I last hiked section 5 of the Ozark Highlands Trail between the Ozone and Big Piney trail heads in the spring of 2013 in the opposite direction. I think this is probably the best scenery-per-mile section of the whole trail. About 8.5 inches of rain fell earlier in the week so just like last time every little creek was flowing and waterfalls were everywhere. Also like last time, this was a 4-day trip with friends from the Kansas City area.
Water seems omnipresent, with the trail following alongside Little Piney and Gee Creeks for several miles, crossing the former twice and the latter once. Also crossed are Clifty, Owens, Lick, Cedar, and Haw creeks plus many smaller ones with no names. Due to the high water levels we ended-up changing our shoes and wading 10 times. At about 20 minutes per, that can really slow your progress.
Much of the best scenery was familiar but I had somehow completely forgotten about Hobo Falls near the Cedar Creek crossing. I apparently didn’t get any pictures of them last time and the ones from this time aren’t very good, with many trees obscuring things.
We made camp #2 early at Lick Creek and then hiked upstream a bit to see Slot Rock, where the water flows down a narrow chute into a large pool – a popular swimming hole in the summer. Then we hiked further upstream and turned up a tributary to see if we could find Sunset and Discovery falls. With heights of 70′ and 43′ respectively, they were very enticing. It was a lot of work to get to it but we did find Sunset Falls just as we ran out of time and needed to turn back. There was surprisingly little water flowing over it so we were a bit disappointed. On the other side of the “canyon” was a waterfall that I thought was Discovery but it turned out to be its smaller sibling, with Discovery hiding further up in the bluff and even harder to get to.
The weather was sunny but chilly with overnight lows of 29, 24, and 24 F. I’m still very satisfied with the new Exped Winterlite mattress.