Italian Writer Discovers the LOViT – October 22, 2014

Robert Cavanaugh and Zoie Clift

Robert Cavanaugh and Zoie Clift

Traildog Robert Cavanaugh had a great day Wednesday, Oct. 22. Zoie Clift of the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department asked Robert to lead her and two visitors from Italy on a mountain bike ride on the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail.

Carlo is a magazine writer and is working on an article on Arkansas. He is a skier and a mountain biker. His friend, Giuliana, is a road biker. Zoie is a very good rider and is a great friend of the LOViT.

We spent the day riding the trail, taking pictures, and then finished it up with a great meal at Shangri-La Resort (and a piece of the best banana crème pie in the known universe). A great ride with some very nice people. Click on the image below to view pictures from their time on the LOViT.

Carlo and Giuliana with Zoie Clift of the Arkansas Department of Tourism and a great friend of the LOViT.

Carlo and Giuliana with Zoie Clift of the Arkansas Department of Tourism and a great friend of the LOViT.
(Click this image to view more photos of this event.)

Carlo has promised a copy of the article when it’s been published.  We’ll look forward to sharing that on our website.

Lake Ouachita Vista Trail – Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Planned For Oct. 28, 2014

Lake Ouachita Vista Trail

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to officially open the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) has been set for:

Date: Tuesday October 28, 1014

Time: 1:00 pm

Location: The Avery Recreation Area at the Lake Ouachita’s Blakely Mountain Dam in Garland County.

This forty-mile long trail system designed for mountain biking and hiking is the result of ten years of planning, design and construction by a coalition of a dozen local, state and federal organizations. The trail courses along the southern shores of Lake Ouachita over five mountains located in the Ouachita National Forest.

The agenda for the ceremony will include remarks by:

  • Colonel John W. Cross, Colonel US Army Corps of Engineers
  • Norman Wagner, Forest Supervisor Ouachita National Forest
  • Joe David Rice, Arkansas Tourism Director
  • Jeff Crow, Deputy Director, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
  • Steve Schneider, Regional Director, International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA)

Following the ribbon cutting, there will be a two-mile hike and bike event on the Blakely Mountain section of the trail. Shuttles will be provided.

 

 

Jeff Smith – LOViT Has Lost A Very Good Friend

Jeff Durand Smith:  A Great Friend of the LOViT

Jeff Smith: A Great Friend of the LOViT

A very good friend of the LOViT and of the Traildogs, Jeff Smith,  was tragically killed Friday afternoon, Oct. 10, in a head-on collision on Highway 7 north of the town of Bismarck, AR. Jeff Smith was editor of the Special Sections of the Hot Spring Sentinel-Record and has faithfully reported the story of the building of the Trail now for 10 years, writing a great many articles about our progress.

Jeff was a dedicated supporter of the Trail. He came to our first day of construction each year without fail, from year one to our last first day this year.

From the Hot Springs Sentinel_Record Facebook page:

“Jeff Durand Smith, a valued member of The Sentinel-Record family, was killed early Friday evening in a three-vehicle accident on Highway 7 south near Bismarck in Hot Spring County.

“Jeff, the special sections editor for The Sentinel-Record, was well known in the community for his reporting of veterans affairs in Hot Springs and Garland County, his extraordinarily detailed coverage of Hot Springs Village, and his weekly coverage of western Garland County and areas beyond.

“There are no words to express the feeling of sadness and loss we feel today at The Sentinel-Record. Jeff will be sorely missed, and our prayers are with his family. We will pass on funeral information as soon as it becomes available.

“– Mark Gregory, editor”

The Traildogs are starting a fund to sponsor a trail bench in Jeff’s honor. If you would like to contribute to his fund please make a check out to “Friends of Lake Ouachita”, and mail it to 3812 Hwy 270 E, Mount Ida, AR 71957. You can also donate through PayPal using the “Donate” button on this page. Once we have the bench plaque we will host a short memorial at the bench to install the plaque.

Thank you all for your support.

Jeff, we will miss you.

