On Thursday, I caught a friend’s Facebook post showing off the gorgeous Fall colors surrounding the Buffalo National River. With my Everest base camp trek looming, any chance to get out into the cooler Fall temps and practice shuffling my gear was more than welcomed. By Friday evening, I had arrange a dog sitter, loaded my day pack and hopped into the car with Aaron for a drive to Arkansas.
Pulling up to the Centerpoint Trailhead at midnight left us, literally, in the dark on what we’d be walking into. The parking lot left one space open, as if it weren’t meant for us. Tired and motion sick, we unrolled sleeping bags in the back and snuggled in to wait for sunrise.
At 7 am, we wrapped up in our extra warm layers, stashed our sleeping bags and loaded snacks into our backpacks. In revealing my own series of “expert hiking hikes,” I introduced Aaron to bottles of gas station cold brew coffees – giving us a caffeine boost even if we didn’t manage a fire to brew any. Cold coffees in one hand and a bag of mini donuts in the other – we were wilderness-ready.
The first 2.5 miles downhill on Centerpoint Trail were awesome. We made record time getting into the park and were warming up in the process. We turned onto the inconspicuous Goat Trail laughed our way toward its rocky cliffs. Stunning views gave us a chance to test out a new travel camera setup while locals gave us tips and recommendations for the day ahead. We explored, peed on rocks and even dangled from a ledge while bypassing some cliff and tree craziness. With the sun pouring it – it was a truly awesome start to the day.
Back out to the Centerpoint Trail, we continued into the valley before eventually crashing into the Old River Trail. I snapped photos of the beautiful rocks and water while Aaron made real effort to make sure we were pointed the right direction. Hopping rivers, climbing rocks and soaking up the chilly morning – we agreed that the weekend hike was all the right decisions.
We eventually made our way to the Hemmed-in Hollow Falls – gorgeous waterfalls sans water. So, just falls, then.
I noted to Aaron that “these waterfalls are pretty anticlimactic.” He agreed. Imagining what the falls would have looked like with water was genuinely unbelievable. It wasn’t until we were standing under the tiny trickle of water falling from the cliffs above us that I realize just how awesome it was to stand where a gigantic waterfall would be, once was and could be again.
It was stunning. I wish the same could be said for the hike back out.
After a few twists and turns, it became clear that we weren’t on the trail we’d intended. While Aaron looked at maps and examined our route, I ate a ham sandwich. And some Cheez-its. And argued that maybe he was wrong.
Laughing about my survival skills, we got back on track and headed for the trailhead. With about 4 miles of our 12.5-mile hike left to go, we’d be finishing our day heading uphill.
My personal tactic for getting up steep inclines is to go into “low gear.” Slow and steady. Keep moving. Don’t stop. For the love of god, don’t stop.
I’m reasonably certain that Aaron thought I was dying. Needless to say, there weren’t many photos of this part.
Hitting another plateau, I picked up speed and caught up fast. We met a park ranger horse named Fred. Fed him some apples. Then, were off for another incline.
Slow and steady. Really slow. And steady.
Aaron took it upon him self to start lying to me. “Hey, the trailhead is actually at the top of this one.” It wasn’t. I fell for it 3 more times before he realized it was probably better to stop lying to me. Of course, at that point, we did actually reach the trailhead.
Plateauing once more, I cruised across the trail toward the exit. “I have plenty of energy for this,” I assured him. “I just go slow on the ups.”
“Good,” he said. “You can drive home.”