Ouachita Trail: Mile 192-157.5

Frost Flower

North Fork Pinnacle

My last actions. An absurdly inaccurate eye of Ra. A fitting end.

 

 

 

This trip was going to be a trip with a couple bros and we were thinking about going 30 miles over 3 days. Then they couldn’t go and I started thinking, might as well go 45 miles because 15/day is doable. Then I figured 60 would be doable and finally I looked at the map for pick-up points and decided going 70 miles in three days would be a good idea.

Well, being the responsible young adult I am, the night before my trip I checked the weather and it said there was like a 40% chance for .1″ of snow. I believe my dad and I left around 6:20 or so and got to the Highway 9 trailhead around 7:15. This trailhead is actually quite close to Little Rock and Conway and is easy to locate. After a couple miles in, I had already started to question my decision. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take many breaks, but I did allow myself to take a .25 mile detour just past mile 185 to go up to the North Fork Pinnacle. There was a fire pit and limited camping spots. I’d imagine it’d be a cool area during the summer months.

I didn’t take any breaks longer than 5 minutes and that day still felt incredibly long. Final tallies for the day were 26 miles traveled, 58,592 steps and 230 floors climbed. I set up my tent in the Oak Mountain Shelter at mile 167.4. The finish getting to the shelter was not the easiest and I started making camp at six with snow flurries already starting. I almost wonder if I should have set it up on the ground in front of the shelter because I started to get cold from the ground since the shelter was raised. At least I was protected from the wind though. (My plan for the second night was to gather some sticks and make a little snow barrier on the side of my tent not protected by the shelter.) I also had a two man tent so that probably didn’t help.  By eight I was all bundled up and dozed off and on for awhile.

After maybe 1.5 of total sleep I decided at 12:45 to go ahead and get up. My plan was to go 33 miles that day and have a nice easy lay-up the final day of 10 or so miles. I was greeted with an inch of snow already on the ground and pretty heavy snowfall ongoing, as can be seen in the video. By 1:30 I was off to a slow and steady pace, limited by snow, my painful feet and tracking the trail in the dark with only my headlight and flashlight to guide me.

The snow truly never let up during those dark hours, but I just zoned out and pushed forward. I hadn’t had any reception since about three hours into my hike the previous day. After a long stretch of elevation increase and a total of 9 miles of hiking on the day, at 7 o’clock I turned my phone on and took a break. Curiously, I had coverage even though Sprint didn’t have that area on their map. I even got data up there. That of course let to a flurry of incoming texts from my mother. Long story short, I hiked another mile while we were on the phone and then my dad told me to turn back to Highway 7. Unfortunately there wasn’t another major highway until our original extraction point and the roads were already starting to get slick in areas. I trudged backwards a mile and a half to Highway 7 and for the first time during my trip, I got quite cold while I waited an hour at the trailhead for my father.

I hated turning back, but there was a good chance for at least another two inches of snow that day and night. I will say I had plenty of water and food left to get me through. I was expecting to make it to my shelter by 8:30 so that would have been an absurdly long day. Another trip for another time.

I’m not sure what I got out of this one. I only took one detour to a pinnacle and I covered large swaths of the trail in darkness. I simply went because it was there and I knew nobody else would be dumb enough to be out there. I knew nobody else would be foolish enough to hike 37 miles in 25 hours with a 30+ pound pack. There’s a comfort in the silent suffering. There’s a peace to found in an apathetic forest that is both fluid and unwavering. Gumption is forged in the cries that only God hears.

Or something like that. It took me a solid half day to recover. I say I wouldn’t do it again, but there might be another year where I feel frisky on my birthday.

 

Ramble on,

Sam

Reminder to self: bring Gold Bond and more socks

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