October 2nd and 3rd, 2015.  Sunny days light breeze low of 38 and high of 75.  Perfect day for backpacking.  16 folk join from Central AOG Springfield, Grace Community AOG in Branson and Oak Grove AOG in Springfield.  Rangers and Friends of Rangers had a great time backpacking in the Hercules Glades; Coy Bald Trail head.  0 percent chance of rain but that cool temp of 38 ish in the early morning down by Long Creek had a few of us shaking it off.

Pictures at end of report.  Click on a picture for a larger view.

Our trip of 7 miles plus a few extra.


Special thanks to Rob Batchman, Justin Fisher and Mark Jones for the pictures.  A BIG thanks to all the drivers and leaders and folks that helped make this backpack happen.

I enjoy Hercules Glades. It's entry level backpacking with plenty of nice wide trails to tromp around and a variety of neat features to explore.  Now mind you it's not the Buffalo River area but it still has enough wow and pizzazz to make the trip fun and rewarding.

Our group left Ozark Missouri at 5:35 after weighing in all the packs.  It's important to do this as some folks are new to backpacking and really have no clue on how to enjoy it.  Go light and take only what you really need not what you think you might need.  Big difference in weights and packs and here is the run down on weights.

Mark 60 lbs heavy pack award lots of extra stuff as group leader.  Rob came in second with 47 lbs. Then Garrett at 47 lbs. Ernie close be hind with 45 lbs. Chris Johnson with 38 lbs.  David Julian with 36 lbs. Pastor Justin Kocks with 32 lbs.  Gage Jeffery with 29 lbs. Cole won the he-man award (most weight for body weight) with 28 lbs. Jimmy Winch at 25 lbs. Jarred German at 23 lbs. Andrew Schauer at 21 lbs.  Justin, Kassie, Isaiah, Noah met us at the trail head at 6:45 and we had no scale there so you will have to ask them.

At 6:45 we arrived at the Coy Bald Trail head and soon packs were on we were heading down the 200 foot of elevation drop over 3/8 's of a mile to Long Creek right in the heart of "devils den".  We had about 15 minutes of light left so everyone was told to drop there packs and drag up fire wood. 16 people hustling firewood produces a nice pile of wood that lasted us through the night and the next morning.  In most cases we put up shelters first but in this case it was a better choice to drag up the fire wood. 

At dark 7:15 we all put up our shelters and stowed our gear and the boys worked at getting a fire going.  Now mind you we have been teaching fire craft and everyone has the merit and few can actually get a fire going with one match using natural materials.  So the race was on for them to prove their skills and we found we needed a little more work to remind them that the once and done merit program only means they did it once.  Doesn't mean they can do it in reality.  All things man made I know of take many tries and many reminders each year to get good at it.  So in my opinion fire craft should be taught like firecraft 101, 102, 103, 104 each building on the others until they master it and then continue on with 105, 106 and so on so they don't forget it.  This way Rangers could be known for something like the Johnny Barnes ways before 2000.  That was my free two cents worth.

Soon we had a raging fire using all natural materials and the cooking and fellowship was on.  16 of us hunkered around the fire and soon the younger guys started another fire to sharpen their skills and they hung out there and cooked over it as well.  A few things to mention. Jarred hung his Hammock up 6' in the air you could walk under him and still have 6" of space.  Garret produced a brand new biolight stove and grill and proceeded to be the Burger Master with Onion bread buns and I was told by the 4 he cooked and gave out they were really good.  Rob cooked up a bunch of steak on the fire and the rest of us cooked up our choice dinner.  I had chunky chicken noodle soup.  We shared and laughed and enjoyed this time together.

At 9:10 pm we all testified of one thing we were thankful for around the fire each one sharing one word or a short sentence.  Rob brought on the council fire service with a story about Pop Corn Jack changing up a few things I am sure and soon the story got out about burnt corn jack his twin brother and the story developed through out the backpack and into Saturday.  Pastor Justin closed in prayer and by 11pm lights were out.

Burrr it was cool through the night. I didn't bring my stocking cap so my head kept getting cold and I would hunker down into my sleeping bag only to get to warm and then repeat the cycle over and over thorough out the night.  At 5:30 am I could hear the snap of a limb and the warm glow of a fire outside my tent.  5:30 am I thought... so after some more rest..  I saw a new sight.  A toe to head Mutant Ninjas Turtle fleece standing around the fire as I rubbed my sleepy eyes again it was Noah poking the fire in his outfit.  David had rekindled the fire and it was a nice warm greeting  as each of us.   Most every one was up by 7:30 and breakfast was in full swing.  Ernie had brought a full pack of bacon and was cooking bacon for hungry onlookers.  I cooked my traditional bacon and eggs and coffee.  Isaiah brought a coffee pot and took water from the stream and made coffee for everyone. 

Rob brought the morning devotion and inspired each of us to take a risk for Jesus and trust Him.  To make ourselves available for God's work. 

9:04 we left base camp and headed up the trail 4 miles to Pilot Knob.  As we day hiked we adjusted shoes, boots, jackets, packs, picked up rocks and logs.  Yup.  Andrew and Jarred had a he-man log carry that started with them each carrying a big old log up to the top of pilot knob and back down and then all the way down to long creek.  About 2 miles or more.  These logs were heavy.  I told them if Si Robertson was here he would have praised you guys for being the best he-man "Idiot's" out there.  GRIN!  They enjoyed the challenge and they will remember that baggage for years to come. 

The view from Pilot Knob is pretty good. Well worth the hike up there. It's in the middle of no where and you know there has not been a whole lot of people that has hiked back to this place to see this view.  We have done it many times and even spent the night of Y2K up there to watch for the Branson City lights to go out.  They never did and we just went back to our tents at 12:20 pm giving those computer chips all they time they needed to crash.  Never happened.

We enjoyed lunch at Long Creek Falls.  There was a Missionary there with his wife and 2 groups of boy scouts and our group of 15.  We enjoyed the bushwhack back down long creek to base camp.  Packed up and hauled our stuff back up that 200 foot incline in 3/8's of a mile.  In to the vehicles and stopped over at Forsyth for McDonalds and back into Ozark by 5:00 pm.  We had a great time.

I put my gear away and took a bath and laid down for a short nap and woke up at 10:30 pm to say hi to everyone and then went back bed.  I not only wore the other 15 out... but I might have myself.  GRIN!

Mark Jones


Johnny Barnes had it right. You don't need Buildings, Stadiums, Hotels or chase a ball around a field.  Just a small backpack and a few items and you can have a great time exploring God's handy work.  Camping works and it works very well.  Those that haven't tried it are missing out on the best adventures.