Sunday, May 29, 2016

Still Hollow Polyfoss North Prongs, Ozarks west of Freeman Springs, Arkansas

5/28/2016 - Still Hollow Polyfoss - new route and even more waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location #2:  35.64255   -93.07780,  1808 ft.
  Parking Location #4:  35.64571   -93.08644,  1431 ft.
  Turn off trail to go to south prong:  35.64452   -93.09035,  1289 ft.
  Trace road to eastern prongs:  35.64520   -93.09152,  1234 ft.
  General Ed Falls:  35.65053,  -93.08112,  1103 ft.
  Wynona Falls:  35.65001,  -93.07834,  1157 ft.
  Wilburn Falls:  35.65027   -93.07432,  1284 ft.
  Falls #31:  35.65033   -93.07381,  1301 ft.
  Falls #32:  35.65063   -93.07289,  1371 ft.
  Falls #33:  35.65015   -93.07130,  1364 ft.
  Margie Marie Falls:  35.64989   -93.07634,  1208 ft.
  Maid Marion Falls:  35.65003   -93.07716,  1191 ft.
  Falls #42:  35.65063   -93.07276,  1331 ft.
  Bluffline Break to drop to Houston Falls:  35.65276   -93.07884,  1276 ft.
  Houston Falls: 35.65392   -93.07865,  1307 ft 
  Maggie Lou Falls:  35.65300   -93.07912,  1259 ft.
  Falls #34:  35.65236   -93.07962,  1228 ft.
  Beckham Falls:  35.65211   -93.07972,  1207 ft.
  Rock Chute Falls:  35.65199   -93.07973,  1197 ft.
  Bluffline Break for Rock Chute:  35.65160   -93.07972,  1170 ft.
  Uncle Kenneth Falls:  35.65150   -93.07994,  1162 ft.
  James Lidge Falls:  35.65208   -93.08666,  1181 ft.
  Margaret Lois Falls:  35.65247   -93.08671,  1192 ft.
  Falls #5:  35.65125,  -93.09400,  1093 ft.
  Berford Falls:  35.65121,  -93.09399,  1091 ft.
  Vernell Falls:  35.65125,  -93.09381,  1069 ft.
  The Sidewalk (Slot):  35.64828,  -93.09065,  974 ft.
  Sally Lou Falls:  35.64801   -93.09163,  961 ft.
  Still Hollow Twin Falls:  35.64782   -93.09160,  961 ft.
  ATV trail:  35.64791   -93.09109,  976 ft.

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs off leash may be okay, but there are some areas they may have difficulty getting into and out of.  This is what I would call a difficult bushwhack.  If you think your dog needs to be on a leash, you are in for a long day.  There is a lot of undergrowth and opportunity for entanglement on the knobs between hollows.  I did take Boomer today, but he is always off leash, very well trained, and takes pride in being the king of mountain dogs.

The Forest Service 'road' - you have been warned
Motorcycle Friendly:  No, unless you don't mind a little extra hiking.  When 
you turn off Highway 7 onto Dare Mine Road, instead of going down the old Jeep road you could just park and hike in from there.  It will add about a half mile of hiking each way; that's over 1.5 miles to hike just to get to the bottom of Still Hollow, and the same hike coming back with a 1000 foot elevation gain.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, Still Hollow is over 1200 feet of elevation change.  Boomer and I ended up hiking 10.33 miles with a "highest to lowest" elevation change of only 550 feet this time.  We did, however, make several climbs of several hundred feet as we went in and out of the various hollows in this drainage system.  We followed my "rules for hiking Still Hollow" as much as possible.  It is, however, still what I would rate as a difficult bushwhack.  At this time of year, I would degrade that to very difficult bushwhack.  We were hiking for 8 hours and 34 minutes on the track at the bottom of this post.  See my tips for hiking Still Hollow at the bottom of this post.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.

Houston Falls - with Rick
Still Hollow has to be the most prolific polyfoss area in Arkansas, and that's saying a lot.  In three previous visits, we identified 39 significant waterfalls.  By 'significant', I mean waterfalls that are big enough or otherwise picturesque enough to be deemed 'photo-worthy'.  If you have Tim Ernst's excellent guidebook, Arkansas Waterfalls, these would be the waterfalls that he has names for, marked a "W", or has marked as unnamed waterfalls with a black "w" on his maps.  If Tim puts Still Hollow in his next edition, his wife will have a heck of a time adding all the "W"s and "w"s on this area.  In addition to the 39 previously identified, Boomer and I came across five more new ones.  I have no doubt there are even more that we just have not stumbled upon in our explorations.

Maggie Lou Falls
The problem with Still Hollow is that it is extremely rugged and steep, somewhat like the Richland Wilderness area in ruggedness, but less accessible and with much more undergrowth in certain spots.  Unlike Richland, it has very dense thickets of brush, saplings, vines, briers, blackberries, and anything else hikers don't care for on the knobs between hollows.  I know people once lived all through these hollows in the Ozarks that are now public land.  Gradually, one way or another, most of that land is no longer in private hands.  Early settlers used mules and horses to get down into these hollows, and in later days, loggers cut roads into them.  Still Hollow was much more of a challenge to these folks, so there weren't that many trails cut into it in the first place.  Now that it is entirely public land, very few folks go there.  I have not even seen signs that hunters venture into the hollow itself, which makes sense.  The old Forest Service track is the only place to get an ATV into even, and nobody is going to pack a bear or deer out of terrain like this.

