Looking for a different trail to hike, I decided to re-hike the Berryman Trail, which we hiked during Spring Break 2011. Then we went around clockwise. This time I’m going counter-clockwise.
There’s a break in the weather, so I’ve taken three days off from work for the hike. Studying the map, it looks like the trail has been moved a lot in the past nine years, it should be interesting to compare the two trips. Just like in 2011, I’ll be taking four days to hike the 27-mile trail (the fastest time is under five hours!). I’m starting late (12:40 p.m.) as it is a 165-mile drive from Springfield, and I had a couple of things to deal with before I left. As with all my recent hikes, according to the forecast, the weather will break on my final day, becoming cold and wet.
The Berryman Trail (Counter Clockwise)
26 miles to go
The Ozark Trail Association keep this trail well maintained. There are regular blazes and distance markers every half-mile. However, I’m not sure that I really appreciated the mile-markers, I was constantly counting them down, looking for the next one (way too soon), and when they were occasionally missing (or more likely I missed them), I was left wondering why I was progressing so slowly.
Late Fall in the Ozarks, Berryman Trail
On the Berryman Trail
Camped for the night
Four-thirty, and the sun has already gone down in my little part of the forest. And I am camped on a ridge so that I can catch the last and first of the light.
This section of the trail is considered ‘dry,’ so people sometimes cache water for this part of the hike. Because of the lack of water, I opted to hike this section first, carrying several pounds of extra weight in water. However, I found a small spring, whose output crossed the trail. It wasn’t a big spring, but it was running well enough that I didn’t have to be careful with my water overnight to save some for the next day’s hike. I crossed the spring and hiked a bit further to check for good spots to camp. Not finding anything I fancied, I doubled back to the spring and decided I’d camp on the ridge directly above it. Backtracking a bit more, I noticed an old disused road running up the side of the ridge. It wasn’t marked on the latest USGS Topo, but I found it marked on a 1930s map when I got home. The road/trail made it easy to get up the ridge aways. Then, I just had to pick a couple of trees (there’s always that Goldilocks challenge of looking for a pair of trees that are ‘Just right’).
Watching the sunrise on the trees
The eastern half of the trail is considered ‘dry’ so this was a good discovery. None of the creeks had water in them, but this looks to be a reliable water source. It’s not producing gallons of water per minute, but a reasonable trickle, enough for me to be able to water-up for the next segment of my hike from here (Smith Mill Hollow) to Brazil Creek.
I was camped on the ridge above the spring, so I could get water before heading off on my day’s hike. Today is going to be my longest hike at around 8-9 miles. Once I’ve had lunch at Brazil Creek (well that’s the plan), I plan on hiking over to Little Brazil Creek and stopping there for the night. My original plan was to stop at Brazil Creek, but that just made for a very short hike of only 4-5 miles, and that’s why I’ve decided to put in a longer day. I may have to set up camp in the dark though.
Floyd Tower Rd.
This is the point where the Berryman Trail crosses Floyd Tower Rd. I didn’t see or hear any traffic.
This location is obviously being used by hikers as a caching point for food and water. If I were caching though, I’d try and be a bit more discrete about it, this looks a bit more like littering than caching. But that’s just me.
Thong Tree (Trail Marker Tree)?
Ginger’s opinion is that it is not old enough, and I’d have to agree. But, it is on the line of an obvious old trail that crosses the Berryman trail. The trail isn’t on any of the maps which is surprising. Researching Thong Trees (Trail Marker Trees), I found one archeology article debunking the whole idea, though it must be said, the author wasn’t very enamored with the source he was referring to. Here’s a Wikipedia article if you are interested.
Are they real or not? Is this one or not? I’ve no idea. But we do know that this area, while not strategically occupied by native Americans, was used as a huge hunting reserve, so having trail markers to lead to good spots and water (which this one appears to be doing) makes some sense, but markers like this take a long while to form and would have to have been made a long time ago. So, this one is probably just a result of a sapling being squished by a deadfall.
Stopped for lunch
This little creek was less than a hundred yards north of the crossing of the blacktop road that runs past the Brazil Creek Campground. I stopped here because I was not looking forward to the delay involved in diverting to the campground to fill up with water and eat lunch. It was a pleasant spot to have a nice cup of tea and heat some water for noodles. It might be December, but I found a small frog in the creek.
When Ginger and I hiked this trail in 2011, we had to walk along the road from Brazil Creek Campground to where the eastern loop hits the road. Not this time. Either we missed the trail I used to get here, or it’s a new addition. In fact, just about all of the Berryman Trail appears to have been re-routed. I was most impressed by the trail’s revised route and condition. In the process the trail has been made longer, from twenty-four miles to twenty-seven.
