I'm still not really philosophical about the whole feral hog thing.

On the other side of Mudlick Mountain, up and over from the campground, there's a valley that, on Google maps, shows every sign of having been settled or farmed other otherwise used. I happened to speak with a park ranger, who said the Missouri Department of Conservation had kept wildlife food plots in the valley until the mid 1970's. That figures: the valley is now a place of old roads running through old, cedar-choked fields (see above).

Along the way, there's a pine plantation. I can't for the life of me recall whether they were native pines or not. In any case, I couldn't get into the stand--the brush was just too thick.

It's thick and overgrown.

After a bit, I came across this trail intersecting the old road I was on:

It's not a path made by people. It's too narrow (perhaps only eight or ten inches wide). And a person couldn't walk down it, because it's only clear to about three feet above the ground; above that, the brush closes overhead. And it's not a deer trail, because deer don't all walk one behind the other; instead, deer trails are braided, clear for a few feet, then fading, then clear again. When I took this picture, I wasn't quite sure what I was seeing.

A minute or two later, things were made clear to me. As a crested a small rise, I walked up on a herd of feral hogs.

I went immediately into angry monkey mode, shouting profanity, jumping up and down, and waving my arms. Like something out of a Jane Goodall film. Really.

And it sort of works. The little hogs ran off squealing, as fast as their little legs could carry them. The medium sized hogs ran off too.

The one big one? It didn't exactly run off. It thought about it. Then sauntered off, not away from me exactly, and not toward me. Just sort of into the brush.

I turned and walked away, shouting and hollering until I got out of the valley, and up onto a slope where I could see.

It was completely unnerving, as frightening an event as anything I've come across outdoors. I've crossed paths with coyotes, found myself following a bobcat in the snow, had a bear walk up to my camp. And none of those things put me off as much as that big feral hog.

Why? Because it wasn't afraid of me.

I've done solo, multi-day backpacking trips in some wild places in COlorado, Idaho and Wyoming, and I've never really been afraid. Hypothermic? Yes. Afraid? No.

So now I'm left in the oddest position: I'm perfectly willing to go back out west, and yet there are not some places in Missouri where I'm reluctant go alone.

Some of my friends suggest that I get a concealed carry permit, so I can carry in state parks. Seems like a lot of bother, and extra weight. And, if I had to use it to fend off a hog, I assume there'd be no time to worry about where any stray rounds were going to end up. So that doesn't seem like an option.

My best course of action? I think I'm going to start calling park offices, and asking if they have hog problems. Seems like a reasonable response.