Hercules Glades Wilderness Taney County Missouri
Driving down Hwy 125 is almost more fun than hiking any of the 32 miles of trails located in this picturesque part of Mark Twain National Forest in Taney County. My son, Cole and I loaded our hiking gear into his new (to him) Subaru WRX STi and shifted our way down the curvy highway to our turn off at Blair Ridge Trail Road a few miles south of Bradleyville. Motorcyclists were out in force as well, enjoying the hot day and the challenging roadway.
This particular Sunday (August 23, 2020) was hot, 94 degrees and sunny but I felt after my last hike up at Taum Sauk, I was prepared for the 6.2 miles of Blair Ridge. Of course, Cole had to say something about the Blair Witch Project before we began hiking, then eased my wildly running imagination by showing me his new purchase-a sidearm that was not too heavy to hike with but would stop a deranged killer if we happened to meet one.
We had wanted to camp on this particular weekend as I had Monday off, but with the high temps, I was less than enthusiastic about spending the night out in the bush. The hike was beautiful, quiet and we had very little company. We happened to meet a couple on the way to the falls and questioned them on the amount of water available. Alas, with Southwest Missouri’s current drought conditions, there was not a drop to be had down Long Creek. Not surprising and one of the reasons I brought plenty of water which will be important later.
This particular trail took about an hour and a half to hike to the falls. The trail is moderate and switches between rocky to sandy with plenty of scenery of the Ozark hills in the distance. There are primitive camping areas that have been well used in the past. One is located right above Long Creek and would have been perfect this past spring with the water rushing by, frogs singing and a good spot to possibly observe wildlife coming for a drink. With the current conditions however, a fire would not have been advisable. Hercules Glades has a fire tower, used in the past, for a reason.
Here is the link for the USDA website which has great information and a trail map: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mtnf/recarea/?recid=21754
The trip to the falls was in a word, uneventful. The trip back to the car, however, was a lesson in overconfidence I won’t soon forget. Some of my readers know, I am not the most physically fit person. I am working out more, hiking more and weight lifting more to try and get into better shape, but I have a long way to go. My goal is to hike into Hemmed In Hollow in Arkansas next spring with as many members of the family I can con into going. If I had tried that on this particular Sunday, I would have most likely ended up in the hospital. Luckily, I have medical training and years of repeating First Aid through the Red Cross so I was able to monitor my symptoms as Cole and I hiked out. I tried to rest and drink water as I felt my heart rate increase, perspiration slowly decrease and my muscles begin to want to cramp. I was headed for heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
With each ridge I slowed a little more and rested a little longer. I knew I was in a little trouble when my heart rate beat a tattoo very hard into my throat right next to my jugular. I’m sure it was plainly visible. Cole monitored me as well and waited patiently each time I had to take a break. I ate a little Gardetto’s Snack Mix to gain some salt back into my system as I knew to stop sweating was very dangerous. Luckily, I had brought enough water along for the entire hike but I had not brought any snacks this time. Bad idea. A little sugar and a little salt would have helped the situation. I won’t forget again. Sometimes we can underestimate our bodies’ needs especially when mixed with extreme weather conditions. I did find myself feeling sorry for military personnel who have to hike every day with gear on their backs in all sorts of weather without falling over in a dead faint.
I warned Cole to watch for signs of confusion, the aura before a seizure, clammy skin and a faint heartbeat. Branson has the closest hospital down Hwy 76 and an ambulance could have been brought into play as they are staged at various spots throughout the county, had I needed it.
As I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I realized I was not quite as ready for hiking this far on a hot summer day as I had expected myself to be. After all, I consider myself fairly healthy. I work long hours and come home and work more. I am outside some, but not a lot and I believe this was the key difference. I was unused to the demands my body made while combining exertion and heat. It was a good lesson. Cole took it well. He got the car cooled down quickly while I drank warm 7Up for the salt and potassium it contained. We stopped at a gas station for Gatorade and beef jerky, both helping with the electrolytes I needed to recover.
So get out there outdoor enthusiasts and newbie outdoor enthusiasts…just be careful. Know when you are in trouble, don’t be afraid to ask for help, take lots of water and a few snacks!
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