whitaker point ozark national forest

About a month ago, my family and I took a trip to Ponca, Arkansas. With a full weekend of activities planned, I was most looking forward to our first activity: hiking Arkansas’ top rated trail, Whitaker Point.

Although at first it may seem like another stroll through the Arkansas wilderness, the final point of the trail makes it well worth the walk. A large projecting rock called Hawksbill Crag allows you to walk out over the vast valley below, covered with millions of trees as far as the eye can see.

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I’d heard about the trail for a while, but every time I tried to plan a visit, I was informed that the area was closed due to the Corona Virus pandemic. Since the location is so popular, the National Parks Service decided to keep the trail closed until the state was reopened.

But after three months of waiting, we were finally given the okay by Arkansas State Parks to make the trek. Ponca was only about an hour and a half from my house, and I was surprised that it took such little time to get to the heart of the wilderness from one of the most urban parts of the state.

Once in the town, we set our sights on finding the trailhead. We were told that we could find it after driving just a few miles off the main road. But as we slowly bounced along the dust and dirt, we learned how long a “country mile” really is. Almost 20 minutes later, we finally found the trail, quite hidden considering its great popularity.

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Our hike started out just like any other in Arkansas: beautiful and serene. Butterflies fluttered by us as we walked below a canopy of trees. Every now and then, we would hear a soft stream in the distance, and upon reaching it, we’d laugh as we each struggled to cross without getting our shoes wet.

It wasn’t long before we reached the clearing in the trees and saw the real reason we had traveled this far. Before us was a steep cliff, and below and all around were millions of trees, resting like a green pillow across the entire skyline.

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At each small outcropping of rock, we stopped to look at the view, but there’s truly none better than that of Hawksbill Crag. Sticking far out above the valley, the rock allows an indescribable sight, a clear and unobstructed view of the entire landscape. I took some self-restraint to keep from running to the edge and yelling “I’m the king of the world!”

The trail wasn’t too busy that day, so we were able to take our time on the rock, sitting in the sun and observing the land all around us. I knew that this was already a once in a life time view, but something inside me told me to inch a little closer to the edge.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t going to get anywhere near falling off the side. But I thought to myself, what if instead of taking extra precautions, staying 20 to 30 feet from the ledge, I was just 10 or 5 feet away? Why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to see it all?

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Undoubtedly, my family wasn’t so thrilled with my idea. Although I was still a relatively safe distance from the edge, my parents and siblings willed me to step back. But I could see the perfect seat, not too dangerous, that would give me the very best view.

Finally, after convincing everyone I would be extra careful, I stepped forward. I could see the thousands of trees that seemed like miles below me. I could see the sun making its descent to my right into the blanket of green below. I could see every inch in my sight covered in vibrant color. And I took my time on that ledge, painting a perfect mental image of the scene before me, making sure I would never forget it.

Being on the edge was a little scary at first, but after I found a comfortable, safe position, I was filled with confidence. I had again passed a mental obstacle. I knew that if I had traveled to this spot four months before, I would never have been able to have made it this far.

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My experiences over the past few months had made me hungry for adventure. I was more sure of myself and willing to put myself out there to find more of who I was.

Sitting on Hawksbill Crag and staring at what seemed like the entire world, I learned that sometimes the best place to be is on the edge. Sometimes, to get the most out of your life, you have to take risks. I didn’t put my life on the line for the beautiful view, but I pushed myself to go a little out of my comfort zone, to get the most out of an experience I would probably never get again.

Now, when I remember Hawksbill Crag I won’t only remember the glorious view and beautiful pictures we took, but I’ll remember the feeling I got of being on top of the world, of a great victory over fear.

Life isn’t always going to be easy, and when it’s all set and done, I want to look back knowing I lived to the fullest. That I took risks and was made stronger because of them.

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Have you ever decided to just go for it? To take that opportunity even though you knew it was risky? How did it work out for you? Comment below!


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