Ozark Trail - May 2023
Mon 22 May 2023
As further preparation for our AT hike next year, we went back to the Ozark Trail a couple weeks ago with the intention of doing five nights on the trail and covering 60-70 miles. We didn't even get close to that. Even worse, we determined that there is a real possibility that we won't be able to do the AT as planned. Here's the story:
We're just getting started. The van is packed, we're excited and anticipating a great experience. We have about 6 hours of driving ahead, nearly straight south, our destination being Bass' River Resort, where we will spend our first night in a little cabin before hitting the trail the next morning.
We stopped in Laddonia, MO for a picnic lunch and found this very nice little park, that had nice bathrooms and running water.
The resort is quite a big place, definitely geared for lots of summer tourists. We arrived before the summer rush so it was pretty quiet. We ordered a fresh-made pizza, bought a six-pack, and sat out on the deck of the main building to have a relaxing and pleasant supper.
Here are a couple views of the resort from the deck.
We got settled into the cabin and then walked down to Courtois Creek to see what was in store for the next day. Like the streams and rivers we encountered on the Ozark Trail last year, this was crystal clear and very pretty. We waded out in our bare feet and looked for interesting rocks before making our way back to the cabin to finish prepping for the hike.
Here we are in the morning, ready to hike. The car was parked in the designated spot and we made our way onto the trail. It was a lovely morning, promising to get hot later in the day and with a chance of rain as well.
Kristin looking stylish and pretty!
The Courtois Creek trail section is relatively minimal change in elevation compared to the Taum Sauk we hiked last year. Most of the way did not afford grand views; this was one exception, although this is really only a couple hundred feet above Courtois Creek, looking across the creek valley.
About 3 miles in we stopped for a water refill. We had deliberately started with only half of our water, knowing that we'd be able to refill at this point. And it was at this point that we discovered a serious problem: BOTH of our Sawyer Squeeze water filters would not flow water! This really threw us for a loop, as we would not be able to complete our hike without the ability to get clean drinking water. After some disussion and argument, Kristin remembered that we had iodine tablets in our first aid kit (always carry a first aid kit!), and that we could continue provided that we treated our water. I didn't really like that idea, but agreed to it, as the alternative would be to go back to the car and give up the hike - at least, that was what we were thinking in our half-panicked state of mind. So we treated three liters of water, using six tablets out of our 50-tablet bottle (always carry a backup water treatment system!). Think about that: 6 of 50 tablets, and only 3 miles in - we were still in trouble, though we hadn't quite realized it at that point.
And we're finally ready to continue, after the delay of processing our dilemma.
We stopped in this creek wash for a snack and water break. The temperature was rising, and the water tasted like a hospital smells, but we were making progress and feeling good about that.
Taking another break.
I don't know exactly what the temperature got to, but it was in the upper eighties. Soon we were slogging along, drinking our water quickly, and eagerly looking forward to a place to stop and camp. We had a location in mind, but after some searching and backtracking we were unable to find it, so we backtracked a bit more to this camp that we had passed up. We were hot, tired, and it would do, having a nice little creek right next to it where we washed and cooled down, and refilled water bottles.
We set up the tent and had a nice little fire, which was cheerful but not really needed given the heat of the day. After treating the water we would need for the rest of the night, we had used 19 of the 50 tablets. It was clear that we could not go another night without running out of iodine, and the decision was made to return to the car the next day, go in search of new filters and/or iodine, then return to the trail to keep going.
By this time, my ankle was sore, as I had expected (long story, but it's due to a very old injury). I was hobbling around a bit, but figured a night of rest would make it better for the next day.
Overnight a spectacular thunderstorm dumped on us and provided a variety of cool-sounding thunder - distant rumbles, sharp nearby cracks, and crackly hisses - quite fun to listen to. Our brand new Big Agnes Copper Spur tent kept us completely dry. This is what the ground looked like after we broke camp in the morning.
On our hike back out we encountered two turtles at two different locations. As we hiked, my ankle was becoming more sore, and I was putting a lot of weight on my hiking poles to reduce the stress on my foot. I was not feeling great about it, but I didn't say much to Kristin either. I don't like being a whiner. But I was hurting.
Once we got off the trail, we did a quick search, made a couple calls, and determined that we could get new filters in Rolla, about a 45-minute drive from the resort. We hit the road, got two filters, and drove back to Cuba, where we found a motel room. We figured we'd get some good rest, have a nice meal, then head back out to the trail the next day. I was concerned about my ankle, and discussed it with Kristin, but I thought I would be able to keep going if I was very careful and took it slow. We decided we'd try 5-ish-mile legs instead of 10-ish-mile legs.
The next morning I woke up early as I usually do. My ankle was still super sore, stiff and swollen, and I had difficuly just getting to the bathroom. I laid in bed, thinking maybe - maybe, with a bit of walking it would loosen up and I'd be able to hike. But I was fooling myself and I knew it, so once Kristin was up, we talked it over and reluctantly decided to call off the rest of the hike.
We packed up and started loading the van, planning to head to a restaurant for breakfast, when Kristin discovered we had a very flat front tire caused by a very-well embedded construction screw! Damn, one more mishap to deal with!
We found a couple shops that would fix the tire, but would not do service calls. Kristin wanted to try inflating the tire so that we could drive to a shop instead of paying for a tow truck. We don't carry a pump, the motel owners did not have a pump, so we were stuck. We decided to walk (or hobble, in my case!) to the nearby truck stop to get breakfast, figuring we'd ask around for help. The waitresses were sweet and willing to help, but turned up nothing. Walking back to the motel, Kristin thought she'd try at a neighboring motel, and sure enough, the maintenance guy John had a pump and came right over to help us. In 10 minutes we had a full tire, John refused payment, and we rushed off to get to the shop before the tire went flat again. We went to Bouse Automotive and got prompt top-notch tire repair service for only $20.
So, our 6-day 5-night backpacking trip came to a disappointing end. Worse than that, it is clear that my ankle will not hold up to an AT hike without something being done about it. As I write this two weeks later, my ankle is still a bit sore and I have a doctor's appt set up to start the process of finding a solution. I am thinking surgery will be the answer - but if that is so, it's unlikely I'll be healed up enough to hike the AT next year. We shall see...