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.

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Sure footed Hiker-dog

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

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Chris and Hiker-dog above a waterfall

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Steve enjoying the view before the hike out.

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!

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

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

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

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

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Old homesite footings

We saw some tall trees during our walk.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

When in Doubt, Go! Walking the Marinoni Again

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Five-foot (approx.) waterfall in Briar Branch

If you ever feel hesitant to hike a location because you’ve done it many times before, go! My afternoon day hike proved again that a trail is never the same twice. I’ve hiked the Marinoni Scenic Area many times. I’ve written about it in Do South Magazine, shared it on Exploring Arkansas, and in my guidebook, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. Still, this hike was special because of water flow, winter views, and an unexpected tour guide.

As we drove, I saw cars at other trailheads but didn’t see another human on our trail. This was one of several hikes planned this weekend to compensate for my decision not to do a longer multi-night trip out of regard for my knee.

Treat Your Own Knee Robin McKenzieWhenever something hurts, I check with a trainer friend. She gives me good advice. To avoid future problems, I bought a book. Treat Your Own Knees, by Robin McKenzie. It has sequential stretches and exercises based on types of pain and loss of mobility. After experiencing a lack of motion in my right knee in the past, I feel like every stretch break is celebration time.

My occasional knee stretches seemed to confuse Hiker-dog. She’d run up and bark if I didn’t finish up pretty quickly and get back on the trail.

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Stretching time

When we got out of the truck at the Indian Creek Canoe Landing parking lot, Hiker-dog spotted another dog up above on the highway. I leashed Hiker, and we started toward the road. The black and white dog led the way through the opening in the fence and headed down the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail with confidence that startled me.

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Lucy and Hiker-dog getting aquainted

IMG_1172rrShe had a bright hunter orange collar and was easy to approach. On one side of the tag, it said Lucy, the Adventure Dog, much loved, and there was a phone number. On the other side was the message to leave her at Indian Creek on the Mulberry River.

Lucy had a low key personality and seemed to enjoy our company. She and Hiker-dog got along just fine and occasionally took turns coming back to check on me or walk with me, one in front and one behind.

The trail was beautifully moist from recent rains. Small streams all held water, perfect for dogs. I found myself wishing I’d packed less water and just filled up as I walked.

When we passed a long-abandoned road crossing, I turned to the southeast and headed toward Briar Branch. I wanted to see Briar Branch Falls since the creek was flowing strong. The sketchy old roadbed had mature trees in the middle so it had been many years since it was used, probably to access timber and/or water. I headed upstream on the creek, stepping carefully on this unplanned bushwhack.

IMG_1107rrA large boulder reminded me of the even larger boulders you’ll see upstream in the bluff-filled scenic area. My wish was granted when I saw the water flow after traveling a few hundred yards.

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Briar Branch Falls

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Briar Branch Falls from downstream

After spending a few minutes with the waterfall, including a couple of photos that included dog legs, I started to move back uphill toward the trail.

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One of two campsites next to Briar Branch

We passed the campsites and approached Briar Branch crossing, usually containing water but almost always an easy crossing to rock-hop. I always pause here and enjoy the view up the hollow, especially nice in the late afternoon sunlight.

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We passed through the high bluff sections and came to a favorite waterfall. Here’s the view from above as you pass over on the trail. It’s an easy scramble down to the waterfall for a look from below. A smaller waterfall up above the trail takes on various ribbon shapes, depending on the flow.

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view from below

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upper falls

A small colorful cave is close to the Marinoni Scenic Area sign.

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I love seeing the massive bluff-lined hollow in different seasons and light. Today’s walk as the sun moved lower and temperatures dropped was a real treat.

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It’s difficult to do the scene justice with a camera, but seeing the evening sun reflecting on a distant Mulberry River was beautiful through the trees.

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I paused for a photo at what I like to call “lunch break bluff” because volunteers enjoyed food and fellowship seated along this bluff back in 2012 when the spur was built and named for Dawna Robinson, a wonderful volunteer who’d passed away during the provious year.

