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!

 

 

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

IMG_1147rrWhile working on Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, I scouted several trails that followed portions of Missouri’s Ozark Trail. Those experiences left me wanting more.

IMG_1562Using the Ozark Trail Association website trip planner, I entered how many days were available for the outing and decided on a south-to-north trek following the Eleven Point, Between the Rivers, and Current River sections for a total of 87.6 miles. I rounded our total trip mileage up to 88 since we poked around in the woods a couple of times where the trail became difficult to follow, mostly around the Peck Ranch section.

On Friday, November 2, I drove up to Fayetteville and picked up Bob, then drove about 5 hours to Powder Mill, east of Eminence, Missouri. Jerry Richard (Richard’s Canoe Rental) met us promptly the next morning and shuttled us to the Western Terminus of the Eleven Point River section close to Thomasville. Our itinerary was simple from there. Just walk 88-miles back to my truck at Powder Mill (AKA Owls Bend on the Current River).

IMG_1138rrAs we set foot on the trail Saturday morning, we were immediately captured by the fall colors. The first day flew by, and we arrived at Bockman Spring early in the afternoon.

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Bockman Spring

The cave is closed, but a photo could be taken from the door frame to the bluff built by earlier inhabitants. I used my headlamp to “light-paint” the cave’s walls during a 15-second exposure. We filtered our water from the PVC pipe that carried water from the cave to a metal catch basin in front of the spring.

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Bockman Spring

While preparing our evening meals, several friendly locals on four-wheelers drove up, and we visited about our itinerary. They had many questions about the trail and the distance we would travel over the next few days. The first day for gun hunting would be November 10, but we had hunter orange for the final days of our trek.

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Coffee, eggs and bacon bits

After a rainy night, I woke to the silhouette of trees against a dull morning light. Drops of water falling from nearby trees sounded like hundreds of little animal steps. I prepared egg crystals and bacon bits with coffee while warming under my quilt.

Packing lightweight food that would satisfy and provide fuel for the miles took some planning, but I was pleased with the results.

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Chicken, rice, and veggies

Mountain House dehydrated chicken combined with Knorr meals or instant potatoes made excellent dinners! The addition of selected dehydrated veggies added flavor and balance. I’m looking forward to including examples (and samples) from my backpacking menu during my March 3rd, 2019 presentation for the Friends of Hobbs State Park.

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My small umbrella was put to good use as drizzling rain fell on and off the next day. I began to walk a familiar trail included in my guidebook as we passed the McCormack Lake spur. We stopped for a break at a view of the Eleven Point River I’d looked forward to seeing again.

IMG_1310rrAfter passing Greer Recreation Area, we followed the upland route. We toured the well maintained Bristol Cemetery that contained grave sites from the 1800s and early 1900s.

After thirteen hilly miles, we made camp four miles into the Between the Rivers Section. As the sun went down, coyote howls echoed through the surrounding woods with a stereo-like high fidelity purity.

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The tarp combined with bivy sack as a groundcloth, air mattress, and down quilt kept me dry and warm. I like the closeness I feel with surroundings when using a tarp. If strong thunderstorms had been in the forecast, I might have carried my tent instead.

Monday began cold! Rain started around 11 a.m. and continued throughout the day, slacking up around 6 p.m. My camera was safely stowed inside my waterproof stuffsack so no photos from that day.

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Cotham Pond

Tuesday treated us to more water than we’d expected on this typically dry section of trail. We found good water and sunshine at Cotham Pond. A starry night and strong coyote songs followed that evening.

The next few days sailed by as we covered miles and found water plentiful along the trail. Mint Spring was a special place with its soft green color.

 

We didn’t see any elk in the Pike Ranch Conservation Area, but saw more deer than we could count. The trail got sketchy at a burned out area, but we found our way. Trail markers were sometimes plentiful but more often spaced so that they reassured us we were on the right path. As part of our planning, we passed through Peck Ranch a couple of days before the route would close for hunting season.

The trail became easier to follow once we got north of Peck Ranch. Climbing up Stegall Mountain was exciting as distant views revealed themselves while we walked through stunted, windblown oaks. We spent a few minutes on the glade mountaintop taking in the beauty then continued toward the Rocky Creek section.

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Rocky Creek held wonderful water. I treated it lightly with some Aquamira drops. Our seventh and last night on the trail was our coldest yet. The next morning was a delightful chilly walk to Klepzig Mill followed by several cold creek crossings. Bob said, “The cleanest parts of our bodies are definitely our feet!”

