Ouachita Challenge 2017 Dates Announced

The Ouachita Challenge is the premier mountain bike race in Arkansas.  On the weekend of March 25th and 26th, 2017, the Ouachita Challenge will be held for the 16th year.  This 60 mile race covers portions of two IMBA Epic Trails, the Ouachita Trail and the Womble Trail.  A Tour is held on Saturday and the Race is held on Sunday.  Both events are limited to 250 riders and all spots are filled shortly after registration opens in December.  This event is sponsored by the Ouachita Mountain Challenge Association.  The proceeds from the event go to help the non-profit groups (Oden School, volunteer fire departments, ham radio club, FoOT, Traildogs, and others) who help to put on the tour and race.  There is a Facebook site and a website for the Ouachita Challenge that can be accessed for additional information.

Mountain Biking on the Ouachita Trail

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail is the longest hiking trail in the state of Arkansas.  The western end of the trail is in Talimena State Park in Oklahoma and the trail runs east for 223 miles to Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock, Arkansas.  

Some 108 miles of this great trail has been designated as an Epic Trail by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).  This Epic Trail part of the Ouachita Trail extends from the Oklahoma/Arkansas border near Highway 88 (the Talimena National Scenic Byway) to Highway 7 north of Hot Springs Arkansas.  This trail offers a variety of experiences to mountain bikers.  There are challenging climbs, steep descents, stream crossings, beautiful vistas, and long stretches of remote trail to traverse.  

There are many areas along this epic trail that will be difficult riding even for the most experienced mountain bikers.  To ride the entire 109 miles would require a strong commitment to expedition mountain biking/camping and would include plenty of “hike a biking”.  If you are interested in a shorter ride, there are many sections that lend themselves to a good trail ride and then (always using a good United States Forest Service map) take a gravel Forest Service (FS) road to loop back to the start.  The mountain ridges, particularly to the west of Logan Gap back to Rich Mountain are very rocky and prone to dense weed growth.  While the Friends of the Ouachita Trail work hard to clear the trail in all sections, these ridges are very difficult to keep clear.  You may want to consider agreeing to adopt a section of trail to maintain.

A section of this Epic Trail in Montgomery County extending from FS 76 near Buck Knob on east to Rainey Creek Road is used for the Ouachita Challenge mountain bike race each year and is maintained very well.  It makes for a good ride over Brushy Mountain, Blowout Mountain, Rock Row Mountain and Chalybeate Mountain.  There are several FS roads that can be used to return or for a “bailout” if needed.  This section might serve as a good introduction to the type of riding one can expect along the OT.

The entire length of the Epic Trail portion of the Ouachita Trail has a system of trail shelters (a nice log cabin sleeping area and porch) that are located about every 10 miles along the trail.  The last three of the shelters in this chain will be completed this fall (2016).  These shelters will accommodate a number of campers and are available on a first come, first served basis.  They cannot be reserved.  Each shelter includes a picnic table and a fire ring close to the shelter.

The Epic Trail designation for the Ouachita Trail by IMBA brings the number of Epic Trails in the state to five.  The others are the Womble Trail, the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, the Syllamo Trail, and the Upper Buffalo Trail.  The only state with more Epic Trails at this writing is California.  The Epic Trail portion of the OT runs within a few miles of the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail and the Womble Trail connects to the Ouachita Trail near Story, Arkansas.  A mountain biker can easily plan to ride parts of all three of these three great trails on a long weekend.  

