We had a nice warm fire going and enjoyed some marshmallows for desert.

Hemmed-In-Hollow Backpacking Trip 2011 – Part 1

We often find that holidays are a good time to escape to more secluded parts of Arkansas. Last year we spent Thanksgiving weekend at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, AR. A few years back we took our youngest on her first backpacking trip during that weekend. Each time we do this we are reminded of how thankful we are to live in such a wonderful, diverse state. This Thanksgiving  it would be another backpacking trip. My son, David, tagged along with the normal cast of characters (Lisa, McKenna and myself). We decided to do a shorter hike and enjoy the sites of the Hemmed-in-Hollow area of the Ponca Wilderness Area along the Buffalo National River.

So Thanksgiving morning we headed out toward Ponca, AR. It was a  foggy morning but we made good time and the fog had cleared in time to enjoy the drive through Boxley Valley. By noon we were at the Centerpoint Trailhead just north of town. We ate a quick lunch and we were down the trail.

Heading down the ridgeline on the Centerpoint Trail.
Heading down the ridgeline on the Centerpoint Trail.

The Centerpoint Trail is an old “jeep trail” that heads down into the Buffalo River Valley. Since the leaves were gone we were treated to some beautiful views of the valley and surrounding area. It isn’t far from the Centerpoint Trailhead to the  intersection for the Chimney Rock Trail that goes down into the valley but that one will have to wait, we kept going on the Centerpoint. At 2.5 miles we came to another trail intersection for a short spur called the Goat Trail that would take us out to Big Bluff. This is an area I have wanted to see for a long time. It is also the main reason we did this hike from the Centerpoint Trailhead instead of the more popular and shorter Compton Trailhead. I should say here that this is a risky little hike on some narrow trail on a high bluff. I wouldn’t recommend it for the very young, anyone with height issues or someone who considers themselves to be clumsy. The penalty for failure in this area is steep!

Now on with some photos:

The start of the bluff.
The start of the bluff.
Our first stop, looking up river.
Our first stop, looking up river.
After crawling through a hole in the rock the ledge gets a little narrower but the views get even bigger.
After crawling through a hole in the rock the ledge gets a little narrower but the views get even bigger.
David trying to take in as much view as he could.
David trying to take in as much view as he could.
David and I made it to this small cave where I got a panoramic shot of the Buffalo River Valley.
David and I made it to this small cave where I got a panoramic shot of the Buffalo River Valley.
The girls trying to keep up with us.
The girls trying to keep up with us.
Me climbing back through the hole in the wall to head out.
Me climbing back through the hole in the wall to head out.

We were soon back on the trail, heading down into the valley. The forecast was for a beautiful day on Friday and then rain Friday night and Saturday. Our plan was to spend two nights in the area. I started to think about what it would be like to hike all the way back up, in the rain with wet gear. More on that later.

The trail meets the Sneeds Creek Trail after another 0.8 miles from the Goat Trail intersection. A left here would take us the long way up to Compton trailhead, we went right and headed down to meet up with the Old River Trail which follows the Buffalo National River. It was just a short hike to Sneeds Creek and we were soon taking over an established camp near the creek. This would be our base camp for the rest of the trip. Across the creek were some great rock formations that we dubbed “The Castle” or “The Keep” depending on which one of us you ask.

The Castle or The Keep, your call.
The Castle or The Keep, your call.

In the photo above you can see a “beach” area at the bottom just across the creek. This is actually the creek crossing that would take us on our Friday trip.

We soon had settled in with the tents pitched, a rope hung from a limb for our food and some firewood collected. We decided to explore the area before dark.
We soon had settled in with the tents pitched, a rope hung from a limb for our food and some firewood collected. We decided to explore the area before dark.
The woods were creepy.
The woods were creepy.
David fashioned a fishing spear a'la Survivorman. You'll see his success in a later photo.
David fashioned a fishing spear a’la Survivorman. You’ll see his success in a later photo.
McKenna found a downed tree to perch on and watch the river flow by.
McKenna found a downed tree to perch on and watch the river flow by.
This is the up river view from McKenna's perch.
This is the up river view from McKenna’s perch.

Soon it was time for Thanksgiving dinner! What do you have for Thanksgiving dinner when you’re backpacking. Well, since this trip would be pretty short we opted to carry in some things we might not carry on a longer trip. Lisa came up with the perfect thing. Stove-Top Stuffing with Turkey Spam. It was perfect.

Lisa slaves over the holiday dinner.
Lisa slaves over the holiday dinner.
I don't care what you think, it tasted great!
I don’t care what you think, it tasted great!
Thanksgiving Dinner None went to waste.
Thanksgiving Dinner None went to waste.
We had a nice warm fire going and enjoyed some marshmallows for desert.
We had a nice warm fire going and enjoyed some marshmallows for desert.
The only real success David had with his fishing spear.
The only real success David had with his fishing spear.

We were all tired and were soon ready to climb into some nice warm sleeping bags. But first to tidy up the campsite and get ready for the next day.

Always good to purify some water the night before. Time to watch the campfire burn down.
Always good to purify some water the night before. Time to watch the campfire burn down.

Check out Part 2, Hemmed-in-Falls and our technique for rain avoidance, plus, technology heads south.