A cool breeze wafted past as I stepped out of the truck. Looking around, the early Autumn sun warmed my face, and high puffy clouds dotted the sky. This was going to be a perfect day to go hiking on the trails at Village Creek State Park in Northeast Arkansas.
I leaned back into the truck and removed the Garmin eTrex from the shoulder strap of my pack. Within moments it powered up, and I was ready to start logging the mileage walked, and also the distance between trail intersections. Clipping it back onto my pack, I hefted it’s weight and it landed firmly on my shoulders. I locked up the truck, and prepared for the long walk ahead.
Keep in mind, that I am overweight and out of shape. Unless of course you consider round to be the perfect shape. Then… I’m in great shape, and life couldn’t be better. Growing up I loved to hike and do things outdoors, and now me and SheWolf plan on getting into a more active lifestyle… thus this website was born, and you’re here for the very first post. I know, enough rambling Lone Wolf, get back to the trail goodies.
It is a short hike from the visitor’s center parking lot, through a grassy meadow, and to the bridge that leads to the multi-use trails. In the past there have been both deer and turkeys in this meadow, but on this outing there was no such luck.
The wooden bridge lead up and over a creek that had a trickle of water slowly meandering through the forest. Mother Nature was being stingy with her raindrops, so I was glad to see any water at all. At least there was a chance to refill the water bottles if needed from the creek.
I left the bridge behind, and walked into the forest to begin my journey. The trail was a wide path with enough room for two hikers to walk side by side, and easy enough to carry on a conversation. On this trip the only conversation I had though was with the singing birds, and barking squirrels. SheWolf wasn’t able to make this one.
Within moments the forest had swallowed me up, and the stress from daily life started to fade away as I made my way deeper into the dense shade from the canopy above. The temperature hovered in the mid-seventies, and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves over my head.
If anyone other than the critters had been watching it would have looked like I was skipping down the trail, but in reality that wasn’t the case (I don’t have that kind of energy. It’s been a long time since I was a kid). I had almost stepped on one of the forests inhabitants. I was able to avoid turning it into a pancake with a quick adjustment of my stride, and it went on about it’s merry way. I took a moment to shoot some video, and then also went about my merry way.
We finally made our way back to the creek I had crossed over at the beginning of the trail. Or I guess I should say, the trail finally made its way back. I was just along for the ride (or would that be walk?). The canopy had opened up here, and the wildflowers took advantage of the sunlight. Even in October there were flowers to be found on this hike.
The trail followed along the creek for a while, and then cut back into the forest. The park service has done a great job of keeping the trails clear. I noticed several places where the trees had fallen across the trail, and they had come along and cut them up, and pushed them off to the side. This fungus took advantage of that downed tree, and made itself right at home.
Farther down the trail, the ground rose up on both side, and I felt very small in comparison. I have to wonder if the trail was cut through here, or if this was also part of the “trail of tears” and just worn down by tens of thousands of feet.
I came across my first trail intersection (13) at 0.87 miles into the trail. The intersections are well marked with posts with numbers, and also with laminated maps of the trail system. They show you which direction to go to the next numbered intersection, and how far it is to that intersection. They also have the GPS location of that trail marker. I would take a photo of the map, because they have changed the new ones. The old style (on the marker posts) show all the difficulty levels of the trails. The new ones either don’t have it at all, or some of the trail sections are left out which is a bad thing. One section that was missed on the new maps when they marked the difficulty level is listed as “difficult” on the old maps.
I left marker 13, hung a right, and went in search of marker 14. Not only did the trail offer a scenic woodland stroll, but it also showed the perils of cutting across country. The first thing that popped into my head was someone running through the woods at night, watching behind them, and taking a tumble down into the ravine only be be gotten by the boogie man in the end. It really was the perfect setting for a horror movie.
I stopped to take a break and drink some water (but not at the horror movie area), and started looking around. Even the trees at Village Creek State Park are friendly, and they welcome you onto the trails with open arms. This tree was really huge, but I have to wonder how long it will stand. You could see all the way through the base down at ground level. With any kind of luck it will be there long after I’m gone.
The trail cut through another hill, and the ground rose up on each side reaching for the sky. Animals, water, or humans had made dugouts into the cliff face. One was almost perfectly circular, while the rest were more shelf like. A little exploring of the area didn’t turn up anything other than the dugouts so I continued down the trail.
It wasn’t long and I found what I was looking for. Marker 14 was 1.48 miles into the trail, and even before I got there I realized I wasn’t alone in the woods. I head voices, lots of voices. Since it was the middle of the day on Wednesday, I wondered who else played hookie from work. Turned out to be a group of horseback riders. They kept on moseying down the trail. I decided it was a good time to take a break, and check out the map on the pole. That is when I realized the discrepancy in the maps. The map I had gotten from the visitors center didn’t have the difficulty levels of the trails, and thankfully the map on the pole did.
