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Spirits Creek
November 20, 2004

Our Saturday hike down the Ozark Highlands Trail to Spirits Creek has got to be in the top five of my favorite outdoor adventures to date. The woods were ablaze with fall colors and recent rains had the waterfalls and creek running at springtime levels.
Joey and I started down the short but steep trail from Ragtown Road around 10 a.m. Temperatures were in the low 60s, and the sun was frequently coming out from behind scattered clouds to light up the yellows and oranges in the foliage. The ground was saturated from a big rain two days earlier, and the trail had become a small stream in many places. Our first big surprise came about half an hour later when we reached the trail crossing at Spirits Creek at the bottom of the mountain. Two tall waterfalls poured over the bluff.
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We hung out around the twin falls for quite a long time, waiting for the brief moments when the sun would go behind the clouds and give us the opportunity to take pictures. Then we started exploring Spirits Creek, traveling upstream as we went. Joey was a little surprised to see me wade out into the creek to take pictures. I didn’t like the idea of hiking back to the truck in wet boots, but I wanted to get a good picture of a huge boulder just below this beautiful little water chute. Yet when I got near the boulder I discovered it was guarded by a deep water hole with vertical ledges on either side. No way was I going more than knee-deep, so I settled for a shot from far away with a telephoto lens.
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Above the chute the creek ran wide and shallow over a series of big flat rocks. Short drops between the rocks made for numerous cascades spanning the width of the creek. By this time the afternoon sun had sunk far enough that we were in perpetual shadow of the mountain across the creek, and we could take pictures at will if not for a gentle breeze that occasionally moved the leaves. An elm tree with small golden leaves made all the difference in the world to the scene, as did an overhanging Sugar Maple with bright yellow foliage.
Joey and I took our time moving slowly upstream, and it was 4  o’clock by the time I made it up above the wide short waterfall named after Spirits Creek.
Joey managed to find a place to cross the creek up above the falls without getting wet one bit. By the time I got to that spot it was getting pretty late so we decided to head back.
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I was already on an uncommon natural high from the spectacular scenery of Spirits Creek, but the show wasn’t over yet. As the trail took us higher and higher up the mountain we suddenly were back in sunlight, and the woods were on fire with bright leaves.
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