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

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ozark Trail Google Earth Fly-By

Check out the new video from the Ozark Trail website showing all 227.5 miles of continuous trail through Missouri here.