For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.
Not a whole lot to this journal entry, but it marks a big milestone. At some point during your experience, you’ll realize the end is drawing near and it’s time to start preparing to leave. In my case, one of the preparations for leaving was figuring out what to do with kitchen items I had bought that weren’t going home with me (cookie sheets, pots and pans, etc.). Thankfully I was able to find someone to buy them from me and at least make a little money back on them.
The Journal Entry
Today was a pretty good day. I got up at 8 and got ready. I went down to catch the shuttle to Coles at about 9:15. I got my stuff at Coles and then came back. After I got back I got laundry going and then updated my checkbook. After that I talked to my parents for a few minutes, and then figured out how much to sell my kitchen stuff for. I got lunch after that and then went through some pictures. After I finished going through the pictures I started backing up my files. I looked into hiring out camera cases in Cairns for a little while. Dutch came in and visited for a little while. That was cool. He is going to buy my kitchen stuff from me, so that’s good. After that I got dinner. After dinner I watched the news, and then at 7 I watched the footy game. It was Brisbane vs. Collingwood. I cleaned my ears during the game. It was a really good game. Brisbane won by 8. It’s now about 10, and I’ll probably get ready for bed pretty soon.
Sitting on a rock for the noon radio check, halfway down the South Fork, I feel no questions, no troubles, just a great oneness with all welling up inside me. This moment is all that is, all that ever will be. Memories can never equal the experience, and at best we can only attempt to visualize the future. The best we can do is absorb the most possible from Great Moments Like These.
Quote from Randy Morgenson on page 270
Earlier this month, when I hiked the Eagle Rock Loop, I started reading “The Last Season” by Eric Blehm. I can’t even remember how I came across this book, but it seemed like a good trail reading book, so I had ordered it just in case I did the Eagle Rock Loop this spring. I got partway through the book on the hike, and finished the book Saturday evening. I just expected an intriguing story, but got so much more. It was so good, in fact, that I skimmed through the entire book yesterday to jot down some quotes to keep for reference and to use for this post.
I had never heard of the Randy Morgenson story until reading this book. After reading the book, I’m sure like a lot of people, I really wish I could have known Randy. But after reading this book, I felt like I had actually got to know Randy to some extent. It seems like we would have had a lot in common. I love being in the wilderness (or backcountry as they refer to it in the book) and consider the mountains to be my happy place. I have a love for the backcountry and like to see it taken care of (although I’m not nearly at the level Randy was). I’m into photography. I’m not much of a social person. I don’t want to have any kids. Cindy Purcell was quoted in the book as saying “His dreams had conflicts. His ghosts were big and scary. But his spirit was so full of joy and love that he could overcome his doubts and move through them.” I can definitely relate to that. It was kind of eerie how much of myself I saw in Randy.
After reading the book, I feel like there is so much I learned from Randy even though I never met him. At times I’m guilty of being what Randy referred to as a “trail pounder,” someone rushing down the trail not taking the time to enjoy the sights and sounds. Granted, I’m usually on a somewhat tight schedule and don’t have the entire summer to spend in the backcountry, but on my upcoming trips, I will have to try and do a better job of slowing down and taking it all in.
More than anything, Randy had taught her to “pay attention and don’t walk too fast. You might miss something.”
Both shared stories of how Randy helped them to keep their priorities straight – to take notice of their surroundings, to not rush through life, and to be gentle on the land.
While reading through this book, I happened to come across the “Out Alive” podcast by Backpacker Magazine, and have listened to several of those while reading through this book. Between those podcasts and this book, I have gained a whole new respect for the backcountry. After all, if something bad could happen to Randy, how much more likely is it that something bad could happen to me? But instead of scaring me out of the backcountry, the book reinforced my feeling that the mountains and backcountry are a special place. Such a special place, that even with the risks, how can I not want to spend time there? I will definitely be more thoughtful with my decisions in the backcountry, both out of caution for myself and anybody traveling with me, and out of respect for the environment.
