Monday, May 5, 2014

Ladderbucket Falls and John Mountain Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

5/5/2014 -  Ladderbucket Falls and John Mountain Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.54143,  -92.79749,  1540 feet
  Turn off logging road:  35.55229, -92.79387,  1334 feet
  John Mountain Falls:  35.55112, -92.79336,  1223 feet
  Ladderbucket Falls:  35.54868, -92.79469,  1227 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes.  No problem for dogs off leash.  A dog kept on leash may have some difficulty going up and down the break in the bluffline.  I will add that on this particular day it was not so friendly to Boomer.  He was bit by a copperhead and we had to cut short our excursion to get him to the vet.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  It is about 15 miles on a gravel road, no place for a heavy street bike.

GPS files:
  GPS track file to John Mountain Falls (.gpx format)

Ladderbucket Falls (36')
Boomer (our German Shepard) and I loaded up this morning for our first trip out to a couple of waterfalls, John Mountain Falls and Ladderbucket Falls.  Since it was our first time there, I did my due diligence the night before.  I looked over the directions in Tim Ernst's Arkansas Waterfalls book, looked at the maps, and plotted out a route.  I decided to try a different route both driving and hiking.  

For driving to the parking location, it looked like I could cut about five miles of dirt road off the trip by staying on Highway 27 until I could take Lindsey Mountain Road.  I knew White Oak Mountain Road to be a pretty good road, but if I can do less time on dirt roads, I'm all for it.  That was not a good idea in this case.  I had never been on Lindsey Mountain Road, and when I got to it, I found it to be pretty awful for driving.  Single lane with no room for passing, and extremely rough.  It was bone-jarring rough.  After less than a half mile, I found a spot to turn around and did so.  Back toward Hector we went to take the tried and proven route.  

Sign at 'Y' in White Oak
Mountain Road - bear left
To get there, drive north from Hector on Highway 27.  Less than a mile from the Big Piney Ranger station in Hector, you cross over Dare Creek.  Look upstream when you cross and you will see a nice little waterfall.  Immediately after crossing Dare Creek, turn right onto White Oak Mountain Road (aka FR-1301).  This is a gravel road, but is a well traveled and fairly well maintained road.  Go 11.8 miles on White Oak Mountain Road.  Be careful about seven miles from Hector and bear left where the road branches at the 'Y' in the road.  See the sign at right - you want to stay on White Oak Mountain Road at this point.  After following it for 11.8 miles, turn right onto Wilderness Trail (aka FR-1307).  Go another 3.5 miles and turn left onto Jobe's Way, then drive a quarter mile to the gate across the road and park.  There is a place to pull off Jobe's Way and park about 50 feet before you get to the gate.

By the way, that is John Mountain to your left as you drive into the parking location, hence the name of the waterfall.  If "Jobe's Way" looks more like "Jobe's driveway ruts", that's because it is.  The cleared area beyond the gate is private land, and is well posted, so please respect the landowner and stay off.  Jobe's Way and the parking location are on public land.  If you go to the left of the gate, you can swing around the cleared area, then turn back to your right and go down to the old logging road that runs from the gate out the west side of Harry Jobe's little chunk of land.  It's just a short detour through the woods and you are back on the logging road we hiked most of the way on.

Turn left onto the logging road, away from Harry's property, and stay on it as it swings around the end of the hollow.  If you stay on the logging road for almost 1.5 miles, it will swing back to the right and down to a point just north of the top of John Mountain Falls.  Where the logging road has a 'Y', keep bearing to the right, staying on it until it ends.  There has been some logging activity and a fire in the area where the logging road ends not too long ago.  Where the trail ends, you are actually only about 100 yards from the top of John Mountain Falls.  Leave the road to the right and go down a slight slope to a small creek.  This is the creek that feeds John Mountain Falls.  Cross the creek and go down a short way further toward the hollow to the bluffline.

Break in the Bluffline
The trick to seeing the waterfalls in this hollow is finding the spot where you can actually get down through the bluffline to access the base of the waterfalls.  That spot is right where the hollow's bluffline bends around to the grotto where John Mountain Falls is.  In other words, where the falls bluffline bends around to the bluffline for the main hollow.  In fact, you can see the waterfall from this point around the bluff to your left.  There are two breaks in the bluffline here that you can take to get below the cliff.  When you do, stay at the base of the rock cliff instead of going further down the slope to the creek level.  Follow the base of the bluff around, keeping the bluff to your left,  and it will take you to the base of John Mountain Falls.  

