Ouachita Trail- Mile 157-212
This is the final leg of a Ouachita Trail section hike by Derick and I. Since we are nearing the end of the trail, we spent 5 1/2 hours staging a vehicle at the end (Pinnacle State Park) and then driving to our starting point on FS road 122. We finally got on the trail at 5:30 pm and hiked up a steep climb for 1.4 miles to moonshine shelter. We quickly went to work sweeping the shelter, setting the bear bag rope, and gathering firewood. We fixed our dinner and enjoyed the fire along with some moonshine (what w\else would you bring to Moonshine Shelter). After finishing the moonshine we hit the sleeping bags in anticipation of the hiking ahead of us.
Day 1 – 3/18/2018
We awoke about 6:00 am and began getting our gear together. After a quick breakfast we were on the trail heading east. We soon arrived at the highway 7 trailhead which had a nice bridge and benches near the Saline Creek. After filtering some water for the day we were back on the trail. The trail crossed under highway 7 and up and down several hills in the next few miles. At Mile 164 we came to sugar creek and followed a small stream uphill. There were several pools in this stream and it would be a great place to stop and soak on a hot day. We continued on to the Oak Mountain Shelter at mile 167.4 where we stopped and ate lunch and rested for about an hour. After lunch we got back on the trail and at mile 168.9 crossed FS road 124 and entered the Flatside Wilderness. At mile 170.9 we stopped at Green Thumb springs to refill water. The spring wasn’t flowing but we did find some small pools upstream to get water from. From there we continued on the trail until we reached mile 175 where we crossed an unnamed creek and again refilled water for our camp tonight. We continued down the trail and as the creek turned the bend there were several pools and waterfalls. We found our campsite at mile 175.2 situated on a bench across the creek from the trail. Before setting up camp we went back to the pools and took the opportunity to soak in the cold water and clean up a bit. Back at the campsite we set up our tent and got things ready for dinner.
Day 2 – 3/18/2018
Up before daylight again this morning, we break camp, eat breakfast and are hitting the trail just as it becomes light. About 2 miles in we pass a west-bound hiker and share what the trail holds for each of us ahead. After leaving the hiker we arrive a Crystal Prong Creek which has a very nice campsite next to the creek. The campsite was occupied by 3 people who had just hiked in from FR 94 to spend the night on the creek. After crossing the creek on rocks we began climbing up toward flatside mountain. After crossing FR94 the road continues uphill toward flatside mountain and a .2 mile spur to the pinnacle. Their were great views from the top. Probably the best we had seen on the Ouachita Trail so far. Coming back from the pinnacle the trail continued mostly downhill until we came to Oak Mountain shelter where we stopped for lunch. As we ate it began to sprinkle , but it was short lived and we continued on our way after lunch. The trail dips down to Brown’s Creek where we refilled water bottles before moving down the trail again. The trail then began a steady 670 foot climb over the next 2 miles. Shortly before the top we met 4 other West-bound hikers bringing out total for the day to 8 which is more than we have seen on the entire first 175 miles of the trail. At north fork pinnacle we took the spur to the top which had the foundation for an old fire tower and pretty good views in all directions. After leaving the pinnacle the trail is mostly downhill past the Lake Sylvia junction. In this area we pass 3 more west-bound hikers. We refilled our water at an unnamed creek in order to ensure water at the shelter 1.9 miles away. After leaving the creek it began to rain and we donned our rain jackets and walked in the rain the final 1.9 miles to the Nancy Mountain Shelter. The rain picked up after we arrived and we spent the afternoon and evening enjoying the sound of the rain on the tin roof.
Day 3 – 3/19/2018
The rain held off for most of the night, but around 6:00 am a string thunderstorm came through. This delayed our start a little while (well, that and a game of Land-Rule) and we finally hit the trail about 7:40. Today is a long day as we leave the national forest and cross through private land until we get back into public land around Lake Maumelle. We leave the Nancy Mountain Shelter and in about 2 miles reach highway 9 and the end of the Ouachita National Forest. A sign tells us the next 6 miles are on private property held for logging. We see very little logging activity in this section and soon are back in public land where the maumelle River starts entering Lake Maumelle. We stop and eat lunch before reaching highway 10 only to discovery a nice picnic area with tables and trash cans we could have used. We dump our trash, take a picture of the lake and proceed across the bridge to the north side of the river. At this point we have 20 miles of the OT left and hope to get half of that out of the way this afternoon. As we hike along the north side of the lake we have numerous creek crossings including several with some very tricky rock hopping to get across with dry feet. Despite the slowdowns from crossing the creeks we made it to mile 210 before calling it a day. As darkness approached we quickly set up camp, ate, and hit the sleeping bags. A nearly 20 mile day had wore us out.
Day 4 – 3/20/2018
Knowing we had a 5 1/2 hour drive home, we were up and on the trail by a little after 6:00 am. The remaining trail continued the circle around Lake Maumelle and took us right by the dam and the spillway below it. The trail filled the Maumelle River to highway 300 where we crossed over the river on the highway. Entering Pinnacle Mountain State Park we continued on the highway for a short distance until the trail veered off to cross the Maumelle River on an old closed off bridge. We continued on across the road and into the forest eventually joining the base trail that circles Pinnacle Mountain. We continued on the base trail to the east summit trailhead where we decide to hike the 1/2 mile spur to the summit. About 1/4 mile into the trail the trail transitioned to a rock scramble gaining the last 300′ of elevation one rock at a time. Once on the top there were 360 degree views of the area. You can see the Arkansas River to the north, the city of Little Rock to the east and the Ouachita forest to the west. The views were amazing. After a break at the top we then climbed back down the rocks and continued the last 1.3 miles of the Ouachita trail finally reaching the end at the Pinnacle Mountain State Park visitors center. This completed our section hike of the Ouachita Trail, but by no means does this complete our hiking. There are many more trails we hope to conquer together.