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Ozark Highlands Trail?
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Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Ozark Highlands Trail? on 09/12/2009 11:51:55 MDT Print View

OK, I'm a MN hiker looking for options to extend my backpacking shoulder seasons and have heard the OHT mentioned. Thinking about a March thru or long partial hike. I have Tim Ernst's trail guide but would appreciate the benefit of other hiker's experience.

Interests include wildflowers, wildlife, nice views (both deep woodland and wide expanses), hiking along rivers and waking up outside.

What can our Arkansas/Missouri BPLers tell me about climate and logistics (or anything else OHT worth knowing).

Tim Harney
(baldknobber) - F

Locale: Ozarks
OHT on 09/13/2009 06:56:13 MDT Print View

A great little trail. I have done all but the Sylamore section.

After leaf-off the views and vistas really open up to a classic Ozark scene, complete with rolling hills, waterfalls, deep turqoise colored creeks and rivers, and many limestone bluffs and crags.

I have observed deer, turkey, bald eagles, and the occasional armadillo on my hikes.

Right now the condition of the trail has been affected by a severe ice storm from last winter that basically shut down most of the trail. The volunteers from the Ozark Highlands Trail Association worked hard to clean up the mess, and the trail corridor is mostly clear, with the exception of the Sylamore section.

If doing a thru resupply might be an issue, as there are few places close to the trail to either buy supplies or pick up a mail drop. Many simply cache food.

Definetly get Ernst's book.

Jack Newton
(figster) - F

Locale: Central Arkansas
Wildflowers. on 09/13/2009 13:50:57 MDT Print View

Not so much in the way of wildflowers during March as February seems to be when the area gets the coldest and the most wet for the winter. Though, late March and especially around Easter is when I've always enjoyed the environ.

I recall 2009's March being nearly record setting for moisture too.

It is best to get out there early in the year to avoid the ticks. A trip I once took in late April early May was made tougher due to an obscene amount of ticks (I removed a dozen an hour or so) and early to rise seed ticks!

If the leaves are down and there is little green on the ground, do beware your trail. They disappear rapidly. I've been very bewildered there late Fall.


Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: ticks on 09/13/2009 23:53:37 MDT Print View

Bug spray has always worked for me at keeping seed ticks away. It doesn't do anything for the gnats or cobwebs in the summer, but with ticks it works.

Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
permethrin on 09/14/2009 11:29:59 MDT Print View

the permethrin products designed to bond to fabrics are phenomenal at keeping ticks at bay.

Jack Newton
(figster) - F

Locale: Central Arkansas
permethrin on 09/14/2009 13:13:44 MDT Print View

I've been skeptical of most chemical treatments. Ive never had any luck with DEET vs Arkansas ticks.

I look forward to trying Permethrin and i've been very interested in ExOfficio's line.

Thanks for the extra word. I know a dozen folks who'll appreciate it.


Ryan Tucker
(BeartoothTucker) - M
ticks on 09/14/2009 13:18:06 MDT Print View

i started using the bonding types about 10 years ago. lots of time in the swamps of mississippi, south carolina and florida, as well as, the ridges of virginia and kentucky. anyway, i don't remember the last time i even saw a tick crawling on me much less attached.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: OHT on 09/14/2009 14:45:58 MDT Print View

Thanks for the responses so far.

ticks: The tick info tends to rule out dates later than mid April for me, as does needs for my time at home.

resupply: The book indicates post offices at Pelsor and Ozone, that serves the eastern end of the trail pretty well. But leaves an 85 mile stretch on the western end. I should be able to handle that without resupply, or maybe one cache.

regarding the trail: The guide book provides excruciating detail about the trail route. Is it gonna be necessary to hike with the guidebook in one hand or is it easier to follow than that seems to imply?

regarding direction: Looks like the western half provides more elevation changes than the eastern half. That nudges me towards walking east to west. East to west also puts the longer resupply leg at the end, which I'd prefer. But Ernst's detailed instructions are written for west to east and I don't mentally flip that kind of thing well. Any other factors I should consider?