This is the point where you can divert off of the Berryman Trail to visit Brazil Creek and Brazil Creek Campground (go right), or keep on hiking the Berryman Trail (go left). Peering down through the trees at the campground, I could see a horse trailer and someone unloading an ATV. I was glad I had opted not to have lunch there.
Now for the big climb of the day, and then a long ridge hike before dropping down to Little Brazil Creek. If I didn’t want to be setting up camp in the dark, I needed to get a move on. It’s nearly two pm, and with four or five more miles still to go. The ‘feel’ of the western loop of the trail is very different, more rugged and rough. As I was soon to see, there have been some fairly major fires on this section of the trail in years past.
Twelve miles left to go
But I’ve arrived at my destination for the day (almost). With an hour to go before sunset I need to buck-up and go find somewhere to stop for the night. I’m banking on there being water in Little Brazil Creek (downhill to the right from here) If there isn’t any, then I’ll make my way to to Harmon Spring about half a mile further on.
As it turned out, there was water in Little Brazil Creek, but finding somewhere to camp wasn’t straight forward. It’s very brushy, and I wandered around for quite sometime before finally settling for a spot a lot nearer to the trail than I like, but there was an established campsite nearby. As soon as the sun went down, which wasn’t long after I arrived, it got cold and damp. Time to break out my wood burning stove to heat water for a hot drink, my dinner, and warm my hands.
Dawn by Little Brazil Creek
Day Three. It was a spectacular sky and darned cold. There had been a frost overnight, and I had set my tarp up low to the ground to keep the cold hollow winds at bay. I’m glad to report that the set-up worked.
I wanted to be on my way by 10 a.m. (that’s early for me), so I didn’t bother with the wood burner for making hot drinks and breakfast. Instead, I used my Fancee Feest catfood tin alcohol stove.
Camped near Little Brazil Creek
You can just see the creek to the left of the frame. There was no direct access on that side, as there was a ten foot (or so) drop down to the creek. Hot water for breakfast is heating up on the Fancee Feest stove, and my Garmin InReach (satellite texting/locator beacon) is hanging up in a tree trying to get a clear bit of sky to obtain a GPS lock and send my morning ‘All Okay’ message to Ginger. You can see how much lower I set the tarp on the windward side of the hammock.
According to the forecast (now several days old) I can expect a lot of rain and some high winds from the south from around two p.m. onwards through the night. Let’s hope it arrives late so I can get to my next (and final) overnight stop for this trip–Beecher Spring–at the abandoned Edward Beecher Recreation Area. My plan is to climb up the ridge to the south of the spring and camp. The ridge should give me some shelter from the wind and weather.
My 2020-2021 Winter Backpacking Gear
Evidently my idea of getting away early includes time to stop and take pictures of my gear.
Foreground, from left to right
- Everything is sitting on my 6’x3′ Tyvek groundsheet (which I rarely use fully unfolded).
- Tree straps.
- Chameleon Hammock, with under quilt protector and winter cover (though I’ve stopped using the cover recently. I’ll soon refit it if it gets really cold!).
- Camp/sleeping clothes (in the green ‘packing pod’).
- Top quilt Rated at 10°F. My trip planning limit is a forecast of 20°F and I have used it down to 16°F (That’s -12°C, -6.6°C and -9°C respectively). With my under quilt protector, and winter hammock cover, I ought to be cozy down to around 10°F, but I don’t fancy standing/sitting around doing camp chores at those temps!
- Under quilt. This is rated the same as my top quilt.
- Pillow (the orange thing at the top).
- Wood burning cooking stove.
- Cook kit (Pot, mug, Fancee Feest alcohol cooking stove, wind-screen, fire starters and dishcloth) all stored in my pot cozy, plus I must not forget my long handled spoon.
- Trash (in the white bag). Leave no trace means carrying a lot of trash. A four day trip can produce over ½lb of trash.
- DCF Food bag (blue), it’s water proof, so it can hang in a tree in the rain. It’s looking quite depleted with just one more night to go. It’ll hold around five days winter food at most. In it is the line for hanging the bag, around 50ft of highly reflective line (so I can find it in the dark) attached to a small DCF bag, to put a rock in. This works surprisingly well, and enables me to throw the line 20ft+ up a tree.
- Nalgene 32 oz. water bottle. this is all the water I typically carry. I fill it up as often as I need.
