My Little Piece of the OHT

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Jack Creek at the east end of my adopted section.

Today we hiked about eight miles out and back to check my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. It runs four miles following the creek drainage from Dockery Gap Trailhead west to the campsite on Jack Creek.

img_9367rrI was surprised to see a brand new trailhead kiosk. At some time in the past, I emailed a request for a kiosk here since the Dockery Gap Trailhead served as the main entrance point during construction of the Lake Fort Smith State Park. I hope it lasts and is left alone.

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While we’re on the subject of signage, the new mile markers look good, showing miles from both directions. I like the OHT logo, too!

Temperatures were in the low 60s, unusual for this time of year. We (Hiker-dog and I) saw a total of 8 hikers during the day. I met a couple of backpackers from Oklahoma finishing up as we started out. They gave me a good report on trail conditions. Another backpacker crossed the road heading east as I arrived and three more hikers were coming out of the Jack Creek drainage as I was going down.

Close to the Jack Creek campsite, we met a couple from Michigan, hiking from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Big Piney. I enjoyed visiting with them, and they seemed to enjoy Hiker-dog’s enthusiastic attention. I was impressed that they traveled from Michigan specifically to do the OHT. They looked prepared and were hiking strong, so I have no doubt that they’ll have a good trip.

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Kyle and Mary from Michigan

Crossing one of the drainages I was reminded of the power of nature. A set of large boulders I’ve passed many times had been rearranged by flooded creeks sometime since my last visit.

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This lone patch of Daffodils hinted at earlier residents a short distance from the trail. I’d never noticed domesticated flowers on my section of the OHT before.

img_9379rrThe always-reliable, “Rusty Spring” was flowing as usual. Hiker-dog passed it by, so I followed her example and fought the urge to take a sip.

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Jack Creek at the west end of my adopted section.

As I filtered water from Jack Creek, Hiker-dog took a dip and then went upstream to introduce herself to the couple from Michigan. I came along later and met them.

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Ecstasy!

On this warm day, Hiker-dog went for water often. She takes great delight in lowering herself into a pool of water, shaking off and then dipping again.

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The shake.

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A cool dog…

After her cooling swim, Hiker is ready to run. I didn’t jump into the creek, but the water was refreshing to drink. I looked forward to walking the four miles back to the trailhead, enjoying a freshly cleared trail from our trip out. Far from being a chore, maintaining my little piece of the OHT is a joy!

If you’re in the area, come to the Arkansas Trails Symposium at Devil’s Den State Park on February 25. I’ll share my Ozark Highlands Trail thru-hike in photos and stories at 3:45 p.m. and have Five Star Trails: The Ozarks on hand for signing afterward.

Microsoft Word - 2017 Arkansas Trails Symposium Schedule

Scott’s Ozark Highlands Trail

I enjoyed viewing this 21-minute video by my friend, Scott Branyon. It’s a record of his hike from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Woolum. I was proud to be on Scott’s first backpacking trip on the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT). Recently, I witnessed his completion of the 165-miles.

Completing this trail creates a sense of ownership, so the OHT is now Scott’s trail. Congratulations to my friend on his accomplishment. Hiker-dog enjoyed accompanying Scott on a couple of his trips and hopes to complete her OHT soon.

The Ozarks – feedback from readers

dyer-lfs-0117r“Enjoyed the great outdoors at Lake Fort Smith yesterday using our copy of Jim Warnock’s book, The Ozarks! We’re already planning future hikes with it too! 10/10 would recommend purchasing it! All we needed was our own Hiker-dog!”  – Trey, Delaney and Darian

Wish these kids could have seen the smile on my face when I receive their message and photo. My biggest kick comes from seeing my book on the trail. Knowing it’s relevant to these energetic young people is a bonus. Below are comments for The Ozarks posted on Amazon.com. I’m thankful that hikers are liking my two-year labor of love!

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Seeing The Ozarks at Pack Rat in Fayetteville was a thrill!

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-58-59-am This is a very helpful book for anyone interested in hiking in the Ozarks. Whether you are a beginner or an avid hiker there is an Ozark trail here for you. We are especially interested in the Mulberry and Buffalo rivers and were happy to see that several of the trails are in those areas. Looking forward to seeing how many of these we can mark off our list in the upcoming year…

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-58-59-am I enjoy hiking and found Jim Warnock’s guidebook an excellent source for planning and making decisions about trails in the Ozarks. I have hiked some of the trails he described, but the additional information is greatly appreciated. I plan to continue making great use of the book for future adventures. Mr. Warnock displays great insights into enjoyable hiking adventures and it is certainly very evident he speaks from vast experiences in the great outdoors. I certainly appreciate his work on this publication and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in the beauty of the outdoors.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-58-59-am Invaluable resource for nature lovers who would like to experience the great beauty of the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks. Hikers will find the detailed information particularly helpful.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-58-59-am Excellent read. Planning already.