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“lunch break bluff”

We bid farewell to our trail guide, Lucy the Adventure Dog, and then crossed Hwy 215 to load the truck, still not having seen another human. I felt the urge to feed Lucy but decided against it, knowing I wouldn’t want a stranger feeding Hiker-dog anything other than the food she’s used to.

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Hiker-dog admiring the Marinoni Waterfall

The Marinoni gave much more than I expected on this beautiful day. Waterfalls, winter vistas in late afternoon sun, and our very own tour guide named Lucy. I was thankful I had decided to do the Marinoni again, a trail that always gives something special to those who walk it.

Celebrating Recovery at Lynn Hollow

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Lynn Hollow Creek

I haven’t posted in several weeks. I’ve been learning about my knees, important joints to all of us who like to walk. While rehabilitating my right knee with exercises, stretches, and my rowing machine, I watched hiking documentaries for inspiration. During this last week, my range of motion increased with less pain, so I decided to try it on a trail.

My first thought was a backpacking trip. I even loaded my pack but knew a few careful dayhikes might be more prudent and avoid further injury.

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Saturday morning at Wolf Pen

Late Friday night, Hiker-dog and I arrived at Wolf Pen Recreation Area on the Mulberry River. The whole place was ours on this cold night with drizzling rain. From the looks of it, the place probably gets heavy use when the river and weather are right for floating. I liked this location because it would put me driving past Oark General Store on the way to Arbaugh Trailhead the next morning.

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Good food and always a treat to visit with locals

One of the best ways to avoid injury is to slow down. A slower pace was my goal on this hike. I found that this approach was a good outlook in other areas, too. I didn’t rush getting up and actually slept in an extra hour. When I arrived at Oark a half-hour before they opened, I relaxed and enjoyed some reading.

It was 9 a.m. by the time I arrived at Arbaugh Trailhead, where we would walk the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) west to the other side of Lynn Hollow. Temperatures hovered just above freezing.

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Small stream that flows into Lynn Creek

I was filled with thanksgiving as I began my careful hike, remembering why I love walking in the woods so much. The constant movement through changing scenery, the air, the sounds! I think Hiker-dog was feeling some thankfulness herself. My knee problem has limited her runs to the Lake Alma Dam in the last few weeks.

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Wearing her hunter orange bandana

Going downhill on leaf-covered rocks was tricky on this wet morning. I took my time and avoided odd angles or sudden movements for my knee’s maiden voyage. Level trail and uphill felt good!

Hiker-dog made lots of return runs as if she noticed my slower pace. She’s pretty stealthy, able to run through the woods, then return without my noticing her at my heels.

I’d planned to stay on the trail, but seeing a cascade in the distance at the Lynn Creek crossing drew me on a careful bushwhack upstream for a look.

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Lynn Hollow Creek

After climbing the OHT on the other side of Lynn Hollow, we enjoyed a pleasant walk with views down into the hollow and the distant hum of the creek. Our wildlife sightings included five turkeys and two deer.

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Looking down into Lynn Hollow

I reached a road crossing and checked my map to see how far we were from several waterfalls that would be fun to see since creeks were running. I decided to stick with the 5-mile out-and-back for today, so we turned around at the road with a little regret. Sometimes we need to practice cutting demands on our body rather always trying to “ramp it up.”

On the return trip, we took the spur trail to a beautiful pool and cascade. This is a special spot, one that made me consider adding Arbaugh to Lynn Hollow in my trail guidebook , but it didn’t make the cut because I was wanting something a little longer in the area. Still, it’s a great little dayhike and well worth the drive.

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Pool at Lynn Hollow

Once at the pool, we crawled under a rock ledge and took a few photos of the incoming cascade. Great little spot for a break!

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Pool from under a rock overhang

The walk back to Arbaugh Trailhead was pure enjoyment, now warm from the walking and with sunshine beaming down. It was 12:15 when we arrived back at the truck and I had lunch on my mind.

It was just a few miles out of my way, but I’d not visited Catalpa Cafe for several months. It’s located where the pavement ends 3-miles east of Oark.

