Fifteen TrailBlazers, led by Judith and Ed, headed for Jasper on a foggy morning to once again search for Sam on top of his throne high above the valley floor. En route the sun made several brief appearances until it finally came out in earnest. As we neared Jasper there was beautiful blue sky above with low-hanging fluffy white clouds down in the valleys, quite unusual. We were relieved that Tom and Dewayne came today because the final ascent involves hauling ourselves up a rope to the top, and a little extra testosterone is welcome for those of us who are vertically challenged! 

First we ascended the trail to a rocky bluff that is across the valley from the throne. It was cool, and breezy on the ledge, but that changed when we trekked down the rocky road to pick up the base trail around the throne. There is quite a lot of tree fall and damage on the trail, no doubt due to the ice storm. Imagine our surprise to find a dogwood with flowers on the trail. As we hiked there were great views of the rocky palisades leading up to the throne. Serviceberry trees, with their fluffy white flowers, were blooming everywhere. 

Eventually we reached the steep rocky, slot leading up to the staging area for the final assault. Mountain goats like Linda and Ed pussyfooted up to the top to get the rope in place for the rest of us. We all made it safely to the top where we ate lunch and explored the top of the throne. Preacher Sam didn’t show up, wasting a great opportunity to practice his Easter sermon for tomorrow! 

It was a beautiful warm, sunny day – what more could we ask? Happy Easter!

Thirty-four TrailBlazers, one canine and a cockatiel had great weather and lots of sunshine for our return to Sam’s Throne. There were beautiful views as we trekked along the bluff line and saw Sam’s Throne across the valley.

Read more: Sams Throne - 01/19/13

On a bright and sunny, but cool and windy, day twenty-five TrailBlazers and two canines led by Linda headed for Mt. Judea to try to catch a glimpse of the ghost of Sam on top of his throne. Alas, as usual, the “go tell it on the mountain” preacher was a no-show, but we did not let that spoil our fun. 

It actually was not nearly as cold as we expected, only when we were hit by a direct assault by the wind. We started down the trail and then reached the bluff line where we trekked along enjoying the views and catching our first glimpse of Sam’s Throne across the valley. It is always neat to hear the reactions of newcomers who are seeing this for the first time. After a while we hiked down the old rocky road and then picked up the trail again and started climbing. We saw a rock climber swinging back and forth on his rope against the backdrop of massive, towering palisades and a cave in the wall. 

Finally we reached the steep, rocky slot canyon that leads to the staging area for ascending the crack up to the throne. Linda and Ed laid the groundwork with ropes. Ed got the big rope in place and Kenya helped set up the smaller rope to be used for hauling our backpacks – a new innovation! One by one we each figured out our own way to clamber up the crack, some with more grace than others! Fortunately there is always someone to offer a helping hand or offer technical advice. We ate our lunch on top and then explored the area on top of the throne. The descent went smoothly, with Don and Dick working a tag team approach to get Zach down the crack. As we looped around the base of the throne we were treated to the unexpected sight of a winter wonderland of all kinds of icicles on the bluffs. We had to watch for falling ice as some of the chunks were quite large and heavy. After a final climb up to the parking lot, our adventure was over all too soon.

On a gray, wet day when the hike was officially canceled, four waterproof TrailBlazers and one canine threw caution to the wind and headed up to Sam’s Throne anyway. 

The trail was wet and slippery, calling for caution while trekking along the ledge at the beginning of the hike. Wilson served as hike leader and put a jewel in his crown by bringing a sturdy rope for the slick climb through the crack in the boulders to reach the top of the throne. Gray conditions give a different kind of beauty to the area. Unfortunately, the fog clouded up the panoramic view from the top. 

In any case, they all look happy and arrived home safe and sound. Yours Truly of the bad knees thinks that this would have been too slippery for her!

