March 22nd, 2009.  Backpacking the Buffalo National River by Jasper Arkansas.  12 brave folk cross the rain swollen Buffalo River!

Ponca Old River Trail 3 river crossings to Steel Creek then to the Buffalo River Trail to Kyles 13 miles.  Wow! 

11.5 miles of trail.  The backpack was planed to follow the OLD River Trail along the Buffalo River but after 3 River Crossings the group of  12 adults opted out for higher ground.  The water crossings were a good foot higher than normal and a lot more water was flowing then was anticipated.  So up we went to higher ground. 

The trail took us up 6 miles to a elevation gain of 1769 feet.  The River was right at about 900 feed.  So we had almost 800 feet of difference. It was a cardio workout and many times I stopped to survey the surroundings and lean on my walking stick as my heart pounded and my thighs cried out for a break.  Then a minute or so we would continue on the backpack. 

I was thankful that someone with a chainsaw had cleared the trail of the recent Ice storm damage.  Yes at least 8 miles of it was cleared of Big trees cut in half to allow passage.. I was wondering how in the world did they get a chainsaw down here...It was remote and it was rugged.

This Buffalo River Trail is a real workout but it offered views that were a WOW at every turn.  Little creeks and water falls were everywhere and blooms and little flowers dotted the trail as spring was upon us. 

This was a tough backpack.  Working in Royal Rangers with younger boys I learned along time ago to not do these long backpacks.  This was a good reminder.   It's better to have them backpack in no more than a mile or two and then setup base camp and then day hike from there leaving the weight of the packs behind.   Today's questions from the group brought out that I don't think it was much different for adults. 

I am blessed to have went on this outing and I am sure my body will forgive me in a few days.  GRIN!  Here is a pdf file with a profile of the trip at the bottom of it. PoncatoKyles.pdf

The funny side of this backpack is past the read on after you get a look at the photos.

Click on a Picture to get a larger view.

The funny side to this trip was all along the way I was watching out after my backpacking bud Rob.  He had my "Steak" in his pack so as we faced each river crossing I made it a point to tell everyone I was looking out after my vested interest in Rob getting my steak across the river.  Then along the upper trails at trail crossings I waited back until he come meandering around the path to the trail crossing and I would steer him down the right path... looking out after my vested steak.  I had hauled the bacon and eggs and biscuits and potatoes and after such a tough hike I was really looking forward to that marinated steak that Rob always brings to cook over the fire.

We made made camp on a hill side not really a level spot for a tent but it was the best we could find at 6:30 p.m.  So we scrambled to get firewood and with the rain all day it took 30 minutes of scraping squaw wood to get a fire to go.  After setting up tents it was time to start cooking up that steak.  Rob produced the grill he always brings and laid out 3 filet minions steaks wrapped in bacon...ooooowwwwh they looked good.  As the steaks sizzled we baked some potatoes then grilled them when the baking wasn't working for us.  While we cook we have fun talking and carrying on.  Opps steak rolled off into the fire... fast action we had it back.... 10 second rule.  Steaks are done.. by this time we had half of the group up there watching our cooking antics and getting in on the conversation around the big fire.  Steaks are done... Rob hands me my "All day longing for Steak" and I cut into it.. "Rob this is a poor man steak it's a stinking hamburger with bacon wrapped around it.. He said I was wondering why it was so much cheaper than the rest of the steaks.  GRIN!

After much nashing of teeth and eating the nights meal Rob produced  hersheys and marshmellows and another person produced vanilla waffers.. we had smores!  Ahhh! Life is good.  So around 10:30 pm I crawled into my tent and placed my sleeping pad at the bottom of the tent leaning against the tent sidewall on the low side of the incline and hit the sack.  I guess I snored and Rob said he hurled a few rocks at my tent until he broke down and pulled out the ear plugs and slid off to sleep.  All night long I could hear him crawling back up the incline in his tent to get to the top of his sleeping pad.   It's not all about sleeping.  Good friends are hard to find.  I am blessed to have Ranger friends like Rob.  Closer than a brother.  He felt so bad about the hambuger thing (he really thought they were steaks..grin)  he bought dinner at the Jasper Dinner.  Don't tell him but that poorman's steak was pretty good eating.  I guess I owe him dinner!  GRIN! 

It's 2 full days after the hike and my feet still haven't forgiven me..but if we listen to our flesh we would all be sitting around watching tv and eating pizza. GRIN! That's tonight!


Mark Jones