Closed for Now

Hello all you campers and hikers. I’m shutting the gates here at the Hideout until further notice. Once the crisis of Covid-19 has passed, I’ll open them back up. And guess what? We’ll be putting in some cabins in the meantime. Maybe they’ll be ready when we’ve all come out on the other side!

Take care and stay virus-free and semi-sane 😀

Spring is Almost Here in the Upper Buffalo River Valley!

I bet we get some freezing temps, maybe some snow and ice before it’s all said and done, but spring is almost here in the upper Buffalo River Valley. And I’m so excited to be greeting my old plant friends once again.

Here are some of my favorites to watch for in early spring. You’ll find all of these in the shady, moist areas so common to the Buffalo River Valley. Aside from flowers, though, I like to watch for the greenery of those I know will bloom soon. It’s just nice to see signs of life and know that the forests are waking up again.

  • harbinger of spring (often the very first flower I see)
  • dead nettle and henbit
  • Dutchman’s breeches
  • false rue anemone (true rue anemone is out there too)
  • grape and rattlesnake fern
  • vernal witch hazel (already missed these – they bloom way early, like in Jan-February, sometimes even December)
  • trout lilies (see image at the top of this post)

Hare’s Hideout Primitive Campground

You can find out how to visit us and book a stay HERE. We’ve got lots of wooded areas, creeksides, seeps and springs and waterfalls where these plants can be found.

Get ready for butterflies too! Lots of those to be found around here.

Beech Nuts are a Real Thing, and They’re Edible

Until I moved to the Ozarks, the phrase ‘beech nut’ only brought to mind a certain flavor of chewing tobacco. I’m not even sure that it’s a flavor. Maybe it’s just a brand name or something. I’m not a tobacco chewer, lol, so haven’t really paid close attention, but that’s what I thought of when I heard the words. However, I’ve seen real beech nuts since then and they really are nuts from a beech tree.

Additionally, they’re supposed to be a nutritious snack that can be foraged while out in the woods. I haven’t tried that yet, but will go out to see if I can find some today. You shouldn’t eat these raw, though. They need to be roasted, like chestnuts, to deactivate the saponin glycosides that are naturally present. Saponins are what gives soap it’s lather. Many seeds, like quinoa, have a saponin coating on them, nature’s way to protect themselves from predation. A few raw ones won’t hurt you, but a handful might cause some painful stomach upset.

Unlike the Hop Hornbeam I wrote about last week, at least I don’t think you won’t get a finger full of stickers when you try to gather beech nuts. The nut husks do look a bit prickly, but I don’t think they’ll be so painful to get at as the hornbeams.

The tree is distinctive in the riparian forests of the Buffalo River valley and else where around here. The easiest way to identify them is by their smooth light gray trunks. Here and there on the trunks of older trees are little clusters of tiny branches that seem to have never developed into limbs. Mature trees can get quite large in trunk girth, but most of the ones I see are much younger than that.

After most of the leaves have fallen from other trees, beech seems to cling to the past. Sometimes, they still have leaves when next season’s green starts coming on. They’re almost always still fully leafed here in winter snows.

If you touch the trunk, the bark almost feels like skin, rather than bark because it’s so smooth.

There’s plenty of them to see in the Boxley, Ponca, and anywhere along the Buffalo river area. There are even beech forests here.

Beech forest occurs on north facing slopes in moist ravines in the western portion of the Buffalo National River.

Where beech trees are abundant, it indicates good soil with access to a permanent water table. Most of the time they’re an understory tree within a predominant oak and hickory forest. There are beech trees at Hare’s Hideout Primitive Campground, too.

Beech nuts almost ready to harvest.
Beech nuts almost ready to harvest. © 2019 Robert Christopher

If you’re in far northwest Arkansas and want to see a very large and beautiful specimen beech, with easy access and clearly identified, there is one in the front parking area of the Compton Gardens in Bentonville.

About the Author
Madison Woods is a local artist who makes her watercolor paints from the Ozark rocks.

Something Shady is Going on with the Hop Hornbeam

Probably, the first tree that comes to mind at the mention of the Upper Buffalo River Valley is beech. And we do have a lot of those iconic trees. But I figured I’d talk about one that gets a bit less appreciation. Hop Hornbeam, or Ostrya virginiana, as it is known by the scientific name. Later I’ll probably get around to the beech trees, as they’re my personal favorite, to be honest.

