Solitude on Missouri Trails: Hercules Glades

 

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Long Creek Falls viewed from downstream on January 7th hike.

On our last visit to the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area, we crossed paths with at least ten hikers on the trail and another twenty members of a Boy Scout troop at the Coy Bald Trailhead. The hiking was excellent, and it was a pleasure to see others on the trail, but the creeks were mostly dry, so I looked forward to a second visit in wetter conditions with a little more solitude.

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Long Creek Falls during dryer and busier times. One of the few pools on the creek. Five more hikers are close by.

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A similar view to the one above looking downstream in different light and conditions.

I’ve found that if you hike on a rainy day in January, you’ll probably have the trail to yourself. Your chances for solitude are enhanced if snow is in the forecast. I didn’t see another person on the trail all day.

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Long Creek runs under an overhanging bluff where we stood in the dry on our last visit.

Hiker-dog and I walked from Hercules Tower Trailhead to Long Creek then downstream to the falls. No concerns for drinking water on this trip! I would filter it, but Hiker enjoyed having a drink or a bath whenever it suited her.

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Hiker-dog taking in the view after taking a dip in the falls.

There are several creek crossings on this trail and the temperature was around 40-degrees and dropping. To save time, I opted to do the crossings in my regular hiking shoes, so I got a little chilled while standing still to take photos at the waterfall.

I was thankful for the warming effects of the the uphill climb back to the trailhead. It was a solitary, chilly, and beautiful time in the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area!

Exploring the Hercules Glades of Missouri

I enjoyed exploring the Ozarks of Missouri this weekend. The plan was to hike two trails in the Hercules Glades Wilderness Area. The Missouri Ozarks provided an excellent time on the trail, exceeding my expectations.

Hercules Glades

Hercules Glades

Friday afternoon, I hiked a 6.6-mile loop in the Hercules Glades. This wilderness area doesn’t use blazes, so I walked off of the trail following rocky glades on two occasions, but my mistake was caught before going more than a few steps. Hiker-dog loved the grassy glades and leaped with pleasure as she chased anything that moved.

A low water bridge is always a good sign when you’re looking to get out into a wilderness area. The clarity of the water was also a good sign.

Low water bridge on FR 544

Low water bridge on FR 544

Looking upstream from the low water bridge

Looking upstream from the low water bridge

In the Hercules Glades, deep woods alternate with open glades, punctuated with thick cedar groves. The contrast of temperatures and environments were surprising. The warmth of the glades wasn’t as surprising to me as the coolness of the wooded sections. The woods were also nice and open due to the heavily shaded canopy.

Hercules Glades wooded section

Hercules Glades wooded section

Crossing Long Creek late in the hike provided some much needed clear drinking water for Hiker-dog. The sun was getting lower in the sky, so I took a few minutes to enjoy the foliage reflecting on the surface.

Hiker having a drink.

Hiker having a drink.

Evening light

Evening light on Long Creek

Long Creek

Long Creek

Once back at the trailhead, I was preparing a for a quiet dinner, having seen only one small group and a solo hiker on the entire loop. As I was sitting there with Hiker, the parking lot began to fill up. By sundown, I had seen two groups of fifteen Boy Scouts enter the trail. I opted to sleep in my Jeep so I wouldn’t be sleeping in a tent when more vehicles arrived.

The scouts and the leaders were nice and seemed well organized. When one of the group of fifteen called out, “Who has the compass?” it gave me pause. Later one of the adults mentioned a young man who had loaded his pack with three extra pairs of pants and a double-D battery lantern, but only one small bottle of water. I’m sure some good learning occurred this weekend among those young men.

Fire tower at the trailhead off of Hwy 125

Fire tower at the trailhead off of Hwy 125

On day two, we drove to the east side of Hercules Glades Wilderness and hiked around Pole Hollow and down Long Creek to the falls. The trailhead includes a nice pit toilet, picnic tables and tent pads. There is also an abandoned fire tower.

This six-mile out-and-back was a pleasure every step of the way. When we arrived at the falls, a young man and his wife who entered the day before were looking for a campsite. He later reported that they camped that night with a large group of Boy Scouts. Not the solitude they’d envisioned, but still a good evening in the woods.

Hiking down Long Creek made me resolve to return during a wet season. This area is beautiful now, but must be several notches up on the “amazement scale” when the water is flowing.

Long Creek Falls

Long Creek below the falls

The depth of this overhanging bluff surprised me. The overhang must have been at least fifteen feet deep.

Overhanging creek bluff

Overhanging creek bluff

The hike back toward the trailhead was enjoyable because we could relax and enjoy the views having walked this route before. I let Hiker off the leash since we had this section of the trail to ourselves. She likes to run ahead and dart off-trail to explore. I’m a little envious that she sees so much more than I do with my two wobbly legs. Both Hiker-dog and I are looking forward to exploring more of the Missouri Ozarks.

Hiker-dog on the trail

Hiker-dog on the trail