Friday, June 20, 2014

Richland Creek Trail to Twin Falls and Richland Falls, Richland Wilderness area, Arkansas

6/19/2014 - Richland Creek Trail to Twin Falls and Richland Falls

GPS Coordinates:   (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
   Parking and Trail Head:  35.79839,  -92.95774,  1040 feet
   Twin Falls:  35.80594,  -92.96412,  1188 feet
   Richland Falls: 35.80075, -92.96010,  1157 feet
   Trail branch to top of Long Devil's Falls: 35.80555, -92.96223

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Easy for pets off leash, doable with pets on leash.  There was one spot on the Richland Creek trail that Boomer had some issues with, but he got over it.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The dirt road is definitely too rough and too long.  Wouldn't take my cruiser on it.

Links to GPS track files (.gpx format)
  Richland Campground to Twin Falls 
  Twin Falls to Richland Falls (high route)
  Richland Falls to Richland Campground 

Richland Falls
Out of all the beautiful waterfalls in Arkansas, Twin Falls is my favorite.  So you would think I would have taken about every route to get there by now. Oddly enough, the one that most folks think is the only way to get there is the one I had not yet traveled.  Not all the way, anyway.  Bethany and I hiked the Richland Creek trail once, all the way down to where you need to cross Richland Creek.  It was way below freezing on that day, down in the single digits.  It didn't look like we could cross the creek without getting wet, so we decided it was better to just turn back than to risk hypothermia two miles from our vehicle.  So earlier this week, I decided to carve out Thursday to go do that hike in warm weather.

As it turned out, an old friend, Dennis Ward, that I had not heard from for years, had asked about going along on one of our adventures, so I invited him on this one.  As soon as Boomer (our German Shepard) saw me loading hiking gear into the Explorer, he climbed in and refused to leave, making sure we wouldn't leave him behind.  Not that I would even consider that.  I guess he just doesn't want to take any chances.  

So, just how many routes are there to my favorite waterfall?  Five that I know of:
  1. Hiking down from Hill Cemetery or Iceledo Gap
  2. Hiking from Sandstone Castle right down the spur between Long Devil's Fork and Big Devil's Fork
  3. Hiking directly from FR-1205 south of Dickey Junction along the mountain ridge south of Devon's Falls
  4. Hiking from FR-1205 north of the Richland Campground, bushwhacking due west across the drainage.  I still have not tried this route recommended to me by Anthony Clark, but the long bushwhack will have to wait for winter now.
  5.  Hiking down the south side of Richland Creek, aka the Richland Creek Trail.  This was our objective today!

Richland Falls - Center
To get there, go to the Richland Campground.  If you are not familiar with it, from Hwy 7 turn east on Hwy 16.  Go 9.8 miles on Hwy 16, then turn left.  This is Upper Falling Water Road, and merges into Falling Water Road.  Go 9.2 miles from Hwy 16 and turn left into the campground; there is a blue road sign here that says "Campground Road".  Along Falling Water Road you will pass Falling Water Falls, the low water bridge, and many other nearby waterfalls.  Don't be distracted - this is a fairly long hike and you need to get started with this one.  You can always stop at the others on the way back if you have the time and energy.  

Twin Falls
Go all the way to the back of the campground and park.  At the Y, bear to the left; the short dirt road to the right goes down by Richland Creek.  Today, there was only one family camping, and I have never seen it more than half full, so you probably won't have an issue with finding a spot to park.  We had actually gotten off to a fairly early start, so instead of packing lunch with us, we ate half of it before we left and saved the rest for when we returned.  From the back of the campground, go straight back and down the bluff to Falling Water Creek.  Cross Falling Water Creek - there is a spot a few yards back from the juncture with Richland Creek where someone has stacked stepping stones across it.  Depending on creek level, you may want to take the hiking boots off and wade across to be safe.  

Rock Cairn at Richland Creek Crossing
Once you cross Falling Water Creek, you will be heading upstream on the south side of Richland Creek.  The real trick to getting on the Richland Creek Trail is (of course) knowing where it is.  If you take the trail right next to the creek, you will be sorely disappointed and will need to turn around after an appropriate amount of cursing.  Instead, look upstream right between Richland Creek and Falling Water Creek where they merge.  You will see a rock-strewn spur rising up between the two creeks.  Go right up the spine of that spur, climbing up the rocks, and when you get up the bluff you will see the trail right in front of you.  

