By Brian Thompson, Ozark Society President

David Eddy and Dixie, both 700-milers

    David Eddy, an attorney from Russellville, is our third recipient of the Ozark Society Sassafras Hiking Award.   To qualify for this award, you must have hiked the lengths of The Ozark Highland’s Trail, The Ouachita Trail, the Buffalo River Trail, and the Ozark Trail in Missouri, for a distance exceeding 700 miles.

    David grew up in Morrilton, hunting deer and turkey in the Arkansas woods.  “As Thoreau once mused, one finds that hunting and fishing are simply a good introduction to the forest and there is much more to be discovered.”   He’s floated almost all of the mountain streams of the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, having bought his first canoe (an Ouachita) in 1974, which he wrapped around a tree on a swollen Mulberry River in 1975. He still has his Old Town Tripper he bought from the Pack Rat in Fayetteville in 1979.

David has section-hiked the Ozark Highland Trail several times, as well as the Ouachita Trail. In fact, hiking the Ouachita Trail each late winter to early spring has almost become an annual ritual. He enjoys hiking the Eagle Rock Loop and Caney Creek Trails in the southern Ouachita Mountains.

    In addition to these, he has section hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine (2,200 miles) over several years, including a 6 ½ week 450-mile final section hike in 2017 from Hanover, New Hampshire, to the northern terminus on Mt. Katahdin, Maine. In the last few years, he returned to New England to hike southward from Mt. Katahdin to Kinsman Notch, New Hampshire, about 400 miles.   He’s also hiked 300 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota north from Duluth to the Canadian border through the mountains on the west shore of Lake Superior.  Lastly, he has hiked the flat and sometimes swampy 96-mile Lone Star Trail in the Sam Houston National Forest in east Texas.

    David usually hikes alone, except for a beagle friend (he’s always had beagles), and prefers to spend several days and nights on the trail at a time.  Often, he will simply hike to a special place burdened with photography gear just to camp out and capture the late evening and early morning light.  “No one taught me the basics of distance hiking. I learned by taking the wrong gear, wearing the wrong clothing, and many other mistakes.” After more than 6,000 miles of hiking, he is still learning.

     David cherishes his time in the woods and loves the experience of sleeping in the woods, listening to the night sounds of owls and coyotes, and the snorting of deer who chance upon his campsite. Waking in the middle of the night, leaving his tent, and gazing at the stars is a bonus. He usually drinks filtered creek water coffee as light forms in the east, and is hiking as the first sunlight strikes the tops of the trees. He finds nature at its best this time of day. Finding a great campsite at the end of a hard day is another joy.

     David is hard-pressed to name his favorite trail or part thereof but loves the Hurricane Creek Wilderness area of the OHT, the high points on Fourche Mountain on the Ouachita Trail, the Eagle Rock Loop in fall, and the Buckeye/Caney Creek Trail in early April.

Congratulations David!