Hare Mountain Hike-In and a Cathedral Walk

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Some of those who hiked in enjoying food and fellowship

On Saturday, November 2, about thirty hikers enjoyed a potluck dinner and visited around the campfire, continuing the traditional annual Hare Mountain Hike-In to the high point of the Ozark Highlands Trail. It never fails that I meet new hikers and enjoy catching up with old trail friends, too.

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When I arrived, someone pointed out the walking stick on my walking stick. Just had to catch a photo of this little friend before moving him back to the leaves.

Some of my trail friends are aware of my obsession with spoons.  As I walked up Hare Mountain from Morgan Fields Trailhead, I noticed a spoon in the middle of the trail. It reminded me of the one Bob found for me at Lynn Hollow (on the right in the picture below).

Spoons

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The lost spoon

I picked up what I thought was probably someone’s serving spoon intended for the potluck later that evening. After arriving at the top of the mountain and visiting for a minute, I remembered the spoon and pulled it out, asking if anyone was missing a spoon. Norma was excited to see it and said it went with her casserole.

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Norma with her found spoon

Miles won the heaviest dish award with his dutch oven cooking. The smell was amazing, and from all reports, his results were top notch.

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Each year we’re seeing more young people coming up for the meal and camping for the night. Spread the word to watch for next year’s Hike-In about this same time. Sharing our love for the trail and our volunteer efforts was an encouragement to everyone. A few funny trail stories always crop up around the campfire. The group made a toast to several elder hiker friends who have passed on during the past few years.

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One of many views from the OHT on Hare Mountain

After dinner, I walked back down to Morgan Fields Trailhead and slept in my truck camper with Hiker-dog. Temperatures were in the upper 20s Sunday morning, perfect for hitting the trail!

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Hiker-dog on Dawna Robinson Spur Trail

Hiker-dog was excited to do an early morning walk on the Dawna Robinson Spur Trail. We paused to check on the memorial marker by headlamp early in the walk. The Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA) purchased the marker, and Bob Robinson installed it in 2012 after OHTA volunteers completed the trail. The marker is as beautiful today as the day it was put in place.

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Indian Creek Spur Trail In memory of Dawna Robinson

Toward the end of our hike, we paused at a favorite bluff.

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Once back at the trailhead, we walked down to the Mulberry River where frost flowers lined the shore. They’re a special little treat for those who rise early on cold mornings in the Ozarks.

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One of many frost flowers next to the Mulberry River

Because of our early start, we easily drove back home in time to get to church where I play drums during the music service. Playing drums and regular time on the trails helps alleviate my squirminess in the pew. As I drove, I thought of the beautiful cathedral I’d already visited during the early morning on the trail.

Hiker-dog, trail volunteer and nighttime guide

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On November 9, there will be trail run across my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT), and it had been a while since I walked it. Because of schedules, I had to check it during the evening. I didn’t realize that I’d be adding to my list of positive Hiker-dog attributes – more on that in a moment.

Water was flowing from recent rains, and colors were beginning to change. Temperatures began in the lower 40s and dipped into the upper 30s by the time I finished. Woohoo! It finally feels like fall!

Stihl handsawI stopped and used my small handsaw on a few limbs and trees across the trail. Love that little saw and am amazed at what it will cut. My task on this evening was to look for trees that might need to be cut out by an expert sawyer, so I stopped to set GPS waypoints and make quick notes where future cuts might be required.

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I had to pause at creek crossings for a photo but only spent a few seconds at each. My adopted section runs along the ridge on the north side of  Jack Creek. It crosses several seasonal streams that flow into Jack Creek, and each one is worthy of a lunch break when water is flowing.

By the time we reached the camp spot about 4 miles from Dochery Gap, Jack Creek was powerful, having picked up steam from all those little streams I’d been crossing.

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Jack Creek

After giving Hiker-dog a snack, we headed back toward the truck, four miles away. I stuck my headlamp in my top pocket for later.

IMG_8802rrHiker-dog provided lots of entertainment on the dark portion of our hike. Two reflective eyes kept popping up out ahead of me as she turned to be sure I was following. These eyes helped me stay on the trail a couple of times, especially when I crossed a creek and then wasn’t sure which way the path went afterward. Sure enough, eyes could be seen staring at me as if wondering what I was waiting for. I took note that any future hikes after dark should include Hiker-dog and she added to her list of positive attributes as a trail partner.

If you love the OHT, consider volunteering or adopting a section to do light maintenance and monitor. It’s a great way to contribute to keeping the trail open, and it’s fun! Visit Ozark Highlands Trail Association website under “Maintenance” to learn more.

If you’d like to meet some nice folks, join us for the Hare Mountain Hike-in, a fall tradition that dates back to the 1980s.


