The High Adventure Team (HAT) of Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma had a really nice beginner/intermediate backpacking trip between Mount Magazine and Cove Lake, AR, last weekend.
Photos from the trip are here on my Google+ site.
Summary, 10.8 miles over two days, with about 1400 ft of altitude loss, and short gains, with mostly contouring.
We headed out from OKC around 1630 and got to Cove Lake around 1930. It was dark, but the Scouts got tents and hammocks up very quickly. We sat around talking for a while, and looked at the beautiful dark sky with the Milky Way perfectly clear. Off to the east, we watched the Pleiades, followed by Sirius, and there was a glow on the horizon that was the Moon about to peek over. We saw a couple satellites. One thing, there was some sort of bio-luminescent critter in the lake that glowed like a firefly.
The next morning, we got up, had breakfast, and packed up. We drove up to the Corley trailhead to do a water recon and see if there was a good campsite around the halfway point of the trail, but didn’t really see either. We decided on a clearing that had been recently cut near a natural gas facility.
A note on those. We saw three others just like the one I reference above. A natural gas pipe facility, and very nearby, an acre or more of trees are just bulldozed down with a rough road cut. I figured they were for parking heavy machinery somehow used by the gas company.
Regardless, after our recon we drove up to Mt. Magazine, visited the visitor center, and went to the trailhead. We had one vehicle shuttle to do, and we hit the trail.
Two things about this five-mile hike. It’s a long way down (more than 1200 ft), and there is no water along the way, except in one pond we hiked next to. There were several nice campsites (I waypointed them on my GPS, and you can see them on the terrain plot on the Google+ site). Note that the campsites, except the one that was near the pond, had NO water nearby. There were a number of streambeds that we crossed, but dry.
As we got closer to the five-mile halfway point, we noticed a number of good campsites. There was a decent one about 200 yards south of a point where the trailed joined up with a road for a short distance. Gutter Rock Creek is a decent-sized streambed several hundred yards SW along that road, but again, it was dry. Our campsite was in a stand of pine trees, and the trunks were perfect for our hammock hangers, and the copious pine needles were a thick and very comfortable bed for our tenters. There were lots of rocks to sit on and cook on.
The next morning, we got up and had breakfast and headed out earlier than the previous day. We had about another five miles to go to get back to Cove Lake. Once you get on the short stretch of gravel road, you find a new trail, with both the road and new trail heading steadily but not steeply up. You level out at the Corley trailhead. There is a sign there that points down the road, but the actual trail is west of the trailhead; exit the trailhead to the NW, and a short spur leads you to the trailhead near the bluff.
As you hike along to the north, you shortly come to the best view on the trail, that looks back at Mt. Magazine to the south.
The remainder of the trail contours or gently slopes down. About a half mile from the Cove Lake trailhead, we crossed one stream with decent water in it, and then Cove Creek, with a LOT of water in it. There were lots of campsites along the bluff with the good view, or in the forest as you get near Cove Lake, but most of them are dry.
This was a nice backpack, easy on our newbies, with decent views to reward our effort. 90% of the hike was in shade.