I awoke Friday morning to hear wind rushing through the air conditioner at the La Quinta as a gusty heavy rainstorm pummeled the area. It had stopped by the time I finished breakfast and a check of the forecast told me that forty miles to the north, at the Pedestal Rocks trailhead, the rain should stop by 9 am with a window of dry weather for several hours.
That was good enough for me – I put on my new full-length hiking pants (with legs that zip off for conversion to shorts), my dried-out hiking boots, and set off to hike the Pedestal Rocks trail and, if the weather held, the adjoining King’s Bluff trail.
Arriving at the empty trailhead at 10 am, I found the rain had tapered off to an occasional drop here and there. After crossing a bridge I was given the choice of which trail to follow. My Hiking Arkansas book said the Pedestal Rocks trail was higher and dryer than King’s Bluff, so I set off down it with my silly umbrella hat on my head and no pack, for if a rainstorm arose I wanted to be able to move fast.
The foliage and the trail were quite wet, with Black-Eyed Susans popping out here and there. I crossed atop a small waterfall, winding my way along the soaked trail until I reached a sign that said, “WARNING HIGH CLIFF AREA – Watch Your Children.” That sounded promising!
I descended past a dripping bluff and then reached Arch Rock, which rose up two or three stories. I couldn’t put myself in frame for scale, as I’d left my handy GorillaPod tripod in the pack back at the car. Trudging onward, I saw my first pedestal rock, resembling a huge ice cream cone. I managed to prop the camera up on a rock to give it some scale. Later I came upon a viewpoint, obscured by clouds, but I took a seat for a portrait anyway.
The trail ran along the edge of a cliff with pedestals here and there set off a bit from it, and I couldn’t resist posing on one of its jutting edges. Descending to a trail below, I found that the underside of the cliff was riddled with caves, a welcome shelter from the rain. I was careful in case any animals were taking shelter there as well, but I only encountered a fungus.
Walking through one cave I encountered a small waterfall off the cliff edge, and another stroll revealed a cave with a support pillar, which will some day become a pedestal after enough erosion has occurred. I posed in a final cave before heading back up to the main trail, where I posed on the top of the cliff and appreciated one last pedestal set against the forest and the clearing sky.
On my return to the trailhead I encountered a beautiful prairie rose bush, which various insects were appreciating even more than I did. But I was truly grateful to reach my car after spending 2.5 hours poking about the pedestals, as I was famished. I found two vans had joined my car, although I had not spotted the arrivals, having had the entire trail to myself thanks to the weather. Trail mix and a chocolate bar restored my spirits, as did the sun beginning to peek through the clouds. I decided the weather would hold and, since the sun was coming out, it was time to slather on some sunscreen and bug repellent and tackle the King’s Bluff Trail.
The trail book was right, King’s Bluff was quite soggy. But the sunlight cutting through the heavy clouds kept me going. I encountered Dave and Eleanor, a couple who said there were two nice waterfalls ahead. The trail soon opened out onto the expansive top of the bluff, towering over the forest below. A creek to one side was swollen with rain, pouring over the side of the bluff in a lovely waterfall. On the opposite side of the bluff I could hear a second waterfall from a creek which had eroded back the bluff considerably.
Then the trail plunged back into the forest. There I found a patient blue butterfly which happily posed for me, and the sunlight filtering down through tall trees warmed my heart…and my body. It only reached 80 degrees on the trail, but the humidity was intense. I’d hiked about five miles, what with the switchbacks to reach trails both above and below the cliffs.
I encountered a couple from New York who were headed onto the trails as I exited. Noticing that the vans had left and a New York PT Cruiser was the only vehicle at the trailhead besides mine, I knew it was safe to disrobe. I happily peeled off my soggy boots and clothes, stripping down to my underwear to wash off before putting on some fresh duds.
I then flew up and down and around the scenic mountain roads to reach Mountain View, home of the Ozark Folk Center State Park. I checked into my cabin, which had a somewhat modern shape but quaintly furnished interior, with two walls of windows looking out onto the forest. The trail mix had been digested long ago, so I strode up a steep hill to the park’s Skillet restaurant where I treated myself to a ribeye steak dinner.
At 7 pm I was at the park auditorium for the live show, which featured square dancing, Mike Sutter of Mountain View on guitar, The Traveling Blueberries on piano, fiddle, and bass fiddle, banjo expert Clarke Buehling and dancing drummer Kent Bayette from Fayetteville, and down from Yellville there was Jimmy Joe Sasser and Friends playing guitars and fiddle with harmony singing.
Saturday it will be sunny and hot, and I’ll be headed to the ghost town of Rush and the Indian Rockhouse trail.
Next hike: Rush and Buffalo Point –>
<– Previous hike: Pedestal Rocks and King’s Bluff