Getting there is 72.64% of the fun
I am here. I may never be here again. I have a day. Where should I go?
The best stuff is NEVER on the freeway, expressway or toll-way. It’s over there, over that hill or around that corner.
Getting TherePonder (rest) stop on the way up from Alum Natural Bridge.
Not to long ago, I made a work related photo trek into Missouri and spent an amazing few days with a really cool coworker wandering around sale rings, sprawling ranches, a dairy and hilltop grasslands. A photographer herself, she took me to some of her local haunts and a really cool old mill. A very fulfilling trek in and of itself.
With this complete, as usual, I had built in a day for personal exploration to see country I may never get a chance to return to. There is a word. A word that any kid my age, who has watched any TV, carries a built in sense of backwoods adventure. When I pulled up a map of where I was, to see where I might go, this word popped up like a neon sign all over the map.
OZARK – even without TV lore, its just a cool word. Definitely a ‘place’ you have to wander through.
I was in Missouri. Just below me was Arkansas. I’ve never been to Arkansas. Hillbillies, razorbacks, moonshine and from what I could see, miles and miles of rolling green awesomeness. Late in the afternoon, Google found a state park named Petit Jean. It was in the heart of the Arkansas Ozarks and it had a really cool waterfall. With a little coaxing my phone found it, reserved a room online, pushed the button and said, “take me there.” It was late and I didn’t feel like dodging armadillos, raccoons and turtles (weird) so I broke my own rule and stayed on the main road. It got dark and I only got lost a couple times.
Arkansas BorderMade me smile
In the morning, it only took me a few minutes to realize that the nice lady guiding me from my phone really had no idea how to get to the park. I pulled over, bought some heat lamp breakfast and asked directions (another rule broken). I found it. It was beautiful. But the sign at the trailhead to my waterfall destination basically said that unless your cousin is Superman, you might want to reconsider this hike. My cousin is Batman so I settled for the overlook and continued up the road. The park ended on the top of a mountain that overlooked the deep green carpet and ancient rolling mountain range that was between me and the plane that would take me home at 4:00 tomorrow morning. I took a picture of a rather soggy motorcycle group (it was raining) with all 32 of their cameras and then headed roughly north with very little idea of what was out there (perfect).
I found some more roadside lookouts, the Little Buffalo River and a really good hamburger overlooking the Arkansas Grand Canyon. Lunch With a ViewLunch stop overlooking Arkansas Grand Canyon. In the early afternoon, I passed a sign that said, Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreational Area. You just can’t pass a sign that says natural bridge so I turned around … good choice. The hike was short but straight down and the expensive hamburger was wearing off. The hike was wet, lush and amazing going down and a little blurry coming up. I’ve crawled around a bunch of sandstone arches and natural bridges but to see something in granite, on the side of a mountain and hidden in dense deciduous forest was a new experience. It was big impossible and made me want to watch for small carnivorous dinosaurs in the dense forest. Sitting under a rock bridge, soaking wet trying to figure out a way to capture a little of the spirit of the place is what makes photography fun. Alum Cove Natural BridgeWet and wonderful
Traveling on and getting closer to the plane, I passed a sign for Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. This is a place that was on the short list when doing a bit of research on my trip. I had decided against it because it wasn’t wild and there were people there. I went anyway and it was very much worth it. Off-season and late, there were few people and it turned into a several mile flat hike on paved trails through breath-taking manicured nature. Amazing waterfalls that probably wouldn’t even be visible if the forest hadn’t been cut back. Kind of like a 10,000 acre wedding chapel. One of Many
The Ozarks, like a lot of the eastern back country is much different than the western wilderness I grew up in. It is ancient and worn, very solid and wise. If the western mountains have a ‘respect me or I will kill you’ feel, the eastern ranges have more of a ‘respect your elders … respect the history’ feel.
Love and respect them both.
Ps. I am told that I am crazy for being so close and not visiting Branson ... I think not.
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