The Richland Creek Trail starts out fairly smooth and on the level.  If you look at the elevation changes to determine how hard a hike will be, don't be misled by the 140 foot elevation change for this hike.  Although very do-able by even novice hikers, this is a rough trail with a lot of ups and downs, and climbing on and around rocks.  Dennis had just walked 11 miles the day before, but this kind of trail packs a lot more exercise in just the five or six miles round trip.  It's also one of the most scenic trails in the state, running right next to Richland Creek, a beautiful and unspoiled classic Ozark mountain stream.  

There is one spot on the trail where it squeezes down to a ledge along a cliff about 15 feet above the creek level.  Boomer had a little problem here - he is a very smart dog and did not trust this situation at all.  I could not convince him that he could do it safely, so we backed up a few yards to where we could get down to the creek level and scrambled upstream on the rocks next to the creek.  Just a few yards after the ledge, we were able to get back up on the trail.  On the return trip, I called Boomer a big sissy and shamed him into going over the ledge.  He didn't like it, but he did it anyway.

Twin Falls - with Boomer and Dennis
When we got to where Devil's Fork runs into Richland Creek, it was dry!!  Despite all the rain we had received recently just a few miles south, this did not look good at all.  But I had never heard of Twin Falls ever going completely dry, so we went ahead and crossed Richland Creek at that time and went upstream to check it out.  Knowing that we would be crossing a couple of creeks, I packed a pair of waterproof sandals that I could put on to protect my feet while I kept my boots dry.  This worked much better than my Crocs, which tended to slip on the wet rocks.

Big Devil's Fork Falls
Going upstream on Devil's Fork, we found there was, in fact, water flowing in the creek.  It had just all gone underground before reaching Richland Creek.  Proceeding upstream to Twin Falls, we found both falls to be at pretty low flow.  That was somewhat disappointing but the falls were still beautiful and well worth the trip.  Heck, for that matter, the trip itself is worth the trip and spots like Twin Falls are a bonus.  We rested and let Boomer swim in the pool for a while, then packed up and headed for Richland Falls.  I also packed up the beverage can and candy wrapper some idiot left behind.  Whoever left it must be a special kind of stupid and morally bankrupt to leave trash at a place like this.

There are a couple of ways to get from Twin Falls to Richland Falls.  One is along the creek, then upstream along Richland Creek.  The route I prefer I call the "high route', and have GPS coordinates above for the trail branch.  This route branches off the trail along the Devil's Fork Creek and slopes up the bluff to a trail that will go right to the top of Long Devil's Fork Falls, or left to Richland Falls, which is where we headed.  The high route trail does rise a couple hundred feet above the creek, but is in my opinion a much better trail.

Richland Falls - Left
Arriving at Richland Falls, it also was not nearly at it's peak flow.  But, again, it was still beautiful.  This waterfall looks spectacular when water is flowing across the entire breadth of the creek, but even at lower flows has a couple of sections that are nice of their own accord.  We did a little exploring, going across the creek and following a trail about a half mile upstream.  There is a nice campsite there, but not much else, and when we ran out of trail we turned back.  I'm just not a big fan of bushwhacking in the summer time with heavy undergrowth.

Crossing back over the creek to get back on our going home trail, the "low route" trail, we proceeded on down stream.  Just before the juncture with Devil's Fork, we crossed the creek to get back on the south side and back on the Richland Creek Trail.  Someone had entirely too much time on their hands and made the most elaborate rock cairn to mark the spot that I have ever seen.  Or maybe they were camped at the nice campsite just up the trail above the creek and drank a little too much.  At any rate, it's hard to miss.  

Rock Cairn at Creek Crossing
From this cairn, the trail goes straight back from the creek, past a couple of camp sites, and then on downstream and back to Richland Campground.  On the way back, we met a couple heading upstream.  They had spent all day on the other (north) side of the creek before giving up and crossing back to the south side and finding the trail.  I have heard from others that have done the same thing, thinking they can avoid the creek crossings by just following the north side of the creek.  Don't do that - it's a nightmare of steep rock scrambles and undergrowth.  

