Monday, December 14, 2009

Courtois Section OT

As we neared Leasburg it started to drizzle; an aspect I didn't catch in the forecast as I prepared the trip. We donned our packs and hiked south into the Huzzah Conservation Area. The rain held steady, but light, so we left the shells in our packs. We made our way through the maze of logging and MDC utility roads and down into the Courtois Valley. It was still cold and rainy as we prepared to ford the Courtois Creek. As our naked feet slipped into the water, we realized just how cold the water really was. By the time we reached the other side the frigid water had caused searing pain. I knew then that tomorrow when I came across this again, I would be leaving my shoes in place. We continued up to The Narrows and began seeing eagles. We watched as they soared up and down the river, rested in the Sycamores that lined the banks, and then repeated the process. Wiggling along The Narrows we reached the other side and dropped down into the Huzzah Valley. We continued for a few more miles and found a nice campsite below the trail. As we prepared dinner and a fire the rain began to increase. We ate fast and turned in for the 7:00. I slipped under my new MLD Grace Solo Siltarp and watched as the rain bounced off. The next morning the sun was out and David and I continued southbound to review some trail that Shawn Bradley, Neil Wiggins and I had worked on almost two years before. The trail looked great, especially near the tree that Shawn had to use excessive force. We got back to camp and woke Devin up, broke camp, ate breakfast, and began our trek back to the car. Not 10 minutes into our hike we were graced with a beautiful Barred Owl swooping down through the forest. Back through The Narrows and into the Courtois Valley we were faced with the cold crossing again. This time we left our shoes. We made our way up and out of the Courtois Valley and back to the car. From car to car, this trip lasted about 26 hours and contained some of the best trail yet. The total mileage out and back was about 16. jm

Topo Map

Friday, December 11, 2009

Courtois Section OT

David Tudor and I are taking our nephew out for a quick out and back on the Courtois Section this weekend. Figured we would start at the northern terminus of the OT and head south until it gets dark. This will be a great opportunity to take my new Mountain Laurel Designs Silnylon Grace Solo for a spin. I will provide a play by play when we get back. jm

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Following Directions

I have been following the advice of the chiropractor for more than a month now and have seen some great results in how my body feels when moving. I was granted permission to take this new body for a jaunt last weekend and ended up with my brother at the Green Rock Trail. We hiked quickly for the first mile and then began running for another 1/2 to 3/4 miles or so. We backed off and continued our quick hike pace to Melrose Rd which is about 5K in from the northern trailhead at Rockwoods Reservation. We turned around at Melrose and headed northbound. With a mile to go we opened it back up and ran the remaining distance to the car. We completed the 6 miles in just under 2 hours and I felt satisfied with how things went. Once cooled down and driving away, I did notice my knee start to have some pain...but then again I haven't done anything active in over a month, what did I expect? jm

Monday, November 16, 2009

Body Maintenance...Well Make that Overhaul

For the folks that have hiked with our group, my knee problems are well documented. To all others, I have been dealing with IT Band Syndrome for more than a year now. While I have not forfeited the experience of completing an adventure, I have wanted to on more than a few occasions. After the Illinois trip it became clear that I must stop describing the issue to anyone who will listen and finally do something about it. After hours of research, I enlisted the help of my friend and chiropractor, Shawn Bradley of Bradley Chiropractic. The x-rays provided during my first visit showed the extent of the problem...a pelvis that was way out of balance.
Even to the x-ray illiterate this was obvious, since I was there when the x-rays were taken and remember standing perfectly upright, with feet exactly together. The process began with a total body evaluation that registers nerve function up and down the spine. This is coupled with x-rays and various other measurements documenting your current state. Over the past few weeks, Shawn has worked the tissue and muscles around the right side of the pelvis to loosen and align the fibers of the tendons and muscles. Last week I was finally allowed to perform three glute exercises that will begin to strengthen the weaker side. This has slowly correlated to pain in my left knee. I believe this pain to be a result of my body's shift back to center. The pain was very weak and quite different from the stabbing pain of IT Band Syndrome. Recently I was reading on Skurka's website under his failed attempts section (a section that continues to shrink in comparison to his successes) about a knee issue that prevented his success on the Long Trail in Vermont. Oddly enough, one of his remedies was to see a chiropractor to get his "hips realigned". Apparently it worked considering about six months later he embarked on the "The Great Western Loop". I will be off for another month or so before allowing myself to get back into hiking and cycling, but, hopefully the return will be without IT Band Syndrome.

