Saturday, December 20, 2014

White Oak Creek Falls Polyfoss area, Arkansas Ozarks

12/20/2014 -  White Oak Creek Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.62991  -93.76665,  1450 feet
  White Oak Creek Falls:  35.62749,  -93.75795,  1342 feet
  Little Spout Cascades:  35.62756,  -93.76148,  1280
  Little Spout Falls:  35.62769,  -93.76141,  1298 feet
  Sloth's Grotto Falls:  35.62982,  -93.76088,  1371 feet
  Naziah Falls:  35.62987,  -93.76159,  1374 feet
  Birthday Falls:  35.63102,  -93.75969,  1468 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs on or off leash should be fine.

Motorcycle Friendly: Not much.  The last five miles are dirt roads, although not too bad.  That doesn't bother some bikers, but I wouldn't take mine to this one.

GPS files:
  GPS track file for five unnamed falls in White Oak drainage (.gpx format) 

White Oak Creek Falls (37 ft)
Our son Scott was home for the holidays from Tucson!  Lots of cactus, but not a lot of waterfalls in the Tucson area, so Scott was wanting to get out in the Ozarks and do a little waterfall hunting.  He brought his brand new hiking boots and everything, virtually chomping at the bit.  We decided it might be best to start moderately easy and see how that went before going on any ten mile bushwhacks, so we settled on the White Oak Creek Falls area.  Going to White Oak Creek Falls itself is fairly easy, and seeing all the other little waterfalls and features in the area is incrementally more difficult.  

To get there, take exit 37 from I-40 and head north on Highway 219 for 8.9 miles.  At this point, the pavement ends and you bear left onto Pink Twist Road (CR-88).   Go 2.7 miles on Pink Twist Road, then turn left onto Barnes Road (CR-310).  Go 2.8 miles on Barnes Road, and park on the right in a cleared area where an ATV trail cuts across the road.  

Birthday Falls
This was a somewhat special day; it's my birthday (I'm not saying how many).  Just rest assured I am very, very old.  Not older and wiser, just older.  My niece, Gabby had also just given birth to her first child, Naziah, today as well, so we now shared the same birthday.  What does any of this have to do with waterfall hunting?  You'll see later that I am continuing to resist referring to waterfalls as "Unnamed Falls x", and we needed something relevant to the adventure to use for names.

North Fork White Oak Creek
The hike to White Oak Creek Falls is easy - cross the road from the parking area and follow the ATV trail until you come to the top of the waterfall.  It is about a 1.5 mile hike round trip if that is all you do.  Of course, that is not all we do, is it?  Scott, Boomer (our German Shepard), and I started down the trail and came to the first of the two small feeder creeks that cross the ATV trail.  We could hear the waterfall just below the trail as we went by, but skipped it for now.  We intended to visit all the smaller waterfalls in the area on the way back.  
White Oak Creek Falls (37 ft)
We came to the top of White Oak Creek Falls fairly quickly.  If you cross North Fork White Oak Creek on the ATV trail, you can follow the crest of the bluff on that side downstream about 50 yards to a spot where you can cut down to the creek level.  If all you want to do is go to the main waterfall, this is the easiest way in and out.  The creek was running pretty good today, and we had a little difficulty finding a place to cross that wouldn't challenge our waterproof boots.

White Oak Creek Falls is a nice 37 foot waterfall that appears a lot more powerful than it is because all the water funnels through a v-notch in the ledge it spills off.  It should be noted that the creek this waterfall is on is technically the North Fork White Oak Creek, not White Oak Creek.  But hey - who needs a name that long for a waterfall?

North Fork White Oak Creek - with Boomer
From White Oak Creek Falls we went downstream.  If you stick to the base of the bluffline along the creek on the right side (the same side as the ATV trail you came in on) while going downstream, you will come to an area where you can break through and get above the bluffline.  We continued hiking along the creek on this bench until we came to the confluence of the creek we passed over on the ATV trail.  Both creeks you cross on the ATV trail converge and flow down and into North Fork White Oak Creek.

Little Spout Cascades
Just upstream of where this feeder creek flows into North Fork White Oak Creek, there are a number of cascades and small waterfalls.  It is a very picturesque creek, but steep and slippery, so watch your step.  You can get down close to the creek level, but it takes a little climbing and grappling at handholds.  Where the two creeks converge, there is a nice waterfall and cascade where the tributary creek falls into North Fork White Oak Creek.  If you cross this tributary creek, there is a break a few yards downstream where you can get down to creek level, cross the main creek, and get a good view of this waterfall.  Brian Emfinger called this one Little Spout Cascades.