In addition, I’ll definitely have to consider more off trail ventures in the future. I tend to stick to trails while I’m backpacking. I have always been intrigued by going to places off marked trails, but have never really had the courage to give it a try. After reading this book, I think there is definitely something special about finding those places that are rarely visited, or at least less so than places along the trails. Not sure I’ll do this much, but it’s definitely something to consider when I’m looking into trips and routes.
All of your life, someone is pointing the way, directing you this way and that, determining for you which road is best traveled…Here is your chance to find your own way. Don’t ask me how to get to McGee Canyon or Lake Double-Eleven-0. Go, on your own. Be adventuresome. Don’t forever seek the easiest way. Take the way you find. Don’t demand trail signs and sturdy bridges. Don’t demand we show you the mountains. Seek them and find them yourself…. This is your birthright as an animal, most commonly denied you. Be free enough from intentions to find goodness wherever you are and in whatever is happening. Here for once in your life you needn’t do anything, be anywhere at a determined time, walk in a certain direction. You can now live by whim.
Here’s your one chance to get lost, fall in the creek, find a beautiful place.
Logbook passage from Randy Morgenson on pages 313-314
I doubt he will ever read this, but huge kudos to Eric for putting together this book. I can’t even imagine all the research that had to go into it. Thank you for forever capturing the life of someone all people visiting the backcountry should have as a role model. Even for those of us who never met Randy, we can get to know him through this book and learn from him even though we never met him. I think this should be required reading for anybody entering the backcountry.
I leave you with one final passage from the book, the quote from Randy Morgenson that closes out the book:
I wish only to be alive and to experience this living to the fullest. To feel deeply about my days, to feel the goodness of life and the beauty of my world, this is my preference.
I am human and experience the emotions of humanity: elation, frustration, loneliness, love. And the greatest of these is love, love for the world and its creatures, love for life. It comes easily here. I have loved a thousand mountain meadows and alpine peaks.
To be thoroughly aware each day that I’m alive, to be deeply sensitive to the world I inhabit and the world that I am, not to roam rough-shod over the broad surface of this planet for achievement but to know where I step, and to tread lightly.
I would rather my footsteps never be seen, and the sound of my voice be heard only by those near, and never echo, than leave in my wake the fame of those whom we commonly call great.
For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.
Being shy and an introvert, I have always struggled to make friends. It was difficult after my family moved when I was 14. It was difficult when I went to college. And it was difficult when I went to Australia. It definitely resulted in some frustration and rough days while I was there. If you’re the same way, don’t let it discourage you from doing study abroad though. I won’t lie, there will probably be some difficult days, but it can still be an amazing experience. You can still have some great moments, like the “made in America” joke reference in the journal entry below.
The Journal Entry
Today was an ok day. I got up at 7 and got ready. 3360 was normal this morning. After 3360 Elizabeth and I went to the campus center to print stuff off. After that I went to Menzies to work on 3040. Elizabeth went to get a metcard and then came up. Steve just did a review type thing in the 3040 tute today. That was cool. After that Elizabeth and I came back to halls. I got lunch and just hung out in my room until I had to leave for 2020. Melinda showed up to 2020 today. That was cool. She hasn’t been there much lately because she has had to do teaching rounds. 2020 was pretty fun today. One of the maps in the slides was messed up and somebody made the comment that it was probably made in America, and then Elizabeth was like “Hey!”