All across Arkansas, stunning rock formations sit right underneath our noses or in most cases, tower over us. This week we explore the forested playground known as Fern, with plenty of spots to elevate yourself to new heights.
"While some see just rocks, adventure seekers like Jerry Barnett see a challenge, a physically demanding puzzle. Nestled in the forest off of highway 215 a little less than a mile east of fern, hides a treasure trove of climbing spots. Barnett, who has helped develop the area for over 20 years, explains what this spot has to offer.
Jerry Barnett, Fern developer explains, "You know honestly I've climbed all across the United States and Arkansas and Fern in particular is one of my favorite places to climb. We have nearly everything else that everyone else has in the United States."
Though Fern is tucked away in forest, it's been attracting national attention for years. Barnett explains how to get started with top rope, and the safety measures in place. "You have a rope going from your belayer up to the anchor system and then back down to you. Climbing up the belayer is taking the slack so there is virtually no way you can fall and the margin of error is very slim."
Barnett says age and athleticism aren't necessary, you just have to have adventurous ambition. "Our daughter is 2 and a half and she started rock climbing, and I have a friend who is 65 who actually out climbs me on most weekends. So it's really for anybody and so family oriented sport and hobby too that anyone can get into it."
If you're a beginner like me who is afraid of heights, you can start with a lower yet equally testing climb with Bouldering. Or you can hit your fear head on and summit a 35 wall of rock named Oh Sheila.
If you're already a climber looking to summit the tallest point of fern, check out all 60 feet of Punk Rock Mohawk. Barnett says height doesn't equate to being the most challenging.
Barnett says, "There's a route called Casualty Vampire that I bolted 20 years ago and it just got its first ascent last year. And it's 5-13-c and it's only 20 feet high."
No matter what skills or experience you have, Barnett emphasizes his favorite part of what comes out of the experience at Fern. "The comradery with other climbers and the astonishing beautiful nature that fern has to offer."
If you’re interested in joining in the fun, the Fern Climbing Festival will be the weekend of May 30-31st.
From Mulberry, Arkansas - Take Mulberry exit 24 off of I-40, following HWY 215 North for approximately 10 miles to the town of Fern. Coming to a T in the road, turn right, east, staying on HWY 215 in Fern, traveling 0.7 miles to a dirt road on the right. Turn and follow this road for 1.6 miles. Then turn right and right again (hairpin turn). Follow to the parking area, approximately 0.3 miles.
From Mountainburg, Arkansas/ I- 540 / I-49 - Take Mountainburg exit 29 , head east to Mountainburg. Approximately 2 miles take a right on HWY 71. Drive 2 miles, turn left on HWY 348 (convenience store on corner). Drive for 8 1/2 miles, coming to Old Fern Rd, turn right, drive 4.3 miles on dirt road coming to an intersection where Old Fern Rd. ends and turns into HWY 215. Turn left and go 0.7 miles to a dirt road on the right. Then turn right and right again (hairpin turn). Follow to the parking area, approximately 0.3 miles.
Check out the video for more information.
Sponsored by: Adventure Subaru