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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

gleefully kept track of the first 11, then stopped counting.

Fine dining and drinking are essential to Ozzie's well-being. So on our trip, his mission was to make the food - if not memorable - at least filling and tasty. He rose to the occasion, bringing among other things, fresh fruit, cashews and a prize-winning, Boone County-cured ham. Hard cheese, bagels and spaghetti with fresh garlic kept us fortified, as well as cheerful.

There were times during our three-day trek, however, when his culinary attempts - and backpacking in general - seemed crazy. There we were with 30-plus pounds strapped mercilessly to our backs, stinging nettles lurking just around the next curve. We drank water made potable (and awful-tasting) only after adding iodine tablets, then tried to keep June bugs out of the sauce while hunkering on the ground with sore, tired calf muscles.

Just when I thought the next ant on my plate would surely send me over the edge, we'd see something marvelous. Many species of birds swooped around us, including hummingbirds, vultures and, by our estimation, everything in between. We saw two deer, one tiny mouse and 11 turtles, two of whom were mating. We caught glimpses of so many lizards that we lost count. On top of Stegall Mountain, a handsome eastern collared lizard came charging over the glade rocks and peered at us. The lizard pitched its big head to one side and we admired its long toes and splendid orange, blue and green throat.

We buoyed one another, too, with humor and nonsense. Elizabeth: "I think the whole reason for camping is that it's the only time you're allowed to go to bed dirty." Ozzie: "And I thought getting drafted into the Army was miserable." Ozzie, while trying to cook on the ground: "We're Norwegians. We don't have hunkering in our genes."

Elizabeth almost stepped on a copperhead snake that had its head in a hole. We found an iridescent selection of mushrooms - some brilliant, almost neon in color - growing in unlikely places. In Rogers Creek, a Designated Natural Area at Peck Ranch Conservation Area, I watched the most enormous crayfish I've ever seen scoot from rock to rock. Elizabeth wanted to know why crayfish scoot backwards.

Many times during our hike, we wondered why the passage of time felt so different while backpacking. On the trail, yesterday seemed like a week ago. Getting the car inspected or

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