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Archive for May, 2021

Epic Road Trip #6: A Pause in Little Rock

I drove south out of Jasper and enjoyed the scenic drive. Went to Pedestal Rocks and gave that a pretty thorough look over. Lots of caves and pedestals and other cool rock formations. I drove to the next Forest Road and found a nice fire pit with a couple of wood piles. There was a drainage I couldn’t get the van through but after dinner I drove down to a flat pull off and had a quiet night.

Pedestal Rocks has a pit toilet so it was nice to camp close. I drove south on 7 and it’s really beautiful. I checked out a horse trail area but it was muddy and didn’t look like good hiking. I never did find a good hike so I searched for attractions and detoured south to Petit Jean State Park.

It is really cool. Nice well marked trails and a cool cave with faint pictographs. I couldn’t find the ones the sign said should be there. There was recent graffiti which is really sad.

I spent some time in Little Rock visiting friends and giving Cookie Monster a good airing out. I pulled all my stuff out and reorganized some. I took a day trip to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Had a nice local plant garden which was really superb with name plates. Always love that. I tried to climb the summit but got turned around.

Mostly I hung out with friends. It had been 10-15 years since I’d seen either of them but we all agreed we just picked up where we left off. We were all older but just as close. I stayed long enough to feel like a neighbor and not a visitor. So I was excited to get back to the woods.

Went south and West to the Ouachita National Forest. Tried to go to the Flatside Wilderness but the road had a big wash out. I was challenging it for awhile but it was getting real sketchy for a Dodge Caravan. I managed to get her turned around and was proud of myself for making the maneuver over definitely my most challenging drive in Cookie.

There’s no internet so I was glad I downloaded directions to not only the wilderness but the ruins of a CCC site. It was on Scenic 7 and it was cool old ruins. There’s a scenic loop road I’m camping on tonight. Probably built by those CCC boys.

Tomorrow I’ll finish the loop and look for hiking. There’s another CCC site down the road and a day use area. Monday I’m going into Hot Springs and get my Federal Lands Pass and visit my first national park.

Then I have to see where I’m at and where I want to go in New Mexico to choose my route across Oklahoma. I paused longer in Arkansas then I intended which has been nice, but as I told my friend Jay: I’m burning Spring.

Epic Road Trip #5: On to Arkansas

Been a little gap in the narrative. It’s been easier to make a quick Facebook post with a couple pictures to let people know I am safe and where I am at. But it’s raining and I don’t have a signal so it’s a good time to get caught up.

It was a fairly decent legitimate site at Pine Ridge. I drove down to the Piney Creek Wilderness area the next afternoon and there were lots of well maintained dispersed sites. I did a hike in the wilderness but couldn’t find the trail so came back. I had a controlled fall on some wet loose rocks which was a good reminder of the inherent risks in solo back country hiking. I’m pretty careful but you never know.

I didn’t want to take another hike so I headed south on back roads into Arkansas. I stopped in Fayetteville and saw an old friend. With short notice she was a great host and I got a hot meal and a shower and a chance to go to the grocery store for some goat cheese (a soft peppered one that is delicious) and local beer (Ozark Beer Company, Hardwork APA, it’s ok) and whatnot. I tried a couple gear stores looking for a Forest Service Map but no luck.

After Fayetteville I just drove on some long unpaved roads until I found stuff to do. I was heading towards Mills Springs Day Use area in what is mostly ATV infested woods when was stopped by a tree in the road. There’d been storms when I was in Fayetteville and there were a lot of downed trees. A couple in an F-250 with a camper shell were taking it apart with a hand axe. I got my full size one out but it was a little dull to their liking. We got the branch off and they were trying to pull it out of the way with their truck when the Forest Service arrived with a chainsaw and made short work of it. The couple was cool, recently retired marines who were 5 months into their cross country road trip. I told them about the water falls hike at Hercules Glen and they showed me a good campsite I stayed for 2 days.

I hiked both ways on the Appalachian Highlands Trail. A lot of poison ivy but pretty falls and a nice trail. There was a whole hillside that collapsed onto the trail which made it tough to get around but I navigated the edge until I found the trail again. Spent some time at the Springs area which was cool rock, maybe CCC era. There were some more modern additions maybe 1950s showing their wear and semiabandoned toilets, which are the very worst kind.

