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Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10

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Offline walkingman06

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Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« on: October 21, 2010, 07:36:20 PM »
On Tuesday, October 12 I set off for a training hike in preparation for the Outer Mountain Loop in December.  My hike this time was to the Ouachita National Forest, near Hot Springs, AR and the Eagle Rock Loop.  Here are some links to information on this hike.

http://www.ouachitamaps.com/picture_library/Eagle%20Rock/Eagle%20Rock%20Trail%20Mileage%20cw.pdf

http://www.fs.fed.us/outernet/r8/ouachita/maps/documents/TR-36DET_Eagle_Rock_Loop_005.pdf

http://www.ouachitamaps.com/Eagle%20Rock.html

I left Tulsa at 6:30 am anticipating a 4 hour drive to the trailhead.  I like to get stared in the early morning and the anticipation of the hike was building.  Traffic was light until I got to Fort Smith where I got into some rush-hour stuff, and then highway 70 S to Mena is a winding two-lane that tended to slow down progress.  All this to say that by the time I got to the forest I was a little off schedule.

I was headed to the Winding Stair trailhead to begin the loop.  The forest roads were in good shape and I made the trailhead by 11:30.  I ate lunch, watered up and was on the trail by noon.  My plans for day one were to complete the Winding Stair trail, then follow the Viles Creek trail to the Athens-Big Fork trail.  I wanted to get as far up the Athens-Big Fork trail as possible anticipating that this would be the toughest part of the loop.

I was breaking in a new, lighter backpack and even though it fit well, it was a little heavy on my shoulders.  Without water my loaded pack is less than 25 lbs. but I was carrying 8 liters of water.  Although water was plentiful on this trail, I'm anticipating needing to carry this much water up the Pinnacles in December and wanted to check my stamina. 

The hike was beautiful.  All the trails were marked with white blazes and were easy to follow. The Winding Stairs trail is a flat hike along the Little Missouri River.  The leaves were at first color and this beginning was exhilarating.  It's been way too long since I've taken a multiday hike.  There were a few limestone caves along the trail and two river crossings.  I was able to cross the river without taking off my boots, since the river level was low.  There were several deep pools that enhanced the views. Good fishing and swimming for a person so inclined!

At about 3 miles I came to the next crossing of the Little Missouri, quite wide at this point, and the junction with the Viles Creek trail.  This section of the loop is also a horse trail, so it is well traveled with a sandy base.  Again this section was flat, often in the dry creek bed.

At 6.5 miles I came to the junction with the Athens-Big Fork trail and immediately began to climb.  The first hill is to the trail namesake: Eagle Rock Vista.  This is an elevation change of 420 feet, but the trail is straight up.  No switchbacks in Arkansas I suppose!  My pack was some lighter, but this was a tough haul for me.  I had been making good time, about 3 miles an hour on the flat, but now things slowed down considerably. 

I made it to Eagle Rock Vista and took a pack off break.  There were several good campsites here, but it was only 4 pm so I wanted to press on.  After a breather and a few pictures I headed down to Saline Creek and began to climb up Brush Heap Mountain.

The trail is very rocky here and was rough on my feet.  Although the elevation change is 360 feet, the total I had climbed since beginning the Athens trail was over 600.  My body was telling me that I needed to rest.  I got to the spur trail to the peak of Brush Heap Mountain and decided that I had enough strength left to get to the top for the night.  Off I went, straight up on an overgrown, very rocky trail.  The summit is a rocky ridge, and when I got to the top was very overgrown.  I was too tired to go back down to find a campsite, but did manage to find a good level spot that allowed me to set up the tent.  I watched a beautiful sundown, ate dinner and rested.  I had come more than 10 miles since noon.

Taking off my boots I noticed that some of the tread on my right boot had come off somewhere in the climb up the mountain.  This explained my sore foot but also created some concern for tomorrow.  Would my boot hold up for the rest of the trail?  Backtracking was not a very attractive option even though most of the hiking would be downhill.  Another option was to hike down Brush Heap Mountain to Blaylock Creek to another trailhead that joins CR 106.  I could take the road back to the Winding Stair trailhead and my vehicle.  This would only be 6 miles instead of the 10 required to backtrack.  I decided to evaluate the state of my feet and equipment in the morning.

The temperature was low 60's and the wind was mild, perfect sleeping weather, especially considering how tired I was.  I slept well and awakened at predawn, seeing the rosy glow of sunrise to the east. I had time to get dressed and spent some time on the ridge praying and meditating as I watched the sun rise. Not quite like awakening on the South Rim, but it was a great day to be alive.

I examined my boots closer and found them very damaged, so I decided to take the short loop. It was a pleasant hike downhill, still very rocky and steep but not nearly as stressful on my cardiovascular system.  I made it to Blaylock Creek by 8:30 am and surprised a flock of wild ducks.  The distance from my location to the Winding Stair trailhead was four miles, but my boot and foot were holding up well so I took off.  This hike was pleasant as well, although my mind started getting back into hurry mode when I was anticipating having another day away from civilization.  I made it back to the van by 10 am, and the end of a modified Eagle Rock Loop.

