I started my day with breakfast at the La Quinta and hit the road, arriving in the Benefield Picnic Area on the southeast tip of Mount Magazine by 8:30 am. It was overcast and I ascended into wispy clouds to reach the top. The viewing today was even worse than yesterday and included rains throughout the afternoon, but I still managed to hike twelve miles, straddling yesterday’s day hike around the central portion of the summit with a 7.5 mile loop around the eastern part of the summit and a 4.5 mile loop out to the western edge.
I took the Benefield Trail first to the southeast edge of the mountain’s rim, where the trail ran to the east along the south bluffs overlooking the Petit Jean River over two thousand feet below. The impressive bluffs had some wildflowers growing out of their sides, and I found berries on the trailside. I then made my way through the unmown grass covering the trail over to the eastern side’s Sunrise Rock. The view was greatly impaired by clouds, so I scrambled up past the upper bluffs over to Inspiration Point, where I could gaze north and see dim sunlight peeking out from under heavy clouds that were driving north past me.
I proceeded north via the Bear Hollow Trail along the mountain rim’s eastern edge, which is heavily eroded by Big Shoal Creek into two long arms stretching eastward. I found spiderwort, blue trumpets, and other flowers growing along this trail, which afforded occasional glimpses across the way through the clouds but no decent shots.
Arriving at the horse camp on the mountain’s northeast tip, I headed west along its northern edge on Will Apple’s Road Trail, part of the first roadway that reached the mountain summit. A side trail led down the mountainside to where a family once built a spring-fed swimming pool for their inn out of rock and tar. The site was abandoned in the Great Depression and all I could recognize was a basin to capture the spring water up above the pool, which was a completely overgrown pit. I didn’t bother to photograph any of it since the overgrowth was so thick, but I did like a purple coneflower along the Apple Road Trail and a zebra butterfly entertained me for awhile.
Arriving at the visitor center, I enjoyed a Sprite and some Peanut M&Ms since I had miles to go before returning to my vehicle. I then repeated yesterday’s southward journey down the Greenfield Trail to the Mossback Ridge Trail, this time heading east back along Mossback Ridge toward the Benefield Picnic Area, rather than west toward the lodge as I did yesterday. That completed a 7.5 mile loop as well as my The Big Short audiobook. It was almost 12:30 pm, so I cleaned up and drove over to the lodge for a delicious country-fried chicken meal.
Heavier clouds were rolling in and the forecast said it would likely rain, but I really wanted to see the western part of the mountain and it is only accessible by hiking since the only road is closed to the public. So I drove over to the Brown Spring Picnic Area, and located the unnamed trail that headed west along the mountain top’s northern rim. A group of overflow tent campers were rapidly packing out, no doubt having heard that rain was a’comin’. I threw my silly umbrella hat into my backpack and put on my alternate Tilley hat, one that is better sealed against rain than my usual one, and set out.
The trail was the least maintained one in the park, but still comfortable to walk in my hiking boots, although I did wonder if my insect repellent would suffice since I had not brought my long hiking pants. The weather was wonderfully cool as I trekked past a field of wildflowers to a viewpoint looking northwest from the mountain.
Farther to the west I came across the “Window” viewpoint with a lone tree struggling to survive at the cliff edge. The clouds were rolling in, and the forest became misty and quite beautiful. Suddenly the trail popped out on a new road leading to a big antenna station. Just as I reached the station the heavens opened up and a steady rain began. I scrambled under the station’s northern eaves and waited for the rain to lessen. It intensified, blown by winds, and I struggled in vain to get a decent radar image of the storm on my iPhone. Data reception up on the mountain, outside of the lodge area, is spotty at best.
After 25 minutes the rain finally lessened and I put on my umbrella hat and ventured out, wandering about looking for a way to head on out to the mountain’s western tip. I finally located the gravel road which is closed to the public, which the iPhone GPS showed to be making a straight shot westward. Shielding my iPhone from the constant sprinkles with my Tilley hat, I trekked past one communication tower after another. I lost count of how many stations dot this portion of the mountain, finally reaching the westernmost tip. Reaching the rocky edge, I was disappointed but not surprised to find the view to the west completely obscured by mist and rain. Reversing course back down the road, I used it to loop back to the Brown Spring area and conclude my hike. I’d hiked another 4.5 miles, with half of that in rain. My hiking socks were squishing in my sodden boots and I eagerly pulled them off and switched to tennis shoes for the drive back to Russellville. That silly umbrella hat, however, had kept me fairly comfortable.
Hungry when I arrived in town during the rush hour, I used a wet washcloth to scrub away the insect repellent and sunscreen so I could dine at Joe’s Pizza and Pasta Italian Grill, where I had a delicious lasagna. Then it was back to the La Quinta for a relaxing soak in the jacuzzi followed by blogging while the hotel hair dryer shrieked, drying out my boots. I managed to get 19 miles of hiking in up on Mount Magazine over a day-and-a-half, which ain’t bad.
The forecast calls for more rain tomorrow, which may cancel my hikes on the Pedestal Rocks and King’s Bluff trails. Perhaps the scattered thunderstorms will give me a break, however. I’ll be heading northeast to Mountain View to stay in a cabin at the Ozark Folk Center. At least its auditorium is enclosed, so I should be able to enjoy some music there even in wet weather.
Next hike: Pedestal Rocks and King’s Bluff –>
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