Final Thought

 

Arkansas is blessed with interesting places. Team Rhodes visited quite a few of them during a whirlwind spring break trip. In a five-day, four-night span, Julie, Abby and I learned some things about our state’s past, observed wildlife, dug for diamonds and beheld spectacular views.

Our trip, which Julie dubbed an ARKcation, began roughly at the state’s center, arced to the southeast, to the west and then to the northwest. It would be a near-impossible task to detail every place we went, so I’ll just mention a few that would make nice destinations on short vacations.

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park: About 10 miles southeast of North Little Rock off U.S. 165, the park features three mounds that serve as testaments to Native Americans who lived in the area from about A.D. 650 to 1050. At the visitors center, we watched a well-produced video and viewed artifacts found at the site. Taking a self-guided walking tour, we marveled at the ingenuity and the determination it took for those early inhabitants to build those mounds.

Lake Chicot State Park: It was late on that first day by the time we reached this park, eight miles northeast of Lake Village on Arkansas 144. Its namesake is a 20-mile-long oxbow, Arkansas’ largest natural lake. We checked into one of the park’s 14 cabins — there also are 122 campsites — and quickly headed for the Mississippi River levee for a wildlife tour in the fading light. Years ago, Julie and I saw a number of beavers in the borrow pits that lie between the levee and the Mississippi, but there were none on this drive. We were, however, treated to sightings of a number of ducks, great egrets and a great blue heron, plus we heard great horned owls calling to each other. Back at the cabin, I got a fire going in the fireplace and, after all the miles of southeast Arkansas back roads we had covered, it did not require much gazing at flames for everyone’s eyelids to get heavy. We slept hard.

Historic Washington State Park: We reached this dandy place, eight miles northwest of Hope on U.S. 278, late on the very wet second day. Established in 1824, Washington once thrived, being a stop on the highly traveled Southwest Trail. Depicting life in the 1800s, the park’s features include a blacksmith shop, a print museum and two courthouses. We spent the night in Hope, then headed back to Washington early the next morning for the final day of the park’s Jonquil Festival. It was rainy again, and cool, but we had a good time chatting with vendors inside one of the park’s buildings. We bought handmade soap and jewelry, and were on our way again.

Crater of Diamonds State Park: The weather was still rainy and cool when we reached this spot, just outside Murfreesboro off Arkansas 301, but it did not keep us from playing in the mud like three kids for a couple of hours. We found no diamonds, but that’s OK, we had fun, and now that it’s June I would not mind going back and taking advantage of the attraction’s water park after a warm day of digging.

Mount Magazine State Park: The skies had cleared by the time we got to Arkansas’ highest peak. Shortly after checking into the park’s lodge, we stepped out back and happened upon a wedding. With the Petit Jean River Valley serving as a backdrop, the couple said their “I dos” just as the sun was setting. Later, we marveled at how well we could see the stars from atop the mountain, deciding this would be a great place to come back to for a meteor shower. I awoke the next morning to gaze down on the river valley, blanketed by fog. A few hills poked up through the mist like little islands in a frothy sea. The sight was breathtaking and slightly surreal.

Eureka Springs: We spent much of the fourth day winding through the Ozarks on the way to one of my favorite places. With the Basin Park Hotel as our base of operations, Julie and Abby went shopping while I went for a run. The steep streets were a challenge, but fortunately our suite’s whirlpool soothed my aching muscles.

The next day, Abby and I had some thrills ziplining while Julie visited Thorncrown Chapel, the inspiring sanctuary with its immense glass walls, on U.S. 62 just west of Eureka.

Then it was time to head home. We were tired but satisfied with our ARKcation.

Email sonnyrhodes@sbcglobal.net.

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