Hiking the Marinoni Scenic Area with Exploring Arkansas

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Chuck in the Marinoni Scenic Area

It’s always an honor to post on the Menasha Ridge Press Blog. Below is a post about sharing the Marinoni Scenic Area with Chuck Dovish of Exploring Arkansas, a program from the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN). The Marinoni broadcast is scheduled for August 2nd at 6:30 p.m. All episodes are loaded to YouTube for future reference.

Hiking the Marinoni Scenic Area with Exploring Arkansas

Below is an email I sent Chuck following our trip. It reflects my thoughts about the value of what he does. He has an authentic love for the natural areas of our state and helps us all celebrate their discovery and preservation. Chuck#2 was what we called the videographer during our hike.

Dovish

Chuck’s episode about the Lake Alma Trail begins 7 min. and 15 seconds into this Youtube link.

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We posed for a quick photo after completing the day of hiking and filming.

Diverse group on a 20-mile stretch of the OHT

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How often do you plan a trip for five 10th-graders, one college student, four older adults, and a dog? Two of the youngsters had never been backpacking while several of the group had done many nights in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado as well as Arkansas. A diverse team for sure!

I was a little hesitant about our itinerary, especially the long first day from Cherry Bend Trailhead to Harrod’s Creek, but everyone was packed and ready to go on Saturday morning. The boys spent Friday night in the Rock House just west of Cherry Bend Trailhead, so they began the trip with an experience few others their age have had.

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The group minus Bob’s wife, Dana who joined in at Fly Gap Trailhead.

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Pausing to take in the view from Hare Mountain

While hiking over Hare Mountain, the highest point on the OHT, we wondered how anyone could eke out a living on such a rocky terrain. A rock wall, fireplace, and still usable well are the only remnants from the early settlers.

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Creeks were flowing, so water options were plentiful.

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Crossing Harrod’s Creek after an 11-mile day.

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Cedar grove campground at Harrod’s Creek

Several of us packed our bear canisters in preparation for a future trip. We enjoyed the convenience of keeping all food enclosed in a secure container rather than suspending food from tree limbs. I had my traditional tater soup with a few slices of dehydrated sweet potatoes added.

Day 2

Hiking toward Indian Creek brought us alongside a beautiful stream with water features and cascades. I’d passed this small waterfall in the past, but since day two was a shorter mileage day, I took time to scramble down for a few photos.

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The group enjoyed an early lunch after crossing Indian Creek.

The trail holds beauty with every step. In places, the moss-covered trail surface glistened green in the distance despite foot traffic.

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The younger hikers in our group showed no indication of discomfort. They kept on trucking down the trail.

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Bob at the Marinoni Scenic Area campground next to Briar Branch

We enjoyed referring to the new OHT map during our trip to see the lay of the land and forest roads surrounding the trail. Bob scrambled up above the area for a look at the top of the natural bridge.

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Briar Branch has clear water most of the year. I enjoyed exploring upstream during the lazy afternoon.

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Hiker-dog ate something that didn’t agree with her system and took an extended siesta. I was a little worried about her, but she bounced back to her hyper self the next morning.

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Day 3 

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Coffee is best next to an early morning fire.

Hiking through the Marinoni is always a treat! The modest Briar Branch flows next to massive boulders brought down by years of erosion. Within a week or so, the place will be alive with wild iris and many other floral displays.

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Natural Bridge in the morning sun.

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Bob and Dana passing through a rocky maze about one mile from Lick Branch

After arriving at Lick Branch, we drove away with hamburgers on our minds. As we approached Oark, we slowed down while sharing the road with horses. They stopped in at the Oark General Store, and we had a full house for lunch.

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Nick heading in for lunch.

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Good food and fellowship.

By the end of the trip, I couldn’t tell you which two of our younger hikers had never done a backpacking trip. There was no whining, and they handled themselves like veteran backpackers. I enjoyed seeing their energy and enthusiasm, and I’m sure they enjoyed the comic relief we older hikers provided during our three days on the trail.

If you want to learn more or get driving directions to the Marinoni Scenic Area, go to Making Time for Marinoni.

Here’s a link to the Rock House where the boys spent their first night on the OHT.

Marinoni Revisited (Four-Star Treatment)

When I first began hiking, I’d check off trails as if that indicated that I’d seen those places.  While it did document that I had been at those locations, I later realized that I’d only grazed the surface.  This is especially true of the Marinoni Scenic Area.

Indian Creek sign

We entered on the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail that begins at the Indian Creek canoe parking area.  Watch for traffic when crossing Hwy 215.  We paused a moment to admire the memorial marker just a few steps up the trail.

Dawna Robinson Memorial Marker

We were immediately impressed with the condition of the trail which is only about two years old, built by volunteers with the Ozark Highlands Trail Association.  The switchbacks climbing up to the base of a bluff line are beautiful and you almost forget you’re climbing because of the steady grade.   When we arrived at the top of the climb we began an easy walk through open woods.  It was unseasonably cold with occasional rain.

Hiking the Marinoni

Our group of three included Robert who was visiting family in Missouri before returning home to Hawaii.  I wondered what his response would be to hiking in the Ozarks.  I was pleasantly surprised because he went on and on about the beauty of our little Ozark Mountains.  He was not the least bit disappointed even though he’d hiked some beautiful areas in Hawaii.

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This was a short hike designed for novice backpackers with the hope for time to explore after making camp.  With only a three mile hike in this hike definitely did not meet Bob’s miles driving to miles hiking ratio.   The shorter distance did something nice for us though.  It demanded that we slow down and enjoy the passing of scenery. Robert was doing his first backpack trip and Bob’s nights backpacking numbered into the four digits but we all enjoyed learning from each other and sharing tips along the way.

Having hiked through the Marinoni many times, I wanted the chance to camp there.   This little spot looked better than a four-star hotel as we approached and pitched our tents.

Four-star hotel and gourmet coffee next to Briar Creek

Four-star hotel and gourmet coffee next to Briar Creek

The Marinoni never disappoints!  The soothing sounds of Briar Creek accompanied our walk along rocky bluffs and budding wildflowers.  The moist day made it feel like a rain forest with clear water droplets hanging from every leaf.  Cascades and waterfalls were flowing nicely.

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Marinoni waterfall

Briar Creek

Briar Creek

A trip highlight and something even four-star hotels can’t offer was a short afternoon nap in dry leaves under a bluff overhang accompanied by Briar Creek and song birds.  I was worried that it might be difficult to sleep after napping but slept pretty much straight through from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.  This was some four-star sleep!

Napping under a bluff overhang.

During our hike out on Sunday morning I was already looking forward to my next visit to the Marinoni Scenic Area.  No reservations required!

For location and more reading about the Marinoni Scenic Area visit the following link:

Making Time for Marinoni