After record breaking summer temps and what seemed like the longest ever gap between hiking seasons, I kicked mine off this past weekend with the Eagle Rock Loop in the Ouachitas. This 26.8-28 mile loop (depending on who you believe) is the longest loop in Arkansas and features a wide variety of terrains, from steep rolling ridges to leisurely riverside walks, to a short section on an old horse trail, ERL promised to be the perfect opening of the new hiking season. Plus, since none of my friends could make it out for this one, the big loop meant a long weekend without having to worry about setting up shuttles at the beginning and end of a section trail.
This Christmas, I was in the market for new hiking shoes. I had toyed with the idea of going minimalist for quite some time. When it came down to purchasing them, I made the leap with Merrell Tough Gloves. They are stylish enough to wear to work, but “tough” enough for the trail. At least that is what the name wants you to believe. Not wanting to find out that this is simple marketing while on a long trip, and wanting to make sure my feet could handle backpacking in minimalist shoes, I decided to make a day trip first chance I could.
“We entered the Mississippi the second day, and soon left the state of Arkansas far behind us. Of all I had seen in America is was the one which pleased me most; I may perhaps never see it again, but I shall never forget the happy days I passed there, where many a true heart beats under a coarse frock or leather hunting shirt.” Wild Sport chapter 12, Friedrick Gerstacker
I have never done a book review here on the site but this one I just completed is pretty unique and I think will be of specific interest to those hikers out there who have hiked around Arkansas.
Wild Sport: Rambling and Hunting Trips through the United States of North America is the true recollections of Friedrich Gerstacker and his trip to the US in the 1830’s-40’s. Gerstacker was a sportsman and travelled throughout the Arkansas and Louisiana areas hunting bear, turkey, deer and more during his seven years over here before returning back home to Germany. Much of the book is spent in various areas of Arkansas eastern, southern and northwestern. Any hiker who is familiar with the layout of the land will recognize a lot of the locations he writes about.
Here are some stretches I have found to help with alleviating ITBS. It seems to me that these would be good stretches to implement prior to starting off your hike even if you do not have ITBS.
So, I have completed my first session of yoga. I should preface all further inputs on this post and any post of this topic by saying our “G” rating for the blog might be lost. There is no way around it. Yoga, pilates, all of these are vulgar, obscene, disgusting systems of supposed “exercise” that I suspect are really imported concepts from the east meant to bring down America.
To begin with, I had to lock my kids in their rooms while I did these exercises. Even the hint of sound from their doors unlocking triggered a growling yelp in between my gasps for oxygen, “Get in your room!” No child should see their father in those poses. Never! Never ever! I can only imagine the years of confusion and shame that would have filled my son or daughter’s imagination and psyche if they happened to walk in upon their dad doing the “barking cow” or “drunken donkey.”
Those who have read the account of the hike through section three of the Ozark Highlands Trail are aware of the injury I experienced in my knee while hiking. After some research I believe that it is not actually a knee injury I have experienced but something called an iliotibial band syndrome. I am not sure if I am spelling that right or now. The symptoms start in the hip region and then stretch around the front of the thigh to the knee. It is basically an issue of the muscles becoming inflamed, kind of sticking to the bones on the leg and then tugging on the muscles around the knee if I am understanding it correctly. It can also cause a scar tissue to develop in the strained muscles which increases the pain. I am posting some links below on ITBS.
I do a lot of reading on other blogs, magazines and such to soak up more information and tips for hiking the trails. The other day I came across one that recommended never hiking with an IPOD or any other music. The recommendation surprised me because it was so contrary to how I usually take the trails.
As I think about it I guess it makes sense from one perspective. If you have your ear buds in and music on then you can’t hear what is on the trail. That’s the safety theory I suppose. It doesn’t line up to my experience though. Granted my musical preferences on the trail are pretty light and I don’t crank the volume up too much but I have never had a problem hearing the sounds of the trail or the woods around me when I pop out the IPOD on the trail.
The Ozark Highlands Trail has given me a fast track education on managing water supplies and storage while hiking. A water bottle alone is not going to do it on a strenuous trail and even a purifier might not be enough on a trail like the OHT when the water sources are dried up.
The purpose of this post is to educate you to everything you need to know and own for having a good and safe water supply on the trail.
As the last set of posts show I did section 2 of the Ozark Highlands Trail solo. I have done a lot of day hikes and a few overnighters solo and never thought much about it. I took along a first aid kit and that was about the gist of it. I guess we can call that mistakes of a beginner.
I read a story the other day about a hiker in Canada who was injured and lost for several days. The cold kicked in causing frost bite and while he was just a short distance from the search crews that were looking for him the cold had affected him to a degree that he was no longer making rationale decisions. Thankfully, this story ended well with the hiker found and brought home safely but not all stories do. In fact, every year hikers end up lost or dead on the trail due to dangers they run into while hiking alone.
My son runs cross country and after every meet we always ask him what he learned, what he could have done better. The same goes for hiking. One of the things I like about hiking a trail as strenuous as section 1 of the OHT is that I am pushed to many of my limits and can find areas where strength or adjustment is needed. A good assessment and debrief should be in order as I finish each of section of the trail. Theoretically, by the time I get to the end of the Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail there should be a good deal of proficiency in my outdoor competency and hiking. I know I have already grown and improved through the hiking completed so far so this stands to reason. Here are some things that I have found in need of tightening in my hiking excursions after this trip.
