Ice Falls
January 10, 2010
It was great spending the day in the outdoors with my longtime buddy Johnny. We go way back; we used to canoe and fish the Arkansas mountain streams many times every summer, or do crazy things like hike from Compton to Hemmed in Hollow and back in the middle of summer. Then we each got married and started a family and never saw each other much, even though we still lived in the same town.
Cliff, Johnny and I left town before sunrise to find more frozen waterfalls in the record low temperatures. Our first stop was at Pig Trail Falls on Highway 23 south of Turner Bend. I finally got to see firsthand a frozen waterfall that formed a column from top to bottom. Long icicles hung from the ledge on either side of the column, and the overall shape brought to mind the outstretched wings of an angel.
We continued north then turned east onto Highway 215 to follow the Mulberry River. Huge icicles hung from many of the bluffs along the highway. At one location we stopped so that Cliff could throw rocks at some of them. Three years ago he and I had a good ol' time throwing rocks at icicles up on Mount Magazine. But these Mulberry River icicles were so big and tough that the rocks just bounced off of them without doing any damage.
We continued east to where the road crossed Little Mulberry Creek, then headed north and eventually drove beside Lick Branch. We sent farther up the branch than I'd ever been, taking a right turn and actually fording the branch. We parked near there and did a little exploring then got back in the Tahoe and drove back to the county road that follows the Little Mulberry.
I had the genius plan of following the directions of my GPS receiver to take some back roads to Lichen Falls in the headwaters of Lynn Hollow. It was just like old times with Johnny alright. We wound up getting stuck out in the wilderness and waiting hours to be rescued.
My trusty GPS led us up a forest service road directly north of Acord Hollow. About a half mile up, the road got pretty steep and we also came upon a long patch where the road was covered in ice. The Tahoe lost all traction and the right rear tire slid completely off the side of the road. Every time I tried to give it a little gas, the back end got farther off the road. It seemed like we might tumble down the steep mountainside.
What transpired next was one of the most comical episodes I've ever encountered, and no doubt part of that was because Johnny was there. We eventually found one tiny spot on the road uphill where Johnny's AT&T iPhone got reception. We talked to people from the Johnson County sheriff's office, the National Forest Service, and the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission; we talked to Stacey and we talked to Kim, but it seemed nobody could figure out where we were. The road number on my GPS receiver somehow didn't exist in the real world. We didn't think to check the Maps app on the iPhone. And I think I gave everybody the wrong GPS coordinates because I was looking at my receiver's "pointer" readout.
Even though it wasn't even lunch time, I started to wonder if we were going to spend the night there in the frigid low temperatures. We calmed down and built a small fire beside the road and actually had a pretty good time. The weather had cleared up and the sunshine felt good. We had plenty of granola bars to keep us from starving. A man on a four-wheeler, trailed by several beautiful Catahoula hounds, stopped briefly to talk to us. He said the dogs loved to run behind him down the roads and he believed they would do so all day long. The dogs seemed anxious to get back to their running and barking.
It was about 3 o'clock when help finally arrived. A Johnson County sheriff's deputy, followed by a forest service officer in a truck, had driven the roads until they found us. They easily towed us uphill past the ice, then we turned around and went back down the hill.
As we travelled west on Highway 215, I got an idea that might make the day less of a waste. I asked Johnny about it and he was all for visiting one last frozen waterfall I knew we could reach with minimum effort. My friend Randy Wilson had put Phipps Hollow Falls on the map several years ago. It was a short drive west of Highway 23, although one hilly stretch of road was covered in snow and made Cliff and Johnny a little scared.
Johnny and I bushwhacked down the road to the pretty little frozen waterfall, while Cliff demolished icicles on nearby ledges. It was getting dark by the time we climbed out of the little hollow.