So, I got the pics together for the latest trip. I put together one album for the Taum Sauk section hike on the Ozark Trail and another for the time we spent off the trail at Alley Spring, Rocky Falls and Klepzig Mill. Still working on identifying some flowers but it’s gettin’ there. Here’s a rundown of the trip:
Parked the van at the scour parking lot, just down from Johnson Shut Ins on Highway N, around 7:30 AM. The Scour Loop Trail begins and ends at the parking lot and serves as a spur trail for the OT. This would be our exit point on day 3. A driver from Franklin Floats shuttled us to the Highway 21 / Claybaugh Creek trail head. From here, the OT rolls along for just under 6 miles, climbing gradually towards Missouri’s highest point, Taum Sauk Mountain (1,772 ft) – nothing too strenuous.
Early on in the hike, the trail drops down to Claybaugh Creek. I had gotten on the Ozark Trail Association forum ahead of the hike and asked if we could expect water in either Claybaugh or Taum Sauk Creek. The recommendation was that there might be a trickle but to take extra water. So, considering our snail pace and the warm temps – near 80 deg on day one and climbing to just over 90 deg on day 3 – we started the hike with a TON of water. Before reaching Claybaugh Creek I heard the unmistakable sound of running water! Certainly not roaring but not bone-dry either. There were numerous small, clear pools we could have filtered from and I really regretted now hauling the extra few liters. From Claybaugh Creek the trail heads up again. You’ll pass some neat rock outcroppings and small glades as you duck in and out from the forest. The whole section we covered over the three days was well marked and in generally good shape. Some seasonal growth in places but nothing too bad. There were a couple of spots where we missed a turn but discovered as much pretty quickly and got back on track. Up to the intersection with the Russell Mountain trail head at just over three miles in, the rocks aren’t too bad. We saw lots of wildflowers and fungi through this first section.
After passing the Russell Mountain trail we crossed a few glade areas, including a large one with great views and began the final climb to the top. It’s rocky through here but you’ll cross or pass by several more glades that are neat. Very cool area.
We reached the junction with the Mina Sauk Falls loop trail at which point you can go right to get to the summit and the campground. We had been to the summit years ago so we hung a left to take the shorter route to the falls. Again, very rocky through here, and other than short stretches in places, the trail is very rocky from this point all the way back to the scour. Lots of “cobble-size” rock that are hard on the feet. Loonie had already been dealing with some foot issues before the hike and the rock didn’t help. Day hikers were out in force on the loop from the campground to the falls. These were the first people we had run into since starting that morning. One mile after the junction with the loop trail and we were standing at the top of the falls. Considering how dry it has been around here, it was no surprise that it was practically bone-dry. Here was the trickle they were referring to. The OT turns off the loop trail at this point and makes a steep, rock-hop decent alongside the falls.
After crossing the creek at the bottom, the rocks let up a bit and the trail runs flat and wide – an old road. We stopped for the day about a mile later, sharing a nice site and camp fire with a great young couple from St Louis we had met earlier at the top of the falls…Charlie and Ming. Charlie and Ming had moved on ahead of us earlier and were nice enough to text us back when they found the spot.
We had a hard time parting ways with Charlie and Ming the next morning. Filtered water and talked with them. Cool folks. The late start made for a slow, hot hike. We went through the rock formation “Devil’s Tollgate” just minutes after leaving camp. The trail turned off the old road, leaving Taum Sauk Creek and any fresh water from here back to the scour behind, and began climbing gradually again. I could have foregone hauling so much water the previous day but either way, this is the point at which you need to make sure you have enough to last the rest of your hike. Passed a neat rock shelf a bit later and began crossing a series of boulder-strewn ravines, slowing the pace more. We entered a short stretch of pine forest where the rocks gave way to needles – a nice reprieve.
After crossing a dry creek bed the trail crossed a large area – nearly a mile of trail – that had burned a number of years ago. The forest is slowly reclaiming this area but it was open enough to leave us exposed to the scorching sun. We reached a small glade at the far end of this area, found a spot in the shade, threw down our Tyvek ground sheet and took a nap. The heat had sucked the life out of us. Slept about an hour, had a bite to eat and headed off. Crossed a large area with great views and a bit later reached the power line cut that heads off to the Taum Sauk power plant. At this point we’re both whipped and Loonie wants to bed down right there. Her feet were killing her. There was no way I was going to pitch near the lines but wanted to get her off her feet ASAP. Moved on, climbing a bit while searching for a spot to make camp. After cresting the hill the trail rides on a ridge with a steep drop off. Certainly not ideal but a spectacular view over the valley below, the only distraction being the massive concrete reservoir atop Proffit Mountain in the distance. We found a small nook to pitch the tent and called it a day. A beautiful ending to the day.
Got a much earlier start the next morning to try and beat as much of the heat as possible. With Loonie’s foot problems, we took it slow but kept moving along at a steady pace. The trail wrapped around the valley and began the ascent of Proffit Mountain. Again, not that strenuous but the temp raised quickly so we pushed on and made our way down the other side and to the junction with the Scour Loop Trail. The OT leg is marked and parallels the scour. You’ll get some good views of it as well as some large rock formations on the mile or so trek back to the lot. Made it back to the van and immediately got the A/C going to cool off before heading over to Johnson Shut Ins campground to camp for the night. Made a stop at the store for cold sodas and ice cream, setup camp, hit the showers and drove into Lesterville for dinner. It rained pretty good that night. Fortunately, no real wind but the old tent we were using leaked a bit.
The weather was fantastic for the rest of the trip, with daytime temps in the 70’s. Left Johnson Shut Ins and headed to Alley Spring the next morning for two more nights of camping. Visited the mill and spring and then played around a bit down by Jacks Fork River.
Stopped by Rocky Falls and Klepzig Mill on the way down to Big Cedar. The OT passes right by Klepzig Mill on Rocky Creek. A beautiful spot. A 1/2 mile side trail off the OT will get you to Rocky Falls. VERY COOL spot! I would love to see this thing after a good rain.
So, we now have a better idea of at least some of what’s coming up as we tackle more of the OT. This hike wasn’t all that strenuous…just a particularly rocky section. The thing we struggled with most, though, was the heat. Just days before the hike it appeared that we were going to get more favorable temps. Well, at least not 85+. Personally, I would rather hike when it’s below 70 but you take what you can get. We knocked off just 18 miles of the Taum Sauk section this time. Still have a bit more to do to finish – approx 10 miles when you subtract the short section from Bell Mountain to Goggins Mountain that I did in the Spring. Hopefully we’ll get that done sometime this Fall. For now we’re working on wrapping things up in preparation for the trip to the Shenandoah’s. Just need to gather up the rest of the food and pack everything. Talked to Exped and a new Duo pad (2017 model) is on it’s way. Should get that in time. Crossing our fingers for excellent weather and some nice Fall colors.
More to come…