Margie Marie Falls
Today, Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I were headed back to see if Still Hollow was even doable in "leaves on" season, and to get some photos of some of my favorite waterfalls here now that it had greened up.  My three previous visits here were all in "leaves off" season, but I have learned enough about this hollow that I thought a late spring visit would go okay.  Boomer and I loaded up in the FJ Cruiser and headed north.  Today's hike was all focused on getting in and out of the prongs in the north and east parts of Still Hollow, and maybe doing a little more exploration.  You can see previous blog posts for Still Hollow here:
  11/18/2015 - Initial visit to some of the north prongs
  1/15/2016 - Visit to the big south prong, which also has scads of waterfalls
  3/28/2016 - Return visit to the north prongs to blaze a new, better route

Beckham Falls
Driving directions are fairly simple.  From the Dover square (intersection of Highways 7 and 27), go north on Highway 7 for 21.2 miles.  This will take you to the small community of Freeman Springs.  Turn left (southwest) on Dare Mine Road (aka CR-1806).  Go down Dare Mine Road just a couple hundred yards and turn right onto an old Jeep road.  If you don't have a decent 4WD vehicle, you should probably park right there and hoof it the rest of the way.  This is a narrow "door scraper" trail.  If you have one of those show Jeeps and like to keep it pretty, you may add some "Arkansas pin striping"
Sally Lou Falls
to your pretty little show Jeep.  I will say that it hasn't done my FJ Cruiser any permanent damage.  About a half mile down this road is a food plot that is a pretty good parking area, designated as parking location #2 on the coordinates above.  Today, we used the knowledge gained from my last visit and went in about 2/3 mile more, to the coordinates for parking location #4.  After that, there are some sizable hardwood saplings growing up that would have challenged the width of my vehicle.  An old Jeep Wrangler with a bull bar could probably make it to the turn off the trail to the old bench trace road.  Or, if you really want to be nice, take a chainsaw or cordless saws-all and take care of those saplings so I can drive down there.

Berford Falls
Starting out from this parking location further down the mountain helps, but it really helps on the way out, when you are already tired and that extra mileage and 400+ feet of climbing are a killer.  The climb out is still bad, just not nearly as bad as it was last time.  Boomer and I made quick time getting down to the turn off on the bench road, but it was definitely a harder slog this time of year as the "Arkansas jungle", fully leafed out and growing, pretty much tried to take over the old road bed.  The old trace road along the bench, having the cover of the large trees, was not that much worse.  There were paw-paws and other low growing stuff, but nothing that will give a seasoned bushwhacker pause.  We followed the bench route all the way to where we dropped off to go to the creek last time, but decided to do a little exploration this time and continued on.  Where the old bench road comes to a small creek, we stayed high, crossed a little cascade on that creek, and continued on along the edge of the bench, where the old trace reappeared.  It becomes much more trace and less discernible as you go, but it is not difficult to bushwhack along the edge of this bench.

General Ed Falls
The bench is easy enough to hike on since it stays below all that mess of thickets higher up and above the rock jumble closer to the creek.  This bench slowly descends to almost creek level, and we found Margie Marie Falls where a major tributary drainage came into the main creek from the south.  This creek had pretty good flow, and after getting home and mapping it out, that whole drainage looks very promising for more significant waterfalls.  I would be willing to bet there is one at about 1300 feet elevation, on the same capstone that forms Wilburn Falls.  But instead of looking into that whole drainage that I had not yet
Margaret Lois Falls
explored, I got distracted and followed it the other way, then found an easy hiking route on the bench on the north side of the creek and followed it all the way to the hollow above General Ed Falls.  This was one of the waterfalls I wanted to see this trip anyway, but looping back like that added a good deal of hiking time and distance since I now had to go back upstream to the others I wanted to re-visit anyway.  Now you see why some of my hikes end up taking me places I never intended.

Wynona Falls
After visiting General Ed Falls, we hiked upstream to Wynona Falls, then continued on to the others along the main creek.  Between Wynona Falls and the drainage on the right (south) where we found Margie Marie Falls, we found yet another waterfall on the main creek.  Maid Marion Falls is a double waterfall only about eight feet tall, but it flows into a long frothing stretch that is something between a cascade and a water slide before flowing into a small pool.  It's kind of unique looking, and definitely photo worthy.  How, you might ask, could I have been through here twice and still have missed this?  When hiking along a drainage, we don't always stay close to the creek.  Often it's just much easier to hike up on a low bluff than to mess with the rock hopping and downed trees along the creek itself.  Sometimes grottos and blufflines will force you to hike at a higher level.  

