There’s always a plan-B in the Ozarks


Senyard Falls

I’d planned to hike Hare Mountain today. As I began climbing a muddy East Fly Gap Road with my two-wheel drive vehicle,  I imagined my wife riding along with Hiker and me. At the moment I could imagine her getting concerned, I decided to turn around.

In the Ozarks, a plan-B is always available. I decided to visit the nearby Senyard Falls, named for Roy Senyard who maintains this section of the OHT and has been involved in trail maintenance for years. Roy is a strong guy, so it’s appropriate that the paths leading to his waterfall involve some tough scrambling, especially when conditions are wet.

There was a light rain, so I avoided having my camera out except for a few quick photos. I look forward to returning to this waterfall and seeing it from below. I couldn’t resist trying to capture a spider web next to the trail above the falls. It was easy to see why a camera could become wet quickly in this morning drizzle.


As Hiker-dog and I headed back upstream, we stopped for a break at a crossing.


While sitting beside the stream, I noticed Hiker looking quite pensive. I began to watch her, wondering what was going on in that little head of hers. I don’t know if dogs are capable of prayer, but I’m pretty sure Hiker was demonstrating a sense of gratitude for what she was seeing and experiencing on this drizzly morning. Or, maybe she was just spotting a squirrel in the distance.

IMG_1499rrI wonder if Hiker remembers her time of starvation and being alone in the woods before she joined our family. She does seem to appreciate everything about her life now, and she’s wildly excited when we go hiking.


I paused to appreciate the bluff below the Cherry Bend Trailhead as we climbed back toward Hwy 23.

After driving south on Hwy 23, then east on 215, we did some hiking on the Redding Loop. While taking photos of the lower falls that were not running strongly, I noticed these fungi on a limb at my feet.



Hiker and I both enjoyed walking through the pine and cedar groves on the Redding Loop.

I’ve admired a long rock wall close to the trailhead. Today we decided to go off the trail for a closer look. The craftsmanship was obvious from a distance and confirmed on closer inspection.


Rock wall close to the Redding Loop Trailhead

We made a quick stop at Turner Bend for a turkey sandwich. The ladies behind the counter always try to guess my order. I usually fake them out with my ham or turkey decision, but they know I’m going to ask for the “whole garden.” Love those veggies!


Turner Bend Waterfall

We were driving away when I noticed that the falls next to Turner Bend were still flowing. Had to stop for a photo before heading home. Hiker slept in her crate, content and happy after her morning in the woods.

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! 

A Waterfall Day on Redding Loop and Spirits Creek

With rain following a recent snow, I decided it was time to revisit a couple of waterfalls I’ve wanted to see for a while.  The first one is on Redding Loop Trail. I’ve hiked this loop trail many times but never when water was flowing. There are two waterfalls, but this was the one I wanted to see based on the formation of the bluff and rocky drainage below the falls. I was not disappointed!

Redding Loop Trail waterfall

Redding Loop Trail waterfall


I spent several minutes photographing the waterfall. Hiker finally had all she could take and began barking for me to get moving. I must be a puzzle to her when I stand at a tripod with a small black box on top for a while for no apparent reason.


Hiker is easily entertained. She has a recurring desire to crawl inside of a log. I think she must hear something inside raising her curiosity.


On our way back to the trailhead, I couldn’t resist spending a couple of minutes next to a small glade area that crosses the trail.

White Rock Mountain Road

White Rock Mountain Road

After doing part of Redding Loop, the big adventure began. I drove up White Rock Mountain Road with the knowledge that my plans might change at any curve. I cleared large limbs off of the road in two spots and crossed some sections of road that were so muddy I wasn’t sure I would pass all the way through.

I had considered adding Spirits Creek as an out-and-back hike in my trail guide, but today’s drive convinced me that this route doesn’t belong in a day hike trail guide. It’s a great destination for experienced hikers, dirt road drivers, and OHT thru-hikers.

Gray Spring shelter built by the CCC.

Gray Spring shelter built by the CCC.

I’ve driven past Gray Spring several times, but today it was time to stop and admire the work of the depression era Citizens Conservation Corps. It appears that Gray Spring is being maintained by the US Forest Service. On the day I visited, the area was clean following a recent controlled burn.

The rock work has stood the test of time and is still functional today. The spring is located uphill above White Rock Mountain Road and flows past Gray Spring picnic area, eventually feeding into Spirits Creek. If you’re looking for a place for a quiet picnic, Gray Spring fits the bill.

Gray Spring picnic area.

Gray Spring picnic area.

Big fir pit

Big fire pit

Spring up above White Rock Mt. Road

Spring up above White Rock Mt. Road

I’d like to learn more about the spring itself. This pipe ran from farther up the hill, but we decided not to explore any higher on the muddy hillside. The concrete cover appeared to be disconnected from the water source.

spring cover

spring cover

View from the CCC Gray Spring shelter.

View from the CCC Gray Spring shelter.

Ragtown Road TH for the OHT heading west.

Ragtown Road TH for the OHT heading west.

We continued up White Rock Mountain Road for a short distance past Gray Spring and then took a right onto Ragtown Road to the trailhead. We followed the Ozark Highlands Trail down a couple of benches into the Spirits Creek valley.

We passed through a section with lots of devil’s walking sticks that usually indicate a compromised canopy and sure enough, you could see that things were pretty open in that area. Compliments to the trail maintainers for this section. It was in good shape. After the walking stick section, we entered a more open and healthy hardwood forest with little streams everywhere, including the middle of the trail. We just stomped along looking forward to Spirits Creek.

Spirits Creek falls

Spirits Creek falls

I have a photo of this waterfall from my thru-hike of the OHT over Christmas of 2013. That photo was done hurriedly after crossing a swollen Spirits Creek due to hard rains the night before. I camped at Spirits Creek again in the last year, but it wasn’t flowing so I was excited to be here today and spent some time with this waterfall. Hiker explored nooks and crannies of the bluffs behind the waterfalls. I was envious.


Spirits Creek falls


Noticed some white trout lilies in the moist hillsides around Spirits Creek. Their scientific name is Erythronium albidum. I don’t know plants well, but enjoy rediscovering the names I can’t remember from year to year. I hope I’ve identified this one correctly.

Spirites Creek

Spirits Creek

A favorite spot on Spirits Creek.

A favorite spot on Spirits Creek.

After the hike, we took the slow and muddy 5-mile drive east on White Rock Mountain Road to AR 23. Then we turned south for a delicious sandwich at Turner Bend Store. Hiker enjoyed making new friends and having a little snack of lunch meat from the Turner Bend crew.

Directions to Ragtown Road Trailhead for Spirits Creek access: Drive 0.6 mile south of Cass watching for White Rock Mountain Road. Drive west on White Rock Mt. Rd. for 4.2 miles, then stay right. Reset the odometer. Drive 0.8 miles farther and watch for Gray Springs down on the left. At 1.3 miles, turn right onto Ragtown Road (Forest Road 1509). The trailhead is about 0.7 miles on Ragtown Road.

Directions to Redding Loop Trail: Just north of Cass, turn onto AR 215 east.  Drive 2.7 miles east and past the Redding Campground entrance.  Drive a short distance (maybe 0.2 mile) beyond the campground entrance and turn right onto a gravel road that will lead you almost immediately to the trailhead.