A Hike and a Half

Good morning, my friends. It's time to move along again. By this afternoon, we'll be in Branson, Missouri, and we'll be adding another new state to the map. I'm telling you, the thrills never end here at the Traveling Three Cats Ranch. We've enjoyed this state park very much. Mike said this morning that he could stay here longer. But with apologies to Robert Frost, we have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.

We spent our last day well. Altogether, we probably hiked about 5-1/2 miles. It took most of the day, and that means I have a lot of pictures for you. So grab a cuppa whatever you're drinking, and let's get started. 

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, our plan was to hike the Seven Hollows Trail.

The trailhead leaves from the parking lot. Just about 100 yards in, it forks. You could go either way here, but we went to the left.

Here's a picture of the hike. It's a loop where it splits off, and so we'll be returning to this spot at the end of our journey. The letters there don't signify much, but they were often located at some half-mile markers. 

I'm going to post these pictures pretty much in the order they were taken. We saw many wildflowers along the way, but they grew in different areas according to conditions. The trail started out easy enough. We were in the shade of the trees most of the time.

We were following these blue blazes. I seem to remember a discussion from when we were hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. We wondered if the expression "What (or Where) in the blue blazes...?"  originated with this. The answer is no. The origin of "blue blazes" isn't as much fun as all that.

At the next blue blaze, I noticed another tree pecked to death by woodpeckers. Also, I noticed this tree is dead. Looking up, all its branches and needles were brown. My friend and entomologist, Judy, once told me the birds are after bugs when they peck at a tree like this. This tree probably was killed off by an insect infestation. Indeed, as we walked along, I saw other trees with this same bark that were untouched by birds...and they were living trees.

We saw lots of wildflowers...different ones in different areas...but these purple guys were growing all along the trail. My phone tells me these are wild blue phlox.

Fairly soon, we came to a slow-trickle of a stream. It would get larger, and we would find other streams along the way.

Looking up, it looked like this.

Okay, we're a half mile in. Everybody doing okay? Any stragglers?

From there, we came to the first of many "hollows" we would see along this trail.

We were walking between two enormous rock walls.

The path became more rocky and difficult, and I was glad I'd brought my hiking pole along. It's like having a portable handrail.

Here's some more of the wild blue phlox.

These next flowers were tiny. My phone tells me this is Houstonia longifolia.

Eventually, we crossed the stream. We would cross the stream so many times I lost count early on.

Here's another more cave-like hollow. 

There was evidence of a fireplace here. There was no indication how long it had been there.

My phone tells me this next flower is a type of allium.

I've been calling these next one "buttercups" but my phone tells me it is actually Woodsorrel.

And here was a single red berry. It was the only one we saw on our whole hike. It's about the size of a pea.

We saw this in Hot Springs too. My phone tells me it is called Lyreleaf sage.

Here we are, one mile in. We've already walked four times around the football field.

We saw a few toadstools along the way...not many.

My phone tells me this is Red Buckeye. I found only just this one blossom along the way.

Here was another hollow. It kind of looks like a gorilla face, doesn't it?

And these seemed to be some kind of egg sack, or cocoon. We saw them all along the way.

In one spot they were changing color.

As we stood beside one of the rock walls, I looked up overhead.

Eventually, we came to a natural bridge.

It was large. We tried to get a selfie here, but we couldn't figure out where we could safely stand and still take in the bridge. Eventually, we gave up.

There were several inviting pools along the way. It wasn't terribly warm, according to the thermometer. Coupled with the heat, however, the humidity nearly did us in. This pool had little fish swimming around.

Okay we're a mile and a half in. How's everyone doing? Do you want to take a sip of water/

And on we went.

Eventually, we came to a place where ferns were growing in abundance. They liked it alongside the rock, and they were shaded here.

Here, the letter signified nothing except that were were still heading in the right direction. The trail was easy to follow, but it was still reassuring to find the blue blazes along the way. 

In some areas, we were scrambling over rocks. There, the blue blazes were painted right on the rocks.

Here's our old friend Spiderwort.

This was the only wildlife we saw on our journey, although we could hear birds singing everywhere. Just now I tried to identify him. He's probably some kind of skink.

Also, we saw lots of butterflies, and especially this one. It's a Spicebush Swallowtail. This isn't my image. They never lit anywhere, and so I couldn't get my own picture. I found this one in the public domain.

(Image credit: "Spicebush Swallowtail" by AcrylicArtist is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

We also saw one Monarch and at least one Painted Lady. 

Okay, my friends. We're nearly halfway now. Is everyone keeping up?

We were getting tired by this time. We sat here and had a little water. Mike wanted to wait until we reached The Grotto before we ate our Clif bars.

It wasn't too much farther before we came to the little spur trail leading out to The Grotto. This added a half mile to the total trip, making it a full five-miles.

It was lovely and quiet and cool back in here, and we sat and rested while we ate our Clif bars.

You can see there's a trickle of a waterfall here. I made a little video so you could see and hear it.

Moving on from there, we encountered some tiny little ferns growing out of what appeared to be solid rock.

Farther on, this was the only place we saw lichens in this dark orange color.

Here, we have another kind of allium.

I took this next picture so that you could see how some of these areas appear man-made. They aren't. 