HARE MOUNTAIN! NOVEMBER 2-3, 2019 “CELEBRATE THE OHT”. Hike in anytime Saturday from Morgan Field (shorter, but steeper) or from Cherry Bend TH. It’s pot luck, so bring something to share with your fellow hikers. Bring your kids or grandkids. Enjoy the campfire and camp for the night. Or hike back down Saturday after eating. Most people camp and hike out Sunday. Bring water. For more information call Bob or Dana 479-595-5461 or 479-263-7479. DON’T MISS THIS TRADITIONAL HIKE-IN CAMPOUT ON THE TRAIL’S HIGHEST POINT!

 

 

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…..

Read More

Morgan Mountain Quick Trip: Beauty and a Leave No Trace Reminder

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Beginning

Hiker-dog and I needed a camping trip, something quick and close. We drove 40 miles and parked at Morgan Fields Trailhead as the sun was dropping low on Friday evening. We hiked the Ozark Highlands Trail west up Hare Mountain. After pausing at the campsite on top of the mountain, we started back down the mountain with memories of the many friends who’ve gathered around that fire ring each October over the years. 

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The view at mile 1 up Hare Mountain

Since the trail was dry, I gave Hiker-dog some water in my palm, and she licked it dry. It was easier going downhill and cooler, too. I knew to expect some downed trees and noted locations so the Ozark Highlands Trail Association chainsaw pros can cut them out before the October Hare Mountain Hike-In. A lot of maintenance happens in September in preparation for backpacker traffic through the fall, winter, and spring. If you hike in the summer, what we consider the off-season, expect more vegetation and a few downed trees. 

Lightening bugs sparkled and danced through the air. Hiker-dog got excited when she saw a trail sign in the distance. Before I got to the road, she was down the trail wanting to keep going. I said, “This way,” and she returned to the road. 

On the short road walk back to the truck, I turned off my headlamp thinking I’d walk in the dark. There wasn’t a moon yet, and after a few moments of pitch-black walking, I realize the light was necessary. When we arrived back at the truck, I looked up at a light-pollution-free star-filled sky.

After I popped up the camper top, Hiker-dog surprised me by jumping in. She curled up on the floor and sent me a side glance that said, “I’ll just sleep here for the night.” She was easy to coax into her crate at the door and was silent for the night as usual.

After checking for ticks, and finding a few still crawling, I began to think about the next day’s schedule. It was pretty simple. Rise early, do an out-and-back east to Herrods Creek, then get a turkey sandwich at Turner Bend Store.  

Night temperatures dipped into the mid-sixties. The 12-volt roof fan pulled cool air across the sleeping mats, so I slept well and even turned the fan off around midnight.

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Hiker-dog’s crate made a nice camp table.

We woke early and, after coffee and tasty breakfast, hit the trail by 6:00.

Anyone who’s hiked during the summer knows the pleasure that spiderwebs add to the experience. Several years ago, I started adopting a more zen-like view of spiderwebs and letting them wrap across my face with less frustration. I had plenty of “zen-like” practice on this hike. 

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Cool morning temperatures made for nice walking. Morning light adds beauty to the most ordinary scenes. 

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Rotting log in the morning light

I found myself noticing small things. A snail shell next to the trail caught my eye. Love the beautiful patterns of nature!

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For at least a mile, ox-eyes (false sunflower) were constant companions along the trail.

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I inspected these guys a little more closely to appreciate their beauty from all sides.

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Pretty from all sides!

The ox-eye and ironweed attracted butterflies. I enjoyed watching this one for a few seconds.

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After about three miles, we reached Harrods Creek, a dry crossing right now. Water pockets were up stream, and Hiker-dog found a good spot for a satisfying drink.

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Trail crossing at Harrods Creek

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On our way back to Morgan Fields Trailhead, I planned to pick up some trash we passed going in. I had a small plastic shopping bag, but wished for a bigger bag when I realized how much was there.

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From the looks of it, poor planning was the culprit. There was a lot of unnecessary packaging. The markings on a can of insect spray made me wonder if a bear had bitten into it. Hole patterns were similar on both sides.

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These weren’t Leave No Trace (LNT) folks! I think of the seven LNT principles as a pass/fail assessment. If you don’t follow just one principle, damage is done. What we saw here represented at least two principles:
#1 Plan Ahead and Prepare – NO
#3 Dispose of Waste Properly – NO

It’s sad to see trash left on the trail, but it feels good to leave the trail better than you find it. Hiker-dog seemed pleased with the clean spot we left behind. 

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I regret to report that we violated the fourth LNT principle (leave what you find) because we carried a few ticks out of the woods. Maybe we can be forgiven since they hitched a ride with us against our will.

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

Walking My Adopted Trail: OHT from Dockery Gap to Lake Fort Smith SP

I’ve wanted to check my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail for several months but life wouldn’t cooperate, so we were thankful for this time. I love this section and Hike-dog does, too. It was a crisp, clear day and water was running perfectly.

