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Photo Challenge: Angular

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

Bridge over the Arkansas River in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Bridge over the Arkansas River in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I cross this bridge on morning walks when visiting Little Rock.  I call it urban hiking.

Killing time in Grainfield, Kansas.

Killing time in Grainfield, Kansas.

Got stuck in Grainfield, Kansas while traveling to a backpacking destination.  We spent the whole day exploring this little town.  Turned out to be a good day.

The Metro in Washington, DC

The Metro in Washington, DC

The Metro – One of my favorite things about visiting Washington, DC.

Lake Alma Trail: kid friendly out-and-back day hike

McWater Falls

McWater Falls (photo J. Warnock)

At a Glance

GPS:  N35 29.825 W94 13.066

Distance and Configuration:   2.6-mile out-and-back

Hiking Time: 2 hours (approximate)

Highlights: Lake views, waterfall, and beautiful creeks.

Facilities: restrooms and picnic area

Wheelchair Access: no

Dogs: yes

Comments: The 1.6-mile out-and-back to McWater Falls is an easier option for those wanting a shorter hike.

Contacts: facebook.com/LakeAlmaTrail   Email: hmcwater@windstream.net     Blog: ozarkmountainhiker.com

Overview

If you’re a parent looking for an easy day hike to introduce your children to the gentle pleasures of nature or a trail runner looking for a heart-throbbing but pleasant path, this out-and-back hike is for you!

Chuck Dovish, of Exploring Arkansas with AETN, said, “It’s amazing that so much variety and diversity of scenery is found right inside the town of Alma.”  You’ll see bluff lines and moss-covered boulder fields up close.  You’ll walk beside clear streams, rocky cascades and a 12-foot waterfall.   Situated within a diverse mixed hardwood forest, you may spot deer, rabbit, fox, great blue heron, and a variety of songbirds and wildflowers.

The Hike

We’ll be accessing the Lake Alma Trial by the paved walking path that connects to the parking area.  As you begin walking you’ll see another paved path down below and closer to the lake on your left.   Note:  There are mile markers on this trail, but they are approximate and based on distances calculated from the kiosk. Our mileage will be calculated beginning and ending at the parking area, making the mile markers on the trail shorter than our actual distance.

At mile 0.2, you’ll arrive at the Lake Alma Trail kiosk.  Stop and have a look at the map and check for updates on trail conditions.  This is where the pavement ends, and the work of volunteers begins.  The kiosk was built and installed by volunteers.  The trail logo was created by a young community volunteer.  The tread on which you walk was cut out, and continues to be maintained, by volunteers.

The first section of the trail is easy walking.   At mile 0.5, the trail turns to the right and goes up to cross a small drainage.   More easy walking until you arrive at the first bridge.  The trail follows around the base of a hillside and then crosses a second bridge.  If water is flowing under this bridge, the waterfall is flowing and definitely worth seeing.  Take a right on the McWater Falls spur trail, arriving at the falls at mile 0.8.  This is a nice out-and-back for children and novice hikers and provides a 1.6-mile hike.  If you have young children, consider this option and take your time returning to the trailhead.  This waterfall is named for Harry McWater, the man who had the vision for this trail.

During the late 1990s as a member of the Alma City Council, Harry brought up the possibility of a trail around the lake several times only to be told that money for such a project wasn’t available.  In 2011, during a conversation with the mayor he asked, “What if I find volunteers to get that hiking trail built?”  The mayor said, “Go for it!”  With that, Harry sought expertise and labor from the Arkansas Master Naturalists, Ozark Highlands Trail Association and local volunteers, including student organizations and scout troops. The trail began to see regular use in the spring of 2012 and its popularity has continued to grow.

Now, back on the trail.  After enjoying McWater Falls, backtrack one-tenth of a mile to the main trail and turn right.  You’ll get glimpses of the lake in the distance on your left.   At mile 1.0, you’ll turn right onto an old roadbed.  Watch to your right for some nice bluff areas and rock formations as you walk this section.

