Bar 50 Guest Ranch


March 9 - 17, 2013


by Redhorse


A group of Texans planned the 2013 Spring Break at the Bar 50 for several weeks.  First choice had been Caney Mountain Horse Camp at Big Flat, AR, but the possibility of snow flurries wasn’t inviting.  The Bar 50 website was full of pictures of great trails, in depth description of the cabins & facilities, enchanting views of the water crossings and gave you the impression that you were heading to a safe equestrian trailrider's dream location.

        Actually, there is some misleading information offered and important facts omitted from the website. The 20,000 acres that Bar 50 backs up to is actually the Jack Mountain Unit and is under the full control of the Ross Foundation ( Jack Mountain Unit, previously owned by International Paper, is a working forest with ongoing timber removal. Truckers have the right-of-way and at 40 mph, a rig hauling timber higher than an 18-wheeler, gets it. Unfortunately, custom ATV’s, 4-wheelers, dirt bikes and dune buggies have free reign to all the trails (see map in photo gallery).

        We encountered a couple of 4-wheelers during the week coming down a steep trail we were fixing to head up.  They, very politely, killed the engines. Our animals were calm and we encouraged them to go ahead and descend, which they did very slowly.  On Friday, riding in a group of five, we had just got off the trail to observe an old cemetery when three racing dune buggies went by at 20-30 mph. Of course, the Ross Foundation allows them to go 15 mph in their “Recreational Rules”. The dirt from the first one was hazardous to the second, whose dirt trail had to be blinding to the third! On Saturday, with Arkansas Spring Break well under way, two groups of equestrian riders in our camp encountered “a dozen” and “fifteen to twenty” ATV’s, respectively. Locals that rode with us knew of three deaths as a result of the ATV’s. They said that equestrian riding on weekends and holidays is out of the question.

        Bar 50 boasts “We’re open year ‘round,” but the fact is the Ross Foundation closes the Jack Mountain Unit to all trail riding from October 1st to January 1st. Bar 50 has a week-long trailride scheduled for October 6-12, 2013; it doesn’t say where they'll ride.

        After we (3 rigs) checked in and paid over $600 for our week of camping, we had no contact from the operators.  Ann and Terry Brock rode one day and had to return home. Trash littered near our camp; the same road that the operators traveled at least twice a day. There was a new hired hand (2 weeks) that camped near us and told us he was a Guide.  We welcomed having a guide and rode out Thursday morning.  After consuming a couple of six packs of beer in his saddle bags and relieving himself about every 20 mins. he admitted he didn’t know any of the trails. Needless to say, we didn’t discuss his fee when we led him back to camp.

        Thankfully, with the great experience of locals, Larry & Karen Waite and Becky Spradlin, (by chance we rode with them last summer at Jacks Creek, NM), along with our determination, we did have some good riding.  The higher trails were beautiful with dogwoods & redbuds just beginning to bloom. We spent much of the time trail blazing in areas where even a dirt bike wouldn’t tread. (My knees got close and personal with several trees. After one particular tree, I was thinking being run over by a dune buggy might have been less painful). We had an exceptional view of Hot Springs, Arkansas from the heights of Jack Mountain. We did come across a group of deer one day.  There used to be many but the swarming ATV’s have eliminated much of the wildlife. The creeks and streams were plentiful and gave our animals welcomed relief.

         This was the maiden trailride for Miss Kitty and I.  I bought her on February 23 after riding her about 30 mins.; rode her again in the pasture across from my home 11 days later for 30 mins. and then hauled her to the Arkansas mountains.  Misty Valdez did about the same; bought her mule, Whiskey Girl, after an hour riding at Cedar Lake, and then hauled her to Arizona to the Catalina mountains.  Guess we decided we didn't need to invest much time in converting to mules!  Amazing to me, is the fact I had my great Paint, Luke, a full year before I even took him to a trailride.  Misty also made her maiden trip in her new Exiss Elite trailer.  Yeehaw!

        Not surprisingly, we made a couple of trips to the Oaklawn Casino in Hot Springs.  It was the first Casino I’ve been to where they actually had a “No Smoking” section but of course, it was indistinguishable from the smoking areas. We also ventured to tack shops in Benton, Malvern and Bismarck. We ate well at Fish Net, DJ’s and the Fisherman Wharf.

        Trading and swapping is a mainstay of life in this area of Arkansas. You see lots of vehicles sporting contrasting colors of hoods, doors and trunks. They even trade spouses (that ain't no joke)! There were a lot of “fixeruppers” being inhabited and used mattresses seem to end up on the front porch.

We were told our IQ would rebound when we came back across the Texas line, and damned if they weren’t right!  I’m going to keep the quart of moonshine I bought, regardless.









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