Musical Work of Art, a Gift for a Deserving Student

IMG_7157rrThis post is not about trails or backpacking, but music is an essential part of my life. I learned years ago what a privilege it was to be the first to give a child a music lesson. Bill Craig gave me my first drum lesson when I was in the third grade, so sharing music feels like honoring his memory for what he gave to me.

When Kelby was in the fifth grade and a student at my school, I had the opportunity to give her a simple drum lesson and later gave some modest coaching for her all-region music preparation. She went on to become a great percussionist for which I can’t take any credit, but I took pride in watching her accomplishments.

On July 12, Kelby’s parents presented a special gift to her, and I was present to record the event. She is now the owner of a Concert Model Marimba built by master instrument maker and percussionist Doug DeMorrow. DeMorrow Instruments builds marimbas, xylophones, and vibraphones for universities, orchestras, and musicians all over the country. His Concert Marimba is a work of art!

Demorrow Warnock.001

Doug and me in 1978 after my senior recital, and now in 2020.

Being present to watch Kelby receive her marimba was also an opportunity to see my college percussion teacher. Doug taught percussion at Henderson State University, where I earned my bachelor’s in music education. I reminded him that I was the first senior recital student he prepared and it was a musical high point for me.

Doug was an excellent teacher and enthusiastic about all things music and percussion. I remember watching his beginning stages of marimba building back in 1978, never dreaming that he would someday build world-class instruments as he has done for many years. After our visit on Sunday, Doug said, “Even though it has been an eternity since we last saw each other it was like that time evaporated.” I agreed. Within minutes we were discussing the differences in wood tone and sustain. He was the type of teacher who was so enthusiastic about his work that you learned just by being around him.


I arrived early so Doug helped me hear the differences in bar qualities used in his instruments.

Becca enjoyed touring Doug’s shop and seeing bars in different stages of development.


The tuning room is where some magic happens as Doug tunes the fundamental pitch and overtones for the best possible sound.


Bar tuning room

Not all bars make the final cut. Below are just a few bars that were not up to Doug’s standards for use on an instrument.


The rosewood that makes it onto a DeMorrow keyboard is destined for a long life of music-making, one of the most noble uses for this precious wood. Below is a closeup of the oak frame that gives stability to the weight of keyboard bars and resonators.


People are often surprised to hear that the best keyboard instruments in the U.S. come from Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Doug spent hours doing final settings with the instrument, tuning each resonator for the best tone. I saw a smile of satisfaction as he played the instrument before Kelby arrived.


Kelby only learned their destination at noon before they made the drive to Arkadelphia. Once at the shop, the family enjoyed learning more about the process involved in building the instrument. Somehow, Kelby remained calm and enjoyed taking in the information before seeing her new marimba.



The presentation


Kelby’s first notes on the instrument

Kelby’s husband, Paxton, is a percussionist, too, so this marimba will be very happy in her new home!


Lots of discussion about mallets and bringing out the full voice of the instrument. Kelby immediately ordered a set of Gordon Stout mallets after some experimenting. 

Doug spent some time showing Kelby and Paxton how to adjust the resonators if they wanted to experiment with them in the future.


The resonators add to the instrument’s beauty but play an important function in being sure each note sings with a full sound. The careful adjustment of each resonator is part of the quality difference in a DeMorrow instrument.

Part of my pleasure in watching Kelby grow up has been seeing her parents’ enthusiasm and support of her musical interests. I had a front-row seat in watching their parenting since Kelby’s mom, Suzy, was my assistant principal for 16 of my 19 years at Alma Intermediate School.


Suzy volunteering as a music stand.

Before the evening’s end, the adoption was complete as Kelby began to enjoy making music on her new DeMorrow Concert Marimba. This instrument will be treasured for years to come, and it will produce great music!


Best Gifts Carry Memories


I did some shopping in Fayetteville today. Enjoyed being where 100% of the folks were wearing masks, courteously keeping their distance, and enjoying each other’s company.

As part of my retirement from a career in education, I received a gift card from co-workers to one of my favorite stores (Pack Rat Outdoor Center). I wanted to get something that would be with me for years, reminding me of work I loved at Alma Intermediate School.

I now have a great lightweight dayhiking pack and poles that will stay together and loaded, always ready at a moment’s notice.

Thank you teachers and staff for helping me get a gift that will remind me of the good times we had influencing the lives of our students. I’m looking forward to continuing my “work” as one of your cheerleaders and biggest fans.

