We departed Kentucky heading northwest to Missouri through the flood ravaged area and sadly a flash flood warning. While all intentions of this visit were to see the famous Mark Twain National Forest (MKNF) in Missouri, the experience was not one I would repeat. We arrive at our appointed check in time at Red Bluff Campground in MTNF, stopping by the water to fill our tank for the two day stay. As we did several wandering (loose & large) dogs popped out of campsites to bark their hello. We even had a nice Missourian stop to speak to us, explaining she and her family had camped in Red Bluff for the past 50 plus years. I thought how nice the whole “seven sister families” camping together until she told me we had the site she wanted but reserved it for after we left. Later I realized passive aggressive exists in Missouri too.
The campsite was awkward with a tiny uneven slab of pavement facing your neighbor’s site. I was still excited to wade in the Huzzah Creek until we noticed all the flash flood level signs. We were on high ground but boy that was not welcoming. The “Red Bluff Trail is a 1.2 mile loop” we had planned to hike but it was closed – not sure why due to the road construction or flooding. We set up under the darkening sky hoping the rain which followed us from Kentucky would hold off until I could dip my toes in the creek underneath the famous Red Bluffs. In keeping with my national forest experiences you listen for the creek and walk around until you find a good path to the water (there are hardly ever signs).
Fur babies geared up we headed to the creek. It took a minute to find the water under the pressure of the ensuing storm. It really is not bright to stand in water next to a big open rock face with thunder rolling into the area. A quick cut through the woods to the creek – wow beautiful! Red, black and yellow high bluffs banked the creek. The water was cold filled with small rocks (the kind that get under your foot in your Chaco) and small fish. You can just walk around in the clear but swift stream. There are deeper pockets and I even found some water lilies in one nice deep pool. As the sunset glow lit the bluffs the thunder sounded our retreat to the camper. Then the sky let out, rolling thunder, big rain pelting the camper and flash flood signs on replay in my head.
It stormed through the night, subsiding long enough the next day to take Trinity (my big dog) for a creek adventure. She found the cool water refreshing but did not feel the temperature was fit for a swim. We returned to the camper to ride out yet another round of thunderstorms. Evening came and as I was relaxing reading my John Muir book, a ruckus outside peaked my interest. The sister group had grown exponentially through the day and several more dogs had arrived. As I heard growling, barking, I peered out the window to see a man walking his small dog being bitten by one of the sister dogs. The man was vocal saying ouch he’s biting me and some of the sister family seemed to be in slow motion response to pull the dog off. It was at this point we decided to get up early and leave the next morning (yeah like 5am). We were headed to Nebraska and out of the rain … hopefully.
Next stop Indian Cave a Nebraska state park some 7 hours up the road. We could not check in until 4 pm but decided we did not care we were going anyway. This was a substitute site as our original site is still flooded by the Missouri River. This site was in the Hackberry Hollow campground, which Hackberry trees have the coolest bark. It is rough like Legos blocks rising in no particular pattern on the bark. It is not a tree in which you would want to collide. I think of this with rough barked trees due to a tire swing/Ash tree incident in my youth which resulted in my back having a bark imprint. As we followed the river up north to Nebraska this did not match my expectations of what a corn husker state would look like. It was not flat, filled with corn, but had hills and trees.
The rain storm followed our journey only pausing long enough for us to set up the camper in this crazy site I had reserved. It was dug into a hillside, muddy, and skinny. Again we were greeted by a loose barking dog on the campsite next to us. The owner did come and hook him (Milo) up to his leash which he did not appreciate. It was just for a night we had power, a hot shower, and were dry. Little did we know the storm would knock out the power in and out all night long, and permanently out around 3 am. Again we decided to leave early to the nearest coffee facility. Here is hoping Ponca State Park is better!