Hop Hornbeam, also called ironwood, or muscle-wood trees, are small under-story trees. The average hiker is probably not even going to notice them most of the time. But they have good qualities worth knowing. It’s also possible they have a dark side – ooohhh fascinating. I’m digging a little deeper into that dark side today, but first I’ll get this post going. I’ll come back to that later.

The Hop in Hop Hornbeam

It’s the seedpods that look like hops (you know, the herb for making beer). They’re not the same thing, though. Here’s one the Mr. of Hare’s Hideout plucked not too long ago:

A seed pod from the hop hornbeam tree.
A seed pod from the hop hornbeam tree. Photograph ©2019 Robert Christopher

Good things about Hop Hornbeam Trees

If you’re hiking through the woods and need to reach out and grab a tree for support, say you’re slip-sliding down an embankment and would rather slow down a bit. Well, a hop hornbeam tree would be a good choice. They’re not too big so just right for grabbing. The bark is smooth, so no bloody fingers. And the tree is incredibly strong, so it most likely won’t let you down.

Most people don’t care much about them one way or the other. But if you add a few sticks of their dried wood to your fire to get it going, whew, it’ll warm up the house quick! It’s a dense wood.

They don’t ever get very large.

Some shady business

The Mr. (that would be Robert) snatched one of these pods through the car window on the way to school one morning. Well, the young Miss (that would be his daughter, Casey) wanted to inspect it. So he passed it over to her. So here’s where it starts getting shady.

As she began pulling the petals apart on the pod, the thing shot little stickers into her fingers.

Say What??

In all the reading I’ve done on these trees, none of them ever mention such a bad behavior from the pods. All I’ve read talks about how nice and edible the seeds are. They supposedly make a good survival forage.

Here’s the Question

Have YOU ever pulled one of these apart to look inside them? Did they fill your fingertips with little clear stickers? I’m heading down to the tree I know on my driveway in a few minutes to see if that one does. I’ll report back shortly. I’m wearing gloves, just in case…


Okay- so I just did my little bit of investigating. How is it that NONE OF THE SITES MENTION THIS?!!! I did wear gloves, and I did carry them in a bag, just to be on the safe side. But some of the wicked little needles found their way into my skin anyway.

HOW IS THIS EDIBLE?? Just goes to show that you can’t just read things on the internet and take it for granted that they know what they’re talking about. Yes, the seeds may be edible. But you’re gonna suffer something terrible to get at them. My recommendation is that you don’t even try this at home. But if you want to see what’s inside those curious little hop things hanging on the trees, make sure you wear gloves. You’ll have to pull the petals apart, and then look closely on your fingers to see the needles. They’re clear like little blades of fiberglass. Just waiting to find some nice skin to embed into. If you didn’t wear gloves, you won’t need to wonder if what I’m saying is real. You’ll know. Trust me.

Links for more info:

About the Author
Madison Woods is a local artist who makes her watercolor paints from the Ozark rocks.

Three Hard to See Birds that are Often Heard in Northwest Arkansas

If you love birds, Hare’s Hideout Primitive Campground offers superb opportunities for viewing them. Bring your binoculars and camera and head on out here! Lots of birds live in northwest Arkansas, and you can spot most of them on our acreage of Ozark mountain wilderness. But there’s a few birds that are hard to see. That’s not because they’re few in number, but that they just seem to like staying hidden more often than not.

Often Heard but Seldom Seen

Sometimes it’s hard to get a glimpse of certain birds. It’s easy enough to know they’re there, though. Just listen for them. These birds present a challenge to actually see:

  • whippoorwill
  • yellow-billed cuckoo
  • owls

Hard to See Birds

Just because they’re seldom seen, that doesn’t mean you’ll never see them. Here’s a red-morph eastern screech owl that fledged the nest earlier this year. While the mom was setting eggs, I saw her daily. Then when the young ‘uns hopped out of the nest, I saw them for that day. After that I haven’t seen them again. But I hear them at night.

Screech owls make a few different sounds, but you’ll understand the reason they’re named ‘screech’ once you hear their namesake sound. Click here for a YouTube recording of the various sounds of these hard to see birds.

Owls are generally hard to see birds, but I got to see a few screech owls real good once.
© 2019 Madison Woods

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

The name I grew up hearing for this bird is ‘rain crow’. And it does seem to be true that I hear them mostly when it’s about to rain. They have a strange sound. For birds that are hard to see, this one seems to be one of the hardest for me to spot. It was only this year that I saw the first one, after hearing them all of my life. And then I saw it three or four times over a few days span. Haven’t seen it again since.

