We have now been on the road for 2 months! We have stayed in 7 states and traveled over 2000 miles. I am just about feral enough they are not going to let me re-enter society at this point. Okay, just kidding, but there are elements of truth to that!
After leaving Carlyle, we had an overnight stay at the Missouri Welcome Center to break up our 6 hour trip to Harrison, Arkansas. On the way in on Saturday morning we stopped in Springfield to see the original Bass Pro Shop. It was a compound about the size of a mall with the outdoor store, a few restaurants, an aquarium and an outlet. There is also an NRA museum/Archery Museum that are free to visit, and if you like guns and history you don’t want to miss that. (I found a cozy chair in the museum and played on my phone, but my enthusiast husband loved it). The restaurant had excellent food as well, and neither of us were expecting that.
We are staying at the Harrison Village and RV park on the outskirts of town. I would recommend this place to fellow campers. It’s a nice park, but mostly because the owners have been outstanding. They have also been gracious about all our packages. When we are somewhere longer than a week we make our amazon orders (typically things that we can’t get just anywhere – like the special laundry detergent or toilet cleaner that is safe for our grey tank). We also have our mailing service in Texas (Escapees) forward any mail they are holding which usually isn’t much at all. We don’t have many bills, and the rest of the junk mail we have them destroy. The best delivery this week is that Ed’s birthday present finally arrived. He has been waiting on his new guitar since we left. He had been teaching himself on an electric Fender, this new one is acoustical. He has gotten good at playing “Tennessee Whiskey” this past month!
We chose to stay in Harrison because it was the closest to Newton County, where we had many of our plans in the Buffalo National River area. I was very bummed to find out that the river is too low for kayaking as they have had an unusually dry season. It was the main reason we were looking forward to coming here as we missed kayak season at home trying to prepare to leave. We had to scramble around and find other things to do, but that ended up not being hard at all. It did seem to become the theme of this leg of the trip though as we have had to change plans and direction way more than usual. This is probably my test for telling folks in my last post you have to roll with the punches in this lifestyle!
We hiked several different trails – most notably Whitaker’s Point, and Lost Valley. These are two of the most popular hikes in Arkansas. There were others that sounded great but they were all to waterfalls, which due to the dry river are also non-existent right now. Whitaker’s Point reminded me of a trail back in West Virginia called “Endless Wall” in that there are plenty of spots to go out on the bluffs to see the view from the top of the mountain. It culminates to a big rock called Hawk Crag Bill which is easily the most instagrammed in the entire area.
Lost Valley started off very tame, it seemed like we were just going on a scenic, casual walk as the beginning of the trail is very wide and graveled. However, when you get towards the end there are all sorts of interesting features. There is a grotto that normally has a waterfall but held its own interest without the water. If you take the stairs to go up above that there is a relatively shallow cave that you can explore. About 20 feet past the entrance is a section you have to crawl through about another 20 or 30 feet and it leads to a circular cathedral room with a small waterfall in it.
Ed was impressed I actually did it as he understands just how far outside of my comfort zone this was. He used to go out spelunking more seriously than this little place, so this was minor compared to his experiences. He turned out our light source while we were in the room so I could experience the true darkness. You could have stayed in there all day and never would your eyes adjust enough to see your hands in front of your face. We used a combo of a flashlight and the flash on our phone camera to get images of us on the inside, so they aren’t the greatest but it gives you an idea.
Newton County is a bit of a drive from where we are staying, and we made that beautiful drive several times this week. We couldn’t camp over there – not enough conveniences or internet for work. We made a pit stop in the little town of Jasper (pop. 461) and ate at the Ozark Cafe (excellent food and prices!). We were told by a friend who used to live here to stop into Emma’s, which is a little junk shop with some interesting oddities. We spent some time chatting with the shop owner who was a lot of fun. On her counter was a book that grabbed my attention because I used to read quite a lot of true crime. I asked her about it, and she told me the unbelievable story and I walked out with the signed copy.
If you are interested, the name of the book was “Witnesses for the Lamb” and it was written by a local woman named Molly May. I read it in a few nights, it was an easy read and only a little over 100 pages. It tells the story of Keith and Kate Haigler, a young couple who lived in the town. (Kate worked at the Ozark Cafe) They were under the influence of basically a cult leader named Emory Lamb and believed they were the witnesses that are talked about in the book of Revelations. They believed if they died, they would awaken in 3 days. They hijacked a bus on July 4 1982, and had the driver park diagonally across the bridge over the Buffalo River (the gateway into the little town) and started making demands to get a news broadcaster to let them tell their story. They threatened to kill one person an hour until that demand was met. All the hostages were released, they weren’t actually interested in hurting anyone else, they just wanted the police to kill them to get the attention on their cause so people would anticipate the resurrections. It’s available on Amazon if you are interested! Jasper is a Mayberry-like small town, and this tragedy definitely still holds an impact. The Sherriff these days is retired and working in the hardware store, but was a great source for the book.
