Ozark Highlands Trail Inside Bella Vista

The title of this post is a little misleading. The Ozark Highlands Trail write-up is inside the magazine, Inside Bella Vista. I’m pleased to have a couple of photos and quotes in Lisa Florey’s article about the OHT. She did a excellent job telling this beautiful trail’s story. Begins on page 18 of the online publication.

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This waterfall on Shepherd Spring Loop Trail is from my book, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks.

I’m looking forward to sharing the first 160 miles of the Ouachita Trail on Sunday, February 11th at 6 p.m. The Ozark Highlands Trail Association meeting is free and open to the public.

Location: Washington County Extension Office at 2536 McConnell Rd. in Fayetteville, Arkansas. To get there from I-540 take Exit 66 south on AR 112 (Garland Ave), turn west at Drake Street stop light to reach McConnell Rd, turn south to WCES near the fair grounds. For gps users: 36.098 latitude 94.180 longitude

Talking Trails at Hobbs State Park

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Sharing the joys of down layering

The next best thing to walking the trails is talking the trails. I had a great time with the Friends of Hobbs State Park on Sunday sharing my thru-hike of the Ozark Highlands Trail and Hiker-dog’s story. A young man from the audience assisted me by unpacking my pack as I described changes that resulted in a lighter load. I let him try my down vest, but he shed it pretty quickly due to its warmth.

After sharing my children’s book intended for second graders, Hiker-dog entered the room at the end. She enjoyed some petting and then curling up on the floor as the program continued.

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Jim Flickinger assisted with Hiker-dog

Just under ninety were in the audience. They were responsive, asking good questions and sharing their enthusiasm. The hour flew by!

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Almost 90 in attendance!

Steve Chyrchel, Hobbs State Park Interpreter, does a great job promoting programs and sets the schedule far in advance. He’s already scheduled me for March 3, 2019!

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Sallyann making announcements

Sallyann Brown, a fly casing instructor, heads up the Friends of Hobbs programs and always makes folks feel comfortable. When I presented the John Muir Trail in September, she made me promise to bring Hiker-dog if I returned.

Hiker-dog enjoyed the attention. I enjoyed signing copies of my book, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, and talking trails with folks after the program.

Below you’ll find the Friends of Hobbs Speaker Series for 2018.

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Hobbs schedule 2

Variations on an Icy Theme

WordPress Photo Challenge: Variations on a Theme

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I captured these images next to the Lake Alma Trail on a recent morning. They’re variations of the same theme from the same scene.

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Endless variations in texture…

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Various perspectives on the same ice…

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Frozen McWater Falls on the Lake Alma Trail

Icy bonus shots: These are not from the same location, but do fit with variations on the theme. Frost Flowers on the Ouachita (Wash’-i-taw) Trail a few weeks ago.

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The Lake Alma Trail and 42 more of the best trails in the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri can be found in my book, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks.

The Urge For Going

“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Do them now.”  ~Paulo Coelho

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John Muir Trail

Yesterday a friend sent me a couple of links for the Rae Lakes Loop in the High Sierras of California. In a short conversation two weeks earlier we’d hatched the idea of hiking this area again. The thought lingered in both of our minds.

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John Muir Trail

As I remembered our John Muir Trail experiences, I felt deep thankfulness for that nagging, troubling, and sometimes inspiring “urge for going.” I also felt thankful that I can go, and admonished by the reminder that I have no guarantees of time and strength in my future. All is a gift. Let the planning begin!


I’m looking forward to sharing the Ozark Highlands Trail thru-hike on Sunday, January 21, at 2 p.m. Hobbs State Park’s Visitor Center is a beautiful venue. Hiker-dog will be there, too! Five Star Trails Poster 012118 Hobbs State Park

My Sometimes “Cheeky” Hiker-Dog

WordPress Photo Challenge: CheekyIMG_5175rrHiker-dog gave me this scoffing look on a rainy day in the Hercules Wilderness Area in Missouri. She gave me this same look moments earlier after I fell on a muddy trail.

On a sunnier day and trail closer to home, Hiker-dog looked back as if to say, “Are you coming or not?” This is a “cheeky” look I often get when she pauses to see if I’m still progressing down the trail. IMG_2542 Hiker’s curiosity is entertaining. img_8381rrBelow is a little resume I share at slideshows. I offer it here if you’d like to know a little of her story.

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Gathering in the Ouachitas

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Josh Hamilton makes fire from a bow drill

Each October, backpackers and hikers gather in the Ouachita Mountains to share outdoor skills, backpacking tips and reports from the trails.   The event, known as The Gathering, includes food, fellowship, and beautiful surroundings.

IMG_3391rrThis year I was honored to share Five Star Trails: The Ozarks and a report of the John Muir Trail from last summer’s trip. I like starting with the JMT to make the point that there’s no visual letdown when the mountains of Arkansas follow in the program.

