Hurricane Creek Wilderness

We’ve had a couple nice weekends since my trip to Wyoming and I spent them doing trail work on both the Ozark Highlands Trail and the Ouachita Trail.  This weekend, however, it was time to kick-off the local backpacking season – with a one-nighter in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness.  The fall color was just starting in that area and added a bit of visual interest.

During one month that began almost exactly 3 years ago I made my first visits to the Richland Creek Wilderness, the Buffalo River, and the Hurricane Creek Wilderness.  From those trips sprang the idea of moving to Arkansas so I could be closer to great places like these.  This was my first time in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness since then and it felt a bit like an anniversary celebration, with lots of reflection on all that happened between the trips.

I started Saturday AM in a cool fog at the Big Piney trail head and headed east on the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) into the wilderness and across to the north side of Hurricane Creek.  I was surprised to see a little water flowing because I was kinda expecting to see none – it’s been very dry here and so many other creeks have dried up.  I continued east to the east crossing of Hurricane Creek and then took the High Water Bypass (HWB) back west.  The HWB climbs for a couple miles across steep terrain and it wasn’t until I was within about a half mile of the OHT junction that things started leveling-off and I could begin looking for a place to camp.  Finding a spot that wasn’t covered with briars or poison ivy took some time.

Sunday AM I hiked back out to the Big Piney trail head and got there at about 10:00 AM.  I obviously didn’t plan enough mileage for this trip.  Rather than head home and “waste” the rest of the day, I headed east to the Chancel trail head and hiked the OHT west about 4 miles to the HWB junction (my easternmost point the day before) and back.  Anyway, the end result for the trip was that I hiked from Big Piney to Chancel and back (maps 11 & 12), using the HWB on the westbound leg – about 25 miles.

There’s a large area in the northern part of the wilderness that probably sees very little use and deserves a bit of exploration so that will be the subject of future trips, I think.

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Wind River Range – Deep Creek Lakes, Stough Basin, and more

It’s my first hike in Wyoming and what a way to start!  The Wind River Range is a 100-mile long mountain range in western Wyoming (just south of the Tetons) that includes most of the state’s highest peaks and is probably on most backpackers’ to-do list.

I went with some friends from the Kansas City area (RC, TC, and DH) for a 6 day adventure with 2 days of driving at each end.  Our 32-mile loop started at Worthen Meadow Reservoir southwest of Lander and included stops at Three Forks Park, Deep Creek Lakes, Tayo Park, Stough Lakes Basin, and Twin Lakes.  What they call parks here are big meadows – there are no drinking fountains nor playground equipment.  Elevations were mostly 9500-10500′ with one excursion over a 11000′ pass.  Morning temps ranged from 40 to 50, mostly at the higher end, afternoon highs were in the low 70s, and of course humidity was almost non-existent.  We had brief late afternoon rain showers on day 1 and 3 but the skies were otherwise pretty clear.  Remarkable weather overall – we hit that perfect week after the bugs are gone but before the snow falls.

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Sinks Canyon State Park – Wyoming

Some friends and I were in Lander WY with an afternoon free before beginning a trip in the Wind River Range so we visited Sinks Canyon State Park.  The main feature here is a large canyon where the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River disappears (sinks) into a cavern and then reappears (rises) about 1/4 mile away.

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Buffalo River Trail building – Fall 2015 kickoff

Fall seems far off but it’s time to start making some plans!  Work on the Buffalo River Trail between Tyler Bend and Red Bluff Road is set to resume Oct 16 2015 and run through Nov 1.  American Hiking Society will have a crew there Oct 18-24 with BRT alumni slated for Oct 25-31.  We’ll be camping at Tyler Bend, as usual, where the flush toilets and hot showers are much appreciated and our camping fees are waived.  Look for our “headquarters” – a big white canvas wall tent – around the north west corner of the regular campground, not the group campground.

Here’s my summary of the Spring 2015 session.  The archaeological and private property obstacles in the area between Red Bluff Road and South Maumee Road remain, so it looks like we’ll mostly be clearing brush along already-finished trail, constructing rock steps and cribbing, fixing erosion problems, and working with the OHTA to build a small bridge across a gully west of the Grinders Ferry trail head.

Whatever your abilities, we’ll find something for you to do and provide the tools.

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Mammoth Cave

The largest known cave system in the world.  It’s pretty big.  One might even say it’s mammoth, and it was kinda on my way home from Virginia so I figured I had to stop at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

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Red River Gorge Geological Area

The one stop I planned during my drive back home from Virginia was the Red River Gorge Geological Area (RRGGA) in eastern Kentucky.  This is 29000 acres of the Daniel Boone National Forest protected since the 1960’s when it was to be flooded by a dam.  Combined with the 12600+ acre Clifty Wilderness to the east and Natural Bridge State Park to the south, there can be found over 100 natural bridges and arches along with numerous rock shelters, cliffs, caves, and other formations.  It’s definitely a geological wonder, and has been on my to-do list for a while.  In the one day I spent here, I barely scratched the surface.

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New River Gorge (West Virginia)

I planned one stop on the way back from Virginia but added two more.  The first was New River Gorge National River – a 72,000 acre national park that encompasses 53 miles of the New River.  The area is chock-full of hiking, camping, floating, fishing, and other recreational opportunities as well as driving tours if you don’t feel like doing anything.  Nearby is the Gauley River, which is a popular destination for whitewater enthusiasts.

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Summer vacation 2015, part 2: Thunder Ridge Wilderness & Apple Orchard Falls (Virginia)

My brother and I hiked through part of the Thunder Ridge Wilderness, across Apple Orchard Mountain, and down to Apple Orchard Falls.  It was just under 8 miles for the round-trip, a bit more than half on the AT and the rest on the Apple Orchard Falls Trail.

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Summer vacation 2015, part 1: Blue Ridge Parkway, James River, and Crabtree Falls (Virginia)

2100 miles, 9 days, 6 states, 527 photos; summer vacation is over.  I began by driving east on I-40 and then up I-81 to an area northeast of Roanoke in central Virginia – a route that offered almost all new scenery for me.  I spent 4.5 days with family that now live in this area.  It’s mostly in the George Washington National Forest and very close to the Appalachian Trail and many others so I was able to do a little hiking.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is also very close, with many sightseeing opportunities.  Add in some stops on the way home, and I’ve got material for 4 more posts to come ASAP.

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Late spring update

Contrary to appearances I have not vanished.  In the 7 weeks since finishing my section hike of the Ouachita Trail I just haven’t done any one thing that seemed to deserve a blog post.

The first 5 of those weeks were kinda wet but I found 10 days that were relatively cool with a low chance of rain so I could do some work on both the Highlands and Ouachita trails.  I cleared brush along about 8 miles of trail that has been inadequately maintained.  The Highlands segment is probably now “under control” but the Ouachita segment will probably still need a lot of work this fall and next spring.

My sister and brother-in-law visited for 3-4 days.  One day we went to Mt Magazine for some sight-seeing and then did a tour of the wine-producing area just north of there around Altus.  I don’t drink wine but I’ve been wanting to see the wineries.  They do enjoy wine and went home with almost 2 cases, I think, from the Post and Chateau Aux Arc wineries.  We had dinner in the Weinkeller Restaurant in Wiederkehr Village.  The food was fine, but not anything special.

The last couple weeks have been dry with heat indexes over 100.  I’ve been shifting attention back to the to-do list at home that was abandoned when backpacking season began last fall.  Painting, landscaping, and some minor plumbing projects are underway.  By the end of the summer I might even be able to finish unpacking from the last move.

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