“Western Arkansas' finest trail.”
— il coyote
Birding · Fall Colors · Spring · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Rich (adj.): Heavy with spice, cream, fat or sugar, etc.
This trail caused Ben Franklin's gout. Although he aspired to temperate living, he couldn't prevent gorging himself on this trail. This mountain is chocolate decadent descents and copious creamy climbs. This is Western Arkansas family style cooking at its finest. This is not the white table cloth singletrack reservation required cuisine of the Berkshires, so do say grace before you proceed.
These hills are old. So old they used to be mountains as tall as the Rockies. They require respect, as do the people that named them. The same people who fought and killed Hernando De Soto, although the French named them the Ouachita, it's merely the phonetic French spelling of a Caddo word. The fact is the French language hadn't been invented by the time this mountain's original tongue was forgotten. The people that claimed these hills as home did so for a reason. You'll know why after you begin to ascend.
The remnants of the mountain's heritage are not only tasted and smelled; they are felt beneath your feet and even more so heard in the wind that unexpectedly whispers mysterious long forgotten dirges through the hardwood and pine. From the Louisiana Purchase, Spanish conquistadores, and fiercest warrior tribes, to geological anomalies: the Rich Mountain is trail and history hand in hand. So kick back and enjoy, turn off your phone and listen. Eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy all this rich mountain trail has to offer. You'll be glad you did.
This trail's audio representation is brought to you by the Western Front EP, by our alternative folk friends: The Moonage Shine. Close your eyes whilst you listen and feel Rich Mountain Trail enter your soul.
Need to Know
If running from the bottom to the top, you may be tempted to dine at the lodge restaurant. That's all fine and dandy, but you deserve richer fare. Hop on your steed and continue on the scenic byway to Hodgen, OK, 20 minutes away and the End of The Trail Saloon & Eatery. The BBQ is known to make agnostics see the light and conservatives to speak in tongues. Tell the BBQ guru, Steve, and his wife Janese, Ashley sent you. Steve may show you his record collection of over 2,000 albums. Buy him a Busch Lite and ask him about Woodstock. You'll never, ever, ever want to leave. Call before hand to make sure they are open. Thurs-Sun.
If you are running from the top to bottom, you'll dine at American Artisans Cafe, hands down, the best lunch in town. Salads, sandwiches and soups. Rick and Donna, the owners, are mostly responsible for making Mena the hip place for adventurers to visit. Bring money so you can purchase some local art.
A few "Branches" (tiny streams) dot the trail but are not reliable. Bring water or stash some on one of the many lookouts on the byway before you park and set out. Camp at the state park, better yet, stay at the Carriage House Inn or Jansen Park Place B&B. The proprietors will give you the skinny on all local trails and will happily drop you off and pick you up if needed.
Seed ticks, we all hate them; unfortunately you'll need tick protection and a close friend or loved one to de-seed you when you are done. No other runner or hiker has been spotted on the RMT past Blue Haze Vista. You should have the trail all to yourself. If you get in trouble, head east through the bush, and you'll meet the road in no time.
Appetizer: Begin with a bear encounter of the third kind, starboard side of the trail line. You commune in deafening silence each standing on two legs, staring into the other’s eyes, questioning motives until you hear popping saplings echo down the ridge as she plows them over and out of sight. This strange encounter epitomizes the thrill of the Rich and her peculiarities abound. She is too southernly gentrified for scree so she offers up scrumble: Nana's cobbler, wet sidewalk cement and balls of silly putty. Scrumble season is spring/fall. Note: scrumble rhymes with tumble.
Arkansan summer means vacationing the Gulf Shores in cutoff shorts and pasty beer bellies steering clear of Pabst Blue Ribbon anglers chumming the shoreline for inebriated hopes of catching the big one. If you’ve seen an Alabama shore shark caught in three feet of murky water, you'll recognize the fear you'll have when running through Great White Grass. Waist high and unable to see your feet, it’s not white, nor great, but you’ll hear the theme song of Jaws whilst working your way through it. Ouachita rocks lurk below eagerly awaiting to take off a toe. GWG twists ankles & blesses runners with copious seed ticks. There is also the unsolved mystery of Bearcat Bushes. Bears here? Yes, and contrary to National Forest animal population stats, mountain lions too. Sadly, no bearcats. Outside of being MHS's most excellent school mascot, the bearcat doesn’t exist. It’s a mythical creature akin to the centaur, but more Arkansan.
An enigma similar, is its namesake invisible bush. Running into, alongside or through the invisible bearcat bush instigates puritanical belief Bearcats exist. Post run hocks magically adorn beautifully crosshatched cat- bear scratch weeping wounds which itch like poison oak rubbed in attic insulation. The vain of leg best don long stocking for leg vein protection.
Main course: Beginning mile 6, rocks from the ancient mountain have clawed from the earth exposing themselves on either side of the trail; jagged, moss covered, appearing to be man laid and beckoning runners proceed upward as if the trail end led to an ancient castle hung precipice reminiscent of your favorite movie, historically set in the middle ages. Ask yourself why the Hollywood movie titled "American Made” was filmed in Georgia instead of our beloved hometown. A side dish of #Mena Conspiracy goes delightfully with the next few miles and what will most likely be your favorite trail bites. The mountain steers runners down a series of switchbacks settling to a quiet though beckoning ascent to soft piney ridges where forest animals convene, leaving prints in thick trail mud for adventurers to decipher. (Hint: feral hogs distinguished print with a dew claw outside of the hoof) Bacon and danger=delicious.
Hop the Scenic Byway, meet up with the Ouachita Trail and let the distinct smell of mountain spring, wild honey and moss occupy your palate as you ascend a staircase of thick stone during a momentary jaunt amidst the shadows of the Black Fork Mountain.
Dessert is served: Decadent, delectable and divine, devilishly decorated with hints of bad intentions. The second highest peak in the state did not gain her altitude without a fight. In the crux of her glades are the remnants of her wrestlings from the tectonic grips that bound her against her will. Gigantic boulders strewn about in jagged gigantic shards of ornately aged granite, the port and starboard line of the trail morphs into living chocolate molten cake sharply topped with caramelized toffees and the stones you hop over. A sure foot is needed; many a stone and boulder simply lay on the trail and are easily disturbed into movement by a fast moving foot. Sadly, the end of the Rich supper is subtly announced with the rising gusts of wind from the near peak. Head up, scrambling rocks, to the finish. Catch a photo at Lover’s Leap and smile.
Congratulations, your reservations for your next Rich Mountain experience are confirmed.
Flora & Fauna
Presitigous fauna include: Asio Otus, Marmota Monax, Passerina Cyanea, Taxidea Taxus, Lynx Rufus, & Canis latrans
Common animals include black bear, deer, armadillo. Unfortunately, this trail has had no current sightings of the North American Yeti.
History & Background
The Rich Mountain Trail is fairly new in its construction; at mile 8.5 it joins the infamous Quachita Mountain Trail which takes you from eastern Oklahoma all the way to Little Rock, Arkansas. For over 100 years, there has been settlers on Rich Mountain and the peak is the current state park and lodge which has a rich history of its own, from resort to college, to commune, to wild life preserve and state park.