Arkansas took up the majority of our last few weeks on the road and we have to say (for the millionth time) we were pleasantly surprised with this state!! While it had way too many churches, dry counties, and confederate flags for our taste, the general environment, flora, fauna, and geology were truly beautiful. And another complete and total surprise – Arkansas has a TON of decent Mexican food! WTF?! We have avoided eating Mexican food on this trip because, coming from CA, we figured it would be a disappointment. We ventured out once in WI and had a passable Mexican meal – but it was still a bit off. In Arkansas though – the food was good (but not great). It was close enough to what we were used to that we were more than sufficiently satisfied.
We barely spent 48 hours in Little Rock, but enjoyed our time there as well. The city is right on the river and they’ve turned a lot of the old train bridges into bike/pedestrian paths – which was awesome. Again, another city that understands the value of DEDICATED walking and bike paths and incorporating even the smallest bits of nature into their city. Good job LR, AR!
We have been thinking about the end of this trip off and on since the beginning because that’s just what you do as a human – but it’s taken up a lot more mental real-estate this month as the end of this incredible journey gets closer and closer. We’ve been trying our best to stay focused on the moment – the things we are seeing, the places we’re visiting, and not get bogged down with what’s next (i.e., jobs, money, where to live). If I’m being honest though, I can’t say we accomplished as good of a balance with this as we would have liked – but we did truly appreciate our last few weeks on the road and had a good time.
What we were up to (where we stayed and what we did):
AUX ARC CORPS OF ENGINEERS CAMPGROUND – OZARK, AR
Stayed on the Arkansas River near the Ozark-Jetta Taylor Lock & Dam
Day trip into the Ozark National Forest. Explored Haws Creek and hiked to Pam’s Grotto
Spent the day at Mount Magazine State Park (Arkansas’s tallest mountain @ 2,753 feet)
And who knew that Paris was in Arkansas?
DOWNTOWN RIVERSIDE RV PARK– LITTLE ROCK, AR
Visited Little Rock’s Central High School (a National Park Service Historic Site) – an integral player in the desegregation of schools in the 1950s
CRYSTAL RIDGE RV CAMPGROUND/ RON COLEMAN’S CRYSTAL MINE– JESSIEVILLE, AR
Note: The town next to where we camped is a place called Hot Springs Village. Their claim to fame is being the largest gated community in the US. This place is huge (over 26,000 acres). In order to just drive through, we had to get a pass at the community’s visitor center. The whole thing was SO weird! It felt cultish in a way… They wanted to take us a on a tour – but we convinced them to just let us drive through on our own. The place was fine but nothing that special. Looks like a neighborhood that was built in the early 80s using about a billion cans of beige paint. I could see this being perfect for a lot of folks, it’s just not our thing.
Spent some time exploring Hot Springs National Park. This was really an odd National Park. It’s pretty much just one road with some beautiful, historic bath houses. When you compare this to places like Glacier and Yellowstone – it’s disappointing for sure. But it does have a lot of history and the architecture of the buildings are great. Plus the geology behind what makes the hot springs in this particular location possible was fascinating. One additional bonus – FREE WATER! We were able to fill our drinking water bottle = fun.
We were crystal miners for one afternoon at Ron Coleman’s Crystal Mine. No major finds, but ended up with enough pretty stuff to feel okay with having paid $20 for our “mining permits”.
PARKER CREEK CORPS OF ENGINEERS CAMPGROUND – MURFREESBORO, AR
Did some diamond mining at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Diamonds are rare – really rare. It was a super hot day. Can’t say this was one of the highlights of our trip, but I’m glad we gave it a go. No diamonds were found. Crystal mining is a lot more fun.
We were camping on Lake Greeson and it was terribly hot. Since it’s off season and in the middle of the week, this place was empty and we had the lake to ourselves. On both days, we took our raft out into the lake. On day 2, we paddled out of our inlet and into the larger part of the lake. We found our own little beach and hung out for a bit. It was so fantastic! The water was beautiful, clear, cool and refreshing. I LOVE LOVE swimming.
COOPER LAKE STATE PARK CAMPGROUND (South Sulphur Unit) – SULPHUR SPRINGS, TX
Finally back in Texas!! It was still terribly hot and humid and since we had already paid for a spot back in Austin to park Merlin, we made our way through Northeastern Texas rather quickly.
MIDWAY PARK CORPS OF ENGINEERS CAMPGROUND – WACO, TX
We had a short but sweet stop in Waco. This was our final day on the road. We still can’t believe 13 months have come and gone!
After getting settled at the campground, we did an interesting tour at the Waco Mammoth National Monument. Opposed to seeing fossils displayed in a case in a museum, these are in situ (in its original place). It was really cool to look down on them in the dirt and wonder what happened, how did they die, what was it like when they lived here, etc. Our ranger was Ben and he was one of the best we’ve encountered on our adventure.
CHECKING IN WITH SCHNABBIES AND GEMMA:
What will likely be our last post (or at least the last one for an undetermined amount of time) will be coming soon. STAY TUNED! We plan on putting together some highlights, trip factoids and data, etc. Until then, stay well!