10/22/20 Council Bluff Campground
I pulled up to the Hazel Creek trailhead and campground around 8:30am. I stepped out of the car and immediately felt the warm, humid air and smelled the pine forest. It had rained the day before so everything smelled thick, fecund, and rich with life.
I got going and soon decided to take off my shoes and socks in order to cross Hazel Creek. Normally this is something I would not do but I didn’t really want to hike my shoes and socks dry. Hazel Creek is pretty low this time of the year and it was not a difficult crossing. I got going again after a short break to get ready and soon was going up and over several ridges. Small creeks populated the hollows and as the day got warmer I stopped to get water a couple of times. The second time was at Trace Creek, which is just past an Ozark Trail landmark, an old chimney from a homestead of the past.
At this point I had about 7 more miles to where I had planned on stopping for the day, near Council Lake. Once I arrived at the trail junction for the Council Lake trail and the Ozark Trail, I decided to take the lake trail in hopes of finding a side trail that led up to the campground. Usually I don’t like campgrounds because they are noisy and crowded but I had heard this one was nice, and being a Thursday, I hoped that no one would be there.
While I did not find the side trail and ended up bushwacking a quarter of a mile uphill, I did find an empty campground with running water facets! Glorious. I found a nice site with a good view of the forest and pitched the Plexamid in a soft, flat spot. It was a blustery afternoon and the breeze felt good after hiking 15 miles in usually hot weather. I rehydrated and sat on the picnic table reading and watching the light change. I like getting into camp early because it gives me time to reflect and enjoy my surroundings more rather than focusing on getting miles in before dark. That can be fun too, of course.
I saw my first person of the day, a man who had parked his truck near the entrance of the campground and was walking the campground circuit several times for, I’m assuming, exercise.
Before it got dark I ate my beans and rice (with taco seasoning, pepper jack cheese, and Fritos) and got into my tent. The wind would blow into my tent, puffing it up like a lung, and then my Plexamid would exhale, and again the wind would fill up the tent with the clean scent of the pine forest, and soon I was sleeping deeply.
The hike back to the car began around 5:30 am because I woke up and could not go back to sleep. Fine! I’ll hike then!
I tell myself that to hike the Ozark Trail once, I have to hike it twice. That’s because with the exception of the Eleven Point section where I was dropped off and picked up, I have to hike out and then back to my car. There are people in the area who do shuttles but I don’t want to put them at risk or put myself or my family at risk if it can be avoided. So, I hike back to the car.
I love hiking in the dark. From time to time I turn off my headlamp and look up at the stars to see the dark shapes of the trees waving around in the morning breeze. I see the eyes of the deer who are still bedded down for the night. I hear things moving through the forest and wish I could move through the forest in that way, with my unique steps and scent.
Around 9 am I have about 5 miles to go to the car and I take a quick break to eat a Kind bar and get my water situated. I decide to put on my pack cover because I hear some thunder and it looks like rain is coming. As soon as I stand up and swing my small pack around onto my back, the rain comes. The temperature drops and in ten minutes I’m hiking through a storm. It’s delightful. Of course it’s also more enjoyable knowing that soon I’ll be putting on dry socks and clothing back at the car, eating a salami bagel and cheese.
Hiking the trail twice to hike it once has to have perks, right?