Scott’s Ozark Highlands Trail

I enjoyed viewing this 21-minute video by my friend, Scott Branyon. It’s a record of his hike from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Woolum. I was proud to be on Scott’s first backpacking trip on the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT). Recently, I witnessed his completion of the 165-miles.

Completing this trail creates a sense of ownership, so the OHT is now Scott’s trail. Congratulations to my friend on his accomplishment. Hiker-dog enjoyed accompanying Scott on a couple of his trips and hopes to complete her OHT soon.

Little-Known Arkansas Poet

john-allen-adams-poetryI worked in John Allen Adams’ bookstore while a student at Henderson State University. John was a remarkable man. He was quadriplegic from a high school football injury, but he built his own business and was a central figure of learning in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Dr. Charles Hughes has written his story in a wonderful book, A Fortune Teller’s Blessing.

I have a copy of John’s book of poems, I Walk Toward the Sound of My Days, first published in 1979. Dr. Hughes was instrumental in making this book available again. In rereading his poems, I’m struck by their continued relevance and timeless quality. Below is one poem that captures what motivates me to occasionally escape the frantic trappings of society and “give equal time to joy.”

Ten O’Clock News
by John Allen Adams

Must I keep tuned to the world’s ill?
Who condemned me to watch
the ten o’clock news for sixty years?
I know, I know – the world’s close-knit,
and a heart must be more than four fingers wide
to pump what the world needs;
but still, should I feel truant for a holiday?

What if I push the button and clamor
no longer rings through these vaults;
and then in the silence
still, small voices come healing the spirit –
cicadas, and crickets, and mockingbirds?
The mockingbird singing in a summer night –
this draft of joy would cheer even a Saul!

Tomorrow and tomorrow I shall be prompt,
tuned to the latest news;
but tonight I give equal time to joy.

Ambience: Comforting Light

WordPress Photo Challenge: Ambience 

smith_creek06

Smith Creek in the Buffalo National River region

I was immediately smitten on my first visit to Smith Creek Conservation Area. The ambience was soothing and inviting. Deep greens comforted my soul and I felt thankfulness while standing in the middle of this creek.

smith_creek03

Looking downstream on Smith Creek

Follow this link for more about Smith Creek.

Five Star Trails: The Ozarks includes map, trail description, and driving directions for Smith Creek Trail.

Snowy Walk on Our Home Trail

 

img_8813rr

Hiker checking out the Hexagon House next to the trail

Hiker-dog and I had a wonderful hike yesterday morning on a snowy Lake Alma Trail. She loves the snow! We walked from home so no driving on icy roads was involved.

img_8759rr

View of the lake from a spot normally under water

 

img_8844rr

Hiker-dog searching for moles

img_8832rr

Ice at Mc Water Falls

img_8827rr

Hiker looking down the Mc Water Falls drainage 

It was tempting to sleep in on this 20-degree morning but we were richly rewarded for spending time on the trail.

A new section of the OHT for Hiker-dog: Hurricane Creek Wilderness

img_8431rrDecember 29: This trek through the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area would bring Hiker-dog closer to completing the Ozark Highlands Trail. It was also the final section needed for one of our group to finish the traditional 165-miles of the OHT. img_8371rrOne vehicle approached the bridge as we crossed, but the driver stopped and gave us a friendly wave as we continued across the one-lane bridge.img_8390rrThe winter woods were open and clear under sunny skies. img_8405rrEric and Hiker-dog paused to take in the views at the slow running Hurricane Creek. The water was as clear and the bottom of the creek was as slippery as I remembered. Even Hiker-dog’s four paws slipped a time or two. img_8433rrBob and Eric did some rock hopping to cross dry. Scott, Hiker-dog, and I all chose to wade the creek. img_8442rrIt looked like Scott found a deep spot in the creek, but we all made it across dry and ready to move on up the trail.  img_8475rrWinter leaf-off is a good time to view Natural Bridge perched at the top of bluffs on the west side of Hurricane Creek. img_8493rrThanks to Eric for noticing the color reflecting upstream. We took turns photographing the scene with my camera since Eric’s camera batteries were drained. img_8507rrHiker seemed to enjoy showing off by hopping rocks as the sun continued to move lower in the sky. img_8512rrWe were in our tents by 7 p.m., lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of Hurricane Creek below our campsite. Coyotes let loose a chorus of howls late in the night, but I find their distant cries relaxing and part of the beauty of nighttime in the Ozarks. Temperatures got down to the mid-20s.

img_8594rrAround midnight, I answered nature’s call and enjoyed looking at the starry sky for a moment before returning to my tent. I discovered Hiker-dog curled up on my down blanket rather than her Thermarest sleeping pad. When she felt my feet under the quilt, she moved back to her bed, sorry that I didn’t see the need for her to have a down bed.

