Taum Sauk Section

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

Taum Sauk Section

Postby MoTreks » Sun Apr 19, 2015 2:49 pm

I hiked the Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail last weekend. I parked my Jeep at the top of Taum Sauk (Mina Sauk parking area) and my shuttle team drove me back to the parking area on Hwy A at Bell Mountain. I started this trip on Friday (4/11/15) and was on the trail around 9:30 A.M. On my way up Bell Mountain, I ran into 3 young men who had arrived late the day before and camped on Bell Mountain around mile marker one. They had to camp early due to the weather Thursday night. We had significant storms in the area that evening. I live in Cape Girardeau and we had tornado warnings and I remember thinking I was glad I was not on the trail that night.

I enjoyed the view from various glades along Bell Mountain and then dropped down to Padfield branch. There had been quite a bit of rain in the area over the past week (including the night before) and I was not sure what I would find in the way of water height at Padfield. I found what I believe would be classified as a normal flow. I could walk across the bedrock underlying the stream (although it was slick) in my boots (maybe 2 to 3 inches of water). There is a great social campsite on the south side of Padfield branch that is sandwiched between Padfield branch on the north and a spring fed stream on the south. It was only 1:30 and too early to camp so I continued down the trail. The trail south of Padfield is very wide and quite a change from the rocky trail on Bell Mountain.

After a short hike down this easier section of the trail, you start climbing up Goggins Mountain. The hike up Goggins Mountain is very similar to the trail along Bell Mountain with several small glades with great views. The difficulty with hiking new sections of the Ozark Trail is knowing the location of potential camp sites. I use a tent and this section of the trail is extremely rocky. I do not need much of a footprint but my tent floor is very lightweight nylon and punching a hole is an ongoing concern. My goal Friday was to do a minimum of 6 miles leaving 12 miles for Saturday and 12 for Sunday. I had thought I would get a much later start and originally thought I would camp at Padfield branch the first night. So when I reached the intersection of the Goggins Mountain loop trail and the OT (at mile marker 9) and saw the glade with a great spot under some pines for my tent, I stopped for the day (it was only 4:30 P.M.). I do not typically stop with 3 hours of daylight left. But I had not seen much in the way of potential campsites since leaving Padfield branch and I did not know what was ahead of me. My other option was to continue to Walker branch where I was pretty sure I could find some level ground for my tent (and possibly some water). However, the glade on top of Goggins Mountain offered a great view (I could see for 8 or 9 miles) and it should stay warmer with less condensation as opposed to camping in a hollow. I pitched the tent and made supper (Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with noodles). I little later the 3 young men I had met on Bell Mountain showed up and they camped about 200 yards away down the Goggins connector trail. I watched the sun set and called it a day.

I was up on the trail around 8:30 the next day (Saturday) after a breakfast of Mountain House breakfast skillet and a cup of green tea. There was water at Walker branch and yes you could tent camp there as well. As I was crossing Hwy N, I ran into another couple of young men (seems everyone is younger these days) hiking north. They parked at Taum Sauk the previous day and camped along the Black River last night. I asked about the water level of the Black river and they said it was around knee deep.

The Ozark trail follows a short section of the Johnson-Shut-ins loop trail. There were several folks hiking this blue trail. I arrived at the black river around lunch and decided to have lunch by the river. I then changed into my water shoes and made my first attempt to cross the river right were the trail ends at the water. My recommendation is not to try to cross at that point. It was hard to tell bedrock from gravel beds. I was about one-quarter of the way across the stream when I stepped on the bedrock and my foot could not get a grip. My water shoes are some cheap croc imitations I found at Wal-Mart that only weigh 5 ounces. They work great most of the time but they will not grip to moss covered rocks. I use two trekking poles when hiking and the three point system (tripod) when crossing a stream. I make sure that I have one foot and the two poles solid before moving my other foot. That is the only thing that saved me from a cool swim in the Black river (always unbuckle your pack so you can get out of it easier if you do fall). After that “slip” I retraced my steps back to the bank and worked my way upstream. I ended up crossing about 50 yards or so upstream where there was more gravel between bedrock and I could get solid footing.

I continued up onto Proffit Mountain crossing the scour. I filtered water at the scour and carried two liters with me knowing that I would be camping on the mountain with no reliable water source. As on Bell and Goggins Mountain, the trail and area is very rocky. Once I passed mile marker 19 I started looking for a campsite since that would leave me with less than 10 miles to finish the trail on Sunday. I did find a good spot around mile marker 19.5. It was around 5:30 P.M. and I set up camp. On my last two trips I started using the Emberlit Fire Fly wood stove to save on weight. This stove will also work with esbit fuel (solid alcohol). I decided to use one 14 gram block of fuel to make supper. It should burn long enough to bring 16 oz of water to a boil and it did. I boiled the water and added it to my Mountain House Beef Stew. One of the lessons from this trip is remember to test dehydrated food at home – not on the trail. This meal was horrible!!! I did my best to force down about half of this mixture. I did not want to pour the remainder out so I sealed the bag and placed it back in my Granite Gear food bag. I decided to go ahead and hang the bag since I had the rehydrated meal in it. I ate a Payday bar to get the taste of that meal out of my mouth and went to bed.

