I’m not one to make plans when I travel, I usually fly by the seat of my pants and figure things out along the way. So far things have worked out pretty well for me, but that was until I attempted to visit Hawksbill Crag, aka Whitaker Point.
This was the last stop I was making on my way home from a 56 day road trip cross country. I was in Roswell, NM getting some car repairs done when I thought “Damn, would be pretty legit to see the sunrise at Hawksbill tomorrow morning”. So my buddy Mike and I hit the road and drove about 1,000 miles and 16 hours to make it to Hawksbill Crag around 4am. Both of us were exhausted but once we got off the highway and the GPS said less than 1 hour we caught our third wind.
From the moment we got into Arkansas we completely lost service. Between the two of us we had three phones, Spring, Verizon and AT&T, not a single one would give us a signal. Luckily we still had one of the webpages up with directions to Hawksbill Crag so we followed them to a T. We came in from the south side and turned down a dirt road as the directions said, just to find out that this entrance would be restricted for high clearance vehicles only, and to be quite honest, I’m not even sure how they could get up this road. After jacking up the bottom of my car on what seemed like 100 boulders we managed to turn back around, but now we had another problem, gas was at a premium. With no service we had to resort to my dated, in car GPS to find the closest gas station; it was 45 minuets away.
We hopped back on the county road and began to drive towards the gas station doing everything I could to keep my foot off the gas and brake pedals to conserve our gas. To make things even more interesting there were switchbacks every 100 feet for the entire length of the drive so coasting through these turns got a little dicey. We eventually pulled into the gas station with no more than 2 mi left in the tank as the sun just started to rise. The attendant provided us with directions as he does everyone who ends up at his gas station trying to find this obscure place. Unbeknownst to us we were now only 10 minutes away from the north entrance…. finally some good news!
With a full tank, directions, breakfast, and coffee we started to trek back, turning down the dirt road he describe. Just a half mile later the two of us looked at each other and realized this was someones private property we were on, and not the entrance to Hawksbill Crag. Another U-turn back to the county road we go, but just a stones throw away we found the entrance, this time for real. So that should be the end of the story right? Ha…haha…..hahahah.
Route 5 from the north entrance is the 6 mile dirt road you’ll want to take
6 miles of dirt road
It’s been a long night/morning at this point but we finally found the entrance however the journey was still far from over. We read that this drive is doable with a sedan but not necessarily easy, and I would have to agree with that 100%. For the first couple miles the climb up this dirt road was practically vertical. It was pretty tricky trying to find the right speed that would keep you moving up the mountain without spinning out but also not going too fast to where you would bottom out. For me that speed was right between 6-8mph, no joke. Living in New Jersey and having just driven through the Rockies in the winter I would say I’m pretty decent at controlling my car through difficult terrain and crappy conditions. The big difference here was that we were spinning out just as much on a completely dry dirt road as we were when climbing the snowy mountains of Colorado. That gives you a pretty good idea of how steep this climb was.
About 45 minutes later we found 3 other cards parked on the side of the road and saw signs for the trail head, we made it! Just kidding, one more adventure in store for us.
Hiking the wrong trail
A mixture of no sleep, a long night of driving driving and excitement to finally make it to the trail head is enough to make anyone loopy. Not really thinking too clearly, we got out of the car, grabbed the camera gear and started walking down the trail which was suppose to be just under 2 miles one way. As we approached the one mile mark the trail ended. Thoroughly confused, the two of us split up trying to find where this trail picked back up, we both came up empty handed. U-turns seemed to be the thing to do during this trip so we pulled one more and headed back to the trail head to take another look at the map. Standing there for 5 minuets trying to see where the hell we went wrong, Mike just happened to find that there was another unmarked trail, just on the other side of the road. Looking back on it, that makes complete sense that the trail would be on the left seeing how the parking and trail map were on the right (sarcasm).
On the right course
It was probably just a couple minutes down this second trail that we realized we were finally in the right direction. The trail was much wider, well marked, and we even saw a couple people hiking back up. The hike was all downhill and relatively easy taking just about 15 minuets. It was right around 11am when we arrived, clearly missing the sunrise but it was still everything we hopped it would be and them some. The views from Hawksbill Crag are jaw dropping and I would imagine they would be even more impressive during the spring and fall, however going during the off season and having this place all to ourselves was nothing short of amazing.
Although it seemed like nothing went right trying to get to this place, it’s these kind of adventures that made our final destination that much better. As I’m writing this post and reliving these events I just sit here and laugh about everything that happened that day. It was one hell of a journey and something that I will never forget.