Little Spout Falls
Following the feeder creek back upstream on the right side of this creek, there is another nice waterfall Brian Emfinger called Little Spout Falls.  I tried to find a vantage point that would allow me a shot of Little Spout Falls and the Cascade below it simultaneously, but failed miserably.  Maybe next time I'll find a way to do that from the large rock on the opposite side of the creek. 

Sloth's Grotto Falls
We continued on upstream to the point the two small creeks that cross the ATV trail converged, and followed the one on the right up to a nice eight foot waterfall we called Sloth's Grotto Falls.  Please, I'm begging you - don't ask me why.  Scott's old high school friends will get a kick out of it, but no one else will understand.

From Sloth's Grotto, we went over to the other small creek, the one on the left from where they converged.  Here we found the small waterfall that we heard just below the ATV trail as we crossed that first creek.  By "just below", I mean only a few yards from the trail.  This one I'll call Naziah Falls, for the baby boy my niece Gabby gave birth to today.  This was another nice little waterfall flowing into a pool.  I'm sure in the driest parts of the Summer, these feeder creeks may dry up some.  Today, however, they were pretty little waterfalls in clear Ozarks creeks.  

Naziah Falls
After getting back up on the ATV trail, we decided to explore just a little more.  When we had crossed the second creek on the ATV trail, I looked at the bluffline upstream and above the creek.  At the time, I told Scott "I'll bet there is another waterfall up there".  So we checked it out, and there certainly was.  We stayed on the right hand side of that feeder creek and followed the crest of the bluff on that side up until we came to our last waterfall of the day.  This one I'll call Birthday Falls.  Because it was my birthday, and we were about out of meaningful names.

Scott and Rick - at White Oak Falls
All in all, a great day in the Ozarks.  It was fun spending a little time with Scott since we only see him maybe once or twice a year now.  Once again, we had the great Arkansas Outdoors all to ourselves.  The peace and serenity of some of these locations, and just knowing that there are precious few folks that even see the places we visited today somehow make the experience all the more rewarding.  I would call this an easy hike if all you do is go down to White Oak Creek Falls and back.  We ended up still only hiking three miles, even with all of the bushwhacking along the feeder drainage.  Definitely a recommended hike for folks of all levels of experience.
GPS Track to White Oak Creek Falls

3-D Topo showing our entire hike for the day

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mineral Springs Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

12/2/2014 -  Mineral Springs Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.64176,  -93.73031,  1454 feet
  Mineral Springs Falls:  35.64278,  -93.72806,  1300 feet
  Mineral Pool Falls  35.64188,  -93.72795,  1337 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. This is another area with very steep, rugged slopes.  If your dog has to be on a leash, leave it at home.

Motorcycle Friendly: Iffy, depending on your tolerance for gravel roads.  The last four miles are on a dirt road, but a fairly well maintained one.  I wouldn't take mine to this one.

Mineral Springs Falls (43 ft)
After a long, cold, day hiking Bingham Hollow and Sentinel Rock Falls, Boomer and I were happy and about ready to head home.  But then I noticed that the parking location for Mineral Springs Falls was only 1.6 miles from where we were parked.  So, what the heck.  We were in the area.  It's pretty much a requirement to stop and at least scope it out...

To get there from the parking area for Bingham Hollow/Sentinel Rock (see previous blog post), just backtrack 1.7 miles down Low Gap Road (FR-1504), turn right on Pink Twist Road (CR-88), and go 0.9 miles.  There will be a clearing on the left (east) side of the road where a gas well was.  Pull into the gas well area and park here.  

Creek and small waterfall above Mineral Pool Falls
If you are coming from I-40, take exit 37 at Ozark.  Go north on Highway 219 for 8.5 miles.  The pavement ends here and you bear left onto Pink Twist Road.  Go another 4.1 miles and the gas well parking area should be on your right.

From the parking location, Mineral Springs Falls is in the drainage straight downhill (east, away from the road).  But don't head downhill yet; there has been logging above the drainage for the waterfalls, and they left this area in a mess, with downed trees and brush everywhere.  At the northeast corner of the clearing, there is an old logging road that will save you a lot of aggravation.  

The road starts going north, but then loops back around to the top of the drainage bluffline.  We took this road to just above the creek, then headed down to the creek.  This is a very steep slope, so be careful here.  If you don't like hiking down slopes like this, you might want to loop around on the road and take the way we came out of the drainage.  After descending to the creek,  Mineral Springs Falls is just upstream.  Today, it was not flowing all that well.  It was still pretty, though, and another one to put on my list to come back to in wetter times.

Mineral Pool Falls - with Boomer
From Mineral Springs Falls, we went downstream and around the bluffline to the right.  Just a few yards up this feeder creek was another nice little waterfall.  I would estimate it at about 18 to 20 feet high, and it falls into a small pool.  This is an unnamed waterfall, but I'll refer to it as Mineral Pool Falls until it has a more official name.

