A Day with the Arkansas Sphinx

Today was a beautiful 75 degree (Winter?) day! I wanted to get out but had no idea where to go and knew the harsh light wouldn't make for the best photographs, so i decided to scout out a spot I've been curious about for a while now...the Arkansas Sphinx. 

I started heading south deep into the Ozark National Forest using directions I had come across online. The forest road (Johnson County Road 4840) that leads to the parking area for the Sphinx is just 3.9 miles after the turn off for Haw Creek Campground (coming from Pelsor).

County Road 4840

County Road 4840

The gravel road to the Arkansas Sphinx. 

The gravel road to the Arkansas Sphinx. 

Once on county road 4840 the parking area is just another 0.6 miles on a decent gravel road. The parking area is pretty small and on an incline so be careful if you have a rear wheel drive vehicle like I do. The ground was pretty soft from the recent rains and as soon and I backed into the parking area I knew my tires had sunken in. I spent a good while getting unstuck and then parked on the shoulder of the gravel road as far off the road as I could. I could see the Sphinx way up on the hill the whole time I was stuck, so I grabbed my gear and took off in anticipation.

The trail was easy to find because someone had painted big S's on the first couple trees where the little trail begins.

The beginning of the trail from the road.

The beginning of the trail from the road.

And thankfully they had also cleared a path through the thicket at the bottom of the hill. The trail is really short but extremely steep, with an elevation change of 350 feet in a mere 0.17 miles.

The trail and views up to the Arkansas Sphinx.

The trail and views up to the Arkansas Sphinx.

It wasn't that bad but my calves were definitely burning by the time I got up to the Sphinx. The sandstone monolith was honestly more impressive than I originally though it was going to be and the views from it were equally impressive.

First views of the Arkansas Sphinx from the top of the trail.

First views of the Arkansas Sphinx from the top of the trail.

View from behind the Arkansas Sphinx.

View from behind the Arkansas Sphinx.

After getting a taste of the views from the Arkansas Sphinx I decided tot make the extra 200 foot ascent up to the top of Hess Knob to check out the views from rocky outcropping.

The view down toward the Arkansas Sphinx from the top of Hess Knob.

The view down toward the Arkansas Sphinx from the top of Hess Knob.

I spent a while up on the top of Hess Knob taking in the views and watching the sun sink lower and lower in the sky until it finally was bathing the Sphinx in some beautiful golden side light.

Golden light on the Arkansas Sphinx.

Golden light on the Arkansas Sphinx.

After leaving the Arkansas Sphinx I ran back up to Haw Creek to catch to what I could of this beautiful waterway with the little light I had left.

Last light at Haw Creek

Last light at Haw Creek

Hiding out at Hide Out Hollow

Bull elk crossing HWY 43 in Boxley Valley.

Bull elk crossing HWY 43 in Boxley Valley.

This morning I headed out early to photograph the the Spring house in Boxley Valley and the fall that runs beside it. Along the way I ran into a couple obstructions. The first was a flipped over S10 pickup truck that the police had the road blocked off for while they cleaned up the lanes. The second was a group of bull elk that were SLOWLY making their way across HWY 43. I didn't mind the second delay as much.

I arrived at the spring house to find the cascade beside it was unexpectedly bone dry. The old structure itself is still very photogenic though, so I decided to snap a few shots of it anyway. Back in the day people used this small building to keep the spring water clean of leaves and animals, and to refrigerate food before the advent of electric refrigerators.

The old Springhouse in Boxley Valley (Across from the Mill Pond).

The old Springhouse in Boxley Valley (Across from the Mill Pond).

After leaving the Springhouse I headed up the mountain to Hide Out Hollow to see if that drainage had faired better during our recent rains. 

The Hide Out Hollow trailhead is just a little over 3 miles down the road across from the Compton Post Office. The road gets pretty narrow and filled with potholes toward the end so a vehicle with higher clearance would be recommended. Today those potholes were filled with muddy water, so the vehicle looked like I had been mudding.

