Clinton Mile 264

Clinton Mile 264
The beginning

Machens Mile 27

Machens Mile 27
The goal

Friday, July 20, 2007


A few candid shots.
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Monday, July 9, 2007

Medical Update

My foot is still swollen, discolored, and painful after finishing the trail 3 weeks ago. I broke down and went to the Podiatrist to find out I had a badly broken toe. The foot started hurting about 3/4 of the way through the hike, I just thought it was from all the pounding. Evidently it was a stress fracture that splintered because I kept walking on it. Now I've got a funny blue shoe instead of my hiking boot. He said stay off of it for 3 weeks, like that's going to happen.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A few final thoughts

Receiving the rest of my pictures from the trip gave me cause for reflection of the history associated with the Katy Trail, overall impressions of the trail, and what my trip really meant to me.

One of the first things you’ll notice along the Katy is the telegraph line that parallels the trail. It’s quite daunting when you think of all the history that passed through those telegraph lines since the inception of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad in the late 1800’s. These lines brought news of the admission of new states such as Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, word of the assassination of President McKinley or the start of the Spanish-American War in Cuba. Even news of Kodak’s first portable camera, or the refrigerator!

My thoughts turned to the early explorers like Jacques Marquette, the French explorer who traveled up the Missouri and the Indian tribes, many now extinct, he encountered along the shores of the river while exploring the Mississippi River. I passed many historical markers concerning the Lewis & Clark expedition. The flow and course of the Missouri has changed since then but you can still see the bluffs and wonder what Lewis & Clark thought when they first encountered them. Parts of the Katy still allow you to actually follow in the footsteps of the expedition. You’ll see signs telling of land grants to such American legends like Daniel Boone while the land still belonged to the Spanish. Part of the Katy includes pieces of the Santa Fe Trail, which opened the west to thousands of settlers.

I have to mention the Boonville Bridge. The rail bridge has a section that would actually rise up to allow steamboat and barge traffic up and down river. This is a site you must see to appreciate. It just wouldn’t have the same impact on you if you only saw it in pictures. God I hope they can prevent the potential destruction of the bridge.

You’ll see landscapes that vary from prairie to river valleys along the trail. The trail itself was very well maintained and made for a very nice backpacking trip with a few exceptions. Camping along the trail is illegal. It can be a long, long, hike between campgrounds unless you stay at B&B’s (Bed and &Breakfasts). Most of the B&B’s are really beautiful and run by exceptional people. This is all well and good but not for a backpacker on a budget. I’d like to see the state make some small, ¼ acre campsites every 15-20 miles. Heck, at least build the small three sided shelters like you see along the Appalachian Trail. I’m glad I was able to make arrangements to stay on private property along the way. The kindness of those property owners saved me twice when shelter or campgrounds were at least 25 miles apart or non-existent like the 40-mile stretch from Augusta to Machens. Water is another story entirely. Mentioning the lack of water along the Katy has been discussed so many times by others that it’s like beating a dead horse. I hid two gallons of water along the trail on my way to Clinton. This saved me from having a serious survival issue on my hands twice. I had iodine purification tablets with me but it’s still hard to find a stream with semi-clear water to treat.

It’ unrealistic to expect the Department of Natural Resources to spend the money needed to provide water at every trailhead. Plan ahead and make your own water drops. And please, pack your empty water jug with you to the next trailhead for proper disposal. I am also considering packing a lightweight umbrella the next time for shade. The sun was brutal and sometimes any shade would have been a welcome relief. Maybe it will be a kid’s Cinderella umbrella, there’s a conversation starter. I also learned later in the hike that it’s a good idea to liberally spray the clothes you’re putting on the next day with insect repellent. Just spraying your skin only seemed to antagonize the mosquitoes.

There were some days I wouldn’t pass anyone along the trail for 8 hours, and then it may only be a hello to a passing bike. Certain parts of the trail are ideal if you “want to get away from it all”. The people you do meet however are the friendliest, nicest, most honest, helpful people you’ll ever encounter. Like Cath at the Hartsburg Inn. I arrived after a brutally hot, dusty, 10-hour hike. She didn’t take Visa and I was about $5 short for the price of the room. Her response was “mail me the balance when you get home”. How often do you encounter that in this day and age? Or the farmer cutting grain along the trail that stopped his tractor so I wouldn’t get covered with dust as I passed by. There’s always a wave from passing cars and nice long relaxing conversations with bicyclists along the way. I met people from as far away as Alaska and San Francisco and as local as the next town. I will certainly never forget the people from a certain church who were beyond accommodating when I camped on their property. Everyday the news reminds us of the evil in the world, which makes us take a cynical outlook on others and an overall lack of trust in people. The Katy will cure that. You’ll learn that there are still a lot of good people left in the world. People you meet on and along the Katy really seem to bring out the best in each other. Not to sound Zen but I really believe I found myself out there. I like the guy I used to be, it’s nice to be him again.

