Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wolf Creek Cave Falls and Big Creek Cave Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

 01/26/2015 - Big Creek Cave Falls

GPS Coordinates:  Latitude/Longitude/Elevation
  Parking:  35.87684, -93.16071,  1162 feet
  Big Creek Cave Falls:  35.86318, -93.15447,  1294 feet
  Wolf Creek Cave Falls:  35.86063,  -93.15244,  1297 feet
  Underground Falls:  35.86074,  -93.15257,  1281 feet
  Cave Creek Cascade:  35.86384,  -93.15439,  1267 feet
  Mine shaft:  35.85954,  -93.15322,  1309 feet
  Unnamed Cave Falls:  35.85954,  -93.15350,  1300 feet
  Unnamed Wolf Creek Falls #1:  35.86265,  -93.15121,  1292 feet
  Turn off trail to Cave Creek Cascade:  35.86472,  -93.15319,  1239 feet
  Rock Peninsula Falls:  35.86666,  -93.15417,  1214 feet
  Turn off trail to Rock Peninsula Falls area:  35.86736,  -93.15412, 1223 feet

Pet-friendly: Yes.  One word of caution - if your dog needs to stay on leash, it should be OK unless you venture off trail and do any significant bushwhacking.  There are a lot of briers and underbrush in this area.

Motorcycle-friendly: Not really. It is 2.8 miles down a marginal gravel road.  I wouldn't take mine on it, but I know a lot of you riders don't see that as a challenge at all.  As one of my nephews puts it, "my driveway is longer and rougher than that".

GPS tracks: I split these up into five different track files.  Maps of the GPS tracks are at the very bottom of this post.

Update - a blog post from a more recent visit, with even more to see and an alternate way back can be seen here.

Big Creek Falls (29 ft)
Big Creek Cave Falls was actually the very first waterfall I visited at the beginning of 2014, when I decided to write this blog on my hiking adventures and provide as much information on these wonders of nature as I could.  You can see that very first post here.  I was a little surprised at the thousands of folks that read my blogs.  Apparently, many of you share my love of waterfall chasing.  This particular blog post was very popular, so apparently many of you also really like caves and the combination of caves and waterfalls.  Caves, waterfalls, beautiful Ozark wilderness - what's not to love?  One of the reasons I write it is to help those that are looking for the same sense of serenity and excitement that I get out of chasing waterfalls.  Once you do it, if you are indeed human, you will be hooked.  

Turn off Highway 7 here!
1 - First creek to ford - Right Fork Big Creek
One of those that read that first blog post and decided to hike to Big Creek Cave Falls was Ben Starr, who also writes a blog.  Ben, as it turns out, hiked out the old way, through the briers and brambles and poison ivy.  But after exploring above the Wolf Creek juncture, Ben found an old trace road that provided much, MUCH easier hiking all the way back to the parking location.  Ben was nice enough to leave a comment on my blog and point me to this route, and ever since I have been itching to give it a try.  After torrential rains to start the new year, we have had almost no rain the last three weeks.  For whatever reason, waterfalls that spill out of caves always seem to have a relatively constant water flow, so today seemed the perfect time to try out the new route.  Boomer and I have been primed and ready for this hike for quite a while, so we loaded up into the Explorer and set off.

2 - Big field after first small field.  Instead of old
route to the right, go straight across the field
toward Left Fork and mountain behind it.
This is one of those areas that once you have hiked it going this new route, you will be able to find your way around in your sleep.  But if it's your first time in this area, a GPS is recommended and good directions are a necessity.  So please bear with me while I make the directions as complete as I possibly can.  I know some are more 'directionally challenged' than others, so I'll try to spell it out as definitively as I can.

3 - Ford across Left Fork Big Creek
To get there, go north on Highway 7 another 1.3 miles from the Highway 16 intersection going to Deer. Turn right onto NC-6840.  There is a one story frame farmhouse here on the right and this looks like a couple of ruts going behind the guy's house as if it is his driveway.  It isn't.  It actually turns into a decent one-lane forest service gravel road. Go 2.8 miles from Highway 7 on this road and park on the right by a metal gate. The power line ends there at what was an old homestead many years ago. There is no trace of a house left, but there is a rock storm shelter remaining. There is a metal gate here across an old road leading past the homestead site and you can park in the small loop off the road by this gate.  Note that NC-6840 is the 'new' Newton County road number.  Old maps will have that as FR-1224 or CR-59.  NC-6840 is the only road sign you will see when turning off Highway 7.