All in all, it was a great day of hiking.  We ended up hiking a little over seven miles altogether, but it was a rough seven miles.  By the time we got back to the Explorer, we were both beat and my shirt was still soaked in sweat after the hour-long drive back home.  It was good having Dennis along for company and catching up on old times.  And of course, Boomer had his normal good time hiking, swimming, and trying to keep an eye on us.  But even he was tired when we got back.  He climbed back in the car and was pretty much passed out the rest of the day.  Can't wait to get out and do it again.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Longpool Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

6/12/2014 -  Longpool Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.54979,  -93.16147,  514 feet
  Lower Unnamed Falls:  35.54975,  -93.15269,  558 feet
  Longpool Falls:  35.54930, -93.15216, 620 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs on or off leash should be fine. This is a campground, so if your dog is not well behaved around strangers, please keep it on a leash.

Motorcycle Friendly: Yes.  It is paved road all the way to the parking lot, so your street bike or cruiser will be OK.  In fact, the road to Longpool was recently resurfaced and is a pothole free paved road, at least for now.

Longpool Falls
The Longpool recreation area has been one of our family favorites since we moved here 23 years ago.  For one thing, it's just a stone's throw from us, less than 15 miles from our front porch.  For another, it's a beautiful area.  It is right on the Big Piney Creek, where the creek makes a big bend and has a long pool (see how we name things here?) of relatively deeper water that is great for swimming.  I can't tell you how many years and how many visits we made to Longpool without even knowing there were waterfalls nearby.  Or how many people we talked to that had hiked out to it and thought the smaller, lower, falls was "the" waterfall, turned around, and hiked back without ever knowing of the bigger waterfall just a short distance upstream.  Boomer and I set out today to see how it looked after the rains the previous few days.

To get there, go on Hwy 7 to the Hwy 164 west junction about four miles north of Dover.  Turn west on Hwy 164 and go 3.5 miles to Longpool Road, and turn right (north).  At this point, this road is actually OLD Hwy 7, but is commonly referred to as Longpool Road.  The Moore Outdoors canoe rental should be on your right at this intersection.  Go down Longpool Road for five miles and it runs right into the Longpool recreation area.   At about 2.7 miles from Hwy 164, you need to bear left and stay on the paved road where OLD Hwy 7 branches off to the right.

When you get to Longpool, stop at the entrance and put three bucks in one of the envelopes, keeping the flap for your car dashboard.  This is one of the only areas we go to that even has a day use fee, and this one seems to be an honor system thing.   Then go straight ahead toward Piney Creek and park in the big parking area.  There is a real restroom there, and a couple of pavilions that can be reserved if you want to plan some kind of group get together there.  

After parking, hike around the A-B campground loop.  Midway between campsites 9 and 14 is the trailhead to the waterfall.  Make sure you get the right one; closer to Piney Creek another trail takes off that goes down by the creek itself.  Don't do that.  Shortly after getting on the trail, there should be a metal water tank on the ground to your left; that's how you will know you have the right trail.  The trail then goes uphill and crests high above Piney Creek, then goes down toward the creek our waterfall is on.  

Trail at it's peak above Piney Creek
After passing the water tank, the trail actually broadens a little and looks like it had been used as an ATV trail at some time in the past.  Another ATV trail merges in from the right - there is a small network of trails like this behind the camping areas at Longpool.  
Lower Longpool Falls
When you get to the creek bed at the bottom of the hill, turn upstream and there is a nice little waterfall, about eight feet high.  As I mentioned earlier, a lot of folks think this is Longpool Falls and look no further.  You have to scramble on the rocks to get above this lower waterfall, and go upstream to get to the larger one.  It is not far at all, less than a couple hundred feet from the lower falls, but is very well hidden.  

Longpool Falls (44')
Longpool Falls is in a relatively small box canyon, flowing over the bluff and falling 44 feet onto a huge jumble of loose rocks.  Today, unfortunately, it wasn't flowing as much as I had expected.  This is often a fairly powerful waterfall, and I thought with the recent rains it would really be going strong today.  It is always nice, but particularly unimpressive today.  This seemed weird given how wet it was, but I have come to understand that the hydrology of the Ozarks is very complex and unpredictable.  