. It was pretty funny. After 2020 we walked to the math building with Melinda. She went to turn in her 2020 assignment and we went to go get help from Steve on 3040. After we got help from Steve we came back to halls. I went to Elizabeth’s room for a couple minutes to go over 3040, and then came to my room. After I got back I read through a bunch of Vortex 2 stuff. Some people got videos of the TIV and other scientific research vehicles driving recklessly during this past chase day in OK, and so now there is a big uproar going on. It’s pretty intense. After that I worked on 3040 for a while. Nadia came in and visited for a few minutes at around 5:30, and then I got dinner after that. After dinner I tried to work on 3040 some more without much luck. At 7:30 the Geelong vs. Collingwood footy game came on. I watched that on my computer in my room. It was #1 vs. #2. I was so jealous that Elizabeth went. It makes me so frustrated that I tried to get people together to go and ended up going by myself. And then when the biggest game of the season comes around I have already gone to two games, and then Elizabeth goes with Erin and a couple of Erin’s friends. It just seems like I always get screwed doing stuff by myself. In addition to that someone used some of my butter at some point without asking, so that pissed me off. I let Jonno use my baking sheet last night, and he didn’t clean it, so I had to scrub it for a while tonight to use it. That’s the third time I have let someone use it and then I end up cleaning it. And on top of all that I just have felt so lonely lately. I just don’t feel like I fit in. I’m always in my room and never out doing stuff with people. Needless to say, it’s been a frustrating day. I’m really starting to be ready to go home. Anyway, the footy game was really good up until the 4th quarter, then Geelong kind of took off with it. After the game I watched 24. There’s only 2 more episodes of that left now. After 24 I started writing this. It’s now 11:20, and I think I’m gonna get ready for bed.
For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.
One of the classes I took when I was in Australia was a fluid dynamics course. That was definitely one of the most frustrating courses I took during college. I was really worried about even passing it, and was super relieved when I found out I did. As you can tell from the journal entry below, it resulted in a lot of frustration throughout the semester. Don’t forget that there is a study component to the study abroad experience!
The Journal Entry
Today was a decent day. I got up at 8 and got ready. I watched a video of the OKC hailstorm before I went to 3360. That was nuts. There was so much huge hail falling. It was amazing just watching it in the video. Anyway, 3360 was ok. I’m just to the point in that class where I just don’t know what to think anymore. I’m so frustrated by it. After 3360 I came back and Skyped with my parents for a while. That was cool. I looked on Storm Prediction Center before I talked to them and saw that there was golf ball size hail reported in Alpine. My dad said they only got pea size at his work. There was also 4.25” hail reported south of town. After I talked to them I got lunch. After lunch I read for 3360. 3360 tute was ok. Didn’t really understand what was going on, but when do I. After the tute I came back to my room and then went on a run. After my workout I got a shower and then got dinner. After dinner I went up to Elizabeth’s room to work on 3040. We worked on that until about 10:15 and then visited for a little while. After that I came back to my room, checked email, visited with Chloe for a couple minutes, and then started writing this. There is possibly supposed to be another tornado outbreak in OK their Wednesday. We’ll see what happens with that. Vortex 2 was around Artesia for the second time today. All these storms are hitting these places where I’ve lived and I’m not there. It sucks. It’s 11:20 now, so I’m gonna get ready for bed.
For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.
Even though the study abroad experience as a whole was absolutely amazing, there were some not so great days sprinkled in. This journal entry, along with the next two, will give you some insight into some of my not so good days. This day was definitely one of the worst, if not the worst day, while I was there.
I knew going into the semester that I would be missing storm season in Oklahoma. Since I was into storm chasing at the time, I was bummed about that, but it didn’t stop me from participating in study abroad. It just so happened on this day that there were several tornadoes around Norman, OK. My best friend from college, who I normally would have gone storm chasing with, ended up getting some great pictures of a couple of the tornadoes. I had yet to really get a good look at a tornado (and still have yet to, although I no longer storm chase), so it pretty much ruined my day when I found this out. So don’t be surprised if there ends up being a day or two where, for some reason, you really wish you hadn’t done the study abroad.
