We had decided on driving to Steel Creek on the Buffalo National River on New Year's morn. So we shuttled my truck to Kyle's Landing and doubled back. On the trail by 11:00 A.M. or so. Our plan was the Buffalo River Trail(BRT) to the Slatey Place before turning off down to Horsehoe Bend, where there is a barn we could sleep in if we wanted beside the river. The next morning, hike back up the mountain to rejoin the BRT and finish out at Kyles Landing.
Both of us have hiked nearly every foot of trail in the Buffalo River valley upstream of Erbie. We spent many summers working at Camp Orr Adventure Base staff. Nine for me and I think six for him. We know and love the area. I hadn't been in this area for two years. For him it was more like eight I think. It's like our second home.
The first thing we noticed having changed was the road into Steel Creek. It is now paved all the way to the campgrounds. It must have been the first time I have thanked our government for creating the Gi-normous slush fund that was the "Stimulus Bill". First or second, I have no idea. But needless to say, I doubt I'll complain about them cutting funds to the National Park system. Now I'll complain about how they spend their funding. Enough about that. I may even scratch it later. I don't endeavor to wax politic on this blog. I like talking about wonderful things. The paved road was wonderful. Especially for my brother's BMW.
The BRT climbs out of Steel Creek campsite at about 1000 ft. elevation. It is a steep wall to the valley for much of the duration of the river. This river is a fantastic float, too. The stuff postcards are made of. The trail jumps up to 1250 ft. within about a mile before crossing Steel Creek. Steel Creek is a beautiful, shallow and clear running stream that flows into the Buffalo. We crossed it feet-dry by rock jumping. Rock jumping is one of my weak spots as a hiker. I nearly always get an ankle wet somehow. Trekking poles help me balance though.
|Steel Creek Campground, Bee Bluff|
|Big Bluff in the background. Posers in the foreground.|
***Edit: (The well house I described was actually a "bath house".)***
|...with coffee in reach...|
Our first crossing was right below the barn, so we were wet immediately. As soon as we crossed I saw a group of 5+ backpackers by the barn. We yelled and waved, but they didn't even acknowledge us. Oh well, we were just juiced by the crotch deep cold water anyway. We set to task right out of the gate. The sights are better by the river anyway. The trail is much sandier, but there was little mud or underbrush this time of year. It's like walking in a huge riverbed. It's almost amazing that there is any vegetation in that valley for all the rocks you see.
After our third crossing, we came to the Arbaugh House, which is a sturdily built 2-room cabin. It has a roofed front porch and 2 doors side by side. We looked around a bit and beat it out of there. Our feet were cold and our hearts were set on hot food. We encountered a group of three dayhikers at Kyles. They were headed to Indian Creek with what appeared to be an octogenarian clad in coveralls. But they were friendly and let us show them the map.
It needs to be said that even though this was an in-and-out trip for us, there is plenty of oppportunities for exploring. The Slatey Place was an old homestead. The wellhouse at Lockhead farmsite is only one mile from Hemmed-In-Hollow, where resides the highest waterfall between the Rockies and the Appalachians. Indian Creek is only a couple miles back(and off of) the BRT. But those are different trips for me to tell you about another time. But this one was salve for the soul as far as we were concerned. A homecoming of sorts.
Map Used: Trails Illustrated: Buffalo National River West #232