4 - Field after fording Left Fork.  Go to far side
of the field and follow edge south.
For today's hike, the new route starts exactly like the old route.  Follow the old road behind the gate.  It goes south past the old homestead, and you can see an old stone berm wall along the road for the old home site.  The road will lead to a small creek, actually Right Fork Big Creek (which I'll simply call 'Right Fork').  Ford across this creek and that seems to be the end of any actual trail.  But it isn't!  That's the good news for those that have gone to Big Creek Cave Falls via the old documented directions.  As it turns out, there is a lot more of the old trace roads for easy hiking where you are going.

5 - Looking into last small field before
the trail goes into the woods.
A quick note about the names of these creeks to be technically correct; the name of one of the waterfalls we are going to is indeed 'Big Creek Cave Falls'.  However, the creek it feeds is not technically 'Big Creek'.  The water running over the falls flows into 'Cove Branch' which, along with Wolf Creek, forms 'Left Fork Big Creek' just downstream of the falls and the feeder creek I call Cave Creek.  The creek you ford at the end of the primitive road is technically 'Right Fork Big Creek', even though it runs into 'Left Fork Big Creek' and not 'Big Creek' itself, which is quite a ways downstream.  The REAL "Big Creek" is in a drainage system to the east, and Left Fork of Big Creek (which I'll just call 'Left Fork') runs into it just downstream of the town of Mount Judea.  About 4 miles after this juncture, Big Creek flows into the Buffalo National River.  

6 - Trail leaving last open field and heading into woods.
Likewise, the other major waterfall on the agenda today is Wolf Creek Cave Falls.  However, water from it does not flow into Wolf Creek.  It flows into Cove Branch, which has a juncture downstream in which Cove Branch and Wolf Creek flow together to form Left Fork Big Creek.  Whew.  Confused?  Don't be.  Just use the map below and/or the GPS coordinates above and we'll walk through the way you get to them.

Anyway, continuing on;  after crossing Right Fork, you come into a small open field.  Turn left (east) and head straight across this field.  You go through a line of trees into a much larger field.  Here's where we deviate from the old route in Tim Ernst's Arkansas Waterfalls book.  This excellent book has been my hiking bible and was my guidance for previous visits here.  However, if you read my original blog post for this hike, you know I complained vociferously about the briers and brambles, which are very thick in the area the old route takes you.

Cave Creek
Instead of taking the old route and bearing right in the big field, head straight across this field (east) toward the mountain on the other side of Left Fork.  You will lose the old trace road going across the field, but that's OK.  Once across the field, you will see that the trees along the east side of the field are bordering Left Fork and right in the middle of that east border is another ford where the trace road goes across Left Fork.  Go ahead and go across the creek here.  I went upstream a little to find a spot I could rock-hop across, but depending on water level that may not be possible.  You might need to wade or use water socks here.  Or use one of my other tricks - I keep a couple of large, durable trash bags to pull over each leg and tie up.  They aren't all that durable, but they just have to not leak for a short wade.  Today, the trash bags just weren't needed.

Boomer practicing the "mount" command
we use for log walking.
On the other side of Left Fork, the trace road opens up into yet another open field.  Go across this field as well, and follow the east side of it, which will take you upstream (south) along Left Fork.  You will go through another line of trees into yet another field, albeit a much smaller field this time.  Continue south along the east side of this field and this is where the old trace road leads up into the woods.  The road has remained fairly well defined, clear of briers and poison ivy, and is easy to follow.  The old road runs mostly on the level, staying fairly close to Left Fork.  Sometimes it moves away from the creek, but for much of the hike you can see and hear the creek to your right.  

Confluence of Wolf Creek and Cove Branch
to form Left Fork Big Creek
More than a mile from the parking location, there is a fork in the trail with a rugged track going straight down to the creek.  Pass that up for now, and bear left at the fork to go to Wolf Creek Cave Falls first.  We'll come back to the rough spur to the creek on the way back.  After bearing left at that fork, you come to yet another fork almost immediately.  Going left takes you back in the direction you came, so bear right at this fork, go across the old cattle guard, then continue on (south) down the trail.

As you continue upstream on the trail, keep looking toward the creek on your right.  At one point, the trail almost goes right to the creek and you can see where a creek flows into it on the other side.  This is the juncture of Wolf Creek and Cove Branch; I listed a GPS coordinate for it above.  Why is this important?  We'll be coming back to this point to hike back, after visiting Big Creek Cave Falls and Cave Creek Cascade and it's associated cave.   But for now, just stay on the old trace road and continue upstream.   Now, the creek on your right is Wolf Creek.

Unnamed Wolf Creek Falls #1
In another couple of hundred yards, the trail crosses Wolf Creek.  Remember this point, because you come back to this point in order to access three different areas. Before it crosses the creek there is a branch off the trail that follows further along Wolf Creek.  Boomer and I went up this trail first, knowing there were some wet weather waterfalls further up Wolf Creek.  This trail crosses Wolf Creek and continues right up to a small wet weather waterfall that I'm just calling 'Unnamed Wolf Creek Fall #1'.   This is a pretty little waterfall, about 10-12 feet tall, during wet weather.  Clearly, that was not the case today, as there was only a dribble of water spilling over the ledge into the pool below.  

