People who aren’t from here (and probably a lot of people who are), are generally not aware that Missouri has Wilderness Areas. Actually, it has eight–Bell Mountain, Rockpile Mountain, Paddy Creek, Piney Creek, Irish, Devil’s Backbone, Mingo…and Hercules Glades. I’ve been to all except for Paddy Creek, Devil’s Backbone, and the Irish (which I hope to remedy this spring). Mingo is a swamp and cannot be hiked. Hercules Glades, which I backpacked with four friends last weekend, must be one of the largest. It’s in the Ozarks, about 60 miles from Branson. If you’ve read any of Daniel Woodrell’s novels, this is the sort of land the Dollys inhabit.

It was very cold at night–high teens or low twenties, but my down sleeping bag seemed to do the trick. It was an ordeal to get out of the warmth in the morning, but good companionship and awe-inspiring surroundings made it more than worthwhile, and both days became sunny cool hiking days. It was a relatively short one–only about 10 miles. There were two hills that tested my fitness, but other than that we made excellent time. Our guide seemed to know everything there was to know about the Glades, certainly more than we can learn on one trip. I’m sure we’ll be back. The glades, old homesteads, rock formations, and gin-clear creeks were extraordinary.

Don’t tell anyone how awesome Missouri is–it’ll be our secret. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures. 🙂