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Eagle Rock Loop Trail, Spring 2004 Hike

     Hiking the Eagle Rock Loop Trail in the Ouachita National Forest is a real treat. Created by combining sections of the Little Missouri River, the Viles Branch, and the Athens-Big Fork trails, the Eagle Rock Loop features a river and many streams, waterfalls, several swimming holes, plenty of nice camping locations, vault toilets at several locations, and at least five trailheads. At 26.8 mile, the Eagle Rock Loop trail is the longest loop trail in Arkansas.

     My Spring 2004 Eagle Rock Loop hike was a preparatory hike for a Summer 2004 thru-hike of the Ozark Highlands Trail. Several gear and training issues, such as using a tarp as a shelter, checking the backpack and shoes for fit, learning the water treatment technique, and tuning the food menu for items and quanity needed resolution. Knowledge gained from this hike was also used during my Spring 2005 thru-hike of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.

     I arrived at the trailhead at the junction of the Little Missouri River and Athens-Big Fork trails in the early afternoon of 26May04. Three days were allocated for completing a clockwise traverse of the loop, with three days of food and supplies carried from the starting point. After a few minutes to adjust my backpack and fill the water containers, I was on the trail by 2:09pm. The first segment of the loop trail is the relatively easy Little Missouri River Trail. On the segment I moved rapidly, reaching the Little Missouri Falls Recreation Area by 3:47pm, the Albert Pike Recreation Area by 6:30pm, and my campsite near the Winding Stairs Trailhead and Blaylock Creek crossing at 7:30pm. The next day started early, and I departed the campsite and was on the trail by 5:55am, reaching the junction of the Little Missouri River and Viles Branch trails at 8:05am. The Viles Branch trail is also relatively easy, with my reaching the junction of the Viles Branch and Athens-Big Fork trails by 9:50am. The Athens-Big Fork trail is much, much, more difficult than either the Little Missouri River or Viles Branch trails. With a lot of personal "pushing" of myself, I arrived back at the end of the Athens-Big Fork trail, the starting point for the loop, and my vehicle at 1:55pm, having completed the 26.8 mile loop in one day's worth of hiking.

     You might be asking yourself why I spent the effort recorded all the times and locations in the previous paragraph. Actually, I did not spend much time recording them. I carried a GPS operating in the "Track" mode. As a lasting value from this trip, this GPS data is available for download.

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