Family Hike at Hemmed in Hollow
For the past few years at Christmas we have tried to downplay the gifts and up play the time together. We still do gifts for the kids and such but on a smaller level. We take the savings we have and get a cabin off in the woods all to ourselves for a couple of days. In the past we have usually gone up to Eureka Springs for our cabins and have had nothing but good things to say. This year we wanted to be closer to the Buffalo River and found a great little cabin run by Candy over at Cove Creek Cabin. It is fully furnished, sits right in the thick of the hills around the Buffalo and came at a great price. I told Candy I would talk up the cabin on the site here so there it is. Check out the link to reserve.
Another great feature of the cabin was that it sat right in the middle of a batch of Buffalo River trail heads. We were literally only two miles from the Hemmed in Hollow trail head. So guess where we went on Christmas day?
That’s right, the family loaded up with our new jackets, shoes, JetBoil and whatever else was found under the Christmas tree which could possibly be found useful on a hike and we headed toward Hemmed in Hollow. I have been down to Hemmed in Hollow before but it was through a different route on the Centerpoint Trail out of Ponca. I hesitated just a little before heading down this route from Comptom. It was a 5 miler and while I figured most of the family would have no problems with it, I was more than a little concerned for our middle son Elliott, a.k.a Jimbo. Jimbo is 11 years old, has Downs Syndrome, and a will matched only by a streak of stubborn laziness that has often reared its head at the most inopportune of times. I considered whether or not this hike was a good idea for him right up until the point of departure. I really wanted my wife to see Hemmed in Hollow as it always blows the mind on first sight so I justified the hike for Jimbo as something that would be character building for him.
We headed out from the trail head and the first mile or so was no problem at all. I am a little confused as to whether or not dogs are allowed on this trail. Most of the guidebooks and web sites I have read say they are allowed. A sign at the trail head said they weren’t. In any event, our cocker spaniel Sammy was with us and on a leash prepared for the hike and we had no alternatives but to continue on with him at that point. My daughter Phoebe kept him leashed and managed the entire hike. I was surprised how well he did.
Jimbo was enjoying the hike. For the most part he managed to remain distracted the first half of the hike in by darting out to the front of our little pack and then slowly falling back to the rear. He can’t stand for his little sister to move ahead of him thus the darting back to the front of the line of people on the trail at regular intervals. Jimbo has also had less time outdoors in the woods camping and hiking than my other two kids primarily because he just does not seem to enjoy himself. So I took the time to teach him how to use a hiking stick and how to get off the trail to pee in the woods. He really enjoyed the second one. Pants dropped to his knees and bubble butt shining out he kept raising his left leg up in the air and explaining, “Sammy boy,” with his limited vocabulary. Interpreted, that meant he was showing me how the dog Sammy peed by hiking his leg. I put a stop to that one pretty quick.
At about the halfway mark the trail got a little more intense and the grade of descent really increased. There were a couple of points where Sammy had to be lifted and dropped down to the next level of trail. The same for Jimbo. We passed a family coming the opposite way. They had the same ambition as us but had turned back before hitting the falls. It was about here that Jimbo began growing bored. Bored might be the wrong word. He had just had enough. His mom was in front of him and the whining kicked in. He wanted to hold hands for the hike. I knew better. What that means is he wanted to be carried for the hike and holding hands would be the first step.
I jumped in between them and held his hand. Jimbo, sensing my tactics was immediately aggravated. The whining grew more intense and before long we had tears being worked up. Casie, my wife, kept looking back to check on him and every time she did, Jimbo got louder, snottier, and the tears a bit easier to flow. Onward we pushed. We were past the halfway mark, halfway down that is, and we weren’t turning back. As we neared the bottom Jimbo was really letting me have it expressing his frustration and annoyance at the whole ridiculous concept of walking this trail. In the back of my mind I became concerned for the hike back which was all up hill. We were less than a quarter mile from the falls and Jimbo’s mournful cries were filling the woods. “Caw….where aw you!?!?” (Interpreted: “Car, where are you!?”)
We came alongside the creek that flows out from the falls. It still could not be seen but the ground was level and water shallow here. Jimbo had had enough so we stopped. He took his boots off and dipped his feet into the creek to cool them and dry up his tears and nostrils. I could read him like a book and as far as he was concerned the hike was finished and this was his new home. He would wait somewhat patiently for someone to bring him some food.
I walked the rest of the way in with the other two kids to show them the falls. I am still amazed at what a beautiful sight Hemmed in Hollow is. I soaked up the view, snapped a few photos, then returned to Jimbo and Casie. I wanted to be sure my wife got to see the falls. She took off up the trail to join the other kids at the falls and I made amends with Jimbo by cooking up some hot chocolate with my new JetBoil I had carried down with me.
After a while Casie returned with the kids in tow and we began making moves to hike back up the trail, largely uphill. I don’t think the reality of what that meant had quite hit Jimbo because he seemed rather eager to head back to our cabin. Meanwhile, I had been strategizing and had a plan to implement for the hike back. Rather than hiking with momma so near us so that he was constantly reaching out and tugging on her heart strings with his cries, I had her and the other kids move out ahead of us about a quarter mile. Jimbo and I brought up the rear.
I was dreading the hike back up hill but it was surprisingly easier than expected. It wasn’t easy, but easier than expected. Jimbo would slow down and for a while I could just bark at him, “Keep moving.” I would move on with an incoherent grumble. Soon the grumble turned to, “Stop it dad.” His vocabulary and speech was uniquely as clear as could be. It wasn’t rebellious just angry. He was angry that he was having to hike this, angry that I was telling him to keep moving, angry that he couldn’t see his mom, angry that his sister was ahead of him…We kept moving.
Soon my bark wasn’t enough. He began moving slower and slower. I was behind him so when he would slow down I would lift up my hiking stick and poke him in the butt. Talk about someone being aggravated. “Don’t dad!!!” “Stop it!!” On we moved. As long as he could see his brother and sister and mom far off ahead he kept moving, presumably thinking he could catch up.
In the final ascents we came to sections of the trail that were marked with rock stair steps. Jimbo started taking them on his hands and feet, growling and snorting the whole way to express his annoyance at not just me anymore but the whole family and perhaps even God for designing such a trail and making him walk it.
In the last half mile he had had enough and no bark, no poke in the butt with a stick could get him to pick up his pace. So I grabbed his hand and we finished it out.
It wasn’t the best hike in the world but he had done it. I was honestly surprised that I never had to put him on my shoulders. He actually made it. Best part? My wife enjoyed the trail so much she has agree to do a section of the OHT with me.