My First Trail

This kind post from my Cousin Sue took me back in time.

Absolutely still very proud of my cousin Jim Warnock on the publication of his book, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. I re-read Ms. Cantrell’s review and realized that I was one of those friends who shared Jim’s love of “the Cherokee Trail” at the back of his folks’ home on Calion Highway in south Arkansas. While I did not do any overnights on the trail, I can still smell the pines and hear their needles rustle in the wind. Magical memories! Thanks, Uncle Jimmy, for cutting the trail, and congrats again, Jim!

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1970s photo of “my trail” with my Kodak Instamatic

That little trail and adjacent woods were a palette that colored many childhood memories. There was time for climbing trees, swinging on vines, and looking at the sky in wonder. I once lay flat on my back in pine straw and gazed at a blue sky while strong winds bathed the swaying pines above. My heart felt light, and my mind soared with thoughts of a hopeful future.

Instamatic cameraAs it turned out, my teenage mind couldn’t comprehend how wonderful life would be and the undeserved gifts that would come my way. Hardships? Yes, but by comparison, they were cluttered corners in a large room filled with blessings.

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Walking the Ouachita Trail in 2018

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Giving thanks.

Loss of a Friend

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Roy Senyard on the OHT (photographer unknown)

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On July 28th, the trails of Arkansas and many hiking enthusiasts lost a good friend. Roy Senyard was deeply committed to maintaining the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) and served as Maintenance Coordinator for many years. Roy and his wife, Norma, also volunteered on trails in Colorado and other locations out west. 

In 2009, Roy encouraged me to adopt the section of trail west of Dockery Gap. That 4-mile section of trail has meant a great deal to my personal health and sense of ownership of the OHT. 

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L-R Roy Senyard and Duane Woltjen, two great builders of trail.

Roy was plain-speaking and didn’t have much patience with folks who talked but didn’t do. He got stuff done, but you had fun and laughed a lot in the process! He was an expert sawyer and made thousands of cuts to clear trails for others to walk.

During the Vietnam War, Roy served as a medic. He was a gutsy guy, not easily rattled while out on the trail. He knew how to get onto the OHT using obscure backroads known by few. There weren’t many forest roads in the Ozarks that he hasn’t driven to access a downed tree or washed out tread.

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Roy, on the distant right, taking a break from work on Hare Mountain. L-R Mike Lemaster, Bob Robinson, and Chris Adams.

We used to laugh when Roy gave maintenance reports to the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. He often began by saying there wasn’t much to report and then he’d launch into a lengthy summary of work recently completed and work needing to be done as Norma tried to signal him to wrap it up.

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Roy’s smoky cut

During a US Forest Service chainsaw training, Roy demonstrated a cut on a cedar log. His attention to safety and technique was impeccable, but he had inadvertently put a dull chain on his saw. This became evident to all as smoke engulfed him while making the cut. He was a little embarrassed and may have uttered an expletive or two, but we had a good laugh, knowing he was top-of-the-line when it came to anything related to trail maintenance.

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Roy and his wife, Norma, were a team. They both maintained and hiked trails. They thru-hiked the OHT and walked many miles in the Ozarks, Rocky Mountains, and other locations. They loved to bring the grandkids to Hare Mountain and let them experience hiking and nature.

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Roy and Norma on the OHT

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Preparing for a day hike at Tyler Bend

I’m going to miss Roy. He was the type of friend you might not see for a year, then run into as I did recently at Tyler Bend, and take up as if no time had passed. I’m thankful to have known Roy Senyard and will think and speak of him often, especially when walking the trails.

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Roy Senyard Falls, named by Tim Ernst in recognition of Roy’s commitment to the OHT. Thanks to Eric Scowden for the photo.

Whole Life Challenge: Taking Life Up a Notch

 

Sometimes we need a little motivational kick in the pants. That’s what I thought Whole Life Challenge might do, but it was a boost and much more.

