THE TRAIL GROWS COLD……
This year’s annual tradition of the New Years Day hike at Woolly Hollow State Park is shrouded in mystery, and help is being sought to solve it. Fortunately, there are a few clues and the suspects themselves are few in number. However, the trail grows cold…..
Cold indeed! By 11 that morning, New Year’s Day, the temperatures had risen from single digit, but were still below freezing. But the sky was clear, the sun was shining and the wind seemed to have taken a break, making for a very pleasant day to hike – provided you dressed for it – which is where our mystery comes in.
Resident park ranger and trail interpreter Margaret Ellis opened the ceremonies with a group photo of the small gathering that was to hit the trail. Myself, future NIT Jeff (Welcome Jeff!), and guests Janelle and her daughter Noelle stood close to each other as much for body heat and wind blockage as to get everyone in the shot. That is where our mystery man first appears – if you look closely you can see him skulking behind Janelle. First clue: he doesn’t like his picture taken!
Margaret started with giving us a brief history of the park and its origins, then proceeded to open the Woolly Cabin a give a tour and history lesson on it. The inside and outside of the cabin were explored, and Margaret used the day’s conditions to relate how the Woolly’s would have spent their New Year’s Day with the same conditions while living in the cabin. It was her opinion, shared by many of the group, that they probably didn’t go outside much and the fireplace would have been active all day.
Given the conditions, Margaret opted to take us down the Cabin Trail, which starts at the Woolly Cabin and connects to the Gold Creek Loop close to its trailhead. Overall length of the excursion was to be a little over one-half mile. Margaret stopped several times along the trail to share information on trees and some of their unique properties. The state park has done a fine job of putting tree labels along the trail, so hikers wanting to brush up on their tree identification skills will like this part of the trail.
The trail runs parallel to Gold Creek as it nears the trail junction. Ice formations in the creek and along its edges made a very pretty wintery scene. Mystery man made some mention of the privet growing along the creek bank, which is actually another one of our clues….
The hike wrapped up shortly after that. But not before I could sneak a full body photo and gather a few more clues about who this man actually is. The clues are as follows:
a> His speech patterns indicate to me that he is a native Arkansan, probably from somewhere around the Pine Bluff area
b> His tree identification skills and his immediate recognition of privet tell me he is probably a Master Naturalist
c> Given the way he dressed, I would say he doesn’t like the cold
d> Despite his somewhat ominous appearance and shy nature, he is friendly and can be approached easily. Once you engage him, be prepared to hear a real yarn.
Please study the photos closely. It is my opinion that this mystery man is someone among us. If you have any ideas, feel free to let me know. There may be a prize (note: prize, not reward) for the person who solves the mystery.