Back to Morgan Mountain and Lessons in Slowing Down


Hiker at a potential wet-season waterfall after our climb.

It had been 20 days since I resolved to slow down and do some exploring on Morgan Mountain. Hiker-dog and I decided to use the Redding Loop as a jumping off point. Several rocky drains asked to be explored, so I answered by using the rocky routes to see some new landscape and get in some good climbs.

As I was climbing pretty hard, I looked up to see Hiker-dog in the distance already at the top. She seemed to be looking down and wondering what was taking so long. Then she flew down the hill, arriving at my side within a few seconds. I was envious.


From the lower falls on Redding Loop, we climbed up the drainage, finally reaching the dome of this small mountain. After a break, I looked at the map and decided to follow the next drain down, thinking it would probably take us down to the upper falls. After reaching those falls (all pretty dry), we followed the loop around and back to Redding Camp Ground.

Along the way, Hiker did some serious dog-work looking for moles. She came up empty today but had a dirty nose to prove her work.


Digging for moles


A recent controlled burn gave the woods that familiar campfire smell. Hiker leashed up when we got close to Hwy 215 and the campground.



We stopped off to view the Mulberry River before heading toTurner Bend for lunch. Today was a good blend of covering some miles, but taking time to explore and sit still for a while. I still need more training in slowing down and letting my routes be flexible, but today was a nice beginning.


Turner Bend’s “Almost Famous” ham sandwich is awesome! 

Random Walking with John Muir in the Ozarks


Detail of ice formations at the base of a bluff

I drove up AR 23 (AKA Pigtrail) to collect GPS waypoints for an article I’m working on with photographer and hiking friend, Eric Scowden. My only traveling partner today was Hiker-dog. It was a cold morning, but the sun warmed the air quickly. I enjoyed the “popcorn” ice formations that formed on roots and rock along wet bluff lines.

This morning was like many others over the last eighteen months. I have places to go and data to collect. Working on a trail guide to the Ozarks has been a wonderful experience, but every outing’s purpose has been to hike and collect information about specific trails. I had my to-do list for today though it was shorter than usual.

After hitting the required locations, I picked a random pullout spot on Morgan Mountain Road that I’d driven past many times. On impulse, I walked down an old jeep road just to see what was there. I didn’t jump over a fence but thought of John Muir’s statement that he would often “throw bread and tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence” to begin an exploration of nature.


Large boulders at the edge of an open field

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the randomness of this walk. I formed my route by following what looked interesting to me. I arrived at an open, level field lined with large boulders along the eastern ridge. They bowed to the forces of gravity, drifting down toward the next bench fifty feet below.


Hiker exploring the field on the eastern side of Morgan Mountain

I walked past a hollow filled with jagged boulders that begged me to enter, but they’ll have to wait for another day when I return with a dry loaf of bread, tea, and hours to spend. I’d like to apply Muir’s “method of study” and his ultra-light packing techniques to my next hike on Morgan Mountain.

“My method of study was to drift from rock to rock and grove to grove. I’d sit for hours watching the birds or squirrels, or looking into the faces of flowers. When I discovered a new plant, I sat beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance and try to hear what it had to tell me. I asked the boulders where they came from and where they were going. And when I discovered a mountain, I climbed about it and compared it with its neighbors. It’s astonishing how high and far we can climb in the mountains we love, and how little we require for food and clothing.” – John Muir

I look forward to spending an entire day meandering my way down that rugged hollow on Morgan Mountain. I look forward to simply sitting still to listen, watch, and learn. Maybe I’ll even ask a boulder or two where they came from and where they’re going. I think even Hiker-dog might enjoy a little less goal-oriented travel in the Ozarks.