Mist was rising off the lake as I entered the park. It appeared to dance toward me as I stood on the beach as the sun rose higher. As the air was still cold my lens iced up and created some interest effects in my photographs and video. As the sun climbed higher behind me the water and sky transformed into a surreal blue. Boats sit peacefully in the receding calm waters of the lake, with only the occasional splash of feeding fish.
During my adventure hiking around the lake shore I saw my first Indian Heliotrope Wildflower, pretty tiny elongated clusters of purple flowers. There wast still drew on their petals and they glistened in the early light. There was a wonderful family of Crows following me on much of my journey. From the early morning mist on the water to the feeding family of Crows it was a perfect autumn morning in the park.
I headed out to Lake Ouachita State Park with the intent of hiking the Caddo Bend Trail. This was not to be, the spring storm damage was extensive and sadly they do not expect it will reopen for another year. Something for 2012, an all new Caddo Bend Trail!
I did hike the 1/2 mile Dogwood Trail and it is the perfect kids trail (see photographs). If you live in Arkansas or will be visiting this a great trail to let children be children and get excited about Nature without many of the dangers found on rougher trails in the state. The trail is well groomed with rocks marking the edges, plus currently there are a couple of tiny trees to step over. The Dogwood Trail climbs gently upward and winds through a mixed Forest. There are educational signs along the trail for the older kids to read about Nature from the Forest floor up into the canopy. Although there is a campsite across the street you will want a parent to walk them to the trail head due to traffic. It is a loop trail and parents can wait on the park bench for children at the trail head. I would not let children under 9 years old go on their own but it is perfect for early adventurers 9+ years.
Love to ALL!
Lake Ouachita State Park – Caddo Bend Trail Pt 1 Continued: As I traverse the tip of the peninsula the wind pushes my body as I balance on the narrow trail. At once I am transformed, a mountain goat perched on the side of the cliff one with the Earth, Trees, Wind and the small Birds singing above me. I look out over the water and want to know what is on the island that is so tantalizingly close. A tiny dark eyed Junco appears on a branch high above me, it turns it’s head as a gust of wind ruffles both our feathers. The narrow trail undulates light a serpent above the water and finishes in a steep rise through a rocky maze.
The winter Sun is lower barely hovering at the tops of the Trees casting long shadows across the land on the north side of the peninsula. This is a different landscape than what I saw this morning. Dense sleeping Trees populate the slopes, it is not as open and light as the sparse Pine Forest on the south side of the trail. I can already imagine the green that will explode throughout this wooded area of the park. This is a mixed Forest that includes Red Bud, Dogwood and Wild Plum Trees. I will be back for the floral show this coming spring, a Tree Bud on the trial edge indicates it might be an earlier than I thought.
As I wind through the Rocky Forest trail I notice in the distance a wood bridge, it is a wonderful sight. Although it is on the map its form was unknown until I arrive at this point on the trail. Stepping on to the boards I pause to enjoy the peace of the moment and look out over the water. Closing my eyes I can hear rippling Lake as it caresses the rocks, I breath to the rhythm of the water. It is wonderful to walk on a smooth surface suspended above the earth. Not long after I leave the bridge the trail winds back into the Forest and away from the water. It is in this dense and darker Forest I believe I am being followed, not by a human. I am not afraid, it is only a Forest creature that is curious about my movements through their home. I think it might be Coyote as it sounded low and paw like as if a dog were following me in the distance. Padding softly across the leaves my ghost follows me until the trail heads back toward the water.
Soon I can see the water and the trail now takes me along a rise above the Lake. The breaks between the Pine Trees create a flicker show of light and water. It is peaceful in the sparkling light. The trail drop down to pass a beach and I leave the path to walk on the Sand spread out before me. The Rocky Sand glitters in the sunlight and is dotted with an assortment of white shells. From here I can clearly see the Lake often hidden from view when I was hiking on the trail. I look around with the hopes I will find a deck chair to sit on at the water edge. This is a beautiful spot for meditation.
I reluctantly leave the beach and head back up to the trail and enjoy the view as it winds along the beach edge. Looking down from a rise I see another bridge in the distance, this is wonderful surprise as it is not mentioned on the map I picked up at the tourist center. This is longer and newer than the previous one I encountered earlier on my hike. It is another beautiful view location and in spring and autumn will be a favorite photography location. As I cross this bridge and hear my foot fall and I realize each board resonates a different tone as if I am play a muted Xylophone. It makes me wonder if that is what drew a woodland creature to follow me after I crossed the last bridge. The sound although not loud would be a signal that something new has entered the Forest. Each time I cross a wood bridge I will place close attention to the sounds that emanate from the within the Trees along the Trail.