At 1.3-miles, you’ll pass moss and lichen covered boulders that appear to have tumbled down the hillside on your right. Just past the 1-mile marker you’ll come to the Hexagon Hut.    This homesite is a great place to explore.  Please leave any historical artifacts in place.  Mystery surrounds the construction of these structures and their occupants.

Hexagon Hut

Hexagon Hut

At this point, you’ve actually hiked 1.4 miles from the parking lot and including the waterfall spur.  This is where we’ll turn around and return to the trailhead for a 2.6-mile hike.  Sometimes the best part of a hike is the backtracking portion.  You’ll often notice views missed on the first trip through.

Note: The Lake Alma Trail does loop all the way around the lake, returning to the trailhead by way of the dam, but this is a 4.5-mile strenuous hike.  There are some very rocky and difficult sections beyond the Little Frog Bayou crossing. Only experienced hikers with water and sturdy shoes should consider doing the whole loop trail around Lake Alma.

Directions

Take Exit 13 off of I-40 and drive north to the first traffic light.  Turn right (east) onto Collum Lane East.  Drive 0.2 mile and then left (north) on Mountain Grove Road.  Drive north on Mt. Grove Road for 0.3 mile and take a left just past the two green water tanks.  Drive down to the picnic area parking.  The Lake Alma Trailhead is at the opening in the parking guardrail.

Elevation plot of the hike.

Elevation plot of the hike.

LAT3

Logo design by Ashley Campbell

Trail Maintenance – A High Paying Job

We take a break and refill our water at the Jack Creek west camp site.

We took a break and refilled our water at the Jack Creek west camp site.

This Stihl hedge trimmer pictured above works well with small woody growth encroaching on the trail. I checked it out from the Ozark Highlands Trail Association to use on my adopted four-mile section. The Stihl website shows this being used to trim hedges, hence the name.  I wonder if Stihl realizes this is a favorite tool for trail work in Arkansas.

Hiker wasn’t impressed with the tool. After about five hours, she began to pause and bark as if to say, “Why don’t you quit playing with that and pick up your pace.” We covered four miles out-and-back for a total of eight. That would typically be a four-hour walk. We got started at 8:00 a.m. and finished at 4:20 p.m.

Practice "Leave no Trace" so I don't have to pack out your trash.

Practice “Leave no Trace” so I don’t have to pack out your trash.

Hiker carries some food in her pack. She packs out any trash we find. She ended the day with an empty plastic bottle, a tin can, and a few candy wrappers. I wonder how litterbugs would feel, knowing that a sweet dog like Hiker is cleaning up after them.

I feel a sense of pride when “my section” of the Ozark Highlands Trail is in good shape. I would recommend trail adoption to all hikers.  It’s satisfying work and a way to ensure that trails will be available for future hikers.  It’s also a good workout.  I always end a maintenance day feeling like I’ve been highly paid for my work.  To see some of those who make the OHT possible, read In Praise of Trail Maintainers/Volunteers.

Bear Creek at the trail crossing.

Bear Creek at the trail crossing.

Just being here is a cause for thanksgiving. Another cause for thanksgiving is the meal my creative wife prepares. Good food and company after trail maintenance is the best!

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Fall in the Marinoni

View from the trail.

View from the trail down into the Briar Creek drainage.

Fall colors, sunny skies, and high temperatures in the 60s.  It doesn’t get much better than this!   The Marinoni Scenic Area is beautiful in fall.

An unassuming beginning point for the beauty to be found down this trail.

An unassuming beginning considering the beauty to be found on this trail.

The Dawna Robinson Spur Trail leads to the Ozark Highlands Trail and then east into the Marinoni.

View into the Indian Creek drainage.

View into the Indian Creek drainage as you climb switch-backs up toward the OHT.

Hiker-dog enjoying walking with new friends.

Hiker-dog enjoying walking with new friends.

I never tire of walking alongside the bluffs of the Marinoni.

I never tire of walking alongside the bluffs of the Marinoni.

Hiking with Hiker-dog up the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail.

