The Horse Thief Spring Trail is an 8.5 mile loop on the north slope of Winding Stair Mountain in the Oklahoma Ouachitas. I probably should have been out looking for a house today so I could finally get settled in Arkansas and get my stuff unpacked but the weather was mild and I’ve really been wanting to see this trail. The last time I tried it, I was forced out by icy roads but that wasn’t a problem today.
I started at the Horse Thief Spring picnic area off highway OK 1 (Talimena Scenic Drive) and went counter-clockwise, finishing with a section of the Ouachita Trail (miles 18.7-20.0) back east to HTS. It’s a nice hike, but with one exception nothing made me say “wow”. That came shortly after I turned from the east trail to the west trail where the Cedar Lake spur intersects. There is a relatively new sign that points to a scenic route that heads north. This trail starts off okay but then turns into a bit of a short bushwhack as it heads up onto Snake Mountain and intersects Equestrian Trail #4 (not shown on Charlie’s map). Here there is a large clearing with a fire pit and a big view to the south – back toward Horse Thief Spring – from atop a rocky bluff. A great place to stop for lunch.
When leaving, you can apparently continue west on Eq #4 off of Snake Mountain and find another “scenic route” connector going south back to the HTS trail. There were no white blazes on that part and I didn’t know where it was going so I found a way down through the bluff and bushwhacked back to the HTS trail, finding the other connector 15-20 minutes later. Clear as mud?
I was surprised at the lack of diversity in the wildflowers. The lower elevations were all Birdsfoot Violets – I’d never seen so many – while the higher elevations were almost exclusively Anemones and regular Violets.
There was a large section of the forest north of Cedar Creek where all the trees appear to be dead. I think the forest service has killed-off other areas with the intention of planting a different species of tree but I don’t know if that’s what happened here.
A combo plate at the Branding Iron BBQ in Mena obliterated my usual post-hike cravings.