With the completion of the segment from Deadman Gap (mile 8) to Talimena State Park (mile 0) today comes the completion of the double section hike of the Ouachita Trail that I started 5 months ago. Officially, that’s 445 miles but the GPS track puts it about 10 miles shorter. I’m sure I’m not the first person in history to do it but I like knowing that I’ve done it. Of course, it’s not as big an accomplishment as doing a through-hike even once.
With afternoon temperatures in the mid-80s, backpacking was out of the question for me. I camped at the Winding Stair Campground – the regular campground, not the backpacker’s campground where a ferocious mouse tore up my tent last weekend. I had no damage this time. There was no rain in the forecast for a change.
I changed my hike plan at the last minute and parked Saturday AM at FR 6010 then hiked west to Talimena State Park and back – about 12 miles round trip. This left me doing the return trip – which goes uphill for about 5 miles – in the peak mid-day heat. It was a bad decision, but I survived. I encountered 6 groups of people so the trail was relatively busy. 2 groups were day-hikers, 4 were backpackers. It amused me that a couple of the backpackers were just so excited to finally be getting out on the trail “now that it’s warm enough”. I will gladly let them have the ticks, chiggers, black flies, mosquitoes, poison ivy, and horseflies.
Adjacent to the campground is the Emerald Vista, with good views to the north and east. At night you can see the radio towers blinking on Cavanal Mountain and the lights of Poteau on the northern horizon. A bit closer, the lights of Heavener are easy to pick out, as is a lonely red traffic light blinking in what is probably Hodgen.
I thought this would be a good place for some sunrise shots the next morning. The sunrise itself was fine but I don’t think the photos did it justice.
Sunday, I drove back to FR 6010 and hiked east to Deadman Gap and back – about 4 miles round trip. There’s bit of a climb there too, but with cooler morning temperatures and a shorter overall hike it was not a big deal. Turkey season has started and there were a couple hunters out there on the trail. None of the hikers I encountered this weekend were wearing any blaze orange. I imagine many didn’t even know it was turkey season.
It was only about 10:30 AM when I finished so I headed east to Queen Wilhelmina State Park where there were some short trails that have been on my to do list for a while, then on to Mena for yet another visit to the Branding Iron for some great post-hike vittles.
What’s next? I don’t know, but there could still be a couple weekends with nice weather so I’m going to get something planned and ready. It will likely be in the Ozarks and maybe even up in Missouri for a change.
I’ve spent most of the last two summers moving but I’m settled now so I plan to do many closer-to-home road trips this summer, like staying at a state park and hiking the short trails in that area, or going to some city where I’ve never been and just playing tourist. I’m contemplating some big trips too, with New Mexico and Virginia being likely targets. I’ve also got quite a few projects around the house to work on – inside and out.