IMG_9761rrRandy, owner, and sole employee, prides himself on gourmet cooking. I had the Catalpa Burger (with homemade buns), crispy onion rings, and a piece of key lime pie for later. The place was busy, but I wasn’t in a hurry, still holding onto my slow-paced mindset. I took Hiker-dog for a walk to a nearby creek crossing while waiting on the burger.

After filling up on great food, we headed home, thankful for joints that work, and a good day on the trail to celebrate recovery.

Hiker-dog, trail volunteer and nighttime guide

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On November 9, there will be trail run across my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT), and it had been a while since I walked it. Because of schedules, I had to check it during the evening. I didn’t realize that I’d be adding to my list of positive Hiker-dog attributes – more on that in a moment.

Water was flowing from recent rains, and colors were beginning to change. Temperatures began in the lower 40s and dipped into the upper 30s by the time I finished. Woohoo! It finally feels like fall!

Stihl handsawI stopped and used my small handsaw on a few limbs and trees across the trail. Love that little saw and am amazed at what it will cut. My task on this evening was to look for trees that might need to be cut out by an expert sawyer, so I stopped to set GPS waypoints and make quick notes where future cuts might be required.

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I had to pause at creek crossings for a photo but only spent a few seconds at each. My adopted section runs along the ridge on the north side of  Jack Creek. It crosses several seasonal streams that flow into Jack Creek, and each one is worthy of a lunch break when water is flowing.

By the time we reached the camp spot about 4 miles from Dochery Gap, Jack Creek was powerful, having picked up steam from all those little streams I’d been crossing.

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Jack Creek

After giving Hiker-dog a snack, we headed back toward the truck, four miles away. I stuck my headlamp in my top pocket for later.

IMG_8802rrHiker-dog provided lots of entertainment on the dark portion of our hike. Two reflective eyes kept popping up out ahead of me as she turned to be sure I was following. These eyes helped me stay on the trail a couple of times, especially when I crossed a creek and then wasn’t sure which way the path went afterward. Sure enough, eyes could be seen staring at me as if wondering what I was waiting for. I took note that any future hikes after dark should include Hiker-dog and she added to her list of positive attributes as a trail partner.

If you love the OHT, consider volunteering or adopting a section to do light maintenance and monitor. It’s a great way to contribute to keeping the trail open, and it’s fun! Visit Ozark Highlands Trail Association website under “Maintenance” to learn more.

If you’d like to meet some nice folks, join us for the Hare Mountain Hike-in, a fall tradition that dates back to the 1980s.


HARE MOUNTAIN! NOVEMBER 2-3, 2019 “CELEBRATE THE OHT”. Hike in anytime Saturday from Morgan Field (shorter, but steeper) or from Cherry Bend TH. It’s pot luck, so bring something to share with your fellow hikers. Bring your kids or grandkids. Enjoy the campfire and camp for the night. Or hike back down Saturday after eating. Most people camp and hike out Sunday. Bring water. For more information call Bob or Dana 479-595-5461 or 479-263-7479. DON’T MISS THIS TRADITIONAL HIKE-IN CAMPOUT ON THE TRAIL’S HIGHEST POINT!

 

 

Trail Maintenance Cure

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Todd found a nice spot for a break.

I was feeling under the weather but still wanted to take part in a trail maintenance base camp sponsored by the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. I was tempted to cancel but knew my body needed to be outside. What I didn’t realize was that the combination of trail work, fellowship with some good folks, and sleeping in the night air of the Ozarks would be the cure I needed. By the end of the trip, I was feeling much better.

We worked on the Buffalo River Trail section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. I last hiked this section of trail in January of 2014, so it was a treat to see again and brought back memories of the starving black dog that followed us for 42 miles before arriving at Tyler Bend. As I walked this section in 2014, I avoided becoming attached to that dog because I doubted that she would survive. She did survive and became a great trail friend and training partner.

