Butterfield Trail

Mandy and I hadn’t been backpacking together, just the two of us, in quite awhile, so I planned a trip for the weekend after Mother’s Day. Mandy had been wanting a “real” pack of her own, and Bryan and I agreed that it would be nice for us to give her more of her own gear to carry, so this trip gave us a good excuse to get her one. Here’s a photo of a very happy Mandy the night she got her new Osprey Ace 48 pack. (Note the purple print fuzzy footy pajamas.)


I settled on the Butterfield Trail, a 15-mile loop starting in Devil’s Den State Park in northwest Arkansas and extending into the National Forest. On Thursday night, the weather forecast called for 100% chance of rain on Saturday, so I packed rain gear and extra clothes in case of a downpour. I wasn’t able to get a campsite at the state park for Friday night, but I called a friend near Devil’s Den and asked to pitch a tent in his yard.


Mandy and I left town at six o’clock on Friday night and headed to John’s house. When we arrived, I saw lightning in the distance and opted to leave the tent packed and sleep in the back of the car. About eleven, Bryan saved this radar image. I was glad for the solid roof during the night storm.

Saturday’s weather was a little damp but not unpleasant. We shared the trail with about thirty boyscouts and several interesting bugs. Here’s a photo of one of the weirder woolly worms we saw.


And here’s a short video of the world’s smallest inchworm.

[insert inchworm video here]

The tiny inchworm was pleasant company during a forced stop beside the trail. We’d passed all the boy scout groups and were enjoying having the woods to ourselves when Mandy got a nosebleed. We had to sit eating jellybeans and watching them troop by. “Do you need anything?” “No, we’re fine.” “Well, it’s a pretty place to have a nosebleed, I guess.”


This spring’s excessive rain has made everything muddy and gross. Since foot traffic shares a lot of this trail with horses, anyplace that’s the least bit damp becomes a deep, goopy mess. We had to bypass lots of fallen trees and big mudholes. All the drainages were running with water.


We passed the turnout for the boy scout camp about three in the afternoon. (We’d spent the day with thirty boys and wanted to spend the night away from them.) We somehow turned onto a high horse trail and away from the Butterfield, but the excellent map we’d bought for a buck at the visitors center indicated that if we continued on, we’d meet up with our loop again. The accidental bypass was one of the more pleasant stretches of the trail!

All the rain has caused some slumping between miles 11 and 12. There were cracks in the trail, some big enough to put a basketball in. At one point part of the trail has fallen two or three feet.


We hiked about nine miles on Saturday and decided to call it quits about 6 pm. We set up the tent while waiting for our supper to cook, and were in bed by dark. It had been overcast and damp all day but had never rained at all.


Sunday morning we slept in a bit, then cooked breakfast before packing up. As usual, we didn’t leave camp until about ten, and just as we got down to the trail, we met up with the first group of boy scouts. It was the same small group we’d started with the day before, and we’d hike near them for the rest of the trip. At the end, as we were putting our poles on our packs, they left the woods too.

We hiked to the visitor center to meet Harry Harnish, the “Bat Man of Devil’s Den.” He’s been an interpreter at the park for twenty-some years and has done eleventy hundred bat education programs for school kids and adults. Since he’ll be retiring this summer, we wanted to go on his guided hike of the crevice area in the park. We enjoyed it thoroughly and even got to see a pair of baby black vultures from just a few feet away, since he showed us their nest in the bottom of a crevice.

[insert Harry photo here if possible]

We ate excellent Mexican food in Alma and were home before bedtime. It was a good weekend for both of us.