April 15, 2016
Today we decided to tackle another spot that got us the first time. There is a trail to 9 waterfalls literally right off of Hwy 7 about 15 miles North of Dover. You park on the side of the highway past Mack’s Pines where the power lines cut through the National Forest. These are the exact directions in the book. This hike is the epitome of ditchhiking. You would pass by this “ditch” and never know what secrets it was holding at the bottom. We’ve been here once before after a big rain and it was the most magical place in Arkansas I’ve seen yet. There was just one problem. The water levels were so high we couldn’t make it halfway down the creek bed without running into yet another rushing waterfall, and to try to get around it required acrobatics and sliding down trees like a fire pole. When you carry around 20 lbs of camera equipment that is pretty expensive, you tend to be less dare devilish. We reluctantly turned around and headed back out only getting to see Cabin Falls and the 4 falls after it, missing the 3 other falls and Maidenhair down an adjoining creek bed. This has always disheartened us so we decided to try again today since we had a big rain earlier in the week.
Boy were we disappointed. We knew from the get go when the drainage beds were empty that we were in for a meek surprise. The first fall you come to is unnamed. It can be impressive when the water is flowing, but of course it was barely dripping.
Pops and I discussed it further and said if Cabin Falls is disappointing, we’ll find somewhere else to go, we just didn’t know where….
We made it to the weak fall and considered our options. We decided to finish the trail since it had already defeated us once. This wasn’t a bad thing however, because it gave me a great excuse to look around me and see things the waterfalls would’ve distracted me from noticing and to test out my new camera. The plant life can be just as remarkable as a waterfall. You just have to look closer.
Pops has a favorite spot past Cabin Falls he calls Paul’s Contemplation Point. It’s where two waterfalls meet and pour into one creek. He likes to stand on one rock right in the middle of the creek and watch the two falls converge. If you look up the ravine on both sides you can see one fall leading to another all the way down the hillside. It’s a very serene spot and hard to photograph. You just have to take it in and enjoy instead of fumbling with a tripod.
We persevered our way through the other 2 falls and came to the spot that stopped us in our tracks the last time. Thank goodness for lower water levels because it was much easier to surpass this time. Not much further downstream we came to the creek junction where we needed to turn right and head upstream to see the 4 remaining falls, one of them being Maidenhair. We took a break here as it started to drizzle, helping us cool down from the extreme humidity.
We walked up the adjoining dry creek bed most of the way. We’ve had several hard storms the past few months in the area, so it seemed every fall was covered with either a log or debris making it hard to shoot. We weren’t even sure we reached Maidenhair from the lack of water but after comparing pictures in our book we knew we made it to the final named waterfall on our path. It was impossible to photograph due to half a tree hanging in the fall.
After discovering Maidenhair and realizing we had completed our mission, we trudged our way uphill. When I say uphill, I mean four distinctive “levels” of ground. You can clearly see four sections of the ravine, and if you stay along the creek bed it leads to the individual waterfalls. We’ve done been there, seen that, so we made our own path straight up the hillside. Once we reached the top of a level we would catch our breath and evaluate a better route only to observe our only way out was again straight up to the next elevation. We came out to an old road of some sort which lead us behind a few cabins along Hwy 7 and finally guided us to the vehicle. This hike is classified as a 1.3 mile medium bushwhack. However, if you want to scope out all the falls, that requires a lot of zigzagging down elevations, only to crawl back up them to head to the next fall. There were times I was literally hanging on to tree roots to keep from falling down in the hollow. This tacks on quite a bit of distance. With the lack of water there were several falls we didn’t even attempt to go off “trail” to peak at. This hike is definitely not for the faint of heart or for beginners. Most of the time it’s “go your own way” and watch out for the poison ivy! It’s rampant in this particular ditch. Load up with bug spray and don’t touch anything!! 🙂