Just perfect!

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Hiker-dog and I needed a nice long dayhike. The expected rain began about one hour into our hike. The temperature hovered around 44-degrees. Just perfect!

Dogwoods provided accents across the forest understory. I paused to take a photo of a single bloom, causing Hiker-dog to return and do her head-cocking routine as if to say, “What are you doing and why aren’t you making a better pace?”

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Dogwood on a chilly cloudy morning

In spite of the thick foliage, I was able to see Spy Rock bluff on the next ridge and looked forward to being there soon.

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Spy Rock bluff in the distance

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The trail route is clearly marked and signs give good guidance in spite of the ax damage to the Spy Rock sign on top.

Rain increased a little and temperatures seemed to drop though it was probably the strong winds that made if feel colder. I stopped on the spur to Spy Rock to retrieve my windbreaker and a snack when a trail runner approached in the opposite direction. She seemed happy to see Hiker-dog and flew by. She would be the only person I saw on the trail on this day that many would call a bad weather day. For us, it was just perfect!

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View from Spy Rock

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Spy Rock didn’t disappoint even on this overcast and hazy day. Distant pine groves and new spring foliage provided colorful accents across the expansive forest. Hiker-dog found fresh water pockets on the flat rocks atop Spy Rock Bluff. She seems to always have proper respect for high bluffs, stepping with care when she’s close to the edge.

Speaking of pine groves. On this 8.3-mile loop hike, you’ll pass through several patches of pine, a treat for the feet because of their thickness and the soft pine needle forest floor. Smooth, easy walking!

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You’ll see several open fields above the trail providing food for deer and visual variety for us humans. I want to do this trail before dawn and sit quietly at the edge of one of these fields to see what wildlife comes around.

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Small streams contained water today, but waterfalls were mere trickles since new rains were just beginning. When I passed Redding Loop Falls, I thought of an earlier trip when we were writing Five Star Trails: The Ozarks. Taking photos of this little waterfall for the book was a special memory because Hiker-dog was totally puzzled by my decision to hang out in this hollow for 30 minutes. One of the resulting photos from that time made it into hike #5, Redding Loop Spy Rock Trail.

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Photo from page 44 of Five Star Trail: The Ozarks

I enjoyed every part of doing this book and was especially proud of the maps and accurate route descriptions.

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Trail map from Five Star Trails: The Ozarks

Several times during today’s trek I heard the distinctive call of a pileated woodpecker. I never saw the bird but did see evidence of a variety of woodpeckers on several pine trees next to the trail.

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As we got closer to Redding Campground, I leashed Hiker-dog to be sure she didn’t greet any unsuspecting campers. In the photo below, we’re both appreciating the work of trail maintenance volunteers. This trail is always in excellent condition! Thank you, Chris, Steven, Mike, or one of several other sawyers in the Ozark Highlands Trail Association.

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Redding Campground was empty which led me to wonder if the gate was closed, but it was open as were the restrooms. I guess the cool temps and rain discouraged campers, but I thought it was pretty perfect! While walking the road back out to the truck, I noticed this broken boulder, reminding me of the work accomplished by time and weathering. The patient work of nature is just perfect!

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A stop at Turner Bend Store is always a highlight when I’m in this area. I was craving one of their filling fresh sandwiches and was pleased to see my book on the shelf along with many other great titles. Good food and good books? Just perfect!

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If you can’t make it to Turner Bend Store for a sandwich and a copy of Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, check any of these locations or your own area bookstores or order online.

Celebrating Health and Enjoying the Dog

View of the Mulberry River on the drive to Redding Loop Trail.

View of the Mulberry River on the drive to Redding Loop Trail.

Nothing makes you appreciate a good hike like being sick. I wondered if I had the flu, but I suppose it was just an “uncommon” cold.  I was miserable!  There wasn’t any question about getting rest.  I couldn’t do anything but rest for several days.

Doing the 8.3-mile Redding Loop and Spy Rock today made me feel healthy again.  Cold air, sunny skies, and some good hills to climb.  It felt like a celebration hike.

