Smith Creek Preserve Trail: A New Jewel in Arkansas

Smith Creek

Smith Creek

Judging from the strata making up the sedimentary bluffs bordering Smith Creek, there’s nothing new about this area geologically, but public access to this jewel is new.  Thanks to Marty and Elise Roenigk, who transferred their property to the Nature Conservancy to establish Smith Creek Preserve, this area will be protected from development and destruction.

If you hike this trail, please tread lightly and leave as little impact as possible. The “trails” are almost exclusively old roadbeds. When the trail moves away from the roadbed, watch for round yellow arrows that indicate the route.

Two hikers beginning their hike.

Two hikers beginning their hike

Smith Creek is small and unassuming, but its beauty is rich and varied. I began my hike with a headlamp and had no trouble following the main road that leads alongside Smith Creek to Big Spring. I then did the Lower Trail and visited Elise Falls before hiking back to the trailhead.  My route was approximately 5 miles. I took almost five hours, not because of the difficulty, but because of the need to stop for photo-breaks. I finished up around 11:00 a.m. and had the whole place to myself. A couple arrived as I finished my hike.

What follows are a few photos from my Saturday morning hike.

Large boulders in and around the creek

Large boulders in and around the creek

I wanted to step onto the large boulder in the center of Smith Creek, but the gap between rocks is deceptive in this photo. I wasn’t willing to try the jump. The drop looked like more than fifteen feet down to the water. The boulders are much larger than can be communicated with a photo lacking humans for scale.

Little falls are sprinkled all along the creek.

Little falls are sprinkled all along the creek.

View downstream from a little cascade.

View downstream from a little cascade.

Round arrow markers indicate a spur from where the trail crosses the dry wash below. Following these arrows down the drain will bring you to another stream and Elise Falls. Watch your step because weathered limestone can be very slippery!

A small bluff next to a dry wash close to Smith Creek.

A small bluff next to a dry wash close to Smith Creek.

Elise Falls

Elise Falls

Seeing Big Spring was a highlight for me. This is no small seep! It puts out a high volume of water and forms a small stream that flows a short distance before joining with Smith Creek.

Big Spring

Big Spring

Stream flowing away from Big Spring

Stream flowing away from Big Spring toward Smith Creek

The Smith Creek Trailhead is located on AR 21, eight miles south of Ponca. Visit nature.org and search for Smith Creek Preserve to find more information. The trail kiosk had maps and brochures for visitors similar to what is available online.

Smith Creek Trailhead

Smith Creek Trailhead

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Early Bird Waterfall Watcher

Glory Hole Falls

Glory Hole Falls

Up at 5:00 a.m. so I could get to the Buffalo River region early last Saturday. I had the short trail to Glory Hole Falls all to myself. It was a special time since this trail is usually covered up with people on the weekends.

As I hiked away from the falls, I passed twenty hikers heading down the trail. I was thankful for my early morning time with this special little spot in the Ozarks.

Glory Hole Falls up close.

Glory Hole Falls up close.

Hiker on Goat Bluff looking down on the Buffalo River

Hiker on Goat Bluff looking down on the Buffalo River

Later in the day I enjoyed some larger views. This wonderful fourteen-mile day was only possible because I chose to be an early bird hiker and waterfall watcher.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Early Bird.”

Hemmed In Hollow and a Great Big Small World

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Glory Hole Falls

The day began with an early morning drive to the Buffalo River area. My plan was to get an early start on the 11-mile out-and-back hike to Hemmed in Hollow from the Centerpoint Trailhead. Hiker-dog couldn’t make this trip as dogs are not allowed on the Hemmed in Hollow Trail.

As I drove toward Ponce, I passed the parking area for the Glory Hole Falls. There wasn’t a single car, so I pulled in and grabbed my camera and tripod, excited to have the place to myself. The last time I was there, it was crowded and the afternoon sun was glaring into the falls.

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Glory Hole Falls

I had a good time taking pictures for about 45-minutes before hiking back up and out. I passed at least twenty hikers descending toward the falls at 9:30 a.m.

Small flow above the falls.

Small flow above the falls.

It was 10:30 a.m. before I got to the Centerpoint Trailhead. So much for the early start. I enjoyed spending some time on Goat Bluff and meeting hikers from Missouri, Louisiana, and Northwest Arkansas. One hiker asked about the restrooms down by the river. I told him that was one of the Villines homesites. I think he was surprised. I was thinking how thankful I was that restrooms were not cluttering this beautiful view.

