Welcome back, my dear fellow explorers, to The Plains West of Thomasville. Where each week I take you along as I explore everything these Ozark hills have to offer. As always, the hope is that you will read my stories, see my photographs, and feel spurred to go out and have adventures of your own.
It’s been a few weeks since my last hike, and I have been feeling the itch. Recently I scratched it by heading out for a jaunt down the McGarr Ridge Trail, located in the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness. The trailhead is about 20 miles west of West Plains on CC Highway.
Before setting out on any hike, it is important to be prepared. Proper shoes are crucial. Good hiking shoes start with a thick, slip-resistant sole, and are ideally waterproof. Boots that are tall enough to offer ankle support are also a good idea. Although shorts may be cooler, long pants are a better idea.
Finally, it is always a good idea to have water on the trail, no matter how long or short the intended trek is.
This is a trail I have hiked many times, but each time I walk it, I see things from a different perspective. My understanding is that it eventually hooks up to the Collins Ridge Trail, and eventually I would like go all the way.
Dogwood, redbud and wild azaleas give the wilderness a wild burst of color in the spring. Scattered limestone glades and other openings provide some of the more favorable places to view wildlife.
White-tailed deer, gray squirrel, raccoon, coyote, red and gray fox, bobcat and striped skunk are some of the mammals native to the area. Wild turkey, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, bald eagle, turkey vulture, great blue heron, pileated woodpecker and various songbirds can be seen. Among the reptiles common to the area are two poisonous snakes, the copperhead and the eastern timber rattler.
As I walked the trail, snake-bashing stick in hand—although in fairness I wouldn’t stay and fight any snake I came across. It would be more like when a character beat a hasty exit in a cartoon and all what was left was a dust outline. Anyway, I couldn’t help but think about a story from my childhood.
When I was a kid, we had some kind of gathering at our house. I think we were having an auction, but I’m not 100% certain. Whatever the gathering, Cowboy Rick Hamby was there, and so was his brother Rod. Rick was sitting on the ground, leaned up against a tree, of course wearing a cowboy hat.
I was just wandering around playing when Rod approached me and said “Rick is scared of snakes. I’ll give you a dollar if you go put this rubber snake on his hat.” I said make it $5 and, we had a deal.
I snuck up behind him and dropped the snake on his head, letting the tail fall in front of his eyes. He jumped like he was attached to a rocket and and threw is hat as hard as he could. We’ll just say he was unhappy when he saw Rod and me laughing.
Putting aside the predators that I was certain were lying in wait, it was an absolutely perfect day for a hike through the Ozarks. In the woods of the Devil’s Backbone Wilderness, the plant life has reaped the benefits of the rain, and all of the colors are rich and vibrant.
The film camera of choice for this hike was a Canon A-1 35mm, and I used Kodak Portra 400. The low contrast and high color saturation are incredibly challenging to replicate on a digital camera, making this a unique film for photographing landscapes. Though it's not as flexible as Portra 800, you can still push or pull this film by one stop.
The McGarr Ridge Trail is yet another feature of the Devil’s Backbone that makes it a must visit.
Remember, the hall closet is no place for hiking shoes. Get them out, lace them up, and have a great hike.
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