Before we left Fayetteville, I ran into the dad of a couple of our students. I didn’t recognize him until he said, “My kids loved working with you at school.” I told him how much I enjoyed his kids, but didn’t mention that he’d just given me what I consider the highest compliment possible. One of my mentors said years ago, “It’s important that your kids know you like them and care about them.”

Now, it’s time to study some maps and plan some hikes!


Pack and poles, a gift from my co-workers. 

PigTrailLoop quote.001

Post-Hike Tasks


Packed for the hike back down Black Fork Mountain

While preparing for a backpacking trip, I realized some of my food was in my pack from the previous outing a few weeks before. Fortunately, critters hadn’t found it, but it was a moldy mess.

I learned a lesson from that unused food, so let me share some of the tasks that need to happen following any backpacking trip. By doing these things, you can make your equipment last longer and shorten your prep time for the next trip. The best time to do these things is as soon as you get home.


The kitchen

Clean your kitchen and food pantry – In my case, this means washing a small cookpot, cup, and spoon. I like to take inventory of fuel to be sure I’m stocked for future trips. Some stoves need periodic maintenance. I use an Esbit fuel stove, so no maintenance is required.

Go through the food bag, toss trash, and remove any unused snacks or food. It’s also a good idea to check dates on any food you plan to reuse. I learned the importance of this after having to eat some stale snacks on a trip.


Dry your shelter – Spread out or hang your tent/tarp/groundcloth so that it dries completely. Hang your quilt or sleeping bag and pad to be sure any remaining moisture is removed. Failure to do this can be expensive when you later discover an expensive tent covered in mildew.


Clean your clothes – I’ve learned to use gentle settings for washing and drying. After a little time the dryer, I let hiking clothes dry completely hanging out overnight. Avoid heavy smells in the soaps you use to avoid attracting critters insects or wildlife. I occasionally treat the cuffs of my pants with Permethrin to discourage ticks. It’s not a sure thing but seems to help, and the treatment lasts through several rounds of washing.


Drying shoes. Smelling good!

Take care of your shoes – Dry shoes as soon as possible after your trip to avoid serious stink and mildew! I place shoes and insoles in front of a small fan overnight. It’s alright to clean most running shoes with soap and water occasionally.


Sleeping bags and a ground cloth hanging in storage

Store your stuff – I like to store my kitchen (minus food) in my pack. Tents/tarps and bedding should be spread out or hung up until needed for the next trip. Never pack these items stuffed into a pack or folded since this causes creasing of fabrics and compression of your down’s loft.

Review your Backpacking List  – Was anything needed that you didn’t carry? Were items not needed that you did carry? Can you move an item from “nice to have” to “don’t need to have?” Answering these questions will help lower your pack weight over time.

You might have had a great idea about bug protection or staking your tarp, but if you don’t revise your packing list, the idea is lost until your next trip, which is too late. Does it sound like I’ve done this before?Backpacking List May 2020

What’s next? Keeping a future trip in development is a great motivator. The best time to start planning is right after the current trip. Here’s my simple plan for staying in shape:

  1. Breath clean air and nothing else
  2. Eat good food
  3. Move around a lot (walk, bike, row, stretch, weights, etc.)

Now, grab your maps and guidebooks and plan that next backpacking trip!

If you have post-hike tasks or rituals I haven’t mentioned, please pass them along to me. I love to steal good ideas!


Coming down Black Fork Mountain.

Lower Base Weight and a New Route to Explore


My Zpacks backpack fully loaded

For a recent mild-weather over-nighter, my pack base weight came in at 10.5 pounds. Base weight doesn’t include food and water. I was probably around 14 pounds with water and food. Steve recently upgraded his backpack to a Gossamer Gear, and his base weight is similar, so we were both traveling light.

Now, if I could find better ways to pack food that weighs almost nothing. I use powdered soups as a base with dehydrated veggies and meat added. The energy bars, GORP add more weight. Please email or comment if you have ultra-light food ideas!

Below are a few photos from the recent backpacking trip with a little descriptive information. The purpose of our trip was to try out a route recently scouted by Steven Parker, assisted by Chris Adams and me. Steven plans to present more information about this route at the Ozark Highlands Trail Association meeting in October. Stay tuned because, if you like a challenge, this might be a route you’ll want to add to future itineraries.


This rock garden bluff is jaw-dropping beautiful.

Not a scenic photo, but we found it interesting. Our thought was that this is bear scat. Anyone else want to weigh in?


bear scat

Scale is deceptive since I took this photo from downstream, but the waterfall is probably 10-12 feet.




