I got to go home over Thanksgiving. I had a week to show my son around my hometown, hunt, spend time with family, and hike. Hunter has been there back in February but that was a quick trip and we didn’t do a lot of exploring.
I should have planned two weeks. However, we got a lot of things accomplished.
I got my deer. I spent time with mom and dad. Hunter became best buddies with grandpa and got to cuddle with grandma.
We only got to do a short hike.
That was okay though– a perfect Day Hike and Baby Wipes post. Other than my hiking buddy, Hunter, who was bored with me taking photos and wanted me to keep moving. So he pulled my hair until I started hiking again.
It’s a great motivator.
We also took the hike a little later and the day. He was worried we weren’t going to make it back for dinner in time. Even though I brought snacks galore for him.
I originally planned on hitting up the Ozark Trail at Rocky Creek but time got away from me. I wanted to deer hunt while I was home. I hunt for food– I like knowing were it comes from, what it was fed, and using all I can. Plus, I can stock my freezer for a while, even with the two bottomless pits in the house.
I had a cabin, Scenic River Cabins (awesome place to stay), that was right down the road from Big Spring. Ozark National Scenic Riverways keeps a nice trail and frankly I was feeling nostalgic for my early seasonal ranger days.
I worked the Big Spring District as a seasonal ranger from 2008 until 2014. It was my first park! I loved it because it was home and I could work weekends in the late spring and early fall while I was in college at Arkansas State University. It worked out really well. As a summer seasonal, you usually only work 3-5 months (if you’re lucky) or 1,039 hours.
I miss the Current River and Big Spring. I had a lot of firsts at Big Spring. From school events to leading National Park Service events, plus senior photos.
I hiked a lot there. Both as a kid, before I even had an inkling what a park ranger was, and as a park ranger.
The hike I took last week was a little bittersweet. Things have changed but it still seems the same, at least there at the spring. Sure there is a little more erosion than when I was there but that’s normal.
The old heritage cabin was gone, I did a lot of events in that cabin. I gave so many programs at the Big Spring Amphitheater– it’s gone too. Water changes a lot, especially during the spring floods.
Growing up in this part of the Ozarks you learn to respect the power of water. Especially, in creeks and rivers. It probably wouldn’t be bad to fear the water a little too.
We have incredible, and destructive, flash floods. One of the worst hit the town of Van Buren in 2017. While Fremont is my “hometown,” Van Buren is where I went to school, worked, and grew up, plus most people know or have an idea of the town. I had moved to Nebraska by 2017 but I still felt the pain. The river crested at 37 feet, flooding most of the town. It surpassed the previous record flood by eight feet–in 1904 it crested at 29 feet.
I grew up on Pike Creek, it’s a dry creek most of the year but in the spring you see a raging river almost. The water in the narrow draws has enough power to push trees, upright sometimes, down the channel to the Current River.
I gave a lot of talks about how Big Spring puts out a lot of water (286 million gallons a day) and how during flooding conditions it puts out even more. It’s impressive.
So impressive in fact that it’s the largest spring in the state of Missouri and third largest (or largest depending on drought/rain conditions) in the USA. Idaho’s Snake River Spring Complex and Florida’s Silver Spring, being the other two contenders.
The trail system is nice, when the NPS isn’t working on rebuilding bathrooms and pavilions, it connects the spring to the campground, the Big Spring Lodge (currently closed for renovations), and the group campground. It occasionally has trees across the trail, between that and the hills you can get quite the workout.
I miss those hills. I also miss endless trees.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my adopted prairie home. However, I’m a ridge runner and miss where I grew up.
I need to get my act together and go home more. It’s a 13 hour drive, now a little longer with the little man.
It was a tough trip– Wade had to work, so it was a semi-solo adventure. Hunter hated being stuck in his car seat and I couldn’t do the drive in one long jaunt like I normally do. Mainly, because my son can imitate a banshee quite well. I split the drive up and back into two days with lots of stops so little man could be free. I pushed for 7 hours on average the first day (same going back) and then 4-5 the second day. It worked really well.
The first night on the way to Missouri, I made it to the outskirts of Kansas City. Once we stopped at the motel I pulled him out and he was so happy. I got the key and found out it was on the other side of the building from where I parked. I had to put him back in the car seat. He screamed so loud I was worried the cops would be called.
They weren’t but I did get some stares.
He cheered up once I sat him down on the floor in the room and he could go where he wanted.
He did the same thing once we made it to Grandma and Grandpa’s.
I still need to figure out how I’m going to do some hiking trips in Yellowstone and Rocky Mountains with Hunter. While those drives won’t be as long, I still need to plan better.
I’m excited for some more semi-solo adventures with my little dude– we’ll save the long trips for when dad can tag along for the drive though!