PONCA — It is like opening the door to a secret passage.
However, the door is a bunch of briars that leads to a path of beauty.
In Ponca, there is a path that can lead outdoor enthusiasts on a trail of scenery that can last for hours.
The Ponca access to the Buffalo National River is where this trail begins. After parking in the lot, visitors can walk across the low water bridge. On the right side of the road, there is a well worn path. This path is the Buffalo River Trail. This is not the path for this hike.
Mere steps on the left side of the BRT there is the looks of a path that leads into some thorny bushes. This is the path.
After clearing the beginning of the path, a canopy of trees engulfs visitors as the sound of a babbling brook is near by. The path is worn some, but it is not a hard trail that has been cut into the ground like that of the BRT.
Length of the trail is really decided by the hiker. The trail starts on the west side (right) side of the creek that is flowing by.
Leatherwood Creek is one that leads to 20-plus waterfalls when the waters of spring are flowing.
The path wonders by the creek, however, the deeper into the hike that one gets, it will be discovered that there are paths on both sides of the adventure. The hike is an in and out.
About a quarter of a mile into the walk, the path appears on both sides of the creek to make a loop. With the water low hikers can change sides to avoid any steep climbs or difficult passages.
There is very little bushwacking along the way, however, it should be noted that there are some steep embankments that last about five or six steps.
With the June weather, the creek was not flowing at full capacity. This made it easy to avoid the paths and stay inside the creek or on the small bluffs that surrounded the water.
There were pockets of water that were deep enough to sustain fish life. Small fish were swimming around the holes of water and nibbling at hikers’ legs and toes.
On the bluffs there are inches of deep moss that make a comfortable seating area. After the hard work of climbing and hiking, sitting and dangling feet in the water is relaxing and tranquil.
Opportunities for photos are along every corner. There is an old homestead who’s fireplace is still partially standing. The rocks are now moss covered as nature works on taking back the things of the forest.
Plow equipment can be seen on an island inside the creek. Years of exposure to the elements has left the pieces rust covered.
Pockets of sunshine break through the leaves and offer opportunities for sunbathing in the coolness of the creek.
Caves can be found along the hike. Sudden burst of cold air will hit walkers leaving them searching for a dry rag to unfog glasses or sunglasses.
Two noted caves dot the loop. Spelunkers can find peace in the darkness of their search.
Even though Leatherwood Creek is not one of the most known areas in the Buffalo National River Park, the area offers a place for people to get away from the stress of the day and just relax enjoying nature.