If you ever feel hesitant to hike a location because you’ve done it many times before, go! My afternoon day hike proved again that a trail is never the same twice. I’ve hiked the Marinoni Scenic Area many times. I’ve written about it in Do South Magazine, shared it on Exploring Arkansas, and in my guidebook, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. Still, this hike was special because of water flow, winter views, and an unexpected tour guide.
As we drove, I saw cars at other trailheads but didn’t see another human on our trail. This was one of several hikes planned this weekend to compensate for my decision not to do a longer multi-night trip out of regard for my knee.
Whenever something hurts, I check with a trainer friend. She gives me good advice. To avoid future problems, I bought a book. Treat Your Own Knees, by Robin McKenzie. It has sequential stretches and exercises based on types of pain and loss of mobility. After experiencing a lack of motion in my right knee in the past, I feel like every stretch break is celebration time.
My occasional knee stretches seemed to confuse Hiker-dog. She’d run up and bark if I didn’t finish up pretty quickly and get back on the trail.
When we got out of the truck at the Indian Creek Canoe Landing parking lot, Hiker-dog spotted another dog up above on the highway. I leashed Hiker, and we started toward the road. The black and white dog led the way through the opening in the fence and headed down the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail with confidence that startled me.
She had a bright hunter orange collar and was easy to approach. On one side of the tag, it said Lucy, the Adventure Dog, much loved, and there was a phone number. On the other side was the message to leave her at Indian Creek on the Mulberry River.
Lucy had a low key personality and seemed to enjoy our company. She and Hiker-dog got along just fine and occasionally took turns coming back to check on me or walk with me, one in front and one behind.
The trail was beautifully moist from recent rains. Small streams all held water, perfect for dogs. I found myself wishing I’d packed less water and just filled up as I walked.
When we passed a long-abandoned road crossing, I turned to the southeast and headed toward Briar Branch. I wanted to see Briar Branch Falls since the creek was flowing strong. The sketchy old roadbed had mature trees in the middle so it had been many years since it was used, probably to access timber and/or water. I headed upstream on the creek, stepping carefully on this unplanned bushwhack.
A large boulder reminded me of the even larger boulders you’ll see upstream in the bluff-filled scenic area. My wish was granted when I saw the water flow after traveling a few hundred yards.
After spending a few minutes with the waterfall, including a couple of photos that included dog legs, I started to move back uphill toward the trail.
We passed the campsites and approached Briar Branch crossing, usually containing water but almost always an easy crossing to rock-hop. I always pause here and enjoy the view up the hollow, especially nice in the late afternoon sunlight.
We passed through the high bluff sections and came to a favorite waterfall. Here’s the view from above as you pass over on the trail. It’s an easy scramble down to the waterfall for a look from below. A smaller waterfall up above the trail takes on various ribbon shapes, depending on the flow.
A small colorful cave is close to the Marinoni Scenic Area sign.
I love seeing the massive bluff-lined hollow in different seasons and light. Today’s walk as the sun moved lower and temperatures dropped was a real treat.
It’s difficult to do the scene justice with a camera, but seeing the evening sun reflecting on a distant Mulberry River was beautiful through the trees.
I paused for a photo at what I like to call “lunch break bluff” because volunteers enjoyed food and fellowship seated along this bluff back in 2012 when the spur was built and named for Dawna Robinson, a wonderful volunteer who’d passed away during the provious year.
We bid farewell to our trail guide, Lucy the Adventure Dog, and then crossed Hwy 215 to load the truck, still not having seen another human. I felt the urge to feed Lucy but decided against it, knowing I wouldn’t want a stranger feeding Hiker-dog anything other than the food she’s used to.
The Marinoni gave much more than I expected on this beautiful day. Waterfalls, winter vistas in late afternoon sun, and our very own tour guide named Lucy. I was thankful I had decided to do the Marinoni again, a trail that always gives something special to those who walk it.