I knew of a couple more waterfalls in this area, but we were losing our daylight and decided to call it quits.  I'm a little crazy, but not enough to try to get out of this kind of area in the dark.  We went on around the bluffline on the other side of Mineral Pool Falls and found a do-able slope right up the crest at the end of the little canyon the waterfall is in.  Upstream of Mineral Pool Falls, we found another couple of small two foot waterfalls.  This is a nice little creek, and easy hiking up to where we could get back on the old logging road again.  

I wish we had more time to explore this drainage, but there will be a next time.  I have seen photos of Mineral Springs Falls after a heavy rain and it is spectacular.  This is a moderately difficult hike;  it's less than a mile round trip to just the main waterfall, but the steep and rugged terrain keeps me from classifying it as an easy hike.
Mineral Springs Falls GPS Track

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sentinel Rock Falls and Bingham Hollow Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

12/2/2014 -  Sentinel Rock Falls and Bingham Hollow Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.,66092  -93.74544,  1436 feet
  Sentinel Rock Falls:  35.66155,  -93.73088,  1429 feet
  Upper Sentinel Rock Falls:  35.65972,  -93.73048,  1522 feet
  Sentinel Bluff Falls:  35.66319,  -93.73029,  1359 feet
  Sentinel Canyon east break in bluffline:  35.66492,  -93.72938,  1402 feet
  Sentinel Canyon west break in bluffline:  35.66357,  -93.73238,  1388 feet
  Leave road for west bluffline break:  35.66112,  -93.73261,  1534 feet
  Bingham Hollow Falls:  35.66210,  -93.74662,  1491 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. Some of the terrain is very steep and rugged, so if your dog can't be trusted off leash I would not recommend taking it.

Motorcycle Friendly: Not much.  The last 6.5 miles are dirt roads, and sometimes a little rough.  That doesn't bother some bikers, but I wouldn't take mine to this one.

GPS files:

Bingham Hollow Falls
Boomer and I had been going into waterfall hunting withdrawals, and we still had not seen as much rain as we needed.  It looked like the Mulberry region was getting more of the recent rains, so we settled on a trip up to Bingham Hollow Falls and Sentinel Falls.  Let me give a shout out here to Brian Emfinger for doing a lot of the initial exploratory work and charting out these and many other waterfalls in this part of the Ozarks.  Thanks, Brian!  These waterfalls are also featured in Tim Ernst's Waterfalls of Arkansas book

Parking Location
To get there, take exit 37 from I-40 and head north on Highway 219 for 8.9 miles.  At this point, the pavement ends and you bear left onto Pink Twist Road (CR-88).   Go five miles on Pink Twist Road, then turn left onto Low Gap Road (FR-1504).  Go 1.7 miles on Low Gap Road, and you cross a small creek in a bend of the road with an old logging road immediately after that on the right.  Park here; this is the parking location for both Bingham Hollow Falls and Sentinel Rock Falls.

Upper Sentinel Rock Falls
Since Sentinel Rock Falls was the much longer hike, we decided to tackle that one first.  The old logging road is in pretty good shape, but the locked gate and "no vehicles" sign put the kibosh on driving most of the way.  So Boomer and I set out hiking east on the old logging road for about a mile, to where a creek crosses the road.  The road is mostly on the level and is a quick, easy hike.  Just below the road is a small waterfall that I'll call Upper Sentinel Rock Falls.  Note that only Sentinel Rock Falls and Bingham Hollow Falls have official names, as far as I know.  There are other waterfalls in the area that are unnamed, but I would rather not refer to "Unnamed Falls #x".  So I'll give them names that make sense to me.  

If you continue on the road a few yards further, there is another small creek with yet another waterfall  just below the road.  Both of these upper falls actually feed Sentinel Rock Falls a short distance downstream.  Boomer and I went down to the base of both to check them out.  Upper Sentinel Rock Falls is a nice little classic Ozarks waterfall, about eight feet high.  It's neighboring waterfall is mostly obscured within the crack it falls down inside.  

Sentinel Bluff Falls (~60 ft)
The Sentinel Rock area has beautiful waterfalls that are fairly easy to get to the TOP of.  The problem with this area is that it is very difficult to get down to the BASE of the waterfalls.  And as every waterfall hunter knows, you don't get much out of looking at the top of a waterfall.  Unfortunately, Sentinel Rock is in a very steep, rugged canyon with vertical bluffs running quite a way downstream of Sentinel Rock Falls.  There are breaks in the blufflines on each side, but even these are fairly steep and rock strewn.  Today was a cold, drizzly day and steep slopes covered with wet leaves are especially treacherous.  

