This weekend, Troop 21 had a backpacking/ advancement weekend at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. At first, I was planning on going down Friday night and going backpacking. However, I got a cold on Wednesday and decided not to go on Thursday night. My dad still went down with the Troop on Friday at 5:30. Around eight on Friday night, I was feeling good enough to go down Saturday morning. My mom and I packed up for the backpacking trip on Friday and decided to wake up at 5:30 on Saturday to drive down there. We woke up and left St. Louis around 6:40. About two hours later, we got down to the park. Soon after our arrival, we had some adults staying in the main campground drive us 5 miles away and drop us off at the Claybaugh Creek Trailhead. From here, we hiked 5.5 miles back up to Taum Sauk Mountain. This pretty section of the Ozark Trail climbed 500 ft. through glades, pine trees, large rocks, small waterfalls, deep valleys, and pretty streams. When we arrived back at the main campsite, we ate lunch. On the hike in the morning, I started to feel bad again, and after lunch, I decided not to go backpacking. We hiked to Mina Sauk Falls with the backpackers. Then they headed down towards Devils Tollgate to camp,and we hiked back on the Mina Sauk Falls loop. The trail to Mina Sauk Falls was beautiful, passing through huge glades with great views of the valleys and mountains. With all our recent rain, the waterfall was really flowing nicely. We got back to our car around 5. We had hiked a total of about 9 miles. I didn't go to the St. Joe mountain bike race today because I wasn't feeling any better than I did yesterday. That just means the Lost Valley Luau on the 28th will be my first race of 2010.
Me at Mina Sauk Falls
Last weekend, Troop 21 was supposed to take a backpacking trip to Bell Mountain, but that was canceled due to a forecasted 7 degree low. We rescheduled the trip for this weekend hoping for better weather. The temperature was better, but there was snow on the ground. I looked all over for accumulation totals, and thought I figured out Farmington had 1.5 inches. I was wrong. When we turned off I-55 onto 67, the snow just covered the trees and ground. Still, it didn’t look like any more than two inches. By the time we got another 60 miles farther southwest near the trailhead, the snow was four to six inches deep. All the vehicles made it to the snowy trailhead fine. We started our four mile hike to the summit around 10:30 under heavy grey clouds. The four mile hike was on a gentle ridgeline with some easy ups and downs. The ridge doesn’t have any view in good weather, but we didn’t need views. The snow covered trees were absolutely beautiful. The green pines and cedars were especially pretty. I was leading our group of five scouts and four adults. The snow covered trail was surprisingly easy to follow. I didn’t have any issues finding the trail for the entire hike. About three hours after we started, we made it to the top of Bell Mountain. George, John Harrison, John Zucker, and I hiked off trail for a little bit to see a glade. This glade had a great view of the snow covered hills to the northwest. After admiring this vista for a while, we continued on ¼ of a mile to our glade campsite. We camped on the edge of the main glade on the summit of Bell. Our glade had an even better view over the Shut-In Creek valley, Lindsey Mountain and the forested ridges beyond stretching to the horizon. On the way up, the forest next to the trail had about four inches of snow, but when we were on top of the open mountain, there was six inches covering the area. We set up our tents on top of the snow. After the tents were up, we ate our lunch. I wanted to bushwhack the 700 vertical feet down to Shut-In Creek, but nobody else wanted to. Anyway, we ended up not going down there. We spent the afternoon relaxing in camp. Some of us gathered firewood and others explored the cliff below our camp. We even had a little snowball fight. In the middle of the afternoon, the clouds began breaking up and some blue sky came over us. Around 4, we fired up the stoves for hot chocolate and coffee. Closer to 5, we started boiling water for our freeze-dried dinners. We had Beef Teriyaki with Rice, Beef Stew, Mexican Chicken and Rice, and Lasagna. I also brought some Idahoan Mashed Potato packets. It all tasted great in the cold air. After dinner, we walked over to our fire site where we had collected our wood. Dr. Braude was able to start a great fire with a couple of Esbit tabs. That fire was awesome at night. There is nothing that warms you up as much as a warm fire on a cold night. John Zucker let his boot get a little too close to the fire and burned part of the leather. We went to bed around 9. I slept pretty good considering it was 19 degrees. I was warm enough in my sleeping bag. Last weekend I took my 0 degree bag, but that takes up half my pack and it weighs six lbs. My 15 degree bag is still heavier than my 20 degree and a liner, so I just took my 20 degree and a liner. I should have brought my full length Themarest, but I didn’t. I think I woke up around 7:30. It was a beautiful, sunny, blue sky day. We all had some hot chocolate before eating bagels and cream cheese. By the time tents were down and we were hiking, it was 9:30. The hike back out to our cars went faster than the hike in. The soft powdery snow of yesterday was replaced with hard, icy footprints that we had made yesterday. We made it back to the trailhead with a couple of little snowball fights. We got back to the trailhead a little before noon. On the way back, the two Johns and I tried to drive his Jeep up Johnson Mountain, but the Forest Service has closed the 4wd drive road to the top to protect the ecosystem. The next time we hike around Council Bluff Lake, we’ll bushwhack up from the lake to the top of the mountain. That’ll be a more scenic way than hiking up the gravel road. Mr. Harrison dropped me off at home around 2:10. It was a great backpacking trip to a beautiful wilderness area. The six inches of snow added challenge and beauty to the already scenic area.
