Float traffic on the Upper Buffalo River on Mother’s Day weekend was high even with the river running fast. Cole and I were in agreement that the river was much too high to float at our current experience level. The hike was enough for this girl. Still there were plenty of people with children and dogs floating on Saturday and I wished them well. There is a point during the float where you are able to beach your craft and hike from the river to the falls. This video shows that access point and it is certainly less physically taxing and only 1.5 miles or so. Folks walking in from the river to the falls were wearing bathing suits, Chakos, and carrying their beer-hikers didn’t fall into that category for the most part. Personally, I was wishing I had brought some sturdy hiking boots with better ankle support and less slippery soles than my Brooks tennis shoes!
A few things about the ascent that saved our bacon. Liquid IV that Darby had the foresight to buy before joining us on Friday night and my Ascent trekking poles which were a Mother’s Day present. Liquid IV is a powder that you mix with water or Powerade/Gatorade to increase your electrolyte balance and give you a shot of energy. Look for it in the drink mix aisle at your local grocery store. We also brought plenty of snacks including crunchy peanut butter, pretzel sticks, trail mix, and Clif bars. Again, we still fell short on water/Powerade which was important for the ascent as we took more breaks and used more water. Cole did have his Sawyer Squeeze (https://www.sawyer.com/products/squeeze-water-filtration-system) available at Bass Pro and Academy, but it needed to be cleaned and output was torturously slow.
As we climbed up the equivalent of The Empire State Building that Saturday afternoon, I kept reminding myself that if the worst should happen and we needed to spend the night in the woods, we were prepared for it. We still had plenty of food to get through a single night, Cole had fire starting equipment, I had toilet paper and we knew there was a cabin down a different trail as well as how to build a squirrel’s nest for shelter if needed. Luckily, by placing one foot in front of the other and resting when needed, we did not have to rely on our backcountry skills to survive the night. Expect the best, prepare for the worst.
Over that Mother’s Day weekend, a hiker from Springfield fell to his death near the Indian Creek drainage area. Read the article here: https://www.ky3.com/2022/05/09/hike-springfield-mo-dies-after-fall-along-buffalo-national-river/. A lot of this area is backcountry, rated difficult on Alltrails, steep and was very slippery with all the rain that had fallen the previous week. No matter what your skill level, accidents can happen; hikers and floaters should take stock of their experience level and if necessary, hike and/or float with a licensed and insured guide that is familiar with the area in all conditions. If it had rained any more on Friday before leaving for Arkansas, I doubt I would have hiked this particular trail. Cole and I are well versed in first aide, CPR, and carry enough emergency supplies to get by in a pinch. Except, apparently, for water which we really need to get better at.
All in all, this was an excellent gift to myself. Time with the kids, out in nature, doing something challenging and a bit dangerous. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!