Outdoor Post #4: Ozark Highland Trail

It’s been some time since the last installment of my guest outdoor series.  This is because it took me a fair amount of coaxing to get the author to actually contribute to this blog.  This post is written by non other than my lovely wife, Tara, as she recounts our very first backpacking trip together.

 

I took the liberty of adding the photos and captions.

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After nearly 2 years of being married to Andrew, I am finally making my debut in his blog.  I never thought I would become a blogger, but this will just be something else I have to add to my list of things Andrew has convinced me to do.  If he ever gets me designing circuits, someone please help me!

Andrew introduced me to backpacking when we had been dating for about 9 months.  He decided we needed to go on a backpacking trip over fall break.  Little did I know this was one of the many tests he had to see if I was adventurous enough to consider spending the rest of his life with.  Luckily, I think I passed.

So knowing absolutely nothing about backpacking, and very little about surviving in the wilderness (I guess camping at the state park 10 minutes from home doesn’t really count), I agreed to the trip.  Sometimes I still think back and wonder what in the world I was thinking.  Andrew had been backpacking many times throughout his childhood, and had organized one trip with his brother (but they ended up hiking out early).  I figured he knew enough about what he was doing to keep me alive, plus I wanted to impress him.

We decided on the Ozark Highland Trail in Arkansas.  I made do with the clothes and shoes I had (I didn’t have real hiking boots or a proper poncho).  I don’t remember weighing the packs but they were definitely not light-weight.

We had to stop in Fayetteville on the way down to pick up a map and an extra flashlight.  We found an oddly specific guidebook which ended up being very useful.  When we finally made it to the trailhead, it was dark.  Not dusk or sunset, but pitch black.  I was a little freaked out.  We got our packs on and headed down the trail with the newly purchased flashlight and an LED lantern.  After hiking an unknown trail in the dark like that, I really appreciate my head lamp that I have now.  We hiked maybe 1/2-3/4 mile and found a spot to set up camp.  We put up the tent and had a quick dinner of soup and hot dogs (I think I probably only at the soup). 

Soon it was time for bed.  We brushed teeth and I was about to get into the tent when Andrew said you’d better go to the bathroom first.  I knew this was part of backpacking, but it was so dark.  I walked away from the tent, but made sure I could still see it so I could get back.  Evidently I didn’t pick a secluded enough spot.  Andrew still laughs at me for this.

The next day we woke up and actually got to take a look around the area.  We made breakfast: oatmeal and chai tea, and got ready for the day.  There was a creek a short distance away from our camp, so Andrew showed me how to pump water through the filter.  We loaded up our packs and hit the trail.  It was a beautiful hike through the Ozark forest. 

 

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Tara purifies drinking water

We decided it would be neat to make it to White Rock Mountain that day.  The trail was relatively flat and not too difficult.  We kept up a pretty good pace for most of the day and the 6 miles to the base of the mountain seemed to go by quickly.  The last mile of the day was grueling.  My shoulders were killing me and now instead of walking on a relatively flat trail, we were hiking up.  We made it right before sunset and hurriedly found a spot to camp on top and took our dinner out to some rocks near the edge to watch the sunset.  It was one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen.

 

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Our dinner-time view from the top of White Rock Mountain

We were just sitting, enjoying the view and Andrew was playing his harmonica when this photographer came up to us.  He was from National Geographic and wanted to know if it was OK if we were included in some of his shots.  We didn’t make the magazine, but we were on the website

 

Hikers Andrew Newcomb 402-707-0783, and  Para Somer of Lincoln Nebraska prepare dinner and Andrew plays harmonica at dusk and under moonlight with a view of the Ozarks from White Rock Mountain, Ozark Highlands Trial, Arkansas. They are hiking part of the Ozark Highlads Trail.

Posted with permission—sort of.

That night after we went to bed, the wind really picked up.  When we woke up, it was howling and the sky was filled with rain clouds.  Instead of doing a quick day hike with our day packs to a pond, we decided we’d better just pack everything up and head out.  It rained for most of the day.  Not a hard rain, but persistent.  Andrew got to show off and rigged up a rain shelter for lunch.

 

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Our lunch shelter

Our original plan was to camp about 3/4 of the way back to the car and hike out the next day.  When we reached the area where we had originally had planned on stopping, we decided neither of us really wanted to camp in the rain.  Also, some of my stuff, including my sleeping bag, was wet due to my sub-par poncho.  We powered on, hiking the full 8 miles and got to the car just before dark. Of course, to get to the car, we had to climb the only other steep part of the trail.  We reached the car wet, tired, and hungry.  We headed to Eureka Springs for the night.

 

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The sub-par poncho next to a proper poncho

 

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Much more comfortable than a wet sleeping bag

 

I was pretty impressed with my first backpacking trip: 16 miles in basically 2 days.  If I had known exactly what I was getting myself into, I may have picked a slightly shorter trip.  Luckily for Andrew, I really enjoyed the trip and we have had many more backcountry adventures since.

6 thoughts on “Outdoor Post #4: Ozark Highland Trail

  1. Hiking in the dark and hiking in the rain…it doesn’t get much better than that. I guess I never had a chance to teach Andrew how to set up camp in the rain.

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