Ernst's guide book suggests that March is often wet. I've reviewed climate records for Ft. Smith (12 years) and Little Rock (20 years) and it's clear that I should plan on wet weather, maybe very wet. That gives rise to some specific questions.

1) The east end involves a) fording/swimming the Buffalo River (seems unreasonable for the wet season or b) 15 additional miles on the Buffalo River Trail or c) exiting approx 10 miles early, requiring fording Richland Creek. I think I'd lean towards the Buffalo River Trail but anyone out there know if Richland Creek would be an easy ford?

2) Does the much of the trail's treadway get extraordinarily slippery when wet?

3) How about at campsites, does the soil off trail drain reasonably well? My first choice for solo is a floorless shelter with polycryo ground cloth ... I'm somewhat picky when choosing tent sites but some soils don't handle ANY moisture well.

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
More Resources on 09/14/2009 15:11:27 MDT Print View

There's some pretty good info on Ouachita Trail Maps. Check out the homepage too.

James Blackwell
(blackwelljc) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
OHT on 09/14/2009 15:36:04 MDT Print View

Hey Jim. I'll give my $0.02. Trail is great. High water makes all the streams slick, but if you can handle high water avoid high water cut-off of Hurrican creek. Went through in May and trail was in terrible shape. Two yrs. ago did a long weekend with food cached at trailhead. No problems. Going to finish up at Tyler Bend and bicycle back this Oct. and I can give you a heads up about the Buf. trail.

Jack Newton
(figster) - F

Locale: Central Arkansas
The Buffalo on 09/14/2009 18:30:20 MDT Print View

The Buffalo is notorious for being low.

That being said, its fair to note that if you took a week long trip, you could engage nothing but sunshine in March. If it is going to rain, assume that the rain will be a toad strangler for some time -- time long enough to go ahead and seek shelter if its looking creepy.

The Buffalo would only be an obstacle shortly after such a rain and not too much longer. You can exchange day for day conservatively.

Sue Johnston
(SueJohnston) - F

Locale: SoCal
Arkansas trails on 09/14/2009 18:45:55 MDT Print View

It's not the Ozark Highlands Trail but isn't too far away...

In March 2008 I got snowed off the Ouachita Trail after about 50 miles, w/two feet of snow on Rich Mtn. (I was wearing trail runners.) I returned in January 2009 to finish the remaining ~170 miles and had beautiful weather, a bit cold in the morning but otherwise perfect, comfortable in shorts each day.

Tim Ernst writes the guidebooks for both trails and, yes, he is very, very thorough!! :)

The OHT is on my short list!

Edited by SueJohnston on 09/14/2009 18:48:51 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: OHT on 09/14/2009 19:03:54 MDT Print View

@James Blackwell ... bike shuttle? I've done that for some canoe trips and short backpacking trips but never anything this long, intriguing! .... nah, no way I'll be in cycling shape for a long hilly ride that early in the year, late March is the start of ice free cycling up here (in good years)

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: Re: OHT on 09/15/2009 15:49:44 MDT Print View

>hanks for the responses so far.

>ticks: The tick info tends to rule out dates later than mid >April for me, as does needs for my time at home.

I would say that tick season really doesn't start until mid or late May at its earliest, and you won't start seeing the seed ticks until July unless you really look for them.

Edited by artsandt on 09/15/2009 15:51:11 MDT.

Sara C
(Jon) - MLife

Locale: SE Missouri and NW Arkansas
Fording Buffalo River and Richland Creek on 09/16/2009 10:26:08 MDT Print View

Whether you can or want to ford the river or creek really depends on the water level. When I hiked it they were both high, it was cold, and I would not have wanted to attempt it. The owner of Silver Hill canoe rental picked me up at Tyler Bend and took me across the river at Woolum in a boat, so that may be an option for you.

All the sections of the trail I've hiked have been well-marked and easy to follow. You don't have to check the guidebook every 5 minutes, but it does sometimes point out things you could miss if you aren't checking it periodically.

Edited by Jon on 09/16/2009 10:28:48 MDT.