Holiday season means going back to my home town to visit family. I have a nephew there who has been begging me to take him backpacking. So, with about a week of mild December weather ahead of me, I decided to look around for places to hike.
There really isn’t much in the south-east corner of Arkansas, which is a shame. It is beautiful country and about as different as you can get from the Boston mountains. I called Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge and after a few tries, got a nice lady on the phone who answered my questions with a certain amount of wariness usually reserved for talking to crazy folks.
Now, I grew up in that area but I haven’t done more than visit in the last twenty years or so. I figured there wouldn’t be any trails specifically for hiking. I was hoping for a horse trail or maybe some linked ATV trails to slog through. She admitted to some primitive camp sites, but no trails other than ATV trails. Conversation went something like this:
“Could I hike the ATV trails, then? I mostly just want to get out and enjoy a different terrain than I usually hike. Maybe take my boys with me, get them off the couch.”
“You really don’t want to do that, sir. It is hunting season.”
“We’ve hiked the Buffalo National Forest during hunting season. Just wear plenty of orange, right?”
“Well. . . we have a lot of hunters.”
“Yeah, but they can’t hunt near the ATV trail, can they?”
“Noooooo. . . . not within 150 feet.”
The more I talked, the more nervous she seemed to get at the prospect of having an unarmed walker on an ATV trail. At this point, I had already decided not to go hiking through Felsenthal. (At least, not with the boys and not smack in the middle of hunting season.) Instead, we’ll check out a trail system through the city park and clock a mile or two on poured concrete. I thanked her for answering my questions and hung up.
Told my mother about the phone call and she said that nobody around that area goes into the woods this time a year unless they are head-to-toe in orange and armed to the teeth. She said, “if it moves, someone is going to shoot it.”
Maybe I’ll save the hiking for my mountains.