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The water of Rocky Creek and adjacent creeks was clear and cold! I enjoyed watching this small leaf dance on the surface of the water and follow its shadow on the rock below.

We walked across a field of frost flowers on this sunny morning. I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a bite from one of the large ice formations.

As we approached our final Current River crossing over the Hwy 60 Bridge, a pickup truck pulled up and one of our deer hunter friends from day one at Bockman Spring greeted us. We enjoyed a short visit before continuing to Powder Mill Trailhead and our trip’s end. The only backpacker we met in eight days was Joe B. going the opposite direction early in our hike.

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Current River from the Hwy 60 Bridge

We looked forward to a good meal but drove east for a while before stopping at Mountain Grove to have a delicious dinner at Grove Family Restaurant. Great service! Great food!

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Bob and Jim

We were thankful to conclude our colorful trek on the Ozark Trail still feeling healthy and strong. Maybe we’ll return and explore more miles of this beautiful trail in the future. Like my dayhikes from three years ago, this first longer walk on the Ozark Trail left me wanting more. Check out the links at the end of this post to read of our other long hikes.

A note of thanks: We passed hundreds of cuts, old and new, that cleared our way on the trail. We saw areas recently maintained and the white tree blazes were essential to following the trail. Bob and I have adopted sections of the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas, so we appreciate the work it takes to keep a trail open. Thank you to the Ozark Trail Association (OTA) and the many volunteers who give their time to Missouri’s Ozark Trail!

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Evidence of volunteers with the OTA

Walk…Eat…Sleep…Repeat – The Ozark Highlands Trail of Arkansas

A Few Steps in Paradise – The John Muir Trail in the High Sierras of California

Ouachita Trail’s First 51 Miles at the (Im)Perfect Time (Includes links to posts that complete the 223 mile trail)

Loss of a Friend

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Roy Senyard on the OHT (photographer unknown)

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On July 28th, the trails of Arkansas and many hiking enthusiasts lost a good friend. Roy Senyard was deeply committed to maintaining the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) and served as Maintenance Coordinator for many years. Roy and his wife, Norma, also volunteered on trails in Colorado and other locations out west. 

In 2009, Roy encouraged me to adopt the section of trail west of Dockery Gap. That 4-mile section of trail has meant a great deal to my personal health and sense of ownership of the OHT. 

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L-R Roy Senyard and Duane Woltjen, two great builders of trail.

Roy was plain-speaking and didn’t have much patience with folks who talked but didn’t do. He got stuff done, but you had fun and laughed a lot in the process! He was an expert sawyer and made thousands of cuts to clear trails for others to walk.

During the Vietnam War, Roy served as a medic. He was a gutsy guy, not easily rattled while out on the trail. He knew how to get onto the OHT using obscure backroads known by few. There weren’t many forest roads in the Ozarks that he hasn’t driven to access a downed tree or washed out tread.

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Roy, on the distant right, taking a break from work on Hare Mountain. L-R Mike Lemaster, Bob Robinson, and Chris Adams.

We used to laugh when Roy gave maintenance reports to the Ozark Highlands Trail Association. He often began by saying there wasn’t much to report and then he’d launch into a lengthy summary of work recently completed and work needing to be done as Norma tried to signal him to wrap it up.

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Roy’s smoky cut

During a US Forest Service chainsaw training, Roy demonstrated a cut on a cedar log. His attention to safety and technique was impeccable, but he had inadvertently put a dull chain on his saw. This became evident to all as smoke engulfed him while making the cut. He was a little embarrassed and may have uttered an expletive or two, but we had a good laugh, knowing he was top-of-the-line when it came to anything related to trail maintenance.

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Roy and his wife, Norma, were a team. They both maintained and hiked trails. They thru-hiked the OHT and walked many miles in the Ozarks, Rocky Mountains, and other locations. They loved to bring the grandkids to Hare Mountain and let them experience hiking and nature.

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Roy and Norma on the OHT

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Preparing for a day hike at Tyler Bend

I’m going to miss Roy. He was the type of friend you might not see for a year, then run into as I did recently at Tyler Bend, and take up as if no time had passed. I’m thankful to have known Roy Senyard and will think and speak of him often, especially when walking the trails.

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Roy Senyard Falls, named by Tim Ernst in recognition of Roy’s commitment to the OHT. Thanks to Eric Scowden for the photo.