Alternate Trail Through Campsite 16
Heading back, we did a little exploring and took the ATV trail to the left above the water tank.  This goes behind some camp sites, then if you turn right at the next intersection, it comes out at the parking spot for campsite #16.  From the campground loop, the total hike is only a mile round trip.  The trail does rise from the campground before heading down into Longpool Falls creek, but the total elevation rise is still well less than 200 feet.  This is an easy, short hike and is recommended for anyone.  You never know what kind of flow the waterfall will have, but it is going to be a pleasant hike no matter what you find at the other end.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cedar Falls, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

6/11/2014 Cedar Falls

GPS coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking location: 35.11733, -92.93817,  869 feet
  Cedar Falls:  35.12148,  92.93410,  675 feet
  Blue Hole:  35.11580,  92.95896, 428 feet

Pet friendly: Yes.  Easy, well marked trail.  There is a sign at the trailhead that says all pets must be on a leash.  Boomer hypnotized me and convinced me I saw nothing and he should be off leash.  He was fine.  The only other dog we saw on the trail was also off leash.  You can expect to see other hikers on this trail, however.  If your dog doesn't play well with strangers, keep it on a leash.

Motorcycle friendly: Yes.  As a bonus, Highway 154 is a great riding road with lots of twisties.  Park in the parking area for Mather Lodge at Petit Jean State Park.

Cedar Falls (95')
Cedar Falls has to be the most photographed waterfall in Arkansas.  Located in Petit Jean State Park, there are lots of other trails and attractions nearby to draw in lots of visitors.  Since it is a fairly easy hike, with an easy to get to trailhead, there is a lot of visitors.  

Today we had the first clear day after four days of heavy rain, so Boomer (our German Shepard) and I were ready to go chase some waterfalls.  It was opening day for my wife Bethany's new business, so she opted out.  But our daughter Heather wanted to go hike the Cedar Falls trail, so off we went.

Cedar Falls - from overlook
Getting there is easy.  Take Hwy 7 to Centerville, then turn east on Hwy 154 for 15.1 miles to Mather Lodge.  Or, from Morrilton, take Hwy 9 to Oppelo and turn west on Hwy 154 for 12.9 miles to Mather Lodge.  Park in the par
king lot at the lodge and walk around the lodge to the trailhead.  Just east of the lodge is a short road to scenic overlook on the bluff high above Cedar Falls.  Either before or after hiking the Cedar Falls trail, this is a must-see stop to get this completely different perspective of the waterfall.

Waterfall near top of trail
Starting down the from the trailhead, the trail immediately starts the descent down into Cedar Creek's canyon.  The trail was built by the CCC back in the 1930's, but it has held up to the constant traffic well.  It zig-zags down the canyon wall so that there really is not any real steep areas.  At one of the early 'zigs', there is a nice series of waterfalls on the on a feeder creek off to the left of the trail.  If there is plenty of water, as there was today, this is well worth the stop.  Besides, when you climb back up the canyon on the way out, this is a great excuse for stopping and resting.  

There is a warning sign at the start of the trail with words to the effect that this trail can be strenuous on the climb back up.  Don't let that deter you from going, as it is somewhat overstated, at least in my opinion.  The whole elevation change from trailhead to the waterfall is only about 200 feet.  I see lots of children on the trail, some very young, and they seem to manage the hike back out just fine.  

Cedar Creek Bridge
We proceeded down the trail to the creek level.  On the way, there is a side trail to Bear Cave.  There are many other trails all over Petit Jean state park, and you could spend a few days here doing nothing but hiking in this beautiful park.  The Bear Cave trail is only an additional half mile each way. 

At the bottom of the canyon, there is a metal one-lane bridge over Cedar Creek.  On the other side, turn right to go upstream and to the base of Cedar Falls.  It is about a half mile down to the creek, then another half mile from the bridge to the falls.  Cedar Falls is a spectacular 95 foot waterfall, especially awesome when there is a lot of water flow as there was today.  From the end of the trail, you can climb up and around the rocks on the north side of the creek to get to the base of the waterfall.

We relaxed at the waterfall for a while, just soaking up the natural beauty of the place.  As we headed back downstream, we paused at some cascades we had passed on the way in.  This little side creek falls steeply down the north canyon wall, making a series of waterfalls and cascades as it tumbles down.  At least when it's wet like this, anyway.  In the dryer months this creek will be dry, but it was really pretty today.  

Cascades between bridge and Cedar Falls
We decided to hike down to the Blue Hole area, and additional one mile each way from where this trail branches off at the bridge.  The trail follows Cedar Creek downstream to where it intersects another trail they call the Boy Scout Trail.  I'm still not sure exactly what the Blue Hole is, but I think they are just referring to the pool at that point in Cedar Creek.  So the 'Blue Hole' may not be much to look at, but the hike is still nice, going right next to the creek.  Today there were several areas with rapids and cascades going strong.

