Going With the Flow on Our “Home Trail”

IMG_1190rrI woke at midnight to a lightning show and intense rain. I pulled back the window curtains to get a better look then went back to sleep anticipating this morning’s walk on my “home trail,” alive with flowing water.IMG_1213rrBluffs rained down along my approach to Mc Water Falls. This was a good sign and meant I was in for a treat.IMG_1204rrMcWater Falls ran strong and the water almost seemed to generate its own breeze in the hollow below the falls.IMG_1219rrSometimes you catch yourself entranced as you look down a trail. Colors seem deeper and filled with contrast after a storm.IMG_1220rrWe heard Little Frog Bayou long before arriving at the bridge. I exclaimed to Hiker-dog, “This is how you fill up a lake!” The bridge had held strong, so we crossed but not without sitting in the middle for a few minutes to appreciate the roar.

I enjoy seeing, hearing and even feeling water when hiking in the Ozarks. The best hikes tend to be the ones where you get your feet wet. Today was no exception!

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.

A Special Guest on My Home Trail

The goal of this morning’s hike on the Lake Alma Trail was to pick up a couple of trashy spots I’d noticed on my last couple of walks. I never expected to be greeted by a bald eagle as Hiker-dog and I began at the west end of the dam.

I rarely attempt photos of birds, especially in flight, but I couldn’t resist.  Watching this bird was an early morning thrill.

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Even my “home trail” holds surprises and visual treasure if I pay attention and watch for the beauty.

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.

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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Lake Alma Trail With Hiker-dog

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Yesterday afternoon was warm, and I felt lazy. Hiker-dog, my personal trainer, forcefully said, “Let’s go!,” and so we went. Following her lead is usually wise where trails are concerned.

As we descended toward Lake Alma shaded by the bluffs, temperatures dropped, and a slight breeze danced across our path. I felt renewed and looked forward to the climb on the other side of Little Clear Creek.

The photo above was just prior to our arrival beside “Little Snake Bluff.” When Hiker-dog first joined our family, this was the spot where I remember thinking, “She really is a good dog.”

This is one of the few places I’ve named. When the Lake Alma Trail was new, I passed this short bluff with several shelves that almost grazed my ear. Curled on one shelf was a large snakeskin. This caught my attention. I like seeing snakes in the woods but don’t expect to view them, or their leftover skin, right next to my ear. When writing the trail description, “Little Snake Bluff” seemed like the right name.

hiker-1016-2rr After dropping back down to lake level, I led my buddy to the water’s edge so she could take a cooling dip. Hiker lowered herself ceremoniously into the water and drank from the surface before rising and looking toward the west. She helps me recognize gifts from the trail I might otherwise miss. I stood and looked to the west for a moment, thankful for this renewing walk.

Why the Ozarks?

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Yellow Rock Bluff, Arkansas

While selecting photos for a presentation to the Trailblazers of Fort Smith, I realized the Ozarks could hold their own following the High Sierras of California. The day of the program, photos transitioned smoothly from the John Muir Trail to the Ozarks and the audience appreciated the beauty and uniqueness of both regions without any “let down” as we moved into the Ozarks.

Why the Ozarks?

How about an extended hiking season and a variety of beauty? When mountainous regions around the United States are becoming impassable due to snow, the Ozark Mountains are beginning their long hiking season with a fall transformation to red and golden foliage.

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Alley Spring, Missouri

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A fall sunset over Lake Alma in Arkansas

Fall leaves on rock

Fall color on sandstone

As winter approaches and leaves drop, majestic vistas and towering rock formations are revealed.

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Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area, Arkansas

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Seasonal rains bring beautiful waterfalls year round but especially in the spring when wildflowers sparkle throughout the region, especially in open glades and along steep hillsides.

 

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Long Creek Falls, Missouri

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Shepherd Spring Waterfall at Lake Fort Smith State Park, Arkansas

Natural springs flow year-round, often showing some of their most lovely character during the “off season” of winter. You’ll also find smaller crowds in the Ozarks during the winter months.

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Cascade below Maramec Spring, Missouri

I’m often asked my favorite trail. My answer is, “The last trail I hiked.” While I do enjoy the larger than life bucket-list trails offered by California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Montana, I always look forward to returning to the Ozarks. They hold their own in comparison with landscapes anywhere in the United States. If you’re looking for scenic beauty, an extended hiking season and smaller crowds, explore the Ozarks!

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Clifty Creek Natural Arch, Missouri

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Kessler Mountain Rock City, Arkansas

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Big Spring, Missouri

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Young hiker taking in the views near Whitaker Point, Arkansas

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Early morning coffee in the Ozarks

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If you want to explore some of the trails pictured in this post, check out Five Star Trails: The Ozarks.

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

Photo Challenge: “Half-Light” at the end of evening walks

Half-Light

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I completed my evening walk as the sun went down over Lake Alma. It was the latter part of that magic hour just before dark. I was sorry I’d failed to carry my camera, but pleased with the resulting photo made with my phone. I say, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

Below are more sunset views over Lake Alma, three minutes from my home. I don’t think I’ll ever exhaust my love for sunsets!

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Reflections of sunset over Lake Alma

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Sunset on the Lake Alma Trail – Water converging with the land and sky.

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Sunset after a stormy day