Friends of the Ouachita Trail Fall Report from President Bo Lea

Cooler weather is almost upon us and it is time look toward FoOT’s busy time of
the year.  Since spring, all of Fourche Mountain from Eagle Gap at Mile Marker
58.5 to Turner Gap at Mile Marker 79.9 has been worked.  In March, FoOT
volunteers along with the Texas Outdoors Group worked from Tan‐E‐Hill Gap to
Turner Gap, almost 6 miles.  In July FoOT VP of Maintenance, Ron Mayfield led a
Texas Conservation Crew to work from Eagle Gap to Foran Gap, 10 miles.  Fourche
Mountain is a very rough section of trail to maintain due to the difficult access
and terrain plus vegetation growth.
FoOT trail grant request from the Arkansas Highway Transportation Department
was approved late in 2015.  Funds were released recently and FoOT has ordered
and received the last 3 log kits to complete the new 12 shelter project.  The
schedule for construction of the last 3 shelters is:   Turner Creek – Sept. 27th, Suck
Mountain – Oct. 18th, Story Creek – Nov. 8th.  Dedication of the completed shelter
system which includes the existing 9 on the east end will be in the spring.  Contact
us for details on the shelter project if you wish to participate.
Mark your calendars for the weekend of March 25th & 26th, 2017 for the next
Ouachita Challenge Mountain Bike Race.  For the past 2 years the Ouachita
Mountain Challenge Association (OMCA) has managed the event.  OMCA is
composed of several organizations and FoOT has been a major player for many
years.  Each year we need numerous volunteers to conduct this first class event.
It is a major source of funds for FoOT and many other worthy groups.  Mark your
calendars now.  It is a fun event to be involved with.
While FoOT has been working hard over the past few years to add the shelters to
the OT, trail maintenance remains our primary responsibility.  FoOT can always
use more trail adopters.  There are some excellent adoptions available.  Contact
FoOT if you would like to look at adopting a section of the Ouachita Trail.
Definitely a great way to give back to the trail.  The effort to maintain 224 miles of
mountainous trail is a big one, every adoption helps.
The Friends of the Ouachita Trail Foundation has been established for about a
year.  This Foundation is for the maintenance and improvement for all the trails in
the Ouachita Region, with emphasis on the OT.  Look at the FoOT website for
more details or contact FoOT for information.  This foundation will be a source of
perpetual funding to ensure our trails will be there for future generations.  Direct
gifts or estate planning gifts are needed to make the foundation large enough to
generate revenue for FoOT.  Only interest is used, the base will never be drawn
down.  Please consider being a part of this effort.
We have had a wet summer with a few strong storms so even Fouche Mountain
with all the recent work may not be pristine.  If you are out hiking and run across
some major problems, let us know.  It is impossible to know what is happening on
all 224 miles of trail.
The hiking season about to begin in earnest.  Hope you get a chance to get out
and enjoy the premier hiking trail in our region, the Ouachita National
Recreational Trail.  FoOT appreciates your support and input.

Annual Elections and Annual Meeting

The time has come again to look at the election of directors to the Board of Friends of the Ouachita Trail. FoOT is governed by nine directors, who the membership elects each fall. This fall we have three board positions to fill, and are seeking candidates for these positions.

Board members serve a three year term. Those elected this fall will serve 2017 through 2019 (with two additional terms allowed). During that time, you would be expected to attend three to four meetings a year, to help provide overall guidance to the organization, to participate in the election of our operating officers, and to approve and monitor our financial position.

Candidates for the Board positions must be identified by September 30th.

The Board elects the operating officers, which serve for the calendar year. Operating officers include the President, three Vice-Presidents (Maintenance,Membership, and Community Relations), and a Secretary / Treasurer. Candidates for officer positions must be identified by the end of the year December 31.

If you would like to nominate someone for the Board or wish to serve yourself,please let me know at Bolea66@Gmail.com or our Secretary / Treasurer, Richard Lawrence at law28@aristotle.net. There are numerous positions of service within FoOT.

You will be receiving information in a few of weeks regarding our FoOT annual meeting. It will be held on Saturday, October 29 th , 2016 in Hot Springs. Further information as to location and agenda to follow. Your support of Friends of the Ouachita Trail is greatly appreciated. I know I am repeating myself but a lot of good things are happening on the OT, we appreciate those who have worked so hard this past year to make that possible.

Bo Lea
FoOT President
501-622-8809 cell

Trail Closure Notice – Temporary

Central Arkansas Water has announced that forest thinning activities wil close the Ouachita Trail Tuesday afternoon, July 5th. The impacted area is mile marker 209 to Highway 300 (MM209-211.5) or from near Lundsford corner and west of there for 2 miles.

National Trail Day Event – June 4 Hike from Winding Stair Campground to Big Cedar

Greetings Friends of the Ouachita Trail!

My name is Andy. I handle social media for the Talimena Scenic Drive. This year we are really focusing in on the Ouachita Trail and I would love an opportunity to speak with you on how we can help support each other!

I would also like to let you know about an event on the trail for National Trail Day.

We are working with Ouachita Trail Guide to help promote a hike on Saturday, June 4th from Winding Stair Campground to Big Cedar.