The panorama above is the glade that was a little off the trail. The panorama below is the great view from our campsite. You can click on both of them to see them larger.
Me on the summit
This weekend was supposed to be a Boy Scout backpacking trip to Bell Mountain, but that trip was rescheduled because of the cold and snow. Instead, my dad and I met Dr. Braude and David at the Osage Campsite in Greensfelder last night. My dad and I hiked in 8 miles from the northern end of the Green Rock at Rockwoods Reservation. We started our hike around 11 yesterday and headed south on the Green Rock. Barely half a mile into our hike, we both took off our fleeces. I was wearing just a baselayer and a long sleeved Under Armour shirt. The bright sun really warmed up the snowy day. There was around an inch of snow covering the hillsides. It was really pretty. Around the 2 mile mark, we met an older couple hiking a four mile out and back from Rockwoods. About five minutes later, we met a trail runner who wanted to run 18 miles that day. Just before crossing Melrose Road, we saw another trail runner. We crossed Melrose Road around 12:30; we were hiking at a steady 2 miles per hour with full packs on the snowy trail. We ate some lunch at Melrose before dropping into the Carr Creek valley and entering Greensfelder. We arrived at the Overlook Trail around 1:30 and we planned on meeting the Braudes at 3:00. We decided to hike the old Eagle Valley Trail. I wasn't expecting too much, but that trail turned out to be my favorite part of Greensfelder. The trail ran on the side of a hill in this long, beautiful glade area. There were near constant views of the hills on the other side of the valley. The glade ended right before the Mustang Trail. After that, we followed the old Eagle Valley back to the new Eagle Valley, and then hiked back to the Overlook Trail. We hiked up the steep, rocky hill to the overlook. We met the Braudes at the Osage Campsite right around 3:15. Total, we hiked about 8 miles on Saturday. They had started a small fire before we got there. As the sun was setting, we sawed more wood and set up our tents. Just before the sun set, we started up our stoves to cook our dinner. Both the Braudes and my dad had freeze dried Pad Thai; while I had Lasagna. Dr. Braude also found a pack of Idahoan Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Baby Red Mashed Potatoes that looked really good. Right after I added water to my freeze dried, I put my pot back on the stove. About a minute later, I poured some more water in it, but I burned a hole in the pot. This week, I'm going to ask the people at REI why it did that. Around 8, the moon rose in the East. It was a full moon, and it looked huge. The moon gave off so much light that it was casting shadows! I had never seen a moon shadow before; it was awesome. We hiked up to the Beulah Shelter in the moolight. After we got back, we let the fire die down. Around 9:00, we went to bed. The temperature was cold all day, but the sun warmed us during the day. We prepared for a cold night with a low forecasted in the single digits. I'm not sure how cold it really got, but it was cold. We woke up and had a small fire before hiking back out to Rockwoods. We took a couple of bushwhacking shortcuts and got back in about an hour and a half. On the way back into St. Louis, we had to stop by Krispy Kreme an get some doughnuts.
