When my friend from college texted me a few months back and wanted me to come camping and hiking in her home state of Arkansas, I immediately said yes, but wasn’t really hoping for much by way of scenery. I mostly wanted to see an old friend and catch up on life while relaxing around a campfire. These expectations were based on my only previous experience in the state being summer trips to visit family friends in a tiny town that probably didn’t even have a walmart, and the ungodly amount of mosquitoes that would swarm you even inside the house. Little did I know I that my expectations were going to be blown out of the water.
I drove straight through from Kentucky to Arkansas thursday afternoon crossing my fingers the entire way that Boone (the Subaru) would make it one piece. Thank the Lord, he did swell. I arrived at Carolyn’s house and we spent the evening catching up and getting things ready for Friday’s drive. The next morning we met up with Mac and Josh (more college buds) and drove towards the Buffalo River area in the Ozarks. It felt like I was back on the Blue Ridge parkway! Rolling hills, misty valleys, blue tinted tree lines. If I were a lesser writer, I’d insert the “cat heart eye” emoji right here. I knew from this entrance into the National Forest that the rest of the weekend would be fantastic.
We tried the Steel Creek campground but had no luck snagging a campsite so late in the afternoon. Thankfully the Kyle’s landing campground had plenty of space, and in my opinion the sites there were much nicer than our first stop. We set up camp and just hung out for the evening in our hammocks, exploring the river that ran right along the campground, and eating chili, with s'mores for dessert.
Once evening hit, the stars came out so beautifully that I was able to capture them on camera which is impressive since I’m terrible at astro-photography.
The only downside to what sounds like a perfect evening, was that a group of middle aged + slightly elderly campers got drunk early in the day then continued partying through the night until 3am. We were not so pleased with that. Which reminds me, maybe I’ll write up a quick blog post on campground etiquette one of these days……..
Saturday morning we woke up before daybreak in order to get a head start on a 6 mile trail called “Goat Trail”. We made a pit stop in Boxley Valley to see the elk - yes there are ELK in Arkansas! - but we had to peer through thick fog to get a glimpse. My camera wasn’t equipped with lenses to capture them but they were still amazing to see in real life.
Back to the trail. The whole first 3 miles is pretty easy downhill almost the entire way, but congratulations when you’ve made it to the view at the end, you get to climb a steep uphill trail all the way back to your car. Savor that view. But honestly, I would recommend this trail to anyone who’s slightly in shape. It’s got varied terrain: beautiful forested single track all the way to scrambly, rocky, cliffs that overlook a beautiful river valley. My suggestion is that you take trekking poles or a good walking stick, and maybe wear closed toe boots since over half the trail is loose and rocky. Also as usual, bring plenty of water!
We conquered goat trail and happily headed back to camp for a lunch of hot dogs and maybe some more s'mores, and a quick power nap in the hammocks before we headed back out to the last trail of the trip. Carolyn wanted to take us to the “crowd pleaser” hike in the area. Hawksbill Crag is a gorgeous cliff that looks out over beautiful hills and valleys which are currently changing from Summer green to Autumn gold. It was full of other people, but it’s still worth the trip. I’d suggest going early in the morning to beat the crowds. The whole hike is an out and back 3 mile total trip.
It was bittersweet driving back to Kentucky because 1) I forgot how much I missed my friends from college (how has it been four years??), and 2) I knew that I’d only scratched the surface of what the Ozarks have to offer. Moral of the story, don’t question your friends and don’t believe your preconceived notions on what a a state holds.