We had another backpack with the Royal Rangers Friday and Saturday. This time, we explored around Bowers Hollow in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area of the Ozark National Forest. Myself and many of the Rangers that went this weekend had been here before several years ago, during the spring when the waterfall was flowing beautifully!
Kasie and I brought two boys from our Royal Ranger outpost, and met up with several other Ranger boys and leaders. Our group total was 18, and we all had a great time hiking, exploring, cooking, laughing and just enjoying each others company.
Most everyone left from Springfield/Ozark a little after 5:30 p.m., and soon made it south to meet Kasie and I and our boys just south of Branson. We continued south, and soon were south of Ponca, Ar driving through Boxley Valley. We then started the long, steep climb up and along Cave Mountain road, driving past the trailhead to Hawksbill Crag, and soon turning down the narrow road to the Kapark Cemetery access into the Upper Buffalo Wilderness.
We parked our vehicles here, among several others already there, and quickly headed down the trail. We only backpacked in about 1/2 a mile or so, then headed off trail to set up camp for the night. We all quickly unpacked and set up tents, then started searching for and gathering some dry wood for a campfire. After getting a good fire going, everyone was gathered around cooking dinner. It was about 10:00 by the time we ate dinner! Most everyone was off to bed soon after dinner, except for a few boys who stayed up all night talking!
The next morning after breakfast, we headed down the trail, deeper into the wilderness. We passed by the turnoff of the trail down to Bowers Hollow Falls, and continued down the trail until we reached Smith Falls and McClure Falls. I had never been to these two falls before, but some of the other guys had. There wasn't hardly any water flowing over the falls worthy of taking a picture, but it was still such a beautiful area to explore and check out. A few of us hung out at the top of McClure Falls, while everyone else found a spot to scramble down below the bluffline and falls to explore.
Soon, we were headed back up the trail towards the turn off to Bowers Hollow Falls. Once reaching the falls, we all took a break and had lunch. After lunch, almost all of us headed down the bluff line a ways, to a spot where you can make your way down to the bottom of the bluff, and then back up to the base of the falls. We explored a bit and took many photos, then headed back out and climbed up the bluff again. When we were all back together again, we took the opportunity for a group photo. Next, we had to make the steep climb back out to the trail. Once back on the trail, we quickly hiked back to our camp and began breaking down and packing everything up. It was just a short hike back out to the vehicles.
On the way out, when we passed by the trailhead/parking area for Hawksbill Crag, there were vehicles parked EVERYWHERE!! They were lined up and down the road on either side of the trailhead for at least a half mile. I have never seen so many vehicles there before. I am glad to see folks out enjoying the beauty of the Ozarks; but, at the same time, I am also concerned about the over-use of some of our natural and scenic areas. As visitors to these remote and scenic areas, we must learn to be respectful and gentle on the environment and habitat, taking care to leave an area much better that when we found it, so that future generations may enjoy and experience all that the Ozarks has to offer.