Monday, October 26, 2009

River to River Trail: Trigg Tower to High Knob

The day finally came for our departure. We had planned, mapped, purchased, and weighed our way to the start of great trip. Headed out of STL in driving rain, listening to what would be the Cardinals second to last game of their dismal post season showing, we settled in for the long drive to Trigg Tower. Members of this trip were Todd Whaley, Paul Caudell, David Tudor, Jeff Moore, Tim Dierking, Josh Heater, Al Evans. We would meet our eighth member at Trigg Tower, John Voigts, author of the River to River Trail Pocket Guide. Arriving in the parking lot of the tower, we spotted two tents that had been setup during a lull in the storm by John for us to use that first night. We already liked him as our first impression was that of generosity. Hand shakes all around and the cars sped off for the end of the trail. The remaining few set up a couple more tents and built a fire. The fire began to pop and flames finally stretched above the highest perched logs when a neighbor from down the road spotted us and pulled in. He offered us shelter if things got bad later in the night…what did he know that we did not? As our conversation ended, the rain came on strong, taking our fire with it. We all jumped in our tents and went to sleep as the rain began to pound. We awoke the next morning to wet gear, wet tents, and the rain continuing to make sure all became equally soaked. Gear packed and compasses pointed in the right direction, we set off for our first taste of the River to River Trail. The trail was soaked and we immediately came to terms with being wet. Most had taken precautions to keep our cores dry and since the temperature was quite decent there wasn’t too much concern for getting dangerously cold. Water crossings became easier as most opted to simply motor through each one without any regard for even searching for a rock to jump on. After a few miles we came to a train crossing where we took a break from the rain. Our surroundings were slightly different from the Ozark Mountain region that we were used to, as the terrain seemed to be more open within the forest and the valleys were slightly broader, offering increased visibility. This helped with the closed in feeling from all the rain and being stuffed inside our rain jackets. We continued on westward headed for the Lusk Creek Wilderness trailhead for night one in the backcountry. However, things didn’t go as planned. Once at the trailhead, and making 18 miles for the day, we knocked on the door of the Circle B Ranch and asked the owners if they could put us up for the night. Once inside the tack shop, we got a fire going in the stove and all our gear hung from every available hook in the place. Alcohol stoves roared as our water came to life for our freeze dried meals. A group of equestrians came in with a guitar and an impromptu jam session ensued that even featured one of our own, Paul. Connie, co-owner of the Circle B, offered to take all our clothes to the dryer in her house which resulted in us continuing the music session in our underwear. They were trail angels in deed. The next morning, the rain had stopped, the sun was out, and we were dry for the first time in over 24 hours. We thanked our new friends and headed off into Lusk Creek Wilderness, stopping at features like “Saltpeter Cave” and “Secret Canyon”. These features were off of the River to River Trail and in order to get back on track we embarked on some off trail hiking that would get us to a connector trail…however…not trusting some roads we ended up miles North of where we wanted to be. Consulting the map, we decided to perform an arduous road march that would get us to our next destination, the town of Herod. Upon entering Herod we took rest in the front yard of a house that had installed a hand pump to a natural spring. We filled up on the fresh water and continued on our way. A short distance later we entered Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area. We had met some hikers on the south side of Herod who told us of a great camping spot high on a bluff a few miles into Garden of the Gods. Once we saw the site, we knew this was the spot they spoke of…and we dropped our packs having completed only about 13 miles that day. The view from our camp was long, and the smell of dinner lulled us into a lucid state. We started a fire and were able to find poor reception to listen to the final game of the Cardinals season; soon after we turned in for the night. We awoke the next morning to the bright sun, packed up, and headed out for the main attraction at Garden of the Gods. A few hours later we were climbing and jumping on the ancient sand beaches overlooking a sea of green deciduous. Lunch time came and went as the hordes of people peered fearlessly over the edges to experience the scene for themselves. A Forest Service employee named Jim talked mountain lions with us for a while and then inquired about the trail conditions we experienced over the past 38 miles. Our cars were only 6 miles away, so we took one last look and plunged back into the forest, cruising past miles of sandstone walls. The closer we got to the end, the more apparent it was that this stretch was heavily used by horses. The trail had become very muddy and rutted, with a criss-cross of paths that tried to avoid the deeper mud pits. We emerged from the forest and into a scene from the old west at High Knob campground. A combination RV and horse trailer vehicle dominated the field with tied up horses everywhere. We said hello as we passed while putting our trekking poles on pause. We made it to High Knob and took some final pictures of our packs before heading home for dinner. Our experience on the River to River Trail had come and gone, but future trips are already in the works. Thanks to Todd and John for planning the trip and leading the group through these great places. jm