The Journal Entry
Let’s just say I’ve had better days than I had today. Haha. First off, last night after I got ready for bed, I listened to my iPod for a while, until the new Storm Prediciton Center (SPC) outlook came out. When that came out I got up and read through it. Then I sent Jason a message just giving him a heads up about the possible bad weather. Elizabeth caught me while I was on Facebook and reminded me there was a show called “Wild Weather of Melbourne” on sometime. It didn’t end up starting until about 11:20. Our 2211 professor was on the show. That was pretty cool. The show itself was kind of disappointing though. It seemed more of a show to push global warming than anything else. Anyway, that got over at about 12:20, and then I went to bed. I got up this morning at 7 so I could check out what was going on in OK. When I got up they were having bad storms up in north OK. There was already a PDS tornado watch out. I went to the News 9 website and saw they were streaming live, so I brought that up. While I was watching that I ate breakfast. Eventually the storms started firing up in central and southern OK. There was a quick tornado in Yukon, and then another pretty good funnel on the west side of OKC. Pretty quickly after that there was a tornado reported in Moore, and then about the same time the News 9 helicopter spotted a tornado just outside Norman to the east. It was a huge tornado. The funnel actually went right over the weather center, and first touched down about 200 yds from the weather center. To make a long story short, there were about 3-4 tornadoes just in the Moore/Norman area alone. At least two of them were quite large ones. And of course, all my friends back home got to see at least the funnel go over the weather center. John got some amazing pictures of the tornado when it was huge east of Norman and another large tornado NE of Norman. I watched all this unfold live on the internet. You talk about frustrating. It actually wasn’t bad a first, but it has just been getting worse as the day has gone on and people have posted statuses and pictures and all on Facebook. It was really hard to convince myself to go to 3360, but I went. As soon as I got back I brought up News 9 again. The storms had moved past but they were just showing all the damage and stuff. Mom called me on Skype and we talked a little bit. I wasn’t too talkative though because I was so frustrated and I was trying to watch News 9. I got lunch at about 12:40, and then went up to Elizabeth’s room at about 1:15 to work on 3360. We did that until about 2:30. Then I came to my room, got my stuff together, and went to 3360 tute. It wasn’t too bad today, but not great. After the tute I came back to my room and then went on a run. It was pretty chilly today. I was wishing I had worn a sweater at the beginning of my run. After my workout, I got a shower, and then went and exchanged my sheets. After I got back I got dinner and then made my bed. After that I studied for 3040. We have a test in there tomorrow morning. After I did that, I started writing this. It is now 10:20. I am going to get ready for bed since I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep once again last night. Missing that tornado outbreak is gonna have me mad for quite a while.
For background on this series of blogs, see this intro post.
One really cool part of the study abroad experience was that I got to meet a couple Monash students who were planning on coming to OU for a semester. Later, when Ben (in picture above) came to OU, I got to spend quite a bit of time with him, including a road trip over Thanksgiving break. It was kind of like an extension of the study abroad experience. Haha. It was really cool to be on the opposite side of the exchange after having done the exchange. Definitely a cool experience if you can meet someone who will be attending your home school after you return and you can spend some time with them in your home country.
The Journal Entry
Today was a pretty good day. I got woken up at about 2:45 this morning. No surprise for a Thursday night anymore. I got up at 7 this morning and got ready. Math was ok. My sinuses were bugging me the whole time, so it was hard to concentrate. After that I went over to the math building. On my way there I visited with Megan for a little while. That was cool. After that I went and got help on a couple ATM 3040 problems. One of them we couldn’t figure out what was going wrong, and the other one Steve was going to take a look at again. After that I went to Menzies and visited with Elizabeth until 3040 tute started. After that Elizabeth and I printed a couple things at the campus center and then came back to the halls. When I got back I talked to Mom and Dad on Skype for a while and then talked to Cory for a little while. I ate lunch while I was talking to them. Mom and Dad got to see Nashville all flooded. I’m so jealous. It was nice to finally get to talk to them. It had been a while since I talked to Cory as well, so it was nice to get to talk to him too. After I finished talking to Cory I went to 2020. After 2020 Elizabeth and I talked to Megan and Ben for a couple minutes. Ben is the guy coming to OU next semester. That was cool. After that I came back and stopped by the ops office to get my new backpack. I was glad to finally get that. It’s pretty nice. It’s got so many different pocket/compartment things. It’s crazy. It will take a little getting used to. After I messed with that for a little while I organized my binders and then worked on my 2211 essay. I worked on that until I made dinner. I made pancakes tonight. Those were good. After dinner I worked on my essay some more. I did that until about 9:15 or so. After that I went through pictures from last weekend. After I finished that I started writing in this. It’s now 10:11, and I’ll probably get to bed here pretty soon.
