Sunday, November 15, 2009

Overdue Hiking Post - Glory Hole

I took this hike last weekend and promised a post on my hike eventually. Sorry it is overdue, but here it is...

First of all, get your minds out of the gutter. I went to the Glory Hole which is not what you sickos think, but rather a pretty neat waterfall in Arkansas. The name is derived from the fact that over the years water has eroded away at a hole though which comes a pretty neat waterfall. I had seen beautiful pictures, but was honestly slightly disappointed when I saw the hole myself for the first time.

First of all I had read this is an easy hike. I would kind of agree, but also disagree would caution future hikers/guidebook writers not to mistake "short" and "easy". The hike is relatively short (~2 miles round trip), but it is STEEP and the trail is really beat up -- you really need to watch for potholes or you will roll your ankle, guaranteed. It is worth the trip though. Let me start at the beginning.

The trail is not easy to find unless you absolutely know what you are looking for. The directions say to look for a split in the road and 5.7 miles from the split, look for a barn with an "E" on the side of it. I was expecting a hugely painted E -- the E is not small, but it is pretty modestly sized. Nothing at all like a full-sized Coca Cola ad or anything of that magnitude, but still big enough to see. Heaven help future hikers finding this trail if the owners of the barn decide to paint over that E! You are then supposed to pull over and park across from the "house". Let me say that to use the term house on the structure that this trail is across from is pretty generous. It is a structure to be certain, but use your imagination to come up with a stereotypical vision of what you would picture as an Arkansas house, and sadly that would be about what this "house" looked like. When I get into rural Arkansas (which is usually only when I go hiking or kayaking), I am amazed at the poverty. It is really quite startling.

Back on topic...I saw there were 10-12 cars pulled off to the side of the road and figured I must be in the right place. I thought for sure this couldn't be a good idea to park like this but I did it anyway since I had driven about 2 hours to get to this place. Turns out my car was fine.

There is about a 1/4 mile walk from the main road to the trailhead. It is not a bad walk -- flat with some potholes but overall fine. At the trailhead there is this marker. Ahh, rustic Arkanas at its finest. Gotta love redneck advertising and the unnecessary quotes.

In case you can't read it, the sign says "The 'Glory' Hole". I can only imagine how the subtitle was written. I believe it first said "About 1/2 mile". I think as an afterthought someone wrote the + so it read "About 1/2+ mile". The most hilarious part (and the reason I took the picture) is hard to see, but beneath the subtitle someone had written in chalk "about 2 miles back". So so true (even though it is the exact same trail that leads you both down and back--this absolutely seems accurate!).

The hike down is not a huge deal. It probably takes about 1/2 hour or so. It is noticably steep though. I had to say it made me nervous to hike back while taking this huge drop in elevation on the way down there.

The trail ends pretty abruptly. Thankfully, there was a group of hikers down at the bottom who told me that this, indeed, was the end of the trail. From the end of the trail, you are able to clearly see the hole through which the water falls (if you know to look for it that is).

From the hole, though, it is a non-trivial (but short) hike to get to the falls itself.

The hike from the hole shown above to the falls basically sucks. This picture hopefully gives you a little appreciation for the difficulty of reaching the bottom (at least for people who have lived ~29 years/30 worth of a sedentary lifestyle).

It's worth it, though apparantly the time of the day when I came was pretty underwhelming from a lighting perspective. I was unable to capture some of the beautiful shots of this place I had seen in books and online. Oh well, I guess we can't all be Tim Ernst, can we?

The hike up? Let's just say it sucked. And the people who said it was 2 miles back? That seems about right. I could not find online the elevation gain on the trail, but it was so significant, especially for someone from the flatlands of Northwest Ohio. I was glad I had my 32 oz waterbottle with me, and a gallon of water in the car. I think I had about 80 oz of water during/immediately after this hike -- and it was only about 65ish degrees (which, incidentally, I am convinced is the perfect weather for hiking)!

My final verdict on this hike is that it is really nice, but not worth a 2 hr drive. If you're in the area, absolutely stop in. If you can couple this with another hike in the area, do it. However, don't just drive 4 hrs round trip to see this. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I do have to say this hike left me a little disappointed. However, I got to listen to 3 episodes of This American Life, so it wasn't so bad afterall :)

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