Wilburn Falls
Our next stop was Wilburn Falls.  This one had just the right amount of flow today and looked great.  Recent storms had brought some trees down into the grotto, but I managed to shoot around that for the most part.  This is where I started having some camera problems.  At Wilburn Falls, and the stops further upstream at Falls #31, Falls #32, and Falls #33, I had some kind of focus issue with my Nikon 1 V3.  By the time I got to Houston Falls, it seemed to have healed itself, but then on photos at a couple of the other waterfalls, I noticed the same issue.   Maybe it is time to take it back to the shop.  What is aggravating is that you don't notice until you get back home to see all the cool shots you made that day.  

Maid Marion Falls
At any rate, we went from Falls #33 around the spur and into the hollow containing Houston Falls.  Along the way, we found yet another new waterfall, Falls #42, in a side drainage.  I remember seeing this one on the last visit and wondering if it might be a decent waterfall in wetter conditions.  It is indeed, but it's definitely only a wet weather waterfall.  On my last trip here, I stayed very high on the bluffline because I wanted to explore some above Houston Falls.  This time, I knew there wasn't anything for quite a way above Houston Falls, so I tried to pick the best spot to drop below the bluffline on the east side.  As it turns out, I did not choose wisely.  I could hear the crashing of water from Houston Falls and Maggie Falls just downstream from it and thought I should drop below the bluffline before it closed in on the top of the waterfall.  If you drop down too soon, you get yourself into a mess of brush and vines and clinging to the side of a cliff, trying not to fall.  I marked coordinates for a bluffline break adjacent to Maggie Falls that provides a very easy route down to the base of Houston Falls.

Houston Falls
There are some other big waterfalls in the south and northwest prongs of Still Hollow, but Houston Falls is my favorite.  The water here seems to always run very clear, it usually has good flow even in drier times, and the setting is spectabulous, with a huge rock plunked down in the middle of the grotto and smaller waterfalls running off the base.  It's also named for my Dad, a highly decorated WWII vet, who passed away over 10 years ago, so it holds a special place in my heart.  I tried to get a good photo with me next to it for scaling, but every time I set the timer and ran over next to the waterfall, Boomer would wander into the photo during the six-second exposure.  I can hold still for that long, Boomer can not.  When I ran for the base of the waterfall, he took that as his cue to be released from hold.  I finally gave up, and we moved on downstream.  

Rock Chute Falls
We stopped at Maggie Falls and all the others downstream in this drainage.  Beckham Falls still has a very large log jammed across it, but it is easy to get a good photo angle of the entire waterfall without it.  With all the spring greenery, Beckham Falls was much more picturesque today.  At Rock Chute Falls this time I knew where to climb down and back out, a huge benefit over my first hike discovering this waterfall.  Someday I need to figure out how to get a good shot of this one without drowning.  There was enough flow that water actually backed
up inside the chute until it found another gap it could run out of.  Once you see a thousand or so waterfalls in the Ozarks, many of them tend to look quite similar.  This isn't a really large waterfall, but it is certainly unique.  I know of a few that flow out of the mouths of caves, and a couple inside of caves, but this is the only one I know falling into a chute like this.  

James Lidge Falls
From Uncle Kenneth Falls at the bottom of this drainage, we headed on downstream.  I wanted to at least check out Toil Falls and Trouble Falls, so we stayed high on the bluff above the north side of the main creek.  We stayed just below where all the brushy thickets started and soon came to the middle prong on the north side of the main creek.  Dan and I had not visited this on our initial hike here, and on my last solo visit, it had barely a trickle of water in it.  This time, however, there was pretty good flow in the drainage and sure enough, there were a couple of new waterfalls right where I crossed.  James Lidge Falls and Margaret Lois Falls are both cool and unique looking waterfalls.  James Lidge Falls slides right off a huge chunk of stone.  This drainage undoubtedly contains more waterfalls.  I would expect some nice ones at about the same elevation as Toil, Trouble, and Houston Falls.  But today, we had already been out hiking many hours and many miles so I decided to save that for another day also.  Preferably a nice, cold, wet, winter day.

Trouble Falls
Toil Falls visible in the background
Continuing on around the spur into the northwest drainage, staying just below the "thicket line" put us at just the right elevation to drop down to Toil Falls first, then back up on the same (east) side, and down to the base of Trouble Falls directly below it.  These were flowing well today, but the summer foliage definitely makes a difference.  Both of these are double falls, and in "leaves off" season, you can clearly see the double-double from the base of Trouble Falls.  Double-double, Toil, and Trouble, get it?  That still cracks me up.  The foliage does partially obscure the right side waterfall of Toil Falls from below, but it is still a cool sight.  One more thing about these two waterfalls; when you get down in the grottos, it feels like someone left the air conditioning on.  Apparently, adiabatic cooling works even in Arkansas, and it was refreshingly cool at the base of both of them.

Vernell Falls
We stopped briefly at Falls #5, Berford Falls, and Vernell Falls before continuing down to Sally Lou Falls and the Still Hollow Twin Falls, where we would start our climb out.   Very brief stops, since I could tell Boomer was getting worn out, and I was certainly feeling the strain of hiking in high humidity, temperatures in the 80s, and very rough terrain.  But once you get down to the Still Hollow Twin Falls, the slot we call 'The Sidewalk' is just a short stroll upstream and is worth a visit every time.  We needed a little rest time before our climb out anyway.  