Further upstream in the Wolf Creek drainage, there are more wet weather waterfalls and some more caves.   If you have time, it's a fun place to explore.  Today, however, Boomer and I didn't get started until after noon, so we turned back at this point and went back down the trail to the point of the trail branch where we turned left instead of crossing the creek.  From that trail branch, we went across Wolf Creek and continued on the main trail upstream.  At this point, you are hiking the old trace road upstream between Wolf Creek and Cove Branch.  Soon, the trail crosses Cove Branch, then continues on upstream, and crosses Cove Branch again.  

Wolf Creek Cave Falls
At this point, you are very close to Wolf Creek Cave.  Again, that's the name, but it flows into Cove Branch, not Wolf Creek.  You can probably hear Wolf Creek Cave Falls and what I call Underground Falls, but won't be able to see it yet.  The mouth of the cave is somewhat hard to see until you get close to it.  Heading up the hill from the creek at this point, you will come across a gate, chained and locked.  But that's it.  Just a gate, no fence, no nothing, and the faint trail goes right around it.  Just beyond the gate is Wolf Creek Cave and it's associated waterfall spilling right out of the mouth of the cave.  

One of the first things you will see here is the white sign the Nature Conservatory bolted to the rock on the left side of the waterfall.  This cave is closed to protect the bat population.  I'll expound on the reasoning behind that at the end of this post, but for now please read and heed, and stay out of this cave.  Wolf Creek Cave Falls itself is not that tall, maybe eight feet or so, but it is always beautiful.  Today it did not have as much flow as it normally does, which kind of violates that rule about waterfall caves, doesn't it?  Nonetheless, it had more than enough flow to be well worth the trip.

Underground Falls
After leaving Wolf Creek Cave, we followed the stream from its outlet just a short distance downhill to what I call Underground Falls.  Cave waterfalls are all pretty cool, and all have the waterfall spilling out the mouth of the cave.  Except for this little waterfall.  Underground Falls itself is not underground, but from the base of the waterfall, the creek flows into a cave going underground.  It emerges again under a huge rock right at Cove Branch and runs from under the rock into Cove Branch.  

Old Mine Shaft
One of the things I had planned on doing this trip was to further explore the Cove Branch drainage.  Boomer and I set off upstream and went quite a way back into the drainage.  It had been over a week since I had sustained a pretty bad laceration on my left leg with a chainsaw, and I was wanting to stretch my limits and see what I could do without actually busting any stitches out.  This was a pretty good workout for that leg.  We went about a mile and a half further up Cove Branch, staying to the right when other creeks merged into it.  There is no trail past Wolf Creek Cave, and it is a rugged bushwhack in several places.

Old Mine Shaft
We did find a couple of interesting features only about 500 feet upstream from where the underground creek re-emerges from its cave.  On the left, directly under the overhang from the bluff ledge above, we found an old mine shaft.  I'm not sure what they would be mining for here, but it looks like they did the original shaft cross bracing so it would last.  At the bottom of the shaft, it does look like it branches off horizontally.  I decided not to go in; no telling what may be down there, or if it might be on the verge of collapse.  Boomer is highly intelligent but still, can't talk.  For that matter, he couldn't drive the Explorer back to civilization, either.  At least I don't think so, but at any rate that was not a chance I felt like taking today.  

Unnamed Cave Waterfall
Following the bluffline from the mine shaft a little further upstream, there was yet another cave waterfall high on the bluff face just a few yards further.  There is a steep spur built up between the bluff face and the creek here, and this waterfall spills out of a small cave about 40 feet above the peak of that ridge.  Today, this did not have a whole lot of flow, but certainly had a lot more than the previous unnamed waterfall we visited which was right on Wolf Creek.  The next time I visit the area in wet weather, I'll be sure to check out this one.  As high up on the bluff face as it is, it probably depends on surface water for a fair amount of its flow.

After exploring the main Cove Branch drainage, we headed back down the way we came.  Passing by Wolf Creek Cave Falls, we went back down the trail the way we had come to that same trail branch that went upstream along Wolf Creek, only this time we will stay on the west side of Wolf Creek.  Remember this point in the trail I told you to remember earlier?  Well, this is why.  From here, instead of back across Wolf Creek to that trail branch, turn around and head west off the trail, straight up the mountain.  You will cross Cove Branch and find the steep canyon that leads up to Big Creek Cave Falls.  Go up the embankment on the right, and follow it right up to the waterfall.  It is not far, and you should be able to hear the waterfall almost from when you leave the trail and start the bushwhack uphill.  It is quite steep, however, so be careful and be sure of your footing.

