December 11th - 13th, 2015  Temps high of 67 low of 55.  Friday night to Saturday night perfect weather.  Saturday at 7pm the rain started.  Click on a picture for a larger view.

Special thanks to Marshall, Sam, Rob, David and Mark for the pictures.  Great job folks!  Narration of these pictures on youtube.

10 souls denying flesh. Wow what a jouney.

Ponca River Levels

Rain Totals


A 25 mile backpack is no easy thing to accomplish. It takes planning. It takes preparation. It takes promoting it. It takes poking and nudging folks out of their comfort zones to go the distance.

This is my 3rd twenty to twenty five mile trip. With that being said each trip is different totally. 
So many things to consider. Temps. Rain. Wind. Snow. Ice. Storms. Elevation Changes. Trail difficulties to name a few.

These for the miles trips are difficult. In Ranger Ministry you will find a mix of green to seasoned folk going. Yet on these trips you can only move as fast as the slowest person and it all has to be done safely.

This trip was different as we had 66 degree days and 55 degree nights with a complete change of weather, 3" rain and cooling spell coming in the last 7 hours of the backpack

We left my house at 6 p.m. after 3 pack shake downs with the green horns. My son Marshall 22 and I have acquired some extras of most every kind of gear you can imagine so when we do the shake down we can generally get most folks fixed up well at least 2 or three. In the winter months cotton kills. So we changed out all the cotton clothing for poly and nylon gear. 7 pound duck sleeping bags were changed out for lighter synthetic and more compressible. Extra tarps were given out because if it's going to rain 3" you better take tarps or you will regret it.

Pack weights came in between 42 lb. down to 21 lb. Half the group was below 28 lb. With 1600 feet of elevation changes most of that is on the last day of the hike...every ounce you can leave at home and yet stay alive you leave.

We met Justin and Kasie in Branson and were down at Steel Creek trail head by 8:00 p.m. 1st river crossing. It was fun we did 2 more and backpacked in 1.2 miles to a clearing and base camped.
Half and half of tent and hammocks. Council fire at 10 p.m. and cooking was more along normal backpacking meals. Boiling water and hydrating stuff.
Justin brought the council fire with how did the universe come into existence. He had a series of devotions along that line and provoked some great thought and they all laughed at me because they felt it was over my simple head... little did they know I wrote that article..ha.. O.K. maybe not. Yet I have seen and or heard most of that and it was a good reminder of who or what really happened.
They hate me singing the good morning, good morning, good morning song at 7 am but it has to come to keep the herd moving in the right direction. We broke camp and were on the trail by 8:04 am and our first river crossings at 8:05. A few hours later we had 7 river crossings down. at 4:30 we hit our last river crossing for the day with a total of 17 river crossings. That means 34 times you took your boots off and put them back on again to change out to your river shoes. 2 of our group missed out on the check off list for river crossing shoes and did those barefooted. (NOT RECOMMENDED).

The school of hard knocks that we would rather not have to use is almost always the real teaching in these kind of outings. Bring your own, cook your own or go hungry. It teaches ALL of us we had better learn and pay attention to details. One of the green horns on this trip. Let his boots get wet. He elected to tell me he was going to just keep his boots on and do the river crossings in them. I gave him correct information 3 times of what would happen to his feet. He elected to over ride my council and yup with in a hour he was in agreement he should have heeded my advice. A few hours later we had to treat blisters with mole skins. I also learned a valuable lesson. My cardinal rule of don't let anyone take your water filter kit down to the stream. Only let them take the dirty water bag. I made one exception and we had 1 of the 3 filter systems cross contaminated where it was useable until bleach water was ran through it... (at home)

Getting everyone to stop at trail crossings is a must. This brings your group of 10 back together and everyone goes down the same trail together. I was informed we missed a couple of these. Yet we managed to keep everyone on the same trail.
In large groups of 10 you will find faster and slower moving folks. There is a aggravation factor that is in there. The faster ones get frustrated at the slower ones. The slower ones get frustrated at the faster ones because they are missing out by going to fast. Walking behind someone that is of a slower pace than you will drive you nuts. Just pass them and get your stride going. Well in 25 miles you will learn your pace order. Who you can walk behind and who you can't.
Second night of base camp was at the trail transition from River Level (flood threat) to BRT upper trails that go up above the river. Our base camp was nice and flat with a slight drop that didn't pool water. It had a nice bed of hardwood leaves and many nice healthy trees to hang in around.

Council fire came early at 6:30 p.m. and most of the meals were boil water and rehydrate. It started to rain at 7 p.m. Yet we had close to 1.5 hours of setup time to get our shelters ready for the 2" of projected rain that was going to come through the night.
It rained all night. It tapered off a bit just as we broke camp at and hit the trail at 8:00 am. Soon we were peeling off the rain gear as it was just too warm to wear it and backpack. The cool wind and the cool mist kept us cool for about a hour and then it started to rain steady.
All of the dry creeks now had water in them. All of the cracks and water paths had water flowing. Wow it's worth it. It's worth it. Pretty is beyond the span of this.
O.K. after 16 miles your body is screaming at you. This hurts, that hurts. No time outs. No let's all sit down and sing happy songs with Larry. You have to walk. You have to keep moving. The whole time your flesh is yelling at you. It's times like these that if you go to sings songs of praise to God and start thanking Him of all the things HE as given you. I even found my self singing the praise and worship songs and praying and praying in tongues. In those times when there is a group in front of you you a ways and a group behind you always you can really literally put your self under your feet and praise God.

With 2 water filters even in a group of 10 we had to get them out and get them to filtering water several times along the way with out water your sunk.
In the last 4 miles " how much farther", echo's from every switch back you go down or up or around.

Then there it is. The last campground we pass through and you shout Glory to God we made it...then everyone else looks at you and says... we got 2.5 more miles to go... GRIN! Glory moments.
At 2:00 p.m. we sent a group of the fast walkers up ahead to start the relay of vehicles. The rest of us arrived at Pruitt Ranger Station Picnic area at 2:38 p.m. (did I mention I am thankful for the tail in group they kept me in breaks when I had to have them) and hung out in the overhang of the bathrooms and had a small stove going with a space blanket over us trying to dry us out a bit until the vehicles came..what a glorious site.
Soon to McDonalds. Then back to my house at 5:25 p.m.
I took Monday off work to put stuff away and recoup my body from this trip. It's worth it every 2 years or so.

We are able to go the distance but few ever deny there flesh enough to go the distance. When I see a 25 mile patch from a backpack. It means something to me.

Go the distance. You will be glad you did.  Rangers and Friends of Rangers are the best of the best! 

Mark Jones

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