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Day 9 Ouachita Trail

The storm was intense and only grew more so through the night. There were points where sleep was impossible. Rain fell with the force of hail. It was an awesome display of nature’s power. Thunder crashed all around, but by morning the show was over. Nature had returned to peace and tranquility just in time for us to walk. We left Big Branch shelter and enjoyed the gentle trail. In the last couple days the rocks on trail have dissipated. This trail is likely best hiked in the opposite direction that we have done it. We dropped to a road, crossed a fork of the Ouachita River, and then gently wound back into the woods. The deciduous forest is different than most forests I hike in. The blue blazes differ from the markings in the west and the leaves covering the ground occasionally obscure an ankle twister of a rock. We made great time and I pulled out my camera and continued developing the new hobby I took up in 2020. This hike has been so nice to get back to the roots of why I enjoy thru hiking. Other than a few tiny work emails, I have been largely stress free out here in nature with no alarm and no schedule. The swelling in my face has gone down and Maggie’s feet are feeling slightly better. I think we have finally become one with the Ouachita Trail. We stopped at Blue Mountain shelter for a snack and coffee. The beginning of the day had just flown by. It is a testament to getting better at any activity with practice. I think Maggie had finally adapted to the thru hiker mindset again. Also, she was no longer hauling a giant Walmart sleeping pad through a thicket of Thorns. After the shelter we climbed up to Ouachita Pinnacle and saw a view ruined by antennae and communication equipment. Two cars were parked up there and as I walked by one looking for a view, the other driver off. What were they up to? That remains the mystery. The trail remained gentle to Big Bear shelter. Maggie took her shoes off and I laced mine up for a 30 Minute run. It was glorious to run on the soft leaves and pine needles over the rolling hills. I got back and was on cloud 9, ready to hike more. We crushed the 4 miles to the next water source, topped off our bottles and then followed my hunch to a small saddle. A perfect campsite was waiting for us and we had a scrumptious dinner of teriyaki chicken. We had finished our 21 mile day in only the daylight allotted to us. It is days like these that grow my love of living in nature.

Leaves on the Ouachita Trail
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