John Mountain Falls (84')
John Mountain Falls is spectacular, falling off the bluff ledge for 84 feet before hitting the rocks below.  Today, it had enough water flow to look great.  But, as with a lot of the tall waterfalls, it is difficult to get a good photo of the entire waterfall due to the foliage and height of the waterfall.  As always, being there is really the only way to properly experience it in all it's glory.  

Leaving John Mountain Falls the same way we came in, we stayed right at the base of the rock bluff and continued on past our break in the bluffline.  There is not much room between the base of the rock cliff and the steep slope off to the creek that runs through this hollow, but it's wide enough to hike along.  About halfway between John Mountain Falls and Ladderbucket Falls is another nice waterfall.  I would estimate this unnamed waterfall to be about 60 feet high.  It even has a small cave at the base of the bluff overhang, directly behind the waterfall.

Ladderbucket Falls (36')
Continuing on around the base of the bluff keeping the bluff on your right, you will come to Ladderbucket Falls.  This is a beautiful 36 foot waterfall, with a steep cascade at the top half, then falling the rest of the way into a large pool.  Ladderbucket Falls is on the main creek running down this hollow.  

From Ladderbucket Falls, we had planned on looking for a break where we could get above the bluffline again and explore the upper reaches of this drainage.  But we found nothing but the tall rock cliffs we had hiked along on the way there, so we backtracked along the base of the bluff again to get back to our original break in the bluffline near John Mountain Falls.  This was the only place we found to get back on top of the bluff, but it is less than a quarter mile between the two waterfalls, so not really a big deal. 

It was back at our break in the bluffline that Boomer got bit on his left rear paw by a snake.  I think Boomer was just a little too excited about heading back up and didn't see it until he stepped on it.  I didn't get a real close look before the snake was slung off into the hollow, but I think it was a small copperhead.  Whatever it was, it zapped him pretty good.  Even small copperheads have a full load of venom.  He still managed a slow walk, but I could tell he was not doing well at all.  Boomer normally runs all over the
Unnamed Falls between Ladderbucket
and John Mountain Falls
place, but now he barely managed to just trudge along.  He was moving so slowly that at one point I carried him for about a tenth of a mile.  He weighs 95 pounds, so the only way I could carry him was to wrap him around the back of my shoulders.  He did NOT like that at all, and let me know he wanted to be down and walking, so I put him back down.  By the time we got back to within a half mile of the car, he was starting to perk up a little, taking bigger steps and picking his head back up.  

Boomer was feeling better, obviously.  But I still got him back to town as quickly as I could, going straight to Doc and Gina, our vets.  His leg had stiffened up again on the trip back to town, but he still managed to walk in on his own.  They did their normal great job and checked him out, shaved his leg, cleaned it up, and bandaged it.  I had to leave Boomer with them overnight, for observation and shots.  But for all you Boomer fans out there (and who isn't?), it looks like he will be just fine.  He is quite the hiking machine; he could have just laid down and died, but he kept marching on.

Boomer - Mountain Dog
So we had a close call with Boomer, and getting him back to the vet was a priority.  We had passed a couple of nice waterfalls just below the logging road on the way in and had intended to check those out on the way back.  Maybe next time we'll be able to do that.  We did get to see some fantastic scenery and get out in the wilderness for a while, but we also got a stark reminder that there are hazards out there.  This is Arkansas, and this time of year snakes, ticks, and other critters are just part of the price of admission.  The waterfalls in this hollow are best seen after a good rain, but are nice with any water at all.

Boomer - bandaged, medicated, and feeling mistreated
5/6/2014 UPDATE - We got to take Boomer home from the vet this afternoon.  He has to go back Thursday for hydro-cleaning and treatment.  He has to stay for the weekend, but at least we can have him home for a couple of days.  Doc says that the flesh where he was bitten will abscess and rot, but will eventually heal and fill back in.  But for now, Boomer has to keep it bandaged and can't get the bandage wet.  It will be some time before he can go swimming or hiking again, but he will make a full recovery.  When they screened him, they found out he had also just contracted tick fever.  So he is on a pretty stiff regimen of medications for both the snake bite and the tick fever.  In a way, it's good he was bitten and was taken to the vet.  Otherwise, tick fever would have progressed significantly before we noticed the symptoms.  As you can tell from the photo, he looks like he's feeling a little mistreated.  But he's not grumpy; he's a trooper and will be good as gold and back out hiking with me soon enough.

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