1) Is this short cut good. Yes. There is a paved trail from the Hwy N Bridge to the JSI campground as seen on this google Map. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Johns ... 6259?hl=en
For my vote I would change up the route to get the best views and hiking.
1) Thursday Afternoon - Start at Bell North TH. Hike to Bell Summit - Mile Marker 4 - Camp. Enjoy the views of the rolling St Francois Mtns you will walk over the next day or two.http://www.ozarktrail.com/maps/detailed/TaumSauk1.jpg
No water available on top of Bell.
2) Friday Hike to Googins Trail instersection - Mile Marker #9 (This would be about 10 miles for the day.) There is a nice campsite at this location with a view in the valleys to the west. Another mile south and a great view opens from a glade to the southwest. I would camp at MM #9 though.http://www.ozarktrail.com/maps/detailed/TaumSauk2.jpg
Water fill options on the way to Goggins. Worst case get to Goggins and drop your gear set up camp and hike to the JSI campground for water...*ice cream if the campground store is open.
3) Saturday Hike to Black River ~7 miles There is a rock campfire ring near the trail split. The blue trail goes toward JSI on the west side of the river. Spend Saturday evening exploring up and down the river. http://www.ozarktrail.com/maps/detailed/TaumSauk2.jpg
4) Sunday - Wake up slow and finish about 4 miles out to the Scour TH. If ya really want to score the Taum Sauk mtn peak... I would drive over there on the way out of town. Do the short loop hike to mina-sauk falls and back to the car before heading home. http://www.ozarktrail.com/maps/detailed/TaumSauk3.jpg
The views from Bell/Goggins and up through JSI far out weight the views from Taum Sauk headed north to JSI.
Overall you could have 22-27 miles depending on how much exploring you do along the river and if you picked up Taum Sauk Mtn.
In summary - The hiking on Taum Sauk is much slower than other OT sections. Very rocky, tough on the ankles. consider this to be the 1.5 mph walking pace...slower if your stretching your current pre-spring fitness.
Bell has awesome Moon rise if you can catch one that comes up after sunset. example - 4/13/17 Waning Gibbous, 95% visible Moonrise 10PM. However - Also calling for 80% chance of rain each day that weekend.... walking this trip in the rain....been there done that...lightning is scary $hit on top of Bell Mtn.... pss...wont hike it again in the rain. the rocks are slippery.
keep an eye on the forcast - It is subject to change by day of...
If you have any more questions - feel free to throw them out here.