We wanted to see the tallest waterfall in the area, which I will call Sentinel Bluff Falls, so we headed down the east side bluffline (to the right) first.  This is the better way down, but this break actually does not take you all the way down to the creek level.  Cut down through this break, then follow the bluffline upstream a little over a tenth of a mile.  That's where this bench takes you to the creek level.  There is a cascade here on the main creek, and if you look to the left at the bluff, Sentinel Bluff Falls spills over the bluff.  I would estimate this at about 60 feet tall.  

Sentinel Rock Falls (52 ft)
Continuing upstream, we came to Sentinel Rock Falls itself (finally!).  The large rock in the center of the waterfall is known as Sentinel Rock, ergo the name.  Today there was not a whole lot of flow, so it was not nearly as spectacular as some of the photos I have seen.  Still, it was plenty pretty to make the trip worthwhile.  Leaving Sentinel Rock Falls, we followed the bluffline around on the left, opposite to the way we came in.  There is a large crag here, and the break in the bluffline is around the corner from that crag.

We headed back up through the break, then headed straight back to the logging road and back to the parking area.  It was below freezing all day, but after a quick lunch break both Boomer and I were ready to go again.  A little cold and a little wet, but Bingham Hollow Falls was right across the road, so we weren't going to miss that.  
Bingham Hollow Falls (51 ft)

Getting to Bingham Hollow Falls is very easy.  The creek you ford on the road 
just before the parking area is one of the feeder creeks to Bingham Hollow.  It's a simple as crossing the road and following the creek downstream.  We went a few yards down the road before cutting down to the creek.  It's a little more open and less of a bushwhack that way, but in any case Bingham Hollow Falls is only about a tenth of a mile downhill from the road.  About a hundred yards downstream, on the right as you face downstream, there is a break in the bluffline allowing you to get down to creek level.  We got down to the base of the falls in no time, and spent some time just soaking up the ambiance.  The waterfall spills off a very large overhang that is just stunning.  

Crag near Sentinel Rock Falls
Boomer went swimming for the umpteenth time, and we wrapped it up and hiked back up to the car.  It was cold and wet all day, but you just can't beat a day in the Ozarks.  Bingham Hollow Falls is a little difficult getting down to the base, so I would have to call it a moderate to difficult bushwhack.  Bingham Hollow, on the other hand, is short and easy.  It is highly recommended for an easy hike with a big, beautiful payoff.

GPS track for Sentinel Falls

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fern Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

10/30/2014 Hike to Fern Falls

GPS coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking location: 35.89291, -93.19023,  2045 feet
  Turn on trail: 35.89332, -93.19416,  2010 feet
  Fern Falls: 35.89748, -93.19249,  1851 feet

Pet friendly: Yes.  Easy open trail, with bypasses around downed trees and obstacles.  As always, be careful around the top of the waterfall.

Motorcycle friendly: Yes.  Just pull off Hwy 7 and park.  The ground there is low and may be a little soft, so be careful where you put the kickstand down.

GPS files:
  GPS track file for Fern Falls Hike (.gpx format) 

Fern Falls (42 feet)
After finally getting back out in the woods and hiking the loop trail at Alum Cove, Boomer and I decided to check out at least one waterfall, just to see how the creeks were flowing.  In the vicinity of Alum Cove, that meant Stepp Creek, Fern Falls, Lonesome Hollow, or Big Creek Cave.  In my experience, Fern Falls always seemed to have some water, even in the driest of times.  So we headed a little further up Hwy 7.

This is another of the few waterfall hikes you can actually drive on a paved road right to the trail head.  Go north on Hwy 7 from the intersection where Hwy 16 branches off to Deer.  Go 3.4 miles north from this intersection and look for the 'Highway 7 Scenic Byway' sign.  If coming from Jasper, it is 11.4 miles south of Jasper town square. Pull off the highway and park near the sign.  The drop off from the highway shoulder is a little steep right where the sign is, so be careful about the angle you pull your vehicle over.

From the sign on Hwy 7, go directly back from the highway, across the utility lines, and find the trail heading off directly away from the highway.  This is an old ATV trail, and apparently has not been used for ATVs for some time.  I have been to this waterfall several times and have never seen the trail so overgrown.  It looked like no one had been here in the six months since my last visit.  

GPS Track to Fern Falls
The old ATV trail was still easy enough to follow, but was considerably more overgrown.  In fact, I was looking for the turn off (about a 0.2 miles down the ATV trail) where you leave the ATV trail and head down to the creek and I missed it.  Fortunately, I had been on this trail many times and realized quickly that I was in unfamiliar territory.  I had almost left the GPS in the car, but I'm glad I took it.  A quick check of the turn off point led me back to it.  I had only overshot by a few yards.

