Had you told me there were trails north of Batesville, I would’ve easily guessed they were hilly. To my surprise not only were they as I predicted, but they also were pristine. Two distances make up the Highrock Hop Trail Runs. One is a 5-miler, which Sam confessed at the start is closer to 5.5 miles. The longer race is the 10-miler. I ran it and the distance is pretty spot-on, unless you got some bonus miles.
Sam Cooke is the man behind the race. His family has owned the farm property since the 1960s. He maintains all of the trails that are enjoyed by the runners. Now, you’ve heard about the trails. How do you get there?
Follow the instructions to the remote location that was once home to the old community the race is named for. For you visual people, Sam drew a map that will help you. After the turn off the main road, the signs will lead you the remainder of the way. While traveling to the race start, you’ll encounter gravel roads and by the time you arrive it wouldn’t be strange if you felt you were truly off the beaten path. No one will ever arrive at this race by happenstance.
I arrived to find the largest turnout in the races six-year history. The race began as a White River Roadrunners event. Some off the club members decided it would be a good idea to open the race up to everyone. Thanks to whoever decided to share the trails with us.
The course is modified yearly, but the hills remain the same. It’s about 75% single track. The other 25% is running through pastures. You can spread out here and get wicked with your running or remain in a line if you’d like to. Crossing Poke Bayou Creek comes in handy on a hot, humid day. Sam says there will be more creek crossings next year. I never thought I’d be working my way through a crevice during the race. Short people did not welcome it.
The course kept you engaged. Sam marked it well. There was only one spot that was scary. A barbed wire fence was in the middle of the course around mile 8. I saw it and the course markings, but if you moving fast, obviously I wasn’t, running into the fence would’ve been tough to prevent. The 10-miler winner, Steven Johnson, was at full throttle when he made it to this point. He’s okay, but he won’t forget that part of the course any time in the near future.
Sam wrote an informative article on the history of the race. It takes you back in time to 1836 when the first settlers came to Highrock. You find out part of the course used to be a wagon road connecting Cave City to Batesville. What remains of the post office and schoolhouse are landmarks you run past during the race.
Sullivan Creek is nature’s way of providing an ice bath after finishing to soothe the legs. While waiting on a hamburger or hot dog off the grill, soaking does wonders to prevent soreness.
One can’t help but wonder about yet another hidden treasure in Arkansas. It’s a well-organized event for a good cause. The race is free, but a t-shirt can be purchased. All proceeds benefit Friends of the North Fork & White Rivers. They are a non-profit organization responsible for “creating an on-going dialogue where individuals, groups, and government agencies can work together to restore, enhance and conserve these [North Fork & White] beautiful rivers.”
I’ll return to Highrock to run and help with the trail maintenance. As a trail runner, I feel like it’s my responsibility to take care of the trails and give others the opportunity to enjoy them. There are plenty of them for everyone to enjoy. Maybe I’ll see you out there.