Hiking The Buffalo River Trail - Steel Creek To Ponca
The leaves had fallen and we were moving into November. The weather had been grand, with unusual daytime high temperatures in the mid to high 70's. I had called my good friend, Adventure Bill to see if he wanted to go for a hike on this great fall day. He jumped at the chance, and we were off to Steel Creek to hike to Ponca and back. Driving into Steel Creek is always a treat. The steep road leads down to a very nice campground. There were not many campers around this first weekend in November, but there were some, out, enjoying the fine weather. The first part of the climb is uphill to the top where the trail winds around to Ponca. The trail was in very good shape (but not me), and I arrived at the top breathing heavily. We stopped there to check out the view and have a drink.
We made our way along the trail, moving up and down, following the contours of the mountain as the trail snaked its way towards our destination. We could hear the birds talking merrily away in the trees. Most of the leaves had fallen, and we could also hear squirrels and other small animals walking around on the forest floor. Occasionally we would hear faint laughter from the campground, far below us. Since it has been a very dry late summer and fall, we found quite a few places where water normally flows, but they were dry, and we could walk right up them. The geology of Arkansas always fascinates me. It is hard to understand or comprehend the forces of nature that molded these hills. Totally amazing to me! After an hour or so hike we came to Ponca, and decided to eat lunch and take a long rest break down by the river. As I have mentioned, we have had little rain, so the river is very low. After our break, we decided to walk down the riverbed as far as we could, back towards Steel Creek. We figured we could make it all the way.
We walked down the middle of the riverbed at times, and at times were forced to use a trail that we found meandering along the river bottom. We saw a few birds feeding by the water, and a very friendly armadillo who smiled at us as he made his way along the trail. It was alot of fun to walk the river bottom, I had forgotten how impressive the bluffs were from below. Those of you who have canoed the upper Buffalo River will understand what I mean.
As we neared Steel Creek again, and began the decent to the campground, we slowed down to savor the fine afternoon. The wind was from the south, and pressed gently and warmly against our faces. The sun had set the golden leaves still remaining on the trees afire. As we walked to the truck to drive home, both Adventure Bill and I felt lucky to be living in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Folks, If you are looking for something to do on a weekend, taking a day hike in the Buffalo National River Park is a terrific way to get some exercise, spend some time with the family, and enjoy some fresh air, clean water and warm afternoons! This hike was about 4 miles or so round trip and not too hard.