By taking concrete steps to address 7 specific daily habits that are important to health, you move toward a better self physically, mentally, and spiritually. The seven habits include Nutrition, Exercise, Mobilize, Sleep, Hydrate, Well-being, and Reflect.

Exercise and hydration were the easiest habits for me, but being more consistent with workout times and prescribing the amount of water based on body weight made me more consistent in both areas.

Mobilize (stretching) and well-being (meditation) are two areas where I struggle. I learned that becoming mindful of my breathing and stride while walking helps me enter a form of meditation that meets the challenge and benefits me personally. I’ve come to enjoy stretching as never before, avoiding monotony by varying stretches each day. 

Sleep was an underrated habit in my thinking, but it has a significant impact. By increasing time and consistency of rest, I’m feeling better and more ready to exercise each morning. I feel awake throughout the day and can avoid bad snack choices resulting from fatigue.

The reason I was attracted to Whole Life Challenge was my struggle with nutrition. I’ve been surprised how easy making some changes has been and how much the loss of a point motivates me to make good decisions. Resources and readings provided have been helpful, with practical advice on which foods to choose and which to avoid.

I’m not receiving any financial incentive from Whole Life Challenge. The only benefits to me are health and wellness. It’s an excellent motivational tool for anyone wishing to establish healthier habits.

Twitter: @wholelife

Website: Whole Life Challenge

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Hiker-dog, my personal trainer for daily walks and longer weekend treks.

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Hiking in the Ozarks for exercise and mental health! Photo from Five Star Trails: The Ozarks

Humidity, Blackberries, and Pierce Pettis

Ozarks heat, humidity, and a few fresh blackberries on the Lake Alma Trail helped heal my soul yesterday evening. While walking, I listened to several songs written by Pierce Pettis in the 1990s and was stuck that his lyrics are relevant today. “Everyday you see ’em / Live from the lap of luxury / It’s the lions of the colosseum / With politicians, millionaires / You won’t see Mother Teresa there.” 

Lions of the Colosseum

By Pierce Pettis

Upon this rock let us build our church
Said the lions of the colosseum
And as the Christians wander in
We can lock the doors and eat ’em
Drink the blood of the saints
Roll the poor for pocket change
Then on our knees we will give thanks
Said the lions of the colosseum

I saw Dorothy Day on the barricades
She was hanging with comrade Jesus
But the lions did not see a thing
They were rendering unto Caesar
Roman soldiers did their best
To silence those who would protest
They had a warrant out for Dorothy’s arrest
From the lions of the colosseum

In chains of ancient history
The church is a museum
Cobwebs hang like rosaries
Inside a mausoleum
Whose surfaces are clean and white
While inside rotting corpses lie
And so they like to keep the lid on tight
Those lions of the colosseum

Let us build a tower to the sky
And let it reach to heaven
We shall be as gods, we shall not die
And our reign shall be forever
So the lions built from age to age
Til they made a Babel of the faith
And tore the body in a thousand different ways
Like in the colosseum

Now on the satellite TV
Everyday you see ’em
Live from the lap of luxury
It’s the lions of the colosseum
With politicians, millionaires
You won’t see Mother Teresa there
Just the holy rollers with the manes of hair
Lions of the colosseum

But there’s rebel graffiti on the walls
Inside the colosseum
Down below in the catacombs
The defiant ones are meeting
Hiding in the underground
Blood brothers pass the cup around
And they pay no heed to the roaring sound
Of the lions of the colosseum

A little more Pierce Pettis along with his daughter, Grace, and Jonathan Kingham. I tend to like song writers who include coffee as a topic.

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View along the Lake Alma Trail

Chapters on Main, a Refuge for Learning

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My love for local bookstores was solidified during college when I worked at Adams Bookstore in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Mr. Adams was like a mentor to me during that time. I wrote about his influence during those crucial years in another post.