Just outside of Jasper is a couple other notable places – one being an breathtaking overlook of “The Grand Canyon of the Ozarks”. I understand at Cliffside Inn there is a restaurant with a panoramic view, but we haven’t gotten around to going, mostly because by the time we are ready to eat we are dirty in our hiking clothes. Another place is the now defunct amusement park that used to be called “Dogtown USA” It closed in the 90’s and it’s interesting to see the remains. Johnny Morris, owner of the Basspro, has recently purchased it and is making another nature retreat comparable to the one he created in Branson called “Dogwood Canyon Nature Park”. I think that’s going to be a boost for their little area, but am hopeful not too big of one because the untouched beauty of Newton County is a treasure.
The other place to stop in this area is in the early morning or at dusk is a couple of fields where the Elk herd hangs out.
We also had the pleasure of visiting Eureka Springs one day. This town has a very interesting history and a lot of unique shops and art. In their little town of 3000 people, there are 600 artists residing there and it shows. It’s also the second biggest place in America for quick elopements (Las Vegas being number 1). You can even go into one of those old-timey photoshoot places and get married in the garb if that’s your heart’s desire. It was what Emily did a few years back – she was our guide on an hour long walking tour of the town. (Well worth $13 to learn how the town as formed and other interesting history.) Would have loved to have done the ghost tour but we didn’t stay that far into the evening.
She shared with us that the area used to be a sacred place for Native Americans, they believed the water in the springs had magical, healing powers. It was so sacred that they didn’t restrict other tribes from visiting it. A man named Dr. Alan Jackson came to the area to find the springs many times over many years and finally stumbled across it on a hunting trip with his son. This son had a medical problem with his eyes so he washed them with the water and it did fix the problem. He brought a friend with a skin condition who also was healed in the water. So of course they had to claim the land from the Native Americans and this became part of Trail of Tears. Eventually, Dr. Jackson started bottling it and the start of their railroad made it possible to ship it everywhere. Perrier bought rights and this was the source of a lot of their water in the 70’s. Today, there are still a lot of bath houses and spa treatments available.
There were lots of great stories – Catherine Nation spent a lot of time in the town, and did a lot of charity work for women and children escaping abusive situations. Of course she wasn’t well liked because of her work regarding prohibition. She is a colorful character, if you aren’t familiar with her I recommend giving her a quick google. There was also one unsuccessful bank robbery there in 1922 when 5 men decided the small town was easy pickings. Within 5 minutes the streets were lined with shop owners and residents holding guns. They got all of them right away except one that they wounded. Over 100 of the town’s people followed the wounded one to the hospital to make sure he died (he did) and then the town celebrated for 3 days. They still do the reenactment of that day in the town and there are still bullet marks on some of the buildings. Highly recommend this quirky, unique, little mountain town!
We also decided to take in Branson for a day. We had kind of hung back on that because it sounded a lot like Pigeon Forge or Myrtle Beach and we have been to both. In the absence of kayaking, we decided we would be remiss not to spend the day in such a famous place. We started off in the original downtown area, where we had lunch, took a look around and left to go find the strip of attractions. Downtown just wasn’t our thing. I am sure many of you would think differently, so do not let us deter you. Some of it is due to living in an RV and shopping is almost pointless unless we are getting something to send to the kids. We have a rule that if you buy something, you have to get rid of something. And, let me tell you just two months out that we still have too much stuff and need to purge again.
We decided to each pick a museum or place of interest and then we would take in a dinner at Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Ed chose the Titanic Museum and it was surprisingly good with many artifacts they were able to get from the ship. They also did a very good job in getting you invested in some of the people of the ship. We dipped our hands in water the temperature of the water that the folks had to endure. It was pretty interesting. I didn’t pick something as serious as I have always wanted to visit the Hollywood Wax museum. It was a lot of fun! We took turns with their props and laughed and played around. Probably my favorite thing of that day. The Dixie Stampede was nice, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if we had little kids with us to watch their reactions.
Not sure what’s on tap for this week, we have some adulting to do. If we get enough free time, I am still hoping to get over to Bentonville to see the Crystal Bridges Museum.