15 September 2010

Devil's Den State Park - Part 3

What? You thought two posts about our trip were enough? Think again. It was one of the best weekends ever, so I'm going to share more of it.
(Plus there isn't much new to photograph at the farm right now. You know those jokes about boring things- watching paint dry or grass grow. We have a lot of grass growing. But I'm not complaining- not at all. We are so thankful for the rain that Hurricane Hermine dropped on us.)
One of the highlights of the trip for me was the top-secret crevice hike. Ok, so it wasn't that big of a secret, it was mentioned on every flyer and bulletin board. It is a guided hike they do each Sunday morning. The thing that makes it secret is that the trail isn't marked or shown on the trail maps. So unless you wander onto one of the trails by mistake or go on the guided hike you will miss some of the coolest geologic features of this park. I must say, having a guide there to explain the geology of it helped.

The hike started out normal enough. Nice quite woods, nothing unfamiliar. But you better watch where you are stepping, because before long you encounter holes in the ground. Deep holes, some of the holes are just a few feet around, just big enough to catch a leg and break a hip, some are long cracks in the surface, but they are all deep. Then we encounter one of the largest crevices.

On a side note, everytime our guide said crevice, I thought of the guide we had a few years ago on a glacier hike in Norway. He pronounced it cre-VAZ.
We hiked down into 2 of the crevices. The deepest one was 55 feet.

The entrances to the bat caves are in these crevices.
So I just got curious and looked up this whole crevice/crevasse issue. Apparently the Norwegian guide didn't just have an accent, it's a totally difference word. You learn something everyday.
Which also means that these humongous cracks in the ground, the ones that are the equivalent of a 5 story building are not crevices.
Back to the crevasse hike. . .
The bat caves are closed to the public currently because of the horrible white nose fungus that is killing off bat populations across the US. The bats in these caves are Ozark Big-Eared bats, which were endangered before the fungus.
Can you see the guide in this photo? She is wearing a tan shirt, and sitting deep in this crevasse. That gives some perspective of how big these cracks are.

In case you were wondering why this area isn't on the maps, it is because it is dangerous. You really do have to watch where you are walking. We were very impressed with the State of Arkansas for not requiring fences and signs all over this area. There is just one sign at the beginning of the hike that warns that it is a natural area and to be careful.
One of the crevasses is called Dead Horse Crevice because a horse (thankfully without a rider) got spooked and fell to an instant death. There wasn't any way for the park to get the horse out, so they did their best to tuck it under rocks and branches and covered it with organic matter. A few years later a hiker brought the skull of Ginger, the horse, to the visitor center claiming to have found a dinosaur skull. (I'm guessing that hiker was a city slicker. I haven't seen many horse skulls, but cow skulls are a pretty common sight around here.)
If you go to Devil's Den State Park, it is worth it to get up a little early on Sunday morning to go on this hike.

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