This autumn would be a fantastic time to visit the Lost Valley Hiking Trail, located within the boundaries of the Buffalo National River ( www.nps.gov/buff ), in Newton County, Arkansas. The trees, shrubs, and bushes in that area of the state put on a magnificent display of color each autumn, as shown in these photographs. As the newly-fallen leaves carpet the forest floor, they form a colorful mosaic pattern, prettier than any you will see at a store selling artificial floor coverings! (top photo). The bright red leaves shown in the bottom two photos are from the sweet gum tree that is abundant throughout the trail area, and is accompanied by the bright oranges of hickory trees, burgundy colors from dogwoods and red buds, yellows from wild black walnut trees, and the rusty orange provided by the numerous oak trees. The area also contains a beech tree stand.
The top photo of this collage shows some of the hikers from the Mountain Home Audubon chapter, that made a field trip to Lost Valley this week to hike the trail and do some birding. The trail is rated as "easy to moderate", and there are spots along the way where one can sit to rest or meditate, if so desired (bottom photo).
This photo shows that the trail is a great hike for families with children, as it can be hiked in 2 1/2 hours, with a total distance of 2.3 miles.
The trail will lead you to a beautiful limestone bluff shelter, where one can imagine what it would have been like for the early Native Americans that might have used this space as their living quarters. I heard the comments the children in this photo were making to their parents, and their imaginations were providing vivid scenarios of bluff dwellers from bygone days.
Lost Valley has a natural bridge, a waterfall, and a small cave. As is the case for most waterfalls in this area, Eden Falls is best viewed after heavy rains. The Park Service recommends not going into the cave unless one has the proper equipment, so the family is this photograph decided to save their spelunking adventure for another time when they were better prepared.
Since there are some very high bluffs near the end of the trail, the park service has signs warning of potential dangers. Although serious accidents are rare here, when I was a kid, a young man fell to his death after he wandered away from the group he was with, to climb to the top of the waterfall. However, I am happy to report there were no accidents on the day I visited Lost Valley!
The top photo of this collage pictures the National Park Ranger showing our group the photo album of how Lost Valley looked after heavy flooding that occurred there a while back. She said that since Lost Valley is one of the most popular hiking areas in the entire park, there has been a massive effort to seek out funding to save the Lost Valley trail for future generations. She told us we would see workers along the trail (bottom photo) who were laboring to repair washed out areas and downed trees. When I heard her use that phrase---to seek and to save the lost---it reminded me of the Bible verse that says "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10 If prompted me to ask myself if I am being a diligent worker along the trail of life, "to seek and to save what was lost"? I discovered there is even a very worthwhile website by that name ( http://www.seekandsavethelost.com/ ), which I found very inspirational.
Regardless of which highways you use to get to Lost Valley, your eyes will be in for a feast! I took Highway 43 West out of Harrison, stopping at the overlook on top of Gaither Mountain (top photo) to snap this photo of the Crooked Creek Valley, with Boat Mountain on the horizon. Following Hiway 43 will bring you to the tiny village of Ponca, built along a scenic creek (middle photo). It is in Ponca that you will see the ever-busy Buffalo Outdoor Center. I spent some quality time in Ponca and the B.O.C. decades ago, attending photography workshops put on there by photographers Matt Bradley, Kenneth Smith, and B.O.C. owner, Mike Mills. On the day I visited, I was a little surprised to see Mike Mills behind the counter there, talking to a multitude of customers (both on the phone and in person) and employees, in this beehive of activity, he describes as being in "the middle of nowhere"! You can learn more about all they offer, including their new canopy tour, by clicking on http://www.buffaloriver.com/ . A short distance past the Buffalo Outdoor Center, you will pass the Elk Education Center, also a worthwhile place to visit. Continuing westward, you will pass the Boxley Valley Historic District, with its explanatory placards and historic buildings. Depending on the time of day you are there, you may even get to see elk grazing in the meadow! Follow the signs, and you will see the paved road off to the right that will take you to the Lost Valley Campgroud and Trail (bottom photo). Hopefully, I have stirred your interest in including a trip to Lost Valley in your "fall foilage finding" adventures, where you will encounter scenery that will give you miles of smiles! Tricia