Sunday, October 21, 2007


Military Road Trail & Austell Trail at Village Creek SP, Wynne, Ark

On the pancake flat Arkansas delta sits Crawley’s Ridge, a narrow strip of hills running north to south that divides the lowlands of the state. Situated about an hour west of Memphis, Crawley’s Ridge rises from sea level to an elevation as high as 450 feet; Arkansas’ Village Creek State Park is situated on Crawley’s Ridge near the town of Wynne.

Arriving about 10 a.m., I parked at the Visitor’s Center and began my hike. My goal was to hike the Military Trail, which is a segment of the Trail of Tears, one of the routes taken by the Creek, Chickasaw, and Cherokee Indians in their removal to Oklahoma. The first portion of the hike was over the Austell Trail, which ran from the Visitor’s Center to Austell Lake. This path takes you winding through gullies and washes, and over hills and ridges to the lake. The trail is well marked with yellow blazes, and has wooden bridges to help you traverse the streams, and inlaid steps to aid in climbing some of the steeper terrain.

After skirting the eastern shore of Austell Lake you hit the trailhead for the Military Road Loop Trail. The lower loop has similar terrain as the Austell Trail; the upper loop is relatively flat. I elected to take the lower loop and after about 20-minutes the path dead-ends into the Old Military Road. Here the soft ground has given way to time, erosion, wagon wheels, horse and ox hoofs, and years of travel upon this major route between Memphis in Little Rock in the 1830’s. The road sinks over 10-feet below the surface, forming a ‘U’ shaped gorge, at this portion of the road.

The trees growing on the rim of the gorge form a canopy that blocks most of the sunlight from the road. The shadows cast by the canopy and the exposed tree roots on the dirt sides of the gorge, give the location an feeling of eerie reverence. I tried to imagine the Indians moving slowing along this road over 150-years ago.

I walked southeast down the old road toward the ford over Village Creek. Just prior to reaching the ford, the road emerged from the gorge and the terrain leveled off. Where travelers once forded the creek now stands a swinging bridge. The bridge is about 50-feet long and spans the creek and creek bottom. I had to stop and play on the bridge for a while, as any kid would.

The Military Loop Trail ends at the bridge, but I continued to follow the dirt road east until it made a sharp northerly turn, merging into the Lake Dunn Trail. Re-crossing the swinging bridge (and yes, I had to play some more), I took the upper trail loop back to the northwest. At the junction of the Old Military Road and the Military Loop Trail there was a large plaque describing the plight of the Indians and the Trail of Tears. Here the trail heads north before descending onto the causeway at Lake Austell. 25-minutes later I was back at the Visitor’s Center having backtracked around the lake and Austell Trail.

The leisurely hike took a little over 2-hours and covered approximately 5-miles.

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