December Walk on the Ozark Trail

All of us came to the conclusion at the same time. We need a night out in the woods. The Ozark Trail is a wonderful place in the winter. the leaves are gone and the views are extended. Only the hardy or foolish venture out in the unpredictable weather. It would be 65 F degrees one day and 20 F the next. Various places were discussed, but Cory loves the Taum Sauk section of the OT, so that is where we were going.We decided to throw in a twist. We would start from the Johnson Shut campground and take the Goggins Mountain loop to the OT connector and then go north on the OT to the Padfield Branch spring and the primitive campsite located just off the old homestead site, any easy 8 miles in. Then Sunday morning walk back to the connector and continue the Goggins Mountain loop around back to the campsite and our cars.

The weather for this weekend was for highs of only 32 F (0 C) and low of 21 F.
with no chance of precipitation! 😉

Saturday Dec 8
An easy starting point at the Johnson Shut In RV campsite. It has good parking and facilities.

Feral Hogs are a big problem in this area. Last weekend the Bell Mountain trail was closed and next weekend this trail will be closed. We squeezed in between the closures. They used to shoot the hogs from helicopters but that proved ineffective in the long run, so now they trap them in large pens before euthanizing them.

 A natural bridge to get over the first small creek.

A plaque explaining a bit of the history and noting some of the features of the area is posted just as you leave the campsite and start uphill. 

 The trail is not hard to follow and is blazed in yellow but with all the leaves down you have to keep your head up in a few spots.
 The area is predominantly granite and various mosses and lichens grow all over the rocks and ground.

Downed trees

 As you climb you get a good view of the Taum Sauk reservoir. You can clearly see the "Scour" caused by the original earthen structure failure in December 2005 (13 years ago this month). The water rushed down the hill toward the Black River and took out a wide section of trees and buildings in the area.
Taum Sauk Reservoir (original earthen structure)

New rebuilt Concrete Reservoir

One of the coolest features of the walk this weekend was the "Frost Flowers." Moisture is forced out of a particular plant and as it emerges it freezes in beautiful patterns

When the leaves are gone you notice all kinds of other plants and fungus along the trail

This is the plant that produces the Frost Flowers. it is always the same plant. The Missouri Department of Conservation says it is either Dittany, Stinkweed or White Crownbeard. I can't identify which this is, but it was always the same plant in this area.
 More frost flowers

After about 5 miles of the 8 mile loop you come to the connector trail with the Ozark Trail 

A short connector not used much as there is no real trail just look for the markers in the trees

What trail there is, is buried under the fall leaves 

 Once you reach the OT you get a great view of the valley below and a good place for lunch stop.
We now turned north on the OT for about 3 miles
(winter pine cones)

Still plenty of green on the trail if you look
 about a 1/2 mile from our lunch spot is a lovely spring cascading down the hill. With water here mostly year round this makes a great area to stealth camp with the views 

 Granite "bald" covered in lichen and moss.
Another beautiful winter view from the Ozark Trail 

Reaching the Padfield Branch Spring. The only structure still "standing" is the old shed.
Padfield Branch Spring. Located right behind the original homestead. It runs right out of the hill


Padfield Creek

 Evening from our campsite
After getting our hammocks set up. we went to work fixing the old fire ring and gathering downed wood and cutting it up for a fire. We don't usually make a fire but with temps dropping to and expected 21 F it was going to be a good night for a fire.

We all brought tools to make quick work of the downed wood. The dried wood made for an easy start.

Soon we had one rip roaring fire! Joe enjoying the fire from his side 

Cory mesmerized by the flames. There might have been some whisky involved as well!

Sunday Dec 9

A look at my hammock set up as I was breaking down in the morning. I brought all my zero degree quilts for this trip.

Breakfast with hot drinks was a must. I was hard to get out of the warm hammock this morning!
Addition:- I forgot to mention the coyotes last night. It sounded like a half dozen youngsters yipping and howling not to far away. It sounded like they were playing tag twice at around 11:30 pm and again at round 2:30 am. Joe and Cory didn't hear a thing, but I think that is because there was whisky involved around the fire last night! 
Burned up all the wood and made sure it was clean and out before leaving. We got out of camp around 8:30. about the same time we started yesterday 

Today is sunny! Still very cold. It was down to the 20 F as there were many stars out last night with nothing in the sky to hold any heat in. 

The sun makes the day seem so much better and you notice many different things.

Ah!, the sun

Same views different day. 

Some frozen water along the trail

same granite bald in the morning light. 

The moss and lichen look more green in the sun

Ozark Trail marker

Frozen hidden water on the trail 

Lovely view from the connector and the top of the OT in this section.

Joe and Cory, still needed to be bundled up today!
Some unusual fungus colors

Done with our 6 miles out by 11:30 and off to the Iron Mule in Ironton, MO. Turned out to be a great place for burgers and beer after the hike. Really good, I highly recommend this place for food and drink in Ironton, MO. 

Another successful walk in the woods
Thanks Guys
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