With rain following a recent snow, I decided it was time to revisit a couple of waterfalls I’ve wanted to see for a while. The first one is on Redding Loop Trail. I’ve hiked this loop trail many times but never when water was flowing. There are two waterfalls, but this was the one I wanted to see based on the formation of the bluff and rocky drainage below the falls. I was not disappointed!
I spent several minutes photographing the waterfall. Hiker finally had all she could take and began barking for me to get moving. I must be a puzzle to her when I stand at a tripod with a small black box on top for a while for no apparent reason.
Hiker is easily entertained. She has a recurring desire to crawl inside of a log. I think she must hear something inside raising her curiosity.
On our way back to the trailhead, I couldn’t resist spending a couple of minutes next to a small glade area that crosses the trail.
After doing part of Redding Loop, the big adventure began. I drove up White Rock Mountain Road with the knowledge that my plans might change at any curve. I cleared large limbs off of the road in two spots and crossed some sections of road that were so muddy I wasn’t sure I would pass all the way through.
I had considered adding Spirits Creek as an out-and-back hike in my trail guide, but today’s drive convinced me that this route doesn’t belong in a day hike trail guide. It’s a great destination for experienced hikers, dirt road drivers, and OHT thru-hikers.
I’ve driven past Gray Spring several times, but today it was time to stop and admire the work of the depression era Citizens Conservation Corps. It appears that Gray Spring is being maintained by the US Forest Service. On the day I visited, the area was clean following a recent controlled burn.
The rock work has stood the test of time and is still functional today. The spring is located uphill above White Rock Mountain Road and flows past Gray Spring picnic area, eventually feeding into Spirits Creek. If you’re looking for a place for a quiet picnic, Gray Spring fits the bill.
I’d like to learn more about the spring itself. This pipe ran from farther up the hill, but we decided not to explore any higher on the muddy hillside. The concrete cover appeared to be disconnected from the water source.
We continued up White Rock Mountain Road for a short distance past Gray Spring and then took a right onto Ragtown Road to the trailhead. We followed the Ozark Highlands Trail down a couple of benches into the Spirits Creek valley.
We passed through a section with lots of devil’s walking sticks that usually indicate a compromised canopy and sure enough, you could see that things were pretty open in that area. Compliments to the trail maintainers for this section. It was in good shape. After the walking stick section, we entered a more open and healthy hardwood forest with little streams everywhere, including the middle of the trail. We just stomped along looking forward to Spirits Creek.
I have a photo of this waterfall from my thru-hike of the OHT over Christmas of 2013. That photo was done hurriedly after crossing a swollen Spirits Creek due to hard rains the night before. I camped at Spirits Creek again in the last year, but it wasn’t flowing so I was excited to be here today and spent some time with this waterfall. Hiker explored nooks and crannies of the bluffs behind the waterfalls. I was envious.
Noticed some white trout lilies in the moist hillsides around Spirits Creek. Their scientific name is Erythronium albidum. I don’t know plants well, but enjoy rediscovering the names I can’t remember from year to year. I hope I’ve identified this one correctly.
After the hike, we took the slow and muddy 5-mile drive east on White Rock Mountain Road to AR 23. Then we turned south for a delicious sandwich at Turner Bend Store. Hiker enjoyed making new friends and having a little snack of lunch meat from the Turner Bend crew.
Directions to Ragtown Road Trailhead for Spirits Creek access: Drive 0.6 mile south of Cass watching for White Rock Mountain Road. Drive west on White Rock Mt. Rd. for 4.2 miles, then stay right. Reset the odometer. Drive 0.8 miles farther and watch for Gray Springs down on the left. At 1.3 miles, turn right onto Ragtown Road (Forest Road 1509). The trailhead is about 0.7 miles on Ragtown Road.
Directions to Redding Loop Trail: Just north of Cass, turn onto AR 215 east. Drive 2.7 miles east and past the Redding Campground entrance. Drive a short distance (maybe 0.2 mile) beyond the campground entrance and turn right onto a gravel road that will lead you almost immediately to the trailhead.