Okay, my friends we're at the 2-1/2 mile point. We're halfway!

My phone tells me this next one is a Northern Dewberry.

We saw another toadstool here. This looks like a chanterelle, but I don't think it is.

Here we are at "G". We're more than halfway through our alphabet assignment.

In just one place, a bridge helped us across the stream. The rest of the time, we were crossing over on slippery and rocking stepping stones.

Here we are at "H". Look at you go! Three and a half miles! You must be in good shape to have walked this far and still look so fresh.

And here we are at "I" already. We're making good time!

And here's the third and final toadstool we saw along the way.

Oh boy...we've made it all the way to "J". We're nearly there.

We were almost too tired for our brains to process this next sign. Several trails came together here. We're going to continue to the right. It gives me a chance to say that the trail is maintained by the Boy Scouts of America, as are many of the trails in this park.

We're on the home stretch now. Don't give up, my friends.

Finally! We've reached the end of the loop. There's the back side of the sign we saw at the beginning.

And yay for you! You did it! Four and a half miles, plus the extra half mile to see The Grotto. 

We were hot, sweaty, and thirsty. We headed back to the RV. And just let me tell you, a Mike's Lemonade tasted really good right then. We had some food, and then I got Smitty out for a walk. He was demanding it. He had some nibbles of this excellent Bark 'n Paw grass. He told me he was looking forward to sampling the grass in Mewssouri today.

He did quite a bit of walking...maybe about 20 minutes. We had our eyes on a far-off woofie. When some close-by woofies started barking, he decided he'd walked long enough.

We had food and showers and changed our clothes. Then we both had short naps. And then we set out to see the one last thing we wanted to see here. We crossed over the Davies Bridge.

It's another project from the CCC, built in 1934.

Getting down a little closer to the water, there was a waterfall, and then the water flowed under the bridge.

Looking back behind the falls was this lovely reflective pond.

Continuing on, we wanted to see the Rock House Cave. And we were exhausted. We weren't up for a lot of walking or climbing over rocks. This seemed easy enough...just about a half-mile total.

Here, we were following gray blazes. This one was painted on some kind of concrete pillar. It was in the middle of a large slab of rock.

The turtle rocks were interesting. Here's the sign explaining them.

Just behind the sign, we could see them.

Now before we get to the cave, y'all need to read the rules. Absolutely no climbing or rappelling!

And we're not kidding around. Behave yourselves.

I was glad to see this. Without it, I'm sure the cave would be painted over with graffiti. If any of you brought along spray paint cans, you'd better put them back in your backpacks right now.

This was a large cave. With water flowing right nearby, it would have been a good place to live if you were an indigenous person.

Standing at the rear of the cave and looking toward the opening, it looks like this.

We both walked back and forth several times looking for any "rock art." We didn't find any.

This next photo was the closest thing I could find, but I don't think it's "rock art." It's more likely just a part of the geology of these rocks.

Okay, and that was a full day.

As I mentioned, we'll be heading for Branson, Missouri, today. We have a cave tour scheduled first thing tomorrow morning. I might post later than usual so that we can get to our tour on time. I've listed some other things to see in Branson, and there are at least two quilt shops. So, you can see there's still much to see along our way. Follow me, and I'll see you on the other side of the state line.


Barbara said...

Whether in cave paintings or the latest uses of the Internet, human beings have always told their histories and truths through parable and fable. We are inveterate storytellers. ~ Beeban Kidron

Marj said...

Thanks for taking us on your beautiful hikes. I am unable to physically go on a hike and enjoy being with you and the kitties on all your adventures through pictures.

piecefulwendy said...

Wow - what a hike! You had a full day, but it looks like a good one. Yay for Smitty, being brave and all!

MissPat said...

Phew! I'm exhausted. Good thing I could follow along from my armchair. I would never had made it that far.

Quilting Babcia said...

Thanks for an exhilarating hike through the wilds! It seems like Smitty is getting more brave with each little hike he takes. Looking forward to your next adventure, Arkansas and Missouri are two states I've never been to.

Pam Dempsey said...

Oh,my! I’m tired just reading this post. I doubt I could do it. I bet those hard lemonades were good! Enjoy ☺️

Jenny said...

What a wonderful day you had, out on the trail with so many interesting things to see.

Vicki W said...

What an incredible hike!

Nancy said...

What a great day and great documentation! The photos don't speak of the humidity- they look cool, leafy and peaceful. But your climb generated some heat, and the humidity must have made it more uncomfortable. Still worth it!

Sara said...

An exhausting but interesting day. The humidity would have gotten to me I'm sure. But what a beautiful location to hike.

kc said...

Beautiful hike! Thanks for taking us along!!

Kate said...

A very full day. Looks like a wonderful place to hike.

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Looks like a great day and I must admit I'm tuckered just following along. You must have needed a power nap after all that. Alas our days of being able to hike like that are over due to RC's sciatic issues so I'm going to have to live vicariously through you.

Lyndsey said...

I really enjoyed the hike, but needed that power nap before the afternoon adventure. An enjoyable and interesting day to read about. The turtle rocks are fascinating. I had lost track of where the different states are situated on the map so had to find our large atlas and check out exactly where you were and where you've been.