OZARK HIGHLANDS TRAIL SECTION FIVE

Sign on the trail.

Connecting my steps on Section Five of the Ozark Highlands Trail.

Day 1 – Fort Douglas To Cedar Creek

The hike started from the trail-head at Fort Douglas in the early evening. It rained heavily that morning, which made for a very wet humid start to the hike. The humid conditions lasted all weekend. The plus of the rain was the trail passes numerous waterfalls.

Sunset - Ozark Highlands Trail
God’s Handiwork!

A little over a mile in, is Haw Creek Falls. These beautiful falls are in a State Recreation Area with nice camping sites. Planning this hike, I had concerns about crossing Haw Creek. Nowhere did it mention it was a low water bridge…

Haw Creek Falls - Ozark Highlands Trail
Haw Creek Falls

Because of a late start, dusk set in quickly on the trail. I love hiking at twilight because the forest is so peaceful.

Waterfall - Ozark Highlands Trail
Evening Is The Best

Dusk gave way to dark and I hiked by headlamp for the next three hours because I could not find a flat spot to pitch my tent. Note to self, use fresh batteries every time! It is hard to find and change batteries in the dark.

Night Hiking!

DAY 2 – Cedar Creek to Mile Marker 91

When I reached the designated camping area at 11:00 there were already people camping there. They graciously shared a parcel of real estate to sleep on.

The next morning over coffee I met this great couple from Texas. This was my first-time camping with someone I did not start the hike with.

The day started with a river crossing; I had wet feet the entire hike!

Because of COVID 19 and the summer heat, there had been little if any trail maintenance. The further I hiked from the day use area, the rougher and more overgrown the trail became.

Rough Trail – No Sweat!

In the middle of nowhere there was a trail register. I signed it and noticed the last entry was two weeks ago.

About noon I reached the 91-mile marker. A friend and I had hiked Section Five from the Ozone trail-head earlier in the year ending our trip at this marker. I was happy to connect my steps for this section of trail.

91 Mile Marker - Ozark Highlands Trail
91 Mile Marker – Steps Connected

Since this is a Yo-Yo hike, the only thing left to do was hike back. I returned the seven miles to the spot I camped the night before. I had the entire site to myself. Honestly, I missed the companionship of the couple from Texas.

Tent on Ozark Highlands Trail
My home in the woods!

Day 3 – Ozark Highlands Trail

Day three started early Sunday morning. I cooked breakfast by headlamp, packed up, and was hiking before 8:00.

I was greeted with a long uphill climb out of camp. It is always uphill both ways in the Ozarks!

I wanted to push to see how an Old Guy Walking could do knocking out the seven miles between me and the truck. I made it in a little under three hours!

Just Follow The White Blazes!

After crossing Gee Creek, the trail followed a bench trail with some precarious footing. The trail was narrow and dropped off the side, that combined with wet ground made for an interesting mile and some great dance moves!

Next up was Haw Creek and one last look at the falls. The river level had gone down overnight, and people were swimming in the falls.

Swimmers In Haw Creek

The last mile made me earn it! I missed a turn and unknowingly was following a game trail (I was rushing). Fortunately, I dumped out on to HWY 123 just north of the trail head.

To say the least, the Ozark Highlands Trail can be interesting. I stopped counting chigger bites at 300…

If you enjoyed the blog or have questions about the OHT leave a comment below.

There’s Someone In My Head And It’s Not Me

Man Crossing Mountain Pass

An interesting phenomenon in the backpacking community is fear mongering on the trail. Even more so, our ability to buy into it so quickly.

Several years ago, we hiked the Buffalo River Trail. The first section of trail had more elevation change than we expected or were conditioned for. As we worked our way up one particularly steep section (for Arkansas), we met a man coming down the hill.

He said, “Just wait until you hit the first hill on the next section!”

As we hiked the relentless PUDS (Pointless Ups And Downs), “THE HILL” began to work its way into our thoughts. We left the trail at the next trail-head rather than face the certain doom facing us on the next section.

Several months later, I returned to hike the next section of trail which included, “THE HILL”. Its daunting presence filled my thoughts as I reached the trail-head. To my amazement, “THE HILL”, was little different from the other hills we climbed.

As I stood victoriously looking over the valley below, I realized how quickly we had let a perceived threat totally defeat us. We had fallen victim to the fear mongers.

Today as I research the route for my next hike, the fear mongers have already left notes for me on Guthook (a navigation app). This time it is a river crossing!

Hikers Crossing The River

For you it may be, snow in the Sierra’s, a mountain pass, bugs, snakes, bears… The list is limitless when we are in the wilderness.

Perceived or real, how can we win the mental battle with fear?

I. EXPECT EXAGGERATION

Its human nature to never waste a good crisis. We have a built-in ability to present the fantastical!

For many, (I’m guilty) stories of our encounters in nature become more dramatic with each telling.

Hikers are like fisherman telling the story of their latest catch, the story grows every time it is told. An ankle-deep water crossing becomes calf deep, knee deep, waist deep, then…

There will be always be situations, like “THE HILL”, where we won’t know the truth until we encounter it ourselves.

II. CONDITIONS CHANGE

Pondering my certain death at the river crossing, I realized, the hiker who left the Guthook note crossed this river in the spring when river levels are high. And… he posted the note a over year ago.

I will be hiking in late summer or early fall which is drought season in Arkansas. I may actually have issues finding water on this hike.

My hike will look very different from the hiker who had issues crossing the river.

III. CONSIDER THE SOURCE

There is an old saying, “There is no substitute for experience!”

I am not presenting myself as an expert, but there are many armchair hikers out there offering information.

How an experienced thru hiker views conditions on a trail will be much different than a weekend warrior (no disrespect intended).

When we know in advance that we may be facing an obstacle, do a little research on how to overcome it. YouTube is our friend in this one.

With my upcoming river crossing, I have learned by watching a few videos, how to cross a swollen stream properly (or when not to). If the crossing looks unsafe where the trail crosses, to check the map and search up or downstream for a safer spot.

There may be a spot where the river widens, or the current is not as swift (or a bridge lol).

IV. IS IT TRUE

Some situations are just not worth the risk, especially on weekend trip. For most of us, the trail will still be there next weekend.

A thru hike will have many different elements than we mortals face on a section hike. A thru hiker can wait a day for river levels to drop or snow to harden in the pass the next morning.

Discretion may just be the greater part of valor. There will be situations where safety is the best choice.

At the end of the day I have adopted the motto: “Don’t let the fear of death keep you from living!” But let’s choose to live!

What fear mongering have you experienced on the trail?

You Are Going To Starve Out There!

Person Walking Alone

Whether you are a thru-hiker, section hiker, ultralight or heavy weight, one constant every backpacker will face is, “What will I eat on the trail?”

Boys Eating Around Campfire

Our challenge is finding something that tastes better than cardboard, can be made from a few ingredients, and requires less than a commercial kitchen to make!

Here are a few trail meals that are light to carry, easy to make and actually taste good!

Continue reading “You Are Going To Starve Out There!”