Ozark Highlands Trail – Fairview to Ben Hur

I hiked the western half of Ozark Highlands Trail section 7 – from the Fairview campground to the Ben Hur trail head (and back) on a two-day solo trip.

It rained off-and-on most of Friday but by late afternoon it looked like it was done so I headed to the Fairview Campground to spend the night and get on the trail early Saturday.  A bit north of Russelville I ran into fog so dense it took me about an hour and a half to drive the last 30 miles.  I had the campground to myself and would have the trails to myself as well – I saw no one else out there the whole weekend.  I got camp set-up and crawled in bed as mother nature decided it was time for more rain and wind – the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced in a tent.  The tent held up despite the fact I hadn’t guyed and staked it particularly well.  By midnight the clouds were gone, the wind had lessened to a stiff breeze, and the temperatures had dropped considerably.

By morning it was about 30 degrees.  I had breakfast, packed, and got on the trail at about 7:30 – just after sunrise.  The first mile or so heading east goes through an area mostly leveled by an ice storm in 2009.  There are now lots of briars and other brush to wade through and very few trail blazes.  At about mile 126.7 I came to an unnamed creek and quickly realized there was no dry crossing here due to the recent rain so off came the boots and on went the Crocs.  I began wondering what the bigger creeks would be like.

OHT 7.2014-01-11.001Next up was the creek draining Cox Hollow at about mile 128.9; another wet crossing.

OHT 7.2014-01-11.002Ditto for the creek in Greenhaw Hollow at about mile 130.5.

OHT 7.2014-01-11.003At mile 131.6 is another big creek but I managed to get across this one without changing footwear.  The boots got pretty wet but they are relatively new so the waterproof membrane hasn’t failed yet.

By mile 134.2 you start seeing signs of the old Moore CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp.  There’s a blue-blazed spur trail here that goes north to a county road and trail head.  The main find along the trail is this old concrete-roofed stone building.

OHT 7.2014-01-11.008The main trail heads another 0.2 miles to Richland Creek.  Here, after 9.4 miles, 3 wet creek crossings, and a dozen or so dry crossings, was a no-crossing.  I wasn’t surprised.

OHT 7.2014-01-11.010The gauge attached to the tree reads “4 feet”.  I’ve never seen this crossing at low water so I can’t vouch for its accuracy but it seemed plausible.  There were shallower areas but the current was even stronger there.

OHT 7.2014-01-11.011I turned and headed back toward Fairview, crossing the creek in Greenhaw Hollow again, and camped at about mile 130.3 – making it 13.5 miles for the day.  I spent at least an hour on 4 wet creek crossings and moved a lot of small debris off the trail (probably remnants of last month’s ice storm) so I probably could have made at least two more miles in that time.  Still, this is a new personal best for one-day backpacking mileage.  It had been sunny all day with a high in the low 50s but cooled quickly after the sun went down.

I awoke to 24 degrees with a thick coating of frost on everything, and didn’t get started quite as early – it was just too hard to get out of that warm sleeping bag.  I was on the trail at about 8:15 with cold fingers and toes but by 10:00 was stripped-down to a short-sleeve shirt as the temperature quickly climbed (with the day’s high around 65 [71 in Fort Smith!]).  It was 5.3 miles back to Fairview and the two remaining wet crossings from the previous day were still wet.

After a bit of lunch I drove over to the Ben Hur trail head (yes, there really is a “town” by that name) and hiked 1.2 miles to the south bank of Richland Creek.  The last half mile follows a small creek steeply down a steep-sided ravine where I think there is at least one significant waterfall hiding.  This is one area that deserves a return trip – it might be neat to try to hike up the creek from below to get a closer look  – and better pictures.

OHT 7.2014-01-11.026Here’s a view from the south side of Richland Creek, looking back at where I took pictures the previous day.  I stuck a hiking pole in the water near the shore where I could see the bottom clearly and it was about 2 feet deep, yet just a little farther out I could not see the bottom so the water was obviously pretty deep.

OHT 7.2014-01-11.027Just 29.4 miles remain for my first section-hike of the entire OHT.  At about 10 miles a day, that will probably take 2 3-day weekends  since I’ll have to go out-and-back.

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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