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One of the views on the walk from the campground to the pavilion

Shady Lake is an ideal location in the Ouachitas. It’s a little out of the way which adds to the beauty and limits crowds in the campground. It has a homey feel, plenty of beauty, and great hiking trails.

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Sean Dupre demonstrates water purification techniques

Backpacking Arkansas (also known as BPA) is a true grassroots story. Tomas Trigg started a forum for backpackers and hikers several years ago. It gained many followers and eventually led to a desire for the online community to meet in person, hence The Gathering.

For seven years, this loosely connected community has “gathered” somewhere in the Ouachitas. Sean Dupre took the rains when Tomas relocated and wasn’t able to continue coordinating the event. Commitment to the group is reflected in the fact that that Tomas continues to maintain the website and pay for its domain. Backpacking Arkansas has now added a Facebook page so be sure to follow.

Sean did a great job coordinating The Gathering for two years, despite living in Texas. This coming year, the job goes to Mark Davis, and The Gathering tradition, seven years strong, continues.

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Hiker-dog enjoyed exploring the creek that feeds Shady Lake.

Join us next year on October 19-21, 2018. You’ll enjoy the fellowship, sharing of skills, and learning about new trails in the Ouachitas and Ozarks!

No Nonsense Guide to Day Hiking – Do I Go or Do I Stay?

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Darian, Delaney, and Trey enjoying a fall day on an Ozarks trail.

What do I wear? What do I take with me? Where and when should I go? Will a bear get me?

Many questions come to mind when you consider going on a hike, especially if it’s your first. Thinking about a few good questions can ensure that you want to continue hiking after your early experiences in the woods.

This is not a comprehensive day hiking guide, but my thoughts come from personal experience and a few mistakes along the way. If you want more information about hiking and trails, pick up a hiking guide for your area.

What do I wear?

You can wear almost anything and get away with it on the trail. Let function, not fashion, be your guide.  We’ll look at this from the ground up since happy feet are essential for success.

  1. Wool blend socks are among a hiker’s most important pieces of clothing. Use wool blend socks and avoid cotton unless you like blisters and soggy, smelly feet. Any tennis shoes of reasonable strength are fine for day hiking.
  2. Clothing – If the weather is nice, any clothes will do. If there’s a chance it might be cold and/or wet, avoid cotton. Cotton gets wet (making you colder) and then will not dry out in the humid Ozarks. For added insurance against the elements, put warm gloves and a hat in a rain jacket pocket and stuff it in the bottom of your daypack.

What do I take with me?

As little as possible is my short answer, but there are ten essentials you’ll want to have with you on every outing.

  1. Water and access to water – Put your water in a bottle or a bladder in your pack. Rather than purchase a bottle, you can recycle any plastic water bottle. I carry a small Sawyer water filter in my daypack in case I run low. It doesn’t add much weight and has made me a few friends on the trail when others needed water.
  2. Food – Snacks that you’re used to eating are what you should take on the trail. This is no time to try something new in the food department.
  3. Extra clothing – Think protection from the elements. If it looks like cold, rainy weather, carry an extra layer and be sure that rain jacket is stuffed in the bottom of your pack.
  4. Navigation – Don’t assume that you can’t get lost on a well-used trail. Like Jeremiah Johnson, “I’ve never been lost, just confused for a month or so.” Fortunately, I’ve only been confused an hour or so, but it can be a little scary if you’re not prepared. A photocopy of the appropriate pages from a trail guide in a zip-lock bag is always a good idea, and a compass can help you avoid confusion. Don’t count on the compass app or GPS on your phone. Batteries don’t last.
  5. Illumination – A small headlamp or flashlight in your pack can be a big help if a hike takes longer than anticipated. I carry a small LED light in my daypack at all times.
  6. Sun and bug protection – A little sunscreen can make you a happy and healthy hiker. Bug spray around the cuffs of your pants will discourage ticks and other crawling insects. Check for ticks often, even in cooler weather. I can usually feel the little guys climbing up my legs and pick them off before they attach.
  7. First Aid supplies – I like a zip-lock with some bandaids and any medicines I might need if stranded for a while. Keep it simple and light then forget about it until you need it.
  8. Fire – I always carry a lighter just in case.
  9. Emergency shelter – Cut an 8-10-inch hole close to the bottom of a large trash bag then stuff it in the bottom of your pack and forget about it. If you need shelter, sit on top of your daypack with the bag over you like a small tent. The opening allows you to see and breath but protects from the elements. It’s like having cheap insurance policy on your trip.
  10. Most ten essentials lists include repair kit, but for day hiking a small pocketknife is sufficient. One of my hiking poles has some duct tape wrapped around it for emergencies. I’ve used this twice to reattach shoe soles for other hikers.

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Where should I go?

Fortunately for those in the River Valley and Ozarks, the answer is, “Hike anywhere your feet will take you.” We live in one of the best locations in the country for hiking, especially through the fall and winter.

