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,