Little Gems Along the Trail

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Hiker-dog getting ahead of me

On Friday, April 13th, a tornado damaged several homes and buildings in Mountainburg, Arkansas, about eight miles from my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. I was anxious to see if winds had caused damage to the woods, so Saturday morning Hiker-dog and I headed out, wondering what we’d discover.

What we found was an open trail with temperatures in the mid-40s. It stayed cool all day as the sun peeked from behind puffy clouds. Quite a contrast from the ominous storm clouds of the afternoon before!

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I was thankful for little gems that sparkled with color alongside the trail. In spite of the cold, several patches of Mayapples greeted us with a few hidden blooms below their leafy umbrellas.

 

 

IMG_7056rrDwarf Crested Irises were starting to open and share their pinks and purples.

Later in the day, we passed full blooms, their petals raised toward the sunshine.

Because of the influence of my Arkansas Master Naturalists friends, I now read about the plants I see and was interested to learn that Native Americans used the roots of this Iris for medicinal ointment and tea. IMG_7099rr

Just as I was sensing relief that the trail was intact, unnatural objects started to appear. By the end of our 8-mile out-and-back, my daypack was full of hard foam insulation that had blown over from Mountainburg. I tossed the debris and a little trash on the truck floorboard at the end of our hike.

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Several pages of text also appeared next to the trail. I found myself reading these little snippets with interest. I photographed each of the pages then slipped them into my pocket. Were they trash or did they add meaning to today’s walk? Probably a little of both. I did think the chapter title on one page was appropriate given what brought it here.

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Excerpt from The Hobbit

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The first line of this sliver of a page might apply to several backpacking trips from the past when challenges grew with the accumulating miles.

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Jack Creek next to a campsite

I was interested to see the campground at mile 5 of the OHT. It’s an easy hike from Lake Fort Smith State Park and gets trashy sometimes. The area was clean today and carefully inspected by Hiker-dog.

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Open views above Jack Creek

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Repeated crossings of tributary streams are a special treat on this section of trail. These pretty drainages all flow into Jack Creek as it makes its way toward Lake Fort Smith. One of my favorite stops crosses a flat rock stream. Its slippery surface is avoided by crossing large boulders downstream.

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It was a beautiful day to be in the Ozarks. Thankfully, no one was injured by the tornado the previous afternoon. As a bonus, the trail was undamaged other than a few gems (or trash) brought over by strong winds.

On the Road in the Ozarks

Old cabin at the old Lake Fort Smith turn off in Mountainburg.

Vacant cabins at the old Lake Fort Smith turnoff in Mountainburg.

Part of the pleasure of hiking is the drive to the trailhead.  Here are just a few of my favorite places along side of Ozark roads. I drive through Mountainburg in route to many trailheads, but only recently noticed these little cabins.  They are a short distance off of AR 71 at the turnoff that led to the original Lake Fort Smith State Park, closed in 2002 when the lake was expanded.

Dairy Dream in Mountainburg.

Dairy Dream in Mountainburg.

The Dairy Dream is on the east side of AR 71 in Mountainburg.  I noticed their “Mountainburger” is priced at $2.50 according to the menu in the window.  The Dairy Dream was closed for the winter.  I’ve never stopped there but hope to try the Mountainburger someday.

Artist Point on AR 71

Artist Point on AR 71

Artist Point, north of Mountainburg, is one of my favorite places on AR 71.  In 2001, when we were thinking about moving to Alma, we stopped in at Artist Point.  A helpful young lady was working behind the counter as her grandparents looked on.  I asked where she attended school, and she said, “Alma.”  Both she and her younger brother were my students, and I enjoyed watching them grow up.

I became friends with Mr. and Mrs. Blaylock, owners of Artist Point.  There was a steep trail behind the store.  Mr. Blaylock wasn’t able to hike the trail down to the waterfall anymore, but enjoyed hearing reports and seeing photos of the area.  Sadly, Mr. Blaylock has been gone for several years, but his store remains and is definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area.

Abandoned house on Highway 23

Abandoned house on Highway 23

Old structures along the roads sometimes demand that my Jeep hit the shoulder.  Even though I’m rushing to the trail, I’ll pull out the camera for a few pics.

Barn on Highway 23

Barn on Highway 23

Sometimes food is the motivator.  Such is the case with the Turner Bend Store, located on Highway 23 close to Cass.  Great sandwiches and good people!  Stopping there is always a treat!

Turner Bend Store

Turner Bend Store

The Oark General Store serves up a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  They are known for being Arkansas’ oldest continuously open restaurant.  A necessary stop if you’re hitting the western part of the Ozark Highlands Trail.  It’s a short drive from Arbaugh Trailhead.

Oark General Store

Oark General Store

Oark General Store

Oark General Store

The Hagarville Country Store on Highway 215 north of Clarksville is a great little stop.  The owner also runs shuttles for hikers when needed and usually has some good trail stories to share.

Hagarville Country Store

Hagarville Country Store

Hankins Country Store

Hankins Country Store

Another favorite stop on the road to the trails is Hankins Country Store, located at the intersection of AR Scenic Highway 7 and AR 215.  An old post office and several interesting old items are inside.  There’s even a barber’s chair that is used from time to time if someone needs a haircut.  The wood burning stove feels great after a winter hike through the Hurricane Wilderness Area.  They make a good sandwich….especially good after a hike.

Pelsor Post Office inside the Hankins Country Store

Pelsor Post Office inside the Hankins Country Store

If you’re up in the Buffalo River region, a stop in at the Ozark Cafe is a must.  Lots of good food and history!

Ozark Cafe in Jasper

Ozark Cafe in Jasper

The Boardwalk Cafe

The Arkansas House Cafe

Another great place to eat in Jasper is the Arkansas House Cafe, connected to the Arkansas House, an old, but clean establishment.  The Elk Chili was a treat!

Buffalo Outdoor Center

Buffalo Outdoor Center

The Buffalo Outdoor Center is a long-established business that began when Mike Mills started running river shuttles about forty years ago. The staff loves to talk trails, and they give good directions to some beautiful spots close by.  They also have good food, books, and run shuttles. I’ve used them several times to shuttle my Jeep over to Highway 7 when I hike the Buffalo River Trail.

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Inside the Buffalo Outdoor Center

Inside the Buffalo Outdoor Center

Across the street from the Buffalo Outdoor Center, you’ll find the Ponca Elk Education Center.  This is a great place for all ages.  I enjoyed spending a little time looking at the nature displays inside.

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The closest I’ve come to an Arkansas Black Bear.

Display at the Elk Education Center

Display at the Elk Education Center

The Boxley Baptist Church is a highlight just a few minutes from Ponca.

Boxley Valley, Arkansas

Boxley Valley, Arkansas

Many old structures can be found on the roads to the trail.  This little house is located on the dirt road to the Lost Valley Trail.

Close to Lost Valley

Close to Lost Valley

Inside the two room structure.

Inside the two room structure.

To be continued…. So many roads to so many trails.

House on the road to Lick Branch Trailhead

“Fixer-upper” on the road to Lick Branch Trailhead of the Ozark Highlands Trail