- Waterproof DCF ‘Go bag,’ the black bag on the right, containing all my spares, first aid kit, compass, headlamp, camp light, journal, my medications, and the 10,000 mAh battery charger pack, which can charge all the electronics: phone/GPS, camera, satellite communication, headlamp, and camp light as needed.
Then we have
- The camp chair (I love my REI camp chair!),
- puffy jacket, and a
- hunter orange tabard (we are still in the hunting season), and I must not forget,
- Zpacks Arc Haul backpack, lined with a waterproof DCF bag.
In the backpack back pocket
- Towel (one should never go anywhere without one’s towel1).
- Noodles (my lunch for the day).
- Tuna sachet (also lunch for the day).
- Baby wipes–a backpacking essential.
- Tarp stakes.
- 62oz dirty water bottle. If I think I’m not going to be able to find water I fill this and lug it around.
- Water scoop, Sawyer Squeeze water filter, and bleach (two drops per liter).
- Syringe (for back-flushing the filter).
- 12oz bottle of alcohol for the Fancee Feest stove. 12oz should last four days or so. I have a bigger 20oz bottle I could carry should I need it.The bottle has Duct Tape wrapped around it for minor repairs. I’ve had to use the tape a couple of times recently.
- Cat hole trowel, with several feet of paracord wrapped around the handle
- 7oz empty water bottle for clean up.
1The late Douglass Adams
I have no idea where the tarp is. Oh yeah, I remember! The tarp line is holding the backpack up, so I couldn’t take it down until after the picture was taken. The tarp lives in the main compartment of the backpack. Also the camera can’t be seen (d’uh!). 🙂
In the right side-pocket:
- Mini tripod.
- Waterproof jacket and rain skirt.
The left side pocket is empty, it’s where I keep my Nalgene water bottle.
On the hip belt:
- Snacks and trail food,
- hand sanitizer,
- whistle, and
On the shoulder strap (in a water proof DCF pocket)
- Paper maps.
- Garmin InReach Mini (satellite communication).
Food & Hot drinks
For a typical day of winter camping, the following weighs in at around 1½-2lbs per day.
- Breakfast. cup of hot chocolate and a cup of tea; dehydrated biscuits and gravy or dehydrated breakfast hash, or Oats.
- Trail Snacks. Two handfuls of almond and raisins, two mini Snickers bars, and a couple of rashers of pre-cooked bacon.
- Lunch. Sachet of tuna, noodles, cup of tea.
- Dinner. Cup of hot chocolate and a dehydrated meal. My current favorites are: chicken and dumplings, chili mac with beef, teriyaki chicken, beef stroganoff, lasagna with meat sauce, spaghetti with meat sauce, and beef stew.
This depends of the weather I’m expecting, but typically I’ll have the following
- Shemagh1 –possibly my favorite piece of ancillary clothing
- Buff1 Keeps my ears warm and my glasses clean!
- Water resistant outback bush hat, keeps the rain and sun out of my eyes.
- Bandana1 (I tend to use this as a hankie!)
- Merino wool base layer top, which I use as a hiking shirt
- Snow pants (below 32°F), zippered leg pants (32°F up ), or utility kilt (45°F up)
- Boxer undies
- Puffy down jacket with hood and/or puffy down jacket (I’ve been using this as a replacement for my fleece jumper. It’s lighter and compresses better)1
- If needed, merino wool base layer pants from my camp clothes1
- Gloves, I’ve two pairs, depending on how cold it is1
- Toe socks1
- Luna Sandals1. I do have some hiking shoes, but I’ve only worn them on one trip.
- Rain Jacket. This double up as a wind-break. I must remember to tuck my rain jacket hood inside the neck of the jacket if I’m wearing my hat and not bothering with the hood. Otherwise the hood fills with water when it rains (I’ll let you guess how I found that out).
- Rain skirt – I’ve now had a chance to use this several times and I think a rain skirt much better than rain pants. The skirt keeps you cooler, there’s better freedom of movement–stopping for a pee is much easier–it keeps you just as dry, and doubles up as a rain cover for an exposed hammock end, or as a frost/condensation bib to keep my top quilt dry once I’ve set up camp. I’ve used it in all those situations.
1 Items above also double up as camp clothes
- Fleece pants
- Merino wool base layer
- Beanie (thinsulate or hunter orange)
Depending on my clothing load-out the base weight–without food, water, fuel, and ‘extras’– is 18-19lbs (weighed not calculated). Fully laden at the start of the trip including the extra 62oz of water and food for five days (I always carry some spare food in case of a change of plan) I was at my pack’s maximum recommended loading of 35lbs.
