7 Slot Nomads

Get Out

Ouachita Mountains

December 26th

We met up and left home around 1pm and drove west to Perryville, AR. Topped of the tanks, checked maps, and GPS, then rolled about 15 miles south to FR132 that started this run. We aired down to 16-18 pounds and got busy. We decided not to run too far this afternoon and wanted to make an early camp. Some of us had some new gear we wanted to shake out and we wanted some time with it. We checked out some camp sites long the way and decided to wait until Crystal Mountain to get settled.

We drove up to near 1700 feet elevation to Crystal Mountain Vista and looked out at Lake Winona in the distance. We set up our camp nearby in a site protected from the blustering winds. Built a nice campfire and ate some really tasty home grown pork chops provided and cooked by Russell. We had salad (so we could brag to the wives about our "good diet decisions") and rice as side dishes. Russel is an awesome camp cook (he can cook for 2 or 52) and Joe took charge of the clean up. Joe is a fabulous dishwashing machine. He's a man with a plan with a dishpan. Makes life easier for everyone when people step in and help doing whatever needs to be done. Weather was good and it was fairly warm that night.

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December 27th

Rolled out late, only because we were lazy, at around 0930, came down off the mountain, and headed west on FR94/FR86 after a pancakes (yup, Joe is also a perfect pancake cooker) and bacon breakfast. We made good time rolling through fairly smooth roads early on and checked out camp possibilities for other trips or maybe even the return trip. Had a few rough spots and had a few tight spots in the brush, but overall a nice morning. Weather was cool, but not cold. Made good time on the various trails as they intertwined with each other in a generally western direction. Conditions were clear and dry. We didn’t know it at the time, but “clear and dry” wasn’t happening again for the rest of the trip.

We drove a rutted trail down to the far northern end of Lake Ouachita to checkout a primitive campsite that had possibilities for another trip. Got on the pavement on highway 298 headed west past Farfrompooopen Road and Constipation Ridge to the south (I'm not kidding…check your Topo) for a few short miles and stopped in Story, AR on highway 27 to support Bluebell Cafe and Country Store. We ate a sandwich, a few snacks, and soft drinks before getting back off the pavement on FS149 which turned into FT45. We continued rolling along checking our campsite possibilities and enjoying the scenery.

Ran a variety of trails between over a dozen Ouachita Mountain peaks while crisscrossing the nearly 200 mile Ouachita (backpacking) Trail into Mena. We topped off tanks in town and picked up a few necessaries. Discussion of pie for dinner sent in in search of something we could take with us. We picked up a store bought (not made with love, but you take what you can get) cherry pie for dessert later after dinner.

With weather calling for rain, we camped in the grass at Queen Wilhelmina State Park to keep us out of the muddy Forestry Service campsites. The pea gravel in the campsite was preferable to the mud we knew we'd find in the forest in most places. Built a decent campfire and grilled Polish sausages over it. We also sautéed cabbage to go with them, and warmed up the pie we picked up earlier in a cast iron skillet slowly while we ate. Supper was mostly cooked by national cooking icon and longtime camp cook Dwayne.

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December 28th

Woke up to rain and fog so thick we couldn’t see the ground looking straight down at it. Thickest fog any of us have ever seen and that includes a couple of "per soup" fogs up north around White Rock Mountain. Decided to splurge on breakfast nearby at the lodge while we waited for enough daylight to cut the fog a little so we could get back on the road. We had 3-4 miles of pavement and then back to the trails.

Finally got on the road a little after 0930 and hit the trail westbound 10 minutes later on CR100. Fog was still really thick for the first half of the day as we climbed and descended the trails through the Ouachitas. After we got further west, we found ourselves zigzagging back and forth across the Oklahoma and Arkansas borders between the peaks as we worked our way first south then west headed towards K Trail. We hit highway 8 for a few miles and again turned south on another county road. Part of the way into it, we stopped for the opportunity to watch Dwayne clear some trail with his shiny new electric chainsaw. Very cool machine. We continued on for a few miles then took a few minutes off the trail at highway 259 to check out a few campsite possibilities and came back to the trail. We turned west off the highway on K Trail. We drove by a couple old houses (probably hunting leases). Check the sign in front of the shed.

