Hiking Hemmed In Hollow, Arkansas

The warning sign that we did not read before beginning our descent!

This hiking trip took a year to accomplish due to my transportation issues last year with my Kia. I love planning Mother’s Day outings like https://howtodotheozarks.com/2020/05/14/roaring-river-state-park/ to celebrate with my kids, husband and my own mom when possible. I have been wanting to hike Hemmed In Hollow for years. It is a beautiful spot outside Compton Arkansas, but a tough hike for anyone who is not in fairly decent shape. I wanted to do this in the spring before it was too hot so Mother’s Day seemed like the perfect weekend. On Friday night, Cole, Darby and I headed down to Arkansas to celebrate Mother’s Day together.

On this trip, I reserved my very first Airbnb rental right outside Jasper, Arkansas, a 40-minute drive from Compton. The Buffalo River Bunkhouse was everything we were expecting and more, you can check it out here https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/26860505?guests=1&adults=1&s=67&unique_share_id=28927e30-8942-44dc-8cbc-8bc6e23aedbf. Thelma, the owner, lives on site and has another Airbnb on the premises called The Bungalow which is perfect for 1-2 people. Thelma had stocked everything we could want including shampoo, soap, toothpaste and extra blankets. She even had little cans of Starbucks Breakfast Blend which we had for breakfast on our second morning. Of course, we brought our own food, but the grill, fridge, stove, and microwave all came in handy and what luxury over tent camping! The only thing that would have made this spot more perfect was a hot tub. The property is located on the Little Buffalo River and has access from the backyard. Cole and I paid for 3 day non resident Arkansas fishing permits ($16 at Walmart in Harrison) just in case we had a chance to get some fishing in.

The Buffalo River Bunkhouse outside Jasper Arkansas

Here in the Ozarks, we can get a lot of rain in April and May, making hiking and kayaking more challenging. The week before this hike, Springfield Mo had received a lot of rainfall, meaning that Northern Arkansas most likely had close to the same amount right before this trip. What this translates to is a definite no from me and the kids on the idea of kayaking the Upper Buffalo River when it was running very high and then walking about 1.5 miles to the falls. No thank you.

To prepare for this particular hike I had been working on strength training, stair climbing, swimming and cardio so that I could enjoy it more and hurt less. Even with all the preparation, my legs were still not ready for this degree of hiking and downright scampering around the rocks. Alltrails https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arkansas/hemmed-in-hollow-trail rated this hike difficult and they were not kidding. Two days later, my quads and hamstrings were still locked up at times and it took a few precious minutes to ease into a walk that didn’t look more like a limp. Picture 7-8 sets of stairs like the ones below, with scenery and clear spots in between and you will have a good idea of what this hike entailed. We measured it at about 6.5-7 miles total as we also hiked the 1.5 miles to the Buffalo River to hang hammocks and rest before the ascent out.

A series of stone steps like these are a big part of the trail at Hemmed In Hollow

On the trailhead outside Compton stands a photo with measurements of the Empire State Building in NYC and a statement letting folks know that the climb out from the hollow (or holler if you’re from the South), is equivalent to climbing that famous building. We did not see this notice! It’s probably a good thing because I might have talked myself out of the hike before I even started, and Darby definitely would have. By the end of it all, the general consensus was the trail was brutal, but worth it.

After raining for multiple days, the area was waterlogged and beautiful.

What we sometimes forget when hiking because we are so excited to get where we are going, is that the way down is also difficult. When stepping down uneven terrain, you are constantly controlling your weight to not pitch forward, using your leg muscles to control every step. By the time I was 3/4 of the way down to the falls, my legs were already trembling with the effort. Not a fun thing to contemplate when looking back up and realizing you have to do the entire thing in reverse before the sun goes down. We initially started out hike at about 10:30 a.m. and we were back on top at 6:30 p.m. We did take a few short breaks coming down, one longer one at the falls and then a 35-minute break at the river swinging in the hammocks and eating a late lunch. The ascent was MANY breaks broken into consistent climbing or scrambling back up rocks, some of which we had slid down on our butts during the descent. The trip back up took 3 hours, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

The hike was brutal but worth this experience!

Watch for the next installment of this hike next week. I’ll fill you in on what happened next and let you know what items we had the foresight to pack that really saved the day. Don’t forget to check out the Facebook page at How to do the Ozarks and Instagram at htdto2020.

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