In 2016, I learned of a bookstore with character and good coffee right down the road in Van Buren. Walking into Chapters on Main is like stepping into a private refuge filled with books and the pleasant smell of coffee. You’ll often see young customers sipping coffee while exploring the shelves, using the wireless, or participating in book study groups. Marla Cantrell beautifully tells this bookstore’s story in Do South Magazine, The Best Chapter Yet.

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Young people enjoying coffee in the reading room

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I was pleased to do my first book signing at Chapters on Main, and they’ve continued to carry Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. It makes me proud to see my book in the company of other Arkansas authors in a locally owned bookstore that provides a wonderful learning hub for our community.

I have another book signing on Saturday, July 21, from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Ride the train, then pick up your guidebook and let’s talk about trails. Fall is just around the corner!


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The coffee shop is usually busy. I recommend the double shot espresso!

IMG_9034rrExcellent shopping is found all along the street next to Chapters on Main. The train depot and veterans park are located across the street.

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Train depot viewed from Chapters on Main

Continue reading

Little Taste of Tennessee

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Taylor taking in the view next to Falling Water River

On our first visit to my daughter and her husband’s new home in Cookeville, Tennessee, my son-in-law offered to take me on a short hike along Falling Water River.  I jumped at the chance, knowing the next day would be filled by a 500-mile drive back to the Ozarks.

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I liked the sound of the river’s name, and Taylor said waterfalls were on the menu. After a 20-minute drive, we were walking along the river’s edge wading out on the pitted Mississippian limestone shore.

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A “smaller” set of falls located upriver from Big Falls

The water flow was greater than I anticipated on this popular stretch of river. Several waterfalls were formed as the main riverbed eroded and fell away over time.

The trail comes to Big Falls Overlook before switching back down to the upper deck of Big Falls. Metal stairs leading to the base of the falls were closed due to past flood damage. My only regret on this beautiful day was that we didn’t have more time to explore. 

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Two of many hikers next to “Big Falls” on this sunny day.

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The appropriately named “Big Falls” where a powerhouse was once located down below.

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Fern growing in the moist rocky bluffs above the river.

Here’s a link to the Burgess Falls State Park Brochure

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One lost “soul” along the trail.

Arkansas Master Naturalists Learning Paths

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A leashed Hiker-dog on a kid-friendly hike.

Arkansas Master Naturalists participated in the June 2 National Trails Day, so members led several hikes around the state and shared their love of the environment.

I participated by leading a kid-friendly hike on part of the Shepherds Spring Loop Trail at Lake Fort Smith State Park. With the heat, a short out-and-back hike was the best option and made it a fun outing for folks at all experience levels.

Becoming involved with Arkansas Master Naturalists placed me with a group of people who share a commitment to conserving and improving Arkansas’ environment and beauty. I’ve benefited from the expertise of members and look forward to continued learning. They are true to their mission of “providing education, outreach, and service” to benefit the natural environment of Arkansas.

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When I first got involved, I attended all the training possible and volunteered where I could, not completely understanding how my actions would lead to certification.

To help my understanding, I made graphic organizers to communicate the process of becoming a Certified Master Naturalist and the Continuing Education to maintain certification each year.

The first graphic shows the path from being a Naturalist in Training (NIT) to certification. It made me happy that the trainers decided to use this graphic as part of the Naturalists in Training materials. I appreciated Care Butler’s suggestions as I revised these to be as clear as possible.

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The graphic below shows the required Continuing Education and volunteer hour requirements to meet annual certification requirements. Read the pages from bottom to top to follow the sequence for becoming certified or continuing annual certification.

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If you enjoy the rich natural environments found in Arkansas, get involved with the Arkansas Master Naturalists. You’ll immediately be immersed in an exceptional group of like-minded folks where you can contribute according to your interests. Through learning and volunteering, you’ll positively impact the natural world in your own backyard, and have a lot of fun in the process!

