Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hiking Trails: Ouachita Trail in Arkansas

In preparation for our 2011 Appalachian Trail section hike in New Jersey and New York, we have started improving our hiking fitness by hiking sections of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail here in Arkansas. The trail is about 223 miles long and runs from just west of Little Rock into Oklahoma.

Our wife is a historical re-enactor and was taking a Dutch oven cooking class, so we tagged along, as the Ouachita Trail begins/ends less than 50 yards from her class. We were surprised at how far we were able to travel in just four hours. We completed all of the Ouachita Trail in the state park and then several more miles. If we hadn't needed to return to the park, we'd have been a third of the way around Lake Maumelle, a large watershed lake adjacent to the state park.

Starting at the Pinnacle Mountain State Park visitor center, the Ouachita begins a steep downhill towards the Big Maumelle River. The water bars in this section are railraod ties with considerable vertical distance. After crossing a park raod and making several turns on the way down, the trail is very flat and follows the river course. Several over-blazed stones identify a turn southwest, which also is flat and crosses under a large powerline and a railroad track. After crossing the tracks, the trail makes a sharp turn south and crosses the road intothe East Summit parking area. We took a quick rest stop at the parking area on some boulders, checked the fit of our boots, gulped some water and loaded our pants pockets with snacks.

From the East Summit parking lot, the Ouachita Trail merges with several park trails and circles north and west around the base of Pinnacle Mountain. The trail exits the state park at the intersection of Highway 300 and the main access road. The trail then follows Highway 300 across several bridges. The old highway bridge has been left for hikers. The steel barricades provide great seating for a quick break and contemplation.

After crossing the last bridge, in a traffic lane, the Ouachita Trail makes a sharp turn west and follows the overflow spillway to the lake. The trail here is flat and meanders a bit at first. We passed behind a church, which caused us to consider asking them to start a weekend evening hostel/camping ministry as there is no legal camping in the area of the trail. After leaving the church, the trail follows the spillway and adjacent Spillway Road. We noted an access point with official signage on Spilway Road just about a quarter mile from the spillway dam itself. Atop the dam there is a concrete butress that provides seating for one with good views of both sides of the spillway. This was our turn around point.

You can find a good description of part of our walk along with several good photos on the Ouachita Hiking Journal. So, we now have less than 220 miles left to complete the Ouachita Trail.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog entry. And good luck with your training. I'm thinking about hiking all 223 miles of the Ouachita Trail myself. :)