third hike: ponca to steel creek

Columbia Hiking Boots

Bluffs of the Buffalo River at Steel Creek campground

There were many reasons that this third hike was memorable. First, it was our last hike of the trip, which, at least for me, made me savor all the goodness of hiking in the Autumn in Arkansas in a new, peaceful, location with my favorite people. Also, this hike was along the Buffalo River, a mostly straight shot from Ponca to the Steel Creek campground. Finally, this was our coldest hike at just above thirty degrees when we set out that morning around 9:30. We were heavily layered: thermals, fleece, hats, gloves, scarves, coats. Once you get moving with all those layers you get cozy and comfortable (or I wouldn't be on the hike).

I loved this hike. It was our longest at four miles, but was less strenuous than Whitaker's Point so felt like less of an excursion. The trail being so near the river provided lush growth with so many ferns and moss. I loved seeing the ferns, not something common on our hikes here locally. We could see the river through the forest the entire time, catching glimpses here and there of amazing bluffs. Loved the bluffs. The trail was not groomed, similar to Whitaker's Point. It was rough, which I actually liked in that it make the hike an event. You had to be aware of where you were stepping. There were rough stones and crags, slippery stones in creek beds. This is also considered a wilderness trail and we saw more than one hiker with gear for the long haul, for camping futher down the trail (I'm not that person yet). 

We stopped at Steel Creek to enjoy the river and bluffs there. We ate our lunch and stayed for a good hour (until my warmth abated and we needed to move again!) skipping stones, seeing Kingfishers (a first for us) and just enjoying the solitude. Then we simply took the same trail back to Ponca and to make a fire in the cabin!

A note about food. Before leaving home I prepared four packs to be our lunches for the four days we were away. A gallon size plastic bag contained dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, Snickers bars, and crackers. Each morning I added slices of cheese and hard salami. Along with the CamelBaks for water this was enough to sustain us while on the trail.

I did include a picture of my boots. They are Columbia Newton Ridge boots Jesse bought for me after our time in South Dakota. He had a pair and I had commented on how much I liked the look of them, and he repeatedly said they were so comfortable. Well, yes, these boots are very comfortable for hiking. I always feel sure footed when climbing rough rocks or carefully walking across slippery stones. I'm very thankful he surprised me with these.

And a note about Jesse. He is really the reason we hike. He has loved nature since childhood and is very comfortable there. He is knowledgeable about safety, gear, directions. He is the know-it-all on these endeavors. I provide food and clothing and he does the rest. I fully trust him in these in-the-middle-of-nowhere locations or I wouldn't be there.

I'd love to hike again at the Buffalo River. There is a five mile trial and a six mile trail I have my eye on! The children were good sports about these trails at 2.3, 3 and 4 miles, and since they would be that much older when and if we return, I'm sure they'd be game. 


Debra said…

Wonderful write up! Arkansas should pay you for it! That mountain hike sounds rough - I'm proud of not just the kids but of you two for it. We've never done anything incredibly steep like that, save for the very short hike up the stairs at Mt. Rushmore. Thanks for all the helpful details you included - especially the hiking shoes as I no longer have proper tennis shoes and was thinking of just getting hiking shoes (I don't play tennis, but I do hike!). Do they keep your feet warm, and if so, do you think they'd be too hot in the summer?
Rachel said…
I did wear the boots this summer biking and they weren't too hot. And on our recent hikes paired with wool socks my feet were toasty. I should probably share about my jacket since it is light weight, wind resistant and warm. I'll do that on another post.