Up at 5:00 a.m. so I could get to the Buffalo River region early last Saturday. I had the short trail to Glory Hole Falls all to myself. It was a special time since this trail is usually covered up with people on the weekends.
As I hiked away from the falls, I passed twenty hikers heading down the trail. I was thankful for my early morning time with this special little spot in the Ozarks.
Later in the day I enjoyed some larger views. This wonderful fourteen-mile day was only possible because I chose to be an early bird hiker and waterfall watcher.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Early Bird.”
I was pleased to find the old town of Rush to be a great day hike location! I was afraid the trail would be too short and tame, but it’s just right.
I could have spent the entire day exploring and ended up pushing the limits of remaining daylight. A van full of college kids offered me a ride while I was walking along the creek after my hike. It was nice of them to offer, but I said “no thanks” since the Jeep wasn’t far away. College kids who hike and camp tend to be pretty good folks.
Rush was a mining community that began in the 1880s and thrived in the 1920s when zinc was in high demand during World War I. Rush declined along with the demand for zinc and was finally abandoned in the late 1960s. According to Neil Compton, “by 1969 Rush was bereft of inhabitants except for Gus Setzer and Fred Dirst, an old miner who conducted tours into the mines for wandering visitors…”
Rush eventually came under the ownership of an industrialist who planned to make a tourist trap of the place, but he sold it to the National Park Service. I hate to think of what this place might have been if a developer had gotten hold of it.
Today, interpretive signs are placed along a short trail that loops through the center of Rush. A longer trail follows the mining level up above downtown. If you have several hours to spend, you can hike the 1.7 mile long mine route to the National Park boundary as an out-and-back.
A prominent structure is the blacksmith shop, an essential business for a mining community. This is the “new” shop built in the 1920s during the height of the commercial activity in Rush. Ore was transported down Ore Wagon Road to the White River and loaded onto barges. When trucks became dependable enough to transport zinc and replaced wagons, the blacksmith shut down his business and went back to farming.
This ore smelter is the oldest structure in Rush, built in 1886 by the claim-holders of the Morning Star Mine. They hoped the smelter would reveal silver in the ore. No silver was to be found.
This cart was next to the trail. I was impressed with its heavy construction and how it had stood up to the elements.
This large machine was next to the trail at the Clabber Creek end on Ore Wagon Road. I’m not sure what it was used for, but I was impressed with the large wheels and chain sprockets.
You’ll pass many mine entrances as you hike the trail. The grills keep visitors out of dangerous mines, but allow bats to come and go freely.
Finding “Boiling Springs” was a treat. The water was clear and cold. A grist mill was once located close by in Rush Creek.
What follows are several historic structures along the road in Rush. Many of these houses were built around 1890. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into the historic town of Rush. If you’ve been there before, maybe my pictures will bring back good memories. If you’ve not visited, I hope I’ve inspired you to grab your hiking shoes and explore it for yourself soon. It’s a special place!
I was running low on light at the end of the day, but had to stop and photograph these daffodils that caught my eye. The inhabitants who planted these bulbs many years ago would be surprised to learn that their landscaping would be appreciated by a weary hiker on an early spring evening in 2015.
Serenity – The state of being calm, at peace, and untroubled. This morning I paused at this pool below the Natural Bridge and Cascade on the Lost Valley Trail. This water flows to the Buffalo National River a short distance away. Serenity best describes what I felt while taking in this scene.
A few minutes later I sat in the darkness of a cave above Eden Falls and light-painted this scene with my flashlight during a 15-second exposure. The water at my feet flowed down Eden Falls, eventually blending with water flowing from under the Natural Bridge, where I sat earlier. Inside this cave, I felt like a small piece of the world, observing in peace and serenity.to crawl more often.
The next morning I realized it took a difference set of muscles to crawl into position for this photo. Just a little sore, but well worth it.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Serenity.”
Heat, cold, rain, fog, and sometimes sunny skies: Arkansas dished up its typical buffet of weather for our four-day hike on the Buffalo River Trail.
We were originally scheduled to be a group of five hikers, but between chest colds, recent knee surgeries, family plans, and concerns about the weather, our numbers declined to two. When I planned the trip, I’d decided that I would gladly do this one solo if necessary so it was a go no matter what. Bob, who’d hiked this area extensively, and I were anxious to hit the trail.
We used the Buffalo Outdoor Center shuttle service in Ponca, which gets you out on the trail quicker. They would drive my Jeep to the Pruitt Trailhead (Hwy 7) prior to our arrival at the end of our four days. We piled into Bob’s vehicle for the short drive to the Boxley Trailhead (Hwy 21).
