Thursday, June 08, 2006

Trip to Buffalo River

With Ryon and Alex both at Church Camp this week, Dana and I took the opportunity to have some time away. Tuesday morning, we drove to Ponca, Arkansas (approximately three hours from home) to the Buffalo Outdoor Center, where we stayed in their Mountain Sunrise cabin. From the front porch, we had a beautiful view of the valley below. We arrived at our cabin around 2:00 in the afternoon, so with plenty of daylight, we decided to do some hiking. We drove to an area about 4 miles from Ponca and hiked 1 1/2 miles to probably one of Arkansas' most famous, and most photographed areas, Whitaker Point. The afternoon was mostly overcast which made the temperature just right. Standing on the edge of the "crag" at Whitaker Point, you look out over the Upper Buffalo River Valley and the Whitaker Creek hollow. It is beautiful! While we were there, we heard what sounded like a very large tree fall--which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that, yes, it does make a noise. (You know, that age old question: "If a tree falls in the woods...?") The only bad part of the hike was that-- 1 1/2 miles out means 1 1/2 miles back--on terrain that is not flat! If was fun, though. By the time we came off the trail, it was nearly 6:00 PM, so we headed to Compton, AR, home of the Compton 1-Stop Grocery, Gas Station and Diner and the locally famous "Shirley Burger" (Shirley is the owner). We opted for the bacon cheeseburger--more heart, clogging, fatty meat

Wednesday began with a beautiful sunrise. The clear blue sky allowed the sunlight to stream across the valley, highlighting the fog that had settled there overnight. Absolutely gorgeous! I woke up around 6:30 AM, made some coffee and headed out to the porch to enjoy the view...Dana slept in. I listened to breeze blowing through the trees and marveled out how "quiet" and peaceful it was without all the city noise that I have grown accustomed to. After Dana got up, we headed off to do some "sight-seeing" around Jasper, AR.

We headed north on Hwy 43 for a leisurely drive. Our first stop was at Pruitt landing on the Buffalo River, just above Jasper. There was a church youth group just getting ready to float the river. We then made our way to Jasper and stopped to do a little "sight-seeing/shopping." We spent some time in "Emma's Museum of Junk" looking at the antiques and listening to Emma rant about President Bush and his immigration policies. About six miles down the highway, we stopped at The Cliff House Inn for lunch. The restaurant sits at the edge of what is known as the "Arkansas Grand Canyon." It was grand, it didn't look like the canyons I've seen, but the food and the view were good. We headed back up the highway to Bob's AG Grocery and picked a few groceries for later on, then drove over to Steele Creek on the Buffalo River for a little hiking and wading in the river. We decided we'd had enough driving for the day and headed back to the cabin where I took a nap in the porch swing while Dana read a book. She took a short nap, too.

We fixed charcoaled pork chops for dinner, then afterwards, we hiked a short distance from our cabin to an open meadow that sat on the edge of a bluff. As we approached the meadow, we saw three white-tail deer grazing near the meadow's edge. They didn't see us at first, but then we did something that caught their attention. We all stood motionless and watched each other for maybe five minutes, then the closest deer to us "snorted" at us and ran into the trees. The other two where further away; they watched us and continued to graze as they made their way to the edge of the trees, then casually disappeared into the woods. We made our way back to the cabin and washed the dishes. Since there was no garbage disposal in the cabin, I threw the "scraps" out into the brush in front of our cabin. About half an hour later, Dana and I were sitting on the front porch when we heard something coming through the woods. We watched as a SKUNK come out less than 10 feet from us and headed right for the "leftovers." In case you're interested, skunks love mushroom rice and cucumbers. We went into the cabin--no need to bother a skunk while he's eating. Right before going to bed, we stepped back out on the porch and to look at the moon and stars. They don't look nearly as bright at home. Out here, there are no street lights, just the "lights in the expanse of the sky" (Genesis 1:14).

Thursday saw another gorgeous sunrise. I sat on the porch with my coffee and my laptop. I watched a couple of woodpeckers go at a tree limb (how do they not get a headache from all that pounding?), and watched the squirrels run up and down the trees. We headed home around 9:00 AM, driving north to Harrison, AR- about 25 miles from Ponca. We drove through Harrison, didn't see anything that we really wanted to stop and see, so we just continued on Hwy 412 West. At Siloam Springs, we took a short detour and drove around John Brown University. Ryon (our recent high school graduate) keeps telling us that he's going there after getting his Associates Degree from Tulsa Community College.

All in all, it was a great two days in the Ozarks. Mike Mills and his crew at Buffalo Outdoor Center have done a great job in creating a place to get away and just enjoy life at a pace that is best described as "low gear."

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