Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ozark Headwaters Hike

At the Young Conservation Area in Jefferson County I finally discovered the LaBarque Hills Trail. To reach that loop trail requires about 1.5 miles on the easy, flat creekside Taconic Trail, for a total hike of 6 miles. On this hike you will ford LaBarque Creek, about five times, on little stepping stones. The LaBarque Hills hike (rated moderate) is worth the effort, because in this area the LaBarque, from its Ozark foothills headwaters, flows imaginatively, wide and narrow, over rock shelves and beds of gravel; pristine and scenic all the way, and accessible only to those who'll walk there. I'd love it if you walked with me, but in case you can't, I've brought back photos.
Hiking during leafless times lets you see the normally hidden and the faraway. Also, a mild winter day is the best possible day to hike. You won't get heatstroke and there aren't any mosquitoes.

About the creek name: A "barque" is a three-masted ocean-sailing ship. This creek -- and the river it flows into, the Meramec -- probably never hosted that kind of ship. In French, the language of the 18th-century white settlers here, "la barque" means the small boat that a sailing ship carries astern or alongside for short trips. Near the juncture of the LaBarque and the Meramec, that kind of barque might have actually been used, but the creek for most of its 6.4-mile length is rocky with many small waterfalls, and not navigable. But it's just as pretty as these pictures all the way.

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