K Trail is a 30+ mile ride that runs on the top of a ridge all the way to the far end. Not really any options along the way to bail out without turning around and retracing the miles already run. It was rough wet and muddy from recent rains. Rocks were slippery and mud holes were more than bumper deep in many spots along K Trail. We stopped and checked out an old fire tower along the way that is still standing, but not trustworthy to climb. Part of the trail is almost lost to the encroaching brush. Pin striping is pretty much guaranteed. If you're driving a mall crawler, this isn't your kinda place. Another mud hole and more rocks around every corner. No really difficult obstacles, but several places where we needed 4 hi to get through due to the mud or slippery rocks. We finally completed the K Trail late afternoon and we all felt a sense of accomplishment. Now to get off the ridge.

We opted to take the most direct route at the end then rolled into Talihina for gas and “one sided pie” according to Dwayne. The rest of the free world calls it cobbler. We decided to "wet camp" at Cedar Lake since it was AGAIN calling for rain and it had rained daily so there were no "dry camp options". Nifty place to keep out of the mud. They even had bathrooms with real toilet paper - fancy place. We cooperatively cooked inch-and-a-half ribeye steaks, new potatoes, and asparagus. Excellent meal. We all over-ate that night and sat around the fire wondering when the rain would. It would come in the morning. This was the end of a really long day on the trail.

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December 29th

We got up and around early to beat the rain. We got packed up first and then with rain beginning to sprinkle on us some, Russell first cooked sausage in a cast iron skillet. He then pulled out an amazing contraption. He had brought a portable camp oven, placed it on top of a camp stove, and baked biscuits. We all thought it worked great. It got a little hot for the stovetop, so we need a new stovetop, but that's another story. We scrambled eggs to go with it and made sausage egg biscuits. Russell pulled off a great meal to start the day. Overall, we were impressed with the oven. It's a lot less trouble than a cast iron dutch oven.

Joe and Russell had to bail out for home to meet a previous commitment, so our company parted ways as it started to rain for real. Dwayne and I ran solo back into Arkansas and jumped back into the trails headed east this time.

We took as many alternate trails as we could find that twisted through and crossed over our original route plan. Found several additional challenges. Some of them pretty tight and a couple of them pretty rough, but all of them good for a ride. We also stopped off and checked out the overlook where we had a clear view of Forked Mountain from the south. Pretty cool looking viewpoint.

While looking for possible campsites closer to Forked Mountain, we came upon an unmarked trail that seemed to head up towards the mountain. We turned up it and quickly found ourselves in 4 low on a rocky greasy muddy roller coaster of a trail. I knew it was getting serious when Dwayne closed the lids on the Yeti coffee cup lids. Deep slippery ruts with big rocks looking to catch a diff. Down the short steep slippery trail it was about 50/50 driving/aiming. This trail was an “in for a penny, in for a pound” kinda thing. Nowhere to turn around. Lots of fun but pretty intense the first time through while we were wondering where this trail would leave us. It didn't quite circle the mountain, but it did a fair job of climbing some of the shoulders and weaving through the trees. It dumped us on another rough road we had been down earlier, but didn't realize that there was a trail intersecting it at the turn around point. It just didn't look like a trip looking up, but coming down, you had no choice.

This unnamed trail became the highlight of Dwayne’s trip.

We camped in a wet site below the mountain on a ledge by a creek with no name. Finally quit drizzling around 4pm so we set up camp. Quiet camp after all the rain had quit except for the occasional coyote calling and the creek running over the rocks. We split one leftover steak for an appetizer while we fixed chili for supper. Then a nice relaxing fire to dry us out (unfortunately not our tents and gear).

December 30th

Got up, packed up and ran the trail up the mountain again because it was there. Then spent a few hours running different side trails as we headed east for home. We did notice that everything was a lot wetter on the way home than it was on the way west. On the way west, the trails were dry, but after all the rain, coming back was very different.

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It was a great trip even if we lived in a near 100% humidity environment for most of it.

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