Hiker on Goat Bluff

Hiker on Goat Bluff

Family enjoying lunch on Goat Bluff

Family enjoying lunch on Goat Bluff

Granny Henderson’s home was a treat to visit again. I noticed the paper telling her story was missing from the front porch where it used to be posted.

Granny Henderson House

Granny Henderson House

Inside Granny Henderson's House

Inside Granny Henderson’s House

Sneeds Creek

Sneeds Creek

Crossing Sneeds Creek in route to Hemmed In Hollow Falls was a pleasure. I made note to be sure and filter water on my hike back out. I’d forgotten just how beautiful the approach to Hemmed In Hollow was. There are several cascades and waterfalls downstream from the main falls. I was beginning to budget my remaining daylight and decided to return to explore this area another, hopefully, overcast day (better for waterfall photos).

Yancy at Hemmed In Hollows Waterfall

Yancy at Hemmed In Hollows Waterfall

When I arrived at Hemmed in Hollows Falls, I set up my tripod and took a couple of shots. A young man approached me and called my name. Turns out it was a former student, Yancy. Running into him in one of the more difficult hiking locations of Arkansas reinforced the “small world” concept. We laughed because the last time we’d met, we were volunteering for the Lee Creek cleanup in Devils’ Den.

Yancy's oldest daughter taking in the view.

Yancy’s oldest daughter taking in the view.

Yancy introduced me to his daughters, and we had a nice visit. They took turns posing in front of the falls. I was pleased because this adds a sense of perspective on this 200+foot waterfall. The ribbon of water is visible toward the top of the bluff, but winds cause the stream to spread as it falls.

The hike back up to Centerpoint Trailhead was just as steep as I remembered but not as long. If you get in a hurry, this climb will humble the strongest of hikers. It was a 14-mile day between the Glory Hole Falls and Hemmed in Hollow.  A full day of hiking in this great big beautiful (and sometimes small) world.

Elk Burger at Arkansas House Cafe

Elk Burger at Arkansas House Cafe

My post-hike meal was an Elk Burger at the Arkansas House Cafe in Jasper. Taters on the side of course. The waitstaff stayed busy refilling my ice tea.

I had a short conversation with the owner of the Arkansas House. I learned that Gould Jones built a fully functioning water wheel and stone retaining wall in the branch next to the cafe and near the Little Buffalo River. The mill wheel he built is on display in front of the cafe and was originally used to generate electricity as Jasper continued rebuilding efforts a number of years after the Civil War.

During our visit, I also learned about a new trail that was recently developed by the Nature Conservancy. I look forward to exploring that trail on my next trip to the area.

Mill wheel at Arkansas House Cafe

Mill wheel at Arkansas House Cafe

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art From the Trails

Yield, by Roxy Paine, 2011  Entrance to Crystal Bridges

Yield, by Roxy Paine, 2011
Entrance to Crystal Bridges

How many times have you enjoyed a 3-mile hike followed by lunch at the trailhead and an afternoon walk through a world-class art museum? Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a museum of international fame, offers this possibility. As an added bonus, the trailhead is located in the city of Bentonville, Arkansas, and a mere five minutes from Interstate 49.

Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges viewed from above.

Don’t let the ease of access scare you. The multi-use trails around Crystal Bridges pass through some beautiful Arkansas woods and offer a true hiking or mountain biking experience. You also have the advantage of customizing your route to fit your mileage needs. Many visit Crystal Bridges without realizing what the trails have to offer. It’s helpful to view the trails as a continuation of the museum from inside to outside where you’ll find nature’s artwork and occasional sculptures on display.

Prior to my hike, I enjoyed plotting my route on the beautiful map offered at the museum. I covered most of the trails, leaving only a section of the Dogwood Trail to add on my next visit. I designated the museum entrance as my “trailhead” since the Orchard Trail begins there and fit well within my route. Other locations around the museum provide access to the trails.

The Art Trail

The Art Trail

You will be sharing the trail with many walkers and cyclists, but I found everyone to be courteous in sharing the trail. I also enjoyed hearing various languages and accents as Crystal Bridges attracts visitors from many cultures. Some travel great distances to see the museum. Some trails are paved, and others are a firm gravel surface. All trails are in excellent condition and built to take the heavy traffic.

Crystal Spring

Crystal Spring

Early in my walk, I crossed Crystal Spring. A small stone bridge allows you to walk over the spring. A Frank Lloyd House, (Bachman Wilson House, 1954) has been disassembled and was being reassembled during my visit with an estimated competition date within a few months. This will add a wonderful opportunity for visitors when completed.

