High Water Hiking on the Lake Alma Trail

McWater Falls

McWater Falls

We had more than six inches of rain within a 24-hour period last week. I did several out-and-back early morning hikes to have a look at water levels. With a few hours available this morning, Hiker-dog and I finally did the entire loop to see how high water levels had impacted the trail.

I was pleased that the trail from the picnic area all the way to Little Frog Bayou on the east side was in pretty good shape. McWater Falls was beautiful as always! An out-and-back on this section would be fine. See my trail description for this hike in E Fort Smith Magazine. The little bridge downstream from McWater Falls was washed out of position, but crossing on rocks is easy here.

Little bridge downstream from McWater Falls

Little bridge downstream from McWater Falls

Little Frog Bayou Bridge

Little Frog Bayou Bridge

Arriving at Little From Bayou, I was amazed that the bridge was still in place with only a few boards missing (nice work Joe S. and friends). Do not cross the bridge until repairs can be made.

Little Frog Bayou Bridge high water damage.

Little Frog Bayou Bridge high water damage.

Hiker and I did not follow my advice but carefully crossed the bridge. We immediately began to wade through water along side of Little Frog Bayou. As soon as the trail turned south after the crossing and began to follow the creek I found myself approaching waist-high water. We left the trail and went to higher ground past the old well then back to the trail about sixty yards downstream where it was above water.

Historic well west of Little Frog Bayou

Historic well west of Little Frog Bayou

The next adventure was crossing the west creek (what we call Little Clear Creek). The bridge was still standing and held my weight. Water levels are usually around five feet below the bridge. Crossing the bridge involved some wading on the west side. We then sought higher ground since the trail was under water.

Little Clear Creek Bridge

Little Clear Creek Bridge

I came across some nice little bluffs high up over the creek and then headed back down to the main trail. The remainder of the hike was dry crossing the dam and back to the picnic area. We both had a good workout and were pretty well soaked. Nice morning on the Lake Alma Trail!

Rock formations west of Little Clear Creek

Rock formations west of Little Clear Creek

Hiker airing out on the dam.

Hiker airing out on the dam.

Dry walking next to the fishing dock below the picnic area

Dry walking next to the fishing dock below the picnic area

Sunday Morning Memory Walk

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This post doesn’t cover one of my typical Ozark hikes, but it does involve walking and a little personal exploration along the way.

When I visited my childhood church recently, I took the Sunday School hour to explore the old sanctuary no longer being used. It has been neglected over the years, but the stained glass windows are as beautiful as ever. I had fun using chairs, speakers, and stairwell handrails as makeshift tripods so I could record these windows that impressed me as a child. I appreciate their beauty even more today.

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The windows told the story of Christ’s life. The window above alluded to the betrayal of Christ by Judas.

Roy Hilton preached a sermon series on these windows during the months after they were installed. I must have been in my teens at the time so Brother Hilton would be pleased that I have any recollection of his sermons after all these years.

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This window may have symbolized the resurrection, but I’m not positive about this. I liked the butterfly or moth. If you look closely in the top left corner, you’ll notice mortar has chipped away from the wall around the window. I’m amazed at the good condition of the windows themselves.

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Roy Hilton was the pastor during my formative years. He was serious about sermon preparation and known as a great Bible teacher. Some of his series sermons could get pretty detailed and heavy. When sermons got too deep or long, I would enjoy some constructive daydreaming while staring at the windows or ceiling.

During my Sunday morning exploration, I couldn’t resist placing my camera on the floor and setting the timer for a photo of this ceiling that is so permanently imprinted in my memory.

Ceiling of the sanctuary

Ceiling of the sanctuary

Walking through my childhood church brought back memories of Roy Hilton.  He was honest, kind, and trustworthy. He also had a good sense of humor.  He was a servant leader in the best sense of the word.

Roy Hilton had a compelling story. I hope I remember this correctly. As a young man, he worked in a whiskey barrel factory. He’d been struggling with spiritual matters and came to the realization that he wanted to commit his life to God. He was working inside the factory as he reached this decision point.  His eyes came to rest on a large window on the wall of the factory. He had the vision of seeing everything he valued passing through that window and disappearing into the distance. From that point on he was fully committed to a spiritual life and eventually became a pastor.

Roy Hilton

Roy Hilton, pastor from 1965 to 1976

I walked through some other parts of the old building and eventually came to one of my childhood Sunday School rooms. Though these windows aren’t beautiful, their foggy colors bring back memories.

Sunday School class window

Sunday School class window

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I followed these creaky stairs down from my old class and returned to the present, thankful for the memories of my childhood church. Some of the beliefs that seemed harsh and unyielding as a child have softened or turned into overarching questions and for this I am thankful. Some of these questions occupy my inner thoughts and give me comfort as I continue down my personal paths.

My childhood church may crumble and fade, but memories of those richly colored stained glass windows will stay with me always.

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Etched window in the newer building with the old sanctuary in the background.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: “Intricate” in the Ozarks

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

Tree bark

Tree bark

These intricate patterns caught my eye while hiking Saturday morning. I’m not sure of the tree name, but it’s located in the Ozarks close to Hobbs State Park in Arkansas. I snapped the picture and hurried on down the trail without trying to identify the tree by its leaves. Maybe someone with more tree identification skills can help.

Several photos from the past came to mind when I read the word ‘intricate.” Intricate patterns or designs in plants, rock, and water reveal themselves along the trails if I’m paying attention. Makes me wonder about the microscopic patterns I’m walking past without a thought.

Detail of rock formations in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area

Detail of rock formations in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area

Frosty hiking as temperatures plummet.

Frosty intricate pattern on branches on Hare Mountain.

One of the visual gems so easily missed along the Buffalo River Trail.

One of the visual gems so easily missed along the Buffalo River Trail.

The lip of Hare Mountain Falls.

The lip of White Rock Mountain Falls showing intricate patterns in the flow.

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Movement of Water: Divine Brushstrokes

Elise Falls

Elise Falls

The movement of water fascinates me. I feel like I’m recording the movement of divine brushstrokes across stone and air. These photos are from yesterday’s early morning 5-mile hike in the Smith Creek Preserve.  Smith Creek flows into the Buffalo River, America’s first National River.

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View downstream from a little cascade.

View downstream from a little cascade.

Smith Creek

Smith Creek

Even in the stillness of this pool there is movement below and lightly dancing reflections on the surface.

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

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 Ponca, 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