Afternoon nap for Hiker-dog

Below was my break time view. You can’t beat fresh air, blue skies, and the shade of a tree canopy for recharging your batteries!


This waterfall was a special treat. Steven will share more about this area at the October OHTA meeting.


The photo doesn’t capture it, but splashes of color from a variety of wildflowers lifted our spirits when the feet felt weary.

IMG_5612rWe were unsure about the following bloom or early plan growth resembling a flower. Does anyone have an idea about what this is? If so, I’ll update this post. The stalk reminds us of a Devils Walking Stick, but we’re not sure. (May 10 update – Thanks to reader, Miranda Kohout for sharing that this is the early growth of a hickory tree.)


unidentified plant (8/10/20 update- It’s a hickory tree in the making)


Native honeysuckle pointed out by Steven

Hopefully, we’ll have some more cool weather for Ozarks exploring

The efforts to lighten our loads continue because the lighter the pack, the farther we’ll travel.

I’m looking forward to future trips on this same route, especially as it becomes more clearly defined. It will be fun to see Steven share specifics in October!

Retracing Scenic Highway 7 in Do South Magazine


Barn near Lead Hill

Do South bylinesI’m always honored to publish in Do South MagazineIt was a treat to share a photo byline with Reese Kennedy, my mother’s older brother. Our drives up Scenic Highway 7 were separated by thirty-eight years, but I discovered some fascinating connections. Below is an excerpt from the article and link to the digital version of  the article.


At 5-years old, I approached my mother’s older brother. “Uncle Reese, would you draw me a Texas Longhorn?” He was a soft-spoken art teacher and politely put off my request. Finally, after two days of repeated appeals…

Buffalo R at Hwy 7_1r

Hwy 7 crosses the Buffalo River in Jasper

Camden OuachitaR_2r

Railroad north of Camden where Reese and I both stopped 38-years apart.


The Ozarks Always Astonish

“Pay attention, be astonished, write about it.” ~ Mary Oliver

When I walk into the Ozarks, I expect to see some beauty, but again and again, these woods astonish me. Whether walking a repeated trail or bushwhacking into a valley for the first time, the Ozarks always give more than I expect.

Today, Lindsey Hollow might fall into that typical pattern of exceeding expectations. Steve, Chris, and I each drove in separately and maintained our distance while hiking, which is easy to do. Hiking cures all that ails me during this challenging time of COVID-19 and “social distancing.”

By the end of our walk, my eyes were full of beautiful scenes, I felt zero stress, and my muscles achieved a pleasant level of exhaustion. Best of all, I was left with questions that entice me to return. These woods always leave me loaded with gifts!

What follows are a few photos in the sequence of our walk.


Sure footed Hiker-dog

We crossed a couple of waterfalls pouring into Lindsey Hollow from surrounding streams.



Chris and Hiker-dog above a waterfall


We saw large rock walls. I reached across one of the smaller sections and estimated it to be three-feet on top.


Chris and Steve admiring the builders’ work

Lindsey Creek was a beautiful place to explore. We soon realized that we’d need return trips to give this place an honest look.



This close-up of one of the rocks we stepped on to cross the creek isn’t concrete as it first appears, but a conglomerate that includes a variety of pebbles and small fossils.


Lindsey Creek disappeared underground for about twenty yards then emerged in the creek bed and a couple of adjacent “springs.” They appeared as springs, but the water was similar to the creek water, so I doubt that the underground flow was long. Still, they were intriguing.


“Spring” next to Lindsey Creek

A massive rock wall ran alongside the creek. We didn’t see structure footings nearby as would be expected. We might find footings away from the creek to avoid flooding. That exploration would have to wait for another day.


This piece of a wood-burning stove was leaning facedown against a flat rock in the creek bed. After taking photos, I placed the heavy piece of cast iron back where I found it.


Piece of a stove with my shoe for scale.

I wondered if I might learn when it was made by the ornate patterns in the iron. Did it belong to those who built the rock wall next to this creek? Did it belong to another family upstream? This artifact left me with fun questions to ponder while huffing and puffing out of this hollow.


Thanks for coming along on this Lindsey Hollow walk. If you have an idea about the date of that stove, please contact me, and I’ll update this post.


Steve enjoying the view before the hike out.

Repeated Walks

IMG_4084rrWe should hike some trails over and over again, especially when they’re in our backyards. This little 4-mile trail is a 3-minute drive from my home. On this recent morning, I had the trail to myself.