Visit my author page on Amazon to see reviews and my book signing schedule.

Snowy Walk on Our Home Trail

 

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Hiker checking out the Hexagon House next to the trail

Hiker-dog and I had a wonderful hike yesterday morning on a snowy Lake Alma Trail. She loves the snow! We walked from home so no driving on icy roads was involved.

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View of the lake from a spot normally under water

 

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Hiker-dog searching for moles

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Ice at Mc Water Falls

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Hiker looking down the Mc Water Falls drainage 

It was tempting to sleep in on this 20-degree morning but we were richly rewarded for spending time on the trail.

A new section of the OHT for Hiker-dog: Hurricane Creek Wilderness

img_8431rrDecember 29: This trek through the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area would bring Hiker-dog closer to completing the Ozark Highlands Trail. It was also the final section needed for one of our group to finish the traditional 165-miles of the OHT. img_8371rrOne vehicle approached the bridge as we crossed, but the driver stopped and gave us a friendly wave as we continued across the one-lane bridge.img_8390rrThe winter woods were open and clear under sunny skies. img_8405rrEric and Hiker-dog paused to take in the views at the slow running Hurricane Creek. The water was as clear and the bottom of the creek was as slippery as I remembered. Even Hiker-dog’s four paws slipped a time or two. img_8433rrBob and Eric did some rock hopping to cross dry. Scott, Hiker-dog, and I all chose to wade the creek. img_8442rrIt looked like Scott found a deep spot in the creek, but we all made it across dry and ready to move on up the trail.  img_8475rrWinter leaf-off is a good time to view Natural Bridge perched at the top of bluffs on the west side of Hurricane Creek. img_8493rrThanks to Eric for noticing the color reflecting upstream. We took turns photographing the scene with my camera since Eric’s camera batteries were drained. img_8507rrHiker seemed to enjoy showing off by hopping rocks as the sun continued to move lower in the sky. img_8512rrWe were in our tents by 7 p.m., lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of Hurricane Creek below our campsite. Coyotes let loose a chorus of howls late in the night, but I find their distant cries relaxing and part of the beauty of nighttime in the Ozarks. Temperatures got down to the mid-20s.

img_8594rrAround midnight, I answered nature’s call and enjoyed looking at the starry sky for a moment before returning to my tent. I discovered Hiker-dog curled up on my down blanket rather than her Thermarest sleeping pad. When she felt my feet under the quilt, she moved back to her bed, sorry that I didn’t see the need for her to have a down bed.

December 30: After passing through beautiful woods along the Hurricane Creek (and doing some pretty intense climbing) we dropped back down to creek level and a favorite historical chimney. img_8560rrAfter the east crossing of Hurricane Creek, we passed the Highwater Bypass and continued toward Chancel and our campsite at a small creek that eventually feeds into Buck Brn Creek.

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no-name creek

This little creek without a name is imprinted on my memory. On one of my early hikes through the Hurricane Creek area, a friend ran out of water after we passed this creek and suffered heat exhaustion. He made it out but was pretty sick for a couple of days. I always check my water carefully when passing this creek just prior to mile 115.

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Scott filtering water at our second campsite

We found excellent water at our second campsite located between mile 119 and 120. Another nameless creek, it always seems to have water.

All meals seemed to taste better on that second night, maybe because of the more than nine hilly miles we’d hiked. Bob commented that Hiker was an 8-mile dog because she slept soundly as we ate. She bounced back strong the next morning.

December 31: The next morning we walked through beautiful boulder fields making our way toward Chancel junction.

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Using Hiker to put the size of boulders in perspective

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Chancel junction

Coming down into the Buck Brn Creek was a treat visually, but it meant a lot of climbing on the other side as we made our way toward Fairview Trailhead. img_8647rrBob reminded me of the arched shape of the bridge below Forest Road 1209A. I dropped down for a few pictures before rejoining the group on the trail and the big climb toward Fairview. img_8650rrimg_8656rrAfter lots of huffing and puffing, we arrived at the trip’s end. Celebrations were in order as this was the last section Scott needed to complete 165-mile of the OHT. We were proud of his accomplishment.