Jerry

A New Trailhead Sign At Joplin, and Clearing Trees on Bear Mountain – Oct. 15, 2014

Traildogs Jeremy, Dan, John, Jerry, Chuck, and Robert show off the new Joplin Trailhead sign.  Many thanks to the U.S. Forest Service for providing these signs.

Traildogs Jeremy, Dan, John, Jerry, Chuck, and Robert show off the new Joplin Trailhead sign. Many thanks to the U.S. Forest Service for providing these signs.

Oct. 15 was a beautiful fall day for completing some work on the Trail prior to the planned October 28 at 1:00 pm Dedication Ceremony.  We had six Traildog volunteers today – myself, Robert, Dan, Chuck, John, and Jeremy – all helping install the new Trailhead sign at the Joplin Trailhead parking area.  We also cleared brush and weeds around the parking area and also the section of the Trail heading east where we utilize the old road.

We also cleared the weeds from the Trail where it crosses Mountain Harbor Road. Finally, we checked out the ADA Trail for downed limbs and debris.

Lining up these tall 6x6 posts for the new trailhead sign IS rocket science, at least for these Traildogs!

Lining up these tall 6×6 posts for the new trailhead sign IS rocket science, at least for these Traildogs!

It was a good day to be out on the Trail, and it was nice to have Chris Ham and Tom Ledbetter from the USFS join us at the trailhead.

Robert sizing up the tree and planning his cuts. Not a bad view from here!

Robert sizing up the tree and planning his cuts. Not a bad view from here!
(Click on this image to view more photos from Oct. 14, 2014)

Yesterday, Oct. 14, Traildogs Robert and Dan covered Section 7 of the LOViT from Brady Mountain Road moving west across Bear Mountain to “Laura’s Bench” just below the switchbacks overlooking Crystal Springs. Many trees were down on the Trail from recent storms accompanied by high winds.

Robert and Dan reported that while they were sitting on the bench at Traildog Vista, taking a break from clearing downed trees from across the Trail, a mature Bald Eagle suddenly came swooping slowly by, right at eye level!  This was their reward for removing those 25 downed trees!

"Indian Pipe" growing on Bear Mountain alongside the Trail. The LOViT is a terrific Trail on which to enjoy many different plants (and often animals).

“Indian Pipe” growing on Bear Mountain alongside the Trail. The LOViT is a terrific Trail on which to enjoy many different plants (and often animals).
(Click on this image to view more photos from Oct. 14, 2014.)

We are canceling the planned weed removal day scheduled for next Saturday, October 18, as it will be a busy day for deer hunters in the area, and we don’t want to take any chances on any injuries and don’t want to spoil a hunt.

Thanks

Jerry

New Signs Marking the LOViT – Oct. 1, 2014

This past week we had six volunteers assist in the installation of the new trailhead signs at the Brady Mountain Trailhead parking area.  It was a challenge to get two deep holes dug in the rock-hard clay soil, but we persevered and were able to install the two 6 X 6 treated poles and attached the six different signs required for the site.  It is now virtually impossible to miss this parking area as you drive down Brady Mountain Road.

Traildogs standing and watching while Jerry works.

Traildogs standing and watching while Jerry works.
(Click on an image to view more photos from Oct. 1, 2014)

We also attempted to construct the short spur from the parking area to the current trail on the east side of the Brady Mountain Road crossing, but it appears we need the assistance of a mini-excavator to complete this task.  We did remove all the trash, brush, downed trees, and weeds from this now-usable spur, but a day with a mini-excavator and a few volunteers would create a better spur trail down to the mineral level to help contain the re-occurrence of weeds and shrubs along this path.

We also weeded both entrances, east and west, where the trail crosses Brady Mountain Road.

Traildogs showing off the new sign along Brady Mountain Road.

Traildogs showing off the new sign along Brady Mountain Road.

We had planned to meet to install a new Joplin Trailhead sign on October 8;  however, several Traildogs will be unavailable, so this work is being deferred until October 15.

A special word of thanks to a new Traildog – Jeremy Cudzewicz – for his help last Wednesday. Jeremy, also known as “Frog”, added strength and good carpentry skills to the installation of the trailhead signs.