Hiking with Hiker-dog up the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail.

Hiker says, "Wear orange and don't act like a deer."

Hiker says, “Wear orange and don’t act like a deer.”

I learned something new about Hiker-dog on this day.  She stayed close to me and on the trail when when deer hunters were firing in the area.  She had her hunter orange on and didn’t go prancing through the woods.  Smart dog!

If you need more information and driving directions to this trail, check Making Time for Marinoni.

Leaf Lenses

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Sunlight slicing through ten thousand leaf lenses
Splatters vivid colors across the browns and grays of earth, stone, and bark.

A tender maple leaf whispers, “Enter this cathedral we’ve prepared for you.

Sit in silence.

Touch and breathe.

Rise and walk this new creation.” IMG_0729r IMG_0699rr

Even Hiker seemed to appreciate the beauty this morning during our pause on the trail.

Even Hiker seemed to appreciate the beauty during our pause on the trail…or, maybe she saw a squirrel.

Thanksgiving

McWater Falls

McWater Falls

Fall temperatures and long steady rain.  The perfect recipe for hiking and waterfalls. With only one hour available Sunday afternoon, I threw the tripod over my shoulder and headed out to McWater Falls on the Lake Alma Trail. A quick four or five shots and it was back to the trail head.

Walking the trail, I felt a sense of thankfulness for the movement of my legs, the air in my lungs, and the pumping of my heart.

Let the season of Thanksgiving begin.

Early fall color.

Early fall color.

Drainage below McWater Falls.

Drainage below McWater Falls.

Drainage below McWater Falls.

McWater Falls at sundown.

McWater Falls at sundown.

Hiking Through the Pawpaw Patch – Fanes Creek to Spirits Creek and Back

The plan? Meet at a favorite Ozark landmark, Turner Bend Store on Highway 23 (AKA The Pig Trail).   Then drive a short distance to Fanes Creek Trail Head, near mile 31 of the Ozark Highlands Trail.

Turner Bend Store

Turner Bend Store

Hiker-dog was bouncing and hyper Saturday morning, celebrating cooler fall temperatures; Sunny and 41 degrees!  She was beside herself as I loaded the Jeep.  When I finally said, “up,” she jumped into position, ready for a road trip to whichever trail it might lead.

Hiker heading toward the trail head.

Hiker heading toward the trail head.

We’ll have to call this the “pawpaw  hike.”  Fanes Creek west to Spirits Creek treks through several pawpaw patches.  I was unfamiliar with this little fruit, but Dana, one of our hikers, pointed them out as we passed.  The first ones we saw were overripe and a little bitter.

These two pawpaws were overripe.

These two pawpaws were overripe.

Pawpaw

Pawpaw

Later we passed some that were just right.   I eagerly cut the skin off of this pawpaw and tried a bite.  The taste is described as a blend of banana, mango, pineapple and papaya.  I thought this was an accurate description.  I ended up eating several before I stopped to think maybe I should proceed with caution because of my lack of experience with pawpaws.

Pawpaws are an understory tree and do not self-pollinate so they need other trees in the vicinity.  The upper canopy of oak and sweet gum shaded the tinder looking pawpaw trees.   There seemed to be limited numbers of fruit on each tree and great variation in the maturity of the different trees.

Pawpaw showing the meat and seeds of the fruit.

Pawpaw showing the meat and seeds of the fruit.

If I find pawpaws growing close to the road, I would like to try mixing in some lemon juice and dehydrating a pawpaw “leather” as a backpacking treat.  I saved the seeds from the fruit I ate to see if I can grow a few pawpaw trees underneath some oaks behind our house.

Pawpaw tree with fruit.

Pawpaw tree with fruit.

This section of trail contains a lot of history.  A couple of miles follow an old railroad bed dating to the early 1900s when trees were harvested and transported on a narrow gauge railroad.  During the winter, it is easier to see evidence of the work done here.  Old bridge footings where the rail line crossed drainages can be seen.  Making this railroad must have been a major ordeal, but evidently the line worked for several years.

