Thursday, November 25, 2010

Return to Caney Creek

My first time to visit this area was Halloween weekend when I joined Trailrelic and his friends to backpack. It was my first backpacking trip. Well needless to say, I was hooked, not just with backpacking, but with the Caney Wilderness. Until recently discovering the forum, I'd really focused on the Buffalo area, and didn't realize this area was only 4 hrs from my front door to the trailhead.

November 20-23, 2010

I drove up Sat AM, picked out a camp site at Shady Lake (I was the only inhabitant of loop C) and then proceeded to hike the Tall Peak trailhead, which for anyone that doesn't know, it's right in the park. It was nearly 11:00. As many of you know it was very foggy; I knew the "vistas" would be non-existent, but I was hiking simply for the pleasure of hiking so it didn't matter. I brought the camera and took a few pics before I began to ascend the trail. It was wet and slick, so the camera was packed away and I continued on up the trail. There's nothing like walking alone through the woods in the mist. I only hiked about 2.5 miles up (trail is 3.2 mi. one way) I realized that I hadn't seen a blaze in a while and remembered Tim Ernst's comment about a trail "you don't want to take) it was getting a little steep, was wet and slick, and I don't take unnecessary risks when I solo, so I turned around in hopes of finding where I'd turned wrong. Well it turned out I hadn't gone wrong, but apparently after talking with Ed and Tom the next day, someone had started repainting the blazes, but possibly didn't get finished. At that point I decided not to go back up, there really wasn't anything to "see" tower? I don't see a fire tower :) Looking down into the Caney Wilderness area was beautiful though.

I got back to camp, ate, and set my hammock up near the water, settled in with a book and read for a while. Just after dark the coyotes serenaded, something, probably a deer, went thrashing into the lake, and later something dropped loudly from a tree with a hollow thunk into the water. Ah the sounds of the night. Even though there was cloud cover, the full moon illuminated the night sky.

The next morning I listened again to the weather radio, ate a leisurely breakfast and proceeded to get ready for a day on the Caney Cr. Trail. I opted not to take the camera.

I reached the east trailhead at 9:30, and proceeded down the trail. I passed a group of kids and chatted with them for a bit, then later I ran into Tom and Ed, I'd met Ed on the last trip, and it was very nice to finally get to meet Tom. We chatted for a bit, then we headed in opposite directions. I walked on, taking in all the beauty of fall. I didn't see anyone else the rest of the hike, although there was a large group camping somewhere, maybe Katy Falls, according to Tom and Ed. I checked the time and the time I'd left, walked a little longer, then a little before 1:00 turned around to head back. Coming back I found the Hippie tree that Tom had described earlier; I wouldn't have noticed it otherwise, and I'm not sure I'd have made out the "hippie" seems like Tom said it was done many years ago. I was back at the trail head by 3:30, drove back to camp to have dinner around 5. I decided to take a chair and sit down at the edge of the lake to eat and I'd just been sitting there a minute, taking in the late afternoon quiet, when I noticed two white things in a tree across the lake. They were on the same plane, just several feet apart which seemed odd. Now I wear glasses but even with them I couldn't tell what it was, but I had an idea. I went and got the camera and zoomed in and sure enough it was a pair of eagles. They only allowed me a couple of shots before they felt intruded upon and flew down to the opposite end of the lake, but it was a pleasant dinnertime surprise.

The next morning (Monday) I awoke to light rain, listened to the forecast, and decided to postpone my Little MO hike until another time....Tom and Ed had decided to leave due to imminent rain, and I didn't want to get caught crossing a rising river. This area is new to me and the thought of last June still haunts me. So I headed for dry land. I spent a night at Lake Catherine, because I'd seen in Tim's book they had almost 10 miles of trails. I was only able to hike 5.5 because the other 4.5 was closed because it's adjacent to a deer lease.

