Buffalo River

Hike to Howksbill Crag

Posted by Phil Lilley on January 29th, 2014
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I met Dennis and Mary Schule, when Dennis and I were guiding for Blur Ribbon Fly Shop. We worked together quite a bit and became friends. When the shop closed we formed our own guide service, Blue Ribbon Guides. The idea was for me, Dennis, and my wife, Lori to do the guiding and Mary would serve as the webmaster for our website http://blueribbonguides.com. In addition, we share an interest in an active outdoors lifestyle that includes fishing and kayaking. In addition Dennis and Mary are active hikers.

They invited us to join them on a hike to Hawksbill Crag, a rock formation overlooking the headwaters of the Buffalo River. It is a huge crag that projects from the rock face and resembles the beak of a hawk. It is a popular tourist spot that is very popular with photographers. The crag is fairly remote and can only be reached by a 1.85 mile hiking trail that is moderately challenging. It was difficult to schedule the trip due to the brutally cold weather that we have had this winter. We scheduled and cancelled the trip twice due to the ice and cold. We were finally able to go.

Before the trip, it took me a while to get organized. Though I am pretty active, I have not done any hiking in a while and I had to locate my gear. After a thorough search, I found my back pack, hiking staff and hiking boots. The boots that had served me well on the Appalachian Trail twenty five years before were now dated. I had replaced them a year ago but the new ones were too narrow and confined my feet. I ordered a new pair that arrived a week before the hike. I wore them every day in order to break them in as much as I could before the hike. Lori decided to wear her old boots that were about eleven years old.

On the day of the hike we put three bottles of water, some snacks and a folding water bowl for our yellow lab, Tilley in my back pack. We had decided to take Tilley, while Dennis and Mary brought their miniature Schnauzer, Tyrone. They came by our house about 9:30 AM; we loaded up and headed out. It took us a little over two hours to reach the trail head. The last six miles were on a dirt road.

Since the trail was steep and had some serious drop offs, we kept the dogs on short leads and never let them run free for fear that they could slip over the edge. I carried the pack and Lori handled Tilley. The trail was steep in spots and had a varied walkway that was sometimes challenging.

Lori began having trouble on the way in. Her shoes were too tight and hurt her feet on the downhill leg. When she removed her hiking boots later, her toes were bruised. During the hike, she stepped into a puddle of water hidden by leaves and soaked her foot up to the ankle. Then, on the way out, the soles of her boots began coming off. I must say that she was a trooper and finished the hike with a minimum of drama. When we completed the walk, she put on other shoes that she had brought and threw away the crumbling boots. The next day she bought a new pair of water proof hiking boots.

When we arrived at the crag, we were awed by the view. Our first sighting was several hundred yards away. Dennis stayed at that spot and set up his camera to take some photos of Lori, Tilley and me standing on the crag. I had seen that view in several photos that are used to promote Arkansas’s outdoor wonders. We took a few minutes to enjoy the scenery, drink some water and eat our snacks. We then headed back to the car. The walk in had been well worth it. It had been challenging. Good hiking boots are a must.

On the way home we stopped at a remote restaurant, Low Gap Café; in Low Gap Arkansas, for a late lunch. The food was fantastic! I had shrimp carbonara, Lori and Mary had balsamic chicken pasta and Dennis had steak Diane. Lori and I split a slice of mascarpone cake and Dennis and Mary split a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie with cups of fresh coffee. Everyone loved their food!

We headed home arriving there around 5:00 PM. It had been a great day with a spectacular hike, good food and friends. We are already planning our next adventure.

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