Jerry

Learning To LOViT – Bike Camping on the LOViT

Martina Kolm

Martina Kolm

(The following article by Martina Kolm was originally published in the Fall, 2014, edition of “Arkansas Wild” magazine.  It is reproduced here with Martina’s permission.  Martina, thank you for sharing your adventure with us.  For more information about Martina and her web design business, visit her site at http://martinasweb.com.)


 

Learning to LOViT

With the help of Traildogs and a summer sausage log

By Martina Kolm

July, 2013

During the brutal ride, everyone switched positions. Clinton, my boyfriend, retook his normal lead; I was second, then Mickey. I stopped to wait; a moment to rest and relish the grandeur of this place. We were enjoying a camping/mountain-biking trip on the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (“LOViT”) near Mt. Ida, Arkansas. The extensive trail system is 25+ miles with 10+ more planned. [Now, a 45 mile IMBA-designated Epic Trail!]

Mickey biking on the LOViT's Section 3 proceeding east from the Joplin trailhead.

Mickey biking on the LOViT’s Section 3 proceeding east from the Joplin trailhead.

The beautiful mid-day sun poured its light through the canopy, bouncing off white rocks, casting almost no shadow. No traffic heard, only the sounds of nature, an auditory delight.

“Mickey, where are you? Come in”, I said into the walkie-talkie. Nothing. I had a snack.

“Mickey, I’m worried about you. Respond!” Again, nothing.

The biophony was soon drowned out by a guilty noise inside my head. You’re an idiot for thinking someone with three months biking experience could tackle this kind of ride. He’s hit his head and is passed out somewhere.

“Come in Mickey!”

The view from the campsite on Eagle Vista Spur.

The view from the campsite on Eagle Vista Spur.

I decided not to over-react and be patient. He had great judgment and natural talent. I finally heard Mickey coming up the trail. I ran to him.

“I was so worried. What happened?”

“I was getting sloppy and stopped to rest, ate a last resort backup Gel-shot. I’ve eaten everything else.”

With his walkie-talkie dead, we had to stick together. This was not a problem, as the trail turned into rocky terrain which neither of us could ride. It became a bike haul, as I followed Mickey up Hickory Nut Mountain (a 900 foot elevation gain). The problem was we didn’t know we were climbing a mountain.

Click to read the full article

Two New Benches on Section 8 – September 24, 2014

Wednesday’s weather provided a perfect day to be out on the Trail again. We had five Traildog volunteers gather today at the Brady Mountain Road Trailhead parking area to assist with the installation of two new benches along LOViT’s Section 8, which runs from Brady Mountain Road to its easternmost trailhead at the Avery Recreation Area below Blakely Mountain Dam.

Traildogs Jerry, John, Robert, Dan, and Al with the new bench just east of Brady Mountain Road.

Traildogs Jerry, John, Robert, Dan, and Al with the new bench just east of Brady Mountain Road. (34°33’44” N 93°15’25” W)
(Click to view more photos from today’s work.)

Before starting the bench installation, we worked on flagging a spur from the parking area over to the Trail some 100 feet away. There currently is no connector from the Trailhead parking to the Trail; users must hike or bike down the busy Brady Mountain roadway to enter the Trail.  Is is our plan to construct this short spur to limit having to utilize the busy roadway.

Today, we loaded up the bench frames and slates with their hardware, along with 80 lb. bags of concrete and gallon bottles of water necessary for installing the benches. The team hand-dug the two holes for the frames, then installed the frames, ensuring they were level before mixing the concrete into the holes. We then created a stone patio in front of each bench utilizing the native stone found nearby.

The second bench, located below a neat rock outcropping near the intersection of Rick's Road and Spillway Road.

The second bench, located below a neat rock outcropping near the intersection of Rick’s Road and Spillway Road. (34°34’6″ N 93°12’3″ W)
(Click to view more photos from Sept. 24, 2014)

The first bench was installed 1/2 mile from the Brady Mountain Road trailhead on the north side of the small stream that cuts across the Trail. The second bench was installed at the base of Blakely Mountain where the trail crosses a rocky drainage. Both sites provide a quite scenic seating area along the trail.

We would also like to report some good news on improving our trail signage. The US Forest Service is providing Trailhead signs for some of our Trailheads. These large signs are of first quality and will greatly enhance the the affected trailheads.  We will be installing these signs in the next couple of weeks.

