Lost In Nature

As many of you already know, earlier this week 40/29 weekend producer Rob Maday and I went on a hiking trip in Newton County that didn’t exactly go as planned. If you are a regular reader of our weather blog you have probably read some of my previous blog posts about other hikes and trips I have taken in the area and the pictures from them. This adventure was one of the more humbling ones, but regardless here is the story.

Last Tuesday, Rob and I drove the very rugged road up Cave Mountain in Newton County and to the Bowers Hollow Falls trail head. For those that have ever seen Bowers Hollow Falls know that it has a unique beauty to it and that it is located in the remote Ozark National Forest. The trail starts off along an old jeep trail. The trail is overgrown with lots of bushes and small trees but it is a fairly easy trail to follow. The 2009 ice storm has certainly left its mark on this trail and most locations in Madison and Newton counties. This was the worst area hit by the storm with up to 3″ of ice accumulation. As a result, the trail is littered with downed trees which force hikers to take it slow getting to the waterfall. After about a mile and a half hike you have to leave the old jeep trail in order to get to the waterfall. We made a left along a small creek bed and bushwhacked our way down the hill to the waterfall. Despite a week and a half of dry weather there was still water following through Bowers Hollow and down the falls. Bowers Hollow Falls is about 55 feet tall, but we found it too dangerous to hike down into the hollow. Here are a few pictures of the waterfall taken around the rim of the hollow instead.

After we spent a while at the falls (perhaps too long) we started to back track back up the creek headed toward the old jeep trail. This is where we made a simple but costly mistake. We were moving quickly to get out of the forest by dark and as we were heading up the creek we mistakenly followed a creek that branched off to the right. This creek bed never intersected the trail but rather ran parallel to it. After hiking along this creek for 30 or 40 minutes we decided to head back down the creek and see where we took a wrong turn. During this process of bushwhacking through thick brush, wild rose bushes, and poison ivy, the sun slipped behind the Ozark Mountains and light began to fade fast. We consulted our maps and had a pretty good idea of where we were but before we knew it daylight had run out. We sat at the end of a creek and pulled out our cell phones waiting for a signal. I never doubted we would get out of the woods, and I never feared the potential dangers that could have been lurking. My only concern was just letting my wife know that we were ok but lost, so she didn’t fear the worst. After a few minutes my phone popped into a weak roaming signal and I was able to send out a text message letting her know everything was fine. She then called the officials alerting them of the situation. They were fully aware that we had clothes, food, plenty of water, maps, and flashlights. As a result, search and rescue held off coming into the woods until daybreak the following morning. For the next couple of hours we rested and just enjoyed the dark forest. Just as there is a sense of beauty during the daylight hours the dark night sky has its own beauty. We were under a new moon and as a result it was pitch dark outside. Because of this, we got to see more stars than we have seen in years…Amazing! Around Midnight or so we pulled out one of the maps that we had of the area (sen below).

 

We guesstimated our mistakes and current location and set off in the direction where we thought the trail was located. After about a 10 minute hike we ran right into the jeep trail. To our amazement in the middle of the dark forest, we had found our way to the trail. We followed this trail for about a mile until it seemed to disappear into wilderness. At that point, we figured our best option was to get a little sleep and wait for daylight. We walked around and found an area free of poison ivy (not easy to do) took off our backpacks and rested up against a tree.

Sunrise was around 6:30am and search and rescue crews were on their way. We had hiked up in elevation overnight and cell phone reception was slightly better (still not good enough to make phone calls but good enough to send a text). My wife filled the gap of communication from us to search and rescue. Search and rescue made the request for us to hike west. As we did, within 10 minutes, we hit a bluff and the old jeep trail we had been following overnight. After we pulled out our map it all made sense. We had hit a secondary old jeep trail overnight and we were just about a mile and a quarter from the trail head. We were then able to calculate our longitude and latitude coordinates and text them to the search crew.

After that we just headed down the jeep trail toward the trail head. The search crew was hiking toward our coordinates and we met about 5 minutes away from the trail head. The hiking trip became a minor inconvenience when it turned into an unplanned camping trip. However, we were thankful we came prepared. On the other hand, the next time we venture out into the woods we will make sure to bring a GPS along just in case. It would have made a big difference.

Ross Ellet

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2 Responses

  1. lol wow, glad you guys made it out of there ok! My wife would have been freaking out…especially with all the recent hiker falls. I havent gotten to Bowers yet… great pics.

    Got to Pack Rat and Pams Grotto today:
    http://www.realclearwx.com/041710.htm

    Sweden Falls a couple weeks back:
    http://www.realclearwx.com/032510.htm

    & Keefe & Tea Kettle a couple weeks back as well:
    http://www.realclearwx.com/032310.htm

  2. Brian,

    Great pics! Your pictures from today are awesome…great weather for it. Tea Kettle falls is on my list to get to at some point. Keep up the great work!

    Ross Ellet

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