After a bad storm yesterday made the Caney Creek Crew turn back before ever reaching the trailhead, 13 TrailBlazers were happy to be able to hike the 3-mile loop on top of White Rock this afternoon. Weather was predicted to be somewhat iffy, but it turned out fine, and even the washboard gravel road to the top was not as bad as it has been on some occasions. At least we still have most of our teeth and nobody got a flat! 

The trail was very green, in need of some loppers in places, but it was a bonanza as far as flora is concerned. As for fauna, who knows, because we scare everything off, with the exception of a pretty owl that we saw in a dead tree! There apparently has been a relatively recent prescribed burn, but nice little greenery is sprouting up in those areas. Prolific azaleas were everywhere, and we finally came to the realization that wild azaleas are very fragrant. In many places, we could smell them before we even saw them. There also was an abundance of honeysuckle, blackberry in flower, thrift, the last of the dogwood, although most had lost their petals, and even some snap dragons. 

A unique feature of this short loop is that it has no fewer than 4 shelters that look like they are the work of the CCC. There have been several trails where we wondered where a shelter was when we needed one! We hadn’t done this trail in a while and many of us may have forgotten just how many stunning views and overlooks there are. We took our time and really had a chance to take a good look at everything. What a great afternoon! 

Thirty TrailBlazers headed to Falling Water Road on a crisp, sunny morning to find five waterfalls. The first stop was Falling Water Falls and it was running quite well. Another 5 miles down the road we found parking spots on either side of the bridge across Falling Water Creek and took our group pictures. Wilson led us up the trail to 16-foot Fuzzy Butt Falls that was situated in a V-shaped canyon with tall rugged bluffs on either side. From there we hiked back to Six Finger Falls, a low 6-foot rock ledge with water rushing over between the "six fingers", where we all found a spot to sit, eat lunch, survey the beautiful surroundings and listen to the rush of water. Reaching our next destination, Horsetail Falls, proved to be a little more difficult as we had to climb up the mountain along the drainage area. The 70-foot falls were running nicely and the cool air was very refreshing after the difficult scramble up the mountain. From here we hiked back to our starting point and continued down the road for another mile or so where we bushwhacked down to Intersection Falls, a 31-foot waterfall. We then set off to find Keefe Falls on the other side of the road. After climbing and bushwhacking up the mountain, we came to a pretty little area where all but our leader, Wilson, and sweep, Dwayne, waited while they tried to find the elusive falls. They came back to report they could hear the water and it was probably another 1/4 mile or so up the mountain. By that time, the rest of us decided to call it a day and headed back along the Ozark Highland Trail to the cars. It was an absolutely perfect day for our waterfalls adventure. Driving back to Van Buren, it was very hazy and before long we spotted about three different plumes of smoke in the distance. The weatherman later reported there had been several controlled burns in the area.

Twenty TrailBlazers, one canine and one cockatiel (yup!) headed up north of Ozark with Brian Emfinger to see some remote falls that were new to all of us and a real treat. The weather was beautiful, not so hot as the last few weeks, and with no showers. After traveling slowly over some really dusty gravel roads, we reached out first destination: Bingham Hollow Falls, discovered by Brian, on one of his many hikes. Brian is a REAL TrailBlazer! The trek was relatively short, but steep and rocky in places. Cameras were clicking and flashing non-stop. After exploring the area, we found the upward trek to be easier. 

Next we headed down the road on foot to pick up another dirt road to find Sentinel Rock Falls. This was quite an adventure because after trekking through some magnificent patches of poison ivy, we had to get down a wet cliff edge and navigate on a narrow ledge for a short distance. Brian had put a rope in place and we managed unscathed with the help of Brian, Dewayne, Ruth Ann, and other helpful hands. The canyon where the falls are located is rough, rocky, and rugged but we made our way to the falls and spent quality time there taking pics and eating lunch. On this hike most of us got some muddy souvenirs on our clothes, with Yours Truly falling flat down in the mud and rolling over in it to win the coveted Her Name is Mud Award. 

Next we drove to the trail of White Oak Falls and were thrilled with the sight of a large fall with lots of water. It is a delightful place. After giving herself a splash bath in the creek, Yours Truly did not shame the TrailBlazers nor get herself evicted at McDonald’s where the strict dress code precludes admission of muddy transients of dubious character! We had a great day and want to give Brian a big thank you for sharing his discoveries with us.