We are planning another workday next Wednesday, October 1, meeting at 9:00 am at the point where the LOViT crosses Spillway Road.

Thanks,
Jerry

Cleaning up Trail Entrances – FS47A to Pipe Spring – May 16, 2014

Four years of storms and neglect were remedied last Friday when six Traildogs spent the day improving Section 5 of the Trail where it parallels and crisscrosses US Forest Service Road 47 between Crystal Springs Road and Hickory Nut Mountain Road. We worked the part of this section from the FS47A trailhead at the eastern base of Hickory Nut Mountain to Pipe Spring, where the LOViT joins the Charlton Trail leading to the Crystal Springs Campground Pavilion.

We sought to improve access and signage at each entrance and exit point along the road. We started at the intersection of FS47 and FS47A, where we installed an assurance directional sign post. The post directs users to follow FS47A 1/4 of mile north to where the Trail turns left and proceeds west to the summit of Hickory Nut Mountain. We also installed a new sign at the FS47A trailhead. We cleared all the undergrowth and removed rye grass planted after the timber harvest of two years ago that had made a weed patch of the trail.

We then began the laborious process of opening each of the entrances to the trail segments along FS47. We also installed a new direction sign post at each entrance. We then hiked and cleared these sections of trail, and they are now ready for use again.

For those of us who built these sections crisscrossing FS47, we remember it as our hardest year of construction. It was a bitter cold winter, and when it wasn’t just cold, it was cold and wet. So, we would like to see more regular use of these three nice sections and keep our riders and hikers off the road as much as possible.

The photos show the new trail directional signs we are installing along the entire length of the trail to improve assurances to all users that they are on the right track.

Installing a new sign at the corner of FS47 and FS47A.

Installing a new sign at the corner of FS47 and FS47A. (34°32’41” N 93°23’20” W)

Our next spring maintenance day will be on Tuesday May 27th. We will be working the downed trees and trimming the trail from Crystal Springs up and over both the 2.0 mile Charlton/LOVIT section and also Section 6 across Little Bear Mountain from Crystal Springs Road to the western side of Bear Mountain. We will meet at the parking area next to the old pavilion next to the Crystal Springs Campground. Some of the work will require chainsaws, but most of the work will be with loppers.

Pack a trail lunch and join us.

Jerry

[Note:  some of the online maps from such services as Google and Apple show FS47 to be labeled "Hickory Nut Mountain Road" and FS47A to be labeled "Pollard Creek Trail".  The road from US 270 up to the Vista on top of Hickory Nut Mountain is also called "Hickory Nut Mountain Road", and it is also known as "FS50".  This can be confusing at best!]

The End of Construction – April 11, 2014

With the final 700 feet or so of Section 8 of the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) completed, we mark today as the day on which the original plan for the Trail has been fulfilled!

Al Gathright and Jerry Shields have a lot to be proud of with the original plan for the LOViT completed after 12 years of planning and construction. (Click the iimage to view more photos.)

Al Gathright and Jerry Shields have a lot to be proud of with the original plan for the LOViT completed after 12 years of planning and construction. (Click the iimage to view more photos.)

Twelve years ago, Jerry Shields and Al Gathright began an effort to create a hiking and biking trail along the southern shore of Lake Ouachita with the intent not only to provide a terrific experience for those who enjoy this beautiful part of the country in which we live, but also to provide an additional tourist attraction to the area that would help bring “shoulder season” traffic to the resorts, restaurants, crystal shops, and other businesses in our area. Their goal has been realized with today’s completion of the LOViT as the Traildogs groomed the final stretch that emerged at the Trail’s easternmost trailhead near the Avery recreation area below Blakely Mountain Dam.

A fantastic cake provided by Brenda Meeks of the Corps of Engineers. (Click the iimage to view more photos.)

A fantastic cake provided by Brenda Meeks of the Corps of Engineers. (Click the iimage to view more photos.)

