Devil’s Backbone Wilderness

Hike over, obligatory end of hike selfie — Trip total, a very modest 10.5 miles and 1,000 ft. of elevation gain.

McGarr Spring — looking a lot nicer in the sunshine. I filled up my water bottle before starting my hike out.

I’m in no rush … I don’t need to be home until this evening, and it’ll only take around two hours to hike back to the trailhead. I might as well relax for a while.

Impressive food bag hang — even if I say so myself. at least 20 ft.

Camped overlooking McGarr Spring — It’s embarrassing to admit how long it took me to find the two trees I used when I camped here back in December. So I’ll just say It was far too long.

Frosty Morning — My coldest night out on the trail. Last night at 15°F, and ironically, I was too hot! There was even ice inside my hammock. +2

Scenic view of the North Fork River — Once my (leisurely) lunch was over there was nothing else but to tackle the three-hundred-foot climb to the McGarr Ridge Trail. This scenic overlook gave me an excellent excuse to catch my breath.

Blue Spring — This is popular area, I met seven people — two families — out for an afternoon walk while I was heating and eating my lunch here. I was last here with Ginger on a wedding anniversary backpacking trip, February 20, 2011.

North Fork River from the Blue Spring Trail — 1:30 p.m., time to make lunch and replenish my water.

Blue Spring Trailhead — You have to walk through the North Fork Recreation Area Campground to get to the trail that leads to Blue Spring and on into the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness and the McGarr Ridge Trail.

The Ridge Runner Trail Trailhead needs a bit of TLC. +1

One hour later … Crossing County Road CC — Once on the trail it was straightforward to follow, and where it crosses CC is easy to spot once you know where to look! +3

Ooh look, there are newish blazes on this trail too. Note the buff to keep my ears warm.

Found it! The lost trail junction — At last, I have found the elusive point where the Ridge Runner Trail joins the North Fork Loop. And here there are very faint signs of the Ridge Runner Trail I’ve been hunting for over a year.

Blazes? I’ll take some stinking blazes! It was a Windy, cold but bright start to the day. Back on the Ridge Runner/North Fork Loop trail, and there are some new blazes. There’s a chance I may find the trail Junction I’ve been searching for.

Camped among short leaved pines for a change — I like camping among the pines, but it was windy and watching the tops of these 100 Ft. tall trees whip around, did make me wonder how much of a good idea that was. I’m still here, so it can’t have been bad choice.

Morning in the woods — The temps dropped quickly last night. It was below freezing by 9 p.m. and dropped to 28F.

Trail Not Maintained — that’s fine, the trail is in better condition than the maintained trail (I hike this trail back in December). Not far to go to my planned stopping point and it is still light.

Another evening, another trailhead — I am at County Road CC Trailhead in Ozark County to be precise. I have a couple of hours before it gets dark to get to my planned campsite and set up camp for the night. That shouldn’t be a problem as I’m only going a mile or so.

Plans for the weekend — Ridge Runner/Devil’s Backbone. This is the last of my ‘Must do’ winter hikes before spring takes off. I have had two failed attempts at finding where the Ridge Runner Trail joins the North Fork loop. I’ve decided if I can’t find the trail this time, I’ll bushwhack my way.

A self portrait photograph of Gary Allman keeping warm in his hammock while winter camping. December 2022.

Journal: Four days on the Ridge Runner Trail & the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness, December 2022 – Work has been keeping me off the trail for too long. I took three days of comp time to get out in the wild and put a few miles under my belt. I’ve been wanting to revisit the Ridge Runner Trail North Fork Loop ever since I first hiked the trail in May 2020. Trip write-up: 10-minute read, +42

End of trip selfie – and a summary of the trip. Three-minute read, +4

State Highway CC Trailhead, Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri. +2

Looking up ‘Camp Hollow,’ the hike out, and more horses – It took me an hour to get to this spot, about two-and-a-half miles from McGarr Spring. I’ve named this hollow ‘Camp Hollow’ because, surprise, surprise, I’ve camped here a couple of times.

Photograph showing the shallow pool below the McGarr Spring, Devil's Backbone Wilderness, Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri. December 2022.

McGarr Spring, and on my way again – I had plenty of water for my hike out, so I didn’t need to collect any. The main Spring is located up the hill a ways and it drains down into this pool which is slowly filling with debris. It was a lot more ‘pool-like’ when I first came here a couple of years ago.

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