Trip Reports » Ouachita Trail and More
Decmeber 12 – 15, 2009
Salem, AR to Watson, OK
portion of the OT
if you look back at my plans, (bottom of the post) i hoped to be on the OT for two full days. this to me would have been epic. the creation, the views, the trail; i was looking forward to this. unfortunately i really spent 1 full day on the OT. the rain and fog cut into the incredible views, so i will definitely be hitting the OT in better weather.
Day 1 took me about 50 miles from Salem, AR to Iron Springs Rec area 7 miles north of Jessieville, AR. this honestly was really tough on my legs. the cramps wore on me and made my riding much slower than i had anticipated. however, i made it to Iron Springs around 3:30pm and was able to set up camp (the hammock) at 5pm on the OT. called it a night with much rain and fog. the forecast had said the rain would move out by 5pm Sat. ends up it stayed until 8:30am Mon. a little homemade spaghetti sauce and ramon noodles for dinner (thanks babe).
on Day 2 i started about 1.5 miles from IRON SPRINGS. the trek from here to the Blue Mountain Shelter was brutal. i didn’t anticipate how much i would be hiking my bike. i actually traveled 17 miles in 8 hrs. it was the roughest day of my trip. you top that off with fog and wet clothes and things aren’t really looking up. thankfully i came to the Blue Mountain Shelter (one of many on the OT). they are a three walled log shelters with a metal roof. this makes for a comfortable night. due to the 2 days of rain and fog i didn’t expect to get a fire started. i managed to get a little flame going and was able to dry my gloves and socks. one thing that was a great tip i found was hot chocolate and protein powder. i had this about 1 hour after i sat up camp every night. great way to help muscle recovery.
the next morning i had to decide how my plans would change. i couldn’t make to my pre-planned destination for Day 3. so i chose to ride pavement (highways) to Mena, AR. this was really a nice day. the sun popped out and i enjoyed upper 50 degree weather (break out the shorts). Story, AR is a small community with a Post Office and a store. i made a pit stop that turned into a burger stop, man was that sweet. come to find out i would end up needing that burger. i was on my bike for 11 hours. road 65 miles, just south of Mena to Shadow Mountain (campsites). this turned out to be sweet. hot shower, fire pit, and the nice owner even loaned me a towel and washcloth. once again i enjoyed a night in my Crazy Creek Hammock. i hung the rain fly to cut the wind down a bit, but it was still cold (around 33 degrees).
the great thing about my change of plans meant i only had 15 miles to Watson, OK. the next morning i road about 5 miles south and stopped in Hatfield, AR for a cup of coffee and some time to read and journal. i took dirt roads over to OK. if you are ever riding from AR to OK on dirt roads, don’t expect road signs. it was pretty much a guessing game, heading West following the sun. i made it to Watson, OK around 3pm on Tuesday. it was the perfect moment to sit in front of Sulfur Springs Missionary Baptist Church and thank God for an amazing trip. to be honest, it was nice to complete the trip, but it was even more incredible to spend some quality time with the Almighty. he helped me see so much about myself and my life.
WHAT I LEARNED
1. plan your trip so you can enjoy some down time.
2. you need lots of calories – find away to pack light and still get what you need
3. learn how to build a fire when everything around is wet
4. if you go alone, communicate with someone often. it was so nice to talk to Mandi whenever i was able (for her sake and mine)
5. get the weight off you back.
6. take a compass. not sure how i forgot this. there were a few moments where this could have saved me a ton of time and worry.
Start in Salem, AR :: ride pavement to Hwy 9 :: head west to Lake Winona :: will hit dirt road close to the lake :: ride west to HWY 7 :: at HWY 7 and Iron Springs Recreation Area i will jump on the Ouachita Trail (OT) (north of Jessieville) :: i hope to ride about 10 miles in and set up camp :: this should be the coldest day and night :: approx. 60 miles
Day 2 :: head west on the OT approximately 30 miles to the Archer Trail Shelter :: this will be a lighter day as i hope to get some down time, journaling, prayer, and taking in the creation :: plans could change if riding goes well.
Day 3 :: head west on the OT approximately 48.5 miles to Tan-a-Hill Gap :: i better have my legs ready for this day :: weather should be great
Day 4 :: continue west to HWY 270/71 then head south toward Mena :: there will be a lot of pavement and dirt roads this day :: south of Mena i will hit Hatfield, AR and head west into OK :: all dirt roads into OK :: final destination is Mary Johnson’s house in Watson, OK :: will definitely be ready for a some of Grandma’s good cooking and see my baby girl and baby mama’s face (Mary Beth and Mandi) :: approx. 51 miles
OT Bikepacking List
First Aid Kit
Extra Bike Tools
2 Extra Tubes
2 Liter Bladder
North Face Jacket
North Face Pants
North Face Vest
ID & Cash
minus water and food – 21lbs
originally had 17 lbs, then added north face items and other clothing since the cold moved in.