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Not all adventures will follow your Expected Path, Part Two. Berryman and Brazil Creek Recreation Areas, Mark Twain National Forest 2/21-22/2014

March 3, 2014

Continued from Part One.

2014-02-22 10.49.06So we hadn’t made it to the place we had been trying to get to that evening, but it was late and we had made it somewhere. The Berryman Recreation Area was going to have to do for the night. This recreation area is a former Civilian Conservation Corp camp from the 1930s, and just a small part of the almost 1.5 million acre Mark Twain National Forest. One of the foundations to a CCC building actually still exists just behind one of the campsites, right next to a little pond. It is also the main trailhead to the Berryman Trail, a 24 mile loop trail that shares some of its western section with the Ozark Trail.

2014-02-22 10.15.11We drove around the little deserted campground and looked at each of the 8 spots available, getting out a couple of times to survey it closer, and eventually deciding on one of the spots near the entrance. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table, and from what we could see with our handful of flashlights, quite a bit of open space to erect one or two or a dozen tents, depending on the size of your group. There are no fees to camp there or use the picnic pavilion, but it is listed that donations are welcome. We didn’t see it, but there is probably a box attached to a sign somewhere for that. I will be making it a point to put something in it, plus a little extra, next time we get out that way. A couple other things to point out is that there are vault toilets, but no drinking water or dumpster available. If you are going to camp here make sure that you have all the water you will need, and please please please…plan on taking your trash home with you (or at least to the first available dumpster you come across). The stories I could tell of found smoldering fire ring garbage…

As we got to setting up camp, the kids and I discussed the fact that had it been in the summer, we would still have light in the sky…but arriving at the campground in the dark just took me back to my teenage adventures, taking off for a night in the woods after work on some random day. We were gonna be just fine, and the kids started setting up the tent and getting the sleeping bags and bedrolls out while I started walking around in search of firewood.

2014-02-22 10.29.54The end of winter in a quieter campground is usually pretty good for gathering wood, as it has been hitting the ground with nobody around to need it, and I had a decent pile going in a short amount of time. After the kids had gotten the tent set up and the bedding spread out, they joined me on the hunt for firewood. The site right across from us had a couple good pieces, and after a short walk down to the end, around the loop, and back to our site, we had gathered even more than we would need to sit by the fire for a bit before bed. Because that is one of my favorite things to do, especially when it is chilly.

The next morning was pleasantly not-completely-freezing, and the kids and I got up and had our donuts (quick, prepared camp food) and enjoyed the morning air by a little fire I had rejuvenated, just for the ambiance of it. We got the bedding packed up, put the tent away, and cleaned up what little evidence there was of our being there. After a good splash of water to put out the fire, we headed north out of there on the road we weren’t allowed to travel the previous night. Turns out that it WAS County Road 207/FR 2266, and after a bit of this way and that, we got to Highway W, and then to the Brazil Creek Recreation Area on the left side of the road. Make sure you bring a map with you. It isn’t hard to find your way out of the forest…but it can be even easier find yourself temporarily lost. And for those of you with GPS on your phone…you might not get a signal.

2014-02-22 11.20.16

Brazil Creek Recreation Area

The Brazil Creek Recreation Area is another access to the Berryman Trail, and it can be likened to a more primitive version of the already primitive campground of the Berryman Recreation Area. There were no obvious campsites, and remnants of fires were here and there from people pretty much choosing where they wanted to stay nights before. No vault toilet, no picnic tables, no running water. The creek bordering one side of the main area is the only water available, so bring what you will need with you in the car, or something to filter or treat the water from Brazil Creek. This is bare bones camping, and I have an appreciation for the freedom it allows.

2014-02-22 10.49.10

Those are the smiles you get after making your kids hike UP the hill.

We found a nice spot off the driveway through the little park, and got out to explore. The spur trail that takes you to the Berryman Trail crosses the creek, and as Max the creek dog dug up rocks in the water, the three of us spent a little bit fortifying the clearly battered rock bridge that had probably been constructed at some point last summer. It was a fun moment, playing in the creek together and building what was essentially a dam to walk across. The sun was in the sky, and with the project completed (enough), we made our way to the right on the other side of the creek, switch-backed up the hill, and headed about a mile up the trail into the woods. Eventually I had us veer off, and we bushwhacked (not that many bushes to whack in the winter) up the hill to our right, and all the way to the top. There was a slight summit, with a mildly less dramatic view than I was expecting, and after enjoying a short break, we headed down the ridge line back toward the creek and trail in the direction of the car. However given the option, once we got back to the creek, we turned to the left and followed it to the opposite end of the recreation area, and set about building another rock bridge further down the creek from the first one. It was really neat, and Sophia and I both observed how the water was rising where we were standing, as we blocked the main channel passing through in front of us.

2014-02-22 11.13.57Having accomplished that task, we walked back over to the car, ate what was left of the donuts, and spent just a little bit more time in the area before getting in the car and heading home.

I was curious to see how long it would take us to get to Interstate 44 from here, so I checked the road atlas and realized that we could head to Sullivan, MO, and pass Meramec State Park on the way. Turns out it was a longer and windier drive than I had expected, but we eventually got to the Interstate, and on our way back to the St. Louis area.

2014-02-22 10.48.42It was a very short and simple camping trip, in a couple places that were new to me, and given more time we would have spent a night there at Brazil Creek. The scarcity of people made it a great time, without the distractions of the typical campground experience, the noise and the revelry and potential for mild commotion (which I do enjoy as well).  I found the isolation we experienced together along with the impulsiveness of taking the journey exactly as it came to us…just me and my kids on an adventure reminiscent of my own youthful excursions…to be one of the most positively memorable experiences I have had in a while. I will definitely be heading back that direction for another adventure, just as soon as I can.



  1. Hi there!
    I have been following your blog for some time, enjoying the antics and adventures along the way. We are blessed to live in beautiful Missouri, surrounded by the many parks and recreation areas. I look forward to all the things I know you will be doing this summer when we are finally through with the snow and ice! Great post – keep it up!

    • We really are blessed. Missouri has some gorgeous scenery. I think what I have been realizing lately also, is that I really had no idea of the scope of how much there really is out there to see and experience. For a number of years now we have been camping at State Parks and some private campgrounds here and there, and trying to discover new places…and I think my theme this year is going to be discovering places in the Mark Twain National Forest. There is always some new place to check out! Thanks for following the blog. I took a step away from it for too long as some other things in life took center stage, but I enjoy doing it and am trying to give it a renewed focus. Good luck on your own adventures! (Spring temperatures are right around the corner!)

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  1. Not all adventures will follow your Expected Path, Part One. Berryman and Brazil Creek Recreation Areas, Mark Twain National Forest 2/21-22/2014 | Camping Missouri

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