Steel Creek to Pruitt Access on the Buffalo National River  Old River Trail  ORT

December 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 2013

8 adults and 4 young men take out for a 25 mile Backpack.  Temperatures low 28 high of 55 mostly sunny.  This trip is an exception to the usual Royal Ranger Backpack.

Click on a picture for a larger view.  Report following the pictures. 

Pack Weights:   Mark 34 pounds, Jon Y 29 pounds, Dave Y 36, Gavin 23, Justin R 38, Isaiah 30, Steven 45, Joshua 24, Rob 48, Dan 31.  Justin F 48, Kassie 36 pounds.

9 minute slide show of all the pictures we took...minus a few duplicates with narriation of the whole trip.

PDF file of the topomap.

GPX GPS data file link of the trip.  

Youtube Slide show and narriation of these pictures and some video link.   Half way through trip interview on youtube link     Cold River Crossings Youtube.


This all happened because 2 young men said they wanted to do 25 miles for a patch and to knock off merit requirements for the Hiking Merit for Royal Rangers.

I talked with my very dependable long time buddy Rob about going.  He said YES let's do it.  So then the numbers went up to 16 wanting to go.  We would be back

the night before Christmas eve!!!  I couldn't believe it.  Most RR events in December are not very well attended because of all the hustle and bustle of the Holiday.

I figured there would be 5 going... and bam we were up to 16.  The day before we left we were down to a solid 12. 

For 3 weeks we all planned and prepared for this milestone in our lives.   NOT MANY people walk 25 miles with a fully loaded backpack for 25 miles over 2 days.  It was going to be a work out.  With prayer and faith and we do our part things work out.  It's fun to talk with hiking friends as we all prepare.  When your on the trail it's just you and what you brought and whom your going with.  That's it.  It has to be thought through if you want to enjoy it.

Friday night we left my house at 6:00 pm with a meet in Branson to hook up with Justin and Kassie.  Soon after about 90 miles we were at Pruitt Access and dropped off the Fisher's truck.  Loaded their gear and headed to Steel Creek.  Dark 8:20. Cold.  1st River Crossing.  Kassie told me later on in the trip that she was thinking "What am I doing here, this is crazy"  when we did this first river crossing. I warned everyone to switch shoes and keep their feet dry.  This ended up to be our only river crossing where we would be able to do this as we had a rain 3 days before and the river was up.

We only walked in about 3/4 of mile and sat up base camp at Ferrell Hog Haven right next to our 2nd river Crossing.  We had a grand time around the fire and the council fire was about the end of the world.  Dec, 21st, 2012.  The Mayan end of days, 2012 movie, Winter Solstice shortest day longest night.  We talked of how we as Christians would not see these terrible things as we would be Raptured out. Yet woe to those that didn't confess Jesus as Lord and Savior they would see Biblical things that few had ever seen or would ever want to see.  Lights out at 10 p.m. as 6:30 a.m. would come early.

I had packed ultra light.  35 pounds with water and food.  No tent. Just a tarp.  So I was enjoying a new experience.  On the ground in the wide open. I hadn't done this since I was a boy.  The coyote's were yapping all night. Something came through camp but I didn't hear it... I was too busy snoring. was cold 6:30 a.m. I got up and everything was covered by a heavy dew of ice.  Inside and outside the tents it was all covered.  Water bottles were frozen.  Fire was kindled and we had breakfast.  I had dehydrated meals not real inspiring but did the job.  Boil water and let it rehydrate and heat up and then eat it.  No clean up eat right out of the bag. 

7:30 we were on the trail with our first morning river crossing. was cold.  We did 3 more in about a hours time and I could hear some murmuring...GRIN!  I think it was me.  I just yelled and screamed like a little girl all the way across them.  GRIN!

The trail followed the River for the most part. We enjoyed Big Bluff, Sneeds Creek, Jim Bluff, Hemmened in Hollow, Jumping Cliffs where we at lunch and then at Kyle's after about 15 river crossings we had to make the choice to leave Rob in Gavin's care as the 13 miles with packs on was a lot for a young man to endure.  I wasn't sure if all of us would make the trip so we had campgrounds with Road Access along this 25 miles that we could drop off someone that was not able to continue and then pick them up on the way out.  Gavin took Rob up towards the eye of the needle and they also got to see some crows attack a owl and knock it out of a tree and go up to the owl and get right next to it... something I would have like to have done for sure. 

We picked up the pace on the trail and were running 3.5 miles a hour and at dark we camped just south of the Erbie Horse camp across the river next to the grave yard.  Saturday nights council fire was short and we all shared around the fire and prayed for Rob and Gavin and at 7:30 it was quiet at camp.  We were tuckered out and asleep....  I awoke at 2:00 a.m. thinking wow I am refreshed and found out it was 2:00 a.m. instead of 6:00 a.m. so went back to sleep.  The night was perfect.  Low was maybe 44 degrees F just beautiful. 

6:30 a.m. up and around we had quick breakfast sang Joshua a birthday song and hit the trail running.  This was a new trail to me.  I had never been on it and it left the river often.  I had sent Dan Rockafellow a GPX file of the trip and he had loaded it up on his Iphone.  My GPS was not tracking and for some reason didn't show the trail so I was almost useless.  Justin had his GPS and was a better map reader so I used him as Safety backup where are we at guy!!!  We had yellow trail markers all along the way but this route proved to be few and far between in places.  I took the group on 2 wild goose chases... in the woods and down the wrong road..but it wasn't long before the group had me reigned back in with wisdom and technology and we would get back on track.  I was having a off day and it was very frustrating to me as I don't like messing up..but it was my day for messing up.  GRIN!  (later found my map drawing was in error not my gps...don't know how Dan's was right on but in that one area we must have just missed it.)

We were averaging 3.5 miles a hour when we walked but with the trail crossings it slowed us down a bunch. It may say 3.5 miles a hour on the gps but that's not your average speed that is your fastest speed.  Have to consider those stopping times.  This trail from Erbie to Pruitt was not flat.  The river crossings made you go up and down and go over some hills.  Now that I have a GPS Track on the trail we can see the incline but no data was available before  so we found out about the rise and drop of this part of the trail. 

Sunday morning Church was neat.  We stopped at a point where we over looked the whole valley for miles we could see.  Steven rededicated his life to Christ and we prayed for him and his walk and for his ankle.  Church was "what does heaven mean to you?"  It was a cool time to share in that place. 

Many river crossings and hills to pack up and down.  We were tough.  We just kept marching on.  When we got to the truck the JUBILEE we all felt.  It was a good feeling.

4 of us took off to pickup the vehicles and Justin and Kassie picked up Rob and Gavin and on the way back to pickup the left at Pruitt Group picked up a 24 pack of Dr. Pepper and had a celebration drink...aaaaah...God is Great all the time!

While we were in route to pick up the group at Pruitt they had a unique experience of some wack o pulling in doing a donut parking and acting very very very will have to ask them...because I still think they was just trying one of those scare stories on me...   soon we were eating Supper at McDonalds and then to home by 6:30 pm Sunday night. 

My GPS showed 27.2 miles for the whole Backpacking Trip.  It was indeed a pack!

God is good all the time. On my way to work Monday morning I teared up thanking God for his mercy and good ness and for helping all us along that trail.  Then for Christmas.  We are blessed!


Mark Jones