We kicked off the beginning of summer with our twice annual weekend camping trip in southeast Missouri. There has been quite a bit of rain in this area of the country throughout the spring and the effects were very much evident on our drive over there. Columbia is about halfway and they have a better variety of restaurants than anywhere in between, so we always make it a point to stop there for lunch.
We arrived at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park around dinnertime and with enough light left to set-up our site without trouble. Our car camping tent is self-standing, so no chance of it falling down. Also there were no unexpected downpours of rain overnight which was a nice surprise! After a dinner of boxed mac and cheese with dehydrated veggies we spent some time reading and just generally relaxing after a hectic work week.
Saturday we had big plans to go sit on the river. It was going to be a wonderful day of sun, water, and beer. Due to the extensive flooding in the area, the Shut-Ins were closed (stay safe in the water!) so we went into Lesterville for river access. The place that we were hoping to find, because it was free, eluded us so we bought a day pass for a campground on the river. First though, we forgot chairs. After going back to our campsite to get them we made our way down to the river with sunscreen, lunch, and a crowler. Yes, that’s right; a can growler.
It was still pretty early, around 10:30, when we got set up so we applied sunscreen and watched rafters float past. The section of the river we had set up in was just below a put in place for rafters and kayakers for one company and just above a take out place for rafters and tubers for a different company so we were guaranteed quality people watching all day. During a lull in river traffic Kaila decided it would be fun to swim across… This river was the same that the Shut-Ins were on, so that went really really well. Suffice to say it took Kaila two tries to get over once and then we spent about half an hour on the other side locating a way back. No shoes were lost!
Lunch and beer were needed to recover from that adventure and we spent a pleasant afternoon people watching, applying sunscreen (in vain), and drinking. We headed back to camp around 4 to eat dinner and attempt to start a fire. It didn’t work and we even went through about half a bottle of lighter fluid! We blame the wood that had been left from the previous occupants. We went to bed early in preparation for a hike the next morning.
Sunday morning we set out around 9 to hike the Taum Sauk portion of the Ozark Trail. We left straight from our campsite and hiked a connector trail through Goggins Mountain State Park that met up with the OT. Since this was only a day trip we packed our 18L daypacks with water, lunch, and snacks. We shared the first part of the trail with a group of equestrian riders but when we hit the Ozark Trail, we didn’t see anyone else.
Our experience hiking in Missouri last year prepared us for the trail conditions we were going to encounter so we both had our gaiters, long socks, and pants on. Since we had forgotten our trekking poles in the entryway of our apartment we stopped more frequently to check for and remove ticks. The rain combined with relative neglect of the OT created some incredibly overgrown areas. This section of the trail was one of the most well-liked sections for its views of the area. While the elevation change is milder the views were comparable to the Ouachita Trail.
After lunch the heat and mugginess became more apparent to us. We hiked through various terrain but the burn area was definitely the hottest with little to no tree cover, but a lot of (tick-infested) undergrowth. Mercifully when we entered the shaded part afterwards the trail appeared to be more well-kept and we encountered a park ranger on an ATV. He was looking for someone that had been reported unconscious on the ground near water and asked if we ran into anyone. We weren’t able to help him and got off the OT shortly after to take one of the trails to the Shut-Ins. We weren’t able to swim there but still wanted to see what they were like. They have a nice plank walkway that runs the length of the shut-ins with multiple access points and viewing areas. It may have been partly because of the increased water flow, but they were pretty remarkable.
As tired as we were at that point we still had a mile and a half shadeless hike back to our campsite; where we did a more thorough de-ticking. As an added precaution we also took a quick “shower” and wrapped all of our clothes in towels, far away from the tent. Clearly we did something right because neither of us carried home any ticks. We learned from the last fire and used our freshly purchased, more burn-able looking wood for tonight. Zero lighter fluid needed. We ate and relaxed and learned way too much about our next-site neighbors.