Cedar Falls - with Heather and Boomer
All in all, a great day of hiking and a great day to catch the falls at their best and most powerful.  Most of the venues we hike in are fairly isolated, and we rarely ever see another human being while out hiking.  The Cedar Falls trail is definitely not like that.  Even though it was a weekday, there were a lot of other folks on the trail.  This is a must see trail if you do any hiking in Arkansas, and obviously a lot of folks have read that memo.  While I do like some solitude while out in the wilderness, this is also good.  The kind of people that get out and hike in areas like this are going to be some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bear Skull Falls and Slot Rock, Arkansas Ozarks

6/8/2014 -  Bear Skull Falls, Slot Rock

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.66608,  -93.34695,  1499 ft.
  Upper Bear Skull Falls:  35.66965,  -93.36212, 1203 ft.
  Bear Skull Falls:  35.66987,  -93.36220,  1173 ft.
  Slot Rock:  35.67600,  -93.36318,  985 ft.

Pet Friendly: Yes, this area should not be a problem for dogs on or off leash.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  It is almost five miles of road.  While the road is fairly well maintained, there are still too many rocks and potholes to take a street bike or heavy cruiser on.  

Bear Skull Falls (22')
We had a real gully washer at our house north of Dover yesterday and today looked like the only time for a few days that would NOT be raining.  There was only a 40% chance of rain today, so Boomer (our German Shepard) and I decided to head up to the Bear Skull Falls area.  My wife Bethany is starting up a new business, so was a little too busy to be joining us today.

To get there, I checked out the directions in the waterfall chaser's bible, Tim Ernst's Arkansas Waterfalls.  Tim's directions looked like a little more dirt road
Parking Location
than I wanted to run on, so I mapped out a different driving approach.  Usually when I do that, I end up getting into trouble.  This time, it worked out pretty well.  Take Highway 123 north of Hagerville (junction of Hwy 123 and Hwy 164) for 9.2 miles and turn left (north) onto Johnson County road CR-5550.  Follow CR-5550 for 3.3 miles, then bear right onto CR-5671.  Stay on CR-5671 for 1.5 miles and park on the left.  There is a parking spot where you can pull off the road just a few yards south of where the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) crosses the road.  In the photo above, the OHT is just before the bend in the road.

Heading west on the Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) from CR-5671, the first part of the hike is mostly on the level as the OHT winds around the hillside, then goes downhill into the drainage where Bear Skull Falls is at.  At about 0.92 miles on the GPS trip meter, we passed mile marker 95 of the OHT.  The Ozark Highlands Trail is, in my humble opinion, a national treasure.  It is a very well planned and constructed hiking trail running hundreds of miles through the heart of some of the best hiking country in the world.  This particular section of the OHT appeared as if it had not seen a lot of traffic lately.  The trail was still great, but you could tell the 'Arkansas jungle' was encroaching on it.

Upper Bear Skull Falls
Continuing on the OHT down into the drainage, at 1.42 miles we came to a nice unnamed waterfall above Bear Skull Falls.  I'll refer to it as Upper Bear Skull Falls.  The OHT goes very close to this waterfall and Bear Skull Falls itself.  If you continue on down the trail another 20 yards, there is a trail going back toward the base of the falls.  There is a blue trail blaze tag on a tree next to this side trail.  There was not a lot of water flowing over the falls today, but it was still very pretty in the grotto at the base of this waterfall.  Boomer had a good swim in the pool at the bottom of Upper Bear Skull Falls, then we continued on down the OHT.

Photo Boomer and Bear Skull Falls (22')
Bear Skull Falls was just downstream, at about 1.5 miles on the trip meter.  As with it's sister waterfall upstream, it is very close to the OHT and you can see the top of the falls from the trail.  Directly adjacent to the waterfall on the OHT, there is a break in the bluffline that looks like you could descend to the base of the falls at that point.  You probably could, but don't.  There is a much better and safer trail to the base a short distance further, where the OHT goes down through a break in the bluffline and gets close to creek level.  Look back up toward the waterfall at that point and you will see another blue trail blaze on a tree for the path to the base of Bear Skull Falls.  This is another beautiful waterfall grotto, but again there was not as much flow over the falls as I had hoped for.   

