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Caney Creek Wilderness, Arkansas
April 25, 1998 through April 26, 1998


This is a trip report about our 3rd successful Texins Outdoor Club Beginners Backpacking Clinic hosted by Ray Aldridge, Craig Mielke and myself. We had 7 people attend our classroom session on Monday April 20th at the Texins Activity Center and everyone attended the actual trip the following weekend.

Our group of adventurous beginners was made up multiple nationalities. We had Than-Van Phan from Viet Nam, Frans Van Bree for the Netherlands and Canadian Dale Wellborn, a British Columbia native. Dale and Frans were really not beginners, but neither had ever backpacked in the US before. Along with these fine folks we had Doni Martin, Rudye McGlothlin, his SO, Jamie and Richard Stubing joining our troop of beginning wilderness trekkers. Matthew Cerralvo, one of our members, came along to enjoy the Arkansas scenery too.

We all meet at the Texins parking lot and car pooled from here to the Caney Creek Trailhead some 5 hours off in the distance. Before we left it was decided that we would stop in Texarkana, Texas and have one final sitdown meal before heading out into the Arkansas woods. Shoney's Restaurant was our destination so with that we departed Texins at approx. 3:00pm.

The drive was fairly uneventful to Texarkana. Everyone arrived at Shoney's at around 6:00PM, right about the estimated time of arrival.

Dinner took about an hour so at around 7:00PM we were back underway in route to Caney Creek. There were a couple of mishaps as we got close to the trailhead. Ray Aldridge was leading the group of five cars as we turned north on State Hi way 246 toward the Forest Service Road #38 which would take us to the Caney Creek Trailhead. As we turned onto Hi way 246 I noticed that Than-Van was not in sight so I turned into a gas station parking lot at the intersection to wait for her to show up and signal her to turn here. Well Ray went on ahead thinking that I was still behind him and that I would lead the others to the Forest Service Road.

Well needless to say two of the cars that went on down the road after I turned off into the gas station thought that Ray would be waiting up ahead to guide them. Ray had already turned off onto the FS road and had no idea that he was supposed to be leading the group now. Well Than-Van arrived and so we proceeded on toward the Forest Service Road. Once we got onto the FS road it took a few miles before we caught up to Ray. We drove for a few more miles when it dawned on me that we were missing two cars! I signaled Ray to stop and i asked him if the other two cars were ahead of him. He looked at me puzzled and said no they were not. I was in a panic!!!

We decided to drop off all of the gear at the campsites and then Dale Wellborn and I would go in search of our lost members. I knew that they would be angry and worried about the situation and did not look forward to their response when and if we found them. There was a very valuable lesson that was learned from this situation though. "When ever you are the lead car you must be responsible for making sure all the trailing cars know where they are supposed to make the required turn offs!!!" I always try to have a lead and a trailing vehicle in a convoy like this to make sure that if there is any mechanical failures the trailing car(or the "sweep") can help out. The lead car should always consider themselves the leader of the convoy. These lessons will be enforced and taught to all future trip leaders/organizers. Some lessons are hard learned, but thankfully no one was hurt or incurred any major injury from this oversight :-)

So after we located our lost friends it was onto our evenings campsite. We camped at a roadside camping spot built by the National Forest Service. We gathered some wood and made a small fire and everyone allowed themselves to relax and let the evening darkness to slowly envelop us with its serenity. Everyone turned in at around 11:30PM.

Matthew was the first one up on Saturday morning and I as usual was the last :-) Everyone seemed very excited about getting started so things were a buzz around our campsite in anticipation of the events that lay ahead along the Caney Creek Trail. We were at the trailhead and ready to go by about 10:00AM. Ray Aldridge registered our group at the trailhead signup box which is provided by the National Forest Service to give them a good indication of the amount of use the trail is getting. So with this taken care of we proceeded off into the Caney Creek Wilderness with our band of anxious trekkers.

