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Back On The Trail

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    Back On The Trail

    Over the last year or so, I've been getting back into one of my passions, which had taken a backseat to adventures on the bike for quite a while and that would be backpacking. In my younger years, my brothers & our dad did it on a fairly regular basis and since those days, it's always been a favorite pastime of mine. Since the first of the year, I've managed to get out 3 times, all in Arkansas. There is a trail there called the Ozark Highlands Trail, approximately 160 miles long. I've hiked 2 sections of it to date & have had a ball.

    I find backpacking to be similar to being on the bike... lots of time to think about things and putting those things into perspective & to be thankful for what we have. It's a great way to escape the daily dosing of negativity coming from all fronts. Plus, I refuse to stay at home cooped up, trembling in fear and fretting over the Chinese Wuhan Covid Kung Flu. Whether you're on the bike or out in the woods, you're not subjected to the abuse from all the drama & distractions with your normal life & what's going on around you... refreshing, is it not?

    Anyway, my son and I had been talking about getting out on the trail and decided we'd go back to the Ozark Highlands Trail and hike another section of the trail or as much of one as we could over a weekend. Our jumping off point would be the White Rock trailhead, which is close to where I made it on my first hike there this past New Years. Like I did then, we'd hike as far as we could for a couple of days, then turn around and hike back the way we came. The White Rock trailhead is located inside the White Rock Recreation Area and when we got there, the gate was closed and everything shutdown because of the Wuhan. Damn the Wuhan! Hmmm... what to do? Rather than bail or go somewhere else, we decided to drive around a bit and look for anything that might be a trail that crossed the road. After about 30 minutes, we finally hit pay dirt!

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    After parking the car, we set off with our trusty trail companion, Indy. I was using my new to me ZPacks ArcHaul pack and hit the trail at 15.6 lbs. My son chose to use his favorite pack, the Golite Breeze and his pack weight was 17.2 lbs. Indy had to haul all his own food, ground pad, trail leash and a few other odds and ends with his pack weighing in at 7.9 lbs. Temps were supposed to be in the low-40’s at night and in the mid-70’s during the day with no rain in the forecast... we hit the weather window perfectly!

    Due to a late afternoon start, we only managed to get in about 4-5 miles, making camp at Salt Fork Creek in Bear Hollow. This was my first chance to try out my new DIY Climashield 2.5 top quilt and I was anxious to see how it performed. My son was using my old BPL quilt and we were both using Loco Libre Operator 50 under quilts. By 8pm, the temps were dropping a little quicker than we expected and the low for the night wound up being 40°. We really stretched the limits of our Operator under quilts & synth top quilts for sure. Both of us were layered up and our sit pads came in handy in our quilt footboxes, but it was still a bit cool. This scenario would repeat itself for 2 more nights.

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    The next morning began quietly and it was still pretty chilly when we woke up, but with Indy around, nobody gets to sleep in for too long! It wasn’t long before we were getting up for breakfast and then packing up so we could get back on the trail. The first part of our hike went through a really cool area along Spirit’s Creek that featured lots of water and waterfalls. Spirit’s Creek Falls is somewhere around there but we didn’t take the time to check it out, so we’ll have to do that on our next trip. Not long after that, we hit a 2.5 mile section that used to be a railroad bed from the days there was logging operations in the area. We spotted some old steel cables and an old kerosene can that were left behind from those days.

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    By days end, we’d hiked 10-11 miles, making it to Fane Creek. We found a good campsite by the creek and after surveying our digs for the night, we collected some wood for a fire. We enjoy sitting around the fire pit, watching the fire and talking... I mean, who doesn’t? After dinner, we got a good little fire going and talked about many things. I really enjoy being with my son on the trail... it makes for some good quality alone time and now that he’s out of the house, I have to take advantage of it when I can. Indy was pretty pooped and sometimes I wonder if he may be getting too old to get out with us. Like me and as I get older, it takes some time to get going but he’s always ready to do it again the next day. He’s fun to have around and on the trail.