Big Creek Cave Falls (29 ft)
Big Creek Cave Falls is one of those waterfalls that seems to always have good flow, even in dry times such as today.  It is one of those natural wonders that make you just sit there for a while absorbing it.  And like many of the natural wonders in the Ozarks, very few people ever see it.  This cave isn't posted, but then again, it obviously is not one that can be accessed without some special climbing gear.  Just inside the mouth of the cave, you can see a chain hanging.  Someday, I'll find someone who can tell the story of how that chain got to be there and why it's there at all.  And once more - the name is Big Creek Cave Falls, but it actually flows into Cove Branch, which flows into Left Fork, which eventually flows into Big Creek many, miles north of here.

Cave Creek Cave
From Big Creek Cave Falls, the next major feature on our hike was what I refer to as Cave Creek Cave.  This is a very large cave but is another that is somewhat hidden until you come right upon it.  Instead of going all the way back down to Cove Branch and back up Cave Creek, from Big Creek Cave Falls follow the bluff around to your right (as you face the waterfall), staying high above the creek.  It will cut around the mountain on a bench right to a point over Cave Creek Cave.  There is a point where you can cut down the bluff right to the base of the cave.  If you are on the bench hiking along the edge of the bluff and see a creek running out of the bluff below, you have gone too far.  That's Cave Creek below you.  Back up a few yards and look for the way down.  It's a little steep cutting down beside the bluff, but easily doable. 

This is a large cave system and has a lot of water coming right out of the mouth.  Most of the water flowing from Big Creek Cave Falls goes underground, with little or none actually flowing down the canyon below it.  I'm convinced that all that water goes into yet another cave system and comes out at Cave Creek Cave.  The cave itself is huge and has several branches, most of which are fairly shallow except for the one the creek flows out of.  Looking back into this branch of the cave, you can see it goes back pretty far.  A few yards back, there appears to be a 'natural bridge' across the middle of the cave.

Cave Creek Cascades
Cave Creek Cascades tumbles down the hillside at the outlet of the cave and continues on down past some small waterfalls to flow into Cove Branch.  The easiest way to get back out and on the trail back is to simply follow Cave Creek downhill, then follow Cove Branch until you get to where it runs into Wolf Creek to form Left Fork.  This is not very far, and there is very little of the briers along this creek, making the bushwhack very easy.  There was even a large log over the creek, giving us a chance to do some refresher training on Boomers "mount" command.  At the juncture of Cove Branch and Wolf Creek, simply cross Wolf Creek and voila - a few feet on the other side of the creek you will find your old trace road home.  Turn left (north) and you are on your way back.

Rock Peninsula Falls
There is one other area on Left Fork with some really nice water features that is worthy of checking out, either on the way out or on the way back.  On the way back, after crossing the old cattle guard, remember to bear left to take the old trace road down along Left Fork.  Immediately after turning onto that, there is another fork with a rugged spur going down to the creek.  There are a couple of ways you can get to this last area on Left Fork, and this is the more difficult one.  If you go down to the creek here, you can then bushwhack down to the area that has Rock Peninsula Falls and several large picturesque pools and cascades.  

Azure pool with a tree that Mr. Beaver took care of.
That's Rock Peninsula Falls in the background.
If you have a GPS, I have marked a waypoint that is further on down the trace road toward where you parked.  From here, you can head toward the creek and this area is only about 250 feet off the trail, with minimal undergrowth, briers, and brambles.  Turn at the turnoff point, then head directly for Rock Peninsula Falls.  This waterfall is only about five or six feet high but is very picturesque.  As the name implies, it is a large rock 'peninsula', and in wet weather, the creek spills over it on all sides.  Today, there was just enough flow to create a small waterfall in one corner, but that was still quite nice.  This area has a number of deep azure pools, large boulders, and smaller cascades and waterfalls.  

After spending some time here, Boomer and I headed back up the way we came to the trail, then continued on back to where we parked.  This was a fantastic day in the wilderness, my injured leg held up really well, and we were both happy and not all that tired at the end of the day.  I would have liked to explore some more up the Wolf Creek drainages, but the sun was already getting low in the sky and it would be dark soon.  My wife knows I avoid trying to hike back in the dark at all costs and would probably call out the SAR folks if we didn't get back in cell phone range and contact her by nighttime, so we decided to save that for another day.