On most of the Ozark Trail, cell phone reception is very spotty. However, on most of the Taum Sauk trail I did have cell reception. Now don’t go relying on that statement because as sure as you do, and you really need your phone, you will have no service. All I can tell you is I noticed that I had a great deal more coverage on this trip. In fact, the coverage was so good my second night on top of Proffit Mountain that I watched a Netflix movie on my i-phone (I await comments from the purists in the group).

I was on the trail the next morning (Sunday) around 7:30. I decided to forgo breakfast (after my fiasco the night before). I would have breakfast later on the trail when I got hungry. A short distance down the trail I noticed a tent pitched to the north of the trail and the occupants were not up and about. I did my best to quietly move down the trail but I did notice what appeared to be some equipment (blaze orange) outside of the tent. I then began to realize that the trail had been recently gone over with a trimmer. I believe the folks in the tent were out doing trail maintenance and again I want to express my appreciation to all the volunteers that work on the Ozark Trail. You do a great job – Thank You.

Not too much later my body told me that I needed to eat something (half a portion of beef stew the night before did not carry me too far down the trail). So I stopped and had some dehydrated eggs and a cup of green tea. I was now getting low on water (after two meals) and there is no reliable water on this section of the trail until Taum Sauk creek. Looking ahead I could see Ketcherside Mountain and it looked very open (also has a transmission line running over it). There was a good deal of runoff on the trail in places but not enough to fill a bottle. I kept thinking that I would find one of these rivulets with a pool created by some rock outcroppings. Just before crossing the cut for the transmission line, I found my pool. I filled up my smaller Smart Water bottle and attached my Sawyer mini water filter and drank my fill. It is always a little disconcerting to see critters swimming around in the water you are drinking. This was around mile marker 22.5.

You hike around one point of Ketcherside mountain, with good views of Church Mountain to the south, and then drop a little bit in elevation hiking north before turning south again on another spur of Ketcherside headed to Taum Sauk creek. This is one of the roughest sections (if not the roughest) of the Taum Sauk section. There is evidence of fire in this area and in many places the soil is gone and you are left to walk on granite rocks of varying size). There are two large social campsites between mile marker 24 and 25. There is a drainage there that had water on my trip but I must assume that the flow is dependent upon the amount of recent rain fall. There was another social campsite around mile marker 26 close to Taum Sauk creek. I crossed Taum Sauk Creek a couple of times (able to rock hop) and took the required pictures of the Devils Tollgate. There is a campsite just to the east of this rock formation. Then on to Mina Sauk Falls which was flowing well with all of the rain fall. I stopped at the bottom of the falls to filter water and take pictures. The climb up to the top of the falls and then on to the parking lot was strenuous (especially after 28 miles on the trail). The number of people at the falls was actually a little overwhelming after 3 days alone on the trail.

This was a great trip. I learned a great deal about potential campsites along the trail and look forward to hiking this section again in the future. I still need to finish the section of the trail from the Mina Sauk to Hwy 21. That will be around a 10 mile out and back day hike for another weekend. The trail was in great shape. Yes it was difficult in places but that is due to the natural conditions of the area.

I did not see much in the way of wildlife. I did have Turkey vultures circling low over my tent on Proffit Mountain. I am sure they were convinced that something was dead on top of that mountain based upon their keen sense of smell but I surprised by them by moving around a little bit. I also flushed a couple of Turkeys on the trail. There was a sign up at the trailhead to Mina Sauk stating that there was a bear frequenting the area but I saw no sign of bear on the trail. The trail was muddy in places due to the run off and I saw no bear tracks along the way. I did find another large canine track on the trail very similar to the track I found in the snow on the Karkaghne section earlier this year. I am convinced there are some wolves in the area that have migrated down from the northern tier states.

The wildflowers were beginning to bloom. In places the trail was lined with violets. There was not much in the way of Dogwoods or Redbuds on the trail. The few that I did see were in bloom.

If anyone needs GPS coordinates for the campsites, let me know I will send them too you. However, I believe my descriptions based upon mile markers should give you a good idea how to locate them. As far as speed on the trail, on most days I would could travel 10 or 11 miles in about 9 hours (including about an hour for breaks on the trail). The combination of elevation change and rocky trails will slow you down.

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”

― Aldo Leopold
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Re: Taum Sauk Section

Postby mike » Mon Apr 20, 2015 8:11 am

Sounds like you had a good hike on one of the best sections of the trail. Thanks for sharing.
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Location: Paragould, AR

Re: Taum Sauk Section

Postby DirtRoadRunner » Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:38 pm

Nice trip report - it is indeed a great piece of trail.

By the way, you can do a really easy 1-way shuttle for the trail from 21 to the top of Taum Sauk, via bicycle. Park at the top of Taum Sauk, and then coast ~800 feet downhill over ~5 miles to the trailhead on 21, and hike the ~6 miles back up to the top (which is nearly a scenic as the hike up from Mina Sauk). You barely have to pedal, and the bike ride itself only takes 15-20 minutes. Pick up your bike on your drive out. Almost any bike will work for this (pending that it has good brakes!).
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Re: Taum Sauk Section

Postby Homespun » Mon Jun 15, 2015 7:55 am

On the 18th of April I crossed the Padfield Branch several hundred yards downstream from the crossing and I could step all the way across the creek, with dry feet. The bedrock there allowed a narrow stream. I was north bound, and checking for just this and as you know the trail follows the branch a while on the south side.
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