Monday, January 27, 2014


Winter Hike at Village Creek

We took advantage of a break in the unseasonably cold weather to get outdoors Sunday and hike Austell Lake Trail and the Old Military Road Trail at Village Creek State Park near Wynne, Arkansas. Chilling high winds had forced us to cancel our outing to Pinnacle Mountain the weekend before, so we were excited when the weather broke in our favor this past weekend. The Midsouth had been experiencing single digit temperatures off and on all month so 55-degrees with 20-mph winds seemed downright balmy to us.

Waiting for the temperature to rise, we got a late start, stepping off on Austell Lake Trail at 11 a.m.  The trail yo-yos through washes and draws over a 1.2-mile trek from the park's visitor center to Lake Austell. The winter landscape was of varying shades of brown, nude trees with spindly branches silhouetted against the sky and dead leaves carpeting the forest floor and trail; the only contrast was an occasional patch of lime green moss or frail evergreen. To aid the hiker, wooden steps have been built into the path wherever there was a marked change in elevation, with many gullies were spanned by wooden bridges and railed walkways.

From Lake Austell we crossed the causeway at the east end of the lake, exposing us to the strong winds blowing in from the west, to link with the upper loop of the Military Road Trail. Three large wooden placards mark the trailhead describing how the old road is part of “The Trail of Tears”, a route taken in the forced removal of Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee and Seminole Indians from their native lands to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma).  After a steep climb we reached a plateau that supports the Military Road, a sunken lane approximately 2-miles in length.

Reaching the end of the sunken road, the ground levels out as you approach the park's namesake Village Creek.  A swinging bridge, constructed of planks and wire cable, suspends the creek.  From the bridge we followed the creek north maybe a half mile crossing shallow points in the stream on several occasions. Ice had formed in the stream an inch thick in places. Our bushwhacking culminated at a log which had fallen across the stream. Comically, we successfully crossed over the creek, tempting fate, tip-toeing on top of the log.  Reaching the other side still dry and no worse for the undertaking, we double-backed to the bridge and took the lower loop of the Military Road Trail back to the causeway.  The lower loop is similar to that of Austell Lake Trail, with many washes and gullies to traverse.

Our outing was running later than planned so upon reaching the causeway, instead of taking Austell Lake Trail back to the visitor’s center, we elected to follow the hard-surface road saving about 15-minutes on the return leg.

Total outing was 2.5-hrs and covered approximately 7-miles. Village Creek is an easy 60-mile drive from Memphis, with three-fourths of the trip on the expressway (I-40).

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