Monday, December 01, 2008


Pinnacle Mountain Arkansas

Rainstorms in northeast Alabama forced a cancellation to my planned hike to Walls of Jericho. After checking the weather conditions in the midsouth, the weather service predicted overcast, but otherwise fair skies for central Arkansas on Saturday. With this in mind, I headed west on I-40, leaving Memphis at 7 a.m. under a dark gray blanket of clouds and hoping that the weather would hold. Two hours later, the sun broke momentarily as I drove through downtown Little Rock, validating my decision to chance hiking Pinnacle Mountain, just west of the capital city of Arkansas.

Situated in the eastern-most Ouachita Mountains, Pinnacle Mountain peaks at 1,011-ft, and rises steeply above the Arkansas River Valley. This mountain, consisting of sandstone and shale sits at the convergence of three rivers -- the Big Maumelle, The Little Maumelle, and the Arkansas. Pinnacle Mountain is visible from Little Rock, thrusting up from the landscape and being silhouetted against the sky atop otherwise naturally flat ground.

November 29th is late fall in this region and the trees hung on to the last remnants of the season with orange, deep mauve, and brown leaves still clinging to some branches of the hardwoods. Driving on Pinnacle Valley Road, glimpses of the mountain jumped out through breaks in the trees lining the highway, causing me to stop and gaze long before I entered the park.

The tallest of a half dozen mountains running along side this portion of the Arkansas River, Pinnacle rises steeply 700-ft from bottom to peak. I parked at the trailhead for the East Summit Trail. Under overcast conditions and a temperature of 46-degrees, I donned my gear and took the Base Trail around the foot of the mountain, covering approximately 2-miles over a rocky and slightly angulating path, and ending up at the beginning of the West Summit Trail.

Ascending the mountain from the west, I found the trail well populated with climbers from age six to sixty. Most were wearing running shoes and carrying water in 16-oz plastic bottles (but I did see some wearing crocs and even one in a pair of hush puppies). I was the exception with my hiking boots and canteens. These casually attired hikers gave me a false sense of ease, as I thought back on my reading of this as a moderate-to-severe hike. The mountain brought me back panting to reality; the trail covers about a mile to the summit and is extremely steep, with a majority of the route over a boulder field making footing precarious. I was surprised by the number of people dragging their dogs up the hill. I stepped from boulder to boulder, grabbing at saplings growing through the rocky terrain for added brace. The incline is unrelenting, never offering a level spot until you reach the summit. Breathing heavily, I took frequent rest stops as I climbed the mountain.

The vista from the peak to the NW is of Lake Maumelle, the Big Maumelle and Arkansas rivers. The view to the SE is of the Little Maumelle River and back toward the city of Little Rock. Though there were others on the summit, I felt alone looking off into the distance, watching the heavy clouds hanging over the countryside, and feeling the wind blow against my face. I spent the better part of an hour on the top enjoying the view, eating my lunch, and regaining my wind to make the trip down the reverse slope, the East Trail.

The East Trail descends at a sharper angle than the West Trail and the boulders are larger and channel the hiker between two stone ridges into a boulder filled saddle. There were only a handful of hikers tackling this much steeper route. Those I passed coming up as I went down were often forced to use four points of contact to ascend several rock scrambles in making the climb.

The three legs of the hike took approximately 30-minutes each; add in my time on the summit and the hike took 2.5-hours /4-miles.

Making my way back to the trailhead I looked skyward at the black clouds rolling in and felt a drop or two of rain, helping me to decide to call it a day. Heading east, I outran the rain returning to Memphis where the sky looked the same as it did when I had left 9-hours earlier.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?