Irish Wilderness- Missouri Hang September 18-20, 2015

It was time once again for our Missouri Hammock Hang Event. We have actually had this event planned since January of this year. The setting is the Irish Wilderness area in southern Missouri. A rugged 18 mile loop. Since this is as much a social get together as a formal hike (Disco and Gideon) planned it for 2 1/2 days, with some of the members meeting up Thursday night at the trail head for any extra night under the stars.
The official start was Friday morning at 10 am at the trail head.
Over the last week or so the weather had broken, with much lower temperatures and reduced humidity all around the state, but the last minute forecast was that the humidity and higher temperatures would return for our weekend adventure.

As you can see from the map above, the Irish Wilderness (White's Creek Trail) is located in the southern portion of Missouri, about 4 hours drive from St.Louis and about 5 hours from Kansas City.

I had done the White's Creek trail once before but it had been 10 years since I had been down this way either on this trail or the Ozark Trail south of Van Buren, MO.


I had to leave at 4 am to get to the trail head by 8, but it was a beautiful drive down and a beautiful day (if hot Temps in 90's today with high humidity.)

 The small pond (Camp Five Pond)  that marks the parking lot/Start of the trail (above)

The cast of characters above for the adventure (Hoot, Tiffany, MoHiker79, Gideon, Disco, Skygzr, Myingon) 


The start of the White's Creek Trail and the mileage posts

The only wildlife I saw was a couple of box turtles, but we heard, Owl, Coyote, Whippoorwill, and Woodpeckers.
 


 Disco below shows off his new Zpacks Cuben Zero pack

Missouri is known as the cave state and along the White's Creek Trail it is easy to see why. The cliffs along the creek bed are lined with caves.


Bliss Spring was our objective for today (above and below) . It was 8.1 miles. Mostly everyone made it intact. 
 We grabbed our water and headed away from the spring (too buggy) and headed uphill a short ways to find a better view and maybe some breeze for the evening to hang our hammocks.

Hung up for the night

Night view panorama of our perch on the hill in the trees and off the main trail.
 The Eleven Point river was just below us and there was quit a bit of activity on the water all night, didn't make for the most peaceful wilderness experience but it was fine
It was a Friday night after all.

The trail is quite overgrown. It was full of thorns, poisen ivy, chiggers, spider webs, and sometimes just plain NO TRAIL. We had hopped that by picking the end of September the temperatures would have cooled and the trail weeds would start to die back.... we needed to give it another month.


 Very few markers and never when you need them


Beautiful trail thistle


I got off the trail (lost it) for about 10 minutes and when I bushwhacked my way back to the trail I almost ran into this big guy in his web 

 Still more "maybe" trail

 Today we were only going 5 miles to Fiddlers Spring. It turned out to be a very adventurous 5 miles.
We all split up starting the day just above Bliss spring and decided to hike at our own pace. Last night Myingon had arrived late in camp with some help from Gideon, but seemed fine.
Hoot and Tiffany and MoHiker all left together earlier than the rest. I followed about 30 minutes later and then Disco followed finally by Gideon and Myingon.

 I caught up to Hoot, Tiffany and MoHiker by White's Creek campground/River access and we waited for about an hour for the rest of the group to catch up. Little did we know that Disco had taken a wrong turn on the previous bluff and would bushwhack for a couple of hours to regain the trail. Gideon was with Myingon who was struggling and in a real act of leadership got Myingon to the White's creek campground, which we had left earlier and then waded/ swam down the Eleven Point river (50 degree water) in order to find a campsite occupied by boaters that he could persuade to come and pick up Myingon and take him to the nearest location where he could either wait for us until Sunday or get a ride back to his car. ( Amazing generosity and commitment) 

So the 4 of us (Hoot, Tiffany, Mohiker, myself) left White's creek campground and continued toward Fiddler Spring not knowing yet what was happening behind us.  We stopped at White's Creek Bat Cave and then Mohiker and I carried on, with Hoot and Tiffany lagging behind. 
Myself and Mohiker stayed on the official trail and arrived at the campsite in just under an hour, having walked through a nest of seed ticks and were covered! Hoot and Tiffany took an easier "alternate" and got into camp about 30 minutes later. The three of them discussed walking out the additional 5 miles (it was 2 pm at this time and they had been in camp around 45 minutes)  They all left leaving me the only person left in the designated stopping point for the day. About an hour and half later Gideon makes it to camp with the amazing story told above, having gone the official and very ugly last half mile that MoHiker and I had done, but worried that Disco should have been well ahead of him given everything that had happened today. We waited without setting up camp, in case we needed to do something, but after only about 30 minutes Disco came into camp following the same shortcut Hoot and Tiffany had used and told us all about his adventure on and off the trail today. 
Fiddler Spring (above)

In the end it was just the three of us for the last nights camp. Everyone relaxed and rested after the most eventful 5 miles we could remember on a trail.

 We had a very pleasant night around a fire and we read out limericks (the added activity for this hike in the "Irish" wilderness was to create a limerick, with a little prize to the winner) The others had read theirs to me before they left and MoHiker's was particularly good and I let him know if his was the best, he would win and we would send him his prize (a lovely pocket knife supplied by Disco)
As it turned out Gideon, who was going to win because of his outstanding commitment this weekend, also had the best limerick and had memorized it as well.
The hike out in the morning was only 5 miles and we all agreed that we would stay in a group today and hike out together. The trail still had some surprises (above) as we had some bushwhacking through thick brush and through a beaver pond. This trail had really been great fun as none of us were really in any danger of being lost (all had maps, or GPS, and compass), but one of the disappointing things was how much trash was on the trail. I am carrying a big bag of trash collected over the last 2 days in the photo above and the lawn chairs below were actually just abandoned on the trail and left for trash. We collected them and hiked them out with the trash. 


I came home with chigger bites, poison ivy, and what was left of bites from the seed ticks. It was a reminder that there is really no hiking in Missouri from April to the first frost of October, 
A trip to Boo's Market in Potosi, MO., for giant burgers on the way home made everything much better, but any weekend in the woods is really a good one- Thanks Gideon and Disco for another great planned outing



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