So today I drove out of the woods and came east and back into the forest. I’m south of Newton County I believe and there are some cool hikes I found directions too. My plan is to hike them over the weekend, between showers and then down to Little Rock for a couple few days to visit my old friend Jay and his wife.

It’s been smooth sailing and I’m hoping this part of the forest is in better condition then what I’ve seen so far. Well that’s it faithful reader. News from home is Smokey passed on and was buried by the other dogs in the backyard. It’s a sad thing, she was a good dog and had a lot of heart. She’d have liked all the cows I drove by today and barked at them all. Rest well Smokey, the cows will have to take care of themselves.

Newton County is as beautiful as I remember it. I did a couple of hikes near where I camped. Pretty decent trails, more ferns and wildflowers. Then I drove into Newton County and did a cool hike at a natural bridge site. There were a number of caves and pillars and such as well.

I then drove up to the Ponca Wilderness and hiked into Hemmed in Hollow. It was 2 miles of steep drop to get to the overlook to see the falls. It’s the tallest between the Appalachians and the Rockies but was hard to see from the overlook. I hiked out racing the dark and pretty much made it.

I then drove into the Buffalo Scenic River Area to park and camp. Drank a couple of the local APAs which are growing on me with some local jerky. I was bushed and slept hard. Came back to Jasper and will try to add some photos at the Subway with WiFi.

Categories: camping, hiking Tags: , ,

Epic Road Trip #3: Dogwoods & Whatnot

So this didn’t get posted, was lost in the ether, and showed up some time later in drafts after I made a new #3. So these paragraphs do not haunt me forever in drafts I will try to upload again.

Rained all night and into the day. So after a few preliminaries I hiked into the Paddy Creek Wilderness Area. I only went to the first stream crossing which was more then I wanted to do with my boots while I was still needing them. Looked for morels in low spots and on the road. Found a fern in flower that was quite impressive.

I haven’t been able to get to a ranger station that has water. The campground on my ancient of days map is now a day use area so I’m not optimistic. I have enough for tomorrow. I did find a nice dispersed spot with a fire pit and found dry wood. There is more forest noise and I’m on a ridge top. I have occasional cell network.

I’m camped in an area that was burned. Looks controlled and some stuff is coming back. It’s very open and lots of wood for the fire. It’s also a short walk from the ruins of a Civilian Conservation Corps site.

It’s late and I didn’t get a nap today since I traveled. I still have another meditation to do and I get to do a little texting. I’m going to try to publish this without pictures since my signal, which I am grateful for, is the nonetheless, piss poor.

Epic Road Trip #4: The Glades

The deluge came and I managed pretty well through it. I did decide to head to higher ground, the Swan Creek camp trails were all flooded. I think it’s really called Bar K Wrangler Camp, by the way.

I camped in some high country which was nice. After a couple of skewer cooked meals I got a cast iron skillet and a new sauce pan, as well as a baking sheet. I’m keeping them in a messenger bag as cooking on fires leaves a lot of soot on the pan which is how I left my last set.

I took a glades drive and hiked some forest service roads yesterday. Feel like moving south has advanced the season seeing cardinal flowers and indian paintbrush and not the spring ephemerals that go along with morels.

Today I hiked in the Hercules Wilderness Area. I hiked about 5 miles in the morning at the Fire Tower trail head. Later I found a shorter trail to the waterfalls (Blair Ridge TH) . It was 3.8 miles and with what I’d already done a bit of a stretch but I’m glad I did.

Saw a hummingbird in a patch of cardinal flowers and the glades had lots of wildflowers I’d never seen. The creek water was cold but swimmable and the falls were incredible. Nice pools and water action. Met a couple of young guys whose excitement was infectious.

Saw my first copperhead. He was big but had a meal in him and was pretty chill. I got some good pictures and video and I’ll see what I can post. It was a long walk out. I went into town for fajitas and took a little detour to the Pine Ridge section of the National Forest because I didn’t want to drive all the way to the Piney Wilderness Area, my last stop in the Mark Twain nearly complete tour.

As long as I’m not actually parked in someone’s front yard I made a good decision. I am bone weary tired but the best day of the trip so far.