Never the Same Trail Twice

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Nick and Hiker-dog crossing Frog Bayou

Hiking buddy, Nick, said he needed some time on the trail and wondered what section we might try. Hiker-dog had never done the few miles from Dockery Gap to White Rock Mountain, so we decided to do Lake Fort Smith State Park to Fane Creek, just over 30 miles.

This route included new miles for Nick and Hiker-dog but repeats for me. As we walked this familiar path, I remembered once again that we never walk the same trail twice.

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Nick checking out the fire bricks inside the remnants of one homesite along the trail.

IMG_6532rr Water was plentiful. This was my first filterless backpacking trip using only water treatment drops, so I enjoyed “selecting” my water from any number of small streams we passed.

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Little Hurricane Creek

IMG_6569rrWe met a family camped at mile 10. While visiting with the father, Luke, I was impressed with his two young daughters’ ability to run without pain barefoot through the woods.

The next day we met two backpackers, Nick and Foster, from Kansas who’d camped in the area and were continuing on the OHT the next day. As we approached White Rock Mountain, a young man with a group called out, “Is that Hiker-dog?” She’s such a celebrity. Turns out, Chris had picked up a copy of Five Star Trails: The Ozarks, and met Hiker-dog at the Hare Mountain Hike-In. We expected a social hike due to the time of year and enjoyed meeting good folks on the trail.

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For the first evening meal I boiled red potato slices a few minutes then added a Knorr side dish that cooked quickly. Good stuff!

On the second night at Salt Fork Creek, I used instant potatoes combined with a slice of Spam. Quick, easy, and light.

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Hiker-dog enjoyed a nap early in our second evening as a soft rain began to fall. Stronger storms and a beautiful lightning show followed later during the night, although not enough to raise the level of Salt Fork or Spirits Creek by more than an inch. 

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Nick and Hiker-dog crossing Spirits Creek

As Nick crossed Spirits Creek, I thought back to my thru-hike with Bob a few years ago. A heavy rain raised the creek level enough to cause us to pay careful attention while crossing. Never the same trail twice…

Below is another example of how different the same trail can be depending on conditions. Early in our hike, the Shepherd Springs Waterfall was a trickle in bright sunshine. On a previous visit during a wet springtime day, I got one of my favorite photos of this same waterfall. Part of the pleasure of the OHT is repeated visits during varied conditions and seasons. In the Ozarks, just when you think you know a trail, you realize it has something new to reveal.

Word of thanks to Ozark Highlands Trail Association volunteers: The photo below right shows the obvious work of trail maintenance volunteers who hike in with chainsaws and cut out obstacles. The photo on the left shows a full day’s work by several volunteers although it would be easy to walk by without notice. At one time, water flowed across the trail continually washing it out and making this a difficult spot. Volunteers trenched an alternative route for the water, directing it away from the trail and toward a culvert that channels water under the adjacent road. They’d be proud of how well this erosion fix is working.

Ozark Highlands Trail on The Trail Show Podcast

The Trail Show

Steven Parker, Maintenance Coordinator for the OHTA, gave an excellent discussion of the Ozark Highlands Trail on The Trail Show podcast. Seven’s interview begins 41 minutes into the podcast.

If you accidentally come in a couple of minutes early, don’t let the heavy metal-like “Back on the Trail” scare you. Just past this shocking sonic experience, you will be treated to a 20-minute discussion of the Ozark Highlands Trail.

Click on link to go to the podcast or paste address into your search window: http://thetrailshow.com/the-trail-show-60-the-oht/

Here’s an earlier blog post that includes some photos of Steven and other volunteers who keep the OHT open. In Praise of Trail Maintainers

My Little Piece of the OHT

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Jack Creek at the east end of my adopted section.

Today we hiked about eight miles out and back to check my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. It runs four miles following the creek drainage from Dockery Gap Trailhead west to the campsite on Jack Creek.

img_9367rrI was surprised to see a brand new trailhead kiosk. At some time in the past, I emailed a request for a kiosk here since the Dockery Gap Trailhead served as the main entrance point during construction of the Lake Fort Smith State Park. I hope it lasts and is left alone.

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While we’re on the subject of signage, the new mile markers look good, showing miles from both directions. I like the OHT logo, too!

Temperatures were in the low 60s, unusual for this time of year. We (Hiker-dog and I) saw a total of 8 hikers during the day. I met a couple of backpackers from Oklahoma finishing up as we started out. They gave me a good report on trail conditions. Another backpacker crossed the road heading east as I arrived and three more hikers were coming out of the Jack Creek drainage as I was going down.

