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In a self-help attempt to treat an acute attack of cabin fever and seasonal overindulgence, two score and more TrailBlazers and 2 canines under the command of Captain Kenya hotfooted it over to the Nature Center to get the lead out on one of our Sunday afternoon strolls. We were happy to see many of our regulars as well as some newcomers and children aka TrailBlazers-in-training. The weather cooperated with sunny skies and only slightly cool temps, a big improvement over some of the recent chilly days.

Read more: River Valley Nature Center

A Cecil B. DeMille-sized entourage of two score and three TrailBlazers plus two canines (actually one and a half!), under the direction of Buffalo Bob, headed up The Pig Trail to hike Redding Loop from the campground. In addition to newcomers from last week who were crazy enough to give us another chance, we had another bunch of newcomers today. To boot, this was a three-Bob hike! 

In effort to prove that old dogs CAN learn new tricks, Bob had us hike the 6-mile loop from east to west, rather than our usual way, and we were up to the challenge. The day started out cool and hazy as we looped around on the east side of the road before crossing the highway to start our climb. A long line of trekkers was strung out along the trail as not all of us are Energizer Bunnies and some are vertically-challenged with short legs like Yours Truly! Along the way we saw blue hazy views through the trees, some little creeks and a small waterfall. At the halfway point we had to make a decision whether to make the 1.7 mile side trip to Spy Rock or continue back on the West Loop. It was a split decision, but those of us who hiked to the Rock were rewarded with great views under sunny skies from the high bluff over the valley. It was a neat lunch spot before heading down the mountain. 

A handful of us walked through the small, 19th century Hill Family Cemetery, full of history, that was located close to our cars. There is one particularly poignant tombstone for a murdered toddler that tugs at your heartstrings. Another great stretch of the leg today!

Twenty-eight TrailBlazers and 4 canines under the command of Buffalo Bob headed up Highway 23 on a gray day to once again hike the loop, this time in reverse direction from last time. Skies were leaden and humidity was high, but temps were good for hiking as we set out. Our crack forecasters had told us rain and cooler temps were coming in late in the day, so we knew we were in the clear so to speak – dream on! No sooner had we started trekking the side trail to Spy Rock when it seemed that the high humidity had changed to a light sprinkle and then a light rain. 

Read more: Redding Loop - 01/12/13

Under damp, cloudy skies twenty-three TrailBlazers headed up toward Cass to hike Redding Loop, a new hike for the club, but one some of us have done before. Of course our doomsday forecasters had been predicting all sorts of cold and blustery weather for later in the day, but we hit the trail early when conditions were damp, but good. It must have rained overnight because when the winds blew aloft we were treated to raindrops falling from the treetops. 

Starting up the west loop we trekked gently upward on a pine needle carpet, a real foot pleaser. Almost all the leaves were down, but most of the views were partially obscured by a hazy skyline. It was cool, but not really cold except in one exposed area where it was fairly windy. The sun made a few half-hearted attempts to smile at us, but it eventually gave up. At the halfway point it was possible to take a side trip to Spy Rock. As we started down the east loop we ran into some hikers with a cute puppy, abandoned at the parking lot. He was following them up the trail and feasting on their beef jerky, so hopefully they will either keep the little fella or find him a good home. These dog lovers were also kind enough to give some first aid to Billgene’s boot that was suddenly in dire need of some TLC. What would the world do without duct tape? 

Buffalo Bob was our official hike leader, but several hikers, all of the female persuasion, kept jockeying for the leadership position. Eventually Bob gave up and joined the rest of the pack! Santa also put in an appearance, but he wasn’t looking all that jolly. Bob flashed a big smile for him, but Santa looked unmoved, so there is some doubt as to Bob’s status on the naughty or nice list. Afterwards several people went to Ozark for barbecue, so it remains to be seen if they managed to soften up Santa!

Thirty-three to 43 TrailBlazers, (we can’t count them if we can’t see them!), headed to Queen Wilhelmina SP dressed and ready for the predicted 60-70-degree temps – dream on! If the forecasters were off the mark last week, today they totally bombed and will need a beach towel to wipe the egg off their faces. The first clue was big gray clouds en route to Mena. As we drove up to the park, we were blanketed by heavy fog, so it was chilly, windy, and rainy on the trail with about 120% humidity. It was not a good hair day; the ladies who had their heads covered suffered from hat hair and the rest looked like they had just stepped out of the shower and hadn’t bothered to dry their hair. Our cameras and glasses could have benefited from windshield wipers! 

With Wilson in command a motley crew looking like street people or unibombers hit the Ouachita Trail dressed in whatever they could scrounge up for the unexpected conditions. We started our 5-mile trek outside the park where we were potential cannon fodder for hunters, but fortunately we seemed to be the only people foolish enough to brave the elements. Most of us have been here before and know the beauty of the area, but today we were greeted with panoramic fog rather than scenic vistas. At one point several hikers ditched the trail for the road. Denying that this was a shortcut, they said it was to avoid the treacherous wet rocks and leaves on the trail, so we will believe them.

Fall color had already peaked, and many trees were bare, but we did see touches of color on a few trees that had not yet undressed for winter, making a neat silhouette against the fog. Fortunately the FogBlazers managed to enjoy themselves and have a few laughs on the trail. This weather is rare, so we hope our newcomers will come back!

Eighteen TrailBlazers, including Jack from England, were more than ready to get the lead out on the old bone-jarring Butterfield wagon trail at Devil’s Den. After our traditional Christmas break when we tend to overindulge, two hikes were canceled while Arkansas was masquerading as Alaska, so this was our first hike of the year. It seemed chilly and damp at our rendezvous in Van Buren, but the skies got lighter as we headed north, and there was even a little bit of sunshine peeking through the clouds as we started hiking. 

It came as no surprise that the trail was muddy and slick, with icy patches here and there, but temps were great for trekking. In many places we had to carefully pick our way, and some of us spent a lot of time watching our boots! Becky safely led her flock down the trail to the falls and then we did a little exploring in the canyon that is nearby. When we reached the neat area with the fire ring, we discovered that some careless hikers had left pots, cans, cutlery and junk in the pit. Becky and Ruth Ann whipped out some bags and cleaned up the mess. Good job! Where would women be without our bags? 

We continued down into Quail Valley and finally found an icy trail leading to Blackburn Creek where we traditionally eat lunch. It was a neat spot, and the weather was actually quite mild in spite of cloudy skies. Everyone enjoyed getting out as we had been suffering with a severe bout of cabin fever. The rain held off until we were driving home, so it worked out to be a great day.