I was feeling ready for a solo backpacking trip and the opportunity arrived this weekend in Paddy Creek Wilderness, a 7000 acre area south of Ft Leonard Wood. It was officially a KC Adventure Club trip but nobody else signed-up. I headed down early Friday to the Roby Lake trail head and was on the trail by 11:40, intending to hike the whole Big Piney trail counter-clockwise – taking the south trail east and then the north trail to the west – and spending a couple nights out there, probably near miles 5.5 and 15.5.
About .5 miles after the north/south split I came to an unexpected turn and creek crossing. Hmmm. I went a bit further and it became clear that I was on the north trail instead of the south. I debated continuing that way but decided that since I had told people I was going counter-clockwise I better stick to it. I back-tracked all the way to the north/south split when I saw that the south trail was hidden behind a tree and the sign was a bit misleading. That cost me about 1.5 hours but the early start meant I still made it, as expected, to about mile 5.5 before stopping for the evening.
I’d gotten accustomed to spending evenings sitting around the fire and talking so this was a bit strange. I read for a bit but then decided to call it a night and was probably in the sack before 7:00 PM. It was a fairly windy night with a low of about 45.
Saturday morning it was still windy and now rather cloudy and the National Weather Service broadcast from my new Motorola MR350R FRS/GMRS radio indicated the chance of rain for Saturday night and Sunday had increased to “likely”. I started trying to get used to the idea of a cold wet night in the tent.
Shortly after starting-out I met the only other person I would see on the trail that weekend – Joel – and he was also from the KC area. Small world. He started a day earlier than me and was going clockwise.
I got to mile 15.5 and still had a couple hours of daylight left. I was pretty fatigued but the remaining terrain was relatively flat and rain was looking pretty certain so I went ahead and hiked-out. I covered 11.5 miles that day and 18.5 for both so that is a new personal best for one and two days with a full (40-43 lb) pack. I didn’t go in with that intention but it felt kinda good to keep pushing and try to see where the limit is.
I headed north to I-44, then east and found a hotel just north of Ft Leonard Wood. After a shower and a ribeye steak at Miller’s Grill I settled in for a couple hours of vegetating in front of the TV. I greatly missed my DVR and the ability to skip through all the damn commercials!! I think it was Discovery Channel that had the story of two guys hiking the Amazon River from its source in the Andes all the way east across Brazil to the Atlantic. It took them 2.5 years and made my hike that day seem pretty darn insignificant.
My original plan for Sunday called for heading north to hike the short trails at Clifty Creek and Painted Rock Conservation Areas if I could leave Paddy Creek by noon. I now had even more time available and had brought my copy of Hiking Missouri and quickly found the Stone Mill Spring Trail just a few miles south east so figured I’d add that to the list.
It did rain off and on all night with the system following right along I-44. Sunday morning there was a break but more rain on the way and I had to decide: go to Stone Mill Spring and probably be rained-on all morning, or skip it to head north and possibly beat the rain.