One Good Trail is Enough


It had been several months since I checked my little adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. My last two visits were in July and then again in September. Mike LeMaster cut a number of trees off of the trail in July and then Steven Parker did some more chainsaw work recently. I’ve had some expert help in maintaining this trail!


Mile marker close to Dockery’s Gap

This little piece of the OHT has become special to me. It runs from Old Locke Road (FR 1007) at the Dockery’s Gap Trailhead, west to a campsite next to Jack Creek at mile-5 of the OHT.

When the new Lake Fort Smith State Park was being built, this piece of trail was abandoned, and the beginning of the OHT was at Dockery’s Gap. I liked hiking the closed trail and marked sections with survey tape to make the route easier to follow. Sometimes I’d saw small trees off the trail to keep it passable. When this section of trail reopened around 2008 after the completion of the new state park, I adopted the 4-mile section.


Jack Creek

About three years ago, I realized just how strong my sense of ownership was when I discovered that some campers had trashed a special spot on the trail. I cleaned it up while cursing under my breath. I describe this incident in Jack Creek Criminals. It felt like a personal attack that someone would have so little respect for “my” section of the OHT!


Hiker enjoyed the trail and cool air.

Today, Hiker-dog and I walked from Dockery’s Gap to Lake Fort Smith State Park where my wife, Becca, would meet us. Wildflowers were popping, creeks were flowing, and the sun was shining through cool, crisp air. It was a magical day and every step held beauty. I felt like I barely knew this trail as if hiking it for the first time.

Sometimes I’ll say, “I’ve done the OHT,” meaning I’ve hiked the 180 miles from Lake Fort Smith to Tyler Bend. I’ve “done” the section from Dockery’s Gap to Lake Fort Smith many times. What I can’t say is “I know this trail.” Today taught me that I never “know” a trail. Each mile has something new to offer every time I walk it. My life would be plenty full with just this little stretch of Ozarks landscape. One good trail is enough! 


As I approached Lake Fort Smith, I met a hiker from Joplin. It was his first time on the OHT, and he was pleased with his new map. I enjoyed telling him that he was standing on the section adopted by Kristian Underwood, the cartographer responsible for the OHT maps.


Map by Underwood Geographics

Below are a few photos from today’s hike.


Hiker unsuccessfully seeking a mole.


Hiker-dog inspecting a very clean campsite at Jack Creek. The group was from Kansas City, MO.


I enjoyed giving out a couple of bookmarks with Hiker-dog’s “signature.”


Wild iris on the trail


Looking into Jack Creek drainage and the mountain ridge on the other side with new leaves on the hardwoods


Boulders broken by time and the elements


Crossing Frog Bayou that feeds Lake Fort Smith

I’ll end with a few photos of history along the trail approaching Lake Fort Smith and next to the lake.

8 thoughts on “One Good Trail is Enough

  1. Everything is so beautiful and serene. Shame on those campers who left the trail trashy. Makes my blood boil, too. Your flowers are so pretty. And as usual, your posts makes me want to put on my hiking shoes.

  2. Thanks for sharing brought back many memories of the 12 years I maintained the 7.4 mi. section from Arbaugh to Monohull. One truly has a sense of ownership after you spend so many days on a section. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK and THANKS

  3. Thanks for the nice pictures. My wife and I recently thru-hiked the OHT for our honeymoon. We were unable to hike this section due to water levels at Frog Bayou. We hiked from Dockery’s Gap to Woolum last month and from Woolum to Gilbert last fall. We will be coming back down in a few weeks to hike this section, which will complete our thru-hike. The trees were barely budding out when we were there in March. It will be nice to see all of the flowers and trees blooming.

    • Congratulations on your thru-hike. Great way to celebrate your lives together. Be sure to do Shepherd Spring’s Loop at Lake Fort Smith State Park to complete your hike. This adds a couple of miles but makes a nice finish to your experience.

  4. In 1999 or 2000 I went on a spring break camping trip with my then boyfriend (now husband) to Lake Fort Smith State Park. We found out at the time that they were going to flood the park but I never found out what really happened. Good to know they relocated the state park!

    Found your blog a few weeks ago, really love it!

  5. I’m Kevin, the Washingtonian that Hiker “found” near Frog Bayou. I’m a Hoosier who’s fond of my adopted Cascade and Olympic Mountains, but having a job that has taken me to Bentonville, Kansas City (tall grass prairie), and Chicago (Michigan’s Porcupine Mts.) in the past 8 years I’ve learned to appreciate the less rugged middle America hikes. Before I return home in about 10 months I intend to hike and camp the Ozark Highlands east of Jack Creek and other Missouri/Arkansas trails. A comforting walk in any forest restores my spiritual equilibrium.

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