A great group of old and new Traildogs was joined by supporters from the U. S. Forest Service, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to celebrate the event. Following the smiles, back slapping, and picture taking at the trailhead, the team adjourned to the Stephens Park Pavilion across the Ouachita River from the Avery site for an old-fashioned cookout with hot dogs, sausages, plenty of chips and cookies, and a special cake provided by Brenda Meeks of the Corps of Engineers.

After all were done eating, Jerry led the traditional “Hatting Ceremony” wherein new Traildogs Jay Marsh and John Nichols were presented with their Traildog ball caps and mugs.  It was perhaps the first time any of us have witnessed either of these gentlemen at a loss for words!

This tremendous accomplishment was carried out by many people and through strong coalitions with and support from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Arkansas Game and Fish. Additionally, the project received significant grants from the Arkansas Highway Department, the National Recreational Trails program, Montgomery County and the Mount Ida Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Ouachita Resort Owners, the Montgomery County Health Advisory Committee, and from many private donations. On top of all the support were the over 12,000 hours of volunteer labor put into the project. This has indeed been a monumental effort.

While we celebrate this day with great joy, we also realize that the job to maintain and perhaps extend the trail is far from over. The Traildogs and those who benefit from the Trail look forward to the continued support of these special agencies and to ongoing support from the Trail’s users and donors. And, of course, we always appreciate maintenance help from new Traildogs and other individuals and organizations. We sincerely thank you all.

A letter from Jerry Shields

Traildogs and Friends of the LOViT,

After twelve years of planning and ten years of construction, we have completed forty-five miles of trail and spurs, creating what is becoming one of Arkansas’ premier multi-use hiking and mountain biking trails.  We could not have completed this project without the support of our coalition members who have supported us through thick and thin.

The Traildog Volunteers have exceeded 12,000 hours of volunteer work on the Trail, and we have raised over two million dollars in grants, donations, in-kind work and land transfers, all necessary to create the LOViT.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Avery Recreation Area Trailhead

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Avery Recreation Area Trailhead (Click to see more photos from today’s event.)

We had a large group of volunteers on Friday, April 11th, who completed the last 2/10’s of a mile of hand finish work on the newly constructed link that takes the Trail down to the Corps of Engineers Avery Recreation Area just below the base of the Blakely Mountain Dam. In celebration of the completion, we had a noon cookout for all of that day’s volunteers, several visitors from the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Arkansas Wildlife Federation as well as several reporters. The Corps of Engineers provided a beautiful cake with the hiking sign symbol decorating the top. After enjoying some fire roasted hot dogs and brats, the volunteers fell on the cake like … well, a pack of starving dogs.

The final construction of Section Eight of the Trail has been completed, extending the LOViT from Brady Mountain Road 6.8 miles up and over both Brady Mountain and Blakely Mountain.  This includes a new vista just above the Blakely Mountain Dam, with views of the dam and the lake as well as a stunning view of the Ouachita River Valley south of the dam. The Trail then utilizes several switchbacks to traverse down the mountain to the Avery Recreation Area.

Avery will become the eastern terminus point of the LOViT and the ADA Trail the western Terminus; both will provide a large Day Use area with ample parking and restrooms. The Avery Recreation Area also offers a large group pavilion. These recreation areas will be excellent trailheads for any planned Trail events, including foot races and bike races.

We have begun installing trail directional signs and trail use signs on the new section to assist new users in staying on the trail and will be installing new trailhead maps along the trail at each official trailhead to assist users in planning their hikes or rides.

While the basic trail has now been completed, we still have a number of tasks to complete to make the LOViT the premier trail in Arkansas. We will be installing additional benches along the new section as well as building and installing trailhead signs at Avery and for the Spillway Recreation Area. We are also developing several trail interpretive signs along the length of the trail to provide information on the history of the Ouachita Forest, the geology of the area, as well as the flora and fauna found along the Trail.

A special word of thanks to all the dedicated Traildogs who have so faithfully supported this ten-year construction through all kinds of difficult terrain, weather conditions and a host of other issues that challenged our effort to complete the trail. We look forward to finding Traildog volunteers who adopt a section for the trail and assist in the ongoing maintenance and enhancements planned in the coming months.

We are planning an official opening of the entire LOViT system for early October, with the intent of having all the signage and benches installed for that special day. So, mark your calendars.