Would love your support in helping spread the word. Here is the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1663817233899110/

Thank you so much!

Andy Choquette

Jonathan Waldrip Memorial

Friends of the Ouachita Trail would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Jonathan Waldrip.  Jonathan passed away unexpectedly at the too young age of 34. He is remembered for a kind generous spirit, a great sense of humor and a loving heart.  He loved many pets that enriched his life. Jonathan found solace and renewal in nature and especially enjoyed camping, hiking, fishing and floating.  Sunsets and sunrises were his absolute favorites.  One of his favorite places was the Ouachita Trail in Flatside Wilderness.  Music was another huge outlet in Jonathan’s life and he enjoyed singing and playing multiple instruments.

FoOT has been honored by being the recipient of memorials in Jonathan’s name.  Hope we can all find the solace that Jonathan found in nature.  Embrace those special moments we are given.

Bo Lea, FoOT President

Black Fork Mountain Shelter Completed

The FoOT shelter volunteer crew completed the 9th new shelter for the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, Monday, November 9th, 2015.  The new shelter is the Black Fork Mountain location at mile marker 57.8  (N34 41.437 / W94 18.624).  It is in a beautiful location about 200 yards up the Black Fork Mountain Trail off the OT.  Upon completion of the final 3 shelters, FoOT will have completed its 12 shelter addition to the trail.  At that time, the OT with its existing 9 older shelters will have a complete shelter system for the entire Ouachita National Forest portion of the trail, which is almost 200 miles.

Current plans call for constructing the Turner Gap shelter in March, 2016 and the Suck Mtn. shelter in April, 2016.  The final shelter at Story Creek will be done in October of 2016, wrapping up an amazing project by many hard working volunteers.  It is hard to believe that in about 3 1/2 years FoOT will have built all of the projected 12 new trail shelters.

Your will find a link on the home page that takes you to a listing of all the new shelters with their status, mile marker, and GPS co-ordinates.  Hope you enjoy the new shelters.  If you meet a FoOT volunteer, say “thanks”.

Bo Lea

President, Friends of the Ouachita Trail

FoOT Board Member Nominations and Annual Meeting

FoOT is governed by nine directors, who the membership elects each fall. This fall we have three board positions to fill, and are seeking candidates for these positions. Board members serve a three year term. Those elected this fall will serve 2016 through 2018 (with two additional terms allowed). During that time, you would be expected to attend three to four meetings a year, to help provide overall guidance to the organization, to participate in the election of our operating officers, and to approve and monitor our financial position. Candidates for the Board positions must be identified by September 28th.

The Board elects the operating officers, which serve for the calendar year. Operating officers include the President, three Vice-Presidents (Maintenance, Membership, and Community Relations), and a Secretary / Treasurer. Candidates for officer positions must be identified by the end of the year December 31.

If you would like to nominate someone for the Board or wish to serve yourself, please let me know at Bolea66@Gmail.com or our Secretary / Treasurer, Richard Lawrence at law28@aristotle.net. There are numerous positions of service within FoOT.

You will be receiving information in a couple of weeks regarding our FoOT annual meeting. It will be held on Saturday, November 7th, 2015 in Hot Springs. Further information as to location and agenda to follow. Your support of Friends of the Ouachita Trail is greatly appreciated. A lot of good things are happening on the OT, we hope you can be involved.

Bo Lea

FoOT President

501-622-8809 cell

Friends of the Ouachita Trail Endowment

Since Friends of the Ouachita Trail was formed over 10 years ago, there has been a dream and desire to have a source of sustaining revenue to assist in carrying out our mission.

I am proud to report that it is no longer a dream on our wish list.  The “Friends of the Ouachita Trail Endowment” is a reality.  Our account with the Arkansas Community Foundation has been established after an initial cash contribution of $10,000.  A great feeling to actually see the FoOT account online in black & white.  A special thanks to all who have made this possible.  With contributions and pledges totaling $485,000, the FoOT endowment is off to an amazing start.

Now, we can build on this foundation to make the FoOT endowment an example of building a perpetual legacy for trails.  Taking FoOT to this new level is a major step for the organization.  Your strong ongoing support for FoOT is greatly appreciated.

 

Bo Lea,  FoOT President

Bolea66@gmail.com

501-622-8809