When I first heard about Eagle Rock Loop a couple years back, I was really excited to give it a try for a weekend backpacking trip. It would be nice to have a backpacking trip that was relatively close. This past weekend I finally got around to giving it a try. I started at the Little Missouri Trailhead on the NW side of the loop (where the Athens Big Fork Trail and Little Missouri Trail meet) and did the loop counter-clockwise. I’ll give an outline of each day below and then some overall thoughts at the bottom, along with some pictures, of course 🙂
I left OKC around 1:30 P.M. on Thursday, and got to the trailhead around 6:00 P.M. About the last 9 miles of the road are gravel. It’s in good shape with the exception of a few potholes. I was the only car at the trailhead when I got there. I was going to camp next to the parking lot, but there was a no camping sign posted, so I ate dinner and then got my stuff and crossed the river. Someone already had the established camp spot right across the river, so I started up the hill and found a (non-established) spot a couple minutes up the hill. While I was setting up camp, I noticed a tick crawling on my stuff. I was already nervous about ticks to begin with, so it didn’t help seeing one that quickly. Haha. After I got camp set up I went back down the hill and did some reading next to the river. While I was reading Rebecca came over and we chatted for a little while. Rebecca was the person at the established camp spot. She is from New Orleans and out of a job right now due to Covid-19, so she is doing a bunch of hiking around the area. She was at the end of her first day hiking the loop. After chatting for a bit we went back to our camps. I got ready for bed, finished reading the chapter, and then went to bed.
Friday morning I ate breakfast, got camp packed up, and hit the trail at 8:00 A.M. I took the side trail at the top of the first ridge (Hurricane Knob ridge), which provided a great view. After that it was down into the valley with Straight Creek, and then up to the top of the ridge of McKinley Mountain. Then it was down into the valley with Long Creek. I used my sandals to cross Long Creek. Of all the camp spots I saw along the Athens Big Fork (ABF) trail, the camp spots next to Long Creek were my favorite. After that it was up and over the ridge for the Brier Creek Mountains, and then down to Brier Creek. That was followed by the ridge for Leader Mountain, and then down to Blaylock Creek. I used my sandals to cross Blaylock Creek and then took a break for a few minutes. The crossing for Blaylock creek was a really neat spot. The trek down to Blaylock Creek, and then the trek back out, were the most difficult of all the valleys though. The next ridge was the ridge next to Brush Heap Mountain. I took the side trail that headed toward the top of Brush Heap Mountain. Part way up the trail, I realized I should have left my backpack at the bottom of the trail. I guess I thought the trail would be a little shorter. I turned around before I reached the top, but there were still some great views. I’ll have to go to the top next time I do the loop. After that it was down to East Saline Creek, and then up to Eagle Rock Vista.
I reached Eagle Rock Vista at 1:00 P.M. My plan was to camp at Eagle Rock Vista, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to kill that much time there. It was fairly windy there as well. I thought about continuing down to Viles Branch, but eventually decided to go ahead and camp at Eagle Rock Vista. I was completely worn out by the time I got there. I was really glad that was the last hill for the day. According to data from Charlie Williams’ website, it had been a combined elevation gain of ~2,150 ft. and elevation loss of ~2,000 ft. over seven miles for the day.
