Do You Have The Frustrated Heart Of A Thru Hiker?

How many of us have the heart of a thru hiker, but reality (finances and responsibilities) force us to hike vicariously through others? And… the nearest National Scenic Trail is 600 miles away.

Truth is, we don’t have to hike 2,000 miles with $4,000 of ultralight gear to enjoy backpacking. Backpacking twenty miles on a weekend is a great opportunity! We just have five zero days to plan our next hike!

This is the story of my last hike.

The Big Piney Trail is a nineteen-mile loop thru the Paddy Creek Wilderness in central Missouri.

The North Section

Crossing a sunny meadow from Roby Lake Campground the trail immediately dives into hardwood forests and tall stands of pines giving the trail its name. At the one mile mark I chose to follow the north section clockwise.

Thru Hiker - Direction Sign
North it is!

I found the trail to be poorly blazed and confusing in spots. An app like the REI Trail Project is helpful.

Thru Hiker - The only blaze on the trail.
The only actual blaze on the Big Piney Trail!

About two miles in, I stopped at a small waterfall to fill my Cnoc. I’m not sure how dependable this source would be in summer, but it was a peaceful place for a quick rest and a snack.

Water fall
A great place to take a break.

The north section works its way through rolling hills, hardwoods and pines. I had a couple of small stream crossings that amounted to rock hopping, but the high-water mark on the trees indicated much deeper water at some point.

After the last stream crossing I worked my way up the bluff over Big Paddy Creek. My goal was to reach the campground by dark. As I sat enjoying the scenic overlook from the bluff, I had the thought, “This would be a fantastic place to cowboy camp!”

Thru Hiker - Cowboy Camping!
Cowboy Camping!

Enjoying the last glimmers of sunset, I quickly set up camp. I ate dinner as the stars emerged above me and the evening fog filled  the valley below.

Next morning after a warm cup of coffee and a snack, I was packed up and, on my way, carrying an extra two pounds of dew!

The ridge descended quickly to Big Paddy Creek. This is where the trail has a reputation for being a little sketchy. The trail was very overgrown near the river and recent flooding had left a lot of debris.

The South Section

After a couple detours I was across Big Paddy Creek and on my way into the campground to eat breakfast.

Thur Hiker - Hiker Trash Breakfast
A classic hiker trash breakfast!

From the campground the south section passes through some beautiful stands of pine and rock formations.

At the last crossing of Big Paddy Creek, I cameled up for the remaining five miles of the hike.

Another hiker warned me that the south section was plagued with ticks. I brushed off five or six when I stopped for lunch.

After crossing Little Paddy Creek, the trail ascends to a ridge-line with great views of the valley below. At the top of the ridge I passed through a beautiful camping spot. Unfortunately, it is less than two miles from the parking lot. I want to return some day and enjoy this spot.

Soon I was loading my pack into my truck.

The Big Piney Trail is a great place to spend a couple nights dialing in gear or getting your hiking legs in shape. In the summer months finding water will be more of a challenge and the campground on the east end of the trail has no water available so plan!

Happy trails!

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