But I was up and at 'em and ready to seize the day with two scheduled hikes awaiting just a couple of hours away.
I met up with a group of hikers from the Eureka Springs area in a grocery store parking lot at 9 a.m. By that time, the temperature had risen to 36 and after a brief look on the weather app, I noticed the temps were going to rise slowly all day as cloud cover gave way to sunshine and a high of 56. It was going to be pretty well perfect.
(Chan Davis / CCN Sports)
This week, it was Paul and Chris Hansen. The duo set the day up with a briefing on where we were going and after a couple of introductions, including myself, we readied to leave the parking lot.
Our destination was Buffalo National River, about 45 minutes south of Berryville, to take on two hikes for the day, a 2.3 mile trek at Lost Valley and a 3.5 mile journey to and from Hawksbill Crag, also known as Whitaker Point.
Before we left, we had to place our breakfast order with one of the ladies of the group. We didn't "have" to. But being the newbie, I wasn't going to buck the system. So I obliged with an egg and cheese biscuit order and we hit the road. That order was phoned in on the way and we stopped at a small store in Kingston to pick up our morning wares.
It wasn't really until then that I started to see the majesty of the Ozarks. As we neared the first stop, Lost Valley, we turned off the main road. The first thing that caught my attention was a sign with a picture of an elk. I thought how cool it would be to see an elk.
As the convoy of traffic slowed, then stopped, on the side of the road, our attention was drown to a field off to the right, an open pasture with an old barn in the middle of it. Between the road and the barn, maybe some 200 feet away, was a rather large bull Elk.
I wanted to ask him if he saw the sign and knew he was supposed to be there. Or did he feel obligated since the sign was there. Nonetheless, it was a great way to start the day. We all snapped a few photos and continued onward toward the trail.
Now, hiking is something I enjoy doing. I will randomly find places I've never seen and peruse the grounds on foot, exploring along the way. But I have never been on a planned hike with folks who do this on a weekly basis. I was a touch intimidated by the comfort level they showed as I was about to embark on this new journey.
(Chan Davis, CCN Sports)
The sidewalk ended as we approached the steeper part of the trail, towards Eden Falls and Eden Falls Cave, where there is an underground waterfall. We set out on the trail at 10:45 and reached our destination around noon. Paul offered to go spelunking with me so we disappeared into the cave for a bit and navigated our way to the waterfall...well...water drip.
With this year's draught still rearing its ugly head, there was not much water falling from the cave ceiling, only drops of water constantly hitting the rock floor, almost singing a tune in the still darkness. We both had lights and I could use the flash on the camera to light things up for a moment. But without some sort of light it was a can't-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face dark.
I managed to get some really cool photos of the water drip and we retreated to the trail to hook back up with the rest of the pack. They had vacated the area when we emerged and we found them back at the trailhead eating lunch at the pavilion. The second hike was about a "20-minute drive" according to one of the hikers, just "right down the road" they said.
I had not planned on making the second of the two hikes as deadline was staring me straight in the face when I got back to the office. But after hearing multiple reasons why I couldn't miss it, I decided to throw caution to the wind and make that drive down the road.
Only thing is, Hawksbill Crag is not down the road. It's up the road. Up to the tune of over 1,000 foot of vertical drop on a gravel road...a one-lane, no guardrail, dusty rock, boulder and gravel road. It had to be leading somwhere worthwhile.
As we emerged at the trailhead to start the final leg of our journey, I felt soreness in my legs walking from the car to the entrance. I thought maybe I could just come back another day and have that experience to look forward to.
Honestly, the backs of my knees were hurting and I was thinking about calling it a day. But there was Jeanie Hren, 82-years young, and darting for the start-finish line. She had already outpaced the field on the first 2.8-mile hike and was pulling the trigger to start the second, this 3.5 miler to one of the most photographed places in the state of Arkansas. Hawksbill even landed on the Rand-McNally Atlas as the feature art on the cover in 2005. I had to go see it. I was less than two miles away. And there was Jeanie. She never missed a step and I was bound and determined to keep up with her.
The journey there was more than worth every step. Hawksbill itself is pretty awesome, I highly suggest you go, take the kids, and make a day of it. But the trail was rugged, almost undefined at times, though years of hikers have worn mostly well-beaten paths. As the surroundings begin to divulge themselves to you, it becomes clear as to why thousands of visitors make this a yearly destination.
Oh, and Jeanie, I took photos of her rappelling down a vertical drop of a 15-foot drop hanging on to a sapling tree, and standing at the very edge of the Crag peering over. Both times, she made my skin crawl. She even cut her elbow a little navigating the tree situation.
She still beat me back to the car.
I am going to make this a weekly event and hopefully, when I am 82, I will be able to keep up with her.
* * *
Chan Davis is the sports editor for the Carroll County News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 870-654-2742.