Ouachita Trail Journal

Distance: 223 miles (359 km)Cam Honan Ouachita Trail

Time: 7.5 days (1/28/2012 – 2/4/2012)

Daily Average: 29.7 miles (47.8 km)

Start: Pinnacle Mtn. State Park

Finish: Talimena State Park

Highlights:

  • Pinnacle mountain Summit: Funnily enough this spot isn’t even on the official OT, but instead involves a 2 mile (approx) out and back side trip. In my opinion, the summit of the park’s namesake should replace the visitors centre as the official eastern terminus, a la Mt. Whitney constituting the southern terminus of the John Muir Trail in California.
  • Trail magic in the form of a couple of microbrews left trailside by Chris, a local runner whom I met on the summit of Pinnacle Mtn. I ended up drinking them right on the spot before continuing merrily on my way. If it had been a six pack, I probably would have called it a day there and then.

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  • Afternoon swim at Irons Fork Creek. There aren’t many things I enjoy more than a refreshing dip after a few days on the trail. Never fails to rejuvanate both physically and mentally. As a bonus, it can also put you in the olfactorical good books of your fellow hikers!
  • Story, AR: I loved this little “town”. With a population of 197,  Story revolves around the Blue Bell. Restaurant, gas station, grocery store, live music venue and all around community centre, the food here is great and the locals super hospitable. Situated close to the halfway mark of the OT, Story represents the best resupply option for OT thru-hikers.
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Lunch at the Blue Bell.

  • The Fog: Much of my time on the OT was spent walking in the fog. Despite the lack of views, I have always loved hiking in such conditions. I think it may go back to my younger days, when as a devotee of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, I spent many a wonderful evening transported back in time to Victorian era London, where in my imagination I would accompany Holmes and Watson as they stalked their quarry through the fog bound, lamp lit streets of the English capital.
  • Solitude: After encountering quite a few people on Pinnacle Mtn (it was a Saturday) near the eastern trailhead, I saw only four other hikers the rest of my journey.

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Lowlights:

  • None that come to mind.

Notes & Musings:

  • The Trail: I really enjoyed this walk. The trail was well marked and easy to follow from start to finish. The Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) do an excellent job in maintaining both the pathway and the series of three-sided shelters which can be found throughout the eastern half of the OT.
  • Rich Mountain: Situated a little more than a mile off-trail in Mena, AR, is Rich Mountain Country Store. I hadn’t planned to make this particular side trip, but couldn’t resist the ‘siren-like’ (at least to a long distance hiker) call of hot food and V8 vegetable juice. Turned out to be a wise choice. Steve, the stores venerable proprietor, made a great cheese burger as well as being a goldmine of information on Rich Mountains tragic history. That’s Steve and his wife, Suzanne, pictured with your’s truly in the gallery below.
  • From the Penthouse to the Outhouse: After enjoying a night of luxury at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, the following evening I was forced to take refuge during an electrical storm in the restroom at the Wandering Stair Trailhead. With more storms on the way and nothing else in the way of permanent shelter in the vicinity, I decided to call it a day. Bunking down in the compact, but fortunately not overly odorous confines of an outhouse is not everyone’s idea of a fun packed night’s camping in the mountains. However, if I have to choose between the dry and warm confines of a lavatory and setting up my poncho tarp on an exposed ridge during an electrical storm, I will take the shitter each and every time. Twice on Sundays.

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  • Friends: The best part about my pre and post hike days in Arkansas was having the opportunity to spend more time with two dear friends from my Mexican days. I had recently caught up with Tony and Laura in Florida for New Year’s. A huge thanks to both of them for their wonderful hospitality.

 


Comments

Ouachita Trail Journal — 2 Comments

  1. Cam, Just trying to keep up with you and check in from time to time. Good luck and drop up a line from time to time. The Ouachita Trail yerns for your return. The Watsons and the rest of the Rich Mountain (Mena, Arkansas USA) Gang. Good and Safe Hiking.

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