We’re also looking forward to Hiker-dog’s completion of the OHT. I think the thru-hike patch will look good on her pack, but the real reward is good times spent with good people exploring the Ozarks!img_8420rr

If you’d like to read the story of how Hiker-dog first joined us on the trail in 2014: Walk, Eat, Sleep, Repeat – Fairview to Tyler Bend and a New Hiking Partner

Special Times and Place: Petit Jean State Park

img_8089rrI may have been 10 or 12 years old the first time I approached this breezeway. Today as my dog and I began our short trek to Cedar Falls, I was reminded of how this view of the valley took my breath away.img_8091rrOne morning many years ago I stood transfixed by the rock wall on the far side of the valley. Sunlight reflected colors in the lichen-covered rock as light crept slowly down the wall in response to the rising sun. This was a unique experience for a teenager who rarely focused his attention on anything. There was no sun this morning, but I looked forward to an early morning hike with cool, moist air and soft light.img_8104rrCedar Creek was flowing gently, and I began to anticipate Cedar Falls farther upstream. My patient hiking buddy let me tether her to a tree limb in case other hikers approached so I could take a photo of the creek. img_8106rrHearing the soft roar of Cedar Falls caused my pace to quicken. As the falls first came into view, I stopped and found a rock in the creek for my little tripod. I wanted to get low next to the water.img_8111rrThen I raised the camera using a very high-tech technique – I crawled up higher on the boulder with my flexible little tripod. The higher perch allowed me to capture the reflection of the falls in a quiet pool upstream. Thanks to my friend and creative photographer, Eric Scowden. I’ve admired a photo he did with reflections in this pool and wanted to try it myself.img_8138rrWhen we arrived at the falls, I enjoyed a few more photos while Hiker-dog waited leashed to a nearby tree. She seemed to understand that I needed this time. She also appeared to understand that this was a special place and quietly absorbed the scene. img_8148rr

Five Star Trails: The Ozarks – Book Signings

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Harry McWater receiving a book and map from Jim Warnock

How often do you get to share a new trail for the first time in a Five Star Trails Guide and present one of the first copies printed to the man who had the vision for the trail? Menasha Ridge Press gave me permission to print enlargements of the book’s map of the Lake Alma Trail for display in the trailhead kiosk. I couldn’t resist printing an extra copy to present to Harry McWater to thank him for making this beautiful trail possible.

Here’s information about three book signings in the next two weeks. Please come by and grab a few copies of Five Star Trails: The Ozarks.



Chapters on Main in Van Buren, Arkansas book signing with author, Jim Warnock

  • Thursday, November 10, from 5-8 p.m. Businesses in historic downtown remain open late for Living Local, so this is a good chance to do some Christmas shopping.
  • Saturday, November 12, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The first 100 books signed at each session will include a bookmark with Hiker-dog’s photo and paw print.
Chapters on Main, 816 Main Street, Historic Downtown Van Buren, AR 479-471-9315

South Arkansas Arts Center (SAAC) in El Dorado, Arkansas book signing

  • Tuesday, November 15, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. 

Book signing with author, Jim Warnock, in the lobby from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with one 20-minute trail discussion and slideshow at 6:30 inside the theater.  The first 100 books signed will include a bookmark with Hiker-dog’s photo and signature. A $1 donation for every book sold will go to Union County Animal Protection Society.

SAAC, 110 E. 5th Street, El Dorado, AR, United States 71730 Phone: 870-862-5474

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Any Day in the Ozarks

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We made a quick stop at one of our favorite barns on Hwy 23 just south of Turner Bend Store. Then, it was on to Turner Bend, one of the vendors who will be carrying my trail guide.

Hiker-dog and I were on a mission to find a driving route that would put a videographer close to a scenic area without a long hike. The morning was cool and clear, perfect for driving rough roads, but I was finding it hard to get down Hwy 215 because of the beautiful reflections on the still water of the Mulberry River.

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The light caught my eye and demanded that I take a few photos and slide around on some slick river rock. The water was low enough that we walked upstream on the partially dry riverbed. Hiker-dog had the advantage and never missed a step.

While walking the rocky bottom of Mulberry River, I felt like I was visiting a forbidden land, remembering the power of rushing water I’ve seen in this valley during wetter seasons.

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After some bumpy driving and walking, we finally entered our targeted destination by an alternate route. I made note that this access route would also be useful for trail maintainers needing to work the area.

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The Marinoni Scenic Area is beautiful in all seasons, but I’d never seen Briar Creek so quiet. There were random pockets of water but none moving. The early morning sunshine had not found its way into the valley so we had a cool walk along the quiet trail as leaves fell around us.

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Hiker-dog paused a moment at the base of one of my favorite bluffs. 

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If your ego is getting enlarged, sitting at the base of an Ozarks bluff is a great way to remind yourself of the insignificance of daily problems and annoyances. It’s also a good place to pick up a tick as I discovered a few minutes later. It’s always nice when you find a tick from its crawling rather than its itching.

There was nothing particularly astounding about this morning spent walking a dry riverbed and the woods to the north, but I left in a much better state. Any day in the Ozarks is a good day, ticks and all! “Hey, come over here Hiker-dog. We need to check your underside.”

