When I find myself needing to calm my soul and bring balance to my life, I go outside. Nothing creates peace and reminds me of the insignificance of the daily grind like a really good sunset. You know, the ones that set the sky on fire?
It’s a rare treat to have three working people, including the working student in the family, with the same day off work but it happened on Martin Luther King Day. Family hike time! Several ideas on trails to hike were tossed out over dinner Sunday night. We finally decided to head out west of our house to part of the Ouachita Trail and the Flastside Wilderness that we’re familiar with. This area is home to one of our favorite mountain bike training rides when we’re up for gravel, hills and more hills and the Slobberknocker Mountain Bike Race. It’s also home to favorite runs: the Full mOOn 50K, the Catsmacker and the Arkansas Traveller 100. We started our afternoon by loading the car with two dogs, three people, three water bottles, a dog bowl, flashlights, a big camera, a tripod and a backpack with hard salami, fresh mozzarella and cookies. Sustenance, it’s an important part of a successful hike. We parked at the trailhead just past Lake Sylvia for a quick, flat trip around the short paved trail to get our legs moving. Then we headed across the street to the Ouachita Trail knowing we had about an hour to hike before we needed to get in the car for the drive to Flatside. Though the trees are mostly bare this time of year, it gives the forest a unique, desolate beauty. At least that’s the way I think of it.
The line of sight from the top of Flatside Pinnacle, looking west over the Ouachita National Forest, offers one of the most spectacular sunset views in the state. As we drove up the forest road alongside Brown Creek, we were discussing the 223 miles of the Ouachita Trail, and the fact that the small one has only hiked about 30 miles of it. Her response? “Only 190 to go then.” A good attitude, one that has inspired plans to return this weekend and hike a few more miles of it.
The sunset calendar told us we’d need to be at the top by 5 p.m. We settled in about 4:45, fed the pups and laid out our own little dinner on the rocks as Joe set up the tripod and camera to capture the experience. There was discussion about the need to put the technology away and just enjoy the view but bloggers and photographers don’t do that. I tried, I put the phone in my pocket and got it back out several times. As the sun kissed the mountain range, I couldn’t help but watch my daughter, a halo of fading sunlight around her curly hair. These are the moments I want to remember, the ones I want her to remember. Having photographic evidence never hurts.