My dad hiking in Rockwoods
Me in Rockwoods
The two pictures above this are of the glade area on the old Eagle Valley. Even though that is the old Eagle Valley, it still has the sign posts on it.
Our snowy campsite
Troop 21 takes a trip to Skyway Farms for our annual cabin "campout" every December. Skyway Farms is a house run by Lindenwood University. We've been going there for the past 10 years or so. Personally, I find it pretty boring, so this year I proposed to lead a backpacking trip in Cuiver River State Park. Our Scoutmaster, Tom Coscia, said I could do that if I got two adults and two scouts. Luke and I counted as the two Scouts, and Mr. Harrison and Luke's Dad counted as the adults. On our Tuesday night meeting last week, Tom asked if anyone else wanted to go backpacking, but as usual, no one else wanted too. So, anyway, it ended up just being the four of us. Luke, Mr. Harrison, and I drove out with the rest of Troop 21 on Friday evening. Mr. Harrison and I decided to sleep outside in the cold. I brought my REI Zenith Zero Degree sleeping bag for Friday. This was going to be my coldest test of that bag yet. I slept fine through the night and I was pretty warm. The only part of me that was cold was my face, but other than that, my sleeping bag was great. When I got up, it was about 15 degrees outside and it was cold and windy. After I packed away my sleeping pad and bag, I pulled up the stakes and just carried my tent into the cabin. Once I was in the warm cabin, then I took the tent down. We ate blueberry pancakes and sausage for breakfast. We drove down to the Cuiver River State Park to start our hike. We met Mr. Sloan and Cody at the visitor center. Cody is the Sloan's awesome Australian Shepard. Then, we drove up to the Big Sugar Creek Trailhead; this is where we started our trip.
We hiked south on the Big Sugar Creek Trail. After traveling on a ridge for a short distance, the trail dropped steeply into a a small valley. The trail crossed back and forth over a small, rocky-bottomed stream. At one point, there was a small cliff that was covered in a cool little sheet of icicles.
Soon after the icicles, we passed Connector D and climbed up onto a hillside. We went throuh a small meadow and traversed on a hillside. There were several drainage crossings. One of them had a cool little overhang with some icicles dangling off of it.
About 2.5 miles after we started, we reached the crossing of Big Sugar Creek. This was a lot bigger creek than we thought it was going to be. Where the trail crossed, the creek was easily about 30 ft. wide. The trail was a horse trail, so the crossing was about eight inches deep. While that isn't hard for equestrian users, that is impossible for hikers to do with out getting their feet soaked. Since I had mid cut boots on, I waded across a shallow area, but the other three hiked downstream to find an easier spot. About 100 yds away, we found a narrow channel. There was a main channel that was about 8 inches deep and five ft. wide and another smaller area of water. I tossed my trekking poles over and Luke jumped across without his pack. Then, Mr. Sloan tossed Luke's pack to me. While Luke was getting across, Mr. Harrison found a rock and put that in. Finally Mr. Harrison and Mr. Sloan made it across.
Before I continue, let me preface this with something. I have hiked on trails in Greensfelder and Rockwoods Range that have been severly damaged and eroded by equestrian use, but all of those trails were nothing compared to the devastation that I encountered at Cuivre River State Park. This was quite simply the most damaged trail that I have ever seen. There was at least three fourths of a mile of trail that is hopelessly destroyed by equestrian traffic. It was a ten foot wide path that was indented with thousands of hoof prints that are eight inches deep. Each of these hoof prints was full of icy mud. The entire trails for this distance was covered from edge to edge with these hoof prints. This section of trail has been damaged beyond repair by certain irresponsible equestrian riders who used the trail when they were wet and muddy, and now this trail is destroyed. Near the end of this section, there appeared to be some work being done to repair the trail.
After we passed the section that was destroyed by horse usage, we took the Hamilton Hollow Trail to the Frenchmen's Bluff Trail. We followed the Frenchmen's Bluff Trail up to the bluff.
We ate lunch at the overlook pictured above. After lunch, we traveled on the bluff for the next two miles. This section was the prettiest part of the whole trip. The views extended far out over the Cuivre River Valley. After about two miles on the bluff, the trail curved away and headed back towards Big Sugar Creek. About a mile after the bluff, we crossed the gravel road and followed it 100 yds. North to Connector E. Our original plan was to follow the Cuivre River Trail back to Big Sugar Creek, cross the creek, and hike to the backpacking site, but since it was getting late and we were hiking a slower pace than we planned on, we took the shorter route on Connector E.