Toil Falls
The climb from Still Hollow Twin Falls to the point the bench road splits off is all along the old Forest Service track, but even though it isn't a bushwhack at this point doesn't make it easy.  It's only about 0.2 miles, but is very steep and when you are already tired can really take it out of you.  I didn't need but one breather on that long hike from Hemmed-In Hollow Falls back to the Compton Trailhead, but had to stop a few times to catch my breath today.  This hike is highly recommended, but ONLY if you are a hiker experienced with bushwhacks and are up for a challenging hike.  I have always rated this as a difficult bushwhack, and with late May temperatures and foliage, it is even more challenging.  So have fun exploring this great polyfoss area, but be warned it won't be your typical stroll in the park.  I'll be back a few times, I'm sure.  On this trip alone, I have identified a couple more drainages I want to explore.

Margaret Lois Falls
Any section of Still Hollow can be a challenging hike, just due to the nature of the terrain.  But if you follow some simple rules, you can visit the great water features without killing yourself.  Rules for Still Hollow:
  • Stay off the knobs (see glossary/FAQ)!  The lower, steeper, reaches of Still Hollow are more inaccessible, which means not as easy to log.  Logging years ago on the higher areas of the knobs was done in such a way that dense undergrowth was allowed to basically take over.
    Uncle Kenneth Falls
  • Be prepared to climb into and out of many of the waterfall basins to get to the base of a waterfall.  There are a lot of areas where it is just too dangerous to try to skirt along the bluffline from the top of a waterfall, looking for a break in the bluff.  You have to climb up to an area where the slope is manageable, then find a bluffline break.  Sometimes this conflicts with the first rule.  Oh, well.
  • Use the old road through the food plot and the trace roads on the south bench where you can.  They don't cut into the hollows at all, but will get you from one section of Still Hollow to another with decent hiking terrain.  The Forest Service track also cuts right through all the thickets on the big southeast knob.
GPS Tracks - Norther Prongs of Still Hollow
Red - November 2015 trip
Blue - Bench Trace Road Route - March 2016 trip
Yellow - Creek Route - March 2016 trip

Today's GPS track - quite a bit of needless looping back;
I recommend just using the bench and creek routes above

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hideout Hollow Falls, near Compton, Arkansas

5/26/2016 -  Hideout Hollow Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  36.07305   -93.26588
  Hideout Hollow Falls:  36.08080   -93.26977
Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs on or off leash should be fine.  I have been told that the Hideout Hollow trail is maintained by the National Park Service and that because of that, dogs are not permitted on the trail.  I have not verified that either of those statements are correct.  I can tell you there are no signs to that effect at the trailhead, as there are at nearby Lost Valley and the Compton trailhead.  Hideout Hollow appears to be just inside the boundary of the Buffalo National River, so it probably is within the jurisdiction of the Park Service.  UPDATE 6/7/2106 - This area is part of the Buffalo National River and is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.  Pets are not allowed on trails within the Buffalo National River, with the exception of the Mill Creek trail and the Buffalo Point campground trails.  You can see the NPS policy here.

Motorcycle Friendly: No, not at all friendly to your big bike.  The trailhead is 3.5 miles down a dirt road that gets pretty rough the last mile or two.

Hiking Statistics:  This is an easy hike, at least to the top of the falls.  It is one mile each way and the highest-to-lowest elevation change is only 150 feet.  Our actual hiking time was only about 20 minutes each way.  There are a couple of small creeks to cross, but I would still rate this an easy hike.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.

Hideout Hollow Falls (37 ft)
Hideout Hollow is yet another of the well known Arkansas waterfalls that I had never been to.  After Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I finished our hike at Sweden Creek Natural Area, we still had plenty of time left in the day.  I had not really done any preparatory work for hiking Hideout Hollow, but I knew where it was, less than a half hour from Sweden Creek.  Why not see this one since it was in the area and the bulk of the driving was already done?  

Compton post office
To get there, go to the small community of Compton, 8.8 miles north of Ponca on Highway 43.  The small Compton post office will be on the left (coming from Ponca).  Turn right on the gravel road across the highway from the post office.  This is NC-2700.  At least that is what the road sign says.  Agnetha, the young lady in my Cruiser's GPS that talks to me incessantly, insists on calling this road NC-2800, no matter how many times I correct her.  And my road map calls it NC-2250.  All I can tell you is that I'm going with the road sign. At the first intersection, turn right (to stay on NC-2700).   Stay on NC-2700 and go a total of 3.5 miles from the Compton post office.  There will be a place to park on the right, and a sign pointing to the Hideout Hollow trail.