Wordpress Photo Challenge: Favorites

WordPress Photo Challenge: All-Time Favorites 

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Fireworks at Lake Alma

Sometimes a “favorite” photo is associated with my pleasure at getting the shot or some technical aspect as with the fireworks above or the waterfall below. The waterfall photo has been on a magazine cover and is on the back cover of my Ozarks guidebook.

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Shepherd Spring Waterfall

More often, a “favorite” photo is more about the experience or emotion I felt when capturing the image. The photos that follow provide anchors to memories.

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Breakfast at Wanda Lake (John Muir Trail)

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Selfie from the top of Mount Whitney

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Reflections from sunset over Lake Alma

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Ouachita Trail thru-hike 2018

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Ozark Highlands Trail thru-hike 2014

Is it a coincidence that the only two heart-shaped frost flowers I’ve ever seen were alongside my two Arkansas long trail thru-hikes? Even with all of the expansive views on these two trails, the frost flowers are significant anchors to my memories of these long treks.

Gratitude to Medical Professionals, Especially on the Hills!

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The end of a climb in the Richland Creek Wilderness Area

I mentioned in the preface of my Ozarks trail guide that medical advancements cause me to hike with a thankful heart, literally.

When I was 16, Dr. Henry Rogers, our family doctor, discovered the blood pressure between my arms and lower legs was different during a routine exam. He recommended some tests in Little Rock. The doctor there referred me to Houston for more tests.

I remember with fascination as doctors conducted a catheterization to inspect the valves and chambers of my heart. I was awake and could see the small tube as it moved through my heart.

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The next day, Dr. Denton Cooley and an entourage of interns, whispering in several languages, entered my room. He listened to my heart with his stethoscope, turned to my parents and said, “We’ll fix him up in the morning.” He was pleasant but moved on quickly.

The following morning he corrected the coarctation of my aorta, a routine surgery for him. Without this procedure, my life would probably have been cut short as a young adult.

Following a short time of recovery, I was able to ride my bike, play sports, march in the high school band, and years later, march through the Ozarks and other beautiful locations. I sent Dr. Cooley a thank you note when I completed my first 100-mile bicycle ride in the 1990s.

Recently I was overcome with a sense of gratitude while climbing a hill in the Ozarks. This led me to search for information about Denton Cooley who died at the age of 96 in 2016.  I discovered a couple of videos and his Heart Institute that I will link below.

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Seeing video clips of Dr. Cooley made it seem like yesterday that he said, “We’ll fix him in the morning.” He possessed confidence without arrogance, and I learned from the video that he cared greatly about his patients.

He also valued teaching and research, making sure that the Texas Heart Institute was a teaching institution. I learned that he played basketball in high school and college. As an adult, he played upright bass in a band called The Heartbeats.

Denton Cooley 3I feel fortunate that innovations Dr. Cooley was a part of benefited me personally and made much of what I’ve enjoyed for years possible. Dr. Cooley thought he was in the right place at the right time. I agree!

As an insecure teenager, I was bothered by the 7-inch scar on the left side of my rib cage. Today I’m thankful for that scar and the health that resulted from the skillful minds and hands of medical professionals. I’d like to give a word of thanks to Dr. Henry Rogers, Dr. Denton Cooley, and my current physician, Dr. Ron Schlabach, for helping me stay on the trails! 

Texas Heart Institute (THI), founded by world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley in 1962

Video interview of Dr. Cooley from 1991 – This is one hour in length but filled with many lessons from his life and example.

Seven-minute video showing Dr. Cooley’s life history.

Five-minute video interview of Dr. Cooley three years prior to his death. This included several photos from developments over the years.

Denton Cooley’s obituary in the Washington Post, 2016

“Like Something the Lord Made” – the story of Vivian Thomas, lab technician for Dr. Alfred Blaylock. Dr. Cooley worked directly with Dr. Blaylock and Mr. Thomas during the time the procedure to correct blue baby syndrome was developed at John Hopkins Medical School.