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.

Daily Post weekly photo challenge: Post-Hike Treats – Food and Drink

Clear water. Crisp, clean air. Nothing here to take for granted.

Oark General Store

Oark General Store

A post-hike meal at the Oark General Store, said to be Arkansas’ oldest continuously operating restaurant. Good food and fellowship. Always a treat.

Oark General Store

Oark General Store

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat.”

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

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