Arkansas Traveller

Back in June, my dad and I took our annual trip somewhere. This year, we went to Arkansas. The weather this spring was abnormally cool and rainy, in fact, North Texas set a record for rainfall in May. It turned out to be nearly perfect weather during our trip.

Arkansas 2015

I got up and got an early enough start to make it to DeKalb before lunch, my dad and I visited a bit, had something to eat and hit the road.
Texas has had a dramatic ending of the drought and the Red River is going over the spillway at Lake Texoma for only the fourth time since the dam was built. Both bridges crossing the river in Bowie County were closed. By the time we got to where I30 crosses the Red, that bridge was still open and the water was really high. The Red is aptly named.
We made it to Arkadelphia and took a drive through my mother’s Alma Mater, Ouachita Baptist University. Then north on highway 7 to DeGray State Park and Lodge where we spent the night. Storms were rolling through and as we were in the Restaurant waiting for supper, the power went off for a few minutes. We watched the mountains on the other side of the lake, and then islands in the lake, disappear in the rain. Power was restored and dinner was served. So much for our after dinner walk.
We watched a little TV and went to bed. Make note, we got room #120.

Day two.
Got up, enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the lodge and got on the road. Mostly cloudy but with glimpses of the sun becoming more frequent as the day goes by. We head up Scenic Highway 7. Lots of curving roads, both sideways and up and down. We stopped at a picnic area for a sandwich lunch that had a nice view of some treetops, fallen trees and between all that, Nimrod Lake. Yes, it’s really called that.
Nearly to Morrilton, the road went through Petit Jean State Park which is the main reason we’re stopping here. You go up a 20 mph squiggly road and come out on top of a high bluff overlooking the Petit Jean River Valley. Views are spectacular. We will return tomorrow to do some walking on the trails. image
After the park, we look through an automobile museum that has a couple of notable cars, namely one owned by Elvis and the personal car of JFK. And other well kept cars.
Then to the Super 8 in Morrilton to check in for the evening. We got room #120, again. We had barbecue at a local drive in and had way more than we could eat. It was good.
I am stiff from lack of moving and from sitting in a car for so long. I need to walk. Maybe tomorrow will take care of some of that.

Day three.
After a good night’s sleep, we found some breakfast and headed back to Petit Jean. We climbed the mountain and the first turnoff was to an overlook and Petit Jean’s grave. The overlook gave us a fantastic look at the Arkansas River in full flood. The river is 6 feet above flood according to the guy at the front desk when we checked in the night before. image
Saw and heard Indigo Buntings singing.
We then drove on to the Rock House cave where a guided walk was to be had. It turned out to be a bit steep and rocky but as it was only 1/4 mile long, it was doable. The guide showed us where the old Native American art was on the ceiling, we would have never found it on our own.
Then to the Cedar Falls overlook, the river was really roaring down the falls. I noticed another overlook a little way down the Boy Scout trail and went to investigate. After some rock scrambling, it gave a view straight into the falls.
By then it was lunch time so we went to Mather Lodge and had a nice lunch with a view. After lunch, and there was some debate on whether it should be called lunch or dinner, my view is that you have “lunch” then “dinner” and my dad has “dinner” then “supper”. O.k. Whatever it was called, they had a buffet with lots of good things to eat on it.
Then to Bear Cave trail which is a trail around and between some gigantic jumble of boulders.
Ok, done that now. We still have a lot of afternoon to kill. So, I had noticed a drive with two overlooks we hadn’t done yet and suggested that. The best idea of the day. The overlooks faced West and gave us a tremendous view off across the Petit Jean River valley with clouds rolling by and mist and light rain falling from the clouds. The first one was just a platform sticking off the side but the second one had a rock shelter built by the CCC and various places to sit and soak up the scenery. We were surrounded by birdsong and watched buzzards (Turkey vultures) gliding below and around us. We could hear the sound of the Petit Jean River below us and watch the clouds roll by. We ended up spending about two hours at these overlooks. Before we left the second one, my dad got out his dulcimer and played some songs. image
Most of the day had light to moderate misty rain. Nothing to really put a damper on things, just enough to make things damp.
Then it was time to head back to the hotel and rest up a bit before supper.