Posting outside Wolf Creek Cave
Now, what about those bats?  Firstly, why do we care?  Bats are good things.  Very, very, good things.  They do not want to suck your blood, they do not spread rabies as much as other animals species. They are voracious insect eaters.  A cave full of bats can eat literally truckloads of insects in a single day.  Without them we would be in dire straits, overrun by hordes of insects.  So, how do we humans figure into this?  Contrary to popular belief, bats are not birds, they are mammals.  Bats are hibernating mammals, at that.  Humans hurt bats in two ways.  If we awaken hibernating bats in the winter, they don't just go back into hibernation, they go out and try to replenish their fat reserves.  Unfortunately for them, there are no insects to eat in winter and they can easily die.  Humans can also spread a disease known as White Nose Syndrome.  While WNS does not directly kill bats, it can disturb their internal thermostat, causing premature awakening from hibernation.  And we know how that ends.  So, be nice to bats.  

GPS Track - entire hike
GPS Track - Zoomed on waterfall/cave areas

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Paige Falls and Broadwater Hollow Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

1/20/2015 - Paige Falls and Broadwater Hollow Falls

GPS Coordinates: (Latitude, Longitude, Elevation)
  Parking:  36.10513,  -93.26685,  1268 feet
  Paige Falls:  36.10542,  -93.2 6714,  1236 feet
  Broadwater Hollow Falls:  36.10532,  -93.26685,  1226 feet

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

Motorcycle Friendly: Nope.  The road is definitely too rough.  It is only two miles down a dirt road to the parking location, but it is very rough.

Paige Falls (8 ft)
Paige Falls and Broadwater Hollow Falls are about as easy a hike to beautiful waterfalls as you will find.  This was not the hike I had wanted to make, but fate was somewhat fickle.  I had considered going hiking a couple of days ago, on a Sunday afternoon.  Instead, I decided to put it off for another day and cut up a bunch of firewood.  Soooo, one little accident when I was almost done, and I had to make a trip to the emergency room.  The ER was packed, but guess what?  Show them where a chain saw ate into your leg and they will rush you right into a room to get treated.  Thinking back, I guess that was the only upside.  The downside was it took six stitches inside to pull the muscle back together where it had been severed, then another six stitches outside to seal it up.  

Broadwater Hollow Falls (21 ft)
So I didn't really feel like hiking yesterday, particularly on a difficult bushwhack of several miles as I had intended.  Today, I was feeling just stupid enough to get back out in the woods and do some hiking.  But it was tempered with enough caution to scrap going to Horsehead Creek and go to Broadwater Hollow instead.  This was a fairly long drive for us, but a very short hike.  Just what I needed to test my limits.  As it turns out, this is a hike a toddler could do, but was about all my leg could take today.  

I suppose there is one other upside;  My wife, Bethany, was  not too keen on my going hiking at all, much less alone.  So as an additional bonus, I got to not only spend the day in the wilderness, I got to spend it with the love of my life.  Bethany, Boomer (our German Shepard) and I loaded up and headed north.

Turn off Highway 43 here!
To get there, go north on Highway 43 from Ponca for 8.7 miles and turn right onto NC-2660.  This turn onto  NC-2660 is 4.9 miles past the junction of Highways 103 and 43, and is 0.8 miles past the Compton post office.  Go two miles down NC-2660 and there will be a pullout on the left to park.  If you cross over the low water crossing at Broadwater Hollow, you have gone too far.  This parking spot is about halfway down the hill approaching the creek at Broadwater Hollow.  From the parking location, walk on down the road and cross the creek.  Another note about NC-2600; Newton County has done a great job putting new signs on every little road in the county.  I give them kudos for that.  However, some of the new road numbers don't match historic road numbers.  NC-2660 is shown as 'Newton 2200 Road' on some maps.  The only road sign, as you can see in the photo, is NC-2600.  This is a very rough road, but you should be able to take any vehicle down it if you take it slowly.

Small Unnamed Waterfall Upstream of Paige Falls
Once across the creek, there is a trail following the creek downstream.  Just below the road there are a series of small cascades, followed by a small waterfall.  Continuing on downstream, there are a couple of huge boulders separated by a crack a couple of feet wide.  You can go above, below, or between the boulders.  The trail here is not an engineered trail, but enough folks have visited to make the paths clearly visible.  

Boomer - in Broadwater Hollow
The top of Paige Falls is just below the giant boulders, and if you continue on downstream there are a couple of paths down to the base of the waterfall.  Paige Falls is not all that tall at eight feet, but it is very picturesque.  It spills over the ledge into an emerald pool that is, well, pretty as a picture.  It was here that I managed to step into a pool in the creek a lot deeper than it looked, getting my recent wound wet as well as getting water in my boots.  I hate that, but this was not that long a hike that I couldn't live with it.  

