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“OUACHITA CHALLENGE” FOR ROADIES

Story by Ed Hawkins

EdHawkinsWe heard that there was to be a Wheelamena event
 (www.wheelamena.org) over one of our favorite mountains so we had to do a preview of the 70 mile route. Here is what we saw:

Our ride begins at the beautiful JanssenPark in downtown Mena. Getting out of the Mena metroplex is simple - not much traffic. Get out to the East side Shopping Mall (Wal-Mart) and continue North on 71 toward Fort Smith - on your right a county park and the Cherokee Tribal office. (No. they won’t let you join. I tried.) On your left is the new Ouachita Mountain Resort.

8-10miles from the start at Jansen you reach the little community of Acorn. (Where Mighty Oaks grow!) Turn West crossing the Kansas/Southern Railroad and we are on our way. The railroad carries lots of coal to somewhere South and the North Fork of the Ouachita River runs right next to the rail bed and carries lots of water down to Lake Ouachita and beyond. (For more on the Ouachita River etc.read Return to Quoz by William Least Heat Moon.)

On Hwy 270 headed West we will pass Eagleton, the Ouachita Trail crossing, and the RichMountain store, where you can purchase drinks or select a hot meal from their menu. (This is where the 30 mile ride goes up, up, up the mountain.)

We are now headed slightly downhill so on the right we have the railroad and now the “Big Creek” which drains West and I assume into the Poteau River. Nice quiet road, nice shoulder and little traffic.There’s a narrow strip of private property along the highway and miles of Forest Service land headed up the mountains on either side.

Oklahoma Line - more of the same. Little community of Page. A few houses. Now turn on 59/259 South - 4 miles uphill to the Talimena Drive. (Highway1) 1 East heads back to Mena. 3 fairly steep climbs and then fast up and down on the ridge. Beautiful view - 11 Vistas all worthy of a snapshot. Great views of the Kiamichi Mountains and the Kiamichi Valley, Lake Wilhelmina, and to the north the Mountain Fork Mountain Range.

Cross back into Arkansas then to the Queen WilhelmenaState Park. Lodge and campground available for your weekend visit. There is a restaurant in the Lodge. Leaving the State Park with a fast descent and a couple more climbs , the Ouachita Trail crossing and the Rich Mountain Fire Tower. It’s one of a few left from the past and worth a visit. (open on weekends in the summer). Just past the tower is the trail crossing of the new Rich Mountain Trail, that connects the Earthquake Ridge trail complex to the
Ouachita Trail.

Now fly back down to Mena, but carefully. - Ride finishes with 6 miles of continuous descent, There are more Vistas and some look down on the route you just traveled. Total travel time: 6 - 8hours and surely the most picturesque ride in the state. Have fun! The Wheelamena Tour would be a great time to enjoy this 70 mile route as there will be ample rest stops with refreshments and lots of fellow riders from Arkansas and surrounding states. Go to www.wheelamena.org for more information about the tour.

Ed and Sue Hawkins

 


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