Crystal Bridges as viewed from the trail.

Crystal Bridges as viewed from the trail.

Architecture alone justifies a visit to Chrystal Bridges! Here’s a view of the museum from an overlook next to the 1-mile Crystal Bridges Trail on the west side of the museum. My route allowed me to loop around the museum and see it from all sides, passing the North Lawn. If I’d had more time, a nap there would be a treat!

Crystal Bridges North Lawn

Crystal Bridges North Lawn

Tulip Tree Shelter

Tulip Tree Shelter

Shelters are functional works of art at Crystal Bridges. Great places to relax and take in the surrounding beauty.

Rock Ledge Shelter

Rock Ledge Shelter

One of many bridges

One of many bridges

My route looped around the east of the museum using the Rock Ledge Trail. This ledge was carved out for a railroad line that was never completed so it makes a nice walking path and only allows foot traffic. I then intersected with the Orchard Trail at the southeast corner of the properties and returned to the museum entrance for a 3.1-mile hike.

After your hike, you might enjoy an icy glass of tea and sandwich followed by a walk through Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to my next visit! The trails of Crystal Bridges should be on the “must do” list of every Arkansan!

Crystal Bridges Cafe

Crystal Bridges Cafe

Food and hydration available at the “trailhead.”

Ceiling of the cafe

Ceiling of the cafe

Beauty in Our Own Back Yard – The Lake Alma Trail

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Area photographer at McWater Falls

Here’s a link to my article in the April issue of Entertainment Fort Smith. I’m pleased to share the Lake Alma Trail with the readers of Entertainment Fort Smith. Wouldn’t you know Hiker-dog made it into the article’s slideshow. Hope her ego doesn’t get out of hand.

Beauty in Our Own Back Yard – The Lake Alma Trail

http://www.efortsmith.com/features/index.cfm/Beauty-in-Our-Own-Backyard-Lake-Alma-Trail/-/aid/200/

Exploring the Ozarks

Rock House

Rock House

Follow this link to the Do South Magazine to read my article, “Exploring the Ozarks.” I enjoy writing for Do South because it’s a beautiful publication with a diverse readership. Their managing editor is an excellent writer and encouraging to others. My article begins on page 48 (p. 50 of the digital version).

Exploring the Ozarks

Thanks for reading!

Jim Warnock

Pedestal Rocks and Kings Bluff Loops

The Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area is a magical place. Give yourself four hours to explore, and you’ll wish for eight. Allow a full day and you’ll wish for two days!

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View of one pedestal from the trail.

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A tall and narrow pedestal viewed from the bluff line.

The same pedestal as the previous viewed from down below the bluff.

The same pedestal as the previous viewed from down below the bluff.

Arched rocks below the bluff.

Arched rocks below the bluff.

A cave that makes a suitable bedroom down below the bluff.

A cave that makes a suitable bedroom down below the bluff.

You'll follow bluff lines on the Pedestal Loop Trail and the Kings Bluff Loop Trail.

You’ll follow bluff lines on the Pedestal Loop Trail and the Kings Bluff Loop Trail.

Small portion of Kings Bluff

Small portion of Kings Bluff

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Getting there: Drive north of Russellville to Sand Gap (formerly known as Grand Gap and Pelsor). Turn right (east) on AR 16. Drive about 5 miles and watch for the Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area sign. Hankins Country Store is at the intersection of AR 7 and AR 16, and Hwy 123. Hankins is a great stop if you want to catch up on the local community or just slow down and step back in time. It’s worth the stop just to see some of the memorabilia on the wall and the old Pelsor Post Office. They make a great sandwich, too!

Sandwich and a visit.

Sandwich and a visit at Hankins Country Store.

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Old Pelsor Post Office

Old Pelsor Post Office

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Weeky Photo Challenge: Ephemeral – Momentary beauty of frost flowers

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Ephemeral.”

Frost flower next to the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas

Frost flower next to the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas.

This little heart-shaped frost flower was next to the Ozark Highlands Trail on a winter’s hike. It would be gone within a few minutes as sunshine peeked over the sharp edge of a nearby mountain to the east.

Though these small ephemeral gifts do not last, I have the privilege of carrying them in my memory and sharing them through my camera.

Frost flower

frost flower

Mary Oliver’s words come to mind often on the trail.

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frost flower

I’m thankful for the “task” of carrying these small gifts with me as I continue down the trail. Thank you for allowing me to share.

