soaking up the view I got to thinking about a question a lot of folks ask me and that I even occasionally ask myself : Why in the world do you go on these outings to the middle of nowhere? Sitting there in the absolute silence on my pink granite throne with a view that has to be seen first hand to be truly appreciated I thought to myself, this is why.

After a nice break Spot and I head on up the trail. The glade areas along with the views just kept on coming, the southern end of Bell Mountain has been marvelous. The trail finally leveled out for a ways as we followed along the ridge. After about 2 miles the trail took us from the west side of the ridge over to the east side where it was mainly woods. Another mile and we came to the intersection of the Bell Mountain Trail (BMT).

The first half mile up the BMT is steep then it levels out a bit. Just over a mile in we came to the intersection of the "loop" that goes around the mountain. We stayed to the right and continued climbing. Around a quarter mile from the intersection we came upon a pretty good sized pond that would probably have water in it even in the dry season. It would also be a good spot to camp as there was a nice level area that wasn't too rocky by the pond.

Continuing on, the trail followed the top of a very narrow ridge as we headed for the summit. I was really expecting some amazing views especially considering what we had passed through earlier and was beginning to get a bit disappointed as the trees and brush were so dense I couldn't see through them. About a mile and a half past the pond I spotted a rocky outcropping through the trees on my right. We made a path for the rocks and were rewarded with some of the best views thus far. We zigzagged between the main trail and the glade areas stopping and taking in the spectacular views. This continued for a bit over a quarter mile then we started the descent down from the summit.

It was about a mile later when we came to the intersection where we would have to bear to the left to continue the loop. We made our way on down the mountain heading for Joes Creek and after traveling about a mile we were in the creek bottom following Joes Creek. The plan was to camp somewhere along the creek and I started to keep my eye out for a spot that looked inviting. We hiked on past where the trail turned away from Joes Creek and followed a lesser drainage with a nice little creek. Just about 200 yards before we got to the nose of the ridge that would take us out of the bottoms we crossed another little creek and found a pretty good spot to make camp.

I looked at my watch and it was 5:15PM. We had been on the trail for about 8 hours and had covered about 17 miles. I dropped my pack and started unloading my "stuff". I pitched the tent then went to the creek to filter some water. Spot tanked up in the creek then crashed and burned while I pumped on the filter. With plenty of clean cold water I walked on back to camp and fixed supper. I mixed in some lemonade powder with my cold creek water which made for a refreshing drink that really hit the spot. It had gotten warm enough that afternoon that my water had just been wet and not very refreshing.

After supper it was back to the creek for a very stimulating bath. That cold water felt great! After the bath Spot and I wandered around for a bit checking out the neighborhood. Around 7:00PM we hit the sack even though there was still nearly and hour of daylight left. It was totally silent, no wind, birds, water noises, air planes, nothing. I laid there for some time before drifting off to sleep recounting the events of the day and just enjoying the peace and tranquility of the Ozarks.

I woke up around 5:30AM and as soon as it was light enough to see what was what I got up and fixed some coffee and ate a bite of breakfast. It had been a very pleasant night with temps in the forties. There was no dew which was surprising so I was able to pack everything dry for a change. By 7:00AM Spot and I had started the climb back up the mountain. It took us about 30 minutes to get up to where the loop we were on joined the spur trail we came in on the previous afternoon. From here we would be backtracking the way we came in, least wise that was the plan.

Each time we came to one of the glades I would have to stop and take in the view. Around 11:00AM I dropped my pack and sat down on a huge chunk of granite overlooking a beautiful valley and had a snack. After I finished my snack I pulled out my map to see where I was. Turns out I was on the glade where the connector trail from Goggins Mountain comes in. I had made really good time even though I hadn't been in a hurry. I knew the hike on back to the truck on the Goggins trail would only take an hour and a half at most which would end my hike a little earlier than I had expected so I decided on an alternate direction. I would stay on the OT and hike it to where it crosses the highway that leads to the campground. This would add a few miles and let me finish another section of the trail I hadn't been on.

The next mile after the break continued on the side of the ridge and had some great views then the trail headed down into the woods. We made our way into an area a wind storm had wreaked havoc on a few years earlier. I think there were more trees laying on the ground than still standing and it will be many many years before the forest totally recovers.

In what seemed like no time at all we were at Highway N. I estimated the road hike back to the truck to be just over 2 miles and was hoping there wouldn't be much traffic since there was no shoulder on the road. Spot and I put it in overdrive and managed to get back to the truck in just over 30 minutes without getting run over.

