Packraft trip on the Blair Creek section

Post a narrative about your trip on the Ozark Trail

Packraft trip on the Blair Creek section

Postby jyancey » Wed Jan 25, 2017 3:20 pm

I decided to take advantage of being between jobs and the premature Spring weather that Missouri enjoyed last week. I have wanted to hike the OT Blair Creek section from Powder Mill to Laxton Hollow and the Himont TH to the Current River via Brushy Creek for a long time. A return to my starting point by floating the river would let me enjoy the two activities I love best!
My intent was to drive to Himont on Tuesday evening and car camp there. That didn't work out, so I left home Wednesday morning and, after several stops to pick up items I had forgotten to pack, I finally arrived at Himont around 1:00. I then stashed my packraft, pfd, paddle and some additional gear in a "rocket box" that I modified to be lockable. I cabled it to a tree in the woods and covered it with leaves and brush to camouflage it. I then made the somewhat tedious long drive to Powder Mill by way of Emminence. I parked at the TH after letting staff there know of my plans and hit the trail about 3:00.
The walk along the first part of the trail there is lovely! Gorgeous views! I stopped for the night at about 2.5 miles at the perfect campsite on the bluffs above the Current. I got a fire going despite all the wood being wet from recent rain and ice, and had a fabulous meal of venison steak, baked potato and fruit. I set up my SMD Gatewood Cape shelter since there was a chance of rain in the forecast. Good thing, because it did indeed rain several times that night.
I awoke sometime in the early morning, and it appeared to be approaching twilight, so i got up and packed up. Just as I was striking my shelter, it started raining again. Since the Cape serves as my raingear as well as my shelter, I put it on, along with my headlamp, and hit the trail. I thought I would walk for half an hour or so until it got light enough to not need the headlamp. Wrong! Apparently it was much earlier than I thought, and it must have been the waning moon providing just enough light through the clouds to fool me into thinking it was near morning. (I don't wear a watch, and I was too lazy to dig out the GPS to get a time fix.) I walked for about 2 1/2 hours until light. It rained and my glasses fogged up and my Cape kept snagging on brush that I didn't see because I was virtually blind. I'm amazed that I didn't lose the trail, but it is actually in great shape there and easy to follow. Once it became light, I stopped on a ridge, set up my shelter and made some breakfast and a cup of tea. That's all it took to make the rain stop!
I had wanted to camp around Holmes Hollow on Wednesday, but with my late start I only got to the river bluffs. My intended camp for Thursday night was Laxton Hollow, but I knew I would not make it that far. I ended up camping just above Harper Spring along Blair Creek. Once again, everything was soaked and I was pretty tired. I managed to get a little comforting fire going, but cooked my noodles on my stove. It rained again Thursday night, and Friday morning dawned foggy and cloudy.
After breakfast in camp I hit the trail, made it Laxton Hollow, thrashed around a bit looking for the spring, but abandoned that effort due to all the brush in the valley. I then proceeded up the connector (a very pleasant hike!) up to Himont. I found my box undiscovered and unmolested, retrieved my packraft and other gear, strapped it all on my pack and set off down the Brushy Creek trail, groaning under the additional weight. I encountered tons of brush and limbs on the trail. At first, I thought it must have been due to the ice storm the previous week, but I finally realized that it was almost all logging slash. The loggers had left tree tops and trimmings all over the place, including the actual trail. It made for slow going, especially with my now-heavier pack. I finally made it to the "blue trail" or western-most loop of Brushy Creek. It was a VERY slow slog up and over the mountain between MM 2 and 3 on the OT map. I got to my intended camp on Brushy Creek located just before it turns south, toward the river. There is a very nice campsite there with a huge fire ring, nice flat tent site and plenty of wood and water. I had a very enjoyable camp, complete with brilliant stars!
I awoke early on Saturday, packed up camp and hit the trail. The trail along Brushy Creek is one of the most pleasant I have had the pleasure to travel. It is an old two-track roadway, with cedars, pines, oaks and other great-smelling trees along the way. It has an almost flat grade, and virtually no brush to contend with (well, at least until the south end; it gets a little brushy and difficult there.) I had a most pleasant stroll in the sunshine and perfect temperatures. I got to the mouth of Brushy Creek around 11:00 or so to an established campsite on the banks of he river. Some thoughtful (or is it thoughtless?) camper had left a collection of Bud Light cans in the fire ring and a broken chair. I was able to sit gingerly in the chair after spreading all my gear out to dry in the sun. I had a bite of lunch and just lounged in the sunshine and phenomenal January temperature. After everything got nice and dry, I inflated my packraft, assembled my paddle, loaded the pack and strapped it onto the bow, and proceeded to drift down river.
The river was flowing well, and I made excellent time without too much effort. I encountered the first people I had seen the whole trip; a few folks out in their power boats enjoying the same conditions as me (albeit at a considerably higher rate of speed!) They told me that rain and storms were predicted for that night, and clouds were indeed building. By the time I got to Goose Bay it was completely overcast and rain looked imminent. I debated about camping there, but since i was only about 1 1/2 miles from Powder Mill with about 1 1/2 hours of light left, I decided to just paddle on out. I got back to my truck with about an hour of light left. I threw everything into the back, hopped in and headed off to Emminence. Since it was Saturday, there was a little BBQ place open, where I got a big rib dinner to go and drove back to Himont to pick up my rocket box. I got there about dark, ate my ribs, set up a shelter, crawled into the sack and slept like a dead man! Sunday morning dawned overcast and gray, so I packed up and hit the road toward home.
All in all, a great trip, wonderful trail, abundant solitude and great weather, rain notwithstanding. I heartily recommend it!
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Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:51 pm
Location: Central Missouri

Re: Packraft trip on the Blair Creek section

Postby steve l » Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:00 pm

Nice write-up!
steve l
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Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:05 pm

Re: Packraft trip on the Blair Creek section

Postby mike » Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:31 am

Sounds like you had a great trip. Thanks for sharing.

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Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 3:37 pm
Location: Paragould, AR

Re: Packraft trip on the Blair Creek section

Postby twentybelow » Thu Mar 30, 2017 9:57 pm

Awesome trip! Thanks for posting. How do you like the Gatewood? It seems like it would eventually get holes poked in it if worn hiking through briars. This past summer I read the book "Grandma Gatewood's Walk" about a 67 year old woman who thru hiked the AT way back in 1955. Awesome story. SMD's Gatewood shelter is named after her.
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