Mark Twain Coun­try

Trail Rider - - CONTENTS - BY ROBERT EVERSOLE

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

MARY CHURCH PHOTO

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.

Robert Eversole

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE OHIO DEPART­MENT OF NAT­U­RAL RE­SOURCES

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.

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