Adventures in the Ozarks – Pt. 3

After a long, six month break from writing, I’m finally back at my home in Washington for just long enough to catch up on writing about my past adventures.

The following posts (Pt. 3 and Pt. 4) are a summary of the trips I went on during my time in the Midwest following the last blog post

March 2015. Overcast. Grey. Cloudy. Raindrops plopped across my windshield as I drove east from Tulsa with my friend Brandon (who had traveled to South Africa with me back in 2012). We were heading to do an overnighter out in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Arkansas. The plan was to park at the White Rock Mountain trailhead and bushwhack along a nearby creek until we arrived at someplace “cool” to camp at.

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Our bags weren’t too heavy since it was only an overnighter, but I brought along a couple extra pieces of gear to test out.

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By mid-morning, we had arrived at the trailhead (awfully confusing, with no fees listed online, but a sign required us to pay a parking fee). The rainy drizzle had dispersed and we shouldered our packs up the trail to where we would split off from the maintained trail and hike down an embankment to the creek.

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Soon after hiking downhill through dry and temporarily naked bushes, we reached the creek where the frigid waters bid us welcome and we cautiously slogged through it. Once on the other side, we paused for a quick picture.

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We continued upstream, following the creek as it wound its way over the gravelly and boulder-filled streambed. The creek offered much easier hiking than having to fight our way through the brambles and bushes that lined the banks.

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Every so often, we would stumble into a deep hole and feel the unsettling cold creep higher up our bodies. The ambient temperature was in the mid-60s and humid, so it wasn’t too bad.

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By noon, we had reached a gravel bar next to the creek. We then proceeded to move rocks for the next two hours as we tried to clear a non-rocky spot for the tent. Finally, by 2 pm we had our campsite.

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Lunch was served. Cold. Snickers bars. 250 calories of pure goodness.

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We decided to explore further up the creek and do some fishing which was alright, except for the part where we had to strip down to our skivvies and stand in freezing cold water. We caught one smallmouth bass that had a leech stuck on it. We had pity on the poor creature and scraped the leech off before releasing him back into the wild.

We came back to camp and quickly built a fire to dry our clothes and warm our bodies.

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Dinner was served and we feasted like kings. On ramen.

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Soon darkness fell upon us, but we kept the fire going and watched the stars flicker high above.

Morning came quickly, with the sound of raindrops pattering against the tent. We crawled out and looked around. We opted to not even try making a fire since the wood was soaked, but decided to just pack everything up and hike out along the creek, going up a different drainage than what we had followed the previous day.

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The water seemed less chilly than before, and the drizzling rain wasn’t as depressing as it might look. The smell of fresh rain, the chirps of robins, and the swirling currents of the creek made for a pleasant hike out.

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After hiking for about four miles, we came to the Narrows where the creek had formed flumes of swift water. We found a way up the bank and after a few hundred yards of getting sliced up by the brambles, we stepped out onto the path that would take us back to the trailhead.

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Along the way, we found a neat overhang with a cave-like cleft at the top. So we freeclimbed up to it and waited for the rains to pass.

March 2015.

A few weeks before the adventure above, I took Steve, one of my pals who was finishing up his senior year at ORU, out to do an overnight bushwhack below Hawksbill Crag (one of the most popular places for people to visit…hence, the bushwhack part of this trip – to go where no one else has been).

The road up to the trailhead was complete mud, but my Subaru managed to churn its way through it (thanks, AWD). It was already mid-afternoon by the time put on our packs and started hiking, but with two handrails to follow (first Whitaker Creek downstream, and then the Buffalo River), I was fairly confident that we would be fine.

Since it was early March, we passed by numerous icicles and frozen blocks of ice along the rocky ridge to our north.

As we continued to follow Whitaker Creek down towards the river, we came across a large muddy pool of snowmelt that flowed into a splendid waterfall.

We stayed above the falls, but marked it as a place to stop by on the hike out the following day. Snow was still covering parts of the deciduous forest and made for some slow progress as we tried to not slip on it, ice, or the carpet of matted, decaying leaves.

By the time we found a place to camp by the river, it was dark. We built a small fire to ward off the cold as the temperature began to fall below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Moonbeams etched across the night sky as the moon, unseen behind an adjacent hill, slowly rose up to the heavens.

