Each October, backpackers and hikers gather in the Ouachita Mountains to share outdoor skills,backpacking tips and reports from the trails. The event, known as The Gathering, includes food, fellowship, and beautiful surroundings.
One of the views on the walk from the campground to the pavilion
Shady Lake is an ideal location in the Ouachitas. It’s a little out of the way which adds to the beauty and limits crowds in the campground. It has a homey feel, plenty of beauty, and great hiking trails.
Sean Dupre demonstrates water purification techniques
Backpacking Arkansas (also known as BPA) is a true grassroots story. Tomas Trigg started a forum for backpackers and hikers several years ago. It gained many followers and eventually led to a desire for the online community to meet in person, hence The Gathering.
For seven years, this loosely connected community has “gathered” somewhere in the Ouachitas. Sean Dupre took the rains when Tomas relocated and wasn’t able to continue coordinating the event. Commitment to the group is reflected in the fact that that Tomas continues to maintain the website and pay for its domain. Backpacking Arkansas has now added a Facebook page so be sure to follow.
Sean did a great job coordinating The Gathering for two years, despite living in Texas. This coming year, the job goes to Mark Davis, and The Gathering tradition, seven years strong, continues.
Hiker-dog enjoyed exploring the creek that feeds Shady Lake.
Join us next year on October 19-21, 2018. You’ll enjoy the fellowship, sharing of skills, and learning about new trails in the Ouachitas and Ozarks!
Mark Davis doing a backpack shakedown
pack weight comparisons
Time for fellowship
Jim Fraser sharing essentials of day packing.
Hiker-dog taking a break (and a drink) at Shady Lake
Would I like to schedule a book signing in Northwest Arkansas on October 22 or drive into the Ouachita Mountains and meet Nimblewill Nomad? The answer was easy! Saturday morning, Hiker-dog and I hopped into the Jeep and drove the 125 miles south, arriving at Shady Lake by 10:00 a.m.
Pavilion at Shady Lake
Backpacking Arkansas (BPA) began as a web forum where hikers share knowledge, serve the trails, and draw inspiration. Once a year, an event is held where a portion of members of the forum meet and greet and share educational sessions.
First aid demonstration
When we arrived, Gerry helped get me sign in. He recognized my forum name and asked about Hiker-dog. Turns out he has followed our trail stories, so it was fun to put a face to a blog name. Nimblewill was scheduled for the afternoon. We enjoyed a first aid session before breaking for lunch.
Randy and Nimblewill enjoying lunch in the sun.
Randy, a fellow board member of the Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA), was present, and so we sat in the sun and had lunch with Nimblewill, who’d driven down from Independence, Missouri.
Jackson Spencer, who completed the first 165 miles of the Ozark Highlands Trail in 4 days and change, shared some of his experiences on the trail and the mental aspects of hiking 18-20 hours a day. He and his girlfriend enjoyed visiting with members before and after his session.
Jim Woolly and Jackson discuss long distance hiking
Nimblewill sharing his vision for the future
Nimblewill began his session with a challenge to those present. He began to describe the beauty to be found in the Ozarks and Ouachitas while questioning the most recent addition to the list of eleven National Scenic Trails in the eastern United States.
He said the beauty of Arkansas and Missouri is on par with mountain regions anywhere in the United States and that a combined Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas and Ozark Trail in Missouri, or Trans-Ozark Trail (TOT) would meet the requirements for a National Scenic Trail. He even mentioned that the Ouachita Trail could eventually be tied into the long trail leading to Saint Louis Missouri. He mentioned that many of the great trails in the country involve some road walking to follow so connecting the Ouachita Trail would be a possibility.
Nimblewill’s session was laced with poetry. He used poetry to express ideas that might have been more difficult in narrative. In the following poem he describes the wanderlust many distance hikers feel.
Watch Nimblewill deliver his poem, “Home of the Free.”
I won one of his books,Ten Million Steps! It’s his journal of his trek from the Florida Keys to Quebec, Canada, laced with poetic interludes and a real pleasure to read. My book, Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, was presented as a door prize at the end of Nimblewill’s session. It made me feel good to know that we were both published by Menasha Ridge Press.
Nimblewill is in his late 70s and still planning long walks. His next goal is to walk Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angles. One of the big challenges is getting waivers to walk some sections of Interstate Highway that cover the old route. Some states have laws forbidding foot traffic. Over morning coffee Sunday I suggested he get some type of slow vehicle permit. He walks around 3.5 miles per hour and is powered by two legs.
Nimblewill described the contents of his ultra-light pack. He said the task has been to bring your wants and needs together so that only what is necessary can be found in his pack.
Nimblewill’s loaded pack weighs in at about 8-10 pounds.
Sunday morning, I was up early and had the pleasure of some time with Nimblewill. He shared some of the logistical challenges of his Route 66 trek planning. I have no doubt that he will walk the length of Route 66. I hope the states he passes through facilitate his travels because they’ll have one kind soul walking their roads while he’s passing through.
Paul with EtowahOutfitters visits with Nimblewill while waiting for coffee to brew.
Hiker saying we must hit the trail
Sunday, after breakfast, I thought of heading back home, but my little buddy had been so patient the day before, and now she was urging me to take the 3-mile trail around Shady Lake, one I’d not hiked in more than 20 years.
As always, following Hiker-dog’s lead was wise. We both felt much better from the after-breakfast exercise, and we saw some of the beauty of the Ouachitas. The old trail around Shady Lake had some spots that were hard to follow. I started down what I thought was trail and noticed Hiker-dog up above me. Once again, she was right, so I backtracked and followed her lead.
Early morning on Shady Lake enticing us to walk the trail
Hints at Fall color and deep green moss along the stream flowing into Shady Lake
Another scene along the creek entering Shady Lake
A big thank you to Backpacking Arkansas for putting this event together. Thanks also to Duane, Paul, Gerry, and others who worked to set things up and sponsor the weekend. All presenters were excellent, and the Saturday night potluck alone was worth the drive. I’ll definitely put this event on my calendar for next year!