Though I’ve been a member of the Ozark Highlands Trail Association for over 4 years and done numerous work trips with them, I’d never been on one of their backpacking trips until this weekend – a one-nighter with 7 other members on the west half of section 4.
I did an inspection hike of the eastern 10 miles of the Ouachita Trail – from Lundsford Corner to Pinnacle Mountain State Park – with another of the FoOT maintainers (M.S.). It was a bit chilly in the morning but quickly warmed and was a great day to be outdoors. There was a lot of small debris to throw/kick off the trail and only one obstruction that will require a chainsaw.
The Big Brushy Recreation Area serves as one of the major trail heads for the Ouachita Trail but there are 4 shorter trails that can be combined with the OT to create varying length loops. I hiked the 3.6 mile Brushy Creek Trail about a year ago, but covered the rest of them this time. Mountain bikes are allowed on all except Brushy Mountain Trail.
My first hike on the Black Fork Mountain Trail was more than 2 years ago and I decided it was time for another visit. This is in the western part of the Ouachitas – in Arkansas but pretty near the state line. This time it was an overnight trip, with the night being spent at the new Black Fork Mountain shelter, just 0.2 miles from the junction with the Ouachita Trail. As usual, there was much familiar and some not so much. With a high temp in the low 70’s and an overnight low of 55, it was another January trip that sure didn’t feel like January.
I now have the whole trail mapped and published. I bought a GPS device part way through my section hike of the trail last winter (’15) and initially was collecting only the data that was missing from Charlie’s maps with the idea that he could use it to update his maps. Instead I have used his data to fill the gaps in my data for the eastern half of the trail. I will eventually re-hike the eastern half to get a fresh track and fill in any other missing data I can.
Printed on waterproof stock at 1:35000 scale with 50′ contours, the western map (covering Lake Fort Smith to Ozone) has been available for about a year. At long last the eastern map is done and making its way to outdoorsy outfits like Turner Bend Store, Lewis & Clark Outfitters, Uncle Sam’s, Pack Rat, Byrd’s Adventure Center, Moore Outdoors, and several similar locations in NW Ark. In addition you should be able to get them at Oark General Store, Hankins General Store in Pelsor, and Lake Dardenelle State park visitor center. Of course, you can also get it directly from OHTA.
I’m working on establishing distribution around the Russellville & Clarksville area.
I last hiked section 5 of the Ozark Highlands Trail between the Ozone and Big Piney trail heads in the spring of 2013 in the opposite direction. I think this is probably the best scenery-per-mile section of the whole trail. About 8.5 inches of rain fell earlier in the week so just like last time every little creek was flowing and waterfalls were everywhere. Also like last time, this was a 4-day trip with friends from the Kansas City area.
I’ve never done one of these posts, and I guess they’re usually done on 12/31 but I was out hiking, ya know. According to my records, I spent 20 days on day hikes, 41 days on multi-day trips, and 33 days doing trail work. 94 days on the trail altogether – almost exactly a quarter of the year. Not bad, I think.
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Part 2 consisted of hiking the Womble Trail west from the AR-298 trail head, where part 1 left off, to the end at North Fork Lake, then back. A central feature of this segment is Mauldin Mountain. On the south side of the mountain, near the east end, was the old town of Mauldin, which figures prominently in Sawmill: The Story of Cutting the Last Great Virgin Forest East of the Rockies. It was the population center of Montgomery County and the hub of operations for the Caddo River Lumber Company for many years but was basically disassembled and moved elsewhere after the last tree was cut in 1937. Only some concrete footings remain.
Mark your calendars! The Spring 2016 trail building session in the middle Buffalo River area is set to begin March 20 and run through April 3. We will probably be camping at Tyler Bend as in the past. With any luck we will be resuming work in the area between Red Bluff Road and South Maumee Road.
I’ll update this post as more information becomes available. Whatever your abilities, we’ll find something for you to do and provide the tools.