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Hiker-dog on the Ozark Highlands Trail

To read Hiker-dog’s story: Walk, Eat, Sleep, Repeat – Hiking the OHT and A New Trail Partner

Morgan Mountain Quick Trip: Beauty and a Leave No Trace Reminder

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Beginning

Hiker-dog and I needed a camping trip, something quick and close. We drove 40 miles and parked at Morgan Fields Trailhead as the sun was dropping low on Friday evening. We hiked the Ozark Highlands Trail west up Hare Mountain. After pausing at the campsite on top of the mountain, we started back down the mountain with memories of the many friends who’ve gathered around that fire ring each October over the years. 

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The view at mile 1 up Hare Mountain

Since the trail was dry, I gave Hiker-dog some water in my palm, and she licked it dry. It was easier going downhill and cooler, too. I knew to expect some downed trees and noted locations so the Ozark Highlands Trail Association chainsaw pros can cut them out before the October Hare Mountain Hike-In. A lot of maintenance happens in September in preparation for backpacker traffic through the fall, winter, and spring. If you hike in the summer, what we consider the off-season, expect more vegetation and a few downed trees. 

Lightening bugs sparkled and danced through the air. Hiker-dog got excited when she saw a trail sign in the distance. Before I got to the road, she was down the trail wanting to keep going. I said, “This way,” and she returned to the road. 

On the short road walk back to the truck, I turned off my headlamp thinking I’d walk in the dark. There wasn’t a moon yet, and after a few moments of pitch-black walking, I realize the light was necessary. When we arrived back at the truck, I looked up at a light-pollution-free star-filled sky.

After I popped up the camper top, Hiker-dog surprised me by jumping in. She curled up on the floor and sent me a side glance that said, “I’ll just sleep here for the night.” She was easy to coax into her crate at the door and was silent for the night as usual.

After checking for ticks, and finding a few still crawling, I began to think about the next day’s schedule. It was pretty simple. Rise early, do an out-and-back east to Herrods Creek, then get a turkey sandwich at Turner Bend Store.  

Night temperatures dipped into the mid-sixties. The 12-volt roof fan pulled cool air across the sleeping mats, so I slept well and even turned the fan off around midnight.

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Hiker-dog’s crate made a nice camp table.

We woke early and, after coffee and tasty breakfast, hit the trail by 6:00.

Anyone who’s hiked during the summer knows the pleasure that spiderwebs add to the experience. Several years ago, I started adopting a more zen-like view of spiderwebs and letting them wrap across my face with less frustration. I had plenty of “zen-like” practice on this hike. 

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Cool morning temperatures made for nice walking. Morning light adds beauty to the most ordinary scenes. 

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Rotting log in the morning light

I found myself noticing small things. A snail shell next to the trail caught my eye. Love the beautiful patterns of nature!

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For at least a mile, ox-eyes (false sunflower) were constant companions along the trail.

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I inspected these guys a little more closely to appreciate their beauty from all sides.

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Pretty from all sides!

The ox-eye and ironweed attracted butterflies. I enjoyed watching this one for a few seconds.

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After about three miles, we reached Harrods Creek, a dry crossing right now. Water pockets were up stream, and Hiker-dog found a good spot for a satisfying drink.

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Trail crossing at Harrods Creek

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On our way back to Morgan Fields Trailhead, I planned to pick up some trash we passed going in. I had a small plastic shopping bag, but wished for a bigger bag when I realized how much was there.

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From the looks of it, poor planning was the culprit. There was a lot of unnecessary packaging. The markings on a can of insect spray made me wonder if a bear had bitten into it. Hole patterns were similar on both sides.

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These weren’t Leave No Trace (LNT) folks! I think of the seven LNT principles as a pass/fail assessment. If you don’t follow just one principle, damage is done. What we saw here represented at least two principles:
#1 Plan Ahead and Prepare – NO
#3 Dispose of Waste Properly – NO

It’s sad to see trash left on the trail, but it feels good to leave the trail better than you find it. Hiker-dog seemed pleased with the clean spot we left behind. 

