Today we hiked about eight miles out and back to check my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. It runs four miles following the creek drainage from Dockery Gap Trailhead west to the campsite on Jack Creek.
I was surprised to see a brand new trailhead kiosk. At some time in the past, I emailed a request for a kiosk here since the Dockery Gap Trailhead served as the main entrance point during construction of the Lake Fort Smith State Park. I hope it lasts and is left alone.
While we’re on the subject of signage, the new mile markers look good, showing miles from both directions. I like the OHT logo, too!
Temperatures were in the low 60s, unusual for this time of year. We (Hiker-dog and I) saw a total of 8 hikers during the day. I met a couple of backpackers from Oklahoma finishing up as we started out. They gave me a good report on trail conditions. Another backpacker crossed the road heading east as I arrived and three more hikers were coming out of the Jack Creek drainage as I was going down.
Close to the Jack Creek campsite, we met a couple from Michigan, hiking from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Big Piney. I enjoyed visiting with them, and they seemed to enjoy Hiker-dog’s enthusiastic attention. I was impressed that they traveled from Michigan specifically to do the OHT. They looked prepared and were hiking strong, so I have no doubt that they’ll have a good trip.
Crossing one of the drainages I was reminded of the power of nature. A set of large boulders I’ve passed many times had been rearranged by flooded creeks sometime since my last visit.
This lone patch of Daffodils hinted at earlier residents a short distance from the trail. I’d never noticed domesticated flowers on my section of the OHT before.
The always-reliable, “Rusty Spring” was flowing as usual. Hiker-dog passed it by, so I followed her example and fought the urge to take a sip.
As I filtered water from Jack Creek, Hiker-dog took a dip and then went upstream to introduce herself to the couple from Michigan. I came along later and met them.
On this warm day, Hiker-dog went for water often. She takes great delight in lowering herself into a pool of water, shaking off and then dipping again.
After her cooling swim, Hiker is ready to run. I didn’t jump into the creek, but the water was refreshing to drink. I looked forward to walking the four miles back to the trailhead, enjoying a freshly cleared trail from our trip out. Far from being a chore, maintaining my little piece of the OHT is a joy!
If you’re in the area, come to the Arkansas Trails Symposium at Devil’s Den State Park on February 25. I’ll share my Ozark Highlands Trail thru-hike in photos and stories at 3:45 p.m. and have Five Star Trails: The Ozarks on hand for signing afterward.