Spring has come to the park once again. I love the smells and sounds of this time of year. There are tiny buds all over the trees. The spring birds are back and filling up the air with their songs. The winter bleakness is behind us. The warm air hits my face as I hike on one of our trails here at Lake Catherine State Park. I decide to hike Falls Branch.
There is so much to see on this trail. There is a nice little creek that greets you at the beginning. There are a series o f bridges that you must cross to traverse the trail. In front of me, I find a fern garden. The fiddleheads are poking through.
As I start to climb upwards I am greeted by the novaculite glade. Novaculite is a very special rock found in Hot Springs. The Native Americans used this rock extensively in their everyday life. You may know it as the knife sharpening stone or whetstone. This rock weathers very slowly.
I continue on my journey stopping for a moment at a bench to rest and take a drink. There is a slight breeze blowing that gently pushes my hair from my face. I hike on. There is a group of rocks to my left that overlooks the area I just came from, I affectionately nicknamed them the Pulpit Rock as I can imagine someone standing in front of them and reading a verse or two.
There is no creek on top of the mountain right now, but I know that I will pick up Falls Creek Falls soon. Upwards I climb, I pass the intersection of where Falls Branch meets Horseshoe Mountain and I know that I am on the downward stretch. All around the Serviceberry has bloomed. I hear that they received their name because of the early days when there were traveling preachers, this was the bloom that coincided with the first services of the year as the snow melted and roads became passable again. I start hearing the creek and I know that I will be on the home stretch soon.
There are many downed trees from previous storms around me and I am in awe to see the root system that they have and know that this tree had stood for 50 years before an ice storm or a mighty wind took it down.
As I continue my journey down, I start seeing the series of waterfalls that will lead to the major waterfall. One waterfall has moss growing down and the water drips off the moss into the pool below. I watch my footing as I descend steps built by the Civilian Conservation Corps many years ago. Finally, I am at the waterfall. It is flowing pretty well as we had rain and it filled the creek. I take a few pictures and head on. I am almost to the finish now. I see the lake in front of me and then there is Remmel Dam. The dam was built in 1924 and was the first hydroelectric dam in the state of Arkansas. This dam created Lake Catherine.
I come to the swinging bridge. I love this part, wobbling across this bridge that expands over a small ditch. I round the curve and see Bald Cypress trees to my right. This about the only place in the park that these trees are found. They love wet soil.
I walk on to the parking lot and my journey is finished for now.
Julie Tharp is the park interpreter at Lake Catherine State Park and has worked there since 2006. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Parks and Recreation from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide and a member of the National Association for Interpretation. Julie enjoys photography and playing with her dogs in her spare time. She grew up camping in the state parks and likes to share nature with park visitors.