Many years ago this trail was an old logging road that went from the ATV trail
Ferns (of all things) on Trail to Fern Falls
down to the creek, then follows along it downstream to the falls.  At the point you branch off onto it, it is now just barely discernible as a trail.  Once you head downhill, it does widen and become much more discernible.  There were quite a few downed trees on the old road, and at one point you have to go around a section of them on the trail.

East Fork Shop Creek is the creek that actually flows over Fern Falls.  As you approach the falls you will notice that there are actually several smaller creeks that converge on the main creek just before the waterfall.  One of these appears to be spring fed by a spring that has a fairly good flow, and that's probably why Fern Falls usually has at least some water flow.  Today, most of the feeder creeks were dry and the main creek was lower than I have ever seen it.  Still, Fern Falls is one of those Ozark waterfalls that will be very pretty even with substantially lower flow.

Boomer and I didn't hang around for long.  Oddly enough, while I was lamenting the lack of rain the sky clouded over and it started raining.  The afternoon temperature had warmed up to the mid 50's, so it didn't hurt us to get a little wet on the way back to the Explorer.  The entire round trip hike is only about 1.5 miles, and the elevation change is only about 200 feet, so I would rate the hike as easy even with the encroaching undergrowth.  This is one of the waterfalls I keep on my list to take friends and family to that provides a nice payload for minimal hiking effort, and one that almost anyone can make.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alum Cove, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas

10/30/2014 - Alum Cove Trail Hike

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking: 35.86015,  -93.23279,  2110 feet
  Bridge (lowest point):  35.86317,  -93.23426,  1852 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes - the trail is easy, so even dogs on leash should have no problems.

Motorcycle Friendly: Yes - paved road all the way to the parking area.  Bring that heavy old cruiser if you want to.

Alum Cove - Natural Bridge
Picnic area at Alum Cove
We have been more than a little tied up with life lately, but were finally back home and somewhat rested up from an extended road trip all over the western USA.  Now that we were home and somewhat back to a normal routine, we were itching to get back out in the beautiful Arkansas outdoors and do a little hiking.  Despite the heavy rains earlier this month, most of the creeks were still pretty low.  So I was thinking of the non-waterfall type areas, like Alum Creek or Sandstone Castles.  Bethany had committed to doing a training session this morning, so I took her Nikon D-90 and her dog and headed north.  Well, technically Boomer is her dog since he was her birthday present.  But we all know who his BFF is, especially when it comes to running wild in the Ozarks wilderness.  

Crevasse/Cave at Alum Cove
I must be a little out of practice, or getting old, or both.  About halfway to Pelsor, I remembered what I forgot; my hiking boots.  Soooo, Alum Cove it is.  Sandstone Castles is about five or six miles round trip, and I didn't want to do that hike in the sneakers I wear while driving.  Alum Cove is a "National Recreational Trail".  I'm not sure what that actually means, but the trail is well maintained and there are some facilities at the parking area.  At least the trail at Alum Creek wasn't likely to do any permanent damage to my feet in tennis shoes.

To get there, go south from Jaspar or north from Pelsor (Sand Gap) on Hiway-7 to the junction with Hiway-16.  Turn west on Hiway-16 and go 1.1 mile, then turn north on NC-8766 (Newton County Rd).  Go three miles north on NC-8766 and turn right into the Alum Creek entry road.  This is a short, paved road to a large parking area.  There are some public facilities at the parking area; a large area with picnic tables, a pretty good size pavilion, and a primitive toilet.  It is maintained by the National Forest Service and is never closed, but is designated as day-use only.

Alum Cove - Natural Bridge
Alum Cove - Natural Bridge
The trail head is at the far left corner of the picnic area as you look at it from the parking area.  The first 0.4 miles of the trail goes down to the natural bridge, the area's landmark feature.  Unlike most "natural bridges", this one actually was used as a bridge.  Many, many years ago, at any rate when early Native Americans and settlers used it to cross the creek canyon below.  It has been in the National Forest system for a few decades now, and now has railings put up on each side for safety.  It looks much more impressive from below.  From the natural bridge, the trail actually consists of two loops.  The smaller loop simply leaves the trail from either side of the bridge, goes to the bottom of the canyon below, then loops back up to the other side of the bridge.  From under the bridge, you can see the structure itself.  The bridge was apparently formed when a large section of the roof of a large shelter cave fell in, leaving the bridge as a separate structure.  There is a waterfall that flows over the wall of the bluff and under the bridge, but it is a very wet weather waterfall and was only a dribble of water today.

