Wednesday, March 29, 2017
I've been going down to the Ozark mountains in NW Arkansas for around 35 years now and I never tire of the place. A lot of that has to do with the fact that my parents own some land and a small cabin yards up the road from 100,000 acres that protects 135 miles of the Buffalo River, America's first National River. Not included in the park are hundreds of thousands of acres protecting other nearby areas, some that connect up to the park and some that are just a hop, skip and a jump away. Another reason I love going down there is because there is just so much that one can do as long as you enjoy being outdoors, which I do.
Due to obligations, we could only devote five days of "spring break" to a vacation and two of those five days were spent driving. However, it is an easy day's drive from where I live and lots of stuff to pause at along the way so even though I'm driving, I always feel pretty relaxed. The first real day of vacation was raining and fairly cold. My wife hasn't spent the time frame I have down there so I recommended she go with my parents, oldest daughter and some family friends that live nearby and do a rugged 10 mile hike that encompasses some of the best scenery in the park, including a 200+ feet waterfall. Unfortunately due to my recently dislocated knee, I couldn't safely join them so I took my youngest daughter on a smaller hike on a pretty improved section of trail near the cabin.
On day two, it was warm and sunny so we loaded up the boats and got on the upper portion of the Buffalo River. It is a 100% spring fed stream and the water in the upper portion was at the low end of the threshold that I consider float-able without spending a lot of time dragging the boats over shoals. We did have to get out once to pull our boats out of a shallow riffle but the rest of the time we generally just bumped and floated along. With my bum knee, I couldn't kneel during the rapids at all which made us a bit high centered and we nearly tipped over a couple times but managed to stay upright. On the last rapids of the day however, my luck ran out and my wife and I tipped over along with our four year old daughter. My wife grabbed our daughter and I grabbed the boat and paddles and we made it to shore wet but intact. I was mostly concerned with the four year old but she seemed to handle tipping over fine.
The picture at the top of the post is a panoramic shot from where we ate our lunch along the river on a gravel bar on the inside of a large bend. You can see our three canoes and an inflatable kayak on the right side of the picture. Unfortunately not being able to twist on my knee meant I couldn't gt a perfectly level show but I got enough for show and tell.
On our final full day there, it was another rainy and cool day so we opted to take another hike. Some friends of ours whom we met about 25 years ago, moved on to other parts of the country and instead of selling there land, donated it to the state nature conservatory. Some five years later, there is now a place to pull off the road and hike about a mile down a trail to see the falls below. It is about 80 or 90 feet in height and you can hike up along the rim all the way around it or drop down and visit it from where it lands. I stayed up high to protect my knee but others in our group went down to test out the water. It was cold. The rest of our day we visited some friends, hiked their land and some adjacent land my parents also own and enjoyed a supper together as a rainstorm moved in. It rained all night long and also all day long the following day as we made the eight hour drive home.
These last ten years with two kids in various stages of childhood meant that I haven't been able to visit this place nearly as often as I would like, but now that my children are getting of hiking and boating age, I hope to make more trips down there in the future. It really recharges my soul to be hiking/boating/biking in the mountains and streams of the area.