Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Red Neck (literally) Traffic Jam

So, to re-cap where we are - we have hiked out into the wilderness, about 5 miles, to get some solitude while exploring the Buffalo River and environs. After dropping our packs at a campsite and eating a snack, Benjamin and I head off down the trail (or I guess I should say up, since the trail is decidedly uphill) towards Hemmed-In Hollow, and the area that the guide book described thusly: "This is what wilderness was meant to be. No sign or sound of man. Only the hush of the water cascading over the falls, and the cry of a red-tailed hawk above."

Obviously, Tim Ernst was not describing the falls area on Memorial Day weekend. This is the view leading up to the falls. An actual traffic jam, 5 miles into the wilderness. Full of red necks. When I say red necks, I don't mean the Jeff Foxworthy "You might be a redneck ..." kind; I mean the kind that come from floating down a river shirtless with a cooler of beer but no sunblock. I'll take my scraped-up knee over that kind of sunburn, thank you very much.

When the line finally crawled up to the falls, this was the scene. Just add in the sounds of screaming and the smell of cigarettes and it is like you are there. Sheesh! Of course, most of these people did not come in the hard way, like us. Oh no - they all floated in, beer can in hand (yes, I already mentioned the beer, but I am not kidding, everyone except the children seemed to have beer with them), took a short little stroll in their flip-flops and river shoes, and then had plenty of energy to spare for exuberance. And the falls were pretty cool, when you could look up and ignore the people.

Anyway, I suppose we should have been expecting something like the traffic, since it was Memorial Day, and in another section of the guide, Ernst says that "On most spring weekends, you'll see a lot of paddles here! In fact, it can get down right crowded." The thing is, except for Pinnacle Mountain and Cedar Falls (both short hikes to spectacular views), we have never yet been on a trail in Arkansas where we saw more than a handful of people at any time. Certainly never on a long trail like this one.

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