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Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas

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Offline dprather

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Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« on: June 12, 2017, 12:05:14 PM »
Situated along the Buffalo River in North-Central Arkansas, the Ponca Wilderness is a huge "sink."  The trails in are all down hill and the trails out are all up hill.  My backpacking amigos and I went down in and back up during the week of June 5-9, 2017.

What we found was typical Ozarks views and typical Ozarks people. 

We caught an awesome June weather break with daytime temps not higher than the low 80s and nighttime temps falling into the low 50s.  Strong rains that continued into mid-day Monday, June 5 kept the summer heat away, but created a downpour forest dew that night. 

The Ozarks views included the breathtaking "Goat Trail," a shimmy along narrow trail some 300 feet straight up from the Buffalo (imagine the final scene from THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS with Daniel Day Lewis).  Interesting and beautiful was the "Hemmed-In Hollow," the tallest waterfall between Niagara Falls and the Rockies, and only viewable by those who put in the footwork to get there.  The area is really nice, isolated and well-returned to wilderness (dense, mixed forest).

The isolation also affects the people we found there.  We found a sure-enough prepper paradise general store at Compton, Arkansas (their signs read "Terrorism. Stops. Here." and "Apocalypse Now").  They immediately trusted us ("yea - camp here, we'll settle-up tomorrow") and that made doing business with them most enjoyable.

And then we scored really big...

While resting one mid-day, a lone rider came along on a horse.  He was a really old guy who "took a shine" to us and spoke with us at length.  He had been raised in the Ponca Wilderness before the government took it over in the 1960s and 1970s.  He gave us a grand tour of what used to be and who used to be there.  His balanced perspective was that the government take-over was both good and bad - bad for those who once lived there and who were forcibly bought out, but good for folks like us who can enjoy the Ponca Wilderness for free today.

Two of his stories stand out; (1) the old school that served the community was burned to the ground by a 13 year-old boy who didn't like being forced to go to school, and (2) "Granny" was allowed to remain in her cabin after the feds bought her out, but she lived longer than they expected; so they forced her out in about 1970, put her in a rest home, where she very quickly died - another smooth move by the government.

The Ponca Wilderness is a LONG WAY from Liberty, Texas, and I doubt that I'll make the trip again.  Backpacking in the Ouachitas, in SW Arkansas, is just as enjoyable.

The trails are mixed-use and also accommodate horses - who keep the trail badly beat-up.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2017, 05:26:37 PM by dprather »
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2017, 05:09:16 PM »
Thanks for that report, dp.  I fell in love with Arkansas when my son and I attempted Eagle Rock Loop last summer (we finished the northern half before bailing due to the humidity).  I have the Buffalo River area on my radar, both for floating (kayaks) and backpacking.

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Offline dprather

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2017, 05:25:41 PM »
The ERL is better, IMHO.
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline Owl

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2017, 07:36:15 PM »
The Buffalo River Trail, the Old River Trail, and all the other trails in the Buffalo National River area are my favorites in the state.  Multi-day canoe camping on the river is also a splendid way to spend some time.  Don't forget to top off your visit with a meal at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper!

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Offline GaryF

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2017, 08:10:27 PM »
I cut my backpacking teeth in N Arkansas alon the Buffalo, as well as the Ozark Highland Trail. Beautiful country, but much more hospitable in the late fall and winter.  One of my best memories was a night in Granny Hendersons cabin listening to the rain fall on the tin roof.

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Offline get lost

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2017, 09:46:19 PM »
 H


Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat

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Offline Quatro

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2017, 11:17:39 PM »
And then we scored really big...
While resting one mid-day, a lone rider came along on a horse.

Gotta admit I was all set up for the next line to be that he was a pharmacy student from St. Louis who was lost. ;)
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - HST

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Offline dprather

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2017, 12:01:11 PM »
I cut my backpacking teeth in N Arkansas alon the Buffalo, as well as the Ozark Highland Trail. Beautiful country, but much more hospitable in the late fall and winter.  One of my best memories was a night in Granny Hendersons cabin listening to the rain fall on the tin roof.

i took an afternoon nap on Granny Henderson's front porch.

Do you know if there is any truth to the rumor that, as a long-time widow, Ms. Henderson supported herself in the manner of Granny Clampett's still?
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline dprather

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2017, 12:01:36 PM »
And then we scored really big...
While resting one mid-day, a lone rider came along on a horse.

Gotta admit I was all set up for the next line to be that he was a pharmacy student from St. Louis who was lost. ;)

Wise guy!
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline GaryF

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2017, 06:49:58 AM »
Do you know if there is any truth to the rumor that, as a long-time widow, Ms. Henderson supported herself in the manner of Granny Clampett's still?

Somebody in a group trip I was on was saying that she had a still, but I was never sure the original source of that story. 

It was kind of sad to watch how Mrs Henderson's  farm was succumbing to nature. The pastures that were cleared by hand, the barn and chicken coops that were all built with hand tools.  The last time I was there, and it's been about 10-12 years, somebody had replaced the front porch decking and the tin roof over it, so perhaps they are trying to preserve the cabin itself.

