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Hurricane Creek Wilderness
September 2. 2007
For the past several years I've regarded summer as an opportune time to explore our wilderness streams. Where else can you go hiking in the heat of summer, and when else can you explore a stream and not worry about how wet you might get? I wanted to explore another stretch of the Buffalo River, but after the Rainbow Family gathering around Dixon Ford in July, I was worried the water might not be clean enough. A quick check of my list and I recalled the curiosity I had for Hurricane Creek.
My journey began around 1 p.m. just upstream of where Hurricane Creek flows into the Big Piney. I parked at a campsite on the south side of a large pool. The creek was nothing like I'd imagined, which is typical... I tend to have these idyllic preconceptions of what an outdoor location is going to look like. In reality I found an unspectacular pool filled with round stones covered in brown algae. The banks were a thick barrier of alder bushes, sycamore and birch trees. The pool looked pretty deep, so I tried to bushwhack through the woods in an upstream direction. That lasted only a couple of minutes; I forgot just how unenjoyable it is to walk  through thick brush in 90-degree heat. I zipped up the waterproof liner on my backpack and jumped in the water, which came up to my chest in a couple of spots as I headed for the upstream end of  the pool.
After that, the next hour was a slow, uneventful advance upstream. The creek alternated between shallow pools and narrow shoals where the tops of the stones were dry, yet water flowed between. In the pools I was forced to wade carefully among the slick stones.
I came to a spot where the stream bed split into two halves that ran around an elevated island of rocks and bushes. I took the right fork. The heat, the weight of my backpack and the midday sun were all starting to take their toll and I was beginning to feel sluggish. I was glad to finally arrive at a small hole that appeared deep enough for me to take a cool dip. The pool was tinged blue-green and the water feeding it trickled audibly down a drop of rounded stones. I took off my backpack and my shirt and jumped in, and the water was so icy cold that it took my breath away. Obviously the hole was spring-fed! Just beyond, the two halves of the stream bed joined back up.
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An hour later I stopped at a large pool to take a breather and shoot some pictures. This hole looked like all the others except along the north bank the trees and bushes didn't come right to the edge of the water. Instead there was a flat, sandy area with a lot of golden Brown-eyed Susans swaying in the breeze. I spotted a flower I didn't recognize, with clusters of small white blooms with thread-like petals. (I looked it up later and ID'd it as Boneset.) Nearer the water's edge groups of shiny-blue butterflies (named Red-spotted Purples) rested on the moist rocks. I must have seen a hundred of them. I tried several times to take their picture but they flew off whenever I got very close. Finally I got a shot of one by itself.
By 4 p.m. I'd advanced around 1.2 miles upstream. The scenery hadn't improved any, and it didn't seem like it was going to. I was just about ready to call it quits, when finally things changed for the better. First, I came to a spot where the rocky stream channel narrowed to about 10 feet wide, but the clear water was four feet deep. Time for a refreshing dip! Upstream from there my life got a lot easier. At the next shallow pool, for the first time the bank was lined not with rounded rocks, but nice flat bedrock. A pair of Ozark boulders at the upstream end of this beckoned me.
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The rest of my hike was mostly on flat, dry bedrock, and at some point the name "The Big Easy" popped up in my brain. Beyond the pool with the Ozark boulders, Hurricane Creek made a sharp 90-degree turn to the north. I walked along the outside of this turn, crossing below a dry waterfall. As I rounded the curve, the bedrock bank rose to form a ledge about 10 feet above the water below. I saw several bass and sunfish in the deep water below. I didn't take any pictures along the curve. I think I was so glad to finally make some progress that I didn't want to stop. The next half mile the creek flowed across solid rock, and it only took me 15 minutes to walk along the east bank. The three pictures below are from this area, taken on the return hike.
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Around a small bend was a glorious scene.... a wide, deep pool with huge 20-foot tall boulders on either side. Suddenly all the day's efforts were worthwhile.  It was fairly easy to get around the boulder on the right, though I had to do some wading. Through the trees and bushes I could see bluffs behind the boulder on my side of the creek. There was an overhang that appeared to have been formed when the boulder fell away from the bluff.
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I kept pushing upstream, walking through an area where small boulders lined the bank and sat above the bedrock stream bed. At the upper end of this The Big Easy was no more, as further travel upstream would have meant wading up a picturesque deep pool with big boulders on the west bank. Though I didn't know it at the time, I was only about 600 feet away from the Natural Bridge.
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It was 5:30 and past time to head back anyway. I started getting worrying about how long it would take me to get back to the truck, and I had to deny myself of a solitary swim in the cool, clear pool between the big boulders. I chose to go up in the woods on the west side of the pool. That course took me slightly uphill of the creek. I stopped briefly to snap a picture at an opening with a view down on the boulder that had fallen away from the bluff.
I crossed back over to the east bank and hauled butt back to the downstream end of The Big Easy, at the pool with the Ozark boulders. Luckily I found a 4-wheeler road in the woods just beyond the north bank, and continued my swift downstream hike. The road petered out at a creek crossing. On the other side was some sort of official sign that basically told me the land on the south side was public. After crossing the creek I picked up the 4-wheeler road again, which ran downstream beside Hurricane Creek. At some point I spotted the back of another sign. I went to the trouble of getting to a place where I could read the sign, which again told me I was on public land... something I was concerned about because I had read somewhere that one of the roads a lot of folks used to use in this area had been closed by a landowner.
It was after 7, I was over half a mile away from the truck, and I didn't really know if the road would continue in the right direction, so I kept pressing forward. Soon I was relieved to arrive at the dirt road a couple of hundred yards uphill of the truck. It wasn't quite sunset, but in the shadows of the mountains the woods were getting dark.
I went for a quick swim in the creek, then scarfed down some Wal Mart fried chicken and yogurt while I changed into dry clothes.
I have to add this funny side note... A couple of days later while I was reviewing the area with Google Earth on my computer, an icon appeared on screen which took me to a web page detailing a Bigfoot sighting that occurred back in the summer of 1998, in the very pool I took that last swim in!
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