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Lower Rock Creek 3/2/2013

March 28, 2013
Lower Rock Creek

Lower Rock Creek

Lower Rock Creek is a wilderness area about 8 miles or so west of Fredericktown, MO. There are no signs that point the way like any typical natural area. From St. Louis you get on 55 south to 67 south. Take that all the way through Fredericktown until you get to MO E. Go west (right) on E for about 8 miles, and pretty soon after you cross the bridge over the St. Francois River, you will come to County Road 511, on your right hand side. Turn right on CR 511 and take that past the fields on either side about half a mile. The road will incline down and there is a little concrete bridge that goes over a creek. Almost immediately past the bridge on the left is a gravel jeep trail. That is the road to the parking area and trailhead. Take that for almost half a mile until you get to an old gate, with the same stream you crossed over just beyond it. This is where you park. Beyond the gate and across the creek is the trail. I believe there is another trail that heads out from the parking area parallel with the creek, but I have no idea where that one goes, yet. If you don’t feel that your vehicle can make it all the way down the jeep path, there are a couple spots on the way that you can park at.

Soon after  you get past the gate and across the creek the trail breaks off at a fork. Follow the fork to the left. I don’t know where the right fork goes, yet.

So it was the beginning of March and it was going to be a cold weekend. Between 15 and 20 for the low overnight. But we weren’t scared, we were men!

Me and Eli

Me and Eli

Dave and Gauge

Dave and Gauge

Brent and Owen

Brent and Owen

We got to the end of the jeep path around noon on a cloudy Saturday. It was probably just at freezing, with snow falling intermittently throughout the hike to the creek. It’s about a mile and a half, after you cross the stream just beyond the gate at the parking area. Good spot to take a break!

Eli

Eli

Owen

Owen

Dave, on break

Dave, on break

Brent, on break

Brent, on break

Gauge, glad to have that pack on the ground.

Gauge, glad to have that pack on the ground.

Temperature dropped so I had to put the jacket on.

Temperature dropped so I had to put the jacket on.

Owen and Eli, downriver

Owen and Eli, downriver

After a snack and a rest, it was time to head to the campsite. You hike along the creek the rest of the way, but it tends to get pretty challenging as the trail meanders up and down the hill, sends you through areas of rock piles and low tree branches, and the ever present hip-breaking slippery bedrock. This is not an easy, straightforward, along-the-established-trail hike. You have to take your time through all of the obstacles, and everybody did a great job!

Up the hill

Up the hill

Back on the trail

Back on the trail

Where's the trail?!?

Where’s the trail?!?

Lower Rock Creek

Lower Rock Creek

Dave, Owen, Gauge, Eli, Me

Dave, Owen, Gauge, Eli, Me

Brent, looking for the trail

Brent, looking for the trail

Gauge, appreciating nature's bench

Gauge, appreciating nature’s bench

Dave, enjoying the challenge!

Dave, enjoying the challenge!

Brent, looking like he always does

Brent, looking like he always does

You finally get to the campsite after probably only a couple total miles of challenging hiking, and it is totally worth is for the beauty and isolation offered. It really is a back-country wilderness area.

The campsite from the trail

The campsite from the trail

Eli and my tent

Eli and my tent

One of the THREE fire rings at the campsite

One of the THREE fire rings at the campsite

After another break, we gathered some wood and set up our tents.

We found a few sticks

We found a few sticks

Cathedral Canyon, the opposite side of the creek from us.

Cathedral Canyon, the opposite side of the creek from us.

Cathedral Canyon, the opposite side of the creek from us.

Cathedral Canyon, the opposite side of the creek from us.

The creek, below the campsite

The creek, below the campsite

"You look like a LumberJack!"

“You look like a LumberJack!”

"You look like a Russian!"

“You look like a Russian!”

Gauge

Gauge

Campsite shenanigans

Campsite shenanigans

One thing that is pretty neat about this site is that somebody carried a storage tote out to it that is full of all sorts of kitchen equipment. It has a grill for the fire, pots and pans, and utensils among other things. If you wanted to bring all sorts of food with you, you would be able to reasonably cook it without packing any kitchen equipment.

Also, being in the canyon, it will get darker faster than the surrounding hills, so get your tent set up and your fire going early.  We spent a good amount of time collecting firewood and cutting off chunks of a pine to use as seats, but they may be ashes by the next trip out there. A good little backpacking chair is a luxury worth carrying.

Around the fire

Around the fire

Around the fire

Around the fire

Around the fire

Around the fire

The next morning brought us frost from our breath on the inside of the tent, and Dave said when he got up at one point the thermometer I brought said 17 degrees. Other than the end of my sleeping bag getting damp from being against the side of the tent and transferring the cold to my toes, it was a pretty toasty night. Make sure you have the right gear for the conditions you will be in, and could unexpectedly be in!

The morning was spent preparing breakfast and exploring and packing up. A good little backpacking stove is useful to get breakfast going quickly without having to wait on a fire, and a water filter is helpful so that you don’t have to carry all your water in.

The creek below the campsite in the morning

The creek below the campsite in the morning

Owen

Owen

Gauge and Eli

Gauge and Eli

Opposite side of the creek from the campsite

Opposite side of the creek from the campsite

Eli across the creek from the campsite

Eli across the creek from the campsite

Lower Rock Creek

Lower Rock Creek

Owen and Eli

Owen and Eli

Owen and Eli and the icicles they found.

Owen and Eli and the icicles they found.

Eli

Eli

Owen and Brent

Owen and Brent

Eli

Eli

Me

Me

Lower Rock Creek

Lower Rock Creek

Up the trail past the campsite, looking upstream

Up the trail past the campsite, looking upstream

After packing up we headed out, took a break before the trail leaves the creek, and enjoyed at least a sunnier hike than the day before.

Brent and Dave

Brent and Dave

I love this place

I love this place

Taking a break on the way back

Taking a break on the way back

Lower Rock Creek is probably one of the prettiest places to hike and camp in Missouri, and you pay for it in the ruggedness of the trail. But it is totally worth it. I can’t wait to get back!

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