We pulled into the Blanchard Springs Campground around 9:15-9:30 PM, drove around the place a bit, but the campsites we wanted to occupy were closed. We opted to drive over to Gunner Pool and camp, where aside from one other tent Friday night, we had the place to ourselves. Saturday morning, I roasted some beans and made coffee, with a breakfast of biscuits and thick cut bacon from my favorite butcher shop, Horrmann Meats. We saw a bald eagle cruising the creek valley and also a pileated woodpecker.
Having piddled around till nearly noon before hitting the trailhead at Allison, with a destination nearly ten miles away at Gunner Pool, we got a pretty late start. The only creek crossing we had to endure was right at the beginning. We peeled our shoes and socks and rolled up the pant legs for a chilly spring-fed creek crossing. I'm guessing the air wasn't much warmer than the water, so we hooted and hollered a bunch as we tender-footed across the stream. Rivercane bamboo grew thick in places along the creek and surrounding hills. One of North Americas few indigenous bamboos, rivercane used to be much more common. It was burned off and grazed upon by early settlers and their livestock. I'd love to grow some in my yard, but the only place I know to find it is on federally protected land and I tend to follow laws to the letter these days, especially when it comes to the outdoors.
The trail goes straight up after the creek crossing and then goes some more. But, unlike much of the nearby Buffalo River Trail, the Sylamore tends to stick very close to the creek itself. It's almost always in sight or within earshot just below you. With temps in the teens the night before, there were plenty of ice formations on the bluffs and wet-weather creek bends.
When hiking from Allison to Blanchard Springs (4.7 miles), we came across a small group of feral pigs. Ida, Darren's sweet, but formidable mixed dog, ran down the trail ahead of us. We heard a bunch of grunting going on, then Ida came bolting down the trail towards us, wide-eyed and obviously shaken. Not much fazes her, she's built like a tank, so we immediately went into caution mode. Three pigs, maybe more, ran across the hill and down the trail in front of us. They were as big or bigger than Ida and since they are know to be aggressive at times, we were on our toes for the next mile or so where we saw their tracks break from the trail and off into the woods.
We lunched at Blanchard Springs Campground. I caught my first fish on the tenkara fly rod. Some really tiny minnow of a thing. Maybe a chub? I'm just starting to get into fishing freshwater streams around here, so I'm pretty ignorant of what swims these waters.
Back to the trail, we had another 5 miles to go to get back to Gunner Pool from Blanchard Springs. We ended up hiking much of it in the dark. Not the most scenic end to the trail, but an experience, none-the-less. We were quite happy to make it back to camp and a dinner of soup and wheat bread. Brian made the soup a couple nights before and froze it to reheat in his dutch oven and I baked the wheat bread fresh Thursday night. A perfect end to the day, especially with a campfire and shooting stars overhead.
It's important that your pipe and fishing pole match.
Sunday, a breakfast around the fire like the day before - biscuits, bacon and cowboy coffee. We hiked around the creek and over to Gunner Pool before breaking camp and heading back to Blanchard Springs Campground to hike the spring trail and fish the creek between the spring and Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake was supposed to be stocked with trout, but I opted to fish the less crowded stream above the lake. Moving water is more fun to fish.
Dropping my flies into the riffles above an eddy, I let them drop down the current into the waiting mouths of pretty little rainbows lurking in the shadows. I hooked into four of them and landed two. I was very excited. In fact, I still am and will be obsessing much about fly fishing for quite a while. I've gotten the bug.
On the way back to civilization, we hit up Jo Jo's Catfish Wharf on the White River, just north of Mountain View, AR for lunch. The place was awesome! I love one-of-a-kind "mom 'n' pop" restaurants! I picked up a tee shirt for my daughter with the logo art on it and we were headed home. Some fun names of towns we drove through were: Fifty Six, Yellville, Gasville, Big Flat and Old Joe and other animals seen along the road: an armadillo and a roadrunner.
Thanks again to Brian D. and Darren G. on another successful weekend of adventure and fun. We've been at this for about 15 years. It's good to have friends you can always count on when heading to the woods, regardless of weather.