Thirty Miles & Thirty Pounds: Three Days on the Ozark Trail

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 21, 2010

Winter Hike on the Ozark Trail

Ozzie is not a hunter, angler or farmer. He has never owned a pick-up truck or a dog. He is 100 percent, pure college professor. Art and architectural history! For a weekend, however, he left the University of Missouri-Columbia's soporific lecture halls and became an outdoorsman. He agreed to hike and camp along the Current River Section of the Ozark Trail, which is why he found himself befuddled by a dome tent, flexible poles and the very presence of a rain fly. Eventually, we figured it out.

The weekend, we noticed, included many instances of the number three: three of us - Ozzie (my father), a friend named Elizabeth, and I - backpacked for three days, 30 miles and each with a little more than 30-pound backpack. At times, we wished we had three mules.

But the Current River Section of the Ozark Trail winds through some of the most beautiful federal and Conservation Department lands, including Mill Mountain, Stegall Mountain and Peck Ranch Conservation Area. It was a chance to escape from our ordinary routines, and that alone was enough to convince us - especially since we didn't know exactly what to expect.

The night before our trek, we shuttled one car to the end of the 30-mile trail section, returning in the second car to the national park campground at Owl's Bend on the Current River. In the morning, we began to pack. We brought the basics: poncho, tent, sleeping bag, water, food, stove, matches, first aid kit, flashlight, sturdy but well broken-in shoes, insect repellent, compass and map.

Our gear was not especially new or made from the latest, ultra-lightweight materials. We did make sure, however, to pack it all in good quality, adjustable, internal frame backpacks. Had we invested in new stuff, such as rain suits or a more expensive tent, our packs would have been lighter. We set off from Owl's Bend and followed the trail as it heads south along the west side of the Current River for two miles, then plays tag with Little Indian and Indian creeks. Splashing through the creeks left us wet from the ankles down. Later that afternoon, showers near Mill Mountain drenched the rest of us. We trudged along for part of the first day, struggling in and out of droopy ponchos as the weather flip-flopped. Nevertheless, spirits remained high. By evening, everything but our shoes and socks had dried out.

We covered about

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