Boomer and I set off down the trail.  I didn't do any preparatory work, as I mentioned, but at least I had the GPS coordinates already in my handheld GPS unit.  I didn't need it.  The trail is well defined and easy to follow.  It is blazed with white rectangular markers similar to that used on the OHT, but not as well done.  You really don't need the trail blazes either, since the trail is very easy to follow.  After crossing a decent sized creek, the trail goes across the knob and follows the top of the bluffline around to Hideout Hollow Falls.  I have heard this waterfall needs a good deal of water to look its best, so we must have had those conditions today.  It looks great.

Hideout Hollow Falls (37 ft)
Just viewing a waterfall from the top is not really my cup of tea.  It is usually a much better experience at the base of the falls.  Unfortunately, Boomer and I looked around quite a bit, going down the bluff on both sides trying to find a break in the bluffline.  If anything, the drop off appeared to get higher and more sheer than it was at Hideout Hollow Falls itself.  This predicament is exactly why I always try to do my homework the night before a hike and study the topo maps, Google Earth, and anything else I can find.  Since it looked like a thunderstorm was brewing, Boomer and I gave up on our search for a bluffline break and headed back to the car.  On the way back, a couple of young women rounded a corner in the trail, saw us, and let out that startled shriek that young women do.  They immediately told Boomer all about what a magnificent dog he was, so I can only imagine that it was me they found so unsettling initially.  I'll try not to take offense.  I rarely see anyone else while out hiking; it's nice to see others out enjoying the great outdoors in our beautiful state.  

There is a ledge on the other side of the top of the falls that may allow access to the base.  After getting home, I did a little looking around and determined one way may be to go down that creek that we crossed until below the bluffline, and then simply follow the base of the bluff around to the waterfall.  Another may be to take the Cecil Cove Loop Trail, which crosses Hideout Hollow between the waterfall and Cecil Creek.  Despite only going to the top of the waterfall, I would still recommend this hike.  If your hiking skills or ability limits you to relatively easy hikes, this is a good one you can take with a really nice waterfall at the end and lots of wide open scenery of the Buffalo River area along the way.  I'm coming back to this one, but probably in "leaves off" season so I can scout out a good route to the base of the waterfall.
GPS Track - Hideout Hollow Falls

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sweden Creek Falls, Sweden Creek Natural Area, near Boxley, Arkansas

5/26/2016 -  Sweden Creek Falls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.97226   -93.45122
  Bear crack where the trail splits:  35.97415   -93.45618
  Unnamed waterfalls (3):  35.974529   -93.45616
  Sweden Creek Falls:  35.97150   -93.45920

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

Motorcycle Friendly:  Not "friendly", for sure.  Maybe "motorcycle doable" is a better term.  It is three miles down a gravel road that is generally maintained pretty well.  I wouldn't take mine there, but as one of my nephews says, "heck, my driveway is in worse shape than that."  To each his or her own.

Hiking Statistics:  This is an easy hike, with a trail all the way to the top and bottom of Sweden Creek Falls.  The Sweden Creek Natural Area (NA) is only about 350 feet from top to bottom.  Boomer and I did some extra bushwhacking, but from the parking location to Sweden Creek Falls is less than a mile each way, and is an elevation change of only 200 feet.  I would rate this hike as easy, but with some special caution is you take children on the upper trail.  Today we hiked 2.7 miles, and despite the extra bushwhack and a lot of poking around, spent less than two hours hiking.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.

Sweden Creek Falls (81 ft)
Sweden Creek Falls is yet another of those waterfalls that I have never visited. This is a "big un", at 81 feet; how could I not have been to see it?  I suppose it has something to do with being over an hour and a half drive, but it still seems I would have done this hike at least once since moving to Arkansas 25 years ago.  Today, after a lot of recent rain and more forecast for later today, I was looking for a waterfall I could get down to and back fairly quickly if I did happen to get caught in a downpour.  Sweden Creek certainly fits that bill, and as I said, it was sitting out there in my "not seen yet" folder.  I've been meaning to knock some of those off the list instead of always going out into new unexplored areas, so today, Boomer (our German Shepherd) and I set out to see this one.

Sign at turn off Highway 21
Getting there is pretty easy, even if it is a long drive for me.  From the junction of Highways 21 and 43 south of Boxley, go north on Highway 21 for 1.9 miles, then turn left (west) onto NC-9500.  Note that the road sign here says MC-3260, which is the road it turns into.  Follow NC-9500/MC-3260 for 3.7 miles and park on the right.  There is now a large sign at the gate for the Sweden Creek Natural Area (NA) and a parking pad has been graded out for a couple of vehicles next to it.

Sweden Creek Natural Area Trailhead
The Sweden Creek Falls NA is one of 71 Natural Areas afforded some protection by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission to preserve it for "low impact" recreational use, such as hiking.  Perfect for us waterfall chasers, indeed.  This one is in Tim Ernst's great guidebook, Arkansas Waterfalls.  If you don't have a copy of this hiking treasure, get one.  It's how I found this and many other waterfalls, and really gave my retirement waterfall chasing a boost.  It used to be privately held, but about all that is left now is the road that led to the old homestead.  That old road is the first half of the hike down to Sweden Creek Falls. 