Day four.
Got up and hit the road going north to Harrison. Just as an aside, cruise control doesn’t really do any good in the west half of Arkansas. You’re always slowing down for a hill or a curve and there are LOTS of both.
Driving along, I noticed signs for a Natural Bridge and when we got to the turnoff, I turned to my dad and asked if we needed to see it. We had plenty of time, so we turned off and went there. Down a VERY steep, twisted road, there were two little log cabins and a restroom. We went in, paid our $5 and walked down the path to see the bridge. The area was pretty and green and a huge slab of sandstone was suspended over a tiny creek. It is big enough to drive a small car across. image
The destination before Harrison was a couple of caves. Crystal Cave and Mystic Cave. The first one was discovered when a backhoe operator was digging fill dirt for an amusement park up the road. It is still growing and has lots of pretty formations. The other one has been a victim of human destruction for 100 years plus. It has been used as a dance hall, housed a still, and most things that can break off were broken and sold as souviners. There are only two or three formations still growing. There was a tiny salamander on one of them.
We got to Harrison and checked in to Super 8…..room #120 again…
There is an Italian place in the adjacent parking lot and we decided to eat there, very generous servings and excellent flavors.

Day five
Getting ready to go, I watched a mama cat relocate her kittens, they’re maybe 6 weeks old, the first trip was with two, a black one and a white one. She kept having to go back and get the black one, it wanted to stop and play. The second trip was 30 minutes or so later and she had a calico with her.
Lots of motorcycle riders in the lobby at breakfast time. Kinda wished I was getting ready to head out for a day riding with the hubby.
Got on the road heading for Fayettville area. Smooth trip, nothing interesting to provide a side trip, got there too early to check in at the hotel so we thought we would head to the local botanical garden. We didn’t think it would be hard to find. We ended up looping around two or three times and finally found it on the far side of road construction. We had just zipped right by it 30 minutes earlier. It is a small garden but nicely laid out with several little theme gardens and lots of pretty flowers blooming.
After that, it was time to go check in at La Quinta. We found our way back with no incident. We did NOT get room 120 again, it was number 328.

Day six
Up and breakfasted, we drove into Springtown to visit an art center, enjoyed looking at the two artists exhibited and then found the Shiloh Museum. It tells of the history of the area and we had a couple of interesting conversations with people who work there. My dad ended up playing his dulcimer for them.
I saw an Eastern Phoebe at the Shiloh Museum.
On recommendation from one of the ladies at the museum, we stopped at a little place called Briar Rose for lunch. The place was charming and the food awesome. IMG_1194
After that museum, we had plans on going to Prairie Grove where a Civil War battle was fought. The battle was short and brutal with many casualties. It was fought in a small area, barely a square mile. The people who lived in the area survived by hiding in a cellar. A neighbor watched from a hilltop a couple of miles away and was able to describe the whole battle.
A walking trail went around the main part of the battleground, a mile long. We walked it. There is also a driving tour that we did. It just brought home how small the battleground is. There are trees that I’m sure were there when the battle was fought, I wonder how much metal is embedded in them.

Day seven
Time to point the car toward home. I decided to stay off the interstate because I was driving and planned out a route…only to find one of the roads I planned to take was closed. Minor detour. We finally arrived at Mount Magazine Lodge at the state park of the same name. What a view. Mount Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas and the lodge is near the highest point. Every room has a view. We were a little disappointed not to have a balcony, but the windows open so we can still enjoy the fresh air. imageThere’s too much haze in the air for a nice sunset but it’s still beautiful. There are barn swallows circling and singing. I think I’ll leave the window open at least a little tonight. image
At the visitor’s center, I saw an American Goldfinch, Indigo Bunting and Brown-headed Nuthatch and Ruby throated Hummingbirds.

Day eight
Woke up just before sunrise to the sound of the swallows. A waning moon was in the sky and low fog was in the hollows. Beautiful start to the day, but it’s a sad one. This is the last day of the trip. The Red River was even higher than when we crossed it a week before, it’s up in the fields now and the crest is heading for Shreveport where it will cause major damage. It’s home for both of us and a goodbye until next time. And nothing like Dallas evening traffic and an ozone alert air quality warning to welcome me back to the big city.

I clipped a couple of gardenias from the bush in my dad’s yard to take home with me. They smell so divine.

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