My planned hike took me down a trail that was marked as difficult. I had never been on this section of trail, but I had been on other sections that were marked as difficult. Although that was close to fifty pounds ago (yep, I need to loose some weight). After a brief moment of reflection I quickly changed my hiking plan. I could see me loosing my footing, and rolling down into a ravine. I would probably look like a smurf tumbleweed since I had on this blue shirt. That section of the trail will just have to wait for another day. A day when I’ve had a chance to get re-acclimated to hiking.
My new plan was to cross the creek and head to marker 15, cut over to marker 16 on the pipeline, and then loop back around to marker 15. I haven’t been on any of this section of trials so it was going to be an interesting adventure with at least three creek crossings.
I hefted my pack back onto my shoulders, and took off in search of marker 15. Down the trail a bit I happened to look up from where I was walking, and spotted a vine that was draped from tree to tree. This thing was a good inch to inch and a half in diameter. It had climbed its way to the top of one tree, then draped down over the trail and terminated at the top of another tree on the other side of the trail. I was shooting some video of it when another couple of horseback riders approached. I stopped filming and we chatted for a bit, and talked about the YouTube channel I was creating. He said the meetup would be great for the two year old horse he was riding since it was a bit skittish. They left and I went on filming the clip for the video.
I found the creek after about a half mile of hiking from marker 14. There was a bit more water in it than I had thought there would be. Since I had nothing else to do today, I decided to explore the creek before heading down the trail. I figured along the creek would be a great place to kick back and grab a bite to eat before pressing on. Now to find that perfect spot (is there really such a thing?).
First I veered off to the right and the creek split into two directions. It wasn’t long before I was hemmed in by deep water that I didn’t want to cross. I hate hiking with wet feet, so I retraced my steps and went back to the trail. Looking at the depth of water where the trail crossed the creek quickly had me formulating another plan. It looked like it would easily flow over the tops of my waterproof hiking boots.
So I set off walking in the other direction of the creek in search of a shallower place to cross, and to also explore the creek while looking for that perfect spot for lunch. I climbed my way up onto the bank where there were some decent sized trees, and I stopped just in time.
A spider with a very large butt had built a web, and I had almost walked right into the middle of it. That would have ended very bad for all involved. The moment I realized his big butt self was on my nose, my eyes would have darted to him and tried to focus. My legs would have gotten a mind of their own, and I would probably run head first into the nearest tree. And with my luck, he would have scampered off unhurt, while I lay on the forest floor, knocked out, and with eminent heart failure (yep, I don’t like spiders). If I did somehow miraculously survive the encounter, I could see me waking up to a racoon pinching my nose as the sun set.
Yeah, I think I will go the other way now. I don’t need a coon pinching my nose. I climbed back down into the creek, and slogged through a shallow section, and onto a larger gravel area. Ahhh, the perfect place. The creek was flowing by on it’s way to somewhere, and right beside the bank was two trees that would work great for my Everest Double Hammock.
I shrugged off my pack and set about stringing up my hammock. It only took a moment with the included straps, and I was comfortably lounging which definitely beats sitting the the forest floor.
The hammock gently rocked back and forth as I munched on my dried fruit and drank some water. It was so peaceful out here. The only sounds were the crickets and birds. Eventually a couple of owls started talking back and forth as I listened to the soft sound of the water flowing over rocks.
Time stood still, or more accurately… I fell asleep and time kept passing. When I awoke the sun was a bit lower on the horizon, and was now shining on my face through an opening in the tree canopy. I drank the remaining water in the bottle, and I had a spare in the pack. However, since I was next to the creek why not just refill it? I grabbed my Survivor Filter PRO, and in no time I had the one liter bottle refilled. I pondered the taste after a heavy swig from the bottle. The filtered creek water tasted better than the store bought water that originally came in the bottle. It was definitely money well spent for the Survivor Filter PRO.
I stowed my gear and climbed back up into the hammock, and it struck again. I was watching the water flow by, and then I wasn’t. I guess the movie playing on the inside of my eyelids was more appealing. When I awoke, the frogs had started calling along the creek, and the sun was searching for the horizon.
I rolled out of the hammock (or was it more of a controlled fall?), took another look around at my surroundings, and begrudgingly started taking down the hammock. Just as fast as it went up, it was once again stowed in my pack.
I hung the pack over my refreshed shoulders, glanced at the setting sun once again, and headed down the creek in search of the trail. I had about a two and a half mile walk out, and figured I would reach the truck right about sunset.
Until next time…
head out and explore your world,
and maybe, just maybe
you will stumble across the
ol’ Turtle on the trail!