Raining, foggy, and cold. The weather wasn’t the best when we awoke in Batesville, Arkansas, but we had a mission. The tallest point in Arkansas was the goal. There was absolutely no way we would let something like subpar weather get in the way. Drove over to the Local coffee shop for a morning kickstart, gas station for a fill up, double checked our gear, and then we headed out for the 3.5 hour drive to Mount Magazine State Park.
Winding in and out of the Arkansas forests was a peaceful experience. The drive was tiring, but as we approached the 30 minutes out mark, the anticipation grew. We both started picking the tallest peaks on the horizon. “That’s got to be it!” Nope. Another mountain fades away as another appears from the fog. We finally see the final turn. The big state park sign leading the way. There is a gas station on the corner. It was the ONLY thing in this small town. It was a good place to refresh ourselves. They do sell firewood at the gas station and the state park for those wondering.
Driving up the mountain you could really feel the elevation. The roar of our engine downshifting trying to maintain momentum up the steep mountainside switchback was definite confirmation. Seeing over the edge past the boulders that lined the edge of the cliff is not for the faint of heart. However, the views you get at the first viewpoint, right next to the big state park sign, is really worth the stop.
When you reach the “top” it doesn’t really feel like it at first. The trees block most of the views off the mountain. We checked into our campground, which we reserved online. While pulling up to the spot our excitement grew. It was perfect. Nestled fairly deep in the woods, it was surrounded by golden trees and vegetation. By far one of the most peaceful car camping spots we had experienced in a while.
Although the home base was so serene, we still had our goal to accomplish…to reach the summit of the tallest point in Arkansas. A quick overview of the trail map showed that we would only have to hike about a mile to get to the top. Excited and now full of energy we hit the trail.
Usually when I think of a “tallest point” I would imagine a breathtaking 360 degree view. Brushing shoulders with the clouds and giving birds high fives as they fly by. Not to burst any bubble, but this is not the case in Arkansas. While the trail was well kept and ever so relaxing. The tallest point left us feeling let down. It was surrounded by tall trees with a sign that said you made it. 2,753 feet. No view, no birds. Just a sign and a National Survey Stamped into the ground.
I decided to take a seat on a log and reexamine that trail map. I was on a new mission. The breathtaking view of a forest valley from a cliffside. It was clear from the drive up the mountain, I knew the views existed. We just had to find the right trail to get us there. After a quick discussion we decided to take the North Rim Trail. It was a lot more rugged and very steep at times, but as we rounded a corner I could see a cliff in the distance. One that I was sure would hold the view I was seeking.
“The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see.”
Upon making it to the cliffside. The forest opened up into a massive valley. All the mixed colors of the fall leaves glistened on the treetops as the sun broke through the clouds in random spots. There was a hawk soaring on the wind currents. So close that you feel like you could reach up and touch it. It was exactly what we had ventured here for.
The Summit Trail may not have been what we expected, but this park is little slice of heaven. We are looking forward to going back in 2018 to hike the 9.5 miles to Cove Lake for an adventure in the park’s primitive camping area. Making sure you have a few days to explore the park would have been a good thing to know going in. However, we were blessed to see the sites we did. Much love for Mount Magazine.
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