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I regret to report that we violated the fourth LNT principle (leave what you find) because we carried a few ticks out of the woods. Maybe we can be forgiven since they hitched a ride with us against our will.

Beating the Heat in the Ozarks

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We needed an overnighter, and I wanted to give my Four Wheel Camper Raven Shell a trial run, so Hiker-dog and I headed to White Rock Mountain, the highest location close to home at 2,260 feet. I was encouraged to see the temperature reading on my dashboard go down from 90 to 82 during our drive up.

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When we arrived, we selected a site with the help of Jeff, one of the caretakers. He knew level would work best with the pop-up truck camper and was spot-on with site number 2.

IMG_5465rrAfter a quick camp set up, it was time to walk the loop trail as the sun went lower in the sky. We began by walking the eastern side, enjoying the shade and remembering earlier hikes when we first saw the stone well…or spring. Water was flowing several feet below.

I kept Hiker-dog on her leash the whole loop, and she handled it well though I noticed her looking longingly at movement she would have liked to pursue. 

Berries and blooms are benefits from warm weather hiking, but ticks are the downside. I picked some blackberries for snacks and then two ticks before they had time to attach to my legs.

Part of the reason for our hike was to give a new hiking stick some trail provenance before I passed it on to a friend for his years of service to our church. As part of his last sermon, Pastor Bob gave his hiking staff on to our new pastor as a symbol of the confidence he had in the younger pastor’s ability. His kind gesture impressed me, but I thought he needed a new staff, so I contacted Mike Parks, an excellent carver and musician and asked him to do a stick for me. After receiving the new staff, Pastor Bob named it Elijah.

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Elijah’s first hike

It was a treat to sleep in the camper as the evening temperature came down to the upper 60s. The roof fan created a nice draft through the windows, and I realized this was going to be a useful rig in any but the hottest season. Hiker-dog slept in her crate next to the back of the truck and didn’t make a sound all night (one of her many good qualities). 

I woke to the sound of birdsongs. I realized the sun was coming up and sprang out of the camper and headed to the eastern side of the mountain with Hiker-dog. Breakfast would have to wait. We caught some views of sunrise and walked the trail for our morning exercise.

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IMG_5538rrThe morning light made Hiker-dog glow in the reddish morning sun as we took in the views from a shelter on the east side of the mountain. She was one happy dog, and so was I!

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I love backpacking, but on a trip where pack weight isn’t a concern, eggs and bacon are hard to beat. After breakfast with the morning’s beauty still fresh in our minds, we headed back home, rejuvenated by our quick summer camping trip.

Other favorites for summer hiking:
Mount Magazine, the high point of Arkansas at 2,753 feet.
Go west and get higher! New Mexico is a favorite state because it’s a shorter drive but any of the western states have jewels to explore during the summer. Even valley camping in New Mexico can easily be in the range of 5,000 feet and the dry air cools down quickly after sunset.

Please share your favorite summer backpacking, camping, or hiking locations. I’m always open to more options this time of year.

Friendship

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Early morning photo before beginning our hike in June of 2002.

Hiking trails are great places to build friendships. Seventeen years ago, an acquaintance learned that I liked backpacking and asked if I wanted to join a group on a trip to the Grand Canyon. I quickly said yes, and thus began several friendships that endure to this day.

Stories resulting from each of our trips become the screenplay of friendship that we enjoy retelling around campfires as if describing scenes from favorite movies. Those who were on the hikes might have heard the stories before but they still appreciate the retelling and remembering.

Below are just a few examples from previous trips with friends.

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Lonnie sleeping in the Grand Canyon’s cold Bright Angel Creek

1 A whole foil-wrapped fried chicken in the Ozarks
2 Fifteen-hours of hard rain at Fane Creek
3 Lightshow at Spirits Creek
4 Cold, wet night at the Rock House
5 The often-repeated freeze-dried meal review… “I’ve had worse sh*t.”
6 Rocky Mountain privy with a view
7 Bright Angel Creek napping

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Marinoni Scenic Area

Last weekend I had the opportunity to do a day hike with two friends from that first Grand Canyon trip. When I learned they hadn’t hiked into the Marinoni Scenic Area, I jumped at the chance to lead them in using the Dawna Robinson Indian Creek Spur Trail.

