Sep 04, 2017How did we get here, and where are we headed?

How did we get here, and where are we headed?

May 2010 Car Camping at Blue Spring | August 2017 Backpacking and wild camping on the Ozark Trail

Back in 2010 our outdoor recreation goals very quickly evolved. Within three months of our first-weekend camping trip, we’d bought kayaks to get out on the lakes, and in less than six months we went from car camping to backpacking and hiking.

Photograph of a Minivan and tent at the Big Bay Campground, Shell Knob, Missouri
Camping at Big Bay Campground, Shell Knob, Missouri. Copyright © 2010 Gary Allman, all rights reserved

From the start we had difficulty finding campgrounds and sites as they are managed by different organizations. Corps of Engineers, National Forest, and State Parks (ignoring the private campgrounds). Each has their own website and booking system. Our original plan for our Ozarks Walkabout website was to document all the campgrounds, hikes and other recreational outdoor activities in the Ozarks and make the information available in one place. We also wanted to encourage people to use these facilities before they are lost. In the process, we wanted to help people get out and enjoy nature in a responsible manner.

We had some outline plans to monetize the site, but those were sunk on several counts. The first was Missouri passing a tax law that meant we couldn’t benefit from online sales via Amazon. Then we noticed a whole bunch of start-ups providing similar facilities to those we were thinking of, and finally, our business insurers refused to have anything to do with us if Ozarks Walkabout was to join our existing business portfolio.

Packing for camping – We are Organized. Copyright © 2010 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

We liked having the Ozark Walkabout site though. It gave us another reason to get out and document what we were doing and help others wanting to “Get out and about in the Ozarks.” so we’ve kept paying to keep the website running, and we continue to update it, even if that is somewhat erratically.

Pines Overlook Campsite at night. Red Bluff Campgound, Davisville. Copyright © 2010 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.
Our first stop at the top of Coy Bald looking over toward Lower Pilot Knob (the tallest of the hills in the distance). The knob is also in the Wilderness area, which gives some idea of its size.Copyright © 2010 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

However, that doesn’t explain how we progressed from car camping to backpacking in such a short space of time. Looking back it was probably fueled by a poor choice of campgrounds. What struck us, was that a large number of people at the campgrounds were hell-bent on partying, making noise, and having a good ol’ time. Nothing really wrong with that, but what we wanted was peace, quiet, and a chance to get back to nature and recharge. Our first fix for this was to go car camping mid-week when all the partying folks were at work. Camping mid-week we had the pick of the campsites and sometimes we even had entire campgrounds to ourselves. However, that wasn’t a practical long-term solution as we still have to work too.

“What if,” we mused, as we sat around the campfire, “we could pick up our camping stuff and carry it a mile or so into the wilderness and get away from the noise and people?” Thus began another of our favorite activities – research. We read voraciously about backpacking. We decided that ultralight backpacking was not our style, and started making lists of what was needed to go backpacking in earnest.

Photograph of a Mutha Hubba tent at Hercules Glades
Our first wild camping campsite – Hercules Glades Christmas Break 2010. Copyright © 2010 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

We carried on car camping through the summer of 2010, and bought a new lightweight backpacking tent in November along with zero degree sleeping bags, a water filter and what, at that point, I considered a backpacking stove. I already had a backpack though we found a much better one in an online sale, so we bought that. Ginger got her Deuter pack and we were ready for a ‘practice run’ at the Berry Bend campground before venturing off backpacking. At that point we’d not hiked in the wilderness, so we signed up for a group hike at Hercules Glades with MDC.

The arrival of our replacement sleeping bags (we returned the first ones we bought) coincided with a break in the weather, and we went off on our first backpacking trip. I dread to think what my pack weighed. 40-45lbs? (actually only 38lbs) Over time we’ve reviewed what’s worked and what hasn’t. What’s heavy and we can manage without, and what luxuries we are prepared to carry. That latter list has shrunk considerably over the last year or two. We also found that we can car camp just as well with our backpacks, which minimizes the amount of gear we have to keep track of and manage.

Backpacking was just what we wanted, it got us away from the crowds and the noise. Though somehow we never got to the point where we just hiked off into the wilderness, planted our tent and stopped to just enjoy nature and doing nothing.

Panoramic picture of our campsite in the Mark Twain National Forest
Where did you go to watch the Eclipse? We camped in the Mark Twain National Forest. Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Our biggest problem remains time. I work half-time as a Director of Communications, and we are both self-employed (anyone who is self-employed will know that our ‘bosses’ are really demanding slave drivers). We look longingly at people in nine-to-five jobs who are able to plan their weekends and evenings away from work. We are also at that stage in life where family demands on the one-hand are dwindling as kids gain their independence, but family commitments seem to crop up every year, what with births, marriages etc. When half your family lives on the other side of the Atlantic that can take quite a large chunk of time and a huge financial toll.

That’s why we don’t get out as much and post on Ozarks Walkabout as often as we might.

So where are we headed? In 2016, we reviewed what was putting up roadblocks to our getting out, and we did some simple fixes. At home, we’ve been decluttering and fixing things up to be more space and time-efficient. At work we are aware of the need to address the mythical “work-life balance” and we both claim that we want to get out on the trails and lakes more often.

The difficult bit is proving to be working out how to translate that into action.   

Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved. | This was originally posted on


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