A Weekend around Taum Sauk State Park. Dec 11-13 2015

Fronkey (Trevor) wanted to hike for a weekend! I hadn't seen him in a long time, although we talk and message regularly, he has been off doing several outdoor projects. I thought it would be fun to invite the regular Missouri hiking group and plan a longer weekend in the woods. I came up with a dual loop. We would meet at the Bell Mountain trail head and shuttle everyone to the Goggins Mountain Trail Head in Taum Sauk State Park and then hike back to Bell Mountain.  Goggins Mountain loop (8 miles), 11 miles on the Ozark Trail connecting to Bell Mountain (6 miles). An easy two and half days and some great scenery. The participants would be myself, Fronkey, Gideon, Disco and Hoot. All was to plan, Fronkey drove up from Oklahoma (his new home base) on Thrusday night and we all met at the Hwy A trail head, except for Hoot that tied up with work in Texas. We shuttled around to the GMT on Friday morning and starting hiking.
The day was warm for Decemeber (60's) but with high humidity it was very foggy. I had not been on this loop before and it was a very nice trail going mostly UP! Six miles into the Goggins Mountain loop was the stopping point for day 1 and we set up our hammocks. Hoot was supposed to be about 4 hours behind us but we didn't hear from him all day until late when he said he was going to the Hwy A parking lot and would just meet us on top of Bell Mountain Saturday night.
We set up and sat around talking and having dinner. I brought some Pat's Backcountry Beer to mix up and enjoy, but it was an early night as it was foggy, breezy and when the sun goes away... dark!
The fog did blow away for a few hours but returned with even higher temperatures for Day 2.
We also recieved text messages from Hoot that there were some "gnarly" looking guys hanging out around the vehicles in the Hwy A parking lot. We decided, somewhat wrongly, that we would just hike back to the vehicles and then drive back to Hwy A, collect the cars and come over to Taum Sauk state park. We actually could have hiked the 9 miles to the Hwy A parking lot just as quickly as hiking backward and driving back... oh well.
After retrieving the cars we went to show the Johnson Shut In's to Fronkey, who had never been there, and then decided lunch and beer was in order before returning to Taum Sauk to hike on the Ozark Trail through The Scour for the final night. Fronkey's wife had to leave for a trip, so Fronkey came along and stayed in our camp until after dark and then left to start the long drive home in order not to leave his best mate Tala the dog alone for more than an entire night.
The third day started with some light rain, Hoot leaving early and Gideon, Disco, and myself walking out around 9 am.
It was a very unusual weekend, but still good to get out in the woods. I used the weekend to test some video work on the GoPro and the iPhone 6S for deciding which to take to Scotland. I had intended to also use the Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack I had just received but decided before the trip that the fit of the pack just wasn't for me.... more searching for the perfect fitting pack.

Video of this weekends hike

Gideon (Joe), Disco (Corey) above
Fronkey (Trevor), Hoot (Eric) below

You may also encounter redneck gnarly people

 Foggy and cool, day 1

Foggy and warming Day 2

Johnson Shut In's at Taum Sauk State Park

A break for BBQ and Beer at Baylee Joe's in Pilot Knob, Missouri
 Ribs, Homemade beans and bread along with a nice craft beer (TowHead)

 Back on the Trail up the Scour toward the Dam for the final night

Thanks Guys for a great weekend...

A Night on Bell Mountain- Nov 21, 2015

Que the Mussorgsky music. It could have been that dramatic, but in the end it turned out to be a good time had by all. We missed the fall colors on Bell Mountain this year, so Disco (Corey) invited a few of us to head up to Bell Mountain for a night of hanging in the late Fall/early Winter.
We were going to meet at 10 am on Saturday morning and head up the mountain. The weather has been fairly good as I have mentioned in previous posts, but Saturday night promised to be brutal. high winds, snow early and a low temperature that could get to about 10 degrees F.  Corey was bringing his daughter Taylor and Joe, his daughter Olivia. I would have brought my daughter but she is 34 weeks pregnant!

As I waited in the parking lot Saturday morning is started to snow and snow hard!
 It wasn't cold enough to stick to anything, but it was a surprise.

Olivia and Gideon (Joe)
 Taylor and Disco (Corey)

moving up the trail it was overcast windy and cold
 The familiar Bell Mountain cut off.

We stopped two or three times for breaks and snacks. We didn't need too as both girls ran up the hill with no effort what so ever! 
 Surveyors marker on the top of Bell Mountain.