As we walked and talked, entertained by Hiker-dog’s prancing, I thought of the pure goodness of friendships. Even if we don’t see each other often, friendships are renewed as soon as our feet hit the trail!

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Some trail friends have four legs.

To see more of the Marinoni: Making Time for Marinoni, an article I wrote for Do South Magazine 

Exploring Arkansas special on the Marinoni Scenic Area

Just perfect!

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Hiker-dog and I needed a nice long dayhike. The expected rain began about one hour into our hike. The temperature hovered around 44-degrees. Just perfect!

Dogwoods provided accents across the forest understory. I paused to take a photo of a single bloom, causing Hiker-dog to return and do her head-cocking routine as if to say, “What are you doing and why aren’t you making a better pace?”

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Dogwood on a chilly cloudy morning

In spite of the thick foliage, I was able to see Spy Rock bluff on the next ridge and looked forward to being there soon.

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Spy Rock bluff in the distance

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The trail route is clearly marked and signs give good guidance in spite of the ax damage to the Spy Rock sign on top.

Rain increased a little and temperatures seemed to drop though it was probably the strong winds that made if feel colder. I stopped on the spur to Spy Rock to retrieve my windbreaker and a snack when a trail runner approached in the opposite direction. She seemed happy to see Hiker-dog and flew by. She would be the only person I saw on the trail on this day that many would call a bad weather day. For us, it was just perfect!

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View from Spy Rock

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Spy Rock didn’t disappoint even on this overcast and hazy day. Distant pine groves and new spring foliage provided colorful accents across the expansive forest. Hiker-dog found fresh water pockets on the flat rocks atop Spy Rock Bluff. She seems to always have proper respect for high bluffs, stepping with care when she’s close to the edge.

Speaking of pine groves. On this 8.3-mile loop hike, you’ll pass through several patches of pine, a treat for the feet because of their thickness and the soft pine needle forest floor. Smooth, easy walking!

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You’ll see several open fields above the trail providing food for deer and visual variety for us humans. I want to do this trail before dawn and sit quietly at the edge of one of these fields to see what wildlife comes around.

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Small streams contained water today, but waterfalls were mere trickles since new rains were just beginning. When I passed Redding Loop Falls, I thought of an earlier trip when we were writing Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. Taking photos of this little waterfall for the book was a special memory because Hiker-dog was totally puzzled by my decision to hang out in this hollow for 30 minutes. One of the resulting photos from that time made it into hike #5, Redding Loop Spy Rock Trail.

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Photo from page 44 of Five Star Trail: The Ozarks

I enjoyed every part of doing this book and was especially proud of the maps and accurate route descriptions.

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Trail map from Five Star Trails: The Ozarks

Several times during today’s trek I heard the distinctive call of a pileated woodpecker. I never saw the bird but did see evidence of a variety of woodpeckers on several pine trees next to the trail.

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As we got closer to Redding Campground, I leashed Hiker-dog to be sure she didn’t greet any unsuspecting campers. In the photo below, we’re both appreciating the work of trail maintenance volunteers. This trail is always in excellent condition! Thank you, Chris, Steven, Mike, or one of several other sawyers in the Ozark Highlands Trail Association.

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Redding Campground was empty which led me to wonder if the gate was closed, but it was open as were the restrooms. I guess the cool temps and rain discouraged campers, but I thought it was pretty perfect! While walking the road back out to the truck, I noticed this broken boulder, reminding me of the work accomplished by time and weathering. The patient work of nature is just perfect!

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A stop at Turner Bend Store is always a highlight when I’m in this area. I was craving one of their filling fresh sandwiches and was pleased to see my book on the shelf along with many other great titles. Good food and good books? Just perfect!

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If you can’t make it to Turner Bend Store for a sandwich and a copy of Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, check any of these locations or your own area bookstores or order online.