There were three camping spots that I saw along Eagle Rock Vista. I grabbed the middle one. I ate some trail mix and then got camp set up. I expected to have a lot of people come through during the afternoon, but actually had very few. I typed up some notes from the day, laid down for a while, and then did some reading. I noticed Rebecca walk by at one point, so a little while later I went and chatted with her for a bit. While we were chatting she mentioned she had cell service. I checked, and sure enough I had it as well. I resisted the urge to check anything since the point of doing the trip was to get away, so I turned my phone back to airplane mode. Haha. After chatting with her for a while I came back to my camp spot and worked on getting some pictures with my good camera.
I had quite a few people come through during the late afternoon and evening. Both of the other camp spots got occupied. I was hoping the wind would die down once the sun went down, but it stayed windy most of the night. I knew it would be a tough day, and it definitely was. I would put it right up there with the harder days I have had on trips in the “big mountains” (aka Rockies). It was fun seeing the different ridges and valleys, and Eagle Rock Vista was a nice reward at the end.
I have to admit that I did take advantage of the cell service on Saturday morning before I left Eagle Rock Vista to check the weather and make sure there still was no rain in the forecast. Thankfully that was still the case. I hit the trail at 7:40 and headed down to Viles Branch. I ran into Rebecca one last time at her camp spot shortly after getting on Viles Branch. We chatted for a minute and then I continued on. There were a bunch of stream crossings along Viles Branch, but thankfully I was able to cross all of them without having to change into my sandals. I really liked the hike along Viles Branch. That was my favorite stretch of the loop.
Shortly before reaching the Little Missouri River I caught up Nick, another person backpacking the loop. We chatted as we hiked along the trail. He was also from Louisiana, and had hiked the loop several years back. We got to the river around 9:45, and that was a definite sandal crossing. As I was going to tie my boots onto my backpack, I noticed that Nick had clipped them onto his backpack with caribeners. I had some spare caribeners, and had one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments. So thank you to Nick for helping me out with that. It was definitely handy the rest of the trip. Once we got across the river I knew we were supposed to start going upstream, but Nick started walking downstream. Since he had done the trail before I figured he knew where he was going, but after a minute I asked him if we should be going upstream. Then he mentioned he was going fishing, so I turned around and went to find the trail. While going back to the trail, I managed to get a stick between my trekking poles and my legs, which ended up tripping me and I fell. Thankfully I didn’t hurt anything. I’m sure I made a great first impression with Nick though. Haha. I took a break for a few minutes before hitting the trail again.
After that I was on the struggle bus for a while. I knew I was supposed to cross the river again, and got to a point where I couldn’t see an obvious spot where the trail kept going straight, and it looked like a good spot to cross the river, so I crossed the river. I found out pretty quick that was not the right choice, so I had to go back and cross back over. Once I kept going straight I found where the trail was. Had I actually put myself in the right spot on the map, I would have known that was the wrong spot, but I didn’t have myself in the right spot, so that was mostly my fault. Shortly after that I went through the Winding Stairs area and crossed the river at the appropriate spot. The Winding Stairs area was a little anti-climcatic for me, so that had me confused as well. The stress/frustration about trying to follow the trail probably didn’t help. There were a ton of people there, which made me think I was closer to Albert Pike than I was, which also got me really confused. I found out after I got home there is a parking lot fairly close to Winding Stairs, thus why there were so many people. But that got me really confused as I was hiking through there. A while after that I came to a stream crossing that had blue markings and double diagonal white markings. The trail markings up to that point had been a single white rectangle. That got me really confused. After I crossed the stream there was a sign for a parking lot. Once again, I had no idea about the parking lot near Winding Stairs, so that again made me think I was close to Albert Pike, but a sign said it was still 2 miles to Albert Pike. So between the first river crossing and Albert Pike, I was all sorts of confused. Once I actually got close to Albert Pike and was next to the road, I finally realized where I was on the map. I got to Albert Pike at 1:00 P.M., and it was time for a much needed break and a reset. I was already fairly worn out, but knew I wanted to get farther down the trail that day.
