Well after regrouping from a failed trip in spring and making some adjustments in my gear and suspension I got together with a friend and made another stab at the Ozarks with my Clark. I had done a pretty successful trip to Zion's West Rim Trail in June so I was feeling a bit better about things this time. Our destination was a little walk-in site near the river about a 1/4 mile from the parking lot. I packed up my gear in the backpack but I also brought along a few car camping goodies to since it wasn't too much effort to drag it in.
I came down Friday and found myself a nice view next to the river and shaded in the cover of several tall oaks. I had originally planned to disappear up into the hills to keep out of sight of any folks coming to visit but the view was just too nice to pass up.
Take a few steps from the hammock and here is my morning perch.
I got the camp setup and my friend and his dogs arrived a few hours later near sunset. We looked around the area a bit, got our firewood gathered, and I cleaned up the area a bit since this is obviously a well-used summer camping spot. We then grilled up some Brats and had a pretty good dinner since we were able to drag the cooler to the site. The coyotes provided the evening entertainment on the hills surrounding us, and got the dogs all worked up. We got caught up on events next to the fire and got ready to turn in.
This time I came prepared from my last few outdoor sleeping experiences. I brought ear-plugs and some "Simply Sleep" pills to help me get my mind shut down so I could sleep. It worked well. I was asleep in minutes and I woke once to pee and that was it till dawn. I was cozy, comfy, and warm with the Marmot Helium and Exped DownMat and one inflatable pillow for my knees.
The lows that night were in the mid to upper 40's and boy did it feel like it too once I had to change clothes. I got up before sunrise and got a few pictures of the morning mist on the water. The Castor River is actually very small but in this location it fills in a wide and deep area and becomes very still water. It was a surprisingly beautiful area for a Conservation Department acquisition.
Breakfast was eggs, suasage, hashbrowns, onions, and green peppers mixed into a foil packet and cooked on the coals of a small morning fire for about 15 - 20 minutes. The resulting meal was actually quite good. We were happy not to be forced to resort to eating MH eggs and bacon! With an apple and banana it was a great meal and a foil-cooking experiment that will be marked as a success.
From there we hiked a bit around the area leaving camp as it was. We checked out the pink granite shut-ins that make the area popular. For those unfamiliar, that term refers to areas where water can't carve out a wider channel in the rock and thus is forced to cascade through the narrow channels in the rock. Most shut-ins in Missouri are dolomite, these are the only pink granite shut-in's in the state.
As with many of the state's shut-ins this was the site of a grain mill at one time. Somewhere the foundation is still supposed to be present but we didn't find it. Shut-ins were chosen because they offered a great building location and an easy place to **** up enough water to run the mill. When I return I'll keep searching for that foundation.
Next we hiked along a woodland trail leading to the ridges above the river but with the tree cover still in place there were really no views that opened up. One of my friends dogs, Virgil, is a trip. Every time we hike he locates a turtle and insists on carrying it with him for the remainder of the walk. No harm comes to it, he simply insists on having it with him. It was a nice hike but not much in the way of grand scenery, just very typical Ozark woods.
So we headed back and got the next nights wood gathered and took some time to 'swim' in the river. By 'swim' I mean cry out in agony as the cold water touched some new area of skin. After about 10 minutes I was able to function enough to wade around and even swim a bit but my friend never could get used to the cold. It was nice just to wash the sweat off anyway.
We ate dinner and got the fire going after sunset. This time we discussed and solved the major world issues facing us and took in the sounds of the owls and frogs. Tonight was quiet for the most part and once we had burned the firewood for the evening we headed to bed again.
This time I watched a little of "I Robot" on my little MP3/Video player and listened to some classical tunes. Then with the sleep pills and allergy meds it was off to dream land for me. The lows this night were higher as was the humidity but still quite cool, I'd guess 50's. Again it was one pee break for the night and then I woke to the sun coming over the hill. I just laid there for a bit and enjoyed.
This was a great trip. Awesome weather all weekend and a scenic location to spend time at. I felt much more rested than my few trips because I slept like a rock the whole time. I awoke with no aches and my leg pillow made it possible to get into a comfortable side sleeping position in the hammock. My buddy in his tent slept some but only a few hours each night. I think I finally have gotten to the point that I have a comfortable system that works for me!