Tuesday I awoke again to light rain, but I just couldn't go home, I considered a few options and decided to backtrack, and head to QWSP. I thought it might have some trails, and I'd never driven the Scenic Talimena Hwy.
I drove along hwy 8 to Mena, and headed up the road to the state park. It was about a mile or so up that I encountered the heavy fog bank, with 20-30 ft visibility, I would catch a glimpse of a "vista" sign as I passed each, it was downright comical and I should have taken a picture just for fun!
I drove up to the lodge, but it was a ghost even from the road that encircles it. I drove back down and decided I'd just go and check out Little MO Falls but by the time I got down hwy 71 and to the turn off, the cumulus congestus clouds were forming fast (it was about 78* by then) and I knew a thunderstorm was only a short time away. So with much reluctance I headed home, all the while planning where I could continue to hike farther south where maybe the front would hold off for a while......I decided to wait for the rain to pass and try an area close by this weekend......

I wished I'd gone hiking instead. While walking my dog last evening, we came upon a domestic bunny that either escaped, or someone "set free", white with dark grey nose, tail, feet and ears, it stuck out like a sore thumb against the yucca it was nestled under. It would soon become a meal for either a coyote, bobcat, hawk or owl, we've even had two report/sightings of a cougar. I took the dog home, came back with a carrier and the bunny hopped right I type this I have a bunny happily munching veggies in my on Thanksgiving day, I have to try to find a friend that has some coastal hay! I put up flyers and emailed a rescue group and I think they can help me (for a price) I just couldn't leave it....another casualty of insensitive, thoughtless people...then again it actually could be that someone is pining for it.....I hope :) Here's a link to the few pics I took.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I took my first backpacking trip a couple of weekends ago, it was wonderful. Part of the thrill was in the planning; researching, weighing, developing spreadsheets, comparing others gear lists.
This latest obsession began to evolve after I bought a new camera last fall. I had given away all my old SLR gear long ago, but hadn't replaced it. When I started to research, I decided that I really didn't want to go full blown, so I settled on a midway Canon SX10IS. It all started with a buck in my yard. I just needed a little more telephoto than what my little point and shoot had. Anyway, I decided that the new camera was a good excuse to take a couple of fall days off and head to the Upper Buffalo (pics of this trip are on my link below that trip report.) I hiked quite a bit that trip, and decided for Thanksgiving to head to the Hill Country and hike some more (also in another trip report.)
Then there was the Big Bend Trip (ditto.)
All the while I was hiking these trails a wisp of an idea began to grow. I had never seriously considered backpacking since I have a badly abused back, and I had neck surgery just a couple of years ago. However, the wisp continued to grow until it became a cloud. You know one of those clouds above a persons head when they get an idea. Well it was a fairly grandiose idea, but I couldn't shake it.
So, I began to research. The internet is a wonderful thing (even if it is changing the way my brain works, and my powers of concentration are going to hell.) It can't be beat for research! I visited all kinds of ultralight backpacking sites, not to mention all the forums; BackpackingLight, the Hammock Forums, White Blaze, Big Bend Chat, etc.
Boy what a wealth of knowledge out there. Well before you could say ultra light, I was buying new gear,weighing, making spreadsheets, and about a year later was ready to start training. This was the true test, could I actually sustain a trip, even a short one carrying all my gear on my back???? Well I started light, then added over time until I was hiking up to 4 miles in the morning before work with a loaded pack. But what about a real hike? I decided to join in on a hike to the Caney Cr. Trail in SW AR. It was an easy trail, about 5 miles per day and surely would give me my answer.
It was a wonderful trip!!! Albeit with a large, noisy, yet fun group, but it gave me the opportunity to further test my gear, and go into an area I'd never been to. I carried the pack with ease. The only thing I hadn't planned for was the dayhike after setting up camp. I didn't have a way to carry water, but I've since remedied that, and I now have a carabiner to attach my pack to the tree where I hang my hammock. I did have an extra piece for prusik line so I was able to attach it to a tree, but those were the only things I didn't foresee. I can't wait to go back!