Hiking Rush, An Arkansas Ghost Town Photo Tour

Taylor-Medley Store on the left. Home of Lee Medley on the right.

Taylor-Medley Store on the left. Home of Lee Medley on the right.

I was pleased to find the old town of Rush to be a great day hike location! I was afraid the trail would be too short and tame, but it’s just right.

I could have spent the entire day exploring and ended up pushing the limits of remaining daylight. A van full of college kids offered me a ride while I was walking along the creek after my hike. It was nice of them to offer, but I said “no thanks” since the Jeep wasn’t far away. College kids who hike and camp tend to be pretty good folks.

Rush was a mining community that began in the 1880s and thrived in the 1920s when zinc was in high demand during World War I. Rush declined along with the demand for zinc and was finally abandoned in the late 1960s. According to Neil Compton, “by 1969 Rush was bereft of inhabitants except for Gus Setzer and Fred Dirst, an old miner who conducted tours into the mines for wandering visitors…”

Rush eventually came under the ownership of an industrialist who planned to make a tourist trap of the place, but he sold it to the National Park Service. I hate to think of what this place might have been if a developer had gotten hold of it.

Today, interpretive signs are placed along a short trail that loops through the center of Rush. A longer trail follows the mining level up above downtown. If you have several hours to spend, you can hike the 1.7 mile long mine route to the National Park boundary as an out-and-back.

Trailhead

trailhead

A prominent structure is the blacksmith shop, an essential business for a mining community. This is the “new” shop built in the 1920s during the height of the commercial activity in Rush. Ore was transported down Ore Wagon Road to the White River and loaded onto barges. When trucks became dependable enough to transport zinc and replaced wagons, the blacksmith shut down his business and went back to farming.

Blacksmith shop

blacksmith shop

Blacksmith shop

blacksmith shop back yard

ore smelter

ore smelter

This ore smelter is the oldest structure in Rush, built in 1886 by the claim-holders of the Morning Star Mine. They hoped the smelter would reveal silver in the ore. No silver was to be found.

Ore wagon

ore cart

This cart was next to the trail. I was impressed with its heavy construction and how it had stood up to the elements.

Ore wagon

ore cart

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This large machine was next to the trail at the Clabber Creek end on Ore Wagon Road. I’m not sure what it was used for, but I was impressed with the large wheels and chain sprockets.

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Mine entrance

mine entrance

You’ll pass many mine entrances as you hike the trail. The grills keep visitors out of dangerous mines, but allow bats to come and go freely.

Spring flowing into the creek.

“Boiling Springs” flowing into Rush Creek.

Finding “Boiling Springs” was a treat. The water was clear and cold. A grist mill was once located close by in Rush Creek.

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Looking downstream on Rush Creek.

What follows are several historic structures along the road in Rush. Many of these houses were built around 1890. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into the historic town of Rush. If you’ve been there before, maybe my pictures will bring back good memories. If you’ve not visited, I hope I’ve inspired you to grab your hiking shoes and explore it for yourself soon. It’s a special place!

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I was running low on light at the end of the day, but had to stop and photograph these daffodils that caught my eye. The inhabitants who planted these bulbs many years ago would be surprised to learn that their landscaping would be appreciated by a weary hiker on an early spring evening in 2015.

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Fresh in the ghost town of Rush, Arkansas

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Fresh.”

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Yesterday at dusk, I photographed these new daffodils against the old backdrop of this historic structure in Rush, Arkansas. Many of the structures in Rush were built in the 1920s.

Early mining efforts began in the 1880s as miners prospected for silver. No silver was found, but zinc made the little town thrive as World War I increased the demand beginning in 1914. Rush is now within the boundaries of the Buffalo National River in Marion County.

The contrasts continued. Fresh water flowed from the ancient limestone hillsides next to abandoned mines. I filtered tasty water right off of the surface of the ground next to the trail.

It was easy to fill the filter pouch from water flowing out of limestone bluffs.

It was easy to fill the filter pouch from water flowing out of limestone bluffs.

An artesian stream bubbled up out of the base of a small creek flowing through the town of Rush. The water was clear and cold. I wanted to jump in and let the water chill my toasty feet but decided to settle for a picture and a quick splash on my face and arms.

The artesian flow circle was about four feet across.

The artesian flow circle was about four feet across.

The next morning, some of that sweet water from Rush provided me with a tasty cup of coffee! Mmmm good! The freshness continues.

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