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)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Keefe Falls, Richland Wilderness Area, Arkansas

7/2/2014 - Keefe Falls

GPS Coordinates: (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking:  35.76666,  92.93337,  1146 feet
  Keefe Falls:  35.76548,   92.92607,  1389 feet

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Easy for pets on or off leash.

Motorcycle Friendly: No.  The road is definitely too rough.  Wouldn't take my Harley on it, or any other street bike or cruiser.

GPS files (.gpx format):
  Keefe Falls GPS track

Keefe Falls (78')
After hiking both Pedestal Rocks and King's Bluff trail loops, and hiking down to the bottom of King's Bluff Falls, I'll admit to being a little tired and a lot sweaty.  But we ate a late lunch, hydrated, and felt completely refreshed.  Still soaked in sweat, but hey - I'm old, and it was about 230% humidity.  So we packed up and continued down the road to Keefe Falls.  It was just me and Boomer out today.  Bethany wanted to get flyers out for her 4th of July Giveaway.  See her website to see what she was up to:
Vintage Stars and Stripes

Keefe Falls is one of the many waterfalls in the Falling Water Creek polyfoss area.  There are a bunch of others in this area you can get details on from my March 30 blog entry.  To get there, go north on Hwy 7 to Pelsor (Sand Gap) and turn east on Hwy 16.  Go nine miles on Hwy 16 and turn left (north) on Upper Falling Water Road.  This is the first left after you pass through the little community of Ben Hur.  It has no road sign, but there is a big sign for the Falling Water Horse Camp.  Go down Falling Water Road, bearing left where roads merge from the right.  You will pass Falling Water Falls on the right, then at 5.3 miles go over the low water bridge.  About one mile after the bridge, you pass over a couple of large steel culverts.  That is the creek Keefe Falls feeds.  Keep going around the bend in the road and there is a good parking spot on the left where the road goes down right next to the creek.  This is also a good camp site.

Bluffs along Keefe Falls trail
After parking, hike back down the road in the direction you came from, to where the creek passes under the road.  Don't be alarmed if the creek bed is dry, it usually is.  Today, there was actually pretty good flow in the creek, so I got a little excited about what Keefe Falls would look like.  As you face upstream from the road, look for a trail on the left side of this creek bed.  Leave the road onto this trail and stay on it.  The trail stays close to the creek for a while, then climbs up high above creek level until you get close to Keefe Falls.  This trail is kept in pretty good shape because folks from the horse camp use it to get to the falls.

Keefe Falls (78')
When you get close to the falls, the trail crosses back and forth across the creek bed due to the steepness of the bank on one side or the other.  At this point, you are close to the waterfall and it is just as easy hiking up the creek bed as it is on the trail.  Today, the creek bed actually dried up less than halfway to the falls.  As I said before, don't be alarmed if it is.  Creeks in the Ozarks often 'go underground' and emerge later downstream, even in wet weather.  This trip, there was plenty of flow where it ran into Falling Water Creek, and a decent amount of water flowing over the waterfall, but pretty much dry in between.

At 78 feet high, Keefe Falls is the highest I know of in the Richland Wilderness area.  The hike is actually fairly short and easy.  I would think a lot more folks would come here, especially considering it's proximity to other easy-to-hike-to waterfalls.  I have seen tracks, so I know folks go there on horseback, but in several trips I have never seen another person at this waterfall, or on the trail.  The large grotto the waterfall is in is just beautiful, a nice setting for a tall waterfall.  This is what I call a 'wet weather' waterfall, so it is best seen after a good amount of rain.  That 
Boomer! Base of Keefe Falls in backround
being said, it was great today, even though it was early in July with not that much recent rain.  I 
guess you can never tell.  I have seen this waterfall with only a small dribble coming over the falls.  I have never seen it dry up completely, but I suspect it does.

