Spring breaking

What a difference two little letters can make.

Take it from me, ARkansas is much different from Kansas!

Dan and I certainly discovered that this previous week when we drove down to the Ozarks of Arkansas for a spring break getaway!

While some college friends were enjoying the time relaxing on a beach or lying low back in Lawrence, Dan and I squeezed the most out of every day with adventures, fun and lots of exercise! Here’s a look back…

Monday: After staying up until 2 o’clock the night before with packing and loading up the truck, Dan and I still manged to wake up at 8 to hit the road southeast.

Six-ish hours later, we arrived in the little town of Fifty Six, Arkansas.

Emphasis on “little.”

Then, we found our way down, deep into the center of Orark National Forest to stake out a camping spot.

First things first, we got everything set up and arranged. Work first, play later!

With our quaint “home” set up, we set back out to explore.

Our site was situated next to a creek — We even had to drive across it to get to our camping ground! Apparently they don’t believe in bridges in Arkansas…

Another thing I loved about the space was there was just that: a lot of space! We had a good 50 meters between our camping site and our neighbors’.

The rest of the day was spent exploring the nearby town of Mountain View. With a population of 2,000, it put Fifty Six to shame!

We grabbed dinner in town, but I’m going to go into the details of all that in a post tomorrow. Basically, camping-style food is a very different breed than what I’m used to back home, but I still made do!

The night ended with a campfire and a very early bedtime…

Tuesday: There was one main thing on our minds when Dan and I woke up on Tuesday morning: Hiking!

Dan did a great job of scouting everything out before heading down to Arkansas, so we knew exactly where to go to find the best trails. We decided to start on a 10 mile out-and-back trail from our camping site to another small town.

Along the way, we found a bamboo forest, steep cliffs, clear streams, groups of colorful butterflies and even a previously carved stump with our initials on it!

At the turn-around point, we took a break to eat lunch.

Then it was time to hike back!

All in all, it took us right around five hours to hike the whole loop. It was certainly a little more strenuous than 10 miles on a track!

Suffice it to say, I was a little tired by the time we finished up. Apparently Dan was, too, because we both ended up crashing for a two-hour nap! Then it was time for dinner, another campfire and ANOTHER early bedtime. I swear we didn’t stay up past 10 o’clock the whole trip!

Wednesday: Originally, we were planning to mountain bike on Wednesday, but after Tuesday’s hike, we decided to space the activity out a little bit. Instead, we took Wednesday as a more relaxing day. By that, I mean touring caverns and spending the day by the lake.

First up, we went over to the Blanchard Springs Caverns, just up the road from our campsite. For a very, very reasonable price, we got an hour-long tour deep into the incredible caverns.

I’ve been on a few cavern tours before, but this was one of the best!

I wish I could add some perspective to these photos, because the stalactites and stalagmites were h-u-g-e! Fifty people holding hands probably couldn’t even wrap around this column.

Our interest was piqued, so after the tour we had to head over to the site where the fresh water springs out of the caverns!

Truly wonderous.

Apparently, Dan and I weren’t the only people who thought that, either. When we were walking up, there was a small group of leather-clad bikers having a wedding! Seriously! They were signing the marriage certificate and everything!

After spending a few minutes taking in the sight, we headed back to the campsite for lunch and to pick up Dan’s fishing gear. The rest of the afternoon was spent next to the lake.

Dan took care of the fishing, while I caught up on some reading.

Although Dan didn’t catch any fish (mid-day isn’t a great time), we did spot some wildlife!

A huge beaver was sunning on the shoreline just 20 meters away from us!

After dinner in town, it was another night, another campfire.

Thursday: Mostly rested from Tuesday’s hike, we were ready for a little more physical exercise! This time, we loaded up the bikes and headed up to the top of the hills mountains. Yeah, it was straight-up mountain biking.

We started off on a four-mile “advanced” loop that eventually brought us up the an amazing view of the White River and surrounding area.

It’s “advanced” for a reason, not only was it super technical, but it also took a good amount of strength.

But we had what it took…

Truth be told, we did have to do a good amount of walking for the first third of the loop. With steep downhills on loose rocks and hard uphill climbs with boulders as obstacles, we just didn’t want to risk anything.

Fortunately, the last part was a little more — uhm — possible.

We ended back on the parking lot for a quick lunch before taking off on a seven-mile “intermediate” trail.

Note: That picture was of an “easy” part of the trail.

I don’t know what the levels were based on, but Dan and I both thought the second trail was actually more difficult! There were three miles that went straight uphill with no relief.

Good stuff, my friends.

After cleaning up, Dan and I headed back into town for one last dinner, then back to the campsite for a final campfire.

Friday: Overnight temperatures got down near 40 degrees, plus there was an unexpected rainstorm that shook the tent up during the night. In other words, it was the right time to get everything packed up and head back to Kansas.

It was a little bittersweet…

Although the sweetness was enhanced a little bit, by being able to make a detour by Eureka Springs, where my dad is on a fishing trip.

(A group of my dad’s friends have been meeting up to go fishing every spring for the past 27 years. How cool is that?)

A long drive later, Dan and I made it back to Kansas.

Now it’s snowing.

Spring break is officially over.

Questions: Did you have any spring break plans — or even getaways if you don’t get the luxury of a week off from school? Have you ever been camping?


11 responses to “Spring breaking

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