OFF SCRIPT

UP­PER BUF­FALO WILDER­NESS, ARKANSAS

Backpacker - - Play List - By Jeff How­ell

Sup­ply and de­mand in the Ozarks is a touchy sub­ject. Hik­ers here tend to fun­nel into a few main drags (which, to their credit, are re­plete with hol­lows, wa­ter­falls, and hard­woods), mak­ing it hard to score a slice to your­self. Ven­ture into the trail­less Up­per Buf­falo Wilder­ness, how­ever, and that changes. Off-trail nav­i­ga­tion is al­lowed there, so if you’re handy with a map and com­pass, soli­tude beck­ons. Yes­ter­day, I linked river drainages to camp in a sycamore-ringed clear­ing near Whi­taker Creek. Though it was less than a mile as the crow flies from pop­u­lar Hawks­bill Crag, I spent the night com­pletely by my­self. To­day’s agenda calls for more of the same: trail­less creeks and woods, where soli­tude and beauty are never in short sup­ply.

TURN-BY-TURN FROM THE MAG­NO­LIA FALLS TRAIL­HEAD

1) Take the Mag­no­lia Falls Trail 1.3 miles to its ter­mi­nus at a small stream.

2) Par­al­lel the creek down­stream to Boen Gulf Branch at mile 1.6.

3) Turn west (hiker’s left) and trace Boen Gulf Branch 1.5 miles to the Buf­falo River.

4) Veer north (hiker’s right) and fol­low the Buf­falo River down­stream to Whi­taker Creek near mile 4.3.

5) Con­tinue hik­ing up­stream be­side Whi­taker Creek for just over a mile, dodg­ing boul­ders and cir­cum­vent­ing wa­ter­falls, to a con­flu­ence.

6) Go .4 mile up­stream along Lower Fork Creek to lo­cate a con­ve­nient break in the cliff band on the west side (hiker’s left). The writer found a di­rect route near 35.8925, -93.4474.

7) Climb out of the drainage, set­ting a bear­ing for an old road near 35.8882, -93.4576, less than a mile south­west.

8) Fol­low the lane about .3 mile north to County Road 5.

9) Take the road .5 mile north­east to the Whi­taker Point trail­head at mile 7.4.

CAMP­SITE WHI­TAKER CREEK (MILE 4.3)

Look for an old chim­ney from a long-gone homestead on the north side of Whi­taker Creek, just be­yond where it meets the Buf­falo River. (Scout­ing a safe cross­ing should be easy in Septem­ber.) In the morn­ing, wan­der down to the shore to spy elk, coy­otes, and white­tailed deer get­ting a drink.

BUSH­WHACK­ING 101

Bud­get ex­tra time: In the Ozarks, the thick un­der­story means that the go­ing can be ex­tremely slow de­spite the rel­a­tively ba­sic nav­i­ga­tion and ter­rain. Plan to walk less than half your usual speed.

DO IT SHUT­TLE CAR

35.9011, -93.4579; 14 miles north of Ar­baugh on Co. Rd. 5 TRAILHEAD35.8625,-93.3858; a 31-minute drive east from shut­tle car SEA­SON Year­round PER­MIT None CUS­TOM MAP bit.do/BPmapUp­perBuff ($15) CON­TACT www.fs .usda.gov/osfnf

Dis­tance 7.4 miles (point to point) Time 2 days Dif­fi­culty

From the shut­tle car, hike 1.5 miles east to reach Hawks­bill Crag, which rises over the Whi­taker Creek drainage you camped in.

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