First Cave
Both the smaller inner loop and the larger trail loop are well constructed, with stone stairs built into most inclines to make climbing easier.  The natural bridge is awesome, but there is much more to see in this area.  We headed west on the loop (clockwise around it if looked at from above).  The trail goes down into a creek canyon, spectacular with fall colors this time of year.  It crosses over a creek that is often dry in summer and early fall. It was dry today, with just pockets of water here and there.  

Second Cave
After crossing the creek, the trail goes up to the bluff on the opposite canyon wall and follows along it.  As soon as it goes up to the bluff, you encounter a large cave that you can walk in one end and out the other.  The far end is a bit of a tight squeeze, but the trail builders thought of that and built a nice trail around the bluff outside the cave for those that aren't, well, good at squeezing.

Third Cave
Further north along the bluff on this west side of the creek, you cross another creek that flows over the bluff wall in a pour-off.  This waterfall was also just a dribble of water flow today.  A little further is yet another small cave that someone built a half wall up on at some point.   Just a little further, still on the same side of the creek, is a large crevasse leading into another large cave.  This cave can also be hiked straight through, although there is a large (~3 foot) step-up at one point.  Again, if you aren't into the whole squeezing and stepping up/down thing, there is an easy trail outside the cave going around the base of the bluff.

Alum Creek - Fall Foliage at Bridge
Continuing around the trail loop, it goes back across the creek.  The bridge here is the lowest elevation on the loop, about 260 feet total elevation difference from the parking area, so that's the climb you have going back.  The trail goes back up through the canyon, climbing back up to the bridge again.  

Boomer - on one of many benchs
Even if it weren't for the caves and bridge, this trail would be a thoroughly enjoyable hike just for the other Ozark scenery.  At this time of year, it is particularly spectacular as all the hardwoods were at the peak of fall color.  The loop is only 1.1 miles long, and with the stone stairs built on most inclines, I would rate it as an easy hike.  In addition to good trail construction, they also built benches to rest on every 1/8 to 1/4 mile along the trail.  If you haven't hiked Alum Cove yet, I recommend it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hudson Shelter and Lonesome Hollow Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

7/17/2014 - Hudson Shelter and Lonesome Hollow Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking for Hudson Shelter:  35.85416,  -93.12623,  2111 feet
  Hudson Shelter:  35.85146, -93.12411,  1912 feet
  Parking for Lonesome Hollow:  35.80639, -93.15759,  1822 feet
  Turn off ATV trail to Lonesome Hollow:  35.80364,  -93.15878,  1839 feet
  Lonesome Hollow Falls:  35.80487, -93.16006,  1988 feet

Pet friendly: Yes.  OK for pets on or off leash.

Motorcycle friendly: Not for Hudson Shelter, too long down a rough gravel road.  It might be OK for Lonesome Hollow.  The road is Less than a mile down a gravel road that has not been maintained well.

Malorie and Presley - Lonesome Hollow Falls
My Grandkids Malorie and Presley Hudson had never been to Hudson Shelter, which is ironic.  Their ancestors on the Hudson side of their family tree have been in this area for several generations and no doubt had something to do with the name.  Not to mention that it sits on the flank of Hudson Mountain.  So when I got an email yesterday from about a flash flood warning and the potential for 3-5 inches of rain, it sounded like the perfect time to take them there.  It looked like the rain would clear out by noon today so we set it up.  We only ended up getting about a half inch of rain, and I expected less up north, but hey - it's still a nice hike even if there is no water in the waterfalls.  My beautiful wife Bethany and our German Shepard Boomer came along as well, so we had the makings of a fun group outing.

Hudson Shelter
Getting there is fairly easy.  Detailed directions are in a previous blog entry you can see at this link.  There were signs of a lot of recent storm damage, but you can never really tell what conditions will be like until you hike down and see.

After missing our turn onto FR-1204B (I should have read the directions in my blog post myself!) we got back to the parking location and headed down the trail.  Today, there was hardly any water in the creek at all.  When we got down to the top of the shelter, there were a few dribbles of water over the middle waterfall, and none making it over the top of the shelter.   Which is not at all to say it was wasted effort.  The cave itself is awesome, and the hike down the creek is fairly short and easy with not much undergrowth, even at this time of year.  It's just a pleasant hike through the woods, complete with ripe blackberries.
Hudson Shelter

To get down to the cave, you have to cross back over the creek just above the ledge above the cave, so it is maybe better to not have water in the creek the first time the Grandkids go there.  I would have worried about them slipping and going over the edge of the lower waterfall, which flows right over the front of the cave.  

