A NIGHT AND A DAY IN THE HERCULES GLADES WILDERNESS

The Hercules Glades Wilderness is a 12,413-acre wilderness in southern Missouri located about seventy miles southeast of Springfield.

One thing we under appreciate as backpackers is the value of an overnight. For those who are mortals in the backpacking world (work a job), our schedules don’t allow for big hikes.

But an overnight will allow us to get our legs in shape, test gear, and see incredible things!

My overnight started from the Tower Trail-head. The Pilot Trail runs for 7.4 miles along the north side of the wildness area. The trail is clear and easy to follow.

One intersection is marked with the biggest trail marker ever. No missing this one.

Worlds Largest Trail Marker

PILOT KNOB AND THE SUPPOSED BEAR

My plan the night was camping on top of Pilot Knob, one of three peaks in Hercules Glades. I reached the first knob at dusk and bushwhacked up the hill in the dark. My friend David had told me about a camping spot on top of the knob.

Not even sure I was on the right knob, I eventually settled for, “Here’s a flat spot!” I quickly set up for the night.

About 11:00 PM I was awakened by something “chuffing” at me from across the bald. I am pretty sure it was a bear curious about what was on the other side of the clearing. It could have been a deer, but a bear makes a much better story!

The next morning the thermometer registered 37 degrees! A warm cup of coffee and some oatmeal hit the spot.

I looked for evidence of bears around the clearing. Because the bald was mostly hard rock and thick grass, I did not find any tracks. I’m sure he looked like this!

I packed up, bushwhacked down the hill back to the trail.

THE DISAPPEARING TRAIL

The further you get from the day use areas, the more spartan the trail becomes. In contrast to the majestic trail marker above, the marker for the Lower Pilot Trail was a small worn sign nailed to a tree.

The Lower Pilot Trail is honored by labeling it a trail! In several areas the only way to identify the trail, was by watching for leaves that had been walked on.

A Clear But Wet Section Of Trail

I got off trail a couple times, accidentally following a game trail. A quick check on All Trails got me back on track. It is difficult to get too lost, but a good GPS app like All Trails is helpful and might save you a cold night listening to the coyotes!

My plan was to take the Coy Bald Loop before heading to the falls. After the issues on the Lower Pilot Trail, the prospects for the Coy Bald Tail did not look promising.

With limited time, I took the cutoff to allow extra time at the waterfalls – smiles verses miles!

HIKER TRASH FALLS

Several years ago I hiked to the falls, I forgot how beautiful they are!

The Falls

Because no one was there, I went total hiker trash drying my gear on the rocks around the falls. I had gear everywhere!

After a Ramen Bomb for lunch, I packed and headed up the Tower Trail to the trail-head.

The Tower Trail gets the most use, so it was easy to follow. There were several small creek crossings which I rock hopped.

Several places I wished it were the heat of summer because I would have swum in the pools!

Time For A Swim!

I highly recommend Hercules Glades!

What’s your favorite overnight adventure?

My Four Favorite Gear Additions for 2020!

Backpacking gear in the back of a truck.

Here are my favorite gear additions from 2020. While it was a rough year, there were opportunities to get out on the trail. Shorter hikes were a great chance to try new gear in preparation for 2021.

Toaks 750mm Pot
Toaks 750mm Pot

TOAKS Titanium 750ml Pot
(3.2 oz – $35)

It was hard to forsake my favorite cooking pot, but it was just too big. I never needed to boil 6 cups of water!

At a little over three ounces including the lid, tea cup handles and  ability to store a small fuel canister, it was a good addition!

Because of its size, I was concerned about cooking in it. Like most things, all that was needed was practice. My first Ramen Bomb on the Ozark Highland Trail was a culinary triumph!

The one downside, the pot gets too hot to drink your morning coffee without burning your lips. I need tougher lips or a pair of hot lips!

Sawyer Squeeze Filter

Swayer Squeeze Water Filter
(4 oz – $27)

This was more of an upgrade than addition. I had previously used a Swayer Mini. While it worked well, the slow flow rate made it frustrating to use. The problem compounded when the filter got sediment in it. Its rare to find clear water in the Ozarks.

I read that the full-size Squeeze was more efficient. I upgraded mid-Summer and was amazed at the difference.

With the Mini, filtering two liters of water took four to five minutes of heavy squeezing. The Squeeze completed the task in a little over one minute.

Totally worth the $27 to upgrade!

Sea to Summit Reactor Sleeping Bag Liner
Sea to Summit Reactor Sleeping Bag Liner

Sea To Summit Bag Liner
(8 oz – $63)

I purchased this liner for an early spring hike. I am a warm sleeper and was concerned my 20-degree bag would be pushing the limits.

As I took the flimsy liner out of the stuff sack, I had my doubts.

The first night using the liner I was beyond pleased! The temperature dropped into the mid-twenties and I was almost too warm!

While the liner adds some difficulty getting in and out of the sleeping bag, the extra warmth and the softness of the fabric was a welcome addition!

To me, the comfort to weight ratio is worth the extra ounces.

Altra Lone Peak 4.0 Trail Runners

A gift from friends (the best friends give you gear), the Altra Lone Peak 4.0 Trail Runners were my favorite gear addition of 2020.

It was hard to forsake my favorite hiking boots, but I could not believe the difference these shoes made! My first hike in the Altras felt like I was hiking in bedroom slippers.

The wide toe box kept me from the normal blisters I experience between my toes and my legs were noticeably less fatigued at the end of the day!

The rock plate protected my feet on the rocky Ozark trails. The thin upper fabric does not provide much protection if you are a stumble bum like me.

Still, at the end of the day, my favorite gear addition of 2020!

What gear items did you add in 2020?

My Five Favorite Pictures of 2020

These are my five favorite pictures from my 2020 hiking adventures!

#5 – First Trail Magic

My first ever trail magic!
My first ever trail magic!

To most people, this is a random picture of a can of Dr. Pepper. To me, it is my first ever “trail magic”!

Continue reading “My Five Favorite Pictures of 2020”