Owens & Ricketts Mountains
December 23, 2007
During my time off for Christmas there was only one day that we weren’t scheduled to be at family gatherings. The boys and I used that opportunity to drive up to central Newton County and visit a bluff area on Owens Mountain and a group of rock formations on Ricketts Mountain.
I spent a few hours that morning on the computer doing some maintenance on my vast collection of GPS waypoints, making sure my receiver and my Mac were in sync. Plus I played around with Google Earth for a long time; it’s easy for me to waste a bunch of time browsing for possible hiking locations.
Around noon we finally left the house. Cliff commented that the trip would be a good way to shorten his wait for Christmas! The boys took turns watching America’s Funniest Home Videos on my new iPod nano. We went through a drive-through in Russellville for lunch, then headed up Highway 7.
I turned on my GPS receiver so that I could keep track of our elevation. We were at 440 feet down in the river valley and climbed to over 2,200 feet when we turned east off the highway at Cowell in the Boston Mountains. Our Arkansas mountains may seem like anthills compared to the great ranges in the West, but they’re the only mountains I’ve ever known. And along our drive north, I found it a bit thrilling to be facing the 500-foot rise of Three Knob Mountain north of Dover.
We parked downhill of the long bluffline at Owens Mountain. The hike uphill only took about five minutes, but it was steep and by the time we reached the base of the massive bluffs we were all breathing heavy and wishing we hadn’t worn so much clothing. We spent about an hour scrambling over boulders and looking for the indian pictographs we’d heard about. We had a race downhill to the truck; Cliff won and Grant came in a close second!
It was only a little more than a mile to the rock formations at Ricketts Mountain. I was disappointed to see that it was obviously a local hangout; there was a bit too much trash and too many fire pits for my tastes. But I soon forgot about all that as we all lost ourselves in the joy of scampering around, up, or under the weathered sandstone rock formations.
First we went around to the left (west) of the parking area. Cliff found a way up to an icicle over two feet long, while Grant and I climbed up on top of a round, lichen-covered boulder. I lugged my camera backpack along, but I was too busy chasing after the boys to take any pictures.
Next we walked back into a crevice straight back behind the parking area. That came to a dead end, so we backtracked then went around to the east and found a way “up top”. From there I had a great view east across the Big Creek valley to the grand bluffline running south to north along Sam’s Throne, Mount Judea, Kent Mountain, George Mountain, and Lick Mountain. I found a scene at the edge of the crevice I really liked, so I set up the camera and tripod and tried to take some pictures. Meanwhile Cliff and Grant had found an alternate way back down to the bottom and went back inside the crevice. I got a few shots of them, including the one at the top of this page.
We left in time to enjoy some nice views on the drive back. Though the sky was clear, the western sky had a nice warm glow, which made for a beautiful backdrop to the silhouettes of the mountain tops. Then a big bright full moon rose above the hills to the east. The scene was made even better by the rosy glow that the eastern sky often takes on after sunset on clear winter nights.