Hiking the old railroad bed.

Hiking the old railroad bed.

Bolders sliding down the sides of the old excavation for the railroad bed.

Boulders sliding down the sides of the old excavation for the railroad bed.

Water in the creeks was just right for drinking but low enough for dry crossings.  The lower water levels gave an opportunity for Hiker-dog and I to spend a little time after dinner walking down Spirits Creek.

Bob stepping across Spirits Creek.

Bob stepping across Spirits Creek.

Small pool on Spirits Creek

Small pool on Spirits Creek

Hiker with her food supply for two days.

Hiker with her food supply for two days.

Hiker is in her element when walking the trail.  She is poised and confident as she struts along.  One exception to this was on the first day.  She got turned upside down in some brush and spent several seconds frantically trying to right  herself. She looked like a big turtle with a red shell.  Finally, she was able to gain a hand…paw hold and flip herself over. We told her we were laughing with her, not at her.  Unfortunately, I do not have a picture.

Seeing Hiker with others in camp was interesting.  She has a habit of being a little too friendly when people are trying to operate stoves and prepare meals. I’m thankful that she does not chew on tents  or other pieces of equipment.  However, I do wish that she would be a little less affectionate in camp.

I’ve noticed that Hiker does much better in camp after walking ten or more miles for the day.  We only hiked seven so she ended the day with lots of energy.  To divert her attention, we played fetch with sticks and black walnuts.  Finally she bedded down for the night.

Bedding down for the evening.

Bedding down for the evening.

Water was easy to filter at Spirits Creek.  It was clear and looked good enough to drink without filtering, though I wouldn’t recommend it.

Collecting drinking water using a ziplock freezer bag.

Collecting drinking water using a ziplock freezer bag.

Filtering water from Spirits Creek.

Filtering water from Spirits Creek.

I brought plenty of food for this overnighter.  I had a couple of red potatoes in the bottom of my pack (hence, my trail name, Tater).  I cut up the largest and began to boil it adding dehydrated vegetables from the Huntsville Pantry that were a gift from a friend.  Then I added Bear Creek Creamy Potato Soup Mix and let it simmer.  This was a healthy and delicious feast with all of those vegetables!  After a cup of hot tea, I slept soundly.

The next morning I had two cups of coffee which tasted like a gourmet brew on a cool morning in the Ozarks.  I boiled water with dehydrated apples and then added oatmeal.  Outstanding!  Next, I put several slices of pre-cooked bacon in boiling water with the smaller red potato remaining in my pack.  I couldn’t stand the idea of hiking out with that “heavy” potato in my pack.  I was well nourished and ready to hike.

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Fane Creek

Fane Creek

Fane Creek was flowing slowly.  We were unable to cross this creek on our winter thru-hike due to high water, so this was a different view of this beautiful creek.  Knowing my trip was drawing to an end, I paused and spent a couple of minutes at the crossing.  I’m thankful for the beauty of the Ozark Mountains and the privilege of hiking them.

Art Travels

Note: This isn’t a typical Ozark Mountain hiking story but a personal story of how two works of art have traveled my way.  It’s also the story of how some good connections are made using technology.

Reese Kennedy was my mother’s older brother.  He was an artist.  He was a complex, soft-spoken man, but there was a richness and generosity in that complexity. He was kind and gentle, and loved his family very much.

I’ve written the story of convincing Uncle Reese to draw a Texas Longhorn for me when I was five.  What I didn’t tell was how that ink and chalk drawing later disappeared.

I assumed that it was lost or accidentally tossed when my parents moved several years after I graduated from college.  I would think of it often, but eventually gave up on ever seeing it again.  I was sad that this icon from childhood was lost and possibly destroyed.

While attending Reese’s funeral, I thought again about that drawing while hearing stories of those he influenced over the course of his life.  Stories were shared of his work as an artist, teacher, father and friend.  He had led a distinguished life personally and professionally.  He was a founding member and first president of the Southwest Watercolor Society and taught art at Stephen F. Austin University prior to his retirement.