On a chilly morning nineteen TrailBlazers and two canines under Captain Becky headed for Brushy Creek down in the Ouachitas. Of course, with recent rains, we were unsure if we were going to be able to hike our usual trail because of possible deep wet crossings and mud. Since Becky had been unsuccessful at prying info out of the rangers by phone, Danny and his crew drove around to do a little reconnaissance and found a trailhead for a hike on higher ground. We loaded up the vehicles to travel a rocky road that featured two big splashes through water holes. Since we left some cars behind, some folks got to ride in the baggage car! 

We had not hiked this section of Rockhouse Trail before. At the trailhead we were on higher ground, so there were only a few places that were wet or muddy, and there were only a couple of small creek crossings. Very soon we came to an area with neat rock formations with see-through holes and small caves as well as a very pretty waterfall. A handful of people trekked down to have a closer look. It didn’t take long for people to start shedding layers. Along the trail we saw several interesting rocks with a combination of colors and striations. After we had hiked almost 2 miles, we stopped for lunch where it seemed cooler, so some people rummaged around in their packs for another layer. We trekked along with gentle ups and downs and eventually descended down to the rocky road and in no time we were back at the bridge over Brushy Creek. 

Afterwards we checked out the campground and the creek before heading home. Instead of 7 miles, it was more like five, but Yours Truly’s knees had no complaints about that! We had a very pleasant trek and welcomed Becky back to the trails.

Seven All-weather, Wash ‘n Wear TrailBlazers and one canine once again headed to Oklahoma to hike another branch of the Robbers Cave Trail. Buffalo Bob, Trail Boss of the Day, had called Drew of Channel 40 Weather fame for a consult on the weather. He predicted light hit or miss AM showers with rain picking up at noon. 

It started to rain as we reached Wilburton en route to the trailhead. We got decked out in rain gear, but the rain mostly stopped as we hit the trail. Some sections of the trails are not well maintained and the signage and the trail map (more diagrammatic than accurate!) left something to be desired, but between Bob’s low-tech map and Dick’s high tech GSP we found the trail. Those darned double blue blazes were a tad elusive, but we found our way after using the horse trail to get across the creek. Along the way we saw views of the creek, a couple of ponds, and lots of rock formations. Around noon we had a brief snack and then pushed on for fear of rain. It started raining for the last mile – Drew was right on - and as we approached the end it was raining quite a bit harder, but it was not quite a downpour! Let’s put it this way – backpacks will need to dry out for a while! The rain put a literal damper on any desire to do any cave exploration, something to be left for another day, so we headed for the parking lot where there was a little pavilion that proved to be a perfect lunch spot. Most of us looked a little bedraggled except for Judy who looked great! 

We went on to the Visitors Center to see the nature room and talk trails with a ranger, and then checked out the little museum with its interesting tidbits about local history. Good day in spite of the elements!

Wanting to do a shorter hike and see something new, 7 renegade TrailBlazers made the scenic drive over to Wilburton, OK to check out Robbers Cave State Park. Ha had intended to go to Lake Fort Smith with the Energizer Bunnies, but arrived too late at the rendezvous, so she shifted gears and opted for Plan B. This was a good thing because she is detail-oriented and good at finding elusive blue trail blazes.

The park is quite large, so after passing numerous campgrounds we eventually came to the parking lot for the Robbers Cave Loop. We set out, seeing a wide trail straight ahead, but this turned out to be a decoy to confuse the uninitiated, so we turned around and found the turn we had missed and started following the blue blazes. Thankfully there was cooler air today as we trekked along a rocky trail and saw lots of fall color. After a while we saw a pretty creek and made our way down to it to look around. The spot was so pretty that we decided to eat lunch there. Afterwards we trekked a while until an eagle-eyed Ha noticed that we were seeing double – 2 blue blazes. At the same time Bonanza Bob’s cerebral GPS felt that we were going in the wrong direction; this was confirmed by Yours Truly’s cheapo Wally World compass, so we turned back until we no longer were seeing double. Actually it was just a scenic side trip and that’s our story and we are sticking to it. 

Eventually we arrived at the cave area and explored several slot caves as well as Robbers Cave, a large open cave that is best reached by mountain goats. There were lots of people scrambling around here, there and everywhere, which goes to prove that there is a little kid in all of us. We had a great time exploring this scenic area.