There’s a complete list of my cold weather gear here: https://lighterpack.com/r/wc0m24
Little Brazil Creek
As I have already written, this is a scruffy, scrubby looking area. The gray day probably didn’t help. Almost certainly this was all farm land at one point, farmed areas always seem to be more scrubby. This picture was taken where the Ozark trail crosses the creek. It was also the nearest point where I could get water.
Ozark Trail – Trail Blaze
Fire damage or prescribed burn?
Whether the fire was accidental or a prescribed burn to control the underbrush, huge swaths of the western loop go through areas cleared by fire. I have vague recollections of a large fire here, but Googling hasn’t shed any light.
It’s a bit brushy in places
What the blazes?
There are hundreds of these blazes in various forms on this section of the trail. I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason for them. Unfortunately, Google was of no help either.
Gary (without Ginger) on the Berryman Trail
The caption refers to a picture I took in March 2011, about three-quarters of a mile from where this picture was taken.
Cedars – make for a nice soft trail
“Blazes? We don’t need no stinking blazes.”
I have no idea. They are everywhere.
Crossing Floyd Tower Rd. (again)
Kudos to the Ozark Trail Association
The trail is very well maintained, and I like the new routing away from all the wet and marshy ground. The extra three miles are welcome too. I noticed that the complete Berryman Trail is now marked as a ‘spur trail’ of the Ozark Trail, which is good. If only all the Missouri trails were this well stewarded.
Poor flag etiquette
Not content with letting the flag touch the ground, it’s also in an appalling state. This cairn was marking the trail to a hunting camp or party spot. I’m not sure which.
It puzzles me as to why the people seem so hell bent on messing places up, rather than looking after them. I’m sad to say that many of the popular camp sites at Hercules Glades are in a far worse state.
Berryman Trail sign
Anyone know what the logo at the bottom is? Ginger reckons it’s a bong. I think it means potable water. Again Google has let me down.
Beecher Spring and site of the abandoned Edward Beecher Recreation Area
I wasn’t expecting to arrive here quite as quickly as I did, and I was caught off guard. It started to rain and I dumped my pack to put my waterproofs on. It was only when I looked around that I realized I’d arrived at my destination for the day. There was a lot of rain, and gusty wind from the south (left of frame) in the forecast so I planned to find somewhere up on the ridge to the left to give me some shelter.
I followed the trail around the corner looking for a less steep route up the ridge, and then spent half an hour or more in the pouring rain looking for a suitable place to camp. I ended up about 150ft above the spring (up the hill left of frame in the above picture). The ridge gave me good shelter from a very gusty wind that made a lot of noise. And it rained hard for six or more hours straight. I was glad that I’d recently practiced setting up camp in wet weather.
Despite the wind and rain, I was nice and cozy, though I did have to deploy my rain skirt around one end of the hammock to stop the rain from driving in.
Is not a spring, but an artesian well, the water comes out of a small spigot for human consumption, and via a pipe into a trough, presumably for horses, livestock, and other animals.
Packing up after the rain
Everything including the hammock has been packed away leaving just the tarp which I kept up so that the occasional rain shower and drips from the trees didn’t get me and the gear wet. My campsite selection must have been okay, because although there were some quite heavy gusts in the night, and the sound of the wind in the trees on the other side of the hollow had been impressive, I was fine, I only heard one biggish limb fall down in my vicinity.
Somehow, I’d managed to get ready for the trail before nine-thirty, a record! All I had to do now was pack up the tarp and make my way down the steep hill to the spring, where I would collect my water for the trail. Today was going to be cold, low forties cold, and damp too. After six-plus hours of rain the trail was going to be wet going, and I was wondering how full the creek at the bottom of the hill, that I had to cross, was going to be–just over ankle deep as it turned out.
As anticipated, the hike out was cold and damp. So I ‘poured on the coal’ again and got moving. I wanted to get to the warmth and heated seat in the car as soon as possible.
End of trip selfie – Day Four
In total I’d hiked 27.5 miles and climbed over 2,600ft. I’m still not particularly fit, but my averages are rising. I have to remind myself that I’m doing this for fun and some light exercise, and not to take the stats too seriously and want to push the results.
It was a good hike on a trail in wonderful condition but with very few views of the countryside. I learned that if instead of wearing the hood of my waterproof jacket, I decide to keep my hat on in the the rain, I must carefully tuck the hood down inside the jacket. If I don’t, the hood will fill up with water and at some point I’ll get a lot of very cold water poured down the back of my neck.
Breakfast in America
Living happily ever after still means you have to clean house and do the dishes