Feb. 21, 2017
Today I began my 6(ish) day trek along the Ozark Highlands Trail or OHT for short. It is a 240 mile trail though future plans will connect it to a trail all the way to St. Louis! My goal is to hike 3 days in and 3 days back out, just so I can get an idea of what my mileage will be like on the AT. I arrived at the Lake Fort Smith Park Visitors Center around 1:30pm, purchased a map, and was on my way! While walking by the lake, I thought that it looked rather dirty, probably due to the recent rains, but within a miles it thinned out into a rather beautiful creek. There’s an interesting ivy that’s covering areas of ground and trees and tulips growing near some sore of artisan spring or well. All of it just screams “Spring!” even though it’s still only February.
I almost lost the trail for a minute when it crossed the creek due to a blaze being buried in debris but after a brisk water crossing I was on my way once more. While putting my shoes back on I decided I should go ahead and give my map a look over to decide a destination for tonight. I chose a site 10 miles in called Docker’s Gap. My hiking pace in the past has been between 2 and 2.5 mph so I figured I could get there around 6-6:30. It would be getting dark but I’d manage.
The mile markers on the trail are directly on the side of a blazed trail but I was so lost in thought that I missed several of them and had no clue as to my pace. I remember seeing mile 3 but then I didn’t see another until mile 8. This trail is a heck of a lot of climbing up just to climb back down again but I suppose it’s good training. I ran into another hiker somewhere between miles 5 and 7 and we exchanged pleasantries. He sounded Australian and had a GIGANTIC backpack on which he called “Cushioned Punishment”. He had been hoping to make it to White Rock Mountain today but as that was 16 miles in and there was only a couple of hours of sun left. I told him where I was shooting for and thought he might end up passing by but that was before the rest of today’s hike… I was NOT expecting the amount of elevation gain (and loss) that these last few miles had. I pushed myself a bit too hard but made it to camp around 6. My knee and feet aren’t too happy with me though.
I quickly set up camp and made some dinner (trying out a few different meal ideas, couscous and dried chili tonight). I just love how peaceful it is out here. There’s a nearby creek, the wind is rustling through the branches and what leaves the trees still carry, I can hear critters scurrying close by and a chorus of coyotes just rang out in the distance. Serene, I believe, is the best term.