I took about a 30 minute break at Albert Pike, during which I let my feet sit in the river for a few minutes, ate some trail mix, drank some water, and looked at the upcoming trail on the map. Then it was back to the trail again. There were a couple creek crossings shortly after that where I had to put on my sandals to cross. At the next river crossing I met Rainey and Gary from Dallas. I spent a few minutes there chatting with them. They had been on the trail the whole week and were on their way out. Gary recommended I check out the Ozark Highland Trail, so I’ll have to check that out at some point. Just before I left they pulled a couple packets of applesauce out of the river, which I thought was a pretty genius idea. I’ll have to keep that in mind for future trips. I was a little nervous to cross the river with them watching after what happened earlier with Nick, but I made it across fine. Haha.
While I was talking with Gary and Rainey, they mentioned they would likely camp near the double crossing down the trail. I had no idea what they were talking about, but it ended up being the next crossing. It was a creek crossing followed by crossing the river. I didn’t realize it was the double crossing though, so I put my boots back on after crossing the creek, and then headed down a social trail that went who knows where. After a short walk, I figured it wasn’t the correct trail, and then went back and realized I was supposed to cross the river at that spot, so I had to put my sandals right back on. I made it across there and kept on hiking. I found a decent camp spot shortly after 5:00 P.M. and decided to call it a day. I was really worn out again. I got camp set up and then took a dip in the river to rinse off. I’m usually not one to hop in a river, lake, etc. since I’m really not a fan of cold water, but I knew it was going to be a warm evening/night, and I felt gross, so I wanted to get cleaned off. It was definitely cold, but I felt a whole lot better once I got dried off and warmed back up.
After that I went and talked to Nick and Nicole. They were camped in a spot just up the hill from me, and had got there right after I arrived. They had driven up all the way from Houston. They hadn’t planned on doing the whole loop, but someone talked them into it after they started hiking. They didn’t bring any sandals with them, so they had done all the river/creek crossings barefoot. These are not nice, soft dirt bottom river crossings. These are rocky, slick, really hurt your feet river crossings. I’m sure I would have called it quits after the first couple crossings, but they had powered through, so kudos to them. I chatted with them for a few minutes then went and ate dinner. After dinner I got my good camera out to try and get some pictures since I hadn’t had it out since Eagle Rock Vista that morning. After that I read and then went to bed.
I knew Saturday night was going to be warm, so when I set up camp I unzipped my sleeping bag and had it available to use as a blanket, and slept straight on my sleeping pad. It actually worked out really well. I should have done that the prior night. Made me glad I got a sleeping bag that can unzip all the way.
All the river/creek crossings throughout the day that required sandals were a huge pain. I would estimate it easily added an hour to the hike. I will admit that the cold water always felt good on the feet though. Haha. It ended up being a 15 mile day, which I’m pretty sure is the longest I have ever hiked in a day. The only other day I can think of that comes close is a day in Utah that I believe was in the 13-14 mile range.
I hit the trail at 7:45 Sunday morning. About a 1/4 mile or so up the trail I reached Little Missouri Falls. I figured I was close, but I didn’t realize I was that close. That was definitely one of my favorite spots along the loop. Farther down the trail I saw some sort of large cat looking animal run off. If I had to take a guess I would say it was a bobcat, but I didn’t get a great look at it. It didn’t appear to be a mountain lion. I passed three different pairs of people between the falls and the trailhead, two of which I knew I had seen previously on the trail. One pair had camped up at Eagle Rock Vista the same night I did, and the other pair I had passed in Viles Branch. It was fun to see them again. I got lucky and met one of the pairs at what appeared to be a spot where I had to cross the river, but they let me know I could stay on the side I was on. Sure enough, I hiked about 20-30 yards and ran into the trail again. It looked like flooding had washed the trail out at some point. Huge thanks to them for the tip. I got to the trailhead at 9:40 A.M., which was the only place I had to use sandals for a stream crossing that day. I cleaned myself off a bit, changed into some clean clothes, ate a Clif bar, got gear loaded into the car, and then hit the road. I got into Mena, AR just after 11, so I stopped at Wendy’s and got a BBQ cheeseburger for lunch. That and the sweet tea tasted wonderful. Haha. After that it was back to OKC.
