Silent and Pensive Hiker-Dog

WordPress Photo Challenge: Silence

Current River Owls Bend Vista 1

Relaxing above the Current River in Missouri

When I read the photo challenge for this week, I immediately thought of Hiker-dog. A trait I like is that she is always silent through the night, whether at home or in the Ozark Forests. Sometimes she sits silently looking awestruck by the beauty of the Ozarks.

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Hurricane Creek

Even though she’s a dog, it seems like she expresses a worshipful gratitude for natural places. I sometimes wonder if her near-death experience on the Ozark Highlands Trail where we first met four years ago accounts for her sense of appreciation. Or, maybe she’s just intently looking for a squirrel. Regardless, she’s a silent trail partner until it’s time to eat.

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Mulberry River

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Camping close to the Salt Fork River on the Ozark Highlands Trail

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Hiker-dog in awe of nature…or is that a squirrel up there?

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Hiker taking a break on the Redding Loop Trail

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We’ll be sharing the Ozark Highlands Trail thru-hike on Sunday, January 21, at 2 p.m. at Hobbs State Park’s Visitor Center in Arkansas.  It’s a beautiful venue and Hiker-dog will be there, too! Five Star Trails Poster 012118 Hobbs State Park

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.”

Exploring the Ozarks

Rock House

Rock House

Follow this link to the Do South Magazine to read my article, “Exploring the Ozarks.” I enjoy writing for Do South because it’s a beautiful publication with a diverse readership. Their managing editor is an excellent writer and encouraging to others. My article begins on page 48 (p. 50 of the digital version).

Exploring the Ozarks

Thanks for reading!

Jim Warnock

Making Time for Marinoni

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Making Time for Marinoni

story and images  JIM WARNOCK

Published in At Urban magazine of Fort Smith (This magazine is now named Do South)

There’s a treasure waiting for you in Franklin County, near the small town of Cass. One local backpacker recently said, “Hiking there is like walking through a beautiful cathedral!” Those who have experienced the Marinoni Scenic Area would completely understand this statement.

Imagine a place with twisting waterfalls, arching rock bluffs and towering trees. Walk along a gentle stream that flows over rocks into quiet, clear pools. The sounds of gurgling water, windblown trees, and a variety of songbirds will soothe your soul. Leave your cell phone in the car because there’s no coverage here; who wants to hear cold digital sounds in this acoustic setting?

The Marinoni is beautiful in every season. Fall colors glisten and shimmer,appearing as stained glass atop pools of water. Winter brings the possibility of stunning ice formations and frozen splash patterns around waterfalls. Spring brings dwarf crested irises peeking out from the most unlikely cracks and crevices. Their violet-to-purple hues sparkle against damp stone walls. During any season, you’ll find lush green moss-covered sandstone and lichen-speckled bluffs. Your greatest challenge on this hike might just be keeping your footing as you gaze up, entranced by the beauty.

Access to this jewel of a place used to be difficult and limited to strong, long-distance hiking legs. The Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA) held a weeklong work camp in March of 2011 and built a .6 mile spur trail that connects to the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) just west of the Marinoni Scenic Area. You’re now able to hike a couple of miles and find yourself in one of the most beautiful places in Arkansas.

“Well worth a 3-hour drive,” says Dale Fudge, a hiker from Oklahoma City. Dale goes on to say, “The Marinoni Scenic Area is one of the most intimate and inspiring sections of the OHT. It’s secluded and packed full of dramatic landmarks. The area is now more accessible than before with the addition of the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail at Indian Creek, making for one of the best day hike opportunities in the entire region.”

It’s fitting that this area feels like a sanctuary and that it memorializes the lives of two special individuals. Paul A. Marinoni was from Fayetteville and was involved in volunteer efforts with Tim Ernst’s father. Tim, renowned outdoor photographer and author of the Ozark Highlands Trail Guide says, “My dad had his first heart attack when I was only six, so he was unable to take me to the woods like he would have wanted to. When I was seven, I began spending a lot of time with Paul Marinoni, hunting and camping during annual retreats into the woods. Paul was a real character, one of the most down-to-earth and honest people you would ever meet.” Given Tim’s sentiments, it seemed proper to name this area after a man who influenced others to appreciate the Ozarks.

The short trail allowing us to enter this natural area is named in memory of Dawna Robinson. Dawna and her husband, Bob, spent years maintaining sections of the OHT.  She was well known for her love of the trail and her desire to share it with others. “When the new Indian Creek Spur Trail was first proposed, Dawna’s spirited personality and dedication came to mind as a fitting tribute to memorialize how the entire trail came into existence through the hard work and perseverance of volunteers,” says Mike Lemaster, President of the OHTA.

In many ways the Marinoni Scenic Area reflects qualities of these two lives. Sitting at the edge of Briar Creek, you’d think these bluffs had always been as they appear today but this valley was shaped by centuries of water and ice. There’s an honesty and straightforwardness in its beauty. Giant rocks stand like monuments of strength where they folded down to the creek years ago. Although fragile, there’s a sense of permanence here and although subtle, the beauty is deep and unmistakable in any season.

If you’ve never visited the Marinoni Scenic Area, it’s an experience not to be missed. If you have hiked the area, you will want to return again and experience an even deeper appreciation of its beauty. So, lace up your walking shoes! Let’s go visit an Arkansas natural cathedral and pause there as it becomes our own special place of sanctuary and reflection.

Getting there:  From Hwy 23 just north of Cass, turn onto Hwy 215 east. Travel 7.4 miles to Indian Creek Canoe Launch and OHT Access. The trail is on the north side of Hwy 215 and begins at an opening in the fence directly across from the Indian Creek OHT Access sign. The spur trail is marked with 2×6-inch blue metal blazes. You’ll hike .6-miles to the OHT and then turn right, hiking another 2 miles to the Marinoni Scenic Area marker at the base of a bluff. Hiking out-and-back gives you approximately 5.2 miles. With a shuttle you can hike through to the Lick Branch Trailhead which will be a 5-mile hike and cover even more scenery.

For more information:

Ozark Highlands Trail Association  ozarkhighlandstrail.com

Ozark Highland Trail Association Facebook page

Ozark Highlands Trail Guide by Tim Ernst