It was 1:45PM and we had put nearly 17 miles behind us again for a total of nearly 34 miles for the hike. And what a hike it was, one of my favorites in the MO Ozarks thus far. I have hiked the portion of the Taum Sauk section of the OT east of Hwy. N four times but this was my first time on this portion and I'm impressed. The entire Taum Sauk section in my humble opinion is the most scenic of the entire OT with the Current River section coming in right behind.

Some pics of the hike:

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New sign at Goggins Mountain Trailhead


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Mike and Spot at the trailhead


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Taum Sauk Reservoir from Goggins Mountain


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View from first glade area


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Spot taking in the view


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Waterfall up on the glades


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Rock cairns guiding the way across the glades


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Spring next to old homestead


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Out building at old homestead


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Padfield Branch by homestead site


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Lunch break on the glades


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Another view


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The glades are rocky!


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Get ready for a climb!


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View of Taum Sauk reservoir from the summit of Bell Mountain


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Lizard sunning on top of Bell Mountain


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Mike and Spot on the summit of Bell mountain


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Wild flowers next to Joes Creek


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Spot posing for photo op next to tent


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Spot sucking up


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More glades


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Trail sign at Highway N crossing
mike
 
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Re: OT-Goggins Mtn-Taum Sauk-Bell Mountain-4/20-21/13

Postby aroth87 » Wed May 08, 2013 5:34 pm

Mike, your trip reports are great! I used to adopt part of what you hiked and it is one of my favorite sections of trail as well. Like you said, the views just keep coming.

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
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Re: OT-Goggins Mtn-Taum Sauk-Bell Mountain-4/20-21/13

Postby jeffrey » Wed May 08, 2013 11:19 pm

I second that. Your write-ups and photos of your latest outings are really incredible Mike. I always look forward to the next one. Please keep em' coming as I, and I'm sure many others, really enjoy going along on these trips with you. It's nice to know I have a kindred spirit walking in the Ozark hills.
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Re: OT-Goggins Mtn-Taum Sauk-Bell Mountain-4/20-21/13

Postby mike » Thu May 09, 2013 8:52 am

Thanks for the kind words! I've always enjoyed reading other folks posts and enjoy recounting my own little excursions. This will most likely be my last trip report until late fall. I generally do my hiking from October through May occasionally venturing out in June. I like the cold weather which is kind of strange since I despised it until I started backpacking a few years ago.

I purchased a kayak back in February and have been out on the St. Francis river several times. I hope to get to paddle the entire length of Current River and Eleven Point River this summer if time will allow. I just can't get enough of our wonderful Ozark Mountains and it's creeks and rivers.

Enjoy it while you can!

Mike
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Re: OT-Goggins Mtn-Taum Sauk-Bell Mountain-4/20-21/13

Postby DirtRoadRunner » Fri May 10, 2013 11:06 am

Another great write-up. I'm jealous of the amount of hiking you do! My hiking season has been more sparse than I would like due to the rest of my life interferring. Perhaps next season :).

If you ever make it back up to Bell Mountain, I recommend hiking in from the eastern trailhead down to Shut-In Creek. It is one of the most rugged spots in all of Missouri (and maybe a 4-mile RT hike, though very rough, about half of it is a steep bushwack). Bell Mountain drops around 700' over about 1/3 of a mile from the summit down to Shut-In Creek, with two rocky cliff between the summit and creek (you stand on the upper zone of cliffs @ the top of Bell). You really can't see how scenic it is standing on the summit of Bell. It is one of just a handfulls of spots in Missouri where it truly feels like you are in the "mountains" (the others being the immediate areas around Taum Sauk, the Sam A Baker St. Park, Buford Mountain, and the area around Black Mountain in Madision County).

The creek at the bottom is very scenic and seldom-visitied, and even has an old mine prospect sunk into the side of the hill. From the top of Bell, you really can't tell how scenic the eastern slope of the mountain is. Just watch out for wild pigs in that area, they are very thick.
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Re: OT-Goggins Mtn-Taum Sauk-Bell Mountain-4/20-21/13

Postby mike » Fri May 10, 2013 1:11 pm

DRR,

You've got my attention. I saw a reference to Shut-in Creek on my map and was wondering if it might be something interesting to check out. I kinda figured that might be a cool area based on the contour lines on the map. I will definitely be back to Bell as there is just too much left to see around there.

Mike
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