Bethany and Boomer - at Broadwater Hollow Falls
Broadwater Hollow Falls is just downstream from Paige Falls, but to get to the base of the waterfall, the best way is to climb back up to the trail and continue downstream on it.  Broadwater Hollow Falls will be visible just a few yards downstream, but resist the urge to go down the steep embankment to the creek.  If you go straight ahead, the trail slopes much more gently down to creek level, then you can go back upstream easily to the base of Broadwater Hollow Falls.  This waterfall is about 21 feet tall, starting out with a cascade at the top and falling into the rock of the creek bed below.  

Sometimes you gotta set up
the shot wherever you can.
After leaving Broadwater Hollow Falls, we continued on downstream to explore a little.  The creek here is very picturesque, primarily running on solid rock and therefore very clear.  Over the past few millennia, the creek has etched a channel in the rock.  Broadwater Hollow flows into Cecil Creek only about a quarter mile below Broadwater Hollow Falls.

By the time we headed back, my leg was starting to get somewhat painful.  I didn't damage it further, but learned my limitations for now.  I am glad we chose this particular hike to test it out.  For the record, Bethany was right.  I was in no way ready for a strenuous hike.  Maybe tomorrow...  Surely within a couple of weeks when the stitches come out and some smart doctor declares me officially healed.

All in all, another great day in the wilderness.  The hike was short, easy, without a lot of climbing or scrambling.  If all you do is go to Paige Falls and Broadwater Hollow Falls then head back, the total hike is a little over a half mile.  It was easy enough, still very pleasant even despite my bum leg, and I got to spend the day with my favorite hiking companions.  Can't wait for the next one.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hell's Hollow Falls, Arkansas Ozarks

1/16/2015 -  Hell's Hollow Falls

Pet Friendly: It is private land, and the owner does have dogs of her own, so ask first.  There are a couple of ~three foot steps at the bluffline break that Boomer may have trouble with, but a dog his size should be OK. 

Motorcycle Friendly: Paved road right to the owner's house

Bethany at Hell's Hollow Falls
I had been trying to get Bethany to relax and take some time off from her business, and what better way to relax than to forage out into the Ozarks.  Being out of cell phone range adds considerably to the ability to get away!  I managed to talk her into putting work aside, but she insisted on being back by noon, so I thought of Hell's Hollow.  This is an area I had not been to yet, as it is on private land.  Being on someone else's property brings with it additional considerations, so I tend to stay on the vast public lands virtually on our doorstep.  But with a shorter window today, this seemed perfect as it is only about six miles from our home.  It is on private land, so we left Boomer at home and I won't be publishing directional data with this post.

Icicles 20 feet long in Hell's Hollow
Hell's Hollow Falls is almost unknown in modern times.  A friend, Dan Frew, does a lot of research into Arkansas history and spends an inordinate amount of time exploring in the great Arkansas outdoors.  Dan had found a reference in an old book from the 1800's on the history of the area, and in that was a photo of "Devil's Hollow", with German pioneers in front of a waterfall.  The text discussed this as being in the Augsburg area, which came as somewhat of a surprise.  Dan had grown up in the Hector area, and had never heard of any waterfalls in the Augsburg area.  Bethany and I had lived only five miles from Augsburg since we moved to Arkansas in 1991, and had never heard of such.  

So this was intriguing, indeed.  As chance would have it, Dan was discussing this with a mutual friend who said, "I know where that is!"  He had hunted here, and was related in some manner to almost everyone that lived in the Augsburg area.  This hollow, which over the years had become known as "Hell's Hollow", instead of "Devil's Hollow", was on property owned by his relatives for generations.  It is owned today by his cousin, Kathleen.  

Rick at Hell's Hollow Creek
I gave the owner a call, and she not only agreed to let us hike out to the waterfall, but offered to give us detailed directions.  When we arrived at her house, she did much more than that.  She chatted us up for a bit, we exchanged stories about her cousin, then she offered to drive us back into her property about a half mile.  From that point she gave us detailed directions to the hollow and instructions for getting down to the base of the waterfall.  We're used to folks in the country being friendly and helpful, but she took it to a whole new level.  

'Bear Crack' Leading Down To Creek Level
Getting there was fairly easy.  Kathleen drove us about a half mile, and from there we followed an ATV trail for another half mile to the top of Hell's Hollow Falls.  Hell's Hollow at that point is fairly deep and steep, with precipitous sandstone cliffs all around the waterfall.  We hiked along the top of the bluffline about 90 yards downstream and found a break in the bluffline through which we could make our way down.   Once below the top of the bluff cliff, there was a bear crack leading down to creek level.  As with most bear cracks, it was a little steep but easily doable.  We then just had a short hike back along the base of the bluff cliff to the waterfall.

