Ragtown Road to Fane Creek is basically the middle of OHT section 2, from mile 25.8 to 31.6, making it an 11.6-mile round trip for me today. The most notable features were the old railroad bed and an abundance of water due to a heavy rain the previous day.
I’d been on this section a month ago when I helped clear brush from about mile 28 to 29.5 but my head was down the whole time so it was nice to be able to see “the big picture” today.
From the Ragtown Road trail head, the trail heads gradually downhill and across one fork of Fane Creek and then drops very steeply as you approach mile 27 and another fork of Fane Creek. There was a nice waterfall here below the trail crossing and also several smaller cascades above and below the crossing.
There used to be a narrow-gauge railroad bridge here for the 16-mile Black Mountain & Eastern railroad that ran to Combs, Ark and then connected with another railroad that ran between St Paul and Fayetteville. This was all done to get cut logs moved most expeditiously and I have heard that many of them ended-up in Fort Smith where they were turned into paper. Many others were probably turned into railroad ties.
I didn’t see any trace of the old bridge timbers but didn’t exactly conduct an exhaustive search. Concrete piers and some old hardware are still visible, however.
You climb a bit on the other side of the drainage and the trail joins the old railroad bed for about the next 2.5 miles – probably the flattest stretch of the OHT! The amount of work that went into building this rail bed is humbling. There are many areas where they had to cut right through hills……and then fill-in low areas, in one place building-up the bed perhaps as much as 100 feet. This was finished about 1915 and I wonder about the economics of it all.
Anyhow, you continue along the railroad bed for a little bit before coming to another drainage. There was also a bridge here, though the only trace of I could make out was the landing spot on the east side. Once through this drainage and past mile marker 28 it’s pretty much a straight shot for almost 2 miles.
At about mile 29.8 the trail turns sharp left off the road bed and begins a gradual descent toward Fane Creek. At about mile 31.1 it makes another sharp left turn and descends steeply about 200′ to the creek flood plain, turns right, and follows the creek about .25 miles to the crossing. Fortunately, I didn’t need to cross today, as I think it would have been very risky to say the least.Contrast this with the picture I took from the other side 4 days earlier. Here’s another shot from the Fane Creek Road bridge.At one point during the hike, near mile 30 think, I saw numerous fresh pieces of splintered oak tree scattered in the woods. I think a tree was hit by lightning and basically exploded, scattering pointy debris for maybe 50 yards in all directions.There’s something to think about while lying in your tent during a thunderstorm. 🙂
This wraps-up section 2 for me, and in fact, sections 1 & 2 were both done as out-and-back hikes so technically I’ve done them twice. All that’s left to complete my first OHT section-hike is #7 & 8 – from Fairview Campground to Richland Creek Campground and then on to the Buffalo River at the Wollum ford. Those parts are too far away for day-hiking so they’ll have to be backpacking trips once we get some decent weather for an entire weekend.