A word of advice to other backpackers: Remember the 5 P’s: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Drive along the trail prior to your hike and plan those water drops. Talk to property owners along the way who might allow you to pitch a tent overnight (8 hour maximum) on those long stretches between campgrounds. Make reservations as far in advance as possible if you must stay at a hotel. I learned that lesson the hard way in St. Charles during the Southern Baptist Convention.

I regret that one time I was so intent on reaching my next stop due to heat That I didn't pay attention to the scenery. I'll re-hike that section another time.

Would I do it again? You’re darn skippy!! Maybe next time I’ll travel east to west. Then again, I’ve been reading about the 500-mile Ozark Trail that runs from Missouri to Arkansas. Hmmmmm……..

P.S. I'll be posting some of my pictures shortly.

P.S.S. Don't ever forget: Hikers rule and bikers drool (just a joke, sorry Mary). See you on the trail.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Someone asked me if going through the high grass, chiggers, ticks, and no shade at the end of the trip was really worth the hassle to reach Machens. Hmmmm, let me think. I might be alone here but I’ll try my best to answer this for you. My goal was to backpack the entire Katy Trail from end to end. After walking 219 miles with a 30 pound backpack and another 19 with a 12 pound pack, I felt that I couldn’t quit so close to my goal. I didn’t want to hike the roads that parallel the Katy to Machens so I could honestly say that I hiked the entire trail from end to end. Maybe I just viewed the hot, bug infested part between St. Charles and Machens as a gut check to see how bad I wanted to reach my goal. I didn’t think that overcoming adversity to reach a goal was a bad thing. It gave me a greater feeling of accomplishment when I hit mile marker 27 and the end of the trail. In regards to the restroom. It was new and an improvement to the EOT (end of trail) indicating they were starting to make improvements to that end of the trail.
Would I do it again? I'll answer that in my next post: Final Thoughts.

St. Charles to Machens

St. Charles to Machens is an odyssey. The first thing you need to do is go to a sporting goods store and buy a pair of the cheapest, non-cotton , lightweight convertible pants they sell. You’ll need both long pants and shorts for this stretch, making them convenient. As you go under Interstate 370 you’ll come to the end of the “established trail” because it turns into a dirt path that looks like it may have been a service road at one time. Stop here and put the legs on your convertible pants and bug juice up. Follow the dirt road; you’ll see bike tracks. Next you’ll come to a fork in the road. Bear right, it looks like you’re back on the Katy and you’ll go around a nice little pond. After the pond the road bears right back onto the dirt path. The grass here is knee to mid torso high. There were chiggers and ticks so the bug spray pays off. I even saw Jake the Snake twice so you really have to watch your step. The path alternates from crushed limestone to dirt to big rocks and back to dirt numerous times, the grass is still high but bearable if you stay on the path. The distance so far would be about 6 miles. You finally dump out onto what we would recognize as the Katy just before mile marker 33 when you hit the trail. Wear a hat, use sunscreen if you want, wear your long, lightweight pants in the grass, and carry lots and lots of water. There is no shade!!! Good news: They have upgraded Machens! There’s an indoor toilet so you can sit down to do your business (#2). No more digging holes for tree fertilization is required.

Greens Bottom to St. Charles

Met Jill at Greens Bottom for a resupply of water and a change of packs. Tomorrow will be my last day so I changed from my 30-pound backpack to a daypack with water first aid stuff, bug spray, and water. Total weight: 12 pounds. You're not allowed to camp along the trail with Machens 18 miles away. I'm going to celebrate at a hotel and nice restaurant tonight since tomorrow is my last day on the trail. My luck held up. All hotel rooms within a 30-mile radius was booked solid thanks to the Southern Baptist Convention. The only room I could find was smoking and $94. In the words of my old friend Mary Daugherty, they can "kiss upon it". My revenge was walking into Applebees wearing clothes that haven't been laundered in 60 miles. It tuned a lot of heads. I hated driving the 30 miles home but didn't have a lot of choice. The hike to St. Charles resumed the next day with my 12-pound pack. It was pretty uneventful; I guess that's normal when you hike certain sections too many times.
The trailhead at St. Charles is really cool. There's an old depot in Frontier Park, it's also the starting place in Missouri for the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1803. Old town St. Charles is really nice.

Klondike to Greens Bottom

Pretty uneventful since I've hiked this part of the trail at least 20 times. Pack a lot of water because there aren't any water stops until St. Charles, 24 miles away. I had a nice rest 10 miles down the road at the Weldon Spring trailhead. Weldon Springs claim to fame is that it used to be associated with nuclear material around the time of WWII. The highest point in St. Charles County is located here. It's this huge concrete pyramid that seals uranium buried deep underground. There's no water at the Trailhead and no way I would even drink treated water from those streams. There's not enough iodine and chlorine in the world that would make me touch that stuff.
I felt proud when I looked at the trail map at the kiosk and realized how far I have actually walked. It was a real motivator. Today's hike was another 20 miler when I got to Greens Bottom.