Lake Fort Smith to Fane Creek on the OHT

Packed and ready to begin – Approximately 18 pounds with food and water

With cooler temperatures and my recent retirement, I decided to try backpacking the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) during the week. A buddy, Steve, was able to join me and Becca ran the shuttle for us, which saved time getting going on Monday morning.

The trail passes two historic fireplaces and Shepherd Spring. The fire bricks in these fireplaces came from Saint Louis, MO, in the early 1900s. I’ve not seen the spring completely dry, but the waterfall early in the trail only flows during wet seasons. If you have the opportunity, walk the five-mile Shepherd Spring Loop Trail after some strong rains. It’s a beautiful waterfall when it’s running.

Waterfall during wet season

We noticed some recent trail maintenance and caught an Ozark Highlands Trail Association volunteer, Bill, doing some great work close to the Frog Bayou crossing.

Steve visiting with Bill

Hurricane Creek was our destination for the first night. Water was clear, and we easily found sites for our tarps.

Day 2 was sunny and cool. We walked about thirteen miles to Spirits Creek. During the approach toward Spirits Creek, I noticed some muscadines next to the trail. They were perfect. When I bit into one, I was transported to childhood sitting down to breakfast with some of my mother’s muscadine jelly.

Spirits Creek never disappoints! Water was modest but just right for filtering and rock hopping. One of the great camping locations on the OHT! A couple of wild plums were close to a bluff, nowhere near any trees. The plum trees were high above, dropping fruit over the edge. I found one not too damaged and enjoyed it as we walked away from the creek.

Spirits Creek

Walking the historic narrow-gauge railroad route on day 3 was a treat.

Steve recorded any downed trees so OHTA volunteers can return and cut these out in the future. None of the trees made the trail impassable but did slow our progress a little.

Steve recording gps for a tree across the trail.

We saw several remnants from earlier days along this section of trail. Footings for former bridges can also be seen down below the trail tread. Logging operations used this narrow gauge railroad to harvest timber in the late 1800s.

Wildflowers provided color accents throughout our hike. I enjoyed learning about the Indian Pipe that has a soft pink color and no chlorophyll.

Fane Creek

Once we reached Fane Creek, we walked down the road to meet our shuttle and begin planning our next hike on the OHT.

Bridge over Fane Creek

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