Several years later I was helping my parents clean Aunt Lucille’s home following her death in Nacogdoches, Texas.  She and Reese were both highly respected watercolor artists.

While I was sorting through books, Reese’s son-in-law, Larry walked in and said, “Is this something that belongs to you?”  He was holding the Texas Longhorn drawing.  My parents theorized that they had given it to Reese years before, with the idea of having him make a frame for it in the frame shop of his Nacogdoches art gallery.  It ended up in one of his collection folders and time passed by as it sat safely in his home.

I had the drawing framed, and it is now on display in a prominent place where I see it daily, thankful for this gift from the past.  Knowing Reese, he would humbly say, “If I’d realized how special this drawing was going to be to you, I would have spent more time on it.”  I would reply that in dealing with me at age five, he probably needed to make that longhorn appear quickly to hold my attention.  It was beautiful to me then and still is today.

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I posted the initial story of this drawing in January of 2014.

In July, I received the following email from the feedback page of my blog.

Jim

I think I have one of your uncle’s watercolors. The signature matches the one on your longhorn painting. The piece I have is a watercolor of a log cabin. Would you like me to email you a photo of it for you to see?

Scott Dressel-Martin

Scott

I would enjoy seeing a photo of the painting and forwarding it to Reese’s daughter.  Reese was a founding member and first president of the Southwest Watercolor Society.  He was a wonderful person.

Scott Dressel-Martin lives in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.  After visiting his web site, I realized he was a gifted professional photographer.  He once worked with one of my favorite nature photographers, Galen Rowell.  I was delighted that my blog entry had led me to an artist who appreciated Reese’s art.

Then in August, the story continued.

Jim

At long last, here is a photo of the painting I think is by your uncle. Thank you for your patience. It’s about 20×24 framed, and it’s beautiful. I keep thinking it doesn’t match anything in my house, but it’s such a lovely painting I was never able to let it go.

Does this look like his work and signature to you?

I was given the painting by a friend in Vail about 20 years ago as he was moving out of town. I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

Cheers!
 
Scott

That’s my Uncle Reese for sure!  That is a beautiful painting.  He once drove up scenic Hwy 7 through Arkansas, stopping to paint and photograph old barns and structures.  Could have been that this old barn was from one of those trips.  Or, it might have been a scene from East Texas.  Thanks for sharing the photo.

The next message from Scott was a complete surprise.

 

Jim,

Now that we’ve determined that this is your Uncle’s work I’d like to make you an offer. If you’d be willing to pay for the shipping I’d be happy to give you the painting. I love the piece but it truly doesn’t fit in our home decor. It would make my wife and I very happy to know the work is being appreciated and cherished by someone that has a connection to it. It would feel like the piece is going home in a way.

Scott,

Wow!  Must say you’ve brought a tear to my eye with your kind offer.  I would be delighted to have this painting and would treasure it for years to come.

Just let me know the cost after you ship and I’ll gladly reimburse you to your Garland St. address.  I will also make a donation to the David Kennedy Music Scholarship fund in appreciation for your gift to me.  David, a gifted classical guitarist, was Reese’s son pursuing a doctorate in music performance from North Texas State University in the 1980s when he died in his early 30s.  Reese’s daughter, Carol, has applied any sales of his paintings to the scholarship fund over the years.

 

Jim,
Excellent!!  I will have the painting shipped in the next week and let you know when it’s on the way.

It is wonderful to know that we are playing a small part in helping the scholarship fund. Music and theater are important to us and helping students in need is always a worthy endeavor.

I can’t wait for you to have this painting!

Cheers!!

 

And so, this is how another painting by Reese Kennedy came into my possession.  It is perfect for my office and even ties in with our school colors of green and gold.  I look at this painting and think of Reese’s brushes shaping every inch as he sat behind his easel along Highway 7 or somewhere in an East Texas field.