I was excited about doing the whole 37-mile Buffalo River Trail in one outing, having only done sections in the past. The plan was to camp three nights avoiding the river campgrounds.
Day 1 (March 16)
We got started around 9:30 a.m. with weather that was sunny and cool. As the day progressed, it warmed up and presented some challenges since this was our first warm weather hiking of the season. We passed a small spring that was just beautiful. It was one of those rare spots where you would feel confident to dip your cup into the cool water and take a swig without worrying about dangerous microorganisms. Better to be safe than sorry and the filter doesn’t add anything to the water.
Later, we passed Pearly Springs which was another special place to explore. Pictures were difficult due to the bright sun but the view from the top of the Pearly Springs Waterfall was a treat. A smokehouse and storage building were located close to the spring. According to Ken Smith’s Buffalo River Handbook, Pearl Vilines lived up the hill from the spring in the early 1900s and could drop a bucked into the spring from her front porch.
We camped on a ridge close to Big Hollow. A small creek drainage had some nice cool water. I dropped my melted Snickers bar into the creek so it would be ready for desert.
Supper was boiled potatoes followed by pasta and sauce that I’d dehydrated, but not used, for a trip in December. Tasted great even after three months of storage.
Enjoyed some reading as the sun slowly descended, revealing a bright moon and stars. This was a no-rain-fly night for sure. As I woke the next morning I felt a light mist of icy crystals. A fog had enveloped the ridge. I hopped up and prepared my first cup of coffee. A freshly ground cup never tasted as good as that Taster’s Choice instant made with water from an Ozark stream! After oatmeal and another cup of coffee, we were back on the trail.
We found that Indian Creek and Bear Creek were both dry. I thought they would have water with recent rains but the thirsty ground must have soaked it up. We made a detour to Kyles Landing to get water from the campground or river. The water was on so we filled up and hiked past Bear Creek, climbing to a nice ridge where we camped. This was a good workout at the end of a long day because we each carried 5-7 extra pounds of water at this point.
Supper was boiled potatoes followed by broccoli-cheese soup. Bob said my trail name should be Tater since I always throw a few red or gold potatoes into the pack. Several worse trail names come to mind so Tater it is. Those potatoes are easy to pack, prepare, and they taste great at the end of a long day’s hike.
It was a cool and foggy evening so we turned in around 6:00 p.m. After a little reading I dozed off, waking briefly at 10:30 p.m. I then continued with a good night’s sleep until 7:00 the next morning. When have I ever slept for twelve hours? Coffee that morning was not the best due to the park service treated water. I was looking forward to better coffee the next morning when we were once again treating our own stream water without the chorine taste.
Walking along the ridges watching occasional canoes pass, we contemplated how different this area might have been if not for Neil Compton and many other advocates for the Buffalo National River. It might well have been just another lake among many in Arkansas.
The trail passes the oldest known structure along the Buffalo River. Built by Alvin and Greenberry Parker between 1847 and 1849, the structure is now known as the Parker-Hickman cabin because it was occupied by the Hickman family from 1912 to 1978.
Newspapers and magazines were used to cover the inner walls and some print can still be read. Mud and wood pieces were used to fill between some of the large timbers. The cabin was skillfully built with precisely cut half-dovetailed log corner joints (Buffalo River Handbook by Ken Smith).
We camped a couple of miles past Cedar Grove Picnic Area next to a little oxbow off of the river. Nice water and a small flat spot for tents. Several horse riders passed by that evening heading toward the Ozark Campground a couple of miles away. The sounds of owls hooting, coyotes howling, deer feeding, and turkeys gobbling filled the night but did not disturb sleep.
We had frost on the rainflies and some ice in water bottles when we woke the next morning. It was to be a cool and sunny hike out. A highlight on that last day was the spring-fed pond between Ozark CG and Pruitt TH. I remembered the pond from a few years ago but did not remember how beautiful the spring was. There were dark green watercress growing close by. We found ourselves wondering about the people who built the small pond just below this spring and what their lives might have been like.
On the last mile of the trail while noticing wildflowers beginning to peek out from under the leaves, I found myself thinking about the next season I would target for a Buffalo River hike. I’ve only seen a fraction of its beauty.
The perfect ending for our four-day trek was a meal at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper. The food is good and they’re used to serving grungy hikers and floaters coming out of the Buffalo River area.