The old road
with Boomer
Boomer and I walked past the locked gate and started hiking down the old road.  This property is being well cared for, it seems.  The old road is one of the nicest trails I have seen and shows signs of having been mowed recently.  They have put water brakes across it at strategic locations to help prevent erosion.  The road goes less than a half mile downhill to the old homestead site, and here you will find a bear crack leading down through the bluff line.  This is also where the trail splits; if you go down through the bear crack, the trail runs along the base of the bluff on your left to the base of Sweden Creek Falls.  The trail branch to the left runs along the top of the bluff to the top of the waterfall.

Middle of the Three Unnamed Falls
Boomer and I headed down to the lower trail first.  As soon as you descend through the bear crack, you will hear that familiar waterfall sound off to your right.  There is a faint volunteer trail that will take you over to the tributary creek here that flows down into Sweden Creek.  There are three small waterfalls, one right after the other, just  a few yards off the main trail.  We headed over to check them out first.  The trail takes you down to the base of the middle waterfall, and from there you can easily go up to the top one, or down to the lower one, on the left side as you face them.  While only 10 to 15 feet tall each, they pale in comparison to big brother Sweden Creek Falls but are nonetheless pretty nice in their own right.

Lower of the Three Unnamed Waterfalls
The upper two can be seen in the background
After spending some time with the three unnamed waterfalls, I looked downstream and (of course) wondered if there might be more.  I made a mental note to check it out, then went back to the lower trail and started following it around to the main attraction.  The trail is blazed with blue diamond markers, but they are not really needed.  If you stay somewhat close to the base of the bluff and keep it on your left, you will get there.  The lower trail goes around and over rocks, under some overhangs, and such, so it is not the best trail in the world.  That being said, I'm used to bushwhacking on most hikes with no trails whatsoever, so this was actually something of a luxury for me.  

Sweden Creek Falls (81 ft)
About a half mile from where the trail split back at the bear crack, you arrive at Sweden Creek Falls.  Today, it was spectacular.  The recent rains ensured there was a good amount of flow, and it apparently had been long enough since that rain to allow the water to clear up.  Today, it was gushing over the bluff above and was crystal clear when it fell into the very large pool at its base.  It was about 178% humidity today, with temperatures in the low 80's, so I seriously considered taking a dip in the pool.  It is a natural area, but I don't think 'au natural' is what they had in mind.  Maybe next time I'll wear shorts or swimming trunks.  At any rate, I didn't know if others were likely to hike down here today, so I just kept my clothes on.  You're welcome.

I was thinking about the other drainage that flowed into Sweden Creek a half mile or so downstream, and I suppose I was feeling a little guilty about hiking all the way here on an actual trail.  On top of that, it was a fairly easy hike and my boots hadn't even been flooded once yet.  So Boomer and I set off on a little bushwhack detour, hiking down Sweden Creek and back up the tributary drainage.  Sweden Creek exhibited a phenomenon I occasionally see here in the Ozarks.  With all the flow coming over the waterfall and falling into the pool at the base of the falls, absolutely none of it flowed out.  All the creek flow went underground and came back up in the stream bed about 50 yards downstream.

Upper waterfall of the Three Unnamed Falls
The bushwhack downstream and then back up the smaller drainage was a little rough, and the undergrowth was pretty thick.  As I mentioned, it was very humid and warm, and by the time we got back up to the three unnamed waterfalls at the trail split, I was soaked in sweat.  Save yourself the aggravation on exploring the rest of the area.  Other than the picturesque Sweden Creek itself, I found nothing of interest.  There was one area downstream of the three waterfalls that may have had a nice waterfall before, but a recent landslide took a big chunk of the creek bluff away.  At any rate, my curiosity is now satisfied, and I'll not do that extra bushwhack again.

Sweden Creek Falls
After climbing through the bear crack, we headed down the upper trail to check it out.  Usually, you can't see much from the top of Ozark waterfalls, but in this case, there were a couple of vantage points that provided a great view of Sweden Creek Falls.  The upper trail is what I would call super easy as far as hiking goes.  It is well marked, on the level, and runs along the top of the bluff.  One word of caution is needed, though;  in wet conditions such as we had today, the rock along the top of the bluff can get slick.  Sometimes, this rock is very close to the edge of the bluff and sloped over the bluffline.  I would not advise taking small children along the upper trail unless you keep a close eye on them and keep them well back from the edge of the bluff.  It is a long, long, way down.

Sweden Creek Falls
We returned along the upper trail, then back up the old road to the parking location.  Even with our little detours and traversing both the upper and lower trail, we were hiking for less than two hours.  I would highly recommend this hike for everyone.  As previously stated, if you take small children, I would advise taking them on the lower trail.  They will probably handle the ups and downs of it better than you will, and the pool at the base of the waterfall will make their day.  Boomer and I had plenty of our day left, so we decided to head over to Hideout Hollow, less than a half hour away.
GPS Track - Sweden Creek Falls

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Brushy Fork (northeast prong) Waterfalls, Ozarks near Hatley Mountain, north east of Hector, Arkansas

5/18/2016 - Brushy Fork waterfalls

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location:  35.55561   -92.77333,  1654 ft.
  Turn off trail:  35.55327   -92.78734,  1195 ft.
  Brushy Grotto Falls:  35.55442   -92.78558,  1254 ft.
  Lower end of slot canyon:  35.55459   -92.78517,  1241 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.55478   -92.78480,  1255 ft.
  Falls #3:  35.55698   -92.77939,  1360 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.55728   -92.77718,  1400 ft.