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Offline dprather

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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2017, 07:28:22 AM »
The house appeared to be in pretty good shape last week.  The roof and the front porch did appear to be much newer than the rest of the house.  That front porch is a great place for an afternoon nap.  Some of the runners underneath the metal roofing also appeared to be newer than the rest.

We got the impression that the house, which is located near the intersection of several trails, is being purposefully preserved.  Almost every hiker group we stopped and chatted with used the house as a point of reference.  The house looks just like what you'd think an Ozarks granny's house should look like.  It would be a shame to let it deteriorate and collapse back into dust.  I'd say that this house is worthy of being adopted by some enterprising group.

The wilderness has grown to within very few feet of the house which is tightly surrounded by tree limbs and undergrowth.

Wandering around, we could just barely make out the outlines of some of the former garden areas.  There was a high concentration of poke and Jerusalem artichoke in the areas in front of the house.  We wondered if Granny might have made use of these "natural" food sources.  There were also several pecan and fruit trees nearby.

With the nearby stream so close to the house, it appears that granny had it made.

Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2017, 07:50:04 AM »
And then we scored really big...
While resting one mid-day, a lone rider came along on a horse.

Gotta admit I was all set up for the next line to be that he was a pharmacy student from St. Louis who was lost. ;)

Wise guy!

When I returned to backpacking some 12 years ago after a 30-year hiatus, I was all about whipping the trails, succeeding, and whipping tougher trails.  Even my fascination with equipment was about winning the battle against the trails.

I am pleased that my approach has mellowed.

Don't get me wrong, I still relish whipping tough challenges.

But now, I love to soak in the beauty, and I have come to enjoy the most the people I meet on the trail and the stories of the people who were once part of the trails I travel.  I truly enjoy old guys on horses, young pharmacy students who are lost or who need some other kind of help, 70-something couples who are not yet ready to stop hiking, and the Granny Hendersons whose texture adds so much to my trails.

...and here I sit in my office. 
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline Quatro

  • Diamondback
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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2017, 11:13:41 PM »
And then we scored really big...
While resting one mid-day, a lone rider came along on a horse.

Gotta admit I was all set up for the next line to be that he was a pharmacy student from St. Louis who was lost. ;)

Wise guy!

When I returned to backpacking some 12 years ago after a 30-year hiatus, I was all about whipping the trails, succeeding, and whipping tougher trails.  Even my fascination with equipment was about winning the battle against the trails.

I am pleased that my approach has mellowed.

Don't get me wrong, I still relish whipping tough challenges.

But now, I love to soak in the beauty, and I have come to enjoy the most the people I meet on the trail and the stories of the people who were once part of the trails I travel.  I truly enjoy old guys on horses, young pharmacy students who are lost or who need some other kind of help, 70-something couples who are not yet ready to stop hiking, and the Granny Hendersons whose texture adds so much to my trails.

...and here I sit in my office.

I just thought the coincidence of the tie of those two stories (Ozarks and OML) was so cool that I'll probably always associate that with your trip stories.   You always seem to have some interesting and memorable coincidence in your trips that I look forward to reading.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - HST

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Offline dprather

  • Mountain Lion
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  • 2566
Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2017, 08:00:18 AM »
And then we scored really big...
While resting one mid-day, a lone rider came along on a horse.

Gotta admit I was all set up for the next line to be that he was a pharmacy student from St. Louis who was lost. ;)

Wise guy!

When I returned to backpacking some 12 years ago after a 30-year hiatus, I was all about whipping the trails, succeeding, and whipping tougher trails.  Even my fascination with equipment was about winning the battle against the trails.

I am pleased that my approach has mellowed.

Don't get me wrong, I still relish whipping tough challenges.

But now, I love to soak in the beauty, and I have come to enjoy the most the people I meet on the trail and the stories of the people who were once part of the trails I travel.  I truly enjoy old guys on horses, young pharmacy students who are lost or who need some other kind of help, 70-something couples who are not yet ready to stop hiking, and the Granny Hendersons whose texture adds so much to my trails.

...and here I sit in my office.

I just thought the coincidence of the tie of those two stories (Ozarks and OML) was so cool that I'll probably always associate that with your trip stories.   You always seem to have some interesting and memorable coincidence in your trips that I look forward to reading.

It's cool!

My response should have been "Wise Guy :great:"
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline ans015

  • Jack Rabbit
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Re: Ponca Wilderness/Ozarks/North Arkansas
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2017, 07:49:16 PM »
Glad to see that you made it up there. There is so much interesting history in that area, a lot like big bend. That is where I grew up and Iv explored nearly every inch of the upper buffalo wilderness. Im always surprised and excited to see so many people on this form making it up to my old stomping grounds (Im currently living in college station). I will be back up there this thanksgiving and I will definitely take a trip back to my old friend the Buffalo River!

 


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