Below is a picture of the horse destroyed trail on Connector E. The first quarter mile was like this, but it improved after that.
After we reached Big Sugar Creek, we found the place where the trail crossed was impassable to hikers. About 50 yards downstream, we found a channel that was about 10 ft. wide. There were lots of big, flat rocks lying on the banks, so we decided to build ourselves a little crossing. On the other side of the creek, a bluff separated us from the trail. I thought we could follow a sloping ledge next to the creek to get around the bluff, but the ledge was too icy. Instead, we got to climb straight up the really steep hill to the right of the bluff. The climbing was straight up a very steep hillside over roots and rocks. The dirt was still frozen solid, so there wasn't any way to kick footholds in. In some tricky spots, I had to grab small little saplings and pull myself up. After what seemed like an eternity, the steepness relented and we picked up the trail.
Once we were all on the trail, we hiked south for about five minutes. Then, we hit the spur trail to the backpacking site. About 100 yds up this faint trail, we reached our site. There was a fire ring on the ridge and that was just about it. Our first priority was getting wood for a fire. We spent a good 20 minutes gathering fire wood, then we set up our tents. Once our tents were up, sleeping pads unrolled, and sleeping bags laid out, then we starting to boil our water for dinner. My brother's old MSR Whisperlite turned into a fireball twice, but other than that boiling the water was uneventful. Mr. Harrison had Black Beans and Rice, Luke had Mexican Chicken and Rice, Mr. Sloan ate an Asian Curry Dish, and I had Beef Teriyaki with Rice. After that meal, I had my new favorite freeze-dried food. Neither lasagna or beef stroganoff could compare to the delicious Beef Teriyaki. After we had finsihed eating, we started up our fire with the fire starter Mr. Sloan brought from St. Louis. For the next four hours, we sat around our warm fire. The stars were really beautiful on that cold, clear night. Orion, the Big Dipper, and the Moon were all very bright and visible. Luke and I went to bed around 9:00. My sleeping bag was warm enough, but I still didn't get a good night's sleep. I didn't want my camera or Camelbak to freeze overnight, so I kept those inside my sleeping bag. Neither of them froze, but they were both very uncomfortable lumps in my sleeping bag.
We woke up around 6:45 the next morning and started to take down our tents. Soon, Mr. Sloan had some hot chocolate ready for us. That little, warm cup of hot chocolate tasted so good on the cold morning. We broke down our camp and were hiking out around 7:30. To save some distance, we bushwhacked off the ridge to the north. We followed a faint trail and soon hit the Big Sugar Creek Trail. We followed the trail down to the creek and took the hikers only loop to the north. The trail led through an eerie little praire before climbing onto a neat little bluff above Big Sugar Creek. After following on the bluff for a ways, the trail curved away from the bluff and up a ravine. At the head of the ravine, we bushwhacked over to Connector E. We followed the Connector E about a mile back to the trailhead.
My mom and I got our new mountain bikes on Feb. 27. The next day, we "baptized" our bikes on the 3 mile Grotpeter Trail at Castlewood.
My name is Ben. I love to read, hike, backpack, mountain bike, rock climb, and mountain bike race. Since there are so many great hikes in Missouri, I decided to make a website to describe them.
The Mountain Bike
I ride a 2010 Specialized Rockhopper Expert 29er. I've upgraded all the original parts, went 1x9 and dropped 5lbs from the stock bike.
My Road Bike
I have Willier Izoard for road riding and racing.
My CX Bike
I ride a 2010 Specialized Tricross
2010 Race Results
River Trails Mountain Bike Challenge (Kansas)
1st Junior 15-18
Tilles Park Crit
5th Juniors 10-18
5th Juniors 15-18
1st Juniors 15-18
2nd Juniors 15-18
2009 Mtb. Race Results
ICCC Castlewood Race
5th Beginner 19 and under
5th Beginner 19 and under
Burning at the Bluff
3rd in Burnin Virgins Category