Writing Through The Ozarks

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A wet Hiker-dog waits patiently as I photograph a waterfall in Missouri’s Hercules Wilderness

In November of 2012, I began this blog as an online scrapbook to record my adventures on the trails. I hoped it would help solidify memories of good times and lessons learned. It has more than fulfilled this wish. Sometimes I skim back through posts to relive the joy of previous trips and get inspired to explore some more.

An added benefit of writing is that others have chosen to virtually travel with me on the trails. Some have been inspired to hike as a result of this blog, and that gives me great satisfaction! This site is now approaching 150,000 hits and has more than 1,600 subscribed followers.

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A couple of months before beginning my blog, I wrote my first article for @Urban Magazine, now Do South Magazine. That portion of my writing journey is in a post entitled “When in Doubt, Write.”


In October of 2014, my blog opened another door. I received an email from Tim W. Jackson, an acquisition editor with AdventureKEEN/Menasha Ridge Publishing. He said they were looking at adding an Ozarks guidebook to their Five Stars series and asked if I was interested in authoring the book. I quickly did a Google and Twitter search and confirmed that Tim was a real person. I then realized I owned several Menasha Ridge publications. Tim began to answer my questions and thus began our long-distance work on a guidebook that would consume every extra moment of my time for the next two years.

At first, writing this book felt daunting. My mother says, “When in doubt, take a step” so I began. There was research, hiking, recording GPS tracks, writing, and photography, then the cycle continued, building in ever-expanding layers. There was also lots of driving with Hiker-dog in her crate. She loved exploring the new trails and revisiting the familiar ones.

Even at its most difficult stages, I found great joy in this work. The team at Menasha Ridge Press was wonderful and helped make Five Star Trails: The Ozarks an amazing resource for exploring the very best trails in the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri. I take great pride in this book’s accuracy, readability, photographs, maps, and the wonderful routes included.

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After the book’s publication, Marla Cantrell shared some of my story in an article entitled, “When in Doubt.” Marla had been a coach and mentor to me ever since my first published article in Do South Magazine.


I hadn’t anticipated how much fun it would be to share adventures and backpacking skills while promoting Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. Presenting at the Arkansas Literary Festival was a treat as well as various state parks and hiking groups.

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Presenting to a group of 90 at Hobbs State Park

After the Arkansas Literary Festival, I learned that my book was included in the 2017 Arkansas Gems List. It was a thrill to see Hiker-dog’s cover photo on the poster.

Arkansas Gems poster 2017

  • If you love hiking or know someone who does, get Five Star Trails: The Ozarks.
  • If you’ve used Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, write a review on Amazon. I’m proud of that this Five Star Trails guidebook has a five-star rating. screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-58-59-am
  • If you have a group that would enjoy hearing about the Ozarks, John Muir Trail in the High Sierras of California, or Grand Canyon of Arizona, please pass along my contact info. I can be reached at OzarkMountainHiker@gmail.com

It’s been a fun ride with Five Star Trails: The Ozarks and the journey continues. Enjoy your trails! Jim Warnock

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While it’s a pleasure to see The Ozarks on bookstore shelves, the real thrill is seeing it in use! These young hikers shared this photo from one of their Ozarks trips. Thanks Trey!

Watch for the November issue of Do South. It includes my article, “Walking Through Winter,” one of our best seasons in the Ozarks.

Five Star Trails at REI

REI in Dallas 

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.

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

Best of 2017 OzarkMountainHiker

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Here are my top five posts in no particular order based on views for 2017. Following these five are my personal favorites for 2017, posts that were particularly rewarding to write or that reflect on an experience I enjoyed on the trail. 

In 2012 when I first started this blog, I had no idea that it would provide such enjoyment and learning. Thank you for reading and letting me share my love of the trails! Pass OzarkMountainHiker.com along to others who love the outdoors. 

Ouachita Trail’s First 51 at the (Im)Perfect Time

Walking Toward Authenticity: Nimblewill Nomad

Hiker-Dog’s Adoption Trail 

Exploring Arkansas Features the Marinoni Scenic Area

Completing Our Goals in the Ozarks

Personal Favorites 

When in Doubt, Write 

A Special Guest on My Home Trail

New Strings

Evening Walk in the Marinoni

Hiker-Dog’s Resume 

When in doubt, write.

As a child, I thought writing was magic. For real writers, words must flow without effort in finished form, or so I thought.

