October 30, 2010

Roundtop Mountain, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas

So, I was looking for a relatively close and relatively short hike to do on this day, since we were going to be delayed getting out and about. I have this guide book called Arkansas Nature Lovers Guidebook, which listed this 3.6 mile hike around the summit of Roundtop Mountain with excellent views. That sounded good.

Fighting the brush to get to the summit
So, we headed off and upon arrival at the trailhead, we could already see that something was wrong. There was no parking lot. The road just ended and a couple of cars were pulled over on the side. As we walked up to the visitor station, it was closed up and abandoned and the windows broken out.

Ouch, my shins...dang brambles!
Hmm, OK, so we started up the trail and right away I could see something was up. Clearly, no one had maintained the trail in a couple of years. It was all overgrown and brushy, with fallen branches from the trees above littered about. Unfortunately, I chose to wear shorts instead of pants this day and my shins were getting all ripped up with blackberries, vines, twigs, and other plants all across the trail. In addition, there were these old wooden benches for resting along the way that were moss-covered and falling apart and we could hardly read the old wooden trail signs for directions at various intersections.

I went through blackberries for this?
As we made it to the summit, we arrived at a deadend and no view. Just a forest of oaks. That was no fun. Well, as we began heading down, I noticed a small trail branching off in the other direction and what appeared to be a bit of a clearing. I said, maybe we should just give it a try and see if we could get a little view somewhere. I didn't want my bloody shins to have been scratched in vain. We headed down that way and ended up at an amazing rock-fin and 50 foot cliffs on all sides, with some nice views of the area.

Nice place to relax
We ate lunch on this rocky bench and enjoyed the views. We wandered out onto the narrow fin one at a time and found a geocache out there. After we had our fill, we just backtracked the way we came, rather than complete the loop. My shins had had enough. Needless to say, Hilina was on my back the whole way. Whenever I'd duck through fallen grapevines or under branches I told Hilina to be a turtle and tuck her hear and limbs into her shell (the backpack). It worked pretty well and she made it through unscathed.

View of South Gap valley below

The Fin

A view to the west
Well, since the hike went quicker than we expected, we went into the town of Jasper and visited the Arkansas Wildlife and Fish Commission Museum in town. When I told the lady at the desk about my experience at Roundtop Mountain, she told me "that's because that trail is closed".

A view to the east
Apparently, the parking lot and visitor station was sitting on a slump that was sliding and had become too dangerous to use anymore, so they closed it indefinitely until they can figure out what to do. I didn't really notice the slump, but the "parking lot" was covered in tall grass. It is amazing how quickly nature can reclaim things when they are left on their own for a while.

If you look carefully, you can see the curved striations of the ancient fossilized sanddunes in the top layer

Heading back down
So, no unfortunately there will be no Hikemaster's Trail Description post about this one...

A wildlife diorama at the museum


dmitchell said...

I was searching out this little hike and came across your post. Was the trail closed or just the parking area? I guess what I am asking is can I still hike it?

The Hikemasters said...

Sorry it took me a long time to notice your comment. The answer is that the trail is officially closed. It is somewhat overgrown. But, you can definitely still hike it and we did see two others out there as well.