Backpacking on Hurricane Creek
April 25-26, 2009
My vision for an idyllic family backpacking trip finally became reality with an overnight visit to the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area. The decision to go wasn't made til late Friday night, so we didn't start packing until the following morning. Before leaving the house, Stacey and I weighed our packs and hers came to 17 lbs. and mine weighed in at 35. On the drive we grabbed a fast food lunch in Clarksville, and we stopped at the Haw Creek campground to check out the falls. I set the remote timer on the camera and we posed for some family photos. We see a lot of familiar faces on our many stops there. One of Cliff's teachers, Kyle Harwood, was over on the northern side above the falls relaxing with some friends and came over to visit.
We got back on Highway 123 and drove the short distance to the dirt road running north beside Big Piney Creek. We parked next to a 4-wheeler road just south of the ford on Hurricane Creek.
We hiked up the primitive road along the south side of the creek. A half mile later the road crossed Hurricane Creek. We changed into our crocs and slowly waded across. The water was less than knee-deep, even for Grant, but the stream floor was covered with slippery round rocks and every one of us almost slipped and fell at some point.
We walked for another half mile and then stopped to play at the big turn at my self-coined Big Easy stretch of the creek. Stacey and Cliff had packed fishing poles and cast some lures out but didn't get any major hits. Grant and I went off in search of live bait and managed to find a few small worms after some serious digging below some rotten tree trunks. But we never did catch any fish. We made a serious dent into our supply of beef jerky and granola bars.
I tried to lead us north along the creek bank, but when we reached a point where we needed to wade across, everyone but me voted to instead bushwhack uphill to an old roadbed. The climb was brief yet very steep and the woods were thick with undergrowth. By the time we found the road I think Stacey and the boys were regretting not staying on level ground beside the creek. The road went uphill for a good half mile and we stopped several times to rest and cool off. The backpacks were making a big impact.
The Ozarks Highland Trail came in from the east to join the old roadbed at some point. Soon after, the trail descended and ran alongside the bottom of a huge bluff line with several overhang areas. A short spur trail lead up to a spot below the Natural Bridge high above. Stacey and the boys weren't all that impressed, though I made it a point to tell them how fortunate they were to get to see the natural bridge, and that very few people have seen it. The trail/road descended to run alongside Hurricane Creek, and our hike was finished. It was around 4 p.m.
I was glad to see the often-used campsite next to Cedar Limb Hollow was unoccupied. It's a great spot, flat and open and surrounded by oak and beech trees. The creek makes several small drops there and runs around small boulders in the creek. Just downstream was a nice big blue pool with several gigantic boulders.. 20 to 30 feet tall...on the west bank. We set up our tents away from the rock fire ring, which overlooks the creek.
There were plenty of activities to keep us busy; we fished, explored around the stream and scrambled up the big boulders, and gathered firewood. My pump-action water filter was a fun new toy for all of us; we took turns pumping water from the creek. I was amazed how much water we went through; we must have filtered 6 gallons that evening and the next morning. The individual Hawaiian Punch drink mixes that we added to our water bottles were a big hit. Some of us liked the blue flavor while others preferred the orange.
We roasted hot dogs, which we'd stuck in the freezer the night before but had of course thawed by the end of the day. I'd bought Curtis all-beef franks, which are a new favorite for us. We scarfed down the hot dogs and chips and wanted more to eat. Cliff and I boiled water on our backpacking stove and cooked ramen noodles and a packaged red beans and rice mix. That and roasted marshmallows tied us over.
We gathered all the items that a bear might find interesting (food, toothpaste, deodorant) and put in Grant's backpack and hung it as high up in a tree as possible. Grant wanted to sleep in my tent, though he protested when I said I didn't want to put the rain fly on. Without it, the top of my ultralight backpacking tent is all see-through netting. We fell asleep to the music of the creek while watching the starts twinkle overhead.
I awoke at first light to do a little exploring up Cedar Limb Hollow. The huge boulders there are amazing. I shot some photos, but I’m saving them for another post. When I returned to camp, Cliff and Stacey were up building a fire. We boiled water for instant oatmeal and coffee, and also ate cold pop tarts.
Grant and Cliff returned to the big boulders downstream for a while, then we packed for the return hike. We weren't as neat at packing and Stacey's, Cliff's and Grant's backpacks ran out of room, which meant that I had more stuff to haul in my bigger pack. The return hike was tough with that extra weight! Stacey stopped to chat with an elderly gentleman backpacking on the Ozark Highlands Trail. Cliff walked up on a flock of turkeys that made a huge commotion as they flew to the trees.
It got warm in a hurry that morning and though the hike went by fast we were all glad to see the Tahoe. As the return drive commenced we all exclaimed that we were starving, and not only devoured the remaining pop tarts but resorted to eating dry ramen noodles!