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs off leash should be okay.  

Motorcycle Friendly:  No. This is many, many, miles down a not-so-good dirt road.

Hiking Statistics:  We hiked 3.0 miles in the northeast prong of Brushy Fork today, with a highest to lowest elevation difference of 532 feet.  There was the typical amount of Arkansas undergrowth and the creek itself can be somewhat slippery, so I would rate this as a moderate bushwhack.  We were hiking 2 hours and 5 minutes on the track at the bottom of this post.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.
  Brushy Fork Waypoints
  GPS track - northeast prong of Brushy Fork

Brushy Grotto Falls
After an early morning hike in the upper part of Sand Cave Hollow, my hiking companions (Dan Frew and Jim Fitsimones) and I were not ready to call it a day yet.  Sand Cave Hollow was a good hike as far as hiking goes, but the low water flow in the creeks and almost dry waterfalls left us wanting something more.  Dan has been to Brushy Grotto Falls several times and knew it to be a waterfall that looks good even in drier times.  Since Hatley Mountain was not far from where we parked for Sand Cave Hollow, we decided to check it out.  The small drainage containing this waterfall is on the west side of Hatley Mountain, across Brushy Fork from the drainage containing John Mountain Falls and Ladderbucket Falls.  Both of these drainages flow into Brushy Fork, a tributary of the Little Red River.

Falls #4
For getting there otherwise, drive north from Hector on Highway 27.  Less than a mile from the Big Piney Ranger station in Hector, you cross over Dare Creek.  Immediately after crossing Dare Creek, turn right onto White Oak Mountain Road (aka FR-1301).  This is a gravel road but is a well traveled and fairly well-maintained road.  Go 15.2 miles on White Oak Mountain Road.  Be careful 7.2 miles from Highway 27 and bear left where the road branches at the 'Y' in the road.  After following White Oak Mountain Road for 15.2 miles, turn right onto Hatley Mountain Road.  Go 5.8 miles down Hatley Mountain Road, then turn right onto a Jeep road.  The farther your vehicle can go down this Jeep road, the less hiking you have to do, so use your best judgment and know the limits of your vehicle.  The Jeep road narrows somewhat and becomes more of an ATV trail.  Today, we could only go 0.4 miles; a recent storm had brought a large tree down right across the road, so that is where we parked.

Brushy Grotto Falls
We hiked from the parking location on down the Jeep road for approximately a half mile and turned right onto an ATV trail that goes down the spur at the south side of this hollow.   We hiked almost all the way down to Brushy Fork, breaking off the ATV trail to the right at (35.55327   -92.78734) and bushwhacking down to the creek.  You can break off the trail at any point below Brushy Grotto Falls, but you will need to be far enough downstream to come up into the grotto to the base of the waterfall.  Brushy Grotto Falls is a steeply winding cascade type waterfall, flowing into a large, beautiful pool.  It reminds me a little of Ladderbucket Falls, directly across Brushy Fork from it.  Dan was correct about this one; even with the relatively low flow, it still looks great.  

Falls #2
Leaving Brushy Grotto Falls, we hiked upstream to check out the other water features in this drainage.  Directly above the top of Brushy Grotto Falls is a very long slot canyon.  Due to the steep bluff walls along it, it is best to hike upstream along the top of the bluffline until you see Falls #2, at which point you can safely descend to creek level.  The slot canyon extends all the way from the base of Falls #2 downstream to the top of Brushy Grotto Falls.  

Falls #3
There are a couple more waterfalls upstream; Falls #4 is about a half mile upstream from Falls #2, and along the way is a small, but kind of unique, waterfall.  Falls #3 is formed by three large slabs of rock overhanging the creek bed.  The creek flow was rather low today, but that made another feature of this waterfall more noticeable; right in the middle of the lower slab is a big hole that much of the creek's flow runs through.  This is a small one, but a cool one for sure.  Falls #4, another couple hundred yards upstream, is a beautiful waterfall in a stunning setting, approximately eight feet tall.