This is only about a half mile hike off the road.  My GPS trip meter said 1.2 miles roundtrip, but about 0.2 miles was on the road from the parking location to the trail (see GPS track below).   There is over 200 feet of elevation change, and this is the way I prefer it - do the climbing on the way there, so it's all downhill when you return.  From where the trail leaves the road, Fuzzybutt Falls is just a quarter mile upstream.  You can cross Falling Water Creek and easily hike up to it without needing to move your vehicle.  The Ozark Highlands Trail (dashed line on the GPS track below) also intersects the Keefe Falls trail, so if you hike the OHT this is just a short side trip, and well worth it.
GPS track to Keefe Falls

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

King's Bluff Falls and Pedestal Rocks, Arkansas Ozarks

7/2/2014 - King's Bluff Falls, King's Bluff and Pedestal Rock Trails

GPS Coordinates: (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking:  35.72376,  93.01567,  1877 feet
  King's Bluff Falls:  35.72480, -93.02510,  1559 feet (at base)

Pet Friendly: Yes.  Easy for dogs on or off leash.  I think they are supposed to be on leash, but I saw no signage to that effect so Boomer was free ranging today.  It should be noted this is a popular hiking location.  If your dog does not play well with strangers, it is best to keep it on leash. 

Motorcycle Friendly: Yes! The parking area is right off Highway 16.  

GPS files:
  King's Bluff Falls track (to base of falls)
  Pedestal Rocks and King's Bluff Trails track

King's Bluff Falls (114')
I had no intention of going hiking today, since I had a couple of things to do for Bethany's new business.  But the rain gauge said we got an inch and a half of rain last night, so that made me think twice about it.  Here it was, July already, and the creeks and streams were starting to shrink up.  If the mountains north of us had received anywhere close to the rainfall we had, this might be the last chance to see some decent waterfalls for a while.  There were a couple of "wet weather" waterfalls I had been intending to go back to after a decent rain; Keefe Falls and King's Bluff Falls.  So, big surprise, I opted for going hiking instead of working on the wife's new business.  I consulted with Boomer (our German Shepard), and he was in.  Bethany chose to stay and work.  Hmmpf.  You can check out her shop's website if you want to see what she would rather do than hike:
Vintage Stars and Stripes
It's probably just me, but painting old furniture just doesn't sound as much fun as a day in the wilderness.

Boomer and I loaded up and set out.  To get there, go north on Hwy 7 to Pelsor (Sand Gap), and turn right (east) on Hwy 16.  Go 5.9 miles and look for the National Forest sign for Pedestal Rocks on the left.  Take the short loop off Hwy 16 to the parking area.  There is plenty of parking and a primitive toilet there.  We had the whole place to ourselves today, which was a little odd.  This is a popular hiking location, and there is generally at least a few vehicles here.

The King's Bluff trail and Pedestal Rock trail are two separate loop trails, both starting out from this trailhead.  My original plan was to just go to the waterfall here, then head on up to Keefe Falls to check it out, so we went over the little rock bridge at the parking area and turned right to go on the King's Bluff trail.  King's Bluff Falls is about halfway around the 1.9 mile loop.  The trail has a lot of switchbacks, but stays pretty much on the level.  

King's Bluff - with the photo Boomer
You come to King's Bluff at about one mile going either way around the loop.  King's Bluff is a giant slab of rock about the size of a football field, with a drop off of well over a hundred feet, then a steep slope of even more.  There is a great view of a large expanse of the Ozarks from here, as you might imagine.  King's Bluff Falls spills over the north edge of this rock bluff; the right side as you look out over the bluff.  When it has water to spill, that is.  This is what I call a wet weather waterfall and is often completely dry.  Today it did, in fact, have some water,  But like most waterfalls, the view from the top is just not that great.  

King's Bluff
While we were there, we did cross over the creek and go along the bluff to the north for quite a way just to see what was there.  There is another small drainage that spills over the bluff, but no breaks in the bluff to get below that I could find.  So we headed back continued on the trail around the loop.  After leaving the huge rock bluff area, the trail goes over another small wet-weather waterfall, then the trail branches.  The marker says King's Bluff trail both ways; you want to go to the right here.  Even if you don't go down to the base of the falls, this trail goes around the edge of the bluff.  If you don't go on this lower trail, you will miss some really cool rock features and views.  