Hell's Hollow Falls
The creek running through Hell's Hollow appears to be one of those little spring fed creeks that keep a decent amount of flow all the time.  It had been almost two weeks since we had received any appreciable precipitation, but it still had a good amount of water flow.  This is another of those beautiful places in the natural state that photos can't really do justice to.  It is a little awe inspiring to find yourself in a place like this, knowing that only a handful of people even know of it's existence.  According to the landowner, it gets very few visitors now.  Many years ago she remembered playing and swimming there in her youth, but it rarely sees any human presence now.

Rick and Bethany - at Hell's Hollow Falls
After enjoying the beauty of the area and taking the requisite photos, we headed back the way we came.  The hike back was only about a mile to where we had parked at Kathleen's house.  The only elevation change to speak of was the descent down into the hollow and back out, and that was only about a hundred feet at the point of our bluffline break.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Short Grotto Falls, Engagement Hollow Polyfoss, Arkansas Ozarks

1/7/2015 - Short Grotto Falls, Amy Falls, others in the Engagement Hollow Polyfoss

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #1: 35.66268,  -93.62127,  1461 feet
  Parking Location #2: 35.66990,  -93.63350,  1050 feet
  Short Grotto Falls:  35.66817,  -93.6283,  1075 feet
  Amy Falls:  35.66672,  -93.62440,  1141 feet
  Unnamed Falls #6:  35.66758,  -93.62092,  1368 feet
  Whiskey Still Falls:  35.66733,  -93.62128,  1328 feet
  Unnamed Falls #4:  35.66722,  -93.62140,  1322 feet
  Unnamed Falls #3:  35.66662,  -93.62237,  1223 feet
  Unnamed Falls #2:  35.66442,  -93.62027,  1342 feet
  Unnamed Falls #1:  35.66403,  -93.62132,  1337 feet
  Fallen Timbers Falls:  35.665351,  -93.62170,  1269 feet
Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs off leash should be fine. Some of the terrain is a little steep and rugged, so if your dog can't be trusted off leash I would not recommend taking it.

Motorcycle Friendly: Nope, sorry.  If they ever open the bridge from Highway 215 across the Mulberry River at Yale then it might be acceptable.  Otherwise, too much dirt and gravel road for a heavy bike.

GPS files:

Short Grotto Falls
Today I got to visit an area I have had on my list for a while, an area previously untitled but now known as Engagement Hollow.  The power steering on my Explorer went out on Saturday's trip to Secret Falls, but my friend Dan Frew came through and drove us out for today's hike.  Unfortunately, I told Boomer (our German Shepard) that he had to sit this one out.  Dan offered to take him as well, but he tends to get a little car sick on real curvy roads.  It doesn't happen often, but I couldn't take the chance of having him barf in Dan's nice Jeep.  Boomer sulked, but he'll get over it.

Amy Falls
This area is not in Tim Ernst's Waterfalls of Arkansas book, at least not in the current edition.  Brian Emfinger did all the original documentation for this waterfall-rich area, and until very recently had not even given the area a name.  He took a friend into the area last month to propose to his wife-to-be, and named it Engagement Hollow at that time.  The lucky fiance, Amy, now has the waterfall that was the site for the proposal named after her as well.  Now, how cool is that?  Ladies, there are seven more nice sized unnamed waterfalls in this valley.  Grab your significant other and do a little arm twisting before they are gone!

Small Unnamed Chute Falls with Fallen Timber Falls above
This was my first trip into this area, so I did my due diligence the night before.  I reviewed Brian's directions, which you can find at this link.  I also mapped out the route and found that it involved a fair amount of back road driving.  On the maps, it looks like you can get a little short cut into this area by going down Highway 103 all the way to Highway 215, then going back across the Mulberry river on FR-1522 which would put you right at the back of this area.  You can't.  Maybe if they ever open the low water bridge on this road at the Yale community that would be a good route.  But for now, it's a no-go.

Falls #3
To get there, go north on Highway 103 from Clarksville and turn left (west) on CR-4160.  From where you turn north onto Highway 103 from Main Street (Highway 64) in Clarksville, it is 14.4 miles to the left turn onto CR-4160.  There is a sign there that says "Batson Church 5 Miles".  Go 2.8 miles on CR-4160, then turn right (north) on CR-4141.  After about a half mile on CR-4141, bear right onto FR-4401.  This road does have a marker a few yards down it, but is easy to miss.  About 1.5 miles down FR-4401, there is a 'Y'; bear left to stay on FR-4401 an additional 0.8 miles to the first parking location.

Falls #1
From the first parking location you can continue on FR-4401 for about another 1.5 miles, bearing right where it runs into FR-1522, to the second parking location.  Dan and I parked at the first parking location and started our hike there.  Having done it that way, I believe a better way is to park at the second location, then hike back up the road to the first parking location and start hiking down the hollow from the top.  If you have read any of the posts in my hiking blog, you probably have come to the conclusion already that I'm basically lazy and will take the easy way every time.  Hiking back up the road is easy hiking, but it's still uphill.  It is always best to do the uphill hiking early if you have a choice, while your legs are fresh.  Then you can do the bushwhack down the hollow, climb out, and voila - there's your vehicle.  