Backpacking Arkansas Hosts Nimblewill Nomad in the Ouachitas

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Meeting Nimblewill Nomad was an honor!

Would I like to schedule a book signing in Northwest Arkansas on October 22 or drive into the Ouachita Mountains and meet Nimblewill Nomad? The answer was easy! Saturday morning, Hiker-dog and I hopped into the Jeep and drove the 125 miles south, arriving at Shady Lake by 10:00 a.m.

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Pavilion at Shady Lake

Backpacking Arkansas (BPA) began as a web forum where hikers share knowledge, serve the trails, and draw inspiration. Once a year, an event is held where a portion of members of the forum meet and greet and share educational sessions.

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First aid demonstration

When we arrived, Gerry helped get me sign in. He recognized my forum name and asked about Hiker-dog. Turns out he has followed our trail stories, so it was fun to put a face to a blog name. Nimblewill was scheduled for the afternoon. We enjoyed a first aid session before breaking for lunch.

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Randy and Nimblewill enjoying lunch in the sun.

Randy, a fellow board member of the Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA), was present, and so we sat in the sun and had lunch with Nimblewill, who’d driven down from Independence, Missouri.

Jackson Spencer, who completed the first 165 miles of the Ozark Highlands Trail in 4 days and change, shared some of his experiences on the trail and the mental aspects of hiking 18-20 hours a day. He and his girlfriend enjoyed visiting with members before and after his session.

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Jim Woolly and Jackson discuss long distance hiking

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Nimblewill sharing his vision for the future

Nimblewill began his session with a challenge to those present. He began to describe the beauty to be found in the Ozarks and Ouachitas while questioning the most recent addition to the list of eleven National Scenic Trails in the eastern United States.

He said the beauty of Arkansas and Missouri is on par with mountain regions anywhere in the United States and that a combined Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas and Ozark Trail in Missouri, or Trans-Ozark Trail (TOT) would meet the requirements for a National Scenic Trail. He even mentioned that the Ouachita Trail could eventually be tied into the long trail leading to Saint Louis Missouri. He mentioned that many of the great trails in the country involve some road walking to follow so connecting the Ouachita Trail would be a possibility.

Nimblewill’s session was laced with poetry. He used poetry to express ideas that might have been more difficult in narrative. In the following poem he describes the wanderlust many distance hikers feel.

Watch Nimblewill deliver his poem, “Home of the Free.”

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I won one of his books, Ten Million Steps! It’s his journal of his trek from the Florida Keys to Quebec, Canada, laced with poetic interludes and a real pleasure to read. My book, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, was presented as a door prize at the end of Nimblewill’s session. It made me feel good to know that we were both published by Menasha Ridge Press.

Nimblewill is in his late 70s and still planning long walks. His next goal is to walk Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angles. One of the big challenges is getting waivers to walk some sections of Interstate Highway that cover the old route. Some states have laws forbidding foot traffic. Over morning coffee Sunday I suggested he get some type of slow vehicle permit. He walks around 3.5 miles per hour and is powered by two legs.

Nimblewill described the contents of his ultra-light pack. He said the task has been to bring your wants and needs together so that only what is necessary can be found in his pack.

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Nimblewill’s loaded pack weighs in at about 8-10 pounds.

Sunday morning, I was up early and had the pleasure of some time with Nimblewill. He shared some of the logistical challenges of his Route 66 trek planning. I have no doubt that he will walk the length of Route 66. I hope the states he passes through facilitate his travels because they’ll have one kind soul walking their roads while he’s passing through.

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Paul with EtowahOutfitters visits with Nimblewill while waiting for coffee to brew.

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Hiker saying we must hit the trail

Sunday, after breakfast, I thought of heading back home, but my little buddy had been so patient the day before, and now she was urging me to take the  3-mile trail around Shady Lake, one I’d not hiked in more than 20 years.

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As always, following Hiker-dog’s lead was wise. We both felt much better from the after-breakfast exercise, and we saw some of the beauty of the Ouachitas. The old trail around Shady Lake had some spots that were hard to follow. I started down what I thought was trail and noticed Hiker-dog up above me. Once again, she was right, so I backtracked and followed her lead.

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Early morning on Shady Lake enticing us to walk the trail

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Hints at Fall color and deep green moss along the stream flowing into Shady Lake

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Another scene along the creek entering Shady Lake

A big thank you to Backpacking Arkansas for putting this event together. Thanks also to Duane, Paul, Gerry, and others who worked to set things up and sponsor the weekend. All presenters were excellent, and the Saturday night potluck alone was worth the drive. I’ll definitely put this event on my calendar for next year!