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Monday, October 31, 2011
Continuing on, you will come to Midnight Hole; a deep pool of water under a shallow cascade. I was told the pool drops over 30 feet down; the water is a beautiful deep emerald/blue color right under the cascade. It looks like a great swimming hole as well as a nice spot to fish.
As you continue hiking, you will eventually arrive at the spot where Mouse Creek Falls drops into Big Creek. This is a great spot to turn around and hike back to the parking lot/campground for a fairly short hike (4 miles roundtrip). Look for the horse-hitching rack. If you continue, you arrive at Campsite 37 in Walnut Bottoms, a beautiful secluded site in a nice spot for spring wildflowers. This would make for a roughly 10.5 mile roundtrip hike. On the way to Campsite 37, you may notice a trail off to the left(south) a few hundred yards before Campsite 37; this is Swallow Fork Trail; this trail eventually meets with Mt.Sterling Ridge Trail that takes you to the summit of Mt. Sterling, although this is a strenuous hike of several more miles.
Friday, October 21, 2011
I made my first trip to Twin Falls of Richland Creek Wilderness this spring; I decided to make a solo overnight camping trip to give me a better chance at good light. The road that takes you to the trailhead at Hill Cemetary is located at Iceledo Gap close to Dickey's Junction, Arkansas. This is normally a 6-8 mile roundtrip hike; since I had to backtrack to retrieve forgotten equipment, I ended up doing a bit further than that. The trail takes you into some of the most beautiful terrain in Arkansas, but you have to work for it. The Park Service wants to keep the area primitive and pristine; so there is no trail for the last mile or so to the falls area. I would recommend a good map and at least a good compass, which is what I used, or a GPS unit. Be careful for bears, which are in the area; also, I wouldn't be really surprised to see the occasional mountain lion. It is a bit of an adventure just to find the road to the cemetary, you have to traverse several miles of dirt/gravel roads just to get there; all of the area is beautiful, but very rural. I parked the car and headed down the road as quickly as I could. I used a couple of Tim Ernst's excellent guidebooks for general maps and directions to the falls. (next) image 1, image 2, image 3, image 4
You have to hike/drive at least a half mile down this rough road to get to Hill Cemetary; there is a small parking area there. I had hiked almost to the cemetary when I discovered that I had left my tripod in the car! Just great; I dumped my pack in the woods hidden in brush and hiked back up to the car, retrieved the tripod, and then hiked back to the cemetary. This added about a mile of extra hiking and an hour less evening light. Oh well. This road to the cemetary has several rough spots, including some big mudholes and several protruding rocks; it might be possible to get a car over it in dry weather, but I wouldn't risk it. A 4wd vehicle could get stuck in the right conditions; it's likely safer to park at the top of the road near the residence. (don't block the property's entrance!) (next)
You find the trail to Twin Falls along the left(north) side of the cemetary; just follow it and you soon cross a little stream and start heading south; this is an old grownup jeep road that is mostly level; it's all easy hiking for the most part. It winds through the forest for a ways until it curves around to a stream crossing. You may find a bit of deadfall blocking the trail here and there, but nothing too extreme. When you get to the stream crossing, you may get a little wet (particularly during the wet spring season) but hopefully not much. After crossing the little stream, according to Tim Ernst, you have two options; either follow the little stream down to Big Devil's Fork Creek and downstream to Twin Falls, or stay on the road a little longer and angle downhill further on. There is no trail if you bushwhack down the little streamside; it's rough in spots. I decided to stay on the trail a bit further. (next)
I continued hiking after the stream crossing for a while; at a certain point, the old jeep road/trail turns sharply left(east) and eventually kind of peters out. This is where the worst part of the bushwhack starts. I backtracked to the sharp curve and struck out in a southwest vector into the woods and immediately came to a big, crumbling bluff; scrambling down a bit further, I came to a steep drop-off where huge boulders had rolled down the hillside. There was a killer view from here over the Richland Creek Wilderness; I spotted Richland Creek way off in the distance and I knew then about where I was. If it hadn't been so close to dark, I would have had to get some photos of the area; as it was, I had to hike at least another 1/2 mile to get to the camping area. Luckily, it's hard to get really lost here; at any time , you can head due west until running into Big Devil's Fork Creek and follow it downstream; that's essentially what I did. Next time, instead of hiking from the stream crossing all the way to the sharp left turn, I will start angling southwest maybe ten minutes after the stream crossing; the incline will be a lot more gradual. (next)
Thursday, October 20, 2011
After being stopped by the bluff, I backtracked and headed due west straight down the steep hillside a bit before sunset, slipping and falling here and there on the leaves and loose rocks. This looks like prime rattlesnake territory, and more than once I would step into a crevice filled with leaves expecting several of them to be attached to my leg, luckily I didn't see any of them. After dropping a good ways down the hillside, I eventually come to Big Devil's Fork Creek and headed a bit downstream; it was almost dark now and I pitched my tent on the first semilevel spot I found. I bear-bagged the food from a limb and crawled into the tent. Although there were a few mosquitos around, the temperature was perfect and a beautiful moon came up to boot. I slept well and got up before sunrise to hike to Twin Falls for a few shots. Just before dark, I shot this view of Big Devil's Fork Creek: (next)
Twin Falls is created by Long Devil's Fork and Big Devil's Fork creeks; this water in turn flows into Richland Creek a bit downstream. Both of these creeks have some beautiful cascades of their own further upstream; since I visited the area in April, dogwoods were blooming in spots. One such cascade is here:
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I should probably mention a few other things about this area; first, be careful climbing around the falls; supposedly, another photog slipped at Twin Falls a while back and broke several bones when he fell into the cold water; he was rescued, after lying in the water for some time, because he had some type of GPS rescue monitor; luckily, I think he is making a full recovery. Trust me, it would be easy to fall and just remember, you are miles from the nearest gravel road, many more miles from the nearest town, and your cell phone probably won't work there either. This is really rough terrain to get out of with any type of injury. Also, when I was there, I saw some camping/hunting gear behind some boulders and brush; I never saw anyone else; perhaps they were hunting; I don't know; all I can say is I hope they were friendly due to the remote area we were in! Last of all, please be careful camping anywhere near the falls so we can preserve this bit of heaven. Another shot of Twin Falls is below:
I don't think there is an easy way back out of this area; I basically took a northern heading paralelling Big Devil's Fork a ways, then angling N/E up the steep hillside; naturally, the hike back up all the loose boulders is even less pleasant than going down, but just keep going. Eventually, you will top out on the ridge and it's much easier to walk; keep angling N/E and you will strike the trail that takes you back to Hill Cemetary and the road out. While there is no doubt that this is a long, tough bushwhack, the pristine scenery makes up for it; I don't think there is anywhere else in Arkansas quite like it for an isolated wilderness experience; I guess the Park Service knew what it as doing when they decided not to blaze trails back here!