I hiked a bit of this western end of section 2 as part of the whole Shores Lake/White Rock loop last fall. Today I started at the Ragtown Road (FR1509) trail head and went west to the spur for the Shores Lake trail near mile 20.1, and back.
The drive in from AR 23 was about 6.3 miles and some parts were pretty rough, especially after making the turn onto FR 1509. The parking area should accommodate at least 6 cars and the trail crosses about 50 feet to the south.
Much of the ground up there was still covered with snow though it’s typically less than an inch deep. The thaw & refreeze cycles have left a crust of ice. Most of the time stepping on it broke the crust and I got decent traction. The rest of the time… But I only fell once.
The hike begins with a 650′ descent from Ragtown Road to Spirits Creek where I managed a dry crossing despite elevated water levels. There’s lots of good scenery in this area and I suspect a bushwhack upstream would reveal even more.
The trail follows the creek downstream but on a ledge well above the water, then switches back to begin the 900′ climb of Potato Knob. Much of this 2-mile stretch is on an old road and the forest canopy is pretty sparse, leading to an explosion of briars.
The trail goes over a saddle between the two peaks (eyes?) of Potato Knob to a trail head and small parking area along a forest road. Then it’s a 920′ descent to Salt Fork Creek. A dry crossing wasn’t going to happen here. I chucked-off the backpack & boots, donned the Crocs, waded across, and headed about 0.1 mile further on the trail to the junction with the Shores Lake spur – my turn-around point. It took me 3.5 hours to cover this 5.7 miles – the icy patches on the trail definitely slowed me down. Now I have to go wade that creek again, and of course the hike back features even more climbing than the hike in.
On the drive out to AR 23 I caught this view over the Mulberry River valley from White Rock Mountain Road:Instead of going home I headed to Fayetteville for the OHTA‘s monthly meeting & holiday party. I saw Ken Smith there and he said the spring Buffalo River Trail construction “season” is expected to begin the weekend of March 15 at Tyler Bend so my calendar is marked.