Close to the Jack Creek campsite, we met a couple from Michigan, hiking from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Big Piney. I enjoyed visiting with them, and they seemed to enjoy Hiker-dog’s enthusiastic attention. I was impressed that they traveled from Michigan specifically to do the OHT. They looked prepared and were hiking strong, so I have no doubt that they’ll have a good trip.

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Kyle and Mary from Michigan

Crossing one of the drainages I was reminded of the power of nature. A set of large boulders I’ve passed many times had been rearranged by flooded creeks sometime since my last visit.

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This lone patch of Daffodils hinted at earlier residents a short distance from the trail. I’d never noticed domesticated flowers on my section of the OHT before.

img_9379rrThe always-reliable, “Rusty Spring” was flowing as usual. Hiker-dog passed it by, so I followed her example and fought the urge to take a sip.

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Jack Creek at the west end of my adopted section.

As I filtered water from Jack Creek, Hiker-dog took a dip and then went upstream to introduce herself to the couple from Michigan. I came along later and met them.

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Ecstasy!

On this warm day, Hiker-dog went for water often. She takes great delight in lowering herself into a pool of water, shaking off and then dipping again.

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The shake.

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A cool dog…

After her cooling swim, Hiker is ready to run. I didn’t jump into the creek, but the water was refreshing to drink. I looked forward to walking the four miles back to the trailhead, enjoying a freshly cleared trail from our trip out. Far from being a chore, maintaining my little piece of the OHT is a joy!

If you’re in the area, come to the Arkansas Trails Symposium at Devil’s Den State Park on February 25. I’ll share my Ozark Highlands Trail thru-hike in photos and stories at 3:45 p.m. and have Five Star Trails: The Ozarks on hand for signing afterward.

Microsoft Word - 2017 Arkansas Trails Symposium Schedule

One Good Trail is Enough

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It had been several months since I checked my little adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. My last two visits were in July and then again in September. Mike LeMaster cut a number of trees off of the trail in July and then Steven Parker did some more chainsaw work recently. I’ve had some expert help in maintaining this trail!

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Mile marker close to Dockery’s Gap

This little piece of the OHT has become special to me. It runs from Old Locke Road (FR 1007) at the Dockery’s Gap Trailhead, west to a campsite next to Jack Creek at mile-5 of the OHT.

When the new Lake Fort Smith State Park was being built, this piece of trail was abandoned, and the beginning of the OHT was at Dockery’s Gap. I liked hiking the closed trail and marked sections with survey tape to make the route easier to follow. Sometimes I’d saw small trees off the trail to keep it passable. When this section of trail reopened around 2008 after the completion of the new state park, I adopted the 4-mile section.

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Jack Creek

About three years ago, I realized just how strong my sense of ownership was when I discovered that some campers had trashed a special spot on the trail. I cleaned it up while cursing under my breath. I describe this incident in Jack Creek Criminals. It felt like a personal attack that someone would have so little respect for “my” section of the OHT!

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Hiker enjoyed the trail and cool air.

Today, Hiker-dog and I walked from Dockery’s Gap to Lake Fort Smith State Park where my wife, Becca, would meet us. Wildflowers were popping, creeks were flowing, and the sun was shining through cool, crisp air. It was a magical day and every step held beauty. I felt like I barely knew this trail as if hiking it for the first time.

Sometimes I’ll say, “I’ve done the OHT,” meaning I’ve hiked the 180 miles from Lake Fort Smith to Tyler Bend. I’ve “done” the section from Dockery’s Gap to Lake Fort Smith many times. What I can’t say is “I know this trail.” Today taught me that I never “know” a trail. Each mile has something new to offer every time I walk it. My life would be plenty full with just this little stretch of Ozarks landscape. One good trail is enough! 

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As I approached Lake Fort Smith, I met a hiker from Joplin. It was his first time on the OHT, and he was pleased with his new map. I enjoyed telling him that he was standing on the section adopted by Kristian Underwood, the cartographer responsible for the OHT maps.

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Map by Underwood Geographics

Below are a few photos from today’s hike.

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Hiker unsuccessfully seeking a mole.

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Hiker-dog inspecting a very clean campsite at Jack Creek. The group was from Kansas City, MO.

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I enjoyed giving out a couple of bookmarks with Hiker-dog’s “signature.”

