Outdoor writer and photographer Corbet Deary is featured regularly in The Sentinel-Record. Today, Deary takes readers on a journey along the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail from atop Hickory Nut Mountain to Pipe Spring.
Although I have a pretty good memory, time does have a way of dampening one's recollections. Well, a number of years have passed since my initial excursion along the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, or LOViT. And as we near the halfway point of a succession of hikes that will cover the entire designated path, I must ask myself why I haven't dedicated more attention to this particular route.
I'll go one step further and apologize to those who read my articles for not sharing descriptions of each trail segment until recently embarking upon this 39-mile excursion.
I'll be the first to suggest that there are a few strenuous climbs lurking along the way. And one can expect to get their feet wet at an occasional creek crossing, at least during the wetter seasons of the year.
But on the other hand, well-built footbridges span a majority of the creeks and streams one will happen upon during their hike. And as for the jagged terrain that is typical of the Ouachitas? Well, those who maintain the trail deserve a great big pat on the back.
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The designated route is very well maintained, and the substrate is surprisingly easy to navigate, especially when one considers that it meanders over ridges and through draws for nearly 40 miles.
Of course, there are going to be spots where natural terrain poses more of a challenge. But that should be expected. And the scenery that awaits in the midst of some of the most difficult terrain is often the most impressive.
Speaking of difficult terrain, last week's article led us on a scenic and generally level trek alongside a beautiful creek that eventually transformed into a long and steep ascent to atop Hickory Nut Mountain.
Although the entire walk was only about 4 miles, I would suspect that most folks would experience a sigh of relief to see the trailhead at the walk's end, knowing the climb was behind them.
Well, this week's walk stretches a little farther than 4 miles. In fact, we will cover in the neighborhood of 5.5 miles during this walk. But on the positive side, the toughest climb is behind you.
In fact, the first 3 miles of this particular jaunt will be spent descending from atop the mountain. And although a few hills will lurk along the last couple miles of trail, the climbs will be rather mild. So I suppose those who don't mind walking downhill might call today's hike easy to lightly moderate.
We'll begin where we left off last week, at the trailhead atop Hickory Nut Mountain. Of course, one can reach this destination via last week's directions. However, I might suggest another route, along the Forest Road where the hike will actually end.
Let's begin with the directions to where we will park at the takeout point. From Hot Springs, Take Highway 270 west for about 14 miles and turn right onto Crystal Springs Road, toward the Crystal Springs Recreation Area. Remain on Crystal Springs Road and take a left onto Forest Road 47 just before reaching the pavilion at the recreation area entrance. Remain on the unpaved route for a mile or two and park at the trailhead sign across from the pipe spring on the opposing side of the road. Although I failed to record mileage to this point, one can hardly miss the Pipe Springs on the road's edge.
OK, now on to the starting point. Remain on the forest road for 3.5 miles to the intersection of Hickory Nut Mountain Road. There is actually another access point where the trail crosses Forest Road 47 at 1.9 miles. Of course, one has the option of parking the takeout rig here and shortening the hike. But we'll cover the route in its entirety during this article.
Remain on Forest Road 47 for a couple more miles and turn right onto Hickory Nut Mountain Road. Follow the route as it winds steeply up the mountain, and veer to the left at about 3 miles, into the camping area. The trailhead will be at the road's end.
From the trailhead, one can actually embark upon a 1.1-mile detour along the trail leading to an old fire-tower site, lending to an incredible view. However, we will walk a few feet up the spur trail and take a left onto the main route. The path will make a short jaunt prior to crossing Hickory Nut Mountain Road.
The designated path will run level for a short distance as it makes its way along somewhat of a shelf overlooking a steep and jagged draw. The trail then veers to the right and makes a descent to a bench overlooking the drainage area.
Although the designated route follows an old roadbed downhill at this point, one might choose to allow a little extra time to stop and soak in the view of the steep and jagged substrate to their right prior to continuing the trek.
From the bench, the trail continues along the road as it descends and parallels the creek. The route continues along the roadbed and remains within sight of the drainage, lending to incredible scenery.
Although unsure of what the scene might be during the drier times of the year, it is certainly impressive at present, as we have experienced our fair share of precipitation during the past several weeks.
The mountain-fed stream cutting its way through the steep and jagged drainage was more than enough to produce an impressive setting. And I could only imagine the natural beauty that lay ahead with the arrival of a crisp green forest canopy, lush plants and vibrant wildflowers that are promised to arrive with spring.
The path eventually bid farewell to the incredible scene and tied in with a dirt road, where we will turn right and embark upon our first jaunt across a low-water bridge.
Again, I am unsure of the water level during the drier times of the year, but one should be prepared for a wet crossing during the next few months. After crossing the creek, we'll continue along the unpaved road for a short distance to the intersection of Forest Road 47A and the aforementioned access point of the trail.
I have read articles suggesting that striking out to the left and following the road for approximately 1.9 miles to the hike's end at the Pipe Spring Trailhead is an option. But I strongly suggest simply crossing the road and continuing along this 2.2-mile section of designated trail.
The path makes its way through typical Ouachita Mountain terrain over a few hills, but the climbs are all relatively easy. And the scenery is good, as well.
The path eventually makes its way back to and shares the road for another time prior to heading back into the forest, and eventually makes its way back to the road again where it will cross and make a jaunt along a hillside paralleling what I suspect is Walnut Creek.
The designated path will eventually veer out of sight of the creek, leading back to the forest road. We will turn left at this point as the trail shares the road for the remainder of the walk.
The forest road/trail makes its way to yet another low-water bridge shortly thereafter. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is a spot where one is privy to hardly any other option than getting their feet wet.
But on a positive note, one can don dry shoes shortly thereafter, as the Pipe Spring trailhead is only about 0.5 miles up the road.
So, we got our feet wet a time or two during this particular walk. But I can say, with all confidence, that a couple of wet crossings is a small price to pay for the experience that lurks along the section of the LOViT from Hickory Nut Mountain to Pipe Springs.