A Different Kind of Dog Story

Hiker crossing Little Frog Bayou on her daily morning walk. Photo © James Warnock
Hiker crossing Little Frog Bayou on her daily morning walk. Photo © James Warnock

The Ozark Highlands Trail is not for the faint of heart. It’s 218 miles of trails crossing 165 miles of rugged terrain, with a good bit of it in the Ozark National Forest. Here’s the description from the Ozark Highlands Trail Association:

The trail passes through some of the most remote and scenic portions of the Ozark Mountains, like the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area. It also visits White Rock Mountain (best sunset in the Arkansas!), Hare Mountain, the Marinoni Scenic Area, Dead Dog Bluff, and countless other breathtaking spots.

I live in the Ozarks and over the years have hiked many a mile in the region. Late winter hikes are sometimes the best (less worry about snakes, and spectacular views through the leafless trees), but the trail is a magical place year round. And while my boots seldom hit the trails these days, I love to read the stories shared by hiking enthusiasts, photographers, and others who celebrate the wonders of the outdoors.

One of those hikers is Jim Warnock, whose blog is a feast for the spirit. When I read the story of how a dog came to be his new trail partner, I knew I had to let others know where to find this remarkable tale. The story began in mid-January and when Jim and his hiking partner, Bob, set off to complete the last leg of the trail. Here’s Jim:

A third hiking partner joined us on our first night out.  We were setting up camp at mile 138 when an emaciated black lab appeared.  We ignore her in hopes that she would reunite with her owners but the next day she quietly followed us for fourteen miles.  At the end of that day we gave in and shared some of our beef and turkey jerky.  These were limited rations because neither of us packed much extra food. Bob said, “If we’d known we’d have a dog, we would have packed some Alpo.”

This black lab demonstrated good outdoor skills as she curled up in a nest of leaves next to a log. The following morning we feared we were going to witness the death of this dog but she persevered and continued mile after mile with only limited rations from our small surplus of food.

Hiker on the OHT
“We feared we were going to witness the death of this dog.” Photo © James Warnock

There’s much more to the story, and you can read it here. And once you’ve read how the story began, take a look at Jim’s most recent posts and learn the 12 qualities that make this dog an ideal hiking partner. Here’s a photo Jim sent along for the slideshow, showing his new partner ready for her next adventure!

She’s ready to go! Photo © James Warnock

For more great photos and stories, view the slideshow at Jim’s blog. And then grab your boots and find a trail near you!

The Magic of the Ozarks

Hwy 7 National Scenic Byway near Jasper AR Photo by Tim Ernst (All rights Reserved)
Hwy 7 National Scenic Byway near Jasper AR just before sunrise  (Photo by Tim Ernst. All rights Reserved.)

Take one look at this photo by the famous photographer Tim Ernst and you’ll know why I say legends live on in the Ozarks Mountains.  It’s a place of magic and mystery, where ties run deep and stories and superstitions can linger for generations.

One such story is The Lady of the Valley, recounted in the book Ozark Tales and Superstitions by the late Phillip W. Steele. (You can get a copy online at IndieBound or  Amazon or at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum.) As the story is told:

A few years before he was married Jess Mcelhaney was returning home from an evening spent in the old town of Aurora. After being startled by an opossum scurrying across the road, Jess saw a bright light appear a few yards away; he stopped and gazed at it with an almost hypnotic stare. Within the bright halo of light he saw the figure of a young woman. She was dressed in a white dress and wore dark stockings. Her hair hung to her waist, and she was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen–or ever would see. The lady was not carrying a lantern, yet she appeared to be completely encircled by light. Jess also recalls how he thought it most odd that his figure cast a shadow beneath the full moon but hers did not.

….During the past fifty years many other citizens of the area say they have had a glimpse of the beautiful lady in the valley. Most believe she rises at rare intervals from the old Aurora graveyard at the head of the valley and walks from there through the meadow. It is said that she only rises on warm nights when the moon is in its fullest stage.

This story and other Ozark tales are included in my series, which is set in the high Ozarks. In Book 2 of the series (due out later this year), you’ll learn about the ghosts of Eureka Spring’s Crescent Hotel (considered by many to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country), the Monster of Peter Bottom Cave, the Devil’s Teakettle, and more.