 Making it to the top the world looks cold and blustery 

Joe and Olivia- "Wait Dad I have a text" 

Corey and Taylor set up their hammocks in the wind

Joe having a hard time keeping a hold on his.

Finally got mine set up and anchored down
 Doors closed and as low as I could make it, to try and stop the wind.

 The moss and lichen don't seem to mind the weather.
 Joe making some hot soup for him and Olivia, who is warming herself in the hammock

Toward the end of the afternoon the winds died down and the weather started to change. The weather was actually clearing and the cloud cover was blowing off. This would mean a clear night but very low temperatures! 

I kept warms by helping collect firewood and then breaking it into small pieces to start the fire. Bell Mountain is beginning to get loved to death. We noticed a lot more cleared spots for tents and it seems that some people might be cutting down trees for firewood. While we were there, there were three other large groups of tenters on the mountain.  
We got the fire started early to warm everyone up. 

 sitting around the fire ( Corey and Taylor)

Olivia and Joe
 Dawn came to the mountain about 6:45 am. 
 What a difference 24 hours make. by 8 am it was blue sky and sunshine but it was also only 20 degrees. It had gotten to around 15 degrees during the night. 

 Corey and Taylor lounging in the hammocks trying to unfreeze their water bottles
I left the father daughter teams at the top and headed down the hill to get some TGO speed training in this morning. I made the 6 miles to the car in 90 minutes. 
 Some beautiful "Frost Flowers" on the way down

The sun was shining but it was still very cold

 Back at the truck at 10 am it was still only 30 degrees.

 Thanks to Disco for organizing and thanks to Joe, Olivia and Taylor for coming along you were all great company and let's hope we can do it again soon.

Pre-Christmas Holiday Weekend Branson Missouri

Yes, I know it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, but the RV season is short in Missouri and we wanted to take the RV down to Wilderness campground as we have done the last three years to see the Christmas light displays at Silver Dollar City. Once the temperatures get below 28 degrees for a few nights the RV needs to be winterized. We can still use it, but without water for showers and toilet and cooking/cleaning it is not quite the same.

We got out of town on Friday night after Vicky got off work. It was a beautiful night to drive down to Branson. the sky was clear and there was just a sliver of a moon.

The drive is about 3.5 hours from our house. We arrived late and had a quick salad and some meat and cheese with crackers as dinner- by candle light

The dawn was excellent and Saturday was suppose to be the weather highlight of the weekend.

 Lately I have seen lots of posts wanting to know the privy with best view- well we have a good one this weekend.

It was off to explore the area again and see some sights. the first stop was Shepard of the Hills. It is a big observatory Tower that you can zip line from. Vicky thought about it, but decided not to this time. They were actually finishing up the decorations around the park, so we couldn't get it to look around. 

 One of the old buildings on the Shepard of the Hills property. 

We decided to head over to Table Rock State Park for a hike. I got a couple of unusual panorama views of Table Rock lake
 Much of the trail system at Table Rock State Park was closed due to the start of deer season hunting. 
But we did manage a 3 mile loop hike along one of the open sections. 

After the hike it was back to the RV for a BIG lunch- some steak, salad and some wine. We figured if we were going over to the park at 3 pm to spend all the rest of the evening we might just snack later in the park.- can't resist ice cream, funnel cakes and cinnamon rolls!

 A little wine before hand to fortify myself to the big crowds
We took the shuttle bus over to the park as it drops you off and picks you up right at the entrance and makes a really easy way to avoid some of the parking issues. 

And it was packed! 

The main Christmas tree in the center of the park. It comes "to life" after dark- see video below

Vicky and I are never too old to ride the train. It gives you a good view of the entire park and its just fun.
The view from the train shows you the backside of the large roller coasters in the park "Fire in the Hole" is suppose to be the #1 or #2 best roller coaster in America.

 Half way through the train ride (in the winter) the train stops for a story of the Nativity. In the summer you are "held up" by a couple of incompetent country boys
 As the light fades from the day the lights start to show around the park and in the trees

 The big tree performs every 15 minutes after sunset

 Twice every evening 7 pm and 9 pm is the Rudolf parade down main street.

After the parade we did some shopping for Christmas presents, let the crowd die down a little and then headed back to the RV park.
Sunday dawned colder and cloudy I made a fire in our sites fire pit, We relaxed while it rained lightly, had a big breakfast and cleaned up the RV and headed home around 1 pm so we could get home just before dark.
It was a nice late season RV trip and a good relaxing weekend.

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