On a balmy December day eighteen TrailBlazers and one canine under the command of Captain Katie headed down to the Ouachitas to once again hike the first segment of the Vista Trail from Denby Bay to Tompkins Bend. Believe it or not Yours Truly gives this 5-mile hike her Foot and Knee-Friendly Rating, an award she rarely and stingily confers. It has some gentle ups and downs, very few rocks, some pine needle-padded sections, and several conveniently placed benches that we put to good use. Most of us also took the easy ¼ mile trek out to Sunset Vista and back. We were happy to welcome back Bob and Marianne. 

The Ouachitas are different from the Ozarks in that they feature lots of white quartz, many ferns, holly trees of all sizes, lots of lovely moss, and many tall pine trees, so there were interesting things to see. One jarring event of the day was an encounter with a woman with two small dogs who were dragging her down the trail. From time to time she let the two naughty Dachshunds off leash, for no good reason, and then she had to call them back using a raucous voice best-suited to a banshee or a fishmonger. If she were to "call the hogs," even feral razorbacks would run and hide! She could benefit from lessons in voice modulation, and the dogs needed a scholarship to Cesar Millan’s Doggie Boot Camp. Zack was clearly shocked at such disgraceful behavior by members of his species. 

To finish off a great day we stopped at the Mt. Ida Café to have some of their much acclaimed pie. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all – see you next year.

On a very muggy day fourteen TrailBlazers led by Kaptain Katie headed down to the Ouachitas to check out another section of the Vista Trail starting at FS45A to Crystal Springs.. Some of our members were already in the area to do an early morning Breast Cancer Awareness hike before the rest of us arrived. The trail had some gentle ups and downs, good footing, and much less poison ivy than last week. Along the way we saw many white quartz rocks, some of them in large rock cairns, a roadside spring, and several beautiful wildflowers, some defying identification. Of course an army moves on its stomach, so we found a neat lunch spot at a low water bridge on the creek. There was a little waterfall along the bank and a huge colony of butterflies eager to participate in a photo op. The trail ended near a beautiful campground on Lake Ouachita. 

Next we drove over to the handicapped accessible Watchable Wildlife Loop to check out the long wooden bridge over the marsh that gives access to the wetland area of Denby Bay. From the bridge we saw some fish, snakes, and a turtle sunning itself on a log. That was about all the wildlife we saw, but we TrailBlazers can be a little wild ourselves and Randy was along wearing one of his orange frog shirts, so that should count for something! We had a great day hiking and fortunately escaped bad weather. 

Next stop is Buffalo Lodge – see ya’ll next weekend!

Eighteen TrailBlazers headed down to Mt. Ida to hike 7.6 miles on the new Joplin and Hickory Nut sections of the Vista Trail, a work in progress that will eventually be 40 miles long. It was somewhat cool at the trailhead, but after a short downward trek, we started hoofing upwards and soon started feeling warm enough to peel off our layers. This section of the trail has rocks, hills and rills with some deeper valleys. Down in this area most trails feature tall pines, white quartz, fern, and holly, and this one is no exception. 

After hiking for a while, we started to smell smoke and then saw that the valley below us was full of it. We began to wonder if this was a controlled burn, the Great American Smokeout, or a giant TrailBlazer roast that nobody had told us about! About this time we started huffing and puffing up the final steep, rocky stretch to the top. Fortunately the smoke was no longer a problem after the trail curved off to the right. On the other hand, it also started to feel much colder and the wind really kicked up. 

There was a neat view of Lake Ouachita at the picnic area where there was even a restroom. First we had to bundle up against the cold wind before wolfing down our lunch. Most people congregated behind the restroom, which served as a windbreak of sorts, to chat a little before heading down. 

The final leg of the trail is new this year. It has some steep ups and downs and features several benches and logs for weary hikers. There was the added benefit of pine needle carpeting! People have done a lot of work placing rocks along the trail to define the path. There are also rock cairns here and there just in case heavy leaf fall blurs the trail. This was a really neat hike that everyone enjoyed. Merry Christmas, everyone. We’ll see you on the trail next year!

TrailBlazers Hiking Club will suspend hikes until October due to increasing temperature, ticks, misquitos, etc.  Wishing everyone an enjoyable summer.