PC: Steve Mathews

We woke up to an amber sunrise over the river.

Shortly after, droplets of rain sprinkled upon us before moving down the river valley.

The coals were still warm from the previous night and after a bit of care, we managed to get the fire going again.

Breakfast consisted of oatmeal and ramen. A little dreary, but good nonetheless.

After breakfast, Steve and I split up for devos, with him remaining near the camp and I going further downriver to a large, mossy boulder that caught my eye.

I fished a little bit without any luck before switching over to my journal and diving into the Word.

After several hours, we packed up camp and started the trek back up towards Whitaker Creek and Hawksbill Crag.

Along the way, we came to a pretty unnamed waterfall that we had missed during the night before, so we checked it out and slipped a couple times on the wet rocks.

We stopped for a lunch break near a flume created by Whitaker Creek and I froze my feet.

We also discovered a large open chamber with a solidly frozen waterfall in it.

Finally, we arrived back at the large waterfall we had passed and marked on the way in. We hiked down to the small cave behind it and I went for a quick ice bath.

PC: Steve Mathews

That water was awfully cold.

Then we hiked back up towards the trail and ridgeline where I had parked, slipping uphill through the decaying mulch.

April 2015. Went on two trips into Arkansas during this month.

The first was a two night trip with my buddies Jaime Bofferding and Jon Hyre. I showed them around Big Bluff, Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls, and around the Sneed’s Creek area (see Adventures in the Ozarks – Pt. 1 for a glimpse of the route). Jaime posted some great photos on her blog, so check it out for more pictures! We got ferried across the Buffalo River by some nice kayakers, camped on a beach below the massive bluff walls high above us, camped in a green, peaceful glade the next night, hiked out the next day and found shelter from the rain in old homesteads and large overhangs. We investigated small caves, got chased by a wild boar (who was in one of those caves), and met two other hikers who smoked some buds while waiting for the rain to stop. Below is a short video from that trip:

First, we hiked down into the Buffalo River valley and checked out Hemmed-In-Hollow Falls.

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Then we hiked a few miles on over to our first campsite of the trip below Big Bluff.

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We fished in clear waters of the Buffalo National River by the evening light and caught a few small sunfish.

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After a freezing cold night, we awoke to bright sunshine bouncing off the bluffs above and hiked around the small peninsula we were on  until we came to an old homestead.

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From there we crossed back over the river and retraced our steps from the previous day. We pitched our tents in a rad spot by the water and claimed the spot for ourselves.

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We climbed up the nearby Goat Trail that was etched into the cliffside way above where we had camped the night before and watched the bright clash of colours float down the river as kayakers also enjoyed the good April weather.

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We hiked back down the trail towards our camp and as we approached (I was a few hundred yards in front of Jon and Jaime), I heard a child’s voice scream, “They’re back!”

Concerned, I looked around and spotted the lone lookout high up on an overhang below Jim Bluff . I kept walking towards our campsite and began to hear more voices. Suddenly, a sharp smell hit my nose. Fresh feces. I glanced down and spotted soiled toilet paper hastily shoved in a tiny hole below the trunk of a birch tree.  I shook my head with disgust and approached our camp. A family had pulled their kayaks and canoes up to our campsite and were using the nearby bushes as toilets. A lady walked past me quickly, and disappeared down the trail towards Jon and Jaime. Apparently, she also needed to use the toilet…but unknown to her, Jon and Jaime were right around the corner. Just as she squatted down, Jon and Jaime walked down the trail and she quickly voiced, “I’m sorry!” and pulled up her pants before trotting back towards her canoe. Awkward.

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Jon and I explored the cliffs around the campsite and found an old dried up waterfall area.

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As the evening began to appear, we settled for some fishing in the river and caught some cool fish.

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The next morning, rain came swiftly upon us as we were packing up.

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We took shelter below Jim Bluff before hiking towards a homestead to wait it out.

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While at the homestead, we met two other travelers waiting out the rain. They lit up some buds and soon the pungent rotting smell of weed began to linger in the cabin and upon our clothes.

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Once the rains started to dwindle, we got back on the trail and hiked out along Sneed’s Creek.

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Adventure Awaits!

JC

Continue on to Adventures in the Ozarks, Pt. 4

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