The Little Missouri

_MG_2907.JPGIt’s time to see a little more of what makes Arkansas the Natural State. Instead of a massive trip to Yosemite Valley or the Badlands, my plan this year is to take several shorter,  smaller trips around this state and fill in some gaps in my personal Arkansas map. There’s no shortage of gaps to fill, with Petit Jean State Park, the state’s northeast and most of the Ouachita Mountains in the state’s center-west as some of the most egregious examples. I began this week with the Little Missouri River trail in the southern Ouachitas. (For you non-locals, that’s pronounced wah-shih-tahs’).

The Ouachitas feel like a different beast than the familiar Boston Mountains here in the northwest. Unlike the chaotic Bostons, these run west to east in rugged, roughly parallel rows, essentially massive wrinkles pushed up before the dinosaurs by northward and southward geologic forces. Their bones also seem sharper than those of the north, with boulders and outcroppings of craggy, flinty novaculite. But these strange hills are still coated in dense forest and laced with streams, just like home.

This is all to say it’s a challenging and beautiful place to explore. The Little Missouri and its tributary creeks run strong and gorgeous and clear. Spring has fully arrived.

_MG_2912.JPG

_MG_3038.JPG

_MG_2924.JPG

_MG_2969.JPG

_MG_2962.JPG

_MG_2995.JPG

MG_3005.JPG

_MG_3025.JPGWe hiked just short of a rocky area known as the Winding Stairs — the path crosses the river, which was a bit deep for that. Next time, I guess. We went back the way we came and drove down a couple of gravel roads to another trail landmark, a series of cascades and pools called the Little Missouri Falls. It was a peaceful and easy end to a long day of tough hikes.

_MG_3174.JPG

_MG_3278.JPG

_MG_3240.JPG

_MG_3075.JPG

_MG_3128.JPG

_MG_3346.JPG

_MG_3367.JPGSomehow this corner of the Ouachitas reminded me of multiple states at once, recalling the falls and swimming holes of Johnson’s Shut-Ins in Missouri, the thin, towering trees and rocky streams of Yosemite, the dark, pine-covered hillsides of the Black Hills. Arkansas’s no slouch in its own right.

There’s a lot more to see around this area, too, if anyone’s interested. We hiked just part of the Little Missouri trail, which in turn is just a segment of a 27-mile loop. As with much of the state, it’s good to bring a good map to not rely too much on Google’s fanatical adherence to the shortest way. Unpaved roads are the rule throughout much of the range’s interior. Some were essentially car-width creek beds.

Thanks for looking.
Dan

Winter’s last

_MG_2773.JPGSpring is here. It’s here. It’s here, no matter how many snowflakes fell Saturday morning and regardless of the fact that it’s forecast to fall below freezing yet again this week. The sun is higher in the sky, the waterfalls are flowing and the flowers are out, if they can endure the freezes. Fresh fern fronds are unfurling over last year’s worn-out models. But the forests around Devil’s Den State Park and the rest of this region are still largely bare for the moment — dogwoods and redbuds are busy, but oaks are slowpokes. It seems less like a seasonal transition than a seasonal battle.

_MG_2539.JPG

_MG_2548.JPG

_MG_2540.JPG

_MG_2704.JPG

_MG_2553.JPG

_MG_2777.JPG

_MG_2833.JPG

_MG_2852.JPGNo matter how many last-minute freezes nature throws in, soon spring will win out and the place will explode with green, and I’ll be there. Thanks for looking.

Dan

Tanyard Creek

_MG_2069.JPGOn Sunday we emerged from the deluge: six straight days of showers and storms that dropped as many inches of rain, more than double the typical February. It caused flood warnings and left the ground a squishy muck. It also meant, of course, some good waterfalls. I took the chance to introduce myself to Tanyard Creek, a strong waterway known for its falls that flows through Bella Vista just off Interstate 49 near the Missouri border. A nature trail runs up and down the Tanyard valley. The woods are dense and Bella Vista is diffuse and quiet enough that I could almost forget I was right in the middle of town.

_MG_1828.JPG

_MG_1860.JPG

_MG_1801.JPG

_MG_1891.JPGAs with the rain, we seem to be emerging from winter itself as well. Spider silk drooped over the trail, weighed down by dew. The forest seemed more alive, with crimson flashes of cardinals, a heron, a quick glimpse of a bald eagle flying overhead. Excitable daffodils already poked out of the fallen leaves. I’ve been hearing frogs again around my apartment.

Still, the nights below freezing show winter’s not quite done. The cold night before my hike filled parts of the Tanyard valley with thick fog that shrouded the falls at one end of the trail, which are this park’s centerpiece. I might’ve waited for the fog to burn off, but I sort of liked the mystery of it. I’ll come back when everything’s green.

_MG_1926.JPG

_MG_2002.JPG

_MG_1962.JPG

_MG_2014.JPGThanks for looking.