When you walk the same trail many times, you begin to notice the smaller things. Repeated walks on the same trail are never boring. They’re new every time!

IMG_4121rrHere’s a short video message I shared with students while Arkansas schools are closed due to the spread of COVID-19. I wanted to share a local trail and remind students that their vision for the future can have an impact on our community. Enjoy your trails, especially your home trails.


Somewhere in the Ozarks

IMG_4013rrA simple long walk in the woods can heal the spirit, and it doesn’t hurt our physical side either. The photos in this post were taken on a Monday walk in the Ozarks, but not on any particular trail. It was a treat to hike with Steve and Chris, both trail enthusiasts and maintainers. I’ll describe our location simply as somewhere in the Ozarks.

Hiker-dog made a full day of it. She must have run twenty miles to our eight walked. I’ve only seen her chew wood out of a log one other time. Must have been something good hiding in there!

Curved moist bluff

Steve had the idea of using part of the Ozark Highlands Trail and some bushwhacking to come up with a 20+mile loop. As soon as I saw the bluff area pictured above, I knew the route had to be developed because of the beauty and interesting features.

I never get tired of looking at rocks. That’s a good thing because we see quite a few in the Ozarks.

Ten-foot tall boulder sitting alone next to a bluff.

Redbuds showed their color down below the tree canopy and this long bluff.


We often see rock walls and old footings from historic structures built by earlier residents.

Old homesite footings

We saw some tall trees during our walk.


Water adds another layer of beauty in the Ozarks. This creek was flowing strong enough that we studied it for a few minutes before crossing.


Water flowing over rock is always special! As we crossed a small drainage, I paused for a photo using a log for my tripod.


The soft gurgling of water made for pleasant hiking next to this stream. My hot feet thanked me for spending a few minutes with this small cascade.


If you’ve ever heard the roar of a waterfall inside a hollow in the Ozarks, you understand how it draws you toward the sound, wondering what you’ll find. These falls looked to be about ten feet high. Nice spot for a break.


Hiker-dog was thrilled to spend a full day exploring the Ozarks, and she appreciated all of the positive attention.


Watching her grooming made me long for a hot shower. After a tough climb, we made it out of the woods and I got my wish.


I completed the day feeling good and thankful for my health.

Rock, wood, and water. How amazing that these elements combine to form such beauty for us to enjoy! When in doubt, get out there somewhere in the Ozarks.

Stronger Than We Know (guest post)

The following was so relevant to our current situation, I asked permission to share. Wisdom born of experience! – Ozarkmountainhiker

Rick Spicer0320

By Rick Spicer, Guest Author

A few words on taking control of your own mind. Each of us as individuals are the sum of our life experiences, and of the relationships we’ve built with those close to us.  For my part, I can only weigh in based on my own challenges and those certainly seem insignificant to me in light of our current issues which I evaluate not based on what our media tells me I should think, but rather what friends in other places around the world are living with as I write this.
IMG_4371rrAs I look back on my life, there are moments that stand out like a distant campfire in the darkness.  Each of those moments required me to make a choice and in that moment there is an opportunity to accept responsibility for my actions.  Having spent much of my life traveling to remote places, I’m reminded of my recent time in a swamp and the mantra that my brother @jasonleesurvival and I would repeat to each other.  “We just have to do today.”

As time went on and food supplies ran low, I felt lighter and heavier at the same time.  Lighter due to the twenty pounds I had lost, and heavier from the weight of uncertainty.   I learned that sometimes small changes in your efforts can lead to positive changes in your situation.

I hand-wove a fish trap from willow twigs and reeds and baited this trap with leftover alligator meat.  We moved the trap around for days but had no luck catching anything.  Eventually Jason killed a cottonmouth which we ate and then used the fresh entrails as bait in the trap.  I realized that it wasn’t a problem with my trap but rather what we were using for bait. I suppose the point here is that seemingly small decisions can have big consequences.  

We will look back on this moment in time and I believe it too will stand out.  What small decisions will we make in the coming days, weeks, months that will have larger than expected results?  I’m reluctant to offer advice, except to say go forward gently.  Be mindful of others and if you find yourself in the dark, know that even the smallest ember is capable of kindling a flame that can light the way.  We are all stronger than we know. Be well. 

Rick is a part owner of Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He teaches bushcraft outdoor skills and applies those skills on his personal travels. Follow his adventures on Instagram @packratbushcraft