In June of 2020 a team from AcadianX traveled to the Ouachita National Forest to take on the backpacking trail known as Eagle Rock Loop. The Ouachita National Forest is the oldest National Forest in the southern United States. The forest encompasses 1,784,457 acres (7,221 km2), including most of the scenic Ouachita Mountains. Six locations in the forest, comprising 65,000 acres (263 km2), have been designated as wilderness areas.
Ouachita is the French spelling of the Indian word Washita, which means “good hunting grounds.” The forest was known as Arkansas National Forest on its establishment on December 18, 1907; the name was changed to Ouachita National Forest on April 29, 1926.
In a magazine article, State Representative Osro Cobb describes the area that he had sought to protect for future generations. He compared flora and fauna in the Ouachita forest to those of the southern Alleghenies, a division of the Appalachian Mountains. Cobb continues:
“A visitor standing upon one of the many majestic peaks in the area of the proposed park is thrilled by a panoramic view that cannot be had elsewhere in the South Central States. With cheeks flushed by the invigorating mountain breezes, the mountain climber is rewarded by an inspiring view of countless and nameless peaks, mountain groups, dense forests, and inviting valleys, all merging into the distant horizon. … there are many mountain streams, now moving slowly in narrow but deep pools, then churning with savage ferocity down some water-worn precipice, leaving in its wake snow-white sprays … Fed by crystal springs and like so much molten silver these streams flow their turbulent courses unappreciated and rarely visited. …”
The AcadianX team started their 4 day journey at the Little Missouri Falls and followed the trail in a counter clockwise direction. The total trail was 25.6 miles with a total elevation gain of 2,505 ft. Day 1 consisted of a 5.2 mile hike and camped at Straight Creek. Day 2 pushed out a 7.0 mile hike through the mountain zone and finally resting at Viles Branch Creek. Day 3 took us on a roughly 10.0 mile hike through the Winding Staircase and the Albert Pike Recreation Area and finally camping at Long Creek. On day 4 we completed the final 6.1 miles ending up back at the Little Missouri Falls.