For the next mile and a half the trail winds into and out of the forest crossing 2 dirt/grassy roads. For half a mile I am in a mixed Forest along a rise above the lake, a light breeze feel divine. As the trail winds into the forest on its way toward the Campground I spot a flash of white. Moving as quietly as I can across the crunchy autumn leaves I soon see the source of the white. Ahead of me are two Whitetail Does one is eating oblivious to my presence the other turns to face me. She stomps her hooves and turns to flash her white tail at me in protest and to warn the other Doe. Although I am getting her message the other Doe carries on as if I am not here. I am so use to the Deer on Hot Springs National Park running away this is an unexpected experience.
As I near the end of the trail I see a bright flash of orange crisscrossing the trail. For a brief moment it lands, a beautiful Angelwing Butterfly is escorting me to the end of my journey at Lake Ouachita State Park. Stepping off the trail I look up and see a Turkey Vulture flying over as a farewell. Although I completed the entire trail you can do it in segments and still enjoy all the beautiful places I have mentioned in this blog.
Thank You for hiking with me… Much Love to ALL,
Field Notes: Friday, January 28th 2011
I have finally hiked the Caddo Bend Trail at Lake Ouachita State Park, another first for my adventures in Arkansas. The trail is labeled strenuous, side note: rugged surface is perfect for twisted ankles, tripping over hidden objects and trying to figure out how the trail disappeared. BE PREPARED for a wonderful adventure, stop at the park visitor center and get a map to help you navigate the trail. When visiting a park for the first time it is always a good plan to check in before heading out on the trail and always for the longer routes. Lake Ouachita State Park staff has useful information, including directions for access points to walk out along the road if you or a family member are unable to complete the trail. It takes only a few minutes and Arkansas State Park employees are ALWAYS helpful!
This is the kind of trail you will be thankful for having solid boots with strong ankle support. Although they state it is 4 1/2 miles, with side trips down to some of the beaches it was closer to a 5 1/2 mile trek up hill and down dale. Bring more water/liquid than you think you will need, even with the cool breeze off the lake I was sweating when I reached the observation deck at the 1.5 mile marker. I was happy to have packed some lighter weight gear to swap out as the temperature was creeping into spring warmth. Depending on your fitness level plan to be hiking 3-4 hours with minimal stops. It took me 3 3/4 hours with side trips to the beaches, drink/food breaks, following deer on an overgrown dirt road and scenic photography stops. Sections of this trail have hazards that may not be appropriate for small children, especially the area rounding the tip of the peninsula.
A large colorful sign marks the trail head and there are several parking spaces for vehicles only, no trailers. Please note the markers for this Trail are in bright yellow both painted blocks and metal circles with arrows. Along the trail you will spot signs that mark the way off the trail to the access road and others that mark distance in 1/2 mile increments. Caddo Bend Trail Map
The first part of the trail meanders through the Forest and I am greeted by a flock of Crows that quickly disperse. I look up as a Turkey Vulture flies over, casting a dark silhouette against a perfect blue sky. Just past a patch of boulders I catch sight of a lovely male Red-Bellied Woodpecker, flying from Tree to Tree searching for a morning meal. His markings are different from those I have seen in the past and I wonder if he is a juvenile Bird. A few yards ahead I spot a Black-Capped Chickadee and a Pine Warbler moving quickly through the Trees. They are a wonderful welcoming committee.
The trail weaves close and far from the Lake teasing the hiker with gorgeous views between Pine Trees. From high above the Lake I can see a group of Ringneck Ducks floating on the surface of the gently moving water. I hope to get a closer look but there is no access to the shale beaches at this point on the Caddo. As the trail dips inland I spot a pair of Whitetail Deer, lovely Does grazing peacefully above me. I move slowly trying to get closer to the Deer, I watch them for several minutes gracefully moving between the Trees. Later as they begin to head further up the hill a lovely surprise is revealed. Hiding in the Trees but now following the Does is a late born yearling. It is a sweet sight watching this beautiful family.
Further up the trail I discover several locations where others have created paths to reach the beach. From these points the beauty and size of the Lake is revealed, I am blessed the sky and water are a rich blue color this morning. On this mild winter day there are no boats moving within the smooth surface and I feel as if I am completely alone on the Lake. Every few feet there is another photo opportunity it is hard not to keep stopping. I am suddenly aware how quickly I am burning through batteries when “battery exhausted” appears in my view finder. Luckily I brought spares and before long a new one is installed. This said I can’t stop myself from taking more photographs.
An hour and forty-five minutes from the trail head I arrive at the observation deck. This is the perfect place to have some liquid and a protein bar while enjoying the spectacular view. I would love to know what is on the island ahead of me… renting a boat might be a next option for exploring the vastness of lake beyond the peninsula. A cabin and a boat for a mini vacation with my husband Rick.
I will continue my adventure on the Caddo Bend Trail in my next blog entry…. Lake Ouachita State Park – Caddo Bend Trail Pt 2
Love to You ALL,