Thursday, February 5, 2009

Scenic Hwy 7

Last Friday I had a meeting scheduled with the park interpreter at Lake Ouachita State park. I decided to leave the house early and pick up a few caches along the way, do some cache maintenance on a couple of mine, and take some photos. After all of the ice issues up in the Ozarks I was wondering how the higher elevations in the Ouachitas had fared during this time. All of the ice around town had already disappeared a couple of days before.
Just south of Ola at about 1000 foot elevation I came around a curve and the whole north facing slope of Ola Mountain was covered in ice and sparkled like millions of diamonds in the early morning sun. I tried to get a few photos but it was hard with the full sun staring down on me.

I stopped off at Lake Nimrod to do some cache maintenance and find another one. I spent a little time down by the river looking for scenes but just didn't see the right things.

After a few more miles of driving and looking for something to photograph I rounded a curve and spotted a great opportunity so I turned around and found the right spot to set up. I had to wait out some traffic but was finally able to get a really good shot of the curves in the highway with Forked Mountain in the background. This is one of the best views of Forked Mountain and clearly shows how it gets its name from it's unique shape.

As I was driving on down Hwy 7 I noticed the architecture on one of the old bridges and decided to stop and see if it had a benchmark on it. It took a little looking but I finally found it.
The architecture on these old bridges always amazes me. Most of these old bridges like this one were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. One of the bridges I stopped at had recently been damaged and half of one side had been destroyed and was replaced with just the plain ugly steel railing. It's a shame that we can't have the kind of quality that went into things years ago.

While thinking about these bridges and all of the other things that the CCC did back then I decided to make a stop at the location of the old Hollis CCC Camp. I had stopped here once before but never took the time to look around at the entire site and read all of the markers here. If you are unfamiliar with what the CCC was check out This Site to learn more about the program. The Hollis Camp was one of 16 in the Ouachita National Forest and enrollees began arriving in May of 1933. Hollis looked a lot like other camps around the country and was constructed following standard plans with locally available materials. The camp was disbanded in 1935 but was reopened in 1936 when the decision was made to close the Jessieville camp. Hollis then remained open until 1941, at the beginning of World War II, when the CCC program was no longer needed to help relieve the nations unemployment problems. The camp buildings were dismantled in March 1942.

Like most other camps in the area the young men came from nearby farms and most had less than an eighth grade education. During The Depression education was not something most of these young men could afford. An education adviser was assigned to each camp so that the enrollees could take classes in the evenings. Coming from farms most had not ever held a job and did not possess any skills other than what they had learned growing up there. With the CCC many were able to complete their high school education and then take other classes such as radio operating, auto mechanics, clerical skills, and many others. When World War II began many of the former CCC men were already trained for the armed forces. The next time you are in the area I encourage you to stop and take a look at this interesting site. It is located between Hollis and Jessieville just north of Hot Springs right on Hwy 7.

I then stopped off to make a short hike to check on one of my caches hidden on the Hunts Loop Trail. I made the quick trip to the cache and all was well so I headed on back to the truck and down to Iron Springs to take a few photos. This trail is a 4.3 mile loop with parking areas at the Iron Springs Campground and the Ouachita Trail about a mile north of the campground. The first 1/2 mile of trail from Iron Springs rises over 400 feet to the top of Short Mountain at an elevation of 1372 feet. The view from up there is awesome especially during the winter when the leaves are gone. There is also another cache hidden there. This was the toughest part of the trail since the rest of the way is pretty much all downhill. The trail then follows the ridge top for a while with some really nice views on both sides during the winter. At just about the half way point the trail intersects with the Ouachita Trail and then winds its way down hill to the parking area at the trail head. There the trail turns south and soon the Ouachita Trail splits off to the left going under Hwy 7 to continue on toward Pinnacle Mountain near Little Rock. Hunts Loop trail closely follows Hwy 7 back down to Iron Springs where there is plenty of evidence of the CCC's work.

After my meeting at Lake Ouachita I grabbed a few caches in the state park and then headed over to the circle of caches recently hidden by QuartzCachers. Bruce has really been busy lately and has many more planned to put out before the big event in June. I had to hurry on the last few caches in order to make it up to Ouachita Pinnacle before sunset. The roads leading to the pinnacle are pretty decent but can get really confusing on which way to go. QuartzCachers solved this problem for us geocachers by placing a series of caches along the way to guide us to it. Finally arriving at the top, the highest point in Garland County, I still had about thirty minutes till sunset so I made the quick trip down the trail to find the cache hidden there. After finding it and signing the log I began scouting for a location to take pictures of the sunset but there were some trees in the way. So I backed my trailblazer down against the rock wall and set up the tripod on the roof to keep the treetops out of the shot. I spent the next thirty minutes up on the roof shooting lots of pictures but never quite getting that perfect sunset photo. I did however manage to get a good shot of Lake Ouachita from up there.

I always enjoy driving through these areas because it is one, if not the most scenic in the state. If you have not traveled Hwy 7 between Russellville and Hot Springs I highly recommend it. There is plenty to see and explore to keep you busy all day.

1 comment:

OEnavigators said...

Amazing photos and an excellent retelling of your journey. Thank you for sharing it with us.