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We thought it would be appropriate on this #ThrowbackThursday to give some background as to how we started with our first Adventure in a Backpack. So here is our story of Eagle Rock Loop! We still lived in Oklahoma, and mid-April of 2013, we took a 3-day trip to Eagle Rock Loop near Mena, Arkansas.
Preparation is Key
For Christmas that year, Nate and I had loaded each other up with goodies for backpacking, knowing that we wanted to get into the hobby. We had brand new backpacks, a new tent, stove, water filter… even our shoes were new! We couldn’t wait to hit the trail. Being our first backpacking trip, we did quite a bit of research before we left. A 3-day, 27 mile trip through the Ouachita Mountains was not for the faint of heart, especially as beginners. But, in true Yarbrough form, we dove in head first.
We left Oklahoma City and drove to the Eagle Rock Loop Trailhead. We got in late that evening, so we planned to car camp the first night, then hit the trail at first light. Car camping is not very comfortable when you have an air mattress that doesn’t hold air. We didn’t get much sleep that night from the excitement of the next day as well as the lack of comfort from the “bed” we were in.
Hiking Eagle Rock Loop
Early the next morning, we got up and got ready to hike. It was COLD! Luckily, we were prepared and layered up. We quickly shed most of our layers as the sun came up, but at least we were comfortable the entire hike. The first thing I remember thinking was, “wow, everything is so beautiful and untouched.” It was pure nature, and I loved it. We crossed several small creeks during the first few hours, but it was mainly pretty easy terrain. We had some slight elevation gain, but it was not bad.
Early afternoon of the first day, we got to the first real elevation changes. We crossed 3 ridgelines that day, each with roughly 600 ft of elevation gain and loss. By the time we set up camp, I was ready to cut off my feet. New shoes were a bad idea. Note to the readers: break those new shoes in! Setting up our tent was a production that took us about 45 minutes to figure out, even though we had set it up a few times at the house to familiarize ourselves with it. Nate made a fire and we got dinner started: rice and summer sausage. We made too much of it, and knowing the threat of bears and mountain lions, we had to force ourselves to eat it all. Lesson learned.
The next morning, we set out early and continued on. The trail was even more beautiful, if that was even possible! The stunning views from atop the next 4 ridges were unforgettable. We knew this was a trip we would never forget. The trail was no less forgiving the second day, but we got into a good groove for getting up and down the mountains and helping each other (okay, Nate helping me) across the rivers. I soaked my shoes once and learned my lesson to just take them off. We made good progress that day and set up camp next to the river. The river allowed us to bathe ourselves and rinse our clothes, which was nice. Although the water was nearly unbearably cold, it was nice to soak our swollen feet, ankles, and calves in it. We tended to our blisters as well.
The final day was a bit harder. We were tired and had blisters on our feet. But it was the last leg of the journey, so we had some pep in our step regardless. The terrain was not any harder or any less forgiving that day, and we were ready to get back to the car. On we went, and we gained quite a bit of knowledge that day. Finally back at the car, we collapsed and pulled our shoes off to tend to our wounds. We headed into town and ate a massive hamburger and had a beer/margarita. We were in sheer bliss, even with the blisters on our feet and the dirt under our nails.
In The End
We learned a lot from our first backpacking trip. The biggest thing was that research pays off. We made some mistakes, but none were so major that it could’ve ruined our trip or hurt either of us. We carried way too much food, which is not a problem, but it adds more weight than necessary. We also carried more clothes than were necessary. I never put on the shorts that I brought. It is funny to think back on this trip and how much we have learned since then. And we are always learning more! Every Adventure in a Backpack is a new learning experience to us, and we hope it always will be. Be sure to check out our Landscape Photography for Sale page to help support us on these adventures!
Technical notes about the Eagle Rock Loop
- The trail is essentially a big square.
- The far west side of the trail is all 6 ridges. This is where most of your elevation gain is.
- If we were to do it again, we would start at the north-west corner and go counter clockwise and get all 6 ridgelines out of the way 1st.
- The far east side of the trail is the most populated with day hikers due to the main campground being on that side.
- Remember: Practice leave no trace! There are quite a few fire rings all over this trail. Use them and avoid making more eco impact than necessary.