Up The Hill- TGO Challenge Training at Bell Mountain April 5-6, '14

Day 1
It is one thing to train in the gym and to walk the familiar trails around your home area, even if they pretend to have some elevation change. It is quite another to get on a real trail to actually climb to one of top five elevations in the state, even if it is Missouri. I knew that Vicky needed to experience what a real trail was like and there is not better than Bell Mountain. A rough trail with 2 miles of its beginning on the Ozark Trail and then the remainder of the 12 mile loop in the Bell Mountain Wilderness area. This trail is not easy. It is steep in places for the novice and it had been raining for the last week. When that happens the many springs on Bell Mountain use the trail as the quickest way to drain, making the trail wet and muddy. But the biggest obstacle of the trail is that Bell Mountain is made of Granite and those pieces litter the trail making it one of the rockiest trails in the state, very easy is some spots to twist and ankle if you are not careful.
We hit the trail just a little before 11 am on Saturday morning.

Vicky from the time we left the parking lot just amazed me with her enthusiasm for this adventure. I have been on Bell Mountain maybe a dozen times and each time I wanted Vicky to go, but she never felt she could do it successfully. Today she threw on her pack and was off up the trail!


We were joined by our friend Eric "Hoot" who was kind enough to drive all the way over from Kansas City to join in the fun
First view from about 30 minutes into the hike.












One of the granite balds on the way up to the split with the Ozark Trail and Bell Mountain access
A section of woods- no leaves yet, but it couldn't have been a better weekend to hike. The week had been raining and cold, but the weekend was sunny and clear. Temperature at start of the hike was 38 degrees but warming up to about 50 by midday.
We made it to the top of Bell Mountain. What a great view. The view from up here is the best in Missouri. Taum Sauk mountain just about 20 miles away is higher by 70 feet, but there is no view from the top as there is from Bell.


Despite very few cars in the parking area when we left there were actually many people on top of Bell when we arrived ( there is an alternate parking lot off of Hwy A as well).
We normally have a set spot we set up with the hammocks but it was taken and since Vicky and I were testing the MLD Cuben Duomid we search along the rim for a different spot. I am glad we did as this spot looks like it was made for the Duomid and the view was grand.


After setting up the Mid and getting everything unpacked it was time for the customary afternoon nap.  I did not intend to actually fall asleep, but I wanted to test out the neoair mattress' and see how it felt to sleep on the ground after so many years in the comfy hammock. We slept for about 2.5 hours.... :-)
I would say no problem.
A view of the Mid as the shadows get long 


After the nap it was about 6 pm and time to gather fire wood and think about dinner. 
We are going to use our modified Jet Boil system on the TGO. I have taken the normal Jet Boil cups and had them cut down by Eric "Hoot" to less than half their normal size and weight. I got this idea from 
John Abela on his blog Hikelighter.com

The secret spring at the top of Bell Mountain was wet but not flowing enough to get water out of. Vicky and I followed the trail right behind our camp and found plenty of water actually going right down the trail. Vicky had no problems collecting water out of the slightly flowing puddles. we used Aquamira for drinking and boiled the water for food prep.
After dinner there was plenty of time to enjoy the evening 

As night fell the sunset was grand and the Mid was lite up by the small headlamp inside.
The half moon provided plenty of light for some stargazing before bedtime. Soon it was hiker midnight ( around 9 pm) and time to turn in. the evening promised to be cool because of the lack of cloud cover and I figured it might get down to freezing.
Day 2
the next morning actually dawned cloudy and that keep the temperatures around 38 for a low, but by the time we broke camp it was clear and sunny again.


We had planned to do the remainder of the Bell Mountain loop, around 6-7 miles and then the 2 miles back down the Ozark Trail to the parking lot. Eric had needed to go off in the woods for his morning constitutional and said that we would join us on the trail shortly. We started about 9 am. Since he is much faster than Vicky and I together we did wait for a bit and even call him name as we started down the trail, but no Eric.  As it turned out he got turned around in the woods and started back down the way we had come up the day before. Having already started down that way, he continued down well ahead of us and 
was done by 11 am. 
 The backside of the loop has a long downhill to Joe's Creek and then a very good uphill as well before joining the section of the loop we had come up yesterday. The entire trail is like a lollipop in shape.

Down by Joe's Creek the signs of Spring were everywhere with the Daffodils blooming around the site of the old homesteads.
 We crossed Joe's creek three times with no issues (other than the broken pole and a couple of minor slips and fall on all the rocks) We filled up from the creek and started the uphill. we rested occasionally and had a great time walking in the woods.

 Small wildflowers showed and mean that spring has finally arrived to what has been a long and cold winter

even the caterpillars are out and looking to start their change into beautiful butterflies.

The trail was even more rocky and muddy on the last 3 miles of the decent back to the parking lot on Hwy A. We made it back by 1:30 pm and were a bit sore for all the twisting of ankles, knees, and hips. Vicky broke a hiking pole in the rocks crossing Joe's Creek, but that will soon be fixed. it was a great weekend and Vicky aced this test. 25 more days until we leave and things are looking good.

Bell Mountain Trail- 
Day 1- 6 miles 4 hours
Day 2- 9 miles 5 hours.
Vicky was carrying her exact TGO weight of 12 pounds with a liter of water in her ULA CDT pack. I was carrying my TGO weight of 20 pounds with 1 liter of water and a 100 gram fuel canister. (24 pounds when I stopped to fill up at the animal pond with 2 liters before we went to the top on Day 1) 

We stopped and ate at Boo's market and Restaurant in Potosi on the way home and then our hot tub when we got home- Nice weekend training.

Day one's photos are done with the GoPro Hero3+ camera and Day two are the Canon SD960 IS

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