For not being a “big mountain” hike, I was actually quite impressed. You don’t get the grand views of the granite peaks, cirques, and alpine lakes, but it is a different kind of beauty. There are some pretty cool views from the ridges along the ABF, but other than that you are in pretty dense forest most of the time. The creeks and Little Missouri River have some really pretty spots. It was also really cool to cross the “little” Little Missouri River and the “big” Little Missouri River, and see it change from big to little along the hike. And for not being a “big mountain” hike, I was actually quite surprised with how difficult it was. If you don’t do ABF, it really wouldn’t be too bad, but the ABF adds a lot of difficulty to it.
If you do this hike when the weather is nice hiking weather, don’t expect to get away from people, although if you do it during the workweek the crowds would likely be smaller. Outside of the Winding Stairs and Albert Pike areas, the traffic really wasn’t too bad though.
Speaking of weather, be sure to be aware of what the weather has done recently, and what the forecast is. Heavy rains can cause the creeks and river to rise very quickly, and make crossings dangerous or impossible. Back in 2010 a flash flood of the Little Missouri River in the Albert Pike area killed 20 people. Charlie Williams has some good advice in the “Water Crossings” section on his page.
The trail is fairly easy to follow most of the time. There are definitely some confusing spots at stream/river crossings and where there are a bunch of social trails though. I never felt like I was completely lost, but I was definitely frustrated at times that it wasn’t marked better in spots. Be ready to go around, over, or under trees. There were lots of downed trees across the trail. Some appeared recent, but most of them looked like they had been there a while. Trekking poles were a tremendous help for the stream crossings. I probably would have used sandals at several more crossings if I didn’t have my trekking poles to help with balance while crossing on rocks, so I would highly recommend those. Also, bring sandals or some sort of shoes for water crossings. I wouldn’t recommend doing the whole trail in sandals, and I doubt many people will want to hike in wet boots. I talked to several people who saw at least one snake. Thankfully I never saw any. I never found any ticks on me, much to my surprise. I didn’t wear sunscreen at all. Between having pants, a long sleeve, a hat, and the trail being in the shade most of the time, I didn’t need it. That would probably be a different story if I did the hike in winter when the trees didn’t have leaves. I’m not going to be surprised if I start breaking out in a rash from poison ivy, oak, etc. I think I may already be starting to get a rash in a couple spots. Big question is probably how bad is it going to be. Haha.
There were definitely lessons learned on this trip that will hopefully make any future trips much smoother. I’m not sure if I would do it the same way next time or not. With all the different trailheads, there are many, many different ways to do the loop. I may try starting at Little Missouri Falls next time, go clockwise, camp in Viles Branch the first night and camp at Long Creek on ABF the second night. That would split up the ridges over a couple days, and spread the mileage out a little more evenly. Not really sure there is a best way to do it. The vast majority of people I talked to started at Albert Pike. With all the different trailheads, you can easily split the loop up into different day hikes if you’re not a fan of backpacking.
Finally, I hope I got everybody’s names correct. If not, I’m sorry. I tried to jot them down in my notes as soon as I could. Haha. Thank you to those who chatted with me for a bit and kept me company on the trail, even if it was just for a few minutes. I always enjoy getting to know fellow backpackers along the trail, especially when I’m hiking by myself. If you have any questions about the hike, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll do my best to try and answer. Also, just do a google search for “Eagle Rock Loop Arkansas” and you’ll be able to find plenty of other great write ups on the loop. I have placed some links to other write ups below.
I will likely get pictures posted from my good camera early next week. I’ll post on my Facebook page when they are up.