Meals on the Trail: Some Ideas for You from What We Cooked on Section 1 of the Ozark Highlands Hiking Trail
Most of these meals were surprisingly simple, and all of them were light weight for hauling around the trail. The biggest and bulkiest item that had to be carried was a blue metal pot purchased at WalMart in which we cooked 3 out of 4 of the items. Honestly, we did not need a pot that big and I will be downsizing for Section 2 of the trail.
So a whole season of hiking is in front of me. I have reached the point where day hikes are not enough and I am running short on 20 milers to stretch across a weekend excursion. When I first got into hiking I saw the Ozark Highland’s Trail and looked at it as the granddaddy of hikes in Arkansas. It stretches from between 160-180 miles depending on who you talk to. It covers some of the prettiest areas of the state of Arkansas. It’s incredibly private and yet because of its daunting mileage seems to be avoided to some degree by a lot of hikers. If I had 2-3 weeks I thought, that’s what I would want to do. Two to three weeks is not very likely to free up in my schedule though and even if it did I don’t know how I could justify that size of journey against other priorities.
If you have read the About page then you know some of how my journey into hiking got started. A significant part of that decision had to do with affordability. I considered other hobbies and sports like rock climbing, biking and a few others but hiking appealed most to me and part of that appeal was the price. You can and will add to your gear through the years to make a perfect custom hiking gear kit. In fact, this year I got new shoes, backpack and tent. These were big steps. But in the beginning, all I needed and all I got was a backpack, sleeping bag and good shoes. That was enough to get started. The trails showed me what else I needed and I was able to add that as I went along. If you are planning on starting your journey down the hiking path this year then here is a collection of gear I recommend for quality and affordability as a Start Up package.
One of my hopes at the web site here is to be a terrific source for hikers and outdoor lovers throughout the mid south (Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Louisiana).
This year I am taking the bulk of my hiking and writing and investing it in my home state, the natural state – Arkansas. There are some big plans that I hope to begin sharing here on the blog in the next day or so. That being said, we need writers and hikers from the rest of the (more…)
I noticed my left knee specifically pulling up with some weakness last year when I was hiking one of the Buffalo River Trails. I thought it was interesting that this weakness was not noticed so much when go up hills and elevation but more when going down hills. The knee got wobbly and I could feel a little soreness.
Here is a good article at Backpacker Magazine that I read up on and it provided some tips on form adjustment to protect my back and knees as well as a few other body parts.
I was on the trail the other day and my mind got to wandering as to what are the elements are that make up a great hike. I still have not quite figured out what it is I enjoy so much about hiking the trails of the mid south but I know I come back refreshed from every outing. Here is a list of 5 elements needed for a great hike. Let me know if you have others. (more…)
It’s official! Hiking season is over. Record breaking heat temperatures are popping off across the mid south region turning the outdoors into a miserable place to be until temperatures subside. Fort Smith, AR had a major power outage the same day they broke their summer heat record this week. How would you like to have that kind of AC predicament?
I made the foolish mistake last winter of leaving most of my water in the truck (by accident) while I did the 15 mile Butterfield Trail over at Devil’s Den in northwest Arkansas. I paid dearly for this mistake and by mile 8 I was paying for it. This kind of mistake could be life threatening in the hot conditions we are currently experiencing.
No matter if you are an experienced backpacker or a new day-hiker, here are specific steps you can take to stay safe from the heat on the trail. (more…)
Whether you are new to the trails or an old pro, you need tools to make your hiking experience successful. Chief among these tools are knowledge of where the good hikes are at. Here are two books by Arkansas native Tim Ernst that I highly recommend you invest in for your hikes. I have listed them in the order that I would buy them if you can only get one. Tim includes personal accounts, narratives and information on the best views for each of the trails. Most of my first year of hikes came out of these books and I have rarely hit the trail without one of them.
Arkansas Hiking Trails
This popular guidebook is the most complete resource available on Arkansas hiking trails. It contains 78 maps and complete descriptions of trails all over the state – from short nature walks, to long-distance backpacking trails, and lots of others in between. It covers all of the major trails, plus many unheard of ones that lead to spectacular scenic areas. There is information about hiking, camping, equipment, and other useful subjects. Tim Ernst has hiked more trails in Arkansas than anyone, and his advice will be valuable for anyone who hikes, or wants to. It makes a great gift! The foreword was written by former President Bill Clinton. Click here to order>>
Buffalo River Hiking Trails
This bestselling guide (#4 – updated September, 2010)) has complete descriptions of over 30 hiking trails in the Buffalo River Area (including Hawksbill Crag). These trails range in length from less than a half mile, to more than twenty miles. There are even descriptions of how to get to some of the most scenic spots that don’t have developed trails to them. It contains 25 maps, many mileage logs and elevation profiles, information on camping, bugs, trailhead parking areas, scenic spots, area history, a complete month-by-month weather guide, tips on equipment, plus a whole lot more. The foreword was written by the late Neil Compton, the man who led the fight to save the Buffalo River. This book is the perfect companion for anyone who wants to hike in the Buffalo area for an afternoon, or for an entire week. Written by Tim Ernst, who lives in the Buffalo River area and hikes its trails nearly every day. Click here to order>>
I have an unhealthy “concern” of snakes while out on the trail – especially this time of year. I thank my mom for this and the image of several dead rattlers on our front porch when I was a child not to mention two occasions when kings snakes got into my childhood home via the fire place. Statistically the odds of being snake bitten are pretty slim while on the trail and if you are like me the greater danger is cardiac arrest or bumping my head on rocks or trees while jumping around shrieking like a mad man at the sight of one. However, in the event of a snake sighting on the trail (and you will see them this time of year) there are steps that can be taken to prevent biting that every hiker should be aware of and incorporate into their hiking. (more…)