Wednesday, December 23, 2009

High point trip

The short version:

State highpoints – 2 (24 & 25 for me, 6 & 7 for Eric)
County highpoints – 6 (grand total of 90 for me)
Fire towers – 3
Total peaks – 8
Funniest town names – Blue Ball & Smackover
Seinfeld references – too many to count


The longer version:
Earlier this year Eric and I (along with Albee) went to North and South Dakota to bag some high points. Soon after Eric asked me about a late fall trip to the South for some more bagging. Eric is working on visiting all of the states and I’m working on getting to some high points. This trip would be a good combination of both goals.

I was already in Little Rock after spending a week in Austin TX for work. Eric’s flight was delayed so our plans for the first day were adjusted. He turned up about 2 hours late and by 1 PM we were headed out of Little Rock. We stopped early on for a run in a park on the outskirts of LR. It was good to stretch the legs out after sitting around all day (actually I was up at 3 AM for a treadmill run before heading to the airport). Once the first run was under our belts we settled in for a drive to Mt Magazine, which is the highest point in AR.

It is pretty late in the season so we were basically the only people in the park. We picked up three hikers on the outskirts of the park and they told us how they were camping (they had the entire campground to themselves) and that they had become totally lost while hiking. They had a park map but had left it in their tent (d’oh!). It was kind of funny because they were a good 3-4 miles from the campground when we picked them up. After our good deed for the day was done we headed to the trailhead for the summit. It was an easy 5 minute run up to the top. After some pictures we continued down the other side of the mountain then ran on the road for a bit and headed up to the radio area (sub peak) which has a lookout tower (fenced and posted). We then backtracked and re-ran over the summit of Magazine for a total run of 59:24.

Next up we navigated over to Petit Jean Mountain. It was a bit of a rough ride but nothing the Nissan rental car couldn’t handle. We hiked the short distance to the summit about 30 minutes after sunset with just enough light to see. We headed off to Waldron, AR for a night in the Southern Hospitality Motel. This would cut our morning driving time a bit. The only negative about Waldron was that Eric found out it was a dry county, no beer for him.

On Saturday we were up before sunrise and headed out to Rich Mountain. I had picked out a spot on Fire Road 514 where we could do a run in both AR and OK. It was a bit chilly but the run on dirt road was fun (45:23). We also spotted a benchmark at the trailhead for the Ouachita trail, but decided that the trail was a bit rough and the road would be okay for running. It was quite foggy when we drove up to Rich Mountain (fire tower, benchmark, and county high point). Basically you can park within 50 meters of the top. We took a couple of pictures and headed for our next destination.

After Rich Mountain we drove a long way to get to the tri state marker near Zylks, LA. We stopped just over the state line where Eric happily purchased a six-pack. There was a pretty cool Texas state marker and the benchmark was encased in concrete which had the three states (LA, TX, AR) chiseled on it. We took turns standing in three states then headed for a LA county high point (actually Parish high point).

The Lincoln Parish High Point was located right next to Route 147 and was an easy walk. The path was drive-able at one point but now it was pretty much overgrown. It only took us a couple of minutes to run up and back to the car that we had parked precariously on the side of the highway. It seemed like all the roads no matter how small had a speed limit of 55 mph.

On to Driskill Mountain which was only a few miles from the Lincoln Parish HP. It was an excellent day and had now warmed up to the mid-50’s. Eric and I ran from the car to the summit of Driskill, which at 535 feet is the highest point in Louisiana. The run was only about 5 minutes and the other trails/dirt roads on the map were either very rough or posted, so we headed back to the road for a 47:47 run. There was very little traffic so for the most part it was a quiet relaxing run.

We drove to Camden AR which was part of the way back toward Little Rock and stayed at a nice Holiday Inn Express. Eric had his 6-pack and I had some Gatorade to go with a big KFC dinner (I think this was the first time I’ve ever eaten at KFC).

We were up before sunrise navigating towards a fire tower in Arkansas. Unfortunately when we got close we found the road posted and the fact that it was posted by the Bull Mountain Gun Club eliminated any thoughts of hitting the tower. We continued on to the Hot Springs County High Point. Old trip reports talked about a stream crossing that might be difficult, but there is now a nice cement bridge. The dirt road was gated in two locations and even if it were not, it would be impossible in a rental car. We ran to the top in 15 minutes and checked out the fire tower and benchmark on the top. We were stymied again with low haze, so not much of a view. The bottom set of stairs has been taken out of the tower, but someone attached a rope. There was no way a couple of skinny-armed runners could climb it. We headed down and took a side road to add onto the run, which gave us a 45:12 round trip (it would have been under 30 if we just did an out/back to the tower).

Next up was Hot Springs National Park, so we headed north to HS. We made a brief stop in town to get a decent trail map and got some suggestions from the staff at the visitor’s center (the ranger was “pretty sure” that Music mountain was the highest point in the park). We decided to park partway up the hill and take the Sunset trail. It was surprising how nice the trail was, very little rock or roots, just smooth running surface. We ran up and over West Mountain and spooked a couple of ladies on horses (unintentionally) on our way to Music Mountain. The turn to the summit was pretty obvious but well overgrown. I’m glad we hadn’t tried to come up that trail (from the Southwest). We discussed the difference between “bushwhack” and “overgrown” on the final climb to the top. On the summit we found two witness markers and the benchmark. We also found a register in a rusted tin can and glass jar. The last person to sign in was nearly three years ago. I guess it isn’t very popular spot as there is no view and the trail is not maintained. After signing in we ran back the same route and were done in 1:02:40. The sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-50’s made for a great day.

After a quick gallon jug shower and change of clothes (we decided against heading in to town for a bath in many of the bathhouses) we headed for the airport and trip back to the real world.

1 comment:

mueblerunner said...

Nice reort. I find it amazing that it took you 45 years to taste Colonel Sander's secret recipe.