OHT Day 4 – In and out of Rattlesnake Hollow!!

Hurricane Creek could have been more aptly called Hurricane River, because it was deep, wide, and cold!! The mornings were still a little chilly and we really should have crossed it the previous day, and would have done so if the campsite we’d found hadn’t been so inviting.

We had become used to the morning ritual of a creek crossing immediately upon setting out for the day, but so far they had all been small creeks that had been easy to cross. Not so Hurricane Creek. We took our time and inched our way across the freezing water, hoping fervently that we wouldn’t fall in!! I kept looking down stream convinced that I would see my toes drifting away to goodness knows where, so I was thankful when I finally reached the other side and reintroduced blood circulation to my deprived feet.

The climb out of Hurricane Valley was steep and difficult. My body was still suffering, especially my knee, and each step was a painful reminder to find a way to get myself into better shape for the next time. And there was definitely going to be a next time. Even though my body was suffering, I loved every second of the entire experience. It made me feel alive and vibrant, as if my very soul was being reinvigorated before my very eyes, and I knew I wanted more of it in the future.

We planned on reaching mile marker 14 today, which was a whole three miles!! Although I vowed that this would never happen again, I was enjoying the casual ambling that we were doing. Or I would have enjoyed it if my body hadn’t been so sore!!

We climbed about 800 feet to the top of the ridge, and came across a forest road. We sprawled out at the side of it, glad of the chance to catch our breath. Three or four vehicles came by and stopped when they saw us. The drivers asked if we were okay and if we needed a ride anywhere. We declined, but were appreciative that the people of Arkansas were so kind and thoughtful.

There was a sign at the side of the road indicating that we were standing on a natural gas pipeline. The 565 mile long Ozark Gas Transmission system stretches from Southeastern Oklahoma through Arkansas, and into Southeastern Missouri, carrying 0.5 Billion cubic feet of gas per day. This is a classic example of how our National Forests provide not only recreation but also natural resources to other areas of the country.

We entered the scarily named Rattlesnake Hollow. Pyro interjected that no matter how far we had to walk, we weren’t camping in Rattlesnake Hollow that night!! I didn’t blame him either; the name alone was enough to make me nervous!! As you could imagine, Scales was almost apoplectic crossing this area!!

Eventually we left Rattlesnake Hollow behind, and crossed a small creek that was flowing fairly well. We found a flat area a few hundred yards away and made camp. Mile marker 14 was very close by and we had reached the day’s objective.

The weather was still very warm, but not quite as warm as the previous day. The wind had gotten pretty strong so we decided not to start a fire for safety reasons. I managed to get cleaned up by the creek, but when Scales went to do the same thing, a couple of hikers walked past just as he was getting lathered up in his boxers. The look on the hikers’ faces was priceless!!

I was woken in the middle of the night by the sound of footsteps outside my tent. I laid there trying to breath as quietly as possible, trying to work out what it was. I had visions of a huge set of claws on the end of a bear’s paw tearing through my tent, and it wasn’t a pleasant thought at all. I knew I was being a drama queen, so I told myself to lower my heart rate from its current 400 beats per minute, and get a grip. It didn’t work!!

I listened intently, and quickly realized that there wasn’t just one set of feet out there. In fact there were several, and they didn’t sound so big and heavy like a bears might sound. So I reasoned that they were Coyote’s, and I was probably correct. I banged the side of my tent and yelled at them, pretty much at the same time as Scales and Pyro did. I guess the triangulation of unexpected sound worked because the feet quickly made off in the right direction and left us alone. I fell asleep again, but I kept waking up and listening again, just in case.

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