Falls #3 (background)
Today, it was below freezing all day, with a strong wind gusting to 35 mph.  So in an area like this with water dripping off virtually every bluffline, there was a lot of ice throughout the hollow.  We started out at the top of the hollow, as I said.  Brian had put a link to his GPS track file on his web site, and that certainly made life easier for us.  I imported that into my GPS and we were able to reference it at any time to make sure we were on track.  See the Topo map at the bottom of this post for reference.  

Hiking down from the parking location, we went straight down and across the first drainage, then followed the bluffline around to the first waterfall, Fall #1.  This is a fairly tall, tiered waterfall, and you have to back up a little to actually view the whole thing.

Falls #2
Continuing on around the bluffline to the right, we went up into a box canyon where we found Falls #2.  This is two tiered waterfall, flowing pretty well today.  It also had a good deal of ice built up on the bluff walls and the ground around the bluffline, making getting around somewhat difficult.  Going from Falls #2 on around the bluffline to the right, you are actually above the main creek.  You pass by a long cascade and Fallen Timber Falls down below the bluff cliff from where we hiked.  

Continuing on with the bluffline to the right, we came around and up into the next box canyon with Falls #4 at the top.  When you go into this box canyon, Falls #3 is clearly visible below the bluff.  Although we didn't make it there today, Whiskey Still Falls and Falls #6 are above the Falls #4.  From Falls #4, go back downstream from it to the bluff above Falls #3.  Going downstream, you will find a break in that bluffline in a few yards that will allow you to get down to the level of the main creek.  You can then double back to Falls #3, which is directly below it.  Yeah, I know - this gets confusing when most of the waterfalls don't have names.  I want to maintain some consistency with the way they are named on Brian's web page to prevent even more confusion.  It appears some of these don't match up well with his photos, so next trip in I'll create a drainage map to make it all very clear.

Fallen Timber Falls
From Falls #3, we went back upstream on the main creek to Fallen Timber Falls.  This is actually a fairly good sized waterfall and today had a good deal of flow.  Also, in my opinion, one of the more classic waterfalls in this hollow.  After visiting Fallen Timber Falls, we headed back downstream again.  Passing by Falls #3 again, we continued on the left side of the creek downstream, with the creek to our right.  This was maybe not the best of choices.  When we got to Amy Falls (previously Unnamed Falls #7), we were above a tall bluff cliff and had to go downstream a lot farther than I would have liked to find a break in the bluffline.  Even at that, it was a very steep break and was more of a 'slide on your butt' descent than a hike down.  Next time, I'll stick to the right side of the creek on the way downstream.  That appeared to be a much easier slope down to the base of Amy Falls.

Amy Falls
Amy Falls is a beautiful waterfall in a beautiful setting.  I can see why it was chosen as a location for a marriage proposal.  Today, there was pretty good flow making the waterfall really sing.  Huge icicles all around the bluff surrounding it made it seem all the more spectacular.  Downstream from Amy Falls is another small waterfall, also unnamed.  Compared to the others in this area it is quite small, but very pretty itself.  

Short Grotto Falls
Continuing on downstream, we soon came to Short Grotto Falls.  I had seen only a few photos of this one, but they were fantastic.  I don't know what I expected from a waterfall named 'Short Grotto', but the photos make it look much taller than it is.  Over the years, it has carved out a grotto with very deep overhangs on both sides.  The result is a very uniquely profiled waterfall, like no other that I know of.  It is definitely a very photogenic little waterfall.  Dan and I spent a good deal of time here capturing photos from a variety of viewpoints and lighting.  

Small waterfall downstream from Amy Falls
Up to this point we were using the GPS track file Brian had provided as a general guide.  His track continued on downstream for a distance, then up and out of the creek to the FR-1522 road.  We decided to shortcut that and just went up the valley wall from Short Grotto Falls.  It was a little steep, especially since we were about frozen anyway.  But it probably did cut a chunk of hiking out.  Once we were up out of the hollow and back on the road, it was a pretty easy hiking back to the Jeep.  Uphill, as I said before, but still easy hiking.  Next time I'll park at the lower end and hike up the road to start.

Dan at Fallen Timber Falls
All in all, another great day in the wilderness.  I could have lived without the sub-freezing temperatures and biting wind, but a great day of hiking nonetheless.  I would rate this a moderate to easy hike.  There is no undergrowth to speak of, so even though it is a bushwhack all the way it is an easy one.  This is definitely one I'll come back to again.

GPS Track for Engagement Hollow