December 30: After passing through beautiful woods along the Hurricane Creek (and doing some pretty intense climbing) we dropped back down to creek level and a favorite historical chimney. img_8560rrAfter the east crossing of Hurricane Creek, we passed the Highwater Bypass and continued toward Chancel and our campsite at a small creek that eventually feeds into Buck Brn Creek.

img_8583rr

no-name creek

This little creek without a name is imprinted on my memory. On one of my early hikes through the Hurricane Creek area, a friend ran out of water after we passed this creek and suffered heat exhaustion. He made it out but was pretty sick for a couple of days. I always check my water carefully when passing this creek just prior to mile 115.

img_8604rr

Scott filtering water at our second campsite

We found excellent water at our second campsite located between mile 119 and 120. Another nameless creek, it always seems to have water.

All meals seemed to taste better on that second night, maybe because of the more than nine hilly miles we’d hiked. Bob commented that Hiker was an 8-mile dog because she slept soundly as we ate. She bounced back strong the next morning.

December 31: The next morning we walked through beautiful boulder fields making our way toward Chancel junction.

img_8628rr

Using Hiker to put the size of boulders in perspective

img_8591rr

Chancel junction

Coming down into the Buck Brn Creek was a treat visually, but it meant a lot of climbing on the other side as we made our way toward Fairview Trailhead. img_8647rrBob reminded me of the arched shape of the bridge below Forest Road 1209A. I dropped down for a few pictures before rejoining the group on the trail and the big climb toward Fairview. img_8650rrimg_8656rrAfter lots of huffing and puffing, we arrived at the trip’s end. Celebrations were in order as this was the last section Scott needed to complete 165-mile of the OHT. We were proud of his accomplishment.

We’re also looking forward to Hiker-dog’s completion of the OHT. I think the thru-hike patch will look good on her pack, but the real reward is good times spent with good people exploring the Ozarks!img_8420rr

If you’d like to read the story of how Hiker-dog first joined us on the trail in 2014: Walk, Eat, Sleep, Repeat – Fairview to Tyler Bend and a New Hiking Partner

Completing our goals in the Ozarks

img_8656rr

Scott raises his hands in celebration as he completes the OHT

I had the privilege of leading Scott’s first backpacking trip a few years ago. I then had the honor of capturing his final steps on the Ozark Highlands Trail to complete the traditional 165-miles of its length from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Woolum. As a fly fisherman and guide, he already had outdoor skills, so backpacking was an activity he enjoyed from the beginning.

Congratulations to Scott! We’re proud of your persistence and the fitness goals that this accomplishment represents!

IMG_8658rr.jpg

Hiker-dog enjoyed her two nights on the trail, too. She celebrated by having a good chew while we loaded up for the shuttle. She is about 23 miles away from being an OHT thru-hiker. Guess I’d better be contemplating my own goals for 2017!

IMG_6659rr

Thru-Hike patch earned for hiking the first 165-miles of the OHT.

Special Times and Place: Petit Jean State Park

img_8089rrI may have been 10 or 12 years old the first time I approached this breezeway. Today as my dog and I began our short trek to Cedar Falls, I was reminded of how this view of the valley took my breath away.img_8091rrOne morning many years ago I stood transfixed by the rock wall on the far side of the valley. Sunlight reflected colors in the lichen-covered rock as light crept slowly down the wall in response to the rising sun. This was a unique experience for a teenager who rarely focused his attention on anything. There was no sun this morning, but I looked forward to an early morning hike with cool, moist air and soft light.img_8104rrCedar Creek was flowing gently, and I began to anticipate Cedar Falls farther upstream. My patient hiking buddy let me tether her to a tree limb in case other hikers approached so I could take a photo of the creek. img_8106rrHearing the soft roar of Cedar Falls caused my pace to quicken. As the falls first came into view, I stopped and found a rock in the creek for my little tripod. I wanted to get low next to the water.img_8111rrThen I raised the camera using a very high-tech technique – I crawled up higher on the boulder with my flexible little tripod. The higher perch allowed me to capture the reflection of the falls in a quiet pool upstream. Thanks to my friend and creative photographer, Eric Scowden. I’ve admired a photo he did with reflections in this pool and wanted to try it myself.img_8138rrWhen we arrived at the falls, I enjoyed a few more photos while Hiker-dog waited leashed to a nearby tree. She seemed to understand that I needed this time. She also appeared to understand that this was a special place and quietly absorbed the scene. img_8148rr