From this trail marker, go down the trail a couple of hundred feet and look for a path going downhill on the right.  This takes you down into the hollow below King's Bluff Falls.  Take this trail all the way down to the creek, then go up the creek to the base of King's Bluff Falls.  When you get to the creek, make sure you turn around and look downstream to get a fix on where that path is so you can find it when coming back out.

King's Bluff Falls (114')
King's Bluff Falls itself is huge, height-wise, at 114 feet high.  Because of it's height, it takes a lot of water to make it look good.  Unfortunately, that happens only during the wetter seasons after a good rain.  This was the first week of July, so I suppose we were lucky to have any flow over it at all.  At any rate, of course I would have preferred more water, but it was still pretty.  And there is something about a big waterfall that just makes the stress leave your body.  You can't help but enjoy it.  So Boomer and I enjoyed it for a while, then headed back up.  

Alternately on the trail down to the base of the falls, where the trail goes down past the break in the bluff, you can follow the base of the bluff down.  This goes down to another small waterfall with a pretty good sized shelter cave next to it.  Boomer and I came back up from the creek level this way to check it out.  Not much water running over this waterfall over the cave, but still pretty cool.  The cave is a good camp site, if you are into backpack camping.  It has plenty of room to set up a tent, and folks have built a fire pit there.

King's Bluff
If all you do is stay on the King's Bluff trail and don't go on down to the base of the falls, I would have to rate this as an easy hike.  It is a couple miles long, but mostly on the level and not a lot of effort to hike.  That being said, going down to the base of the falls is a moderate-to-difficult hike.  This is a fairly rough trail, and once you get to the creek it is a bushwhack up the creek to the base of the falls, albeit not a very long one.  On the way back up out of the hollow to the King's Bluff trail, it is about a 300 foot elevation change over a relatively short distance.  Just pace yourself coming out and you'll be fine.  

Once back on the trail, we continued on around the King's Bluff loop.  There are some really cool rock features, crevasses, and pedestals, similar to what you see on the Pedestal Rocks trail.  Speaking of which, as you continue on around the loop you come to a sort of 4-way trail crossing.  If you want to go back to the parking area, take a one on the left (north), and the parking location is only a quarter mile or so further.  The other two trails on the right are both ends of the Pedestal Rocks trail.  

King's Bluff
When we started out today, I only intended to visit King's Bluff Falls and then head over to Keefe Falls.  But once we got to the cross trails, it seemed a shame not to go ahead and hike the Pedestal Rocks trail as well.  It goes along the same bluff as the King's Bluff trail, but has many more of the bizarre rock features.  Pedestal Rocks is designated as a 'Special Interest Area'.   It didn't quite make the criteria as a Wilderness Area, but the Special Interest Area designation is given when there are unique features that should be preserved.  In this case, it's the plethora of very unique rock formations.  We went out on the back side of this loop, which goes down the back of the mountain, then loops back along the bluff before heading back to the parking area.  

The Pedestal Rocks trail is not quite as 'on the level' as the King's Bluff trail, and goes down to it's lowest point at the far end of the loop, so you have about a 250 foot elevation change either way you go around the loop.  That's spread out over about a mile of trail, so you don't really
Pedestal Rock
notice it all that much.  Both trails have some very unique rock formations, and both are well worth the hike.  So if you go there, why not get a 'twofer' and do both trails?  

This is an area you could easily spend all day at, and enjoy every minute of it whether there is any water in the waterfalls or not.  The two hiking trail loops are about two miles each, but with all of our side trips we ended up hiking about six miles by the GPS track meter.  Not bad for a start, but we still had the second half of our hiking double header for the day ahead of us, so we ate a late lunch and headed on to Keefe Falls.
GPS track to base of King's Bluff Falls

King's Bluff (upper) and Pedestal Rocks (lower) trail loop GPS tracks