We walked and admired the natural beauty of this area. The small cascading waterfalls that formed where ever a stream stepped its way down the hill to Caney Creek. The sound and vision of a babbling brook as it cascades over rock and deadfall trees is mesmerizing to me. I love to watch the water bounding down and over ever obstacle that gets in its way. It is a sight that I always look forward to seeing, no matter how small the cascade. We spotted a number of millipede along the trail along with a bumper crop of poison ivy(I am so very thankful that it does not bother me physically like it does to so many others). There were spots along the trail where the dense trees opened up to allow us to view the ridge that runs along the southern side of the creek climbing up to approx. 2,500 feet, some 1,500 feet above us along this wonderfully scenic trail. The trilliums were blooming profusely everywhere along the trail, displaying their purple three leaf blossoms with great pride. The phlox was also blooming and made quite a spectacle of themselves bunched up in clusters all along the Caney Creek Trail.

Nearing 2:00PM we finally arrived at our destination. Off came the packs, up went the tents, and off came the hiking boots! Ray, Doni, Richard, Dale and Matthew took off for a little hike on down the trail to see what was up ahead. Rudye and Jamie went for a walk by themselves for a little bit, while Than-Van and Frans lingered around the campsites. I ate a quick lunch and then headed for the tent for an afternoon siesta :-) It wasn't long before several others did the same. When our group of dayhikers returned they told us all about how wonderful Caney Creek looked just down the trail especially with the evening sun splashing across the water. They took many pictures so I hope that at least a few wind up on this page very soon :-) Richard Stubing was leading the group as they hiked this portion of the trail, when all of a sudden a large old dead tree fell over less than 15 feet in front of Richard! I am sure that was an experience everyone will long remember. After dinner we all gathered some wood(actually Matthew Cerralvo single handedly gathered enough wood to leave the next people who camp here with wood to burn for a week!) The fire was welcome as it chased away the flies and mosquitos that were having their way with us before the smoke drove them away. Everyone decided that they wanted to get up as early as possible so we could get back to Dallas before it got too late on Sunday. I turned in around 10:00PM and I think that most everyone followed shortly there after.

During the night some of us were woken by a strange rustling sound coming from the creek near our tents! This/these animals were never seen, but it was suspected to be the fierce White tail Deer. Trembling and scared our adventurers decided to stay within their tents rather than venture out into the night to caught a glimpse of this marauding denizen of the woods.

On Sunday morning everyone worked very hard to get packed and trail ready in a short time and we were underway at approx. 9:00AM. The pace was much quicker than the day before and the miles melted away in what seemed no time at all compared to the day before. We had indeed made better time returning to the trailhead. It only took three hours compared to the four hours it had taken the day before. I was impressed by these new hikers! We were also very fortunate in that the skies which looked foreboding all morning long, did not release their caches until we were safely back to our vehicles. Miracles do happen still :-) Everyone swapped their dirty clothes for clean ones and some of us indulged in a "Gold Bond" medicated powder bath :-) Nothing like Gold Bond! Unfortunately Ray discovered that he had a flat tire upon our joyful return to trailhead. Frans was a beaten man.....but he had a big smile on his face! We were all tired, make no mistake about that, but everyone will do this again, I am sure of it from the size of the smiles that I saw on everyones faces.

Ray would be heading off for a trip to Mississippi to see his family so we would not see him any more until a later date. the rest of us loaded up and headed for a sitdown meal that was calling us in Texarkana!

On the drive back to Texarkana bad luck struck two of our convoy when they were simultaneously pulled over for speeding by an Arkansas State Hi way Patrolman. Bummer. Than-Van Phan and Rudye McGlothlin were given tickets for speeding. Also Matthew Cerralvo was having some mechanical problems with his car too. It sounded like a waterpump bearing was going out but we did know what it was for sure. Matthew decided to drive on home. We stopped at a WalMart and Matthew purchased a nylon towing strap, so that if his car did quit along the way, at least I could pull him back to Dallas. My truck had developed a rather disturbing popping noise in the right front end during the trip too. I was very concerned about this on the return trip, but both of us made it back without any serious problems.

Once we all got to Texarkana the first order of business was food! El Chico was the first place we saw and it would be a wonderful meal. A fitting end to a great trip. Good conversation, much laughter and the beginning of new friendships.

Backpacking is work true, but the peace and solitude that you gain once you get away from the civilized world is priceless. Just ask any of these folks if it was worth the effort. No don't even bother, their smiles said a thousand words.

Mike Mastin

Be sure to see the Outdoor Club pictures of this trip!

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