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    After another chilly night followed by a leisurely breakfast, we got packed and on the trail heading back the way we came and another 10 mile day. It was another picture perfect day on the trail with our final destination being back to Bear Hollow and Salt Fork Creek for our last night on the trail. We got into camp around 6pm and it was good to get off our feet. After setting up the Trail Lair, I laid in the hammock relaxing with some coffee and listening to the sounds of the woods. As we finished dinner, it was looking like it might rain and we got ready for another cold night in the hammocks. It never did rain and it wasn’t long before we were sawing logs. Around 2am, I was awakened by coyotes and they sounded really close by. Indy was on full alert, so I grabbed him by the collar to keep him from chasing them if they actually got too close to camp. But after a few minutes, it was all quiet again.

    When morning came, we woke to cold temps and cloudy skies. As we ate our last breakfast, we sat in silence listening to the sounds of the woods and all the wildlife coming to life and beginning their day. After packing up, refilling our water bottles and a quick tick check, we were ready to hit the trail again and head back to the car. The morning’s hike was fairly easy with only a handful of serious hills to climb. About halfway into our hike, it started to sprinkle but never really amounted to much. Since we had only a few miles to get to the car, we made it right around lunch time. After taking a few selfies, dumping our packs and conducting our last tick check, it was time to hit the road for home. Once we were off the forest service roads, Indy settled in for the ride home, eventually drifting off to sleep, no doubt dreaming of getting back home and to his life of Riley. Another fun time in the woods for sure.

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    On the Wild Kingdom front, we saw a fair number of critters and other things while we were out... a Great Blue Heron, garden snake, ticks, a millipede, lots of butterflies, a Pileated Woodpecker (very BIG and had to look him up), ticks, some kind of owl, coyotes (heard not seen), tadpoles, frogs and LOTS and LOTS of ticks. Holy crap! Those little guys were absolutely everywhere. We’d have to do regular tick checks on the trail, during breaks and in camp, it was that bad. We joked about them... “grab ‘em, pick ‘em, flick ‘em!” I really don’t think I’ve ever seen them that bad. And just as bad, maybe worse, was all the poison ivy... it was in abundance and there was just no way to avoid contact over the course of 3 days and it was pointless to even try.

    All in all, it was a great trip and the weather, although cold at times, couldn’t have been much better. Very pleasant during the day and tolerably cold at night. This was a trip where everything seemed to work and all we had to do was have fun. Our meal planning worked out great too, having nothing left in our food bags except half a meal for Indy.

    I think it would be fun to do an OHT thru-hike this Fall, sometime in November maybe. It’s a good time of year to do it too... no bugs, fewer people on the trial and cooler temps. I think by then, Indy will be ready too.

    Hope you enjoy this short video...

    Last edited by McFly; 4 weeks ago.
    "Everybody knows you never go full retard". - Kirk Lazarus

    Beautiful country you were in Curt.



      Good to see you are getting out.
      Surprised you had cold nights in Arkansas this time of year, it's been hot in Iowa.
      Also surprised you were able to hike part of the time in what looks like Crocs.
      Indy does a good job as a alarm clock and doing dishes
      Thank you for not filming the tic check
      2016 R1200RS


      • McFly
        McFly commented
        Editing a comment
        I should've mentioned, that was a trip from back in May. The Crocs are surprisingly usable on the trail. Not sure I'd want to hike a long way but where they really come in handy is in camp & creek/river crossings. They don't weight much at all, so they're easy to take along.
        Last edited by McFly; 07-08-2020, 07:00 PM.

      • 802Mike
        802Mike commented
        Editing a comment
        I noticed the Crocs and wondered.
        Do you know why Crocs have holes in them....? So you dignity can pour out !

      Again you demonstrate your writing skills
      2018 BMW S1000R
      2000 BMW K1200 RS
      2017 Honda CRF250 L ABS

      "Where you stand depends on where you sit"
      Rufus E Miles JR.


        Thanks for the great write up and pictures.
        I've been thinking about doing the Long Trail, you've given me some encouragement.
        I love being outside, ticks and Lyme Disease are one of my biggest fears.


          Well done Curt, what a great area to go out and enjoy nature!


            Making some great memories with your son and Indy! I'm already looking forward to the Fall write up!
            ain't skeered



              female tiger swallowtail

              green snake (only seen one in my lifetime; arboreal)


                Good lookin trio, Curt. Indy wanted to hang out in the stream a while, I’ll bet.👍