My senior English teacher was Inez Taylor. She was pretty tough but got me excited about writing. I worked particularly hard on a short story about a newspaper photographer who realized he wanted to make a career change as he photographed a tragic fire scene. Ms. Taylor liked the story, especially my description of the photographer’s boss. This positive experience was memorable but didn’t transfer into continued writing.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m an educator, working with young children. In a workshop by a wonderful teacher named Dee Post, I learned some strategies for leading children in writing. I applied what I learned and ended up creating some fun products with the children in my school. Later, I felt the desire to share my thoughts about learning and began writing short features in our school’s newsletter. Slowly my confidence increased.

Over the years, I grew to love hiking, largely by reading trail guides by Tim Ernst.  My desire to share trails with others led me to write short blogposts about my outdoor adventures. I discovered a beautiful regional publication in Northwest Arkansas called @Urban, now known as Do South Magazine.

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October 2012 issue of @Urban, later to become Do South Magazine

In September of 2012, while working with volunteers to build a trail around Lake Alma, I wanted to share this trail with others. I was reminded of something my mother often said, “When in doubt, take a step.” One morning while browsing the @Urban Magazine (now Do South),I decided to email Marla Cantrell, Managing Editor, and propose an article about the new Lake Alma Trail.

Marla responded by asking if I could share something I’d written. I sent one of my school newsletters that included the story of one of my former students and a book review I’d written for an education publication. Her short response the next day was, “I love your writing.” An award-winning writer like Marla Cantrell making this statement had a strong impact on me. She went on to ask for a 700-word article about the Lake Alma Trail and photos for their October issue. That article was “Lake Alma Trail: A Trail for All Reasons.” IMG_0199rrMarla Cantrell became an important influence in my writing. I told her I should have paid tuition with each article written because of her excellent coaching and encouragement. Writing still didn’t flow like magic, but it was worth the challenge because of the chance that my words might open others to new learning and beauty.

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October 2016 article by Marla Cantrell in Do South Magazine

In October of 2016, I was honored by a Do South article written by Marla about the publication of my first book, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. I’m thankful for my mother’s advice to take action in spite of my doubts. I’m thankful for mentors and encouragers along the way and for readers who’ve shared in my joy of continued learning and discovery.


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An unforeseen pleasure of writing this book has been working with a great group of professionals. A few words of thanks to the following individuals:

Tim Jackson, Acquisitions Editor, for asking me to write a trail guide for the Ozarks, and for guidance during the two years we worked on this book.
Scott McGrew for his beautiful work with mapping and cover design.
Kerry Smith for copy editing and insightful clarifying questions.
Laura Frank, proofreader, for attention to detail.
Holly Cross, Managing Editor, for support and guidance through the writing and publishing process.
Tanya Sylvan, Marketing, for promotional expertise and encouraging me to share on the Menasha Ridge Press Blog.

When in Doubt

Thank you to the award winning author, Marla Cantrell, for sharing my story in the October issue of Do South Magazine.

“When in doubt, take a step.” – Jim Warnock’s mom

Jim Warnock has worn down the soles of hiking shoes until they are as smooth as a pair of loafers. The erosion takes place over months, as he walks across hills, through valleys, beside waterfalls that catch the sun’s rays, throwing diamonds of light across an already breathtaking landscape.

When he thinks about what it means to hike… Continue reading

http://dosouthmagazine.com/when-in-doubt/

Waterfall Cures from Do South Magazine

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Glory Hole Falls, Eric Scowden

I’m proud to be published with friend Eric Scowden in the beautiful Do South Magazine. If you enjoy waterfalls, you’ll like our article that gives detailed information to find nine beauties in our area of Arkansas. The following links take you to the web version of the article.

Digital magazine format with article beginning on p 58:

“Waterfall Cures” Words by Jim Warnock  / Photos by Eric Scowden and Jim Warnock 

Do South Blog format:

“Waterfall Cures” Words by Jim Warnock / Photos by Eric Scowden and Jim Warnock

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Turner Bend Falls on the Pig Trail, Jim Warnock

Exploring the Ozarks

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Rock House

Follow this link to the Do South Magazine to read my article, “Exploring the Ozarks.” I enjoy writing for Do South because it’s a beautiful publication with a diverse readership. Their managing editor is an excellent writer and encouraging to others. My article begins on page 48 (p. 50 of the digital version).

Exploring the Ozarks

Thanks for reading!

Jim Warnock