Definitely a hard to see bird. Rain crows make an interesting sound, and I hear them often but never see them.
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo © 2019 Terry Stanfill


This is one I have seen only once or twice, ever. I hear them every year when mating season starts in May. One of the old guys around here told me that it’s time to plant corn when you hear the whippoorwills start calling. There’s a recording at my website if you’d like to hear it. This one must be so seldom seen by my friend Terry Stanfill the photographer, that I can’t even find a photo of one in his Facebook feed to share.

I recently found out we have another ‘will’ sort of bird called a Chuck-will’s-widow. It sounds sort of like the whippoorwill. You can hear one of these here at this link. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard this one or not. If I did, I probably thought it was a whippoorwill.

How About You? What Hard to See Birds Do You Know?

What are the hard to see birds you know about?

About the Author
Madison Woods is a local artist who makes her watercolor paints from the Ozark rocks.

Ponca, Arkansas is an artists’ and photographer’s dream destination!

Ponca, Arkansas is one of the most visited nature destinations in northwest Arkansas. And guess what? It’s right around the corner from Hare’s Hideout. Many people come to hike the local trails or to put in kayaks and canoes at the Buffalo River. During summer, the low-water bridge is a popular swimming hole. A lot of people go there to capture beautiful photographs. I go there to paint.

Photos from Ponca

One of my friends, Terry Stanfill, makes regular trips from his home in far northwest Arkansas to Boxley Valley and Ponca. Here’s a few of his photos.

At the Ponca low-water bridge.
From the Ponca low-water bridge. This is the same scene, and much better photo, than mine from down on the gravel at a slightly different angle in the photo a few paragraphs below.
Photograph © 2019 Terry Stanfill. Used by permission.
Old structure in Boxley Valley on the way to Ponca.
Old structure in Boxley Valley on the way to Ponca.
Photograph © 2019 Terry Stanfill. Used by permission.
A juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron on the rocks at Ponca.
A juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron on the rocks at Ponca.
Photograph © 2019 Terry Stanfill. Used by permission.

If you’re on Instagram, you can follow the hashtag #poncaarkansas to see a lot more images of this local little hot spot for nature. while you’re there, follow @hareshideout, too! If you’re a photographer and you’d like to share one of your photos from Ponca on this page, email it to me and I’ll get it posted.

Plein air painting

I’m just beginning to learn the art of plein air painting and there’s nowhere better to set up an easel. Last week I went down to the low-water bridge at the Ponca access point. Since it was on a week day, it wasn’t crowded. In fact, I was the only one there. I started working on a watercolor of this scene. I didn’t get very far on it before I had to pack up and leave, but I’ll go back next week to finish up, or I’ll just finish using the photograph I took before I left.

A plein air painting in progress, waiting to go back on location at Ponca, Arkansas.
An unfinished painting I started on location at the Ponca low-water bridge. My paints are made from Ozark pigments and the water I used in this one is straight from the Buffalo river at my feet. It’s hard to beat this setting when it comes to nature art!
(Pssst! I do pigment foraging field trips over at Hare’s Hideout. Email me if you’re interested in that.)
Photograph © 2019 Madison Woods. Used by permission.

How to get there

Ponca is on Hwy 43 between Boxley Valley and Compton. If you’re coming north from I-40, exit north on Hwy 21. Take a right on Hwy. 43 when you get to Boxley Valley. If you’re heading south on Hwy. 21 from Hwy. 412, go south through Kingston and pass the Hare’s Hideout entrance to go on down the hill into the river valley. Take a left on Hwy. 43.

The quaint little town of Kingston, Arkansas is not far from Ponca.
The quaint little town of Kingston, Arkansas is not far from Ponca.
Photograph © 2019 Terry Stanfill. Used by permission.

You can also get here from Harrison if you take Hwy. 43 west out of Harrison. If you reach Hwy. 21, you went too far.

Here’s a map embed from Google. That’ll make it a lot easier.

Campground near Ponca

If you want to stay around for a little while, consider camping at Hare’s Hideout! We’re just back up Hwy. 21 going north toward Kingston. Literally, just around the corner. Of course, a block corner out here in the Ozarks might be a bit different than your usual city block. It’s all relative! But seriously. We’re only a few miles away.

Hare's Hideout campground is right around the corner from Ponca, Arkansas.

About the Author
Madison Woods is a local artist who makes her watercolor paints from the Ozark rocks.