The trailhead for Hide Out Hollow.

The trailhead for Hide Out Hollow.

The trail to Hide Out Hollow Falls is a short, 2 miles round trip hike, and has very little elevation change, just 400 feet round trip. There had been a thick fog for most of the morning and everything damp, causing the winter colors to really pop along the trail. From the neon green moss to the light orange tones of the beechwood leaves.

The trail to Hide Out Hollow zig-zags through the forest.

The trail to Hide Out Hollow zig-zags through the forest.

After the short hike down to the falls we found it wasn't flowing as strong as I had hoped, but there was still more than a trickle so we went on down beneath the bluff to get a closer look and explore the hollow a little more.

Dana below the 37' Hide Out Hollow Falls

Dana below the 37' Hide Out Hollow Falls

Hide Out Hollow gets its name from an interesting story:

The trail was once in habited by a group of draft dodgers called The Slacker Gang during World War I. The Slacker Gang was made up of 9 young men from the Cecil Cove area that refused to join the army and decided to go into hiding in the dense wilderness area to avoid the draft. The 9 young men remained in hiding for months before surrendering to the draft in 1918. The trail was named in reference to this act once the National Park was established in 1972.
— National Park Service

So of course I had to explore around the remains of the shelter built down in the hollow, and imagine what it was like for those boys to live in this hollow for months.

The remains of the "hide out" at Hide Out Hollow.

The remains of the "hide out" at Hide Out Hollow.

Eastern Red-Spotted Newt under Hide Out Hollow Falls.

Eastern Red-Spotted Newt under Hide Out Hollow Falls.

Underneath the cascade at Bedrock Cove.

Underneath the cascade at Bedrock Cove.

Star moss above Hide Out Hollow Falls.

Star moss above Hide Out Hollow Falls.

Signs of Spring & Magnolia Falls

The Daffodils are popping up all around where old homesteads used to sit in the Ozark's. They signal the beginning of Spring despite the first day of calendar Spring being a month away. I always love to come across these bright patches of yellow sitting randomly in the woods or beside the foundation of a long forgotten homesite, and think about what life was like when the first seeds were planted there. Daffodils are not native to North America so you always know that someone planted them.

That afternoon I headed up to the Boen Gulf area in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness with a great group to see how Magnolia Falls was flowing after the rain fall earlier in the week. We started off with a only a couple hours of daylight left from the wilderness access point down the old jeep road. Thankfully, It's a short and easy hike over to Magnolia Falls from County Road #9050, only 2.1 miles roundtrip with little elevation change. As we followed the little stream down I could hear the fall roaring ahead and when it came into view I was happy to see this 26 ft. gem was flowing quite nicely.

Magnolia Falls 26'

Magnolia Falls 26'

We relaxed below the fall for a while, chatting and taking in its beauty. This has become one of my favorite spots in recent years for its beauty and solitude. Even on a beautiful Saturday evening we were the only souls around. Which is surprising, because It's also one of the best bang for your buck spots around the rugged Upper Buffalo Wilderness.

Austin and Hailey Albers

Austin and Hailey Albers

Tyler, Rebekah, and Oliver Thompson

Tyler, Rebekah, and Oliver Thompson

After sometime with Magnolia falls, we made our way just down stream to the top of another fall (Woods Boys Falls) to take in the sights and sounds of the 33 ft. waterfall while eating the evening sandwiches we picked up from the Buffalo Outdoor Center. 

Woods Boys Falls 33'

Woods Boys Falls 33'

Evening picnic 

Evening picnic 

After we finished our sandwiches we began to make our trek back to the vehicles. The light was nearly gone and caught on the clouds that dotted the sky above, and bats began to dart through the trees and their squeaks filled the bare forest as they fed on bugs...another sign of spring.

Last light on the trail

Last light on the trail