November 25, 2016
Pops has been wanting to hike the Goat Bluff Trail for several years now, me being the reason he hasn’t….I hate heights. I kept telling him to find someone else to hike that trail with him, but I finally gave in. We’ve been trying to get back in the routine of hiking and I knew this would be the one trail he wouldn’t say no to. The day after Thanksgiving we took off to Ponca to walk the bluff plank. We’ve been trying to get back in the routine of hiking and I knew this would be the one trail he wouldn’t say no to.
We drove the 2 hours to the Buffalo River thinking that today of all days this trail would be dead. Boy were we wrong. The gravel parking lot was so full we had to park along the entrance. I guess I didn’t realize how popular this spot was seeing how dangerous it is.
We started our journey at the Centerpoint Trailhead. After a couple of miles straight downhill the trail splits. Straight ahead will lead you to the top of Hemmed In Hollow Falls and to the right, The Goat Trail. Dead smack in the middle is a powwow campfire spot where several people were congregating. We took the right and made our way to the harrowing bluff line.
After a mile of hiking through the woods we emerged on the side of a mountain. 313 feet above the Buffalo to be exact. The trail is maybe 3 feet wide so every step is crucial. Especially being so busy and having to pass people along the trail. I opted for the inside along the bluffs. Sorry folks, y’all can risk the fall. I’m not dying today. The bluff plank is probably 1/2 mile long and in some places gets skinnier than 3 feet. A fallen tree laid across the lower trail which encouraged me to climb the rock face about 6 feet and crawl along the crevice until I felt safe enough to stand. At one point there is a hole in the rock which is one option to take to continue on the higher trail. I took the lower trail instead. After making it across I sat down and took in the view. While taking in the scenery and giving my shaky legs a rest I watched horses cross the river.
After chilling on the bluff for awhile and watching other people act dumb on the ledge we decided to head back. We knew we had a great task ahead of us. 3 miles straight up. The last 2 miles of the trail back to the car were ridiculous. I have never been sore after a hike but I felt it in my hips and knees today. It was like the trail was never-ending. We could see the crest of the hill only to reach it and realize it was a small flat spot before the trail ascended straight up again. After finally hobbling to the car all I wanted to do was take off my shoes. Where we parked was actually the best spot in the lot. Off in the near distance was an old rusted truck body I kept telling dad I wanted to photograph. He didn’t see the beauty in it but I made my way to it and got some neat shots. After trudging back through the thicket to the car, I immediately sat down, took off my shoes and let out a huge sigh of relief. We conquered the Goat Trail….without incident. Hallelujah.