Little Missouri Falls to East Saline Creek
Day 2, April 26th 2014
Woke up to a beautiful world with the waterfall nearby my only alarm clock. I could hear Kat stirring and figured I might as well get up. Knew there was a long hike ahead of us. He very specifically wanted to greet the falls with a cup of coffee in his hand, so we got that going first. Had a minor bit of panic when my stove sputtered out a limp little flame (that pocket rocket usually lives up to its name) but it was just clogged a little. Coffee brewed, Smores Pop Tart warmed up on the skillet. We lingered a while at the falls.
Then we hoisted the packs, drank a quart then treated another, and off we went. Was a beautiful and serene hike. Most of our hikes are in the Ozarks which have a rough, almost more rugged feel. This section of trail was nice and smooth with gradual climbs and wide, well-maintained pathways. We saw little trash along this section. The Little Mo. was low enough that we only switched to water shoes once. Temperature was warm enough that after a few seconds it felt heavenly to stand knee-deep in the cold, clear water.
The last couple of years, even when I was on Daddy Hikes, I quit taking as many pictures as I did when I just started out backpacking. Partially it was due to familiarity with the trail. When you’ve hiked the same stretch countless times, you’re no longer brought to a standstill by the beauty of something never before seen. It was also partially due to the fact that when I’m hiking with kids I’m either paying very, very close attention to them (so they don’t, you know, die or something equally hard to explain to my wife upon return) or I’m taking pictures of them. I have started printing some of my older pics on canvas and hanging them in my office and was surprised when folks came by interested in buying them. I made it a point to keep my camera accessible this trip, if only to get back into the practice of letting my forward march be interrupted by the reason I was out there in the first place: to breathe in the magnificence of Arkansas hiking with all of my senses.
We made it the next six miles into Albert Pike quickly on a mostly quiet, smooth trail. It was there near-about when we started coming across a few groups of folks that we’d share the next several miles with. One was a pair of guys looked about our age with what looked like some brand new mountain bikes. I’ll just admit right now, I am an incurable people watcher and trail folk are about the best folk to watch. You come across all kinds. And I’d love to say I don’t pass judgment, but if I do it isn’t ever in a mean way. I sure hope if you ever come across me huffing redfaced up a mountain pass that you get a bit of a smile and some encouragement from my circumstance whether it is gratitude that you ain’t in such sorry shape or hopefulness that if you keep on putting one foot in front of another that maybe one day you’ll reach that pinnacle of coolness. (Most likely the former, but everybody . . . everybody sucks in their gut and flexes in front of the bathroom mirror sometimes.) Either way, those guys seemed to just be getting started with that particular hobby. Power to ‘em, I hope they had fun on the down-hills.
We were heading up that bit of a climb when the trail turns toward Winding Stairs when a pair of college guys blew past us heading the opposite direction and we heard a bit of frolicsome cavorting going on up ahead.
What we came upon next I wish I had a picture of. One girl was standing up over the trail on a rock formation, a natural arch in black leggings. Couple others were cheering her on. The guy with them . . . and he had to have been the one who talked them all into going with him, ‘cause he was the only guy with the backpack and the map . . . was talking with Kat (who is nearly always a good few yardlines ahead of me on the trail due to those damned long mountain goat legs of his.) Now, I won’t claim that we stop and talk with every group we come across, but these folk weren’t going anywhere and ol’ boy did admirably pick up on a Back to the Future joke I lobbed out. Since we were heading the same direction anyway, we ended up sharing the trail a bit. That part is going to have to come in the next update though.
I will say, once we did part ways with that group, I declared that college boy the winner of the ERL that day.