Topo Maps

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gear List

It has been a long time since the last post but there really hasn’t been much going on in the way of backpacking. However, I have been able to refine my gear list…in particular the “Clothing Worn” category. I have decided to abandon the Mountain Hardware zip off pants due to their weight and instead go to the Patagonia GI 2 pant with an underwear/short option. I haven’t picked up the shorts yet but will go with either the Go Lite Stride Short or the Beartooth Merino Wool Short offered by Either way, this new set up will offer greater versatility and reduced weight…both very good things. The Illinois trip is fast approaching and will offer a great venue for testing the new set up. Haven’t heard much commitment about this trip…so check your calendar and drop a comment. jm

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

John Roth

John, thank you for teaching me to build trail on that cold day in December. You will be greatly missed. jm

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My New Scales

I have finally obtained a scale to weigh my equipment at home. Up to this point I have utilized the mail scale at work but that set up was definitely not ideal. I actually received two scales so if anyone would like to borrow one to get a baseline gear weight just let me

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Green Rock Trail

I had the pleasure of pounding out The Green Rock Trail on Saturday. I had a full three season pack with me…that is in Missouri terms all seasons except summer. Base pack weight was 9.7 pounds with about 1 pound of food and a 1 liter Platypus. I had my new Go Lite Sun Dragons shoes on and 20 miles in front of me. The morning started off perfectly cool and quiet, but a short distance in I started passing people around every corner.It turns out that the city of Wildwood had an outdoor event that day that was well attended, considering I passed 77 people before the 5 mile mark. I made it to the southern terminus by 12:00 pm (3 hours 15 minutes one way) and had a quick lunch. Back on the trail and headed northbound, I caught up with Boy Scout Troop 680 and hiked with them for 2 slow miles at which point I continued on solo. The last person I encountered was Bob Banker who was on his 28th mile of the day and in training mode for the Leadville 100 this August in Colorado. I wished him luck and motored on down the trail. It was 5:00 pm by the time I hit the parking lot at Rockwoods Reservation, but I think, had I not hiked with the scouts, I would have been on target for a 6 ½ hour round trip. This was a great training run for our upcoming trip to Illinois but my legs still ache as I type this 2 days later…I need to train more. Check the Skurka shot

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Green Rock Trail

This weekend I will be parking my car at Rockwoods Reservation and doing a 20 mile out and back of the Greek Rock Trail. I will be bringing a full pack and simulating a day from our upcoming trip in Illinois. 8 am on Saturday is the start time. Hope to see someone else there. jm

Topo Maps

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Karkaghne Video

A new video has been added to You Tube highlighting our scorching experience on the Ozark Trail in August 2008. Compilation courtesy of cock hammer. Check it out here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Illlinois Bound: October 8-11, 2009