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Hiker was ready to get out, too.  She’s been patient while waiting for her master to return to the trail.  She had never done the Spy Rock portion of this hike, but the open woods were just to her liking.   Hiker provided continuous entertainment from the first half-mile when she gave energetic pursuit to three deer on the trail.

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Hiker enjoying a break at Spy Rock.

When I noticed Hiker lounging at Spy Rock, I thought, “Someone’s going sleep well tonight.”  It was January 20th when this unlikely trail partner joined our family.  She’s added consistency to my hiking and been good company on the trail.  I’m pleased that she enjoys going to the woods despite the fact she almost starved to death in the Ozarks.  I think she likes her new home.

Tonight I gave Hiker an extra large serving to make up for the miles she traveled today.  Sometimes she sleeps inside her house and sometimes beside it in cedar shavings under a little awning.  With colder temperatures on the way, I added some dry leaves on the back side of her cedar bed.  She was asleep quickly after eating and never made another sound.

Just another day on the trail…

Abandoned house on Highway 23

Abandoned house on Highway 23

Part of the fun of hiking is driving to the trailhead. I just had to stop when this abandoned house caught my eye.

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I was looking forward to hiking with Mike LeMaster.  He is a “heavy hitter” when it comes to trail maintenance, but today he hiked without his chainsaw.  We had a good visit while on the trail.  He is shown here with his famous Toyota go-anywhere truck.  This little truck has slid into a couple of ditches and a barbed wire fence, but just keeps going and going.

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We decided to avoid running a shuttle and did the Redding Loop.  We passed this “would be” waterfall.  I thought about a kayaker who often said, “If there were water, we could float this.”   I thought to myself, “If there were water, this would be a waterfall,” but it was just a trickle today.  The little valley was a pleasure to see as the trail followed around its edge.

Spy Rock

Spy Rock

We didn’t make the spur to Spy Rock but enjoyed seeing it from a distance.  Below is a picture taken from the bluff a couple of months ago.  Sean is cutting up (carefully) on the edge of Spy Rock.

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After completing Redding Loop, Mike headed back to Fayetteville to catch a football game.  Hiker-dog and I had one more hike in mind.  We drove up to Morgan Fields Trailhead with the idea of doing an out-and-back to Hare Mountain, the highest point on the OHT.

Trail entrance from Morgan Fields Trailhead

Trail entrance from Morgan Fields Trailhead

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This out-and-back hike was on the Ozark Highlands Trail, passing mile marker 43, and 44.  I’m always pleased to see these little trail signs at road crossings.  I must associate them with good experiences on the trail.

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The trail passes a rock wall.  I wish these walls could tell stories of the people who built them.  Below is a picture of a small portion of rockwork that forms the base of a section of historic roadbed.  The trail follows this road for a short distance.   Over the years, some of the stone retaining wall has been torn up by falling trees but much of it has stood the test of time.  I can’t imagine how much physical labor went into building this little section of road.

Rock base of historic roadbed

Rock base of historic roadbed

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The trail climbs steadily and cuts through a couple of rocky crags.  It’s December 6, and I’m hiking in a t-shirt.  I was chilly but avoided breaking a sweat on the climb.

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Hickory nuts were plentiful on top of Hare Mountain.  I picked one up and tossed it for Hiker to chase.  To my surprise, she began to crack it with her teeth.  Half fell out on the ground, and she chewed up the other half.  I dug out some of the nut and tried it.  Pretty good but a lot of work.

The hickory nut Hiker cracked for me.

The hickory nut Hiker cracked for me.

Hiker chewing a hickory nut.

Hiker chewing a hickory nut.

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Hiker inspected the homestead chimney and well.  I’m always impressed with the mantel stone on this fireplace.  It appears that some mortar may have been used, but there are no firebricks.   I would like to know the date of construction.

Hare Mountain Well

Hare Mountain Well

I peeked under the well lid to check the water level.  It was about two feet from the top and pretty cloudy as usual.  Rain water had collected in the bucket.

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Even on foggy days, the view from Hare Mountain is a joy to see.  A quick hike down the mountain and we called it a day, another very good day on the trail!

If you’d like to see more of the Ozark Highlands Trail, here’s a slideshow from my thru-hike last winter.