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Ozark Highlands Trail (The Official TJ Avery Remix)

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Offline Burn Ban

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Ozark Highlands Trail (The Official TJ Avery Remix)
« on: June 28, 2009, 10:45:12 PM »
"Deep down inside me a tiny voice was calling. At first scarcely audible, it persisted until i could no longer ignore it. It was the voice of the wild places, and i knew that it was now part of me forever. Inexplicably - amazingly - I knew I loved that hell. Its fiendish grasp had captured me, and I wanted to see it again." Percy Harrison Fawcett

I do not pretend that I have ever been in a wild place. To be sure, any place off the beaten path can be filled with danger if one is not prepared and careful; but, the true Wild is nearly gone from this planet, and it is unlikely that i will experience it anytime soon. For the purposes of this writing, The Wild refers to any wilderness that is unvisited by the unadventurous.

With this thinking in mind, I discovered the Ozark Highlands Trail. Some months ago, National Geographic carried a photo essay about the OHT and I found it to be beautiful. That the ecological nature of the area is different from my usual haunts also intrigued me. Plans for an adventure began forming.

Our group ready, we left out for northwest Arkansas on Friday, May 22. An uneventful drive ended in an uneventful first night's camp. Due to campground FUBAR, we were relegated to sleeping in a KOA. While I did sleep fine, I will also say "never again."

Our morning came early as Dad woke with the sunrise and insured that we do the same. The short drive to Lake Fort Smith State Park resulted in a view of a beautiful scene.

 

After registering at the trailhead, we were ready to begin the adventure and took the obligatory "clean and ready hikers" photo.
From left to right: me, Neil, Dad, Dave , and Keith.



Our first day began with the usual optimism. I even pretended that the forecasted monsoon was apt to pass us by. That kind of thinking propelled us to take every precaution to keep our feet very dry when crossing water such as in Frog Bend Bayou. Those first few miles we passed several small streams in addition to numerous remnants of the previous land owners: chimneys with no homes to draw, spring wells that are no longer utilized and homesite clearings without the homes. It would have been quite a choice area to homestead back when. Here's Dad and his boys in front of a small stream falling into a pool.



Several miles into the trail, a steady rain began to fall upon us. With the heavy canopy covering us, we hardly felt any of the drops getting through. That soon changed. We all attempted a couple of different poncho configurations before settling in on one that kept equipment reasonably dry while providing absolutely no protection for the hiker. One must prioritize. While a wet me would be inconvenient, a wet sleeping bag would be incomprehensible.

It interests me how even when hiking as a group, a backpacking party will stretch out over a significant length of trail. My experience is that this rarely happens in an off-trail hike, but almost always happens when a well defined trail exists. We all need to move along on our own terms. This hike was no exception. Every couple of miles or so, the blazers would wait for the trailers and we would start the cycle once more.

It was under these circumstances that we regrouped in time to find our campground for the night. Just on the west bank of Hurricane Creek, I spotted a sizable clearing that even featured a fire ring. Of course it was a soaked fire ring and the water logged wood that I was able to gather was just too stubborn for me to make much of. A lot of work ended in a little flame and too much smoke. Unsatisfied, we all set our sleeping arrangements and went about cooking our suppers. For me that was a tarp of painter's plastic thrown into an a-frame hanging on a cord strung between two trees, and some red beans and rice I decided try. Even the tired, wet and cold-induced hunger I was experiencing couldn't make that garbage palatable. Note to self for the next trip.

With chills permeating, I slouched into my bag and tried to warm up. I think I had created a water-proof set-up, but thankfully the respite from the rain lasted the whole night. I slept like a baby...you know the joke.

The morning brought back the feelings of excitement and hope. The rain had stopped and the oatmeal and cocoa renewed me. Alas, as we were breaking camp the sprinkles began to fall...lightly, but there. We filtered water from Hurricane Creek and headed out.

 

Whereas Saturday's hike had us following the course of Jack's Creek for mile after mile, Sunday found us following the path of a forest road for much of our 9 miles. It was strange to find my way through what appeared to be wilderness only to be occasionally be reminded of our close proximity to motorized recreation each time a truck or four-wheeler roared by.

As we climbed out of the river bottom, we were assaulted by mosquitoes. I have never been the target of so many at one time. I would guess that 100 mosquito bites is conservative enough of an estimate to induce a chuckle from my hiking band. When moving, the attack was manageable, but if one stopped to rest - look out - you are about to be let. Tough decisions because we gained elevation for much of the day. We saw some beautiful scenery as we came out of the valleys and then fantastic views of those valleys as we approached the apex of our trail.