Hudson Shelter is a huge shelter-type cave.  Many of the caves in the National Forest areas are now restricted due to bat populations.  This one has a large, wide open cave mouth, so bats do not tend to roost here.  Very nice to explore with the kids, but it was a shame there was no water in the waterfalls.  When they are flowing well, the lower two waterfalls together are spectacular.

Lonesome Hollow Falls
We decided "since we were in the area anyway" (excuse number 2), we should hike to see Lonesome Hollow Falls and see if we couldn't catch at least one waterfall with plenty of water still.  Lonesome Hollow is also very close to Cowell.  In fact, it is only a mile behind the Cowell Cemetery on Hwy 7.  I have already posted detailed directions to it as well that you can see in this link.  Even more details and better photos from when it was flowing really well are in this link.

Boomer - behind Lonesome Hollow Falls
So we loaded up, headed across Hwy 7 to the parking location for Lonesome Hollow, and started hiking down.  Having made the error of overshooting the point at which we leave the old ATV trail several times in the past, I took the GPS along and pulled up the waypoint for it (listed above).  That point where you leave the ATV road is fairly loose and steep for about 15 feet, but after that it is an easy hike along the base of the cliff until you get to the waterfall.

Today, Lonesome Hollow Falls was not as full as we have seen on a couple of occasions in the past, but still had plenty of water to make it just beautiful.  This is a photographer's waterfall, and has plenty of perspectives for great shots.  Grandkids are Bethany's favorite subjects, so she took full advantage of having a couple of them on this hike. 

All in all, it was another great day in the Ozarks.  The Grandkids got to enjoy a couple of hikes and scenery, we got to enjoy everyone's company on the hikes, and Boomer got more hiking companions to play with than just me.  When your Grandkid says "I want to go on lots more hikes", you know it's been a good day.
Lonesome Hollow GPS Track

Friday, July 11, 2014

Graves Creek Canyon, Arkansas Ozarks

7/10/2014 -  Forever Falls, Graves Canyon Falls (2)

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.58566,  -93.18615,  1242 feet
  Leave old Jeep road:  35.58890,  -93.18575,  1011 feet
  Dead Pool Falls:  35.59213,  -93.18955,  710 feet
  Forever Falls:  35.59188,  -93.18915,  704 feet
  Upper Graves Canyon Falls:  35.59512,  -93.18660,  688 feet
  Lower Graves Canyon Falls:  35.59534,  -93.18619,  682 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, this area should not be a problem for dogs off leash.  If your dog does not do well off leash, you might want to leave it home.  This hike is mostly bushwhacking.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  It is over six miles of gravel road.  While the road is fairly well maintained when you first get on it, it soon narrows to one lane and gets rough in spots.  

GPS files (.gpx format):
  Forever Falls and Graves Canyon Falls GPS track

Graves Creek
I had not intended to tackle the hike to Graves Creek Canyon until winter, but the recent rains got me thinking.  I had never been to this area before, but if it is as beautiful as folks make it out to be, shouldn't I see it in all its glory?  That is, with leaves actually on the trees?  In Tim Ernst's 'Arkansas Waterfalls' book, he describes this as a difficult bushwhack.  I'm not big on bushwhacking in the summertime, so I had been putting this off for wintertime.  But today, it looked like the high temperature would be in the mid 70's, so I pretty much talked myself into trying it out.  

Boomer - at Dead Pool Falls
My wife Bethany prefers going to new places after I have been there at least once so I know where I'm going.  Wise move - I tend to do quite a bit of exploring, backtracking, and a lot of hiking just to see what's there.  So she opted out.  I consulted with Boomer, our German Shepard; he didn't care where we went, just as long as we went somewhere he could roam free.  This sounded like just the place for Boomer, so we packed up and headed out.  It's embarrassing, but in full disclosure I should mention that not only have I never been to Graves Creek, it is less than 17 miles from our home north of Dover.  How could we have lived here 23 years and not checked out such a place yet?

Parking Location
To get there, go north on Hwy 7 from Dover and turn left (west) on Hwy 164.  Go 4.6 miles and turn right (north) on Pilot Rock Road.  This is the first right after the double bridge over Piney Creek, about 0.5 miles from the end of the bridge.  Go 4.5 miles on Pilot Rock Road and turn right on Graves Creek Road (FR-1800A).  Go down Graves Creek Road 1.6 miles and you are at the parking location.  You can park on either side of the road here.  

Graves Creek
Graves Creek Road actually continues on, all the way down to Graves Creek, but that is close to two miles downstream of the waterfalls we wanted to see.  The road past the parking location is very rough but do-able with a good 4x4 vehicle.  My new policy for roads like this is to save the wear and tear on my Explorer and just hike.  When it's just me and Boomer, we can hike at a faster pace than we could go in the Explorer anyway.

