Mark Twain Country
MMay 13th is National Frog Jumping Day! Commemorating Mark Twain’s short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, published in 1865, this is the essay that “jump-started” Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ literary career and made the name Mark Twain famous. In his book, Innocents Abroad, Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Let’s take Twain’s advice and “hop” out to three wonderful trail-riding areas that have special significance to this literary legend. We’ll begin in the Show Me State near where Twain was born, then head north to Ohio, where he spent a year as a typesetter at a newspaper in Cincinnati. Then we’ll go west to California, where The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was penned in 1865.
Frank Russell Recreation Area, Monroe City, Missouri
We take you to areas made famous by the noted author in Missouri, Ohio, and California.
The Frank Russell Trailhead in the Frank Russell Recreation Area is a quick 30-minute drive from Samuel L. Clemens’ 1835 birthplace in Florida, Missouri. Both Florida and the Frank Russell Campground are situated on the shores on the appropriately named Mark Twain Lake.
Here, several trails cross a variety of terrain, from easy to rugged. Take your pick of the trails as you pass through forested areas, across meadows, and near Mark Twain Lake.
The Frank Russell Trailhead is on the east end of the Joanna Trail, the main trail that runs for 30 miles to the lake’s western end. Several secondary trails form loops that allow you to explore other areas around the lake.
The Log Cabin Loop takes you past the former site of a log cabin. A welcoming
picnic area now sits where the cabin once stood. Several additional access points along the Joanna Trail allow you to tailor a trail ride to your yearnings: long out and back treks, or shorter scenic loops.
For riders looking for something beyond a day ride, the Frank Russell Recreation Area won’t disappoint. Seven equestrian-friendly campsites — complete with electricity, shared potable water, table, grill and even lantern hangers — are available. The amenities for your ponies are just as pleasant, with 10 covered horse stalls available on a firstcome, first-served basis.
If the stalls are full, highlines are located near every campsite. Campers with livingquarters trailers will be pleased to know that a dump station is nearby, as well.
A lot of hard work goes into keeping this special area accessible to equine use. The NEMO River Valley Chapter of Missouri Back Country Horsemen and the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have partnered to maintain the trails and site facilities.
For more information, go to www.trail meister.com/trails/joanna-trail-frank-russellcampground; http://showmebch.org; www. visitmo.com/frank-russell-campground.aspx.
East Fork State Park, Bethel, Ohio
East Fork State Park lies just 30 miles from downtown Cincinnati, where Clemens
worked as a typesetter from 1856 to 1857. At nearly 5,000 acres, East Fork is one of Ohio’s largest state parks, with plenty of space and trails for riders to roam and explore.
A well-appointed, comfortable horsecamping experience awaits those who visit East Fork. Nestled along a forested area, the horse camp boasts 17 campsites, each with highlines, a fire pit, and a picnic table.
Centrally located water spigots, restrooms, electrical connections, and even a shower house round out the comforts to be found here. Of course, the best part of the park is the many horse-friendly trails you can easily access directly from camp. Five main trails, including the 32-mile-long perimeter trail, are equine-friendly.
Almost the entire northern portion of the park is the domain of horses and hikers. Bicycles are limited to the south end of the park, where they have their own trailhead and parking area.
Many of the equestrian trails at East Fork radiate outward from the day-use area. Most are well-marked and wellmaintained. Trails meander through dense forests across the rolling hillsides on both sides of the access road.
One of my favorite rides is the Red Fox Trail, which offers fabulous views overlooking William H. Harsha Lake and a great lunch spot complete with picnic tables!
Day riders will appreciate the expansive day-use area, which is located away from the main camping space and has its own restrooms, mounting block, and even an expansive open area that is often home to special events.
East Fork is open year-round. In the spring, you’ll almost certainly encounter some of the deep, clinging mud East Fork is known for. The glacial forces that created the area’s rolling hills are also responsible for the springtime muddy conditions that affect some of the trails.
I’ve found my favorite season to visit East Fork is in the fall before the snow falls. Fall brings fabulous colors, as the resident maples, oaks, and hickories turn brilliant shades of gold, yellow and red. The summer sun has also dried out even the boggiest areas.
Members of the Ohio Horse Council and other local groups help to keep this area open to stock use, working with park managers to improve the trails and facilities. One area that has been vastly improved is the Blue Trail that runs from the horse camp to the day-use area.
For more information, go to www.trailmeister.com/trails/east-fork-state-park; https://ohconline.org.
Clark Fork Horse Campground, Stanislaus National Forest, California GPS Coordinates: 38.4001, -119.8025
Quick fact: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, published in 1864, was the basis of a 1950 opera of the same name and was also adapted as a scene in the 1985 film, The Adventures of Mark Twain.
Calaveras County, California, where Mark Twain set his famous short story, is home to the Stanislaus National Forest, which, in turn, is home to the popular Clark Fork Horse Camp.
A dedicated equestrian campground, Clark Fork Horse Camp is situated in a forested area along the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River. As you might imagine, this is a gorgeous area, with scattered pines and grasslands nestled next to the rushing waters of the Stanislaus. What the campground lacks in services (such as potable water and electrical connections), it makes up for in scenic beauty.
The campground has 14 sites and two group areas that are specially designated for equestrian use. Most sites have picnic tables and fire pits. Centrally located vault toilets round out the conveniences. Equine amenities are limited to a stock water tank, ample trees for highlines, and space for portable corrals.
The hiker’s camp, just a short walk away, offers potable water, flush toilets, and showers for those wanting extra comforts.
Numerous riding trails radiate out from the horse camp, from close-in trails that meander through the forests and meadows along the Stanislaus River to all-day rides. You can even go on an overnight pack trip into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Area, a rugged landscape punctuated with volcanic peaks and ridges.
Sitting at an elevation of more than 6,000 feet, the best time to visit Clark Fork in a typical year is generally late June to early August.
Members of the Backcountry Horsemen of California Mid Valley Unit do a tremendous amount of work to make this an excellent destination point for riders from around the country. Every June, members clean the camp and clear debris from the trails. The unit’s members also serve as camp hosts throughout the riding season.
For more information, go to www.trailmeister.com/trails/clark-fork-campground; www.bchcmidvalley.org. TTR
The Frank Russell Recreation Area is a quick 30-minute drive from Samuel L. Clemens’ birthplace in Florida, Missouri. Both Florida and the Frank Russell Campground are situated on the shores of Mark Twain Lake, where you’ll enjoy forest trails, lake views, and open meadows.
MARY CHURCH PHOTO The NEMO River Valley Chapter of Missouri Back Country Horsemen and the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have partnered to maintain the trails and site facilities in the Frank Russell Recreation Area. Here, the NEMO River Valley work crew takes a break after installing a hitching rail.
East Fork State Park’s Red Fox Trail offers views of William H. Harsha Lake.
At nearly 5,000 acres, East Fork State Park is one of Ohio’s largest state parks, with plenty of space and trails for riders to roam and explore.
KAREN LOPES PHOTOS Numerous riding trails radiate out from Clark Fork Horse Camp, from close-in trails that meander through the forests and meadows along the Stanislaus River to all-day rides.