Roamin’ Holiday

I had a 4-day Labor Day weekend and felt it was time to get out and explore the area around my new home.

Friday started with an overdue trip to nearby Springhill Park – apparently the only real trail within or very close to the Fort Smith area (concrete, gravel, and mulch don’t count).  There is a 9+ mile loop here and I hiked the southern (and likely better) half.  It was nicely wooded and pretty quiet but is in the flood plain of the Arkansas River so there are actually no springs nor hills to be found. Changing the name to the more-accurate “Mosquito and Poison Ivy Park” would probably not go over well, though.  I started missing Shawnee Mission and Landahl Parks in Kansas City but I’ll make do.  I spent the remainder of the day exploring by car the triangle between Fort Smith, Siloam Springs, and Fayetteville.  I came across a town named Natural Dam and what do you know – nearby there is a natural dam on Lee Creek.  Interesting.

LaborDay2013.1.NaturalDam.001From the top or side you can see that there’s a giant slab that was tilted up to form the dam:LaborDay2013.1.NaturalDam.004I found the trail head for the Lake Weddington trail – sure to be visited a time or two in the near future – and roamed the bad roads criss-crossing the National Forest south & west of Devil’s Den State Park.  Had a blast.

Saturday was a day hike on one of the reasons I moved south:LaborDay2013.2.OHT.001I still have trouble believing I live just 45 minutes from the west end of the Ozark Highlands Trail at Fort Smith Lake.  I started at mile 0 and went east into the Jack’s Creek area on the other side of the lake and then back – about 10 miles total.  LaborDay2013.2.OHT.003As I was moving along the east side of the lake I threw a tree off the trail with a big crash and then rounded a bend to see the only other people crazy enough to be outdoors that day – a young couple that had come across the lake by boat and hiked up the hill a little ways to set up a hammock for some afternoon delight.  They apparently didn’t know they were only about 30 feet downslope of the trail and were very embarrassed but probably also very relieved that the crash wasn’t a bear headed their way.  I excused myself and moved on, telling them I would be coming back that way in about 45 minutes.  When I did, they were both fully-clothed and reclining in the hammock enjoying cold beverages.  I hope I didn’t ruin their day.

Despite starting the hike at 7 AM, by the time I got back to my car the temperature was 96.  I was feeling the heat and had run out of water so I probably won’t be doing any more long hikes until it cools down a bit.  Like maybe Monday?  🙂

Sunday was a road trip to Hot Springs to see what was going on there.  I caught AR 7 south at Ola – the scenery was all new but many of the names were familiar.  There were many creeks and campgrounds, a famous trail or two…LaborDay2013.3.HotSprings.001…and a big lake.

Lake Ouachita

Lake Ouachita

Coming into Hot Springs from the north on AR 7 takes you right through the historical area where tourists clog the streets, and being a holiday weekend I got an extra dose of congestion.LaborDay2013.3.HotSprings.004 I drove around for a couple hours and decided it would be a good location to live if I were only interested in the Ouachitas.  I think it’s too far from the Ozarks/Boston Mtn area.  I eventually headed west on AR 270 – a nice highway with more new scenery and familiar names – then north on US 71 back to Ft Smith.

Monday was supposed to be a bit cooler so I thought it would be a good time for some short day hikes.  The first up was at Hole In The Ground Mountain.  The trail starts in the Jack Creek Recreation Area south of Booneville AR.  This is a surprisingly nice area and the road is paved all the way to it.

The swimming hole at Jack Creek Rec Area

The swimming hole at Jack Creek Rec Area. It was raining at the time – the water might usually be clearer.

The trail is an out-and-back of only about 7.5 miles but it still took me more than 4 hours.  It starts by climbing the west end of the mountain to a couple vistas.

LaborDay2013.4.HoleInGroundMountain.012 Once past them the trail becomes indistinct for a while along the narrow ridge – lost in 3-5 feet of grass – but is blazed well enough.

LaborDay2013.4.HoleInGroundMountain.014Once the mountain top broadens the woods become denser and the trail becomes a very nice walk in the woods.

LaborDay2013.4.HoleInGroundMountain.009 I had planned to follow this with a couple short hikes in the Mena area but the heat, humidity and lateness in the day changed my mind.  Directly east of Hole In The Ground Mountain is Dry Creek Wilderness and I decided to spend some time exploring the perimeter of it, looking for likely entry points for future adventures.LaborDay2013.4.HoleInGroundMountain.016I bounced around bad roads for about two hours and hadn’t even gotten halfway around but I’d had enough.  During my escape down Petit Jean Mountain on FR 3 I passed this nice vista… LaborDay2013.4.HoleInGroundMountain.021and as I neared civilization and paved roads I had a nice view of Magazine Mountain.

LaborDay2013.4.HoleInGroundMountain.028I put a few miles on the car and the boots but it was a great weekend!  It’s time to plan more of those.

About Michael R

I enjoy hiking, landscaping with native plants, nature photography, dark chocolate, fine dining, good movies, and old jazz.
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