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4/28/2012
  The weather is warming...small creeks are drying up...time to hit some other spots in the great outdoors of Arkansas. The alarm went off in a low tone at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning...my wife Elita said "I'm not going" as an attempt was made to rouse her. She had agreed to go with me this day but it was assumed that this very thing would happen. Oh well...more woods for me! Arrival to the Centerpoint Traihead north of Ponca was achieved by 5:20 after a hearty breakfast was had at the South Park Restaurant in Clarksville. If you have never eaten here I recommend it for pretty decent food any hour-o-day. It is a good alternative to the Waffle House just across the freeway. Anyway the trail was met with my boots at 5:30 with hopes of reaching Big Bluff before sunrise...6:22...a goal that was attained. This trail was found to be in pretty good repair aside from the usual squished up...churned up muddy spots found along the way thanks to my friends...horse people. If the weather was wetter this would be a real mess. Erosion was a problem as well. My headlamp made traversal easy enough...or so I thought as I tripped on a downhill section and could do nothing but tuck my left shoulder and roll hoping to use my pack as a cushion. This worked for the most part...and no major damage seemed to be apparent. 
  The sun was rising behind the ridge so it seems winter would be the best time to see it come up over the river somewhere. The last time I visited this area was in 1991...so much of the sights would seem fresh to my eyeballs. It was a fine sunny to partly cloudy morning around 65 degrees. The river was pretty low so canoes were not expected to be a problem. Actually two canoes were seen dragging the shoals here and there. Also two groups of horses and one pair of hikers...otherwise this gorgeous chunk of Ozark wilderness was mine...all mine ...all mine I tell you! If you have not visited here it is well worth the near three miles in to get here. After taking in the views it was time to move on to lower elevations. The goat trail exited to the east and meandered down the ridge line to the Buffalo River where the first crossing was made as this hike headed upstream. Two river crossings were made before I left the trail to explore the north side of the river nearing Cliff Hollow.
  This bluff area has no name on the map but it was wonderful to find no evidence of human passage through here recently. Many game trails cris-crossed the ridge...although no wildlife was noted. It was cool to see some pine trees mixed in with the hardwoods here. Pine needles covering the ground have always looked so cozy to me for camping and just plain lounging around on. I searched the lower bluff for interesting rock formations before moving to the top level bluff stuff. A flat rock area was found and lunch was munched as a lone canoe with two dudes and a huge ice chest drifted by below me. I contemplated tossing some rocks far behind them to make them wonder "what tha!" but restrained myself from such childish behavior. After lunch I had hoped to follow Cliff Hollow up but decided to do this another day when some water was flowing. I am proud to say that I have seen my share of copperheads and cotton mouths...but for the first time I stumbled upon a timber rattler coiled at the base of a tree with its nose pointed up the tree. It seemed to be waiting for some unsuspecting creature to come down into its mouth. Moving on up the slope the trail was my goal...but many obstacles were to inhibit my passage. A steep grade with thick cedars and lots of loose flat rocks made the going a challenge. Having seen the aforementioned snake made me a bit wary of every overhang and crevice. Once this terrain was passed an area of burned forest was encountered with all the usual new low growth and brush to trudge through...and I was wearing shorts. Nearing the trail many hog-wallows were seen...I think that's what they looked like...and what could have been an old still built into the side of the hill. The trail appeared and great exuberance was felt. I made it back to the vehicle around 3:00 and the temp was around 78. Total miles around 9. This was a fun hike and many cool sights were seen.

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