Falls #4
Leaving Falls #4, the creek splits into two streams, and we hiked up the spur between the two.  Our parking location was almost directly uphill along the spur.  This is a small drainage with a lot of character.  A good deal of hiking one way was along the old Jeep road and ATV trail, so at least part of it is not a bushwhack.  I think it might be easier to hike downstream along the creek, then go up to the ATV trail from Brushy Grotto Falls.  I think I would rather do the climb out along the trail instead of bushwhacking.  This hike is recommended, and as we found today, it's a pretty good one even when there isn't a lot of rain.
GPS Track - Brushy Grotto Falls

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sand Cave Hollow Waterfalls, Blue Hole Special Interest Area, Ozarks north of Hector, Arkansas

5/18/2016 - Sand Cave Falls and other new waterfalls in Sand Cave Hollow

GPS Coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking Location (Sand Cave):  35.54491   -92.90199,  1100 ft
  Parking Location (Waterfalls):  35.54849   -92.89378,  1279 ft
  Sand Cave:  35.54430,  -92.90148,  1059 ft
  Falls #1:  35.54135   -92.90110,  881 ft.
  Falls #2:  35.54208   -92.89472,  1032 ft.
  Sand Cave Falls:  35.54114   -92.89268,  1126 ft.
  Falls #4:  35.54131   -92.89254,  1142 ft.
  Sand Cave Quintuple Falls:  35.54121   -92.89229,  1202 ft.
  Falls #10:  35.54677   -92.89185,  1195 ft.

Pet-Friendly:  Dogs off leash should be okay.  Dogs on leash will make it difficult to access many of these areas, but could be done.

Motorcycle Friendly:  No. Parking is off Lindsey Mountain Motorway.  This is a not-so-good dirt road many miles down other dirt roads.  Not recommended for street bikes and cruisers.

Hiking Statistics:  From top to bottom, the Blue Hole SIA is about 1000 feet of elevation change.  Today, Jim, Dan, and I hiked 2.12 miles with a highest to lowest elevation change of fewer than 400 feet.  This was all bushwhacking, although there is an old trace road we could follow a short distance.  Overall I would call this a moderate bushwhack.  We were hiking for 1 hour and 37 minutes on the track at the bottom of this post.

GPS files (.gpx format) - Maps of the GPS track are at the bottom of this post.

Sand Cave Hollow Falls (today's hike)
When we visited Sand Cave Hollow back in March, we found a pretty spectacular area in the upper end of the hollow.  After almost giving up on finding anything, we found the beautiful waterfall we named Sand Cave Hollow Falls, then six more waterfalls above it, including five so close together I just called them Quintuple Falls as a group.  This was another of those areas we vowed to come back to, so we could see them after things "greened up" a bit, and hopefully with more water flowing in the creek.  We had received some rain at our house near Dover, so this looked like it could be that day.  My hiking companions today were Dan Frew, who had made the previous trip with me, and Jim Fitsimones, who had seen the photos and was eager to see the area himself.

Sand Cave Hollow Falls on March 31 hike
Photo by Dan Frew
To get there, drive north from Hector on Highway 27.  Less than a mile from the Big Piney Ranger station in Hector, you cross over Dare Creek.  Immediately after crossing Dare Creek, turn right onto White Oak Mountain Road (aka FR-1301).  This is a gravel road but is a well traveled and fairly well-maintained road.  Go 11.4 miles on White Oak Mountain Road.  Be careful 7.2 miles from Highway 27 and bear left where the road branches at the 'Y' in the road.  After following White Oak Mountain Road for 11.4 miles, turn left onto Lindsey Mountain Motorway.  Go 3.3 miles and park on the left.  

One of the reasons I decided to write this blog was to keep track of my various explorations and learn from them.  Ideally, every time I go to an area I will find something that will help me the next time I visit the area.  This blog also helps me pass that information on to others.  On our first hike in Sand Cave Hollow,  I noted that the waterfalls that were worth the trek were all in the upper part of the hollow, and that we could get to that area directly from Lindsey Mountain Motorway fairly easily.  Today, we did exactly that.  We started out heading directly to Falls #10 and found it at the top of the north prong in Sand Hollow.  Unfortunately, the water flow in this one was somewhat lower than it was in March.  That did not bode well for the waterfalls on the rim of the other prong, but we headed toward them anyway.

Sand Cave Hollow Falls
On the way to the Sand Cave Quintuple Falls, we hiked a little higher, above the old trace road that runs along the top of the bluff in this hollow.  The bushwhack was a little more difficult than it had been in "leaves off" weather because there was a lot of very low ground cover obscuring the forest floor.  This was very low undergrowth and didn't pose much of a challenge for hiking through it.  We tracked a little higher, this time, to put us at about the right elevation for the upper tier of waterfalls at Quintuple Falls, and we soon came to it.  Both waterfalls on the upper tier had very little flow, as was the case for the three lower tier waterfalls.  None of these were "photo worthy" today, but I did make note of the fact that the spring foliage really obscured the view of these waterfalls.  To get a shot of all five waterfalls together, you need to come in winter or early spring.  I'll put that into my lessons learned for this particular area.

Despite the lower water flow in the creek, we remembered Sand Cave Hollow Falls as one of those waterfalls that seemed to have more flow than the creek had either upstream or downstream.  We dropped down the creek a short distance to it, and found the flow today greatly diminished, but it was still a nice looking waterfall.  After taking a few photos, we headed back to the parking location, this time following the old trace road along the rim of the bluffline.  We were a little disappointed at the relatively low water flow, but should have expected it.  This area is gripped in the driest spring that I can remember in the 25 years I have lived here. I will still be coming back to visit this place, but next time I'll wait for much wetter conditions AND "leaves off" season.  
Sand Cave Hollow GPS Track 5/18/2016