Ouachita NRT: Segment 4
ElevationAscent: 2,189' 667 m
Descent: -2,588' -789 m
High: 2,519' 768 m
Low: 1,378' 420 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 25% (14°)
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“Find out what The Four Seasons, The Four Tops, The Fab Four, and Zeppelin IV have in common when you run this trail.”— il coyote
Segment Four begins at the Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Traipse down from the lodge headed toward Lover's Leap Trail. Don't fear, most lovers found on the trail have been married over twenty years and yearnings of leaping have long passed.
Continue on the trail, and make a left at the Ouachita signage. Here the trail begins to play the Rocky Theme. There are boulders big and small dotting the trail until it passes the Scenic Byway. By the way, after crossing the byway, beautiful Black Fork Mountain plays peek-a-boo though the boughs. A sharp descent brings you to the Highway Crossing near Eagleton and to the entrance of the trailhead leading to the Black Fork. Cross the quaint bridge and note the Ouachita River in her infancy. Her waters here will travel over 600 miles where they join the Black, the Red, and the Atchafalaya Rivers before meeting up with the Mighty Mississip. Ponder that for a moment.
Good. Now cross the Kansas City Railway and head into the National Forest and onto the OT.
Meet up with the Black Fork Trail and if you have time, head a quarter mile west to see what the Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) have bestowed those adventurers seeking to through hike the complete 192 miles, and find one of the twenty brand new trail shelters for runners to rest their haunches. Thank you Friends for your big FoOT contribution!
Head east on the trail and note that previous ATV trails have been shut off, allowing the trail to return to its previous glory. Pass over the dirt road which leads to the firing range and follow blue blazes up and along the ridge of the Fourche Mountain (locally pronounced Fush) and enjoy clumped rock formations, incredible plant diversity and plenty of technical terrain.
Peak the ridge and glimpse the Acorn (locally pronounced Akern) Vista backed by the Rich Mountain. This ridge will carry you all the way to the Foran (locally pronounced Four-in) Gap, with a special gem waiting for you right before you end at Highway 71. If you enjoy serenity and solitude coupled with the opportunity to find your true purpose in life, don't run this segment, as you may never return home.
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