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.
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.
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.