Trail Highlight: Lincoln Lake, and a digression
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
First, the digression. Before I tell you all about this little gem of a trail - another top pick for Doc and me - let's talk about something even more important this time of year: Spider web avoidance techniques. I have been ridiculed for expressing my shock and horror over the number of webs one encounters in AR. People scoff. These people are the casual hikers, the fair-weather hikers, the paved-trail hikers. They don't know. I've counted, and lost count, of the number of webs I've seen/ran through on trails. I'm talking upwards of 50 on a five-mile hike. These are not the fairy-gossamer strands that lightly caress your face in the springtime. Mid-July brings the spider webs that make you understand why the military wants to use webs to make body armor. And 99% of them have a respectably-sized Orb Weaver in them. Spiders are amazing, please don't think I hate them. I simply hate having them in my hair!
OK, you're convinced. Let's get down to brass tacks. You need what I refer to as a "goofy hat," and a "spider stick." The goofy hat is just a fisherman's hat with a floppy brim. I hate hats, and feel silly in them, hence the "goofy." It'll keep the sun off your neck, the sweat out of your eyes, and the spiderwebs out of your face (and prevent the little ladies - female Orb Weavers are the web builders - from hanging out in your hair).
A spider stick really is goofy, and I will quickly jettison mine if I encounter other hikers. A simple mid-sized stick will do the trick, but if you're serious, you'll look for some other qualities. Small branches, fanning out on the far end are ideal. A stick that curves slightly back in your direction is also very helpful. These two things will help to create a full shield. I once met a hiker carrying a beautiful, perfect, many-branched spider stick. He confessed that he kept it in the car, carrying it from hike to hike. We bonded. Find your stick, and hold it boldly in front of you as you hike.
You will need to stop often to dislodge spiders from the stick. Otherwise, they'll likely head down the stick, and then down your arm. This was not your goal. I like to gently deposit them onto a nearby plant or tree, and continue on my way. I've ended up with some cool non-spiders on my stick too.
See you on the trail! I think I'll be easy to spot.
It felt appropriate to talk about spider webs in conjunction with this trail because, while it's a popular spot, it's not as well-traveled as some, particularly on weekdays. Bikers enjoy the trails here as well, so it's clear of fallen trees, and easy to follow, but everything grows like crazy in the summer, so things get jungle-like pretty quickly. Don't let this keep you away, the Lake Loop offers much more than the the opportunity to explore the extent of your arachnophobia.
The Lake Loop Trail clocks in at right around 4.5 miles if you don't explore the spurs, and has phenomenal lake views. This is another great trail for wildflowers and mushrooms. This is the first spot I see many favorite Arkansas wildflowers. I don't know if, for some reason, they appear here before they do other nearby trails, or if Doc and I are just here a lot. Last year, Fire Pink and Wild Hyacinth cropped up here first for me, and just last week I had my first sighting of Cardinal Flowers for this year.
As for mushrooms, this will always be the trail where I saw Monotropa Uniflora, known as Ghost Pipes. These are not actually mushrooms, but you can see why they are commonly called such.
This year, I saw my first ever Indigo Milkcap mushroom here. Seeing a species I've been seeing for years in my mushroom group out on a trail "IRL" is amazing.
The wildlife here seems pretty comfortable with people, and we've seen possums, turtles, skinks, raccoons, eagles, and we just about always see a deer or two. If you're into rock climbing or fishing, this is also a key spot. The bluffs and huge boulders mean there's a great deal to explore off-trail as well.
For me, any trail that includes the opportunity to walk across the top of a dam ranks pretty high on the list. The views are always amazing, and it's a good opportunity to soak up some sun if you've been under cover of fully-leafed-out summer trees for a few miles. Last week, the Lincoln Dam was a corridor of dragon flies. I don't think I've ever seen so many in one spot. This speaks well for the quality of the lake water! Dragonflies are missing from areas where the water is polluted. Keep an eye out for bald eagles while you're up here too. One of the side trails here is called the Eagle View Loop Trail, and there's good reason for that.
Lincoln Lake's Loop Trail is a year-round hiking destination for Doc and I, in spite of the eight-legged beasties. The lake views are a joy, and it's a top-notch place to get introduced to many of Arkansas' wildflowers. It's not a hugely popular spot, but it is well-loved by those in the know.