The River to River Trail hike will take place October 8th to the 11th and will be roughly 49 miles long, starting at Trigg Tower and ending at Pounds Hollow Lake. We’ll begin on a Thursday night, so everyone who works Mondays thru Fridays will have to take off that Friday (the 9th). Depending on how many people we have going we’ll either shuttle vehicles around or just save time and spend $25 on a shuttle service the River to River Trail Society offers. Hikers will fend for themselves for food (three full days worth). I’ll be offering a few menu selections from the Lipsmackin’ Backpacking book that Paul Caudell introduced on the last trip and was a big, delicious hit. To me this is a tastier, lighter weight, and cost effective solution to trail food. I’ll be dehydrating ingredients and if anyone else coming would like to volunteer their food dehydrators that’s cool. We’ll also coordinate so that not everyone has to carry first aid kits, water filter pumps, repair kits, etc. The Shawnee Forest is a lush wilderness with a variety of steep climbs, rock outcroppings, and open areas with lakes and creeks. The first night we can camp at Trigg Tower, a fire tower with an awesome view, or if we’re feeling ambitious we can hike for an hour to Millstone Lake and camp there, shaving a few miles off our journey. The first day would be fifteen to eighteen miles of hiking and we’ll see Ruby Falls, Petticoat Junction, Eddyville, a cool place called Indian Kitchen and then enter the Lusk Creek Wilderness to see Bowed Creek Crossing and Owl’s Bluff Lookout. We can camp the second night at a place called Secret Canyon. The second day of hiking will be a long mile day, covering about nineteen miles. We’ll pass thru a couple camps, we’ll see an old cemetery and church, and finally end the day camping somewhere around Herod. The third and final day will be the low mile day and the highlight of the trip as we pass the spectacular rock formations at the Garden of the Gods, then to the lookout tower at High Knob Campground, more cool rocks at Rim Rock, and ending at thebeautiful Pounds Hollow Lake where we’ll find our vehicles. I’m still working with the Topo mapping software I bought to make the maps, which will be very cool. In the mean time, here are some pictures! Later, Todd Whaley

The Ending at High Knob

Topo Maps Coming Soon!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Council Bluff to Bell Mountain: A Snowy Delight

We finally got all our schedules together and executed a fine weekend in the Ozark Mountains. The evening of February 27th was a mild 38 degrees as we set up camp at our starting point, Council Bluff Lake. Members of this trip were: David Tudor, Isaac Noland, Neil Wiggins, Jeremy Dean, Matt Wagener, Josh Heater, Todd Whaley, and Paul Caudell. We broke camp early the next morning and weighed our packs with a digital fish scale in the parking lot. Pack weights (including food and water) varied wildly with the lightest being Todd’s pack at 17.2 lbs and the heaviest being David’s pack at 43 lbs. We headed off around the lake to meet the connector trail to the Trace Creek Section passing a large group of equestrians along the way. We broke south at the OT junction and tore up the miles, up and over 32 Highway and on towards Ottery Creek. Snow fellthroughout the morning and into the afternoon creating a total accumulation of about ½” to ¾”. Once down in the Ottery Creek Valley, the temperatures began to fall and it was time to cross the creek. First we searched up and down for a decent crossing point. Since we didn’t find anything that would guarantee a dry crossing, we hauled a large log over to a cliff that Heater had chosen. Down went the log which then fell perfectly across Ottery Creek. First man across Todd easily skipped across the log and as his foot hit the other side, the log twisted and immediately floated downstream. Thanks Todd. Next we found a tree that had grown over the creek. I dropped my pack and poles and climbed onto the tree and scooted across the creek to safety. Neil “tossed” my platypus water bottles across but in his excitement, the force of his throw skewered one on a tree. Finally further upstream we found a crossing that would suffice for the rest of the crew. One by one they jumped across until only Jeremy and Jack the dog remained. The choreography couldn’t have been more perfect. On a count of 3 Jack was heaved, legs outstretched, across the Ottery Creek and into the arms of his owner. Now all across we set up camp at the Taum Sauk trailhead on Highway A and settled in to what was going to be a coldnight. We awoke the next morning to temperatures in the low teens. All water bottles were frozen and the cold water from the creek took more denatured alcohol than expected to boil the water for breakfast. We got a late start but headed up Bell Mountain as the morning sun melted the snow on the rhyolite trail. The elevation gain was great and the layers immediately began to come off. Passing through some beautiful vistas looking south, we turned off the Ozark trail and headed North up to the peak of Bell Mountain. Once at the top we broke for lunch and enjoyed the view of the new Taum Sauk Reservoir now fully under construction. A quick decent from the summit and out to the cars at CC Road ended a spectacular experience through the St. Francois Mountains. Thanks to all of those in attendance. Enjoy the great video...compliments of the “cock hammer.” jm

Topo Maps