Reese paintingrr

Reese was an artist.  He couldn’t help but paint, but I wonder if he had any inkling of the paths some of his art would travel?  That one of his drawings would be “lost” then found and cherished years later.  I think he would be pleased to know that his work would be treasured and shared for years into the future.

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I enjoyed showing Reese’s painting to co-workers and sharing the story behind that big box in the office.

The painting was shipped with care.

The painting was shipped with care. After seeing this photo, Carol (Reese’s daughter) said this is what Reese called called “ink and wash” technique — some drawing with india ink (often with a quill) and when the ink dried, he would add the watercolor washes.

A Rich Man’s Shoes

A rich man's shoes.

A rich man’s shoes.

“Put your money where your feet are.”  I’m not sure where I first heard this, but it has been good advice.    I hear of many hiking trips coming to a painful end due to foot injuries or blisters.  I have found that good fitting shoes and wool blend socks make it possible to hike many pain-free miles.

Besides comfort, a good reason to purchase good equipment is that manufacturers will tend to back their product if there is a problem.   The well-used pair pictured above have covered many miles including a trip through the Grand Canyon.   I liked these shoes so much that I purchased a second pair to use on my thru-hike of the Ozark Highlands Trail last winter.  That second pair of shoes made the trip beautifully.

I was set with two identical pairs of Oboz Firebrand shoes which allowed me to alternate and keep a dry pair ready to go on my daily morning hikes.

Many miles later, sections of the sole began to come loose on one of the newer shoes.  The shoes pictured here are my first pair still in use every day.   After submitting a warranty claim and picture to Oboz online, I was contacted by phone.  I’d entered my email incorrectly so they were calling to ensure they could send a package slip for me to ship my shoes with the loose soles to them.  I was impressed!

Today my new Oboz shoes arrived.  I’m glad to have two pairs of these shoes again and look forward to many more mostly-comfort-filled miles.

Looking closely at the well-worn soles of my original pair of Oboz, I was reminded of Emerson’s statement, “He is the richest man who pays the largest debt to his shoemaker.”  Investing in your feet is money well spent!

When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the sole leather has passed into the fibre of your body. I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out. He is the richest man who pays the largest debt to his shoemaker.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1851

New Oboz sitting next to my first pair.

New Oboz Firebrand shoes sitting next to my first pair that are still going strong.

Update on Hiker, My Trail Partner

Hiker waiting for Dr. Green

Hiker waiting for Dr. Green

Hiker paid a visit to the Alma Animal Clinic recently for a checkup and to look at some gunk in her ears.  As we turned into the parking lot, she began to jump and shake, positioning herself next to the passenger door.  When I opened her door, she ran excitedly to the front of the clinic, tail wagging non-stop.  I decided she must like the undivided attention she receives from Dr. Green, his daughter, and other staff.  Or, maybe she associates this location with good things that have happened to her in the past.  When someone comments on how pretty she looks on the trail I sometimes say, “She’s a tribute to veterinary medicine.”

Turns out the ear infection is a minor issue that should clear up with ten days using an ear wash for a few days.  With her daily dips into Lake Alma during her four-mile morning hike, I’m sure moisture in the ears is a contributing factor.

Toward the end of January, Hiker weighed about 46 pounds which was up several from when we first met at mile 138 on the Ozark Highlands Trail.  Now she weighs right at 66 lbs. The following links tell more about Hiker’s story as well as the pictures below.

Walk, Eat, Sleep, Repeat, Fairview to Tyler Bend and A New Trail Partner

What Makes Hiker a Good Trail Partner? 

Hiker on the last day of her 40+ mile hike for survival.

Hiker on the last day of her 40+ mile hike for survival.

Hiker on January 20th after completing 40+ miles on the OHT with limited rations.

Hiker on January 20th after completing 40+ miles on the OHT with limited rations.

Hiker on August 18th.

Hiker playing in the back yard on August 18th. She hikes the Lake Alma Trail at least six days out of seven.

Playtime

Playtime

Hiker on the Lake Alma Trail waiting for me to catch up.

Hiker on her morning walk on the Lake Alma Trail.