Ozark Trail: Trace Creek Section

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.

Despite having a scheduled surgery looming, Brandon still made the trip!
A much photographed tree along the trail.
Council Bluff Lake
I love this tent.


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?

The sound of wind through the pines is one of my favorite sounds in the world.

Ozark Trail: Eleven Point section and Between the Rivers

Before I begin I want to say that I did not see a single person on this trail. Which was awesome.

10/14/20 Bockman Spring at Wolfpen Hollow 9 Miles

About a year ago I started section hiking the Ozark Trail in Missouri. This is not to be confused with the Ozark Highland Trail, which is in northern Arkansas. Although, someday, the two trails will be joined and become a 700+ mile long trail. My first experience on the OT was the Marble Creek section, which is what I call a “stand alone” section, in that it is not connected to the main trail, which is about 230 miles. I have also hiked the Courtois section, which is the northernmost section of the main 230 mile trail. It is a bit confusing but makes perfect sense when viewed on a map.

I decided that I would start at the southern terminus and hike north to the Missouri high point at Taum Sauk mountain, which happens to be on the OT. It would end up being about 200 miles and I had planned, because of Covid, to carry all of the food I would need for the entire hike. I have been training since July, with incline and weights, and running, and I feel that I am in pretty decent shape to take on a hike like this.

When my dad dropped me off at the dirt road which leads about .6 of a mile to the trailhead, I knew I was in for a sufferfest. My pack has only weighed this much once before, when I started the PCT in 2015. Which was a lot. But I was super excited to be hiking and I just went with it. In five days, the pack will weigh half as much, and I’ll be flying down the trail.

I got here to Bockman Spring around 3:30 and found a tentsite nearby. The spring comes out of a pipe in the wall. There’s a doorway, and a cave, and it’s home to rare species of bats. It’s all very gothic looking and I love it. The spring water is delicious and I am so happy to be sleeping in my tent tonight.

Beans and rice with Fritos and pepper jack cheese. Yum!

10/15/20 Hurricane Creek 19 Miles

Today was brutal. Like, on a scale of brutal that I know from the past and a new realm of brutal, this was an entire different universe of brutal. I’m leveling up!

I got going around 6:15 after a few rain showers and a hot breakfast. Soon it was raining pretty hard as I went over the Devil’s Backbone and down into another hollow. This hollow was fairly overgrown and I was bushwacking through briars and lots of grass. Then came the blowdowns. Several were fairly large and I spend considerable time bushwacking around them. Thankfully the trail led uphill onto a ridge where there was no undergrowth and fairly nice trail. Soon I had made it near the Eleven Point river and some nice views. The trail got better but I still struggled for every mile. I’m used to hiking at a faster pace than what this pack has allowed me. So when I checked my GPS to see how many miles I had gone, expecting to see a certain number, I was disappointed to see that I had not gone as far as I had thought.

I got water at a creek just before the Greer Campground which was off trail a bit. I still wanted to go another 8 or so miles to get to Hurricane Creek, which was a dry section with some elevation gain. Finally, around 5pm, I made it to the creek and found an old campsite on the far side of the creek. Pleased, I set up my tent and walked back to the creek to fill my water bottles. I saw a belted kingfisher on the far side of the creek and watched as it fished over the creek, darting around. I was beautiful. The last time I saw a kingfisher was in Astoria so it was nice to watch one in action.

I’ll be honest, I’m miserable. I’m not used to carrying this kind of weight and my body is telling me to stop it. It’s literally all I can think about, and I’m not hiking this trail the way I would like to hike it. Mostly, I’m just not having fun, and I’m not able to mitigate the pain in the usual ways, like listening to podcasts and music, or taking longer breaks. The idea of having several more days like today is devastating.

Eleven Point river
Always take the high road.


I broke camp around 6am and after the first mile of hiking I decided to leave the trail. I’m not able to do the miles necessary to finish the trail with the food I have and I am miserable. What’s the point of being out here if it’s not fun?

I have a real difficult time admitting when I need to toss in the towel and leave a trail. It’s something I’ve done a couple of times before and it always feels like failure.

But things are different these days and while there is a certain heartbreak about leaving a trail there is also a sense of relief knowing I am doing the right thing and that I can learn something new. I tell myself, the day I stop learning and have it all figured out is the day something in my heart and soul dies. I’ll be happy when I come back to this trail with a lighter pack and more realistic plans. I’ll also be able to do more miles and see more things. Not to mention more enjoyment. So yeah, I texted my dad via my Garmin and set a plan to meet him tomorrow morning at the highway just past the pond I have camped near. It’s a perfect spot and I’m already looking forward to coming back.

Brandon lost his arm and I have not told him I found it in the bottom of my pack!
Sunset from the Plexamid.
Be seen.