Part 2 consisted of hiking the Womble Trail west from the AR-298 trail head, where part 1 left off, to the end at North Fork Lake, then back. A central feature of this segment is Mauldin Mountain. On the south side of the mountain, near the east end, was the old town of Mauldin, which figures prominently in Sawmill: The Story of Cutting the Last Great Virgin Forest East of the Rockies. It was the population center of Montgomery County and the hub of operations for the Caddo River Lumber Company for many years but was basically disassembled and moved elsewhere after the last tree was cut in 1937. Only some concrete footings remain.
This segment starts at mile 24, and until mile 27.5 is fairly level, following a couple creeks with the last half mile on one of the old logging rail beds. At 27.5 the trail turns south and you begin climbing Mauldin Mountain rather steeply up about 300′ by mile 28. The trail is on the mountain for the next 7 miles with no water and very few places to put a tent, but some nice views. It stays in the 900-1200′ range with lots of small ups and downs.
At about mile 35 you begin the descent from the mountain, following a creek for about a mile into a broad mostly-level area. Lots of places to pitch a tent here. The trail continues about another 1.5 miles to North Fork Lake, following another old logging rail bed for a hundred yards at one point, and crossing a couple more creeks before reaching the lake. See maps and trail details.
It was only 12:30 when I got to North Fork Lake. I had originally planned to start hiking back that day to reduce the miles I would have to do Saturday (potentially in the rain), but with all that daylight left I realized I had a good possibility of setting a new personal best daily mileage. I got carried away, as is my custom, and hiked all the way back to the AR-298 trail head. According to my GPS track, that’s 26 miles, far surpassing my 19 mile previous best. Hooray for me! I had to use my headlamp for the last 1.25 hours.
At about mile 27.25 there is a sign pointing kinda west for the Cross View Spur. Due to my accelerated schedule I didn’t explore that so it’s on the list for next time. I also missed the opportunity to sleep outdoors in late December without using a sleeping bag. The expected overnight low of 57 is unusual.
I guess the other excitement of the day was that as I was driving to the trail head in the morning and only 2 miles away, I hit my very first deer. I was pretty lucky as the bulk of the damage was to the headlight that the deer suddenly put its head in front of. The deer was not so lucky. I can’t believe I still haven’t run over an armadillo.