I wanted to go play in the snow. The only difference made by my fifty-plus years of life experience from those early play-days in the snow is that I now dress a little smarter. I layered up, grabbed my camera, and headed out to walk the Lake Alma Trail, beginning from my house…much safer than driving.
The roads were quiet with occasional traffic. I had to laugh when I passed a mailbox that is normally left open along the highway.
The power and weight of ice and snow is deceptive. What appears so light and fluffy carries many pounds of weight. Looking closely at a pine it’s easy to see how the weight of ice could snap a tree. As a child, I remember hearing what sounded like shotgun blasts in the distance as ice snapped large pines in the woods behind our south Arkansas home.
The sky was still dark but didn’t seem to be planning more precipitation but I had a zip-lock bag for my camera just in case. I always enjoy the simple design of this little church north of Alma on Highway 71. By walking into the woods behind this church, I can access the Lake Alma Trail. I often pick up trash on the highway in front of the church with the idea that this is my little toll fee for using their property to access the trail.
Once on the trail, the magic began. As I came along the water I stood and enjoyed a quiet and peaceful scene. I wasn’t completely alone because there were footprints on the trail. Someone was out there so maybe I could make the whole loop without being stopped by downed trees.
The power of ice was evident along the trail in several places but it was still possible to get through. Notice the round trail marker at the base of the split. It appeared that the larger tree on the ground fell across the top of this oak and brought it down. I tried to imagine the sound this must have made. Then, I tried to imagine how we would cut this damage off of the trail.
My little crampons and gators earned their cost today. The last time I wore the crampons was last Christmas in the Grand Canyon. The gators were a pain to put on, due to lack of practice, but they kept the snow out and my feet stayed nice and warm.
The value of gators became clear as I realized it would be necessary to cross Little Frog Bayou at an alternative location. Undergrowth vegetation had been pulled down over the trail. I didn’t really want to crawl in the snow so I did a wet crossing, discovering that the gators did a good job of keeping water out of my shoes. I bushwhacked up the other side of the creek and got back on the trail.
Had to stop at the Hexagon House to see it in snow. Locals have several theories about the early occupants of this little structure. It could date to the 1920s. It uses concrete so an earlier date is unlikely. The little fireplace is well built and uses firebricks, not just stone.
For weeks on my early morning hikes I smelled a dead deer before finally seeing the remains on rocks ten feet from the trail. The snow left only one side of the six-point rack showing.
Walking on down the trail I came to one of my favorite spots. I was tempted to turn around at the Little Frog Bayou crossing but seeing this formation motivated me to cross and continue the loop. A short hike to the east of the trail takes you to what I like to call Little Pedestal Rock. I wanted a picture in snow.
As I approached the dam, I came across my “fellow hikers” who had also made it around the Lake Alma Trail loop. I realized it was getting late and picked up my pace toward home, glad that I’d packed my headlamp. With the heavy clouds and short winter days, it was already getting dark at 5:20 p.m.
Walking home I felt a sense of thankfulness that I’m able to walk and enjoy the sights my feet will take me to. I’d had several hours of fun playing in the snow and was now ready for home and some hot food and tea!
While having my hot tea I was reminded of a wonderful book titled, That You May Know Us by Elsie Warnock (my mom). This story was included in one of the many letters my father wrote to mother while he was in Korea.
“We went on a recon of the area we were to occupy soon. What a way to spend a winter where it was seven below zero and the high for the week was 38 degrees! There was one long lasting plus to living through this cold weather and that was thanks to a British portable aid station. I was on a cold march of several miles with U.S. troops from the front to a reserve position. We ran across the aid station that was serving tea with cream and sugar to everyone who came by. I have never tasted such good tea in all my life and have enjoyed hot tea ever since. But for fifty plus years, I’ve tried many combinations of tea, sugar and cream but never have matched the flavor of that cup of tea. Maybe the ingredient that has been left out was a long cold march in the snow.”