Overall, I hiked nearly 16 miles, including the spur trails to Eagle Rock Vista and Brush Heap Mountain; completing this in less than 24 hours.  My right heel continues to be sore this week, but is getting some better.  I'm back to my old reliable hiking boots and am open to suggestions for a new purchase soon. I think that I can do the Outer Mountain Loop in 3 days without killing my 56 year old body, but we'll see.

I'll post a few pictures later.

Thanks for reading.
Moving in silent desperation
Keeping an eye on the holy land
A hypothetical destination
Say, who is this walking man?
James Taylor
Posted from Tulsa, OK

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Ray52

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Re: Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2010, 09:03:21 PM »
Thanks for the detailed account of this hike.  It was a tough one for me but I enjoyed all of the water.  In that respect, it reminded me of the Smokies. Sorry about your equipment failure. If you could've continued you might have found the Keen H2O sandal I lost on that section a few years ago.  Would a size 13 fit? 

I'm looking forward to your photos!

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Offline rosco

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Re: Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2010, 02:34:36 AM »
i had a sole fall off a pair of boots coming down the Pinnacles trail w/ a full pack.  darn good thing i bring duck tape as i was able to tape it back on and make the remaining 1-3 mile hike.  i don't remember how much was left, but it would have seemed much longer w/o the sole of my right boot. 

i think salt from salting the roads rotted them out.  but not visibly though.  they looked almost new.  Asolo gave me a discount of 40%+ on my next pair though.  i only had to mail them the tongue of these boots. 

in Arkansas a very quick or very long hike along the king's river is way upstream by King's River Falls.  beauty when the Azeilia's (sp?) are blooming. 

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Offline JRD

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Re: Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2010, 08:20:08 AM »
I did the loop with a buddy last Nov.  Great being able to camp by running water and have an open fire anywhere.  Bonus points for a hot shower at the trail-head (if you start at Albert Pike).  Although I'll be more careful about setting up camp near water after those 19 folks died there this spring.

We did have a hard time following the trail on the East side - leaves on the ground at that time of year and multiple stream crossings after some recent rains made it easy to loose the trail.  It is not an easy hike!

The two times I've been there I've been surprised at the absence of wildlife, even birds.  It bordered on creepy.  That and the ATV traffic were the only negatives.

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2010, 09:03:38 AM »
Sounds like a nice hike.  I need to make it over there and try that one someday.  Getting bored with hiking in the Wichita Mtns.

Speaking of boots, just purchased a pair of Asolo FSN 85 boots.  The build quality seems quite good, although I've read that the Rubbermac soles shouldn't be used on concrete.  I only paid $85 at sierratradingpost.c om.

Darin

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Offline leigh

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Re: Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2010, 05:50:30 PM »
Thanks for the report, I'm heading up that way to do my very first backpacking trip on the Caney Cr. Trail next weekend :icon_biggrin:
Leigh

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Offline Smittyboyd

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Re: Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2010, 08:06:50 PM »
I've hiked Eagle Rock Loop several times and I'm hiking the Big Bend outer loop in two weeks. Has anyone done both and can tell me how they compare?
And my Katadyn water filter (used once) is somewhere out there with your Keen sandle!

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Ray52

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Re: Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2010, 08:59:01 PM »
I think the only similarity between the two loops is the mileage.  If you've replaced your lost filter, the new one will come in handy at Fresno Creek on the Dodson leg of the OML.  Eagle Rock Loop challenged me and I'd gladly do it again, but the OML is off the scale by comparison.  For me, these are the 3 best days I've spent on a trail.  I won't discuss details as there are several excellent, detailed reports on this forum. 

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Offline poke

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Re: Modified Eagle Rock Loop--10-12-10
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2010, 09:32:35 PM »
I hike the Eagle Rock Loop lots (it's the closest trail to me) and I've done the outer mtn loop a couple of times. I cached water in the box at Homer Wilson, drove to Twisted Shoe and started from there. I found the hike across the dodson to be easy, despite hearing otherwise. I slept somewhere in blue creek. The next day I finished the hike up Blue Creek and slept at Laguna after going up Emory through the colima cut. I went down to the basin the next mornin, filled up with water and chicken fried steak and unleaded potatoes, and went back up Pinnacles. spent the night at SE#4 and then dropped back down Juniper to Twisted shoe. The other time I was in a hurry, and cached water the same and started at TS again, I just huffed it to the bottom of the Blue Creek climb the first day, and went up and over and back down Juniper without doing the South Rim. How does it compare to Eagle Rock? Much longer, tougher climbing, much better trail in my opinion. I think the Athens-BigFork drainage scramble is a poor excuse for trail, especially north of the Blaylock TH at FR 106. Your feet will be much drier than on the route beside the river from Lil Missouri Falls back to Albert Pike. I found the drop down Juniper Canyon to be a mutha)$%^a on the one nighter.
"I wouldn't mind so much if that had been just water, but men have been hanged for spilling less whiskey than that."

 


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