The Trails Provide, Published in Do South Magazine

Here’s a link to the story I wrote for Do South Magazine, one of my favorite regional magazines. Thanks for reading!

 

THE TRAILS PROVIDE

WORDS AND IMAGES: JIM WARNOCK

Published in Do South Magazine September, 2019

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“Oh my!” Kathy yelled with a panicked crack in her voice. Scott and Kathy were part of a group at mile sixty-four of the Ozark Highlands Trail when the unthinkable happened. The left sole of Kathy’s shoe came apart, bringing her to an abrupt halt. We huddled around like paramedics taping a wound…..

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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

Place in the World: Cathedrals, Natural and Manmade

WordPress Photo Challenge: Place in the World 

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The bluffs above Briar Branch

Rock bluffs and flowing water form the walls of my place in the world. These are the places where questions and imagination run free as I walk. In these natural cathedrals, the weights of sorrow lighten. My body finds strength and spirit healing.

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Small falls upstream from Marinoni Falls

Natural cathedrals stand in contrast to the manmade cathedrals of my youth, where my imagination wanted to thrive in the beauty but was sometimes thwarted by a legalistic hardness that seemed to demand an unquestioning faith.

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My childhood church

I’m still drawn to houses of worship in spite of inner conflicts and my observation that a good portion of meanness in the world justifies itself underneath religious trappings. I love the shapes, lights, and sounds. Is it possible that love and worship are reflected through our personal struggle to reconcile questions and doubts? Does a mindless faith merely show laziness and lack of respect for the holy, the creator?

These cathedrals, both natural and handmade, are my place in the world. They bring me comfort and challenge, a few answers, but mostly beautiful questions worthy of lifelong pursuit.

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Indian Rock House, Buffalo River

Read more about these natural cathedrals: Making Time for Marinoni

Indian Rock House Trail – Five Star Trails: The Ozarks by Jim Warnock

Best of 2017 OzarkMountainHiker

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Here are my top five posts in no particular order based on views for 2017. Following these five are my personal favorites for 2017, posts that were particularly rewarding to write or that reflect on an experience I enjoyed on the trail. 

In 2012 when I first started this blog, I had no idea that it would provide such enjoyment and learning. Thank you for reading and letting me share my love of the trails! Pass OzarkMountainHiker.com along to others who love the outdoors. 

Ouachita Trail’s First 51 at the (Im)Perfect Time

Walking Toward Authenticity: Nimblewill Nomad

Hiker-Dog’s Adoption Trail 

Exploring Arkansas Features the Marinoni Scenic Area

Completing Our Goals in the Ozarks

Personal Favorites 

When in Doubt, Write 

A Special Guest on My Home Trail

New Strings

Evening Walk in the Marinoni

Hiker-Dog’s Resume 

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.

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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.

Evening Walk in the Marinoni

IMG_1270rrHiker-dog and I scouted a route into the Marinoni Scenic Area on Monday evening. Hiking late in the day offered views in a new light, but my concern was how long that light would last in this deep Ozark hollow. IMG_1268rrThe woods were alive with the sounds of flowing water. Briar Branch and the inlets on each side were flowing nicely. I recorded a few seconds of the waterfall as seen from the trail above.

I caught Hiker-dog in a rare pause at the base of one of my favorite bluffs. She was excited to see this area again and explore the ridges above and creek below the trail.IMG_1294rrA copperhead was enjoying the warmth next to a tall bluff. I wondered if this snake was alright at first because it was in an awkward pose, almost as if smelling the surroundings. It remained in this position while I took photos and then moved on. IMG_1264rrI enjoy seeing snakes in their natural environment, but I will admit that I watched my step a little more carefully after meeting my copperhead friend. Hiker-dog never came close to the snake. I’m sure they smelled each other’s presence. I’ve read that snakes will sometimes “dry bite” to defend themselves against mammals that aren’t a food source. Snakes prefer to save their venom for killing things that are good to eat, not dogs or people.IMG_1286rrrI set the camera on a rock in the middle of Briar Branch to record this view upstream as the sun drifted lower in the sky. We then explored the little cave next to the Paul Marinoni sign placed here many years ago by the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. IMG_1246rrWe scrambled uphill to have a close look at the Natural Bridge. During leaf-off, I’ve viewed this rock formation from the trail below, but it wasn’t visible with all of the spring growth. One of my favorite photos from an earlier hike caught the morning sun underneath the bridge. Today I realized the “bridge” was smaller than I thought. A unique little formation at the top of the bluff. IMG_1313rr

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Natural Bridge during a winter hike

Today’s hike was special because of the cool temperatures, flowing water, evening light, and good company provided by Hiker-dog and my calm copperhead. I didn’t need my headlamp but was glad to have it in my pack. Darkness came as we drove back toward home, thinking about all the beauty we’d seen on this trail.

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.”

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.

On the Way and a Change of Plans: Hiking a Wet Marinoni Scenic Area

Stream flowing over the top of Marinoni Falls

Stream flowing over the top of Marinoni Falls

Hiking the Marinoni was my plan B today. Plan A was to check on my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. I got eleven miles east of Hwy 71 on Old Locke Road when I came upon a downed oak across the road. At first I thought my handsaw might be used to clear a single lane. After making a couple of cuts, I abandoned that idea. It was a chainsaw job. Hiker was restless and probably wondering what I was doing when we should be hiking. When we got back into cell range, I reported the tree and then headed to the Indian Creek Dawna Robinson Spur Trail east of Cass.

I’ve written about the Marinoni Scenic Area before, but I haven’t hiked it when water was flowing as strong as today. What could have easily been a two to three-hour hike was more like five with all of the photo stops. I felt thankful for that tree that changed my itinerary because the Marinoni was what I needed. Sometimes the best plan is plan B.

View of Marinoni Falls from a short distance.

View of Marinoni Falls from a short distance.

Marinoni Falls

Marinoni Falls

Small falls upstream from Marinoni Falls

Small falls upstream from Marinoni Falls

I spent enough time around these falls that Hiker-dog got impatient. She begins to bark when she thinks I’ve had enough time at the camera. I noticed that she began to pause and glance my way each time we passed any flowing water as if anticipating a photo stop.

Hiker watching the trees for squirrels while waiting patiently.

Hiker watching the trees for squirrels while waiting patiently.

I found it difficult to walk away from the Marinoni Falls. They provided an enjoyable time with my camera.

Small falls upstream from Marinoni Falls

Small falls upstream from Marinoni Falls

The towering walls above Briar Branch seem to envelop you like cathedral walls.

The bluffs above Briar Branch

The bluffs above Briar Branch

Bluffs above Briar Branch

Bluffs above Briar Branch

Edge of bluff with Briar Branch down in the distance

Edge of bluff with Briar Branch in the distance down to the right of the trail

Cascade close to the Marinoni marker

Cascade close to the Marinoni marker

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Little cave next to the Marinoni marker

Little cave next to the Marinoni marker

Large boulder across Briar Branch

Large boulder across Briar Branch

I never hike this section without pausing to be amazed at the size of this boulder down next to the creek.

Crossing Briar Branch

Crossing Briar Branch

Stone memorial for Dawna Robinson

Stone memorial for Dawna Robinson close to the trailhead

To read more about the Marinoni:

Making Time for Marinoni (includes driving directions to the trailhead)

Marinoni Revisited (Four Star Treatment) 

Fall in the Marinoni

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “On the Way.”