14 days to go…

So as some of you may have noticed (or not) I missed a scheduled blog entry on Tuesday, and as you could probably guess school was to blame. Darn education- always getting in the way of my nonsensical babble. Anyway, as a makeup I figured I’d take a few moments this evening to offer a brief look at the hike I have planned for next month.

As mentioned in a previous entry, my wife Cris and I will be heading down to Arkansas to do a section on the Ozark Highlands Trail. Neither of us has spent much significant time in this area. In fact, the only time my feet have ever touched Arkansas ground would have been to pump a tank of gas in passing. We’re excited for the opportunity of a more formal introduction; to experience new terrain and gain an intimate look at the Ozark wilds.

The Ozark Highlands Trail (OHT) currently stretches 218 miles, and growing. The main section starts at Lake Fort Smith State Park in northwest Arkansas and meanders 165 miles to Woolum. From there, the trail consists of a number of broken sections waiting to be joined through proposed trail construction. Local trail advocates, organized under the direction of the Ozark Highlands Trail Association, hope to eventually extend the path to connect with the Ozark Trail in Missouri. Once completed, this trail system would encompass a thousand mile corridor between Lake Fort Smith and St. Louis, comprising one of the longest hiking trails in the central United States.

As far as the actual hike experience, going in I’m expecting something closer to the Appalachian Trail than western counterparts. The trail winds through dense forest, undulating up and down over small mountains. It courses along towering bluffs and passes rocky streams with tranquil pools and many small waterfalls.

The forest should be greening up by the time we get there, and I’m hoping for the added bonus of early spring flowers in bloom. Temperatures should be pleasant; likely in the sixties by day, dropping down to the forties after dark. Perfect hiking weather, but there’s also a good chance of rain. I’m hoping our hike won’t be too wet. Not only does this have obvious mood dampening potential, but could also present problems with frequent stream crossings. All part of the adventure, though, and we’ll be ready to take whatever comes.

As always, I welcome the possibility of encounters with the local wildlife. Black bears are in residence, but exceedingly shy. We will be very fortunate to see one. There will be the usual assortment of deer, squirrels and birds. A fox or bobcat might present a fleeting glimpse (again, if we’re lucky) and maybe even a coyote or armadillo. There are snakes; rattlers, copperheads and water moccasins being those which warrant a wide berth, but there again I would relish a safe meeting. It’s just fun to be able to explore a new place and become acquainted with the flora and fauna that call it home.

This will be a different kind of hike for Cris and I. We have five and a half days to give the trail, and rather than race along trying to cover as much as we can squeeze in, we will slow down and take the time to explore. The section we will be hiking is located along the central portion of the path, a segment roughly seventy miles long. We’ll do about eight miles our first afternoon out, and then twelve’s the rest of the way. This is all speculation, of course, as hiking itineraries are never set in stone. But the intent is to be liberal in our allotment of time, and to devote a great deal of attention to photography and enjoying the scenery along the way.

We’re definitely getting excited, and it just dawned on me that our departure is only two weeks away! It will be great to get out on the trail again, and I plan to keep daily journals which I will post to this blog when we get back home; to share a little taste of our Ozark experience with you all. And if all goes as planned, I will have a nice collection of new photographs to add to my portfolio as well.

Fourteen days. Let the countdown begin!

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