Something’s A-FoOT on the Ouachita Trail
We found that our beloved trail was in disrepair and was being recalled into the forest by Nature. Thus we founded Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) to help maintain the 223 mile long Ouachita National Recreation Trail which spans from Talimena State Park in Oklahoma to Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas. This is the story of one day of volunteer trail maintenance and what can be accomplished when you believe in something.
Ed rode ahead of us on his mountain bicycle to the western summit of Fourche Mountain. The rest of us hiked up in the howling, chilling wind. We had agreed not to start cutting until we reached the end of our adopted section and work back. I quickly hiked up the trail, leaving my friends behind. I knew Ed was ahead of me because I could see small skid marks in the trail. Sometimes when you hike ahead alone, you begin to wonder if you are really lost somehow, although you know you can’t be because the trail is right in front of you. I caught up to Ed and we worked together pruning brush and sawing branches, moving limbs and loose rocks off the trail. Ed had to leave at noon and so I happened to be alone at lunch sitting on the trail up on the mountain. The ground was damp and there weren’t the usual handy lunch rocks, so I sat on the plastic bag that stores my maps. The wind was blowing furiously. I could see bits of fog come softly drifting through the trees towards me, to quickly vanish. One after the other they would float by. (I was told later they were clouds.) The trees made eerie noises in the wind. It was all about freedom and friendship. It was about peacefulness even with the forceful winds raging around me on the mountaintop. I would look up now and again to be sure I wasn’t sitting under a widow-maker and to see if the noises really emanated from wind in the trees and not something like wolves or bears spying on me through the mist. As I relaxed there and admired our own piece of heaven noticing how nice the trail looks after it is opened up through the forest, I had to remind myself that this was “work”. At day’s end I met up with my husband and friends. Since nobody was carried off by my imaginary wolves or bears we declared victory and our day a success.
I love the fellowship, friendship bonds forged, and contagious enthusiasm of days like this. I believe in perseverance. These are the things that bond us and together we can accomplish a goal to save whatever precious piece of nature that we deem important to us and others.
Three years later FoOT is a success!
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