The creek downstream of Bear Skull Falls was dry.  In fact, all the water coming over the falls hit the rocks below and literally disappeared, all of it going underground instantly.  Continuing on down the OHT, the trail crosses an old road before crossing Lick Creek.  This is where we left the OHT and turned right onto the old road.  The old road follows along the creek, and Slot Rock is only about a quarter mile further after you turn off the OHT.  

Slot Rock (8')
Slot Rock is a different kind of waterfall.  This is where Lick Creek narrows down and goes through a large groove it has cut in the the face of a large boulder, falling about eight feet into an emerald pool below.  The pool is big enough for swimming and I was actually a little surprised not to find anyone here on a warm Saturday afternoon.  If you stay on CR-5550 instead of turning onto CR-5671 to get to our parking location, it goes out to Lick Creek.  That's where county maintenance on the road ends, but a road of sorts continues on upstream alongside the creek.  This is the old road we hiked on to get to slot rock.  It is way too rough for most vehicles, but ATV's and serious 4WD vehicles can make it up to slot rock on the road.  

Lick Creek
The large rocks on both sides of the pool at slot rock were very slick.  Even if you don't intend to go swimming, you need to be very careful here or you will be in the pool.  After slipping a couple of times and being saved by tree branches I grabbed, I ended up hiking up around the rocks.  I still managed to slip on the rocks in the creek downstream of the pool, coming down pretty hard on the rocks there.  I banged up my knee and shin, and went into the water up to my knees.  Uggh.  Worst of all, I had Bethany's Nikon D90 slung on my shoulder and it hit the rocks pretty hard.  The lens cap got swept downstream and I never did find it.  The camera seemed to work OK, but the threaded ring on the lens that filters and such screw onto got scrunched.  Oops. 

After my exercise in clumsiness at Slot Rock, Boomer and I debated the merits of continuing on upstream.  On the one hand, I already had an air splint on my left arm, and now I had a banged up knee and shin.  Also, the water flow in the side creeks where the waterfalls were had just not been all that much, so Sunset Falls and Discovery Falls would probably not be much to write home about.  On the other hand, I'm stubborn and somewhat dense.  Not even Boomer could argue with that, so we hiked on upstream.

To get to Sunset Falls and Discovery Falls, you continue on the old road we had been on.  Where it crosses Lick Creek, you can start bushwhacking up the right side of the creek.  I prefer to stay on the road if Lick Creek can be crossed, and the water level was certainly low enough for that.  So we crossed the creek there, hiked upstream, and where you cross the creek again is where you also start your bushwhack up the side creek that comes in at that point.  Or creek bed, as it was today.  

There was not a drop of water in the creek, but further upstream some surface water reappeared.  Not enough water to convince me to finish the difficult bushwhack up to those falls, however.  It's a steep, rugged, climb and my knee was still bothering me.  Not to mention it was oppressively muggy and hot and we had to hike through wet foliage.  I know - whine, whine, whine.  But it was a three mile uphill hike back to the Explorer and I was already soaked in sweat, so I let Boomer talk me into turning back.  

We stopped at Slot Rock and took a break, then continued on.  That's when I discovered I had not packed an extra water bottle.  Fortunately, there's a lot of water in the Ozarks.  We stopped at Bear Skull Falls again and refilled my water bottle, then headed back to the parking spot.  Good thing we turned back when we did;  not 30 seconds after getting back in the Explorer, it started raining. 

The day didn't go exactly as planned.  I did get banged up, and I did bang up my wife's nice camera.  But even at that, you can't beat a day in the wilderness chasing waterfalls.  I'm putting this one on my list to come back to in winter time after a good rain, when Sunset Falls and Discovery Falls should be running good.  Can't wait to get out and do it again.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fuzzybutt, Horsetail, and Hwy 123 Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

4/9/2014 -  Fuzzybutt Falls, Horsetail Falls, Haw Creek Falls and Highway 123 Falls

Scott and Boomer at Fuzzybutt Falls
Today, we really debated whether it was wise to get out and do any hiking.  There was a high probability of rain, but we wanted to get out and chase some waterfalls.  Our son Scott had come home from Tucson to visit almost two weeks ago, but because of several days of light rainy weather and life just getting in the way, we had not been able to get out in the Ozarks.  Scott was planning to leave late tomorrow, so Bethany, Scott, Boomer, and I loaded up and decided to go for it.  We got sprinkled on a couple of times, but all in all we had a great day of hiking and stayed relatively dry.

