Devil’s Backbone Wilderness covers almost 7000 acres of south-central Missouri and was the destination of the latest Sierra Club backpacking trip. 8 of us arrived at the McGarr Ridge trail head in 3 separate batches and proceeded southwest about 3 miles to Float Camp, a nice area along the North Fork of the White River that has probably been used by many people floating the river over the years.
When I went to bed Friday night there was already a little frost on the tent. Saturday morning it was 20 degrees inside my tent with a thick coat of frost on both sides of the fly. This was my first experience with winter (sub-freezing) camping and the most unpleasant parts were the getting in and out of bed when so exposed to the cold, and getting up in the middle of the night to pee. On the plus side, you don’t have to deal with ticks and mosquitoes. I felt a bit of cold on my back so if I was going to be out in even colder temperatures I’d want a second mattress.
I had heard of, but never seen in person, a frost flower. They’re formed under specific conditions and things were apparently just right as they were numerous on both mornings.
Saturday we day-hiked south-east down Collins Ridge, then north on Devils Backbone, then west along Crooked Creek with a little detour to see McGarr Spring (which was an itty-bitty trickle).
Sunday we had breakfast, packed-up and headed back to the McGarr trail head to start for home. We stopped in Mountain Grove for lunch at The Hay Loft and then hit the road again.
This may turn out to have been my last backpacking trip for the year but I’d say it was a pretty good year – 12 multi-day trips in 6 states including 5 of Missouri’s 8 Wilderness areas and even a tiny bit of the Appalachian Trail plus at least 76 day hikes around KC. And this was just my first year of backpacking and first full year of hiking.
Next year I’ll be turning it up a notch – perhaps a week in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, probably at least one service trip to work on trails a bit farther from home, and whatever else I can fit-in. Shorter trips to the Ouachitas and Buffalo River for sure.