Spring Break Road Trip 2022 | Day 5 | Crystal, AR to Goldonna, LA | Hiking Driskill Mountain, Louisiana’s Highest Point & Kayaking on the Saline Bayou | March 2022
On day 5, we packed up our campsite in Arkansas and began the drive further South to Louisiana. There wasn’t much that interested us on our route, making much of today a less-than-interesting driving day, but it turned out to be a great day nonetheless and even contained a highlight for this entire road trip.
Our only stop in Arkansas for today was at Poison Springs Battleground State Park – a small battle from the Civil War during the Red River campaign. In 1864, the Union attempted to invade Texas via the Red River and overland from Little Rock. But overextended supply lines left the Union exposed, and small battles like that at Poison Springs ultimately stopped the expedition. The park turned out to be just a small picnic area on the side of the road, with a quarter-mile loop trail through the woods and informational plaques. It wasn’t what we were expecting, but it made for the perfect spot to stop, stretch our legs, and let Charlotte sniff around.
We continued further South until we entered Louisiana — my 48th state, Curtis’ 47th, and Charlotte’s 45th. Also the first “new state” Curtis and I have crossed into since our Alaska trip back in 2019. We didn’t have much planned for our time in this state, but we were excited to make the most of the beautiful day we had to spend there.
One of the big things that surprised us about Louisiana (at least the Northern parts we drove through) was how forested it was. It became quite clear that the primary industry of the whole region was lumber. I was just expecting it to be all swamp or similar to the Low Country in South Carolina, but there was actually some elevation change and the drive actually felt scenic. It wasn’t much elevation change obviously, since Louisiana has the third lowest high point (4th if you count DC).
Speaking of Louisiana’s high point, our main goal for today was to hike to the top! We drove to the trailhead, which is located right off of a church parking lot. The beginning of the trail doubles as a service road, but eventually breaks off and continues the trek uphill. At .2 miles, there was an optional route with a sign stating this trail would also go up and over the second highest point in Louisiana, False Mountain. The sign indicated that this trail should only be taken by experienced hikers. With this being our 27th high point, we decided we were experienced and up for the challenge, so we turned and made our way up the hill.
They weren’t kidding about it being a difficult climb — it was 100 feet of elevation gain in only a quarter mile! But we made it, and then lost most of that elevation gain going down the other side. Honestly the only tricky part was getting around some fallen trees and navigating the not-as-clear trail. It was also starting to warm up, so naturally I started thinking about snakes and other pests that come out when the temperatures start to rise.
We made our final push up to the summit and arrived at the peak of Driskill Mountain, at 535 feet of elevation. We took a little break at the high point bench to admire the view, then took some pictures and signed the logbook. High Point #27 (21 for Charlotte) in the books! For our return trip, we opted to take the easy route, and the rest of our hike was uneventful. If you’re interested, check out our AllTrails recording here.
Once back at the car, we drove for a little less than an hour further South before arriving at our campsite for the night. Tonight we were staying in the Cloud Crossing Campsite in Kisatchie National Forest, a free first come-first served site. We arrived and chose a spot and started setting up, then immediately 3 RVs (all unrelated) happened to arrived at the exact same time. I guess we were officially in the South where camping season was well underway, and we wouldn’t be enjoying any more empty campgrounds like we had the first two nights of this trip! We really did enjoy this spot though — everyone was pretty quiet and spaced out, and who could complain when it’s free? The informational board at the beginning had quite a few interesting notices though — one about alligator safety, another about flash floods, and a third about increased chances of trees falling due to a recent hurricane. Thankfully we experienced none of these in our one night here, though it confirmed in my mind that it was the right choice to come here early in the spring, before the alligators come out of hiding….
The campsite happened to be right on the banks of the Saline Bayou, a National Scenic River administered by the USFS, so we broke out our kayak and went for a little ride. We had never kayaked on water so perfectly still (though technically it is flowing) — everything was mirrored so perfectly by the water, it was like floating on air. The river meandered through the tall cypress trees making 180 degree turns every quarter mile and it really made you feel boxed in, unable to see upstream or downstream, just the tree filled banks to either side. It made us think that this is how we should have experienced Congaree National Park and other places in South Carolina.
We also decided to try having Charlotte sit up in the front with me for the first time. We aren’t sure if it made her enjoy kayaking any more than normal, but she seemed to like being able to see everything in front of her without having me obstructing her view. However, she did this nervous tap-dance with her back feet, like she was never relaxed enough to sit still, so we eventually turned around and headed back to the campsite. After a while, I admit I also was getting nervous — it was quiet, almost too quiet, and I was certain that the sounds coming from nearby bushes or the big patch of bubbles were all coming from alligators about to feast on us, though Curtis claims that he only saw turtles.
Charlotte and I returned to the tent and Curtis went out to kayak for a little longer, then we made dinner and settled in for the night. We agreed that the kayak ride was a highlight of this trip so far, and was probably the best way for us to experience and appreciate some of the beauty Louisiana has to offer.