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Backpacking Along the Ouachita Trail


Aaron Zagrodnick
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Aaron Zagrodnick

I hear the wind approaching as it moves up the ridge. No other sound breaks the night's long silence, not even the rustle of a possum in the undergrowth. It is early autumn in a year of drought; perhaps the lack of water at this elevation keeps the critters away, which suits me fine. We took care to hang the bear bag high off the ground, regardless. Why tempt fate?

I drift off, awakening later to an unmistakable sound a few feet away. Zzip! Opens the tent. Zzip! Closes the tent. It is Mary, up and around in the darkness. Without looking at my watch I know it is morning, but I am in no hurry. My sleep was restless, as it often is the first night or two on the trail. I listen to the activity and stay warm in the cocoon of my sleeping bag. Soon I hear Deb getting up and decide I had better move. Day is breaking.

Susan Dragoo takes us along as she hikes a section of this scenic 223 mile trail running from Oklahoma into Arkansas - Read the full article below in Issue 10:

The Ouachita Trail

Issue 10 Page 1

Backpacking Campsite Along the Ouachita Trail

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  • 3 months later...

After reading this and what I already knew about the Ouachita Tr I felt it tugging at my hiking/wandering soul. The OT is now at the top of the 2014 long distance hiking calendar. I'm going to try(if I can get the time off from work) to also bang out the Buffalo River and Ozark Highlands Trails in back to back to back fashion. I just ordered the books from Tim Ernst. I'm planning a continuous bushwack hike from the Buffalo River Tr western Terminus to the Ozark Highlands Tr.

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Had a chance to hit part of the Ouachita Trail this past fall - Definitely recommend it. Was quite surprised at how infrequently used the trail seemed to be...Didn't see anyone else out backpacking the entire time. Hope to head back in 2014 and knock out more of the trail, or the entire thing...

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  • 4 months later...

I'm thruing the OT Nat. Scenic Trail eastbound right now. I'm in a ARkansas library as I write. I've only gone about 100 miles of the `230 mile or so way. This early in the season I've only had one 7 mile stretch w/ no water right on or crossing the trail. Several nice OT shelters with more being built. I've stayed at 4 of the OT shelters by myself. The OT is well blazed and signed. Some sections are well hiked and better maintained than others. The ice storms and strong winds over consecutive yrs have left many blowdowns in places that the trail crews are yet to see but as I say SO FAR plenty of blazes to follow. Lots of poison ivy on the western sections so far. I'm yet to see another OT thru-hiker and have only seen one other day hiker the entire 100+ miles(on my first day near Talimena SP in Oklahoma). Went into Mena and Mt Ida Arkansas(30 miles or so from Big Brushy CG). Good uncrowded hiking. IMHO, this is a NST that could be used more often. It has a long hiking window possibly hikeable even during winter which would provide even greater views.

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I've hiked the Ozark Highlands Trail (Lake Fort Smith-Dockerys Gap) a couple of times. It's a wonderful hike and I've seldom seen another hiker or backpacker. So if you like getting away from the crowds (as I certainly do!), this is a great place to go.

Gary M

Olathe, Kansas

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  • 1 month later...

The Ouachita Trail(pronounced wash-it-aw) was a wonderful uncrowded thru-hike. I took advantage of the 4 newly built trail shelters. This is a National Scenic Trail that should get more use in the very near future both in the spring and fall. I saw only 4 other hikers and no other thru-hikers the whole 230 mile hike. Water was basically a non issue thru-hiking in May 2014. If anything the torrential downpours I experienced over a couple of days made for a few calf deep muddy water fords. Do be aware that Queen Wilhelmina Lodge is closed until Feb 2015 for renovations and Big Brushy CG is closed until further notice(flooding). Stopping by the Rich Mt Country Store to chat with Steve Watson was a highlight of the hike. Never got to the Ozark Highlands Tr though. I felt it was getting too late into spring to hike that trail.

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The OT actually can be hiked all the way into Little Rock from the Ouachita Trail eastern terminus at Pinnacle SP via laned bike trails and the multi-use Arkansas River Trail. http://arkansasrivertrail.org/ The River Trail mostly runs within view of the Arkansas River the entire time and is an easy(flat) 15 mile or so stroll into the downtown Little Rock area from the SP w/ good views back to Pinnacle Mt from the top of the Two Rivers Pedestrian Bridge http://littlerock.about.com/od/outdoorrecreation/p/Visit-Two-Rivers-Bridge.htm and The Big Dam Pedestrian Bridge, touted as the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. This is what I largely did to get into downtown Little Rock. But, before heading into Little Rock it's worth a stop at the Pinnacle MT SP Wilderness Center, w/ child friendly wildlife, native plant displays, and historical info, and for taking in the view across the Arkansas River and flood plain, and where you just hiked the OT, at the Observation Deck. After my stop at the Wilderness Center I learned there are alligators in Arkansas which is something I never knew. I also watched two nesting Bald Eagles from the Observation Deck. There is also a Central Arkansas Transit Authority(CATA) bus that services Pinnacle Mt SP that can be caught if you flag it down. It's Bus #25(Pinnacle Mt Express) and travels between the Little Rock downtown area and the SP. http://www.cat.org/bus-service/bus-schedules/25-pinnacle-mountain-express

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