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Immediately, I noticed the excellent work done by volunteers with the OHTA recently. Several downed trees on the upper ridge were cut out and made for easy walking.

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The first Jack Creek crossing was almost a wet crossing but it was fairly easy to step across rocks. A favorite feature of this 4-mile section is that you cross a series of small streams that flow down into Jack Creek. Each of these streams is a visual highlight and different in every season.

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Hiker-dog seemed to enjoy having this rock in the middle of one of the small drainages we crossed.

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The water in Jack Creek was flowing clear. We met about seven young backpackers having lunch at the nearby campsite. We’d passed a solo teenage backpacker and a father and 9-year old son duo for a total of 10 hiker sightings on my small section. It was good to see so many young people on the trail.

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Seeing Trout lilies means springtime is near. These little splashes of color dotted the forest floor.

 

 

Hiker-dog at creek

The photo above shows one of the small streams we crossed and a huge boulder that always impresses me. To get an idea about its size, I placed an arrow pointing at Hiker-dog next to a tree for a sense of scale.

IMG_2950rrI filled my water bottle twice, the first time simply dipping into one of the side streams that flow into Jack Creek. The second refill came from this favorite spot where water usually flows across moss-covered rocks before crossing the trail.

I used a small handsaw to cut a few smaller trees off of the trail and used my GPS to record waypoints for future trips out with OHTA chainsaw pros for larger trees, none of which were major obstacles.

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Hiker-dog enjoyed several cooling bathes over the course of the day and she definitely exceeded my 8-miles out-and-back distance with her dashes out through the woods. She and I were both thrilled to do this section of the OHT again!

Consider volunteering! Go to the OHTA website and check under maintenance. Use the maintenance coordinator email to see if there is a section you might want to adopt.

Rattle Snake Falls on a warm winter day

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Mike next to Rattle Snake Falls

Mike explored this area alone a while back. It had been several years since I visited this spot. I did so by walking the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) from Dockery Gap and following Hurricane Creek downstream from where the trail crosses the creek.

I was pleased when he asked if Hiker-dog and I would like to tag along and looked forward to seeing the falls from a different approach. And no, we didn’t see any rattle snakes. IMG_2582rrAfter exploring the falls and surrounding bluffs in the late afternoon light, we followed an old jeep road up above the valley to the stream that feeds the falls. Mike said, “I wonder what’s up around that bend in the creek.” With that, we spent a few minutes walking upstream taking in some nice cascades and reflective pools.IMG_2590rrIMG_2597rr

As we headed back toward Mike’s truck, I asked if I could run back down into the valley to get some photos of the falls in a different light. Mike explored the top of Rattle Snake Falls while I photographed below.

After the sun went behind the Dockery Gap ridge to the west, Rattle Snake Falls took on a softer look and temperatures dropped.

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Notice Mike on top of the bluff to the left of the waterfall

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When we met back up at the jeep road, we picked up some trash at a nearby campsite. I said this was our small admission price to the beauty down in the valley and a way of giving back.

When I noticed the brand of the beer, I had to laugh. It seems like litterbugs always drink Busch Beer. I never find IPA or Guinness cans trashing up the Ozarks.

The Urge for Going

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High ridge on Hare Mountain

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And all the trees are shivering in a naked row
….
I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown

~ Joni Mitchell, excerpt from the first verse of her song, Urge for Going

Winter is such a wonderful time for hiking in the Ozarks! I like it so much, I wrote “Walking Through Winter” for Do South Magazine.

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Frost flower on the Ozark Highlands Trail

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Hiker-dog at the base of Senyard Falls

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McWater Falls on the Lake Alma Trail

Top Ten Posts for 2018

Thank you for letting me share my love for the Ozarks. I sometimes describe this blog as my online scrapbook. I enjoy looking back at previous trips, sometimes to check my memory or relive the joy of the trail. In one of these posts, I reflect on the loss of a friend and the positive impact of his life.

Below I’ve listed the top ten viewed posts from 2018. I hope you’ll sample some of these posts and be inspired to take a hike.  – Jim Warnock

1. Hiking Rush, an Arkansas Ghost Town Photo Tour

2. Walk…Eat…Sleep…Repeat – The Ozark Highlands Trail 

3. Loss of a Friend A tribute to Roy Senyard

4. How to Prepare for a Multi-Day Backpacking Trip

5. Rock House on the Ozark Highlands Trail

6. Buffalo River from Boxley to Pruitt in “Typical” Arkansas Weather

7. Ouachita Trail Completed

8. My Morning Brew: Great Coffee on the Trail

9. Coloring Our World: 88 Miles on Missouri’s Ozark Trail

10. My book – Five Star Trails: The Ozarks

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