Begin with 1-2 trail miles. I say trail miles because hiking on most trails is more demanding than walking a paved path.  I learned this lesson many years ago on the Seven Hollows Trail at Petit Jean State Park. I was sure we could do four miles in just over an hour since that was our pace on pavement. Two hours later as it was getting dark, my wife and I finished our exhausting hike. Even as an experienced hiker, I always allow about one hour for every two miles of hiking distance.

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Copperhead in the Marinoni Scenic Area

What about the bears and snakes?

Bear sightings are rare because our sounds and smells alert bears to our presence. I’ve only seen two bears in Arkansas, and both were at a distance. They avoid humans when possible.

Many fear snakes, but they also avoid people. Just don’t step on or antagonize a snake and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Deer season coincides with some of the best times of year to hike. I tie a hunter-orange bandanna to my daypack year round and avoid impersonating a deer while in the woods. I’ve never had a problem.

Creek crossings are a real danger in the woods. If you have any doubts about crossing safely, turn around and go back the way you came or go upstream looking for wide areas in the creek bed.

Always tell a friend or family member your itinerary, even if it’s a short day hike. Do this whether hiking alone or with a group.

Do I go or do I stay?

Hiking has enriched my life, enhanced my health, and connected me with some great folks. It’s a great big beautiful world out there. Get out and enjoy!

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Jim Warnock authored Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, a trail guidebook that covers the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri. He has thru-hiked the 180-mile Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas as well as the 210-mile John Muir Trail in California. The Ouachita Trail is next on his list. Follow his adventures at OzarkMountainHiker.com.

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Five Star Trails: The Ozarks is in bookstores and available online.

Novice hiker prescription for healthy and happy hiking: Hike the Lake Alma Trail from the picnic area to the waterfall and back (2-mile round trip). Next outing, hike to the Hexagon House and back (3-mile round trip). Gradually work up to hiking the entire 4.2-mile loop. Many trails lend themselves to this approach for increasing distance and endurance.

A map for the Lake Alma Trail is on page 2 of this link:  CAS900 Alma Park

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Sharing the Trails

Five Star Trails Poster 092917 Springfield Nat CenterDuring a phone visit with Kyle Kellams of KUAF, I mentioned how hiking and writing about trails go together for me. I couldn’t imagine doing one without the other. He said, “So, in addition to being a thru-hiker, you’re a ‘thru-writer.'” I thought, what a cool trail name that would be!

An extension to writing about trails is speaking about them. Writing Five Star Trails: The Ozarks has opened many opportunities to share. 

Last weekend, I presented to a group of 68 folks at Hobbs State Park, close to Beaver Lake in Rogers, Arkansas. The group was diverse and included several trail runners, a few experienced thru-hikers, many day hikers, and a 99-year old who’d hiked many miles. She asked a good question about water availability on the John Muir Trail.

This coming Friday at 7 p.m., I’ll be sharing at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center. I catch myself wondering what questions they will have. Here are a few often asked.

  1. Have you seen a bear? Two in Arkansas, both moving away from me. Several out west.
  2. How heavy is your pack? Depends on the season. Getting lighter the older I get…
  3. Do you worry about snakes? I like seeing snakes but avoid stepping on or irritating them.
  4. How’s Hiker-dog? I enjoy giving updates on Hike-dog’s adventures.
  5. How do you do “number 2” out there? I added this question because it’s the one I used to want to ask of distance hikers, but never would. If I’m asked in a group setting, I’ll dodge the specifics by saying it depends on the type of environment and rules for the trail you’re hiking. A whole book has been written on this subject.

Looking forward to questions and conversations with other souls who love hiking and the outdoors! If you need a presenter for a group, I’ll jump at the chance to share. All I need is a darkened room for viewing photos and a power outlet. Contact me through the Feedback tab at the top of the page.

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Sharing with 68 folks at Hobbs State Park – “Pack this, not that: a few lessons from the JMT.”

Here’s a pdf of the flier if you’d like to print or forward and share for this Friday’s session.  Five Star Trails Poster 092917 Springfield Nat Center 

Ozarks at Large Radio Interview

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I never thought to put “radio interview” on my bucket list, but now I can add it and check it off. Kyle Kellams with KUAF did a good job of making me feel at ease. It was fun to share a few thoughts about the challenges and joys of thru-hiking.

Here’s a link to the 10-minute interview that aired today: Ozarks at Large KUAF

High Sierras and The Ozarks at Hobbs State Park on Sunday, Sept. 24

I’m looking forward to presenting the John Muir Trail and my book, The Ozarks, at Hobbs State Park! Please share with all who love the outdoors. A pdf is below the photo in case you’d like to print a flier. Five Star Trails Poster 092417 Hobbs State Park

Here’s a link to the Hobbs State Park description of the program. I’m honored to share in such a beautiful location!

Long Distance Hiking: Taking a Break or Getting Broken

Here’s a pdf of the flier if you’d like to print and share. Five Star Trails Poster 092417 Hobbs State Park