Sunday, October 22, 2017

Trip report: Ozark Trail, Middle Fork section

Last weekend a friend and I took our 7th-graders on a 2-night trip on the Ozark Trail--23 miles total on the Ozark Trail Middle Fork section from Hwy J trailhead to Hwy DD/32 trailhead.

There was much beautifulness and I confirmed that my oldest is an awesome hiker. No complaining all weekend.

Day 1: Hwy J trailhead to Little Creek, 5.5 miles
The heat was brutal on Saturday. We hoped to make it to Gunstock Hollow but we were going just over a mile an hour with stops.

This snake was stretched out across the trail when we came upon it not long into our hike on Saturday. He moved out of the way pretty quickly and then encouraged us to move along.

Crossing Strother Creek.

We left the trailhead at 12:30 and trudged along for almost five hours. On the way we passed Strother Creek; the maps recommend not drinking from this water source because it's downstream from a lead tailings pond. It was the highest creek we crossed and might have been difficult if water was high.

We were drenched in sweat and about to collapse when we got to Little Creek, but the established campsite was already taken, so we had to improvise and create our own up on the bluff. This wasn't too bad, all things considered. We were still close to the creek and up a bit on the bluff, so we didn't have to worry about flash flood if the rain got crazy.

Day 2: Little Creek to Wolf Pen Hollow Waterfall, 10.5 miles
We had some rain Sunday morning but it was just a drizzle by the time we woke up and it was done before we set out for the day at 9 a.m. The cooler temps were a huge relief.

The hiking for the day was more of the same--up and down, cross a stream, pines and hardwoods. It was a day for appreciating the large variety of environments--mix hardwoods, some pines, and several low streams to cross. The changing colors made it even more special.

With the temps 25 degrees lower than Saturday, we made good time. We stopped at Henderson Creek just before the bridge at an established campsite and cooked spaghetti for lunch. I took care of an emerging blister and we had a restful hour or so before the last easy three miles to the falls.

Since there has been so little rain in recent weeks, the falls were not super-impressive. Our camp site was lovely, but had one problem -- it was too close to the highway and we heard a lot of traffic noise.
Wolf Pen Hollow Waterfall

Day 3: Wolf Pen Hollow Waterfall to Hwy DD trailhead, 6.5 miles
It was chilly but dry when we woke up Sunday morning. We left again by 9 a.m. and had a relatively easy day. The finish was a long but gradual uphill but we felt great at the end.

In retrospect, it might have been better to take this hike in the opposite direction, especially given the heat on Saturday.

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