After doing our first 88 miles of the Ozark Trail during a week in November, I was hooked and wanted to hike every mile of trail built so far. The Ozark Trail Association website has a trip planner that helped determine the first leg of our journey. For this trip, we started from the last hike’s ending point and continued north. In the process, we’d complete the Blair Creek, Karkaghne, and Middle Fork Sections of the Ozark Trail, traveling south to north from Powder Mill to the Hwy DD Trailhead.
On Friday evening, we camped near the DD Trailhead so we’d be ready for a Saturday morning shuttle to Powder Mill. We were impressed with the John Roth Memorial and read about his life and his hope that the Ozark Trail would eventually connect to Arkansas’ Ozark Highlands Trail making one continuous walk from Lake Fort Smith State Park in Arkansas to Saint Louis, Missouri. Sadly, his life was cut short in an accident, but his vision for the trail continues.
Day 1 (Saturday, December 29) The morning began with a cool 27-degrees. Shortly into our walk north of Powder Mill, we came to a special location high above the Current River. I couldn’t resist asking Bob to take a photo of me on this same bluff where Hiker-dog and I once paused while working on Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. The photo I took of her on this bluff became the book cover as you can see below. We laughed that Hiker-dog would be upset if she saw the picture and realized she missed a trip, but carrying seven-days of dog food wasn’t possible for this outing.
After walking just over eleven miles, we made camp north of Harper Spring and remnants of an old springhouse. Water was never a concern during our week as we followed creek drainages and crossed many lesser streams over the route.
My chicken and rice Knorr meal with added veggies and chicken hit the spot. The broccoli was especially good! We were off to a good beginning.
Day 2 (Sunday, December 30) Good walking day! We passed an old root cellar that had held up well against the elements and time.
Rain was in the forecast for Sunday night so we were hoping to make camp before it started. It was dark by 6 p.m., so I got under my quilt wondering how I was going to get by on just 12-hours of sleep! My body uses the time of rest and recovery since most of the daylight hours are spent walking. I’m always surprised at how well I sleep while camping.
Day 3 (Monday, December 31) I woke to mild temperatures and constant rain. We hoped to begin hiking when the rain stopped because the next day was supposed to be very cold and we wanted to avoid having wet clothing and shoes, but the rain continued so we decided to take a zero-day.
The luxury of time… After a few hours of nothing but think-time, where do your thoughts go? I found that they drifted toward those I love. I thought of my wife’s care and commitment and our beautiful daughters and their many gifts. I thought of my new grandson and how we look forward to watching his growth and learning. I thought of my aging parents and their positive influence and life-long love for each other.
I then turned my phone on (in airplane mode) and read a portion of Ron Carlson Writes a Short Story and drafted some notes. After a day filled with intermittent naps, I still slept through the ushering in of 2019 without any fireworks.
Day 4 (Tuesday, January 1, 2019) The morning was warmer than the expected teens, probably in the upper 30s. We had light rain and occasional snow and sleet during the day, so we just walked! As Bob said, “What else are you gonna do?”
We were fired up about being back on the trail and made 18 miles before camping. My typical day with a loaded pack is 12 so this was quite a pull but made easier by the relatively flat route that followed a historic railroad bed once used in logging operations.
Day 5 (Wednesday, January 2)
At the end of our long walk on Tuesday, darkness dictated that we camp near Bee Fork, so we woke at a low elevation with damp tents. Our first task was to cross the cold and slightly swollen Bee Fork followed by 11 miles before camping at 3 p.m.
Day 6 (Thursday, January 3)
We passed through Sutton Bluff recreation area which included a low water bridge across the Black River. The campground was closed but included RV hookups and attractive facilities.
We hiked 12.5 miles through some beautiful and open woods before making camp at 3:15 p.m.
I paused in the middle of Brushy Creek for the following photo to capture the clear rushing water. I used only Aquamira water treatment drops for the duration of the trip.
As we approached Strother Creek, we noticed an odd sulfur smell. Water from this creek runs through lead mine tailings and hikers are advised not to use this as a water source. It looked pretty but smelled funky.
A word about campsites: Our final campsite was on a low bench near the Barton Fen Trailhead, an excellent site! We passed several fire rings over the seven days of hiking but chose to avoid those few high-use spots. We didn’t build fires and left nothing more than a small tent-shaped impression in leaves where we camped.
Psychological resources in the Ozarks: We passed several log cuts that reminded us of inkblots. The Rorschach inkblot test was developed in 1921…Funny what you’re motivated to look up after a long hike. Bob took a photo of the star and I got another one that was more random. I thought some of the fungi we saw could also fit with psychological testing…maybe “Ozarks Fungi Assessment of Psychological Associations (OFAPA).”
Day 7 (Friday, January 4)
Woke to a light rain that must have begun around 4 a.m. Loading the pack under my rainfly went well.
Light rain began to be mixed with sleet and then became fairly strong sleet. With the high humidity, temperatures probably felt colder than they measured, but we were trucking across a series of small creek crossings at a pretty good pace.
I thought it was probably noon and was surprised when we arrived at the Hwy DD Trailhead to learn it was almost 2 p.m. Time flies when you’re having fun! We paused to pay respects to John Roth and the many volunteers who make this trail possible.
It felt great to now have approximately 160 miles of the Ozark Trail completed, and we’re looking forward to more!
To read our first Ozark Trail report: Coloring Our World: 88 Mile on Missouri’s Ozark Trail
To read our report of Arkansas’ Ozark Highlands Trail trek: Walk…Eat…Sleep…Repeat – The Ozark Highlands Trail