At one point, Dad and I were sweeping the trail as we approached the top of Richardson Mountain. I spotted a small fawn by himself in the trees off to our right. As I pointed him out to Dad, the fawn noticed us noticing him. He crouched down and lowered his head. He really became more difficult to see. When we didn't move, he laid down in the leaves and his markings became a perfect match for the forest floor. If I hadn't watched the whole episode, I am sure I wouldn't have seen him there. It was very cool. We left him to find his mom.

I always love the time when I have this epiphany of "What in the world am I doing?!" This time I was sitting in the rain with my brother. We were along the side of the trail having our lunch. I think I ate some nuts and cranberries and oranges. On every other day of the year, the possibility of me eating outside in the rain would have been close to zero. This day, it seemed perfectly reasonable and I was even encouraged by the decision I made that "At least it isn't raining too hard right now." Charlotte would have loved to be there for that one. It would give her a great opening for her "What is wrong with you?" standard.

Finally we approached White Rock and with a final push in elevation gain, we arrived at the home of our shuttle driver. Unceremoniously, she deposited us at Dave's truck. We all changed into dry clothes and filled up at a Waffle House. It was a great way to end a wet, but wonderful trip. I wonder if/when I will see some of the 160 or so miles remaining in the OHT.

This trip was different than many of my recent hikes. Due to some schedule problems with end of school and all-star baseball, J-Man didn't come with me this time. It was a little easier not needing to guide him along the way, carry his equipment and assuage his fear. On the other hand, I have gotten very accustomed to talking with him along the trail, playing his word games and chatting with him in the tent at the end of the day. I missed him and hope things work out better for the next trip.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 07:50:29 PM by RichardM »

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Offline Al

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2009, 12:10:07 AM »
Very nice report and pictures.  No campsite pics?

Al

P.S. I love 55 gallon trash bags when it rains on the trail.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2009, 06:30:18 AM »
Nice job Burn Ban. I will have to look for that article on the OHT. Got to love those wet trips if for no other reason than to really enjoy the dry ones!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline Burn Ban

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2009, 09:26:17 AM »
Very nice report and pictures.  No campsite pics?

Al

P.S. I love 55 gallon trash bags when it rains on the trail.

only one and it isn't very good.



Bibefng might have one. if he reads this maybe he'll share.

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Offline Burn Ban

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2009, 09:28:13 AM »
Nice job Burn Ban. I will have to look for that article on the OHT. Got to love those wet trips if for no other reason than to really enjoy the dry ones!

here is a link to the online version:  http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/10/ozark-trail/white-text

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Offline Ay Chihuahua!

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2009, 12:16:16 PM »
Sounds like a great adventure...and well told.

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Offline tjavery

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2009, 01:42:20 PM »
Great report and pics. Thanks for sharing with us!

Although you might need a new keyboard. Your shift key appears to not be working very well. :icon_wink:

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Offline Burn Ban

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2009, 01:51:18 PM »
Great report and pics. Thanks for sharing with us!

Although you might need a new keyboard. Your shift key appears to not be working very well. :icon_wink:

stop it.

i didn't know my wife was a member on this board.

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Offline Goldilocks

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2009, 02:23:39 PM »
What a great trip report! I'm sorry you had so much rain, but at least you can say it was a memorable trip!

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Offline tjavery

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2009, 04:05:51 PM »
Great report and pics. Thanks for sharing with us!

Although you might need a new keyboard. Your shift key appears to not be working very well. :icon_wink:

stop it.

i didn't know my wife was a member on this board.

Negative. I'm just a fan of English. Reading a block of text without proper caps is hard on my eyes and brain. If you'd left out punctuation too, I would have not read it at all.

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Offline sleepy

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2009, 05:37:37 PM »
great report fine writing.

as for capitalization, i take an egalitarian point of view. 
It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

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Offline tjavery

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2009, 08:21:44 AM »
Well done! Your English teachers can rest easy now :icon_lol:

great report fine writing.

as for capitalization, i take an egalitarian point of view. 

Arrgghhh!!!! :willynilly: :icon_lol:

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Offline Burn Ban

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail (The Official TJ Avery Remix)
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2009, 08:53:32 AM »
well, my typing teacher, at least.

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Offline sleepy

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2009, 09:59:20 AM »
Well done! Your English teachers can rest easy now :icon_lol:

great report fine writing.

as for capitalization, i take an egalitarian point of view. 

Arrgghhh!!!! :willynilly: :icon_lol:

hey, man, i'll punctuate.  i'll try to avoid run-on sentences.  i'll put a paragraphs down all day.  i'll leave no participle dangling, if i can help it.  those all make sense to me. 
It's never too late to be what you might have been-Geroge Elliot

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oldfatman

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Re: Ozark Highlands Trail (The Official TJ Avery Remix)
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2009, 10:28:59 AM »
When the grammer etc gets more important than the information, then it is time to quit reading.

 Thank you for the report on an area I have been in many times.  I still do not like all the biting bugs that used to dine on me several times a year up there.

 


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