Ouachita Trail – Hike Part 1

After leaving work Thursday afternoon we drove down to Talimena State Park in eastern Oklahoma. We got in later than we had hoped and ended up having to set up our tent at dusk. This was the first time we were setting up this tent so that wasn’t ideal. We managed to get it set up and started cooking dinner as we watched a couple of other cars pull into the parking lot. One couple pulled in around 8 and started up the trail sometime after 8:30! Props to them. We had been expecting a pleasant (if a little chilly) night as we had been checking the forecast for the past week and there was no rain predicted. An hour after we got into the tent it started raining. Oh well, that’s what the rainfly is for, surely it won’t be much since NO ONE PREDICTED IT. Nope! It rained all night and stopped just after sunrise. Given that this was our first time setting up the tent and that we set it up in the dark, the structure was far from sound. You might see where this is going, and you’re right; we did have to get out of the tent in the middle of the night several times to re-stake it. Whoops…

Friday morning started of a little cool, with us being tired from last night’s misadventures. We also found out that Kaila is an incredibly skittish sleeper. Every noise had her on full alert. Our breakfast this morning was also a mess, with a planned “Egg Scramble” turning out more like a soggy egg soup. Kirk managed to choke it down, but Kaila had more dignity and decided to not partake. The park ranger came to chat with us while we were packing up and finishing our coffee. He gave us some tips on shelters, “terrain”, and water sources. After thanking him for the information we started up the trail.

The ranger had told us about a stream crossing that was around half a mile out. Kaila had some mild dread about that since the last time we had gone hiking she fell into every single water crossing. Arriving at the crossing it met all of her fears. Due to the rain last night most of the rocks were, if not completely underwater, mostly underwater. After unsuccessfully trying to find a more clear way across Kirk threw a few rocks into the current and we both managed to get across with dry feet. Thank god for trekking poles. The next two crossings had bridges but the trail had turned into a soggy mess with streamlets overtaking much of the trail.

By the time we hit the third mile marker we realized we had overestimated our daily mileage abilities. We stopped around mile four for lunch and to dry out our soaking rainfly. Originally, we planned on 20 miles per day but seeing as we had been hiking for just about 4 hours and weren’t even averaging one mile an hour we decided to scrap that and just hike as much as we felt we could handle.

Great view while eating lunch

We hiked through the predominately pine forest for the next couple of hours before crossing the road to the other side of the hill. There was a noticeable change in vegetation once we started descending. More deciduous trees and thicker understory hindered our progress, not to mention the multitude of rocks littering the trail. We continued through the thickets trying to search for a campsite while avoiding poison ivy as much as possible. We passed a trail shelter at mile 9.4 but it was occupied so we hiked on looking for even just a patch of flat ground. Fortunately two miles later we saw a moderately used campsite. After verifying that there were no patches of poison ivy in the immediate vicinity we decided to set up there. Conveniently, there were some large rocks that we were able to sit on while cooking dinner after laying out the footprint to dry a bit. After dinner we did camp chores and set up the tent, correctly this time. We did not want to have to get out at all tonight. Since it was pretty early still, about 7, we played card games until our backs hurt to sit hunched in the tent.

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