We hiked down the road, keeping an eye on the GPS for the best spot to leave the road and bushwhack down to the creek.  We actually hiked quite a way down the road, looking at the waypoints for both Forever Falls and the two Graves Canyon Falls, before backtracking to the GPS coordinates listed at the top for our 'leave the trail' point.  Now you see why Bethany always prefers going AFTER I have been there at least once.  

Dead Pocket Falls
After leaving the road, we bushwhacked down to a point just upstream of Forever Falls.  This was the best place I could find a break in the bluff that allowed us to get down to the creek level.  This break was opposite a nice little unnamed waterfall right on Graves Creek.  I'm calling it Dead Pool Falls because it seems Graves Creek flowed into this pool and dead-ends.  The creek goes underground and comes up 50 yards or so downstream at Forever Falls.  The bushwhack down to the creek was a bushwhack in every sense of the word.  There was an abundance of bushes, and you had to whack your way through them.  In addition to the normal undergrowth, briers, and all, it seemed there were spider webs everywhere, especially at face height.  There are few thing worse than getting a face full of cobwebs.

 Once down at the creek level, the going was much easier.  This is a fairly narrow creek canyon, so flood waters keep it cleaned out pretty well.  Unfortunately, we didn't have any of those flood waters today.   On the contrary, Forever Falls had only a dribble of water running over it.  Even without the large waterfalls, Graves Creek itself is every bit as
Boomer - at Graves Creek
beautiful as I had been told.  Even though some amount of rock-hopping is necessary, it is much easier going on the creek level than it was coming down the mountain. 

Proceeding on downstream, there are a couple of places where the creek spans the bottom of the canyon.  There is, however, a ledge right above creek level that you can hike down.  If the creek is high enough to reach these ledges, it is going to be way too deep to cross as well.  If that is the case, you will be stuck on whatever side of the creek you happen to be on.  You need to be on the south side of the creek to view the Graves Canyon Falls, and on the north side to view Forever Falls.  That being said, Forever Falls is in the bend just downstream of where we came down the break in the bluffline, so you will be able to get a good side shot of it from the south side of Graves Creek.  Upper and Lower
Graves Creek
Graves Canyon Falls spill over the north bluff face within a hundred feet or so of each other.

Both Upper and Lower Graves Canyon Falls, as well as Forever Falls, spill over the bluff cliff into Graves Creek.  Today, the small creeks that feed the waterfalls had hardly any flow at all.  As disappointing as it was to not be able to see the large waterfalls in full form, Graves Creek itself is well worth the hike.  This is a completely wild stream in a fairly remote chunk of the Ozarks, and it has a wild, untouched, beauty.  I know kayakers come through when the creek is in flood conditions, but there
Graves Creek
seems to be no trace of other hikers at all.  Other than a small cairn opposite Lower Graves Canyon Falls, I saw no trace of humans having been there at all.

Graves Creek goes through a relatively narrow canyon with steep cliffs on each side, but it still winds and twists, creating pools and undercutting the cliffs on either side.  The pools were not deep enough for me, but Boomer had plenty of swimming holes.  I did see some small fish, which is an indication that at least some pools in the creek never go dry.   

By the time I got to Lower Graves Canyon Falls, my GPS trip meter had 3.28 miles on it.  Tim's guidebook says it is 2.0 miles round trip, so that gives you some indication of amount of side trips and backtracking I do the first time I go into an area.  Still, on the way back I took a much more direct route back upstream to Forever Falls, then from there up the mountain to the road.  The printout of the GPS track below shows that route.  Even going more directly back to the parking location, with no extra side trips, it was right at 2.0 miles from Lower Graves Canyon Falls back to where we parked.  Just the round trip alone would be close to 4.0 miles, but we ended up at 5.3 miles on the trip meter.

Lower Graves Canyon Falls (35') - barely a dribble today
While we were down on Graves Creek, I was very glad we decided to go out to this area today.  In all honesty, though, the trip down there and back was far from enjoyable.  It would be a difficult hike just with the elevation change of about 600 feet.  When you add in the heat and humidity, the undergrowth, cobwebs, and rugged terrain, it is less than pleasant.  I'm definitely going back, but with two prerequisite conditions - (A) leaves off season, and (B) wet season!  
We were only out hiking about three hours in total, but by the time we got back to the car I was soaked in sweat and Boomer was ready to crash for the trip home.  At that elevation, it was still only 73 degrees, but it felt like 645% humidity.  All in all, another great day in the wilderness.  I know I whined a lot about the bushwhack, but that doesn't mean it was not well worth it.  It just means that the next trip can wait for cooler, wetter, winter conditions.  
GPS Track to Forever Falls and Graves Canyon Falls (2)