After nearly freezing in the night it took some mental coaxing to get out of the hammock in the morning. I waited for the sun and my water bottles finally unfroze so I could get a drink. My mouth was parched and lips were flaking. Then the sun came up through the trees. I had a fresh food drop and full sunlight. It was time to get back on the trail.
I hiked another seven miles and the chill of fall was in the air, but with the sun out, it was a far cry from freezing that previous night. I found a hidden little campsite just off the trail after dancing across stones in the creek to keep my feet dry. The sunlight that morning allowed me to recharge the ipod nano and speaker. I was all alone and ready to make a big fire and rock out.
I appreciate the sounds of nature by all means. Two nights prior I had heard one of the most beautiful symphonies in my life created by musical trees rubbing together and water flowing through stones. Being alone for so long though, made me want to hear some music or other human voices. I had music. I got a fire going, set up camp, and decided it was metal night. Moonspell, Samael, Gojira, Devin Townsend, Amon Amarth, Insomnium, Killing Joke, and Type O Negative gave me comfort by a fire as Fall weather approached and the green leaves started to change colors. I ate dinner and had some hot tea.
I put the ipod to shuffle all songs and left it alone. Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance sang me a haunting melody as I stared into the fire. These moments when I could have music were very rare as the solar charger took some time in direct sunlight to get the job done and the charge would diminish quickly. If I had music going when the Low battery signal popped up, I could still get another two hours out of it, but if I touched anything, it was instantly dead until the next sunny day. Having music was a great morale booster to go with the fire and energized me for the journey ahead.
I heard voices softly through crunching leaves. It was pitch black and late in the night, possibly even early into the morning. I never bothered to look. My cell phone was only turned on when I got to a mountain top and wanted to check in with friends and family. Otherwise I didn’t want to see the damn thing. It was two females walking the trail with headlamps and having a pleasant conversation. I walked down to the creek crossing nearby and greeted them. I could tell by their packs they weren’t thru-hiking, just water reservoir packs and nothing else. I guided them across the creek and gave them a friendly farewell as they continued on into the night. My guess was some sort of endurance race. Never had the chance to ask, but they were friendly enough. I went back to jamming out. It was a cold night, but I finally got some decent sleep.
I woke in the morning to more sunlight and chilly winds and soaked it all in, perfect fall weather. A father and son strolled up on me as I was packing up in the morning. They had also started at Lake Forth Smith state park and were hiking the entire trail 165 miles to Woolum. We chatted for a bit and they went on their way as I was still slowly gathering my things and breaking down camp.
I thought the trail would diminish my night owl habits, but it didn’t. The best sleep I got was after the sun had started to warm the place up and I could stop shivering. I took my sweet time at camp because there was no one to rush me. I was on my time. The funny part would be when I did get going, I could set a fast pace and double time it. I would put my pack up high on my back, put my thumbs under the straps to take some strain off my shoulders, tuck my poles under my arms, shuffle my feet and start running. It surprised a few people when I would suddenly catch up to them down the way. I was taking a break by a creek for a quick snack and water fill up when the father and son walked up behind me, again. They seemed confused on how I had gotten ahead of them because they never saw me. They got lost for a minute on an old farm road, but came right back to the trail. That must have been when I swooped past.
I only hiked three miles when I came to the Moore C.C.C. Camp. As soon as I got there I knew I wanted to stay. The only question was how to get to water. The markings were a little confusing at first but then I found a trail that went straight down a steep hill to Richland Creek. I dropped the pack, filled up with water, and had a look around.
It was a beautiful spot with stone shelters and a bluff overlooking the creek with an old camping chair just waiting for me in a depression on the bluff. I set up camp and spent the day writing, reading, and relaxing with hot coffee and tea.
The next day was a beautiful sunny day and I decided to stick around for a zero day in warm sunlight. The bluff and camp was off the trail a bit and I set up the solar charger in the sun, played music, and sun-bathed in the nude on the bluff over the creek. It was a perfect day.
I created a song awhile back that I sing on special occasions. I sang my song to the woods that night on the bluff and soaked it all in, contemplating the wonderful adventure this had been.
I planted the last of the memorial flower seeds for Melody Lane on the ridge above the bluff. I hereby declare the section from County Road 6200 where the first trail angels found me getting water from a mud puddle to the Moore C.C.C. Camp as Melody Lane. It’s a 72 mile hike along the Ozark Highlands Trail through some of the most beautiful landscape of the Ozarks.
I have lost many friends in recent years and I miss you all so much. Melody Lane along the Ozark Highlands Trail is devoted to all of you in loving memory: Matt Musteen, Melody Lane, Lauren Reynolds, Caleb “Jib” Shaner, Cliff Jones, Nikki Young, Holly Pederson
Next Installment: Halloween Hike in the Mist
Check out johnozmore.com for artwork, sculptures, writing, and photography from the author or to purchase the Dark Fantasy novel, “The Blood of Winter” from Amazon available in paperback and Kindle versions.
Ebook versions of the Dark Fantasy, “The Blood of Winter” are also available for Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Scrib’d, Angus & Robertson.
If you want to find out more information about the OHT you can check out the Ozark Highlands Trail Association website at ozarkhighlandstrail.com. They have some basic information and tips as well as any changes in the trail such as reroutes from landslides and other information that may change the trail experience. You can also check out ultralightbackpacker.com for some really great tips, advice, and recipes for any thru-hike whether you decide to go ultra-light or want to loaf it and take your time. Check back for more stories and photos from the trail.