Trip Report – Unguided Night Hike Along the Buffalo River, Arkansas
Route:Centerpoint Trail, Buffalo River, near Ponca, Arkansas
Notable Gear Used
- 2 ENO Jungle Nest hammocks
- 1 Grand Trunk w/ENO Guardian bug net
- 1 Black Diamond headlamp
- 2 Walmart headlamps with red lights
- 10×10 tarp
- 20×20 tarp
- Zippo hand warmers to warm the 0 degree sleeping bags when it is 18F to 55F (cold and damp is unacceptable)
- Kelty 90L pack (We call it the commissary—I carry 90% of everything for 3 people, note: the commissary has a lot of comfort items)
- Black Diamond elliptical shock poles.
Had a great time with Wife and 10-year-old daughter with our miniature poodle on our first night hike at 50°F (10°C). After a challenging week at work, I called my wife late Friday and said, “I need to get to the woods.” She said, “Pack the car”—so I picked up some bear spray on the way home, packed our gear and some food, and we were off (on a 5-hour drive) as soon as my daughter got out of school.
Arrived at the trailhead around 10:30 PM and hiked an easy 3 mi (5 km) downhill to a large clearing I recalled from my day hiking experiences.
When setting light protocol we quickly realized my wife and daughter had red spotlights that rendered my subtle Black Diamond red light unusable. In the first 20 yards (18 m) we had to eliminate fear and identify all of the hard charging noises (crickets, big and little frogs, owls, bats, hard charging squirrels, etc…). Then we decided to use white lights. My wife and daughter’s spot lights were good for about 15 ft (4.5 m). Mine was variable and allowed us to spotlight about 70 yards (64 m).
Then we spoke about all the things that shined in the white light (spiders, webs, camel crickets, tiny black snakes-smaller than night crawlers, flying bugs, bear and deer eyes, copperheads, etc…)
We spaced out about 10 ft (3 m) between us and my wife took lead, followed by my daughter since I’m big and tall and she and my daughter are little. I used my spot light to light the way in addition to their little lights. I didn’t argue—they cleared the spider webs. My wife wouldn’t give up the lead. They don’t like to be behind me. I block the views.
We stopped several times to snack and to star gaze. Once we heard aloud thrashing and spotlighted a giant doe 20 yards (18 m) a away. We must have spooked her with our laughter. Another time the spacing between my wife and daughter grew to about 30 ft (9 m). My daughter started using a different side of the trail and stopped cold with a 2.5 ft (76 cm) copperhead in front of her perpendicular to the trail.
We spotlighted it and it raised its head turned 180-degrees and went back into the bush.
The fog was heavy. Very heavy. When we made camp, I did not put up tarps. 15 minutes after getting into sleep position, my daughter who was stacked above me said, “Dad, am I supposed to be getting wet from the “not-rain?” Heavy drops of dew were falling from the trees. So I put up the tarps and we all slept great.
My wife and daughter are both interested in getting better at setting up their own gear now. We plan to work on cross training to speed camp set-up this week. We’re taking some friends on their first hike next week.
30 hours later were home, rested, and relaxed.