My experience has shown that hiking the loop counter-clockwise is best/easiest. Cache more water than you'll use. You can always leave it for the next hiker. Watch for rattlesnakes in warm weather near the boulder fields. Stop at the "Giants Graveyard" between FS6010 and Deadmans Gap and enjoy the view into the Kiamichi Valley and Bohannon Lake.
There are no campsites between Deadmans Gap and the Rock Garden Shelter unless you begin on the Boardstand Trail
, so hike the little extra and stay at the shelter. Pay attention to the blazes once you get onto the valley floor. They aren't confusing, but some areas can be misleading.
Be amazed at the manpower required to build the Old Military Road. Cache a treat for your party at the Old Military rest area.
Creeks are very often dry on the south side of the mountain, so cache water accordingly. The creeks in the valley are more reliable, but caching is cheap insurance.
Begin at Talimena State Park at mile 0 of the 223-mile Ouachita Trail. Head east until you reach mile 8 and cross the Talimena Scenic Drive. Section 1 is considered by many to be the roughest section of the entire trail. Take a couple of hours before starting out on this trip to cache water along the route as the trail runs along the ridge and tends to be very dry.
Ideal cache locations are at MM2.4 which has a short spur trail to the Potato Hill Vista, just before MM5 is a spur trail leading to the Panorama Vista, FR 6010
located at MM5.8, and at Deadmans Gap at MM8. Cache enough water and food at Deadmans Gap to carry 1.4 miles to the Rock Garden Shelter at Ouachita Trail MM9.4, which makes a great spot to spend the first night.
The next morning, backtrack 0.7 miles to the Boardstand Trail
at MM8.7. Drop into Holson Valley on this trail and enjoy several miles of wide, easy trail as you follow an old roadbed. Cache water before the trail along the forest service road leading from the Boardstand Trail
trailhead located at 34.821549, -94.886334. The trail crosses this road multiple times, so cache according to how dry the area has been.
The signage at the Old Military Road Trail
junction shows you have reached MM6.5 of the Boardstand Trail
. Continue a short way on the Old Military Road Trail
to a great established campsite located to the left of the trail and slightly downhill. There is room for multiple tents/hammocks and a large fire ring. Spend the night here before continuing on the Old Military Road Trail
as it slowly curves south and climbs back up the mountain.
Pay special attention once you see the obviously man-made rows of rock along the trail. As you climb further up the mountain, the remains of the Old Military Trail (built in 1832) will become apparent. Cross the Scenic Drive at the Old Military rest area which is a great place to stop for a break under the covered picnic tables, then continue down the south face of the mountain to return to Talimena St.
Black bear and rattlesnakes are the only dangerous animals present. Whitetail deer are in abundance as are raccoons, squirrels, and opossums.
The Old Military Road was built in 1832 by pick and shovel to move the army and settlers into what was then Indian Territory. Workers were paid an extra quarter a day and an extra portion of whiskey.