It was also Boomer's first time back in the woods since he was bit by a copperhead almost a month ago.  He was happy as a pig in poop to get his foot finally healed and to get that cone off his head.  Boomer was cleared by the vet just yesterday, but we weren't sure how he would take to being out in bushwhack areas.  So we looked for some short hikes not too far off the beaten path, and such that it wouldn't be too far to get back to the car in the event of heavy rain.  

I won't go into how to get to these falls since I have detailed that extensively in previous posts.  Look at these links for detailed "how to get there" and other information:

Fuzzybutt Falls, Six Finger Falls, and Horsetail Falls
Highway 123 Falls

Fuzzybutt Falls, (16 ft)
We started out with a trip out to the Richland Wilderness, stopping at Falling Water Falls for a while, then going to the low water bridge to hike the north side of Falling Water Creek.  We hiked the longer leg first, out to Fuzzybutt Falls.  This was the first time Scott had been to any of these local waterfalls, so Falling Water Falls and Fuzzybutt Falls were a pretty good indoctrination.  Fuzzybutt Falls is one of our personal favorites, and one we find ourselves going back to again and again.  The waterfall grotto is one of the most serene, peaceful, places on earth.  

Next up was Six Finger Falls, so we backtracked up the trail to that point.  We had noticed at Falling Water Falls that the creek seemed to have a pretty good flow today, so our expectations were pretty high for the other falls.  Six Finger Falls is the only other one actually on Falling Water Creek, and it was beautiful as always today.  This is one of those very easy to get to waterfalls that I still have on my list for visiting right after a gully-washing rain.  I've seen some photos of it in flood conditions, but still looking forward to seeing that in person.

Lower Horsetail Falls (70 ft)
After leaving Six Finger Falls, we went back downstream to where the trail joins the horse trail, and started back upstream toward the low water bridge.  On the way down to Fuzzybutt Falls, we had noticed that Flat Stanley Falls was virtually dry.  Since that is the creek fed by Horsetail Falls, it did not bode well for the water flow upstream.  Still, we have a lot of experience with creeks in the Ozarks being completely dry at points and still having pretty good water flow upstream.  It is not uncommon at all for the creeks in this area to "go underground".  That was indeed the case today.  The creek Horsetail Falls is on was dry most of the way upstream, only getting some surface water flow just below Lower Horsetail Falls itself.  That did make it easier to squeeze through the creek bed to the base of the waterfall, but the waterfall itself was a little disappointing in that it was markedly less strong than the last time we had been here.

Haw Creek Falls
With the poor flow at Horsetail Falls, it didn't seem worthwhile to go up to the Upper Horsetail Falls, so we headed back the rest of the way to the bridge to take a lunch break.  After lunch, we headed out for a couple of quick stops on the way home.  Our first stop was Haw Creek Falls; it is so easy to get to, it is almost a crime to just pass it by on the highway.  This time, Haw Creek Falls was flowing pretty good, but we have seen it much higher on previous visits.  

We also wanted to scout the campground for our nephew and his family, who were planning a camping trip in a couple of weeks.  There was not a single campsite in use!  Hard to believe for such a beautiful location, and on a
Highway 123 Falls (47 ft)
weekend in early summer to boot.  There were a couple of cars in the campsites next to the falls, but these were just other day-use folks like us that stopped by to see the falls.

We decided against making the hike up to Pack Rat Falls, because Scott had twisted his ankle earlier.  While this hike was short, it involves a fair amount of rock hopping up the creek bed.   There were two other couples there wanting to do just that, however.  We chatted with them for a while and gave directions on exactly how to get to the waterfall, then left for our last stop of the day. 

Rick and Boomer at Highway 123 Falls
Highway 123 Falls is another easy to get to waterfall that most people don't seem to even know about.  I'm always curious to see how much flow this waterfall has since it usually seems to have a decent flow even when the creek itself is dry.  Today it was exactly that way.  The creek was completely dry at the highway, and indeed almost all the way up to the waterfall itself.  It seemed like the waterfall hit the rocks below and immediately disappeared underground.  The waterfall was still pretty nice, and so easy to get to it is also one you just need to stop and see whenever in the area.

All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable day out in the woods chasing waterfalls.  We got to spend some quality time with our son that we normally go months without seeing, and Boomer got to get out (finally!) and be the mountain dog that he is.  It started sprinkling on us a couple of times, but rain turned out to not be an issue at all today.