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Wild iris on the trail

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Looking into Jack Creek drainage and the mountain ridge on the other side with new leaves on the hardwoods

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Boulders broken by time and the elements

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Crossing Frog Bayou that feeds Lake Fort Smith

I’ll end with a few photos of history along the trail approaching Lake Fort Smith and next to the lake.

There’s always a plan-B in the Ozarks

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Trail Work in July?

A few weeks ago I was appalled to find some major tree blowdowns on my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. I’ve bragged that since my section follows the Jack Creek drainage, it’s protected from winds and ice. We weren’t so lucky this time.

From the pattern of downed trees, a microburst must have passed through a portion of the area and dipped into my quiet little valley. Large trees fell like dominoes, some across the trail.

Mike LeMaster and I decided to work this section from Dockery Gap (approx.  mile 10.5) west to around mile 6. Out-and-back, this came to around 9 miles with numerous stops to cut and clear. Mike likes doing some trail maintenance in the summer to stay in shape for the busier maintenance and hiking months in the fall. We got a good workout on this day!

Mike cutting the first tree encountered.

Mike cutting the first tree encountered.

We found several large trees across the trail between mile 9 and 10, but this wasn’t the worst of it.

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Before photo: Typical “blowdown” encountered on the trail.

This was the scene in several spots on the trail. We first had to determine the trail route through multiple downed trees and then Mike began to do his chainsaw magic. My job as “swamper” was to pull stuff off of the trail and stay out of the way.

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Large oaks toppled head-high across the trail at one creek crossing.

This large trunk was head-high across the trail close to a creek crossing.

One of the things I asked Mike to agree to was that I carry the chainsaw. It was the least I could do after he sawed on this July day with a heat advisory in effect. I later learned that Mike was looking forward to a cool dip in Jack Creek at the far end of our maintenance route. I was looking forward to filtering a fresh batch of water (upstream from Mike) for our return hike to Dockery Gap. It was nice to cool off and unusual to have so much water in the creeks in July!

Jack Creek close to mile 6

Jack Creek close to mile 6

I want to say a big thank you to Mike for braving the heat and helping me with my section of trail. As a board member of the Ozark Highlands Trail Association (volunteer position), he takes a hands-on approach to leadership! It felt good to walk back through the areas we’d cleared earlier. While working this section, I concocted a plan to backpack from Lake Fort Smith to White Rock Mountain and on to Fane Creek in the fall. Can’t wait to see this area again….in cooler temps!

Mike, a master sawyer!

Mike, a master sawyer!

A Rainy Day on the Ozark Highlands Trail and My Least Favorite Camera

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Summer thunderstorm clouds today.

Recent heavy rains combined with some wind caused tree blowdowns on my adopted section of the Ozark Highlands Trail. I’d always bragged that my section was pretty easy to maintain because it’s down in the protective Jack Creek drainage, but my luck ran out this time.

Mike, friend and expert sawyer, was planning to do some cutting, and I was going to “swamp” (clear out what he cut). Rain meant chainsaw work wasn’t an option so I decided to take Hiker-dog and survey the damage, cutting what we could with my little handsaw. We found several trees across the trail, and I noted locations, but the real pleasure was in taking a few photos in between thunderstorms throughout the day.

This cone flower next to the trail was drinking in the sunshine on a mostly cloudy day.

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cone flower

Hiker was excited about spending a whole day on the trail. She likes the water, so rain was no problem. She only jumped when a loud of clap of thunder surprised us while working. When we stopped at Jack Creek for a break, she did a little grooming.

OHT Hiker resting We came upon a little friend hanging out on a log across the trail. I paused for a photo. Hiker-dog was focused on squirrels and never noticed the snake up above. OHT snake

Because of the rain and plans to do maintenance, I left my good camera at home. But, I ended up seeing a few things that needed to be captured so my cellphone filled in. Since there’s no reception down in the Jack Creek valley, I kept my phone turned off and stowed in a water-proof bag until needed as a camera.

I enjoyed the challenge of taking photos using what I consider my least favorite camera, the cell phone. We were soaked through and through, but it was a beautiful day on the trail.

Quick word about trail maintenance: Adopting a section of trail is a great way to help keep it open. Visit the Ozark Highlands Trail Association or other trail groups in your region to get involved. Below is a picture from before and after I did a little work with a handsaw.

Before saw work.

Before saw work.

After some sawing and hauling.

After some sawing and hauling.