We just spent six days with our daughter Jessica and her husband Bryan in northwest Arkansas. Bentonville is Bryan’s boyhood home. His parents and siblings live there. Since we were passing through the area, they decided it would be a good time to fly up and show us around.
So as it goes with most family gatherings, there was a lot of eating involved. They took us to their favorite restaurants. We went to dinner at Bryan’s brother’s house, twice, and then again to his sister’s house. We went on a couple of picnics and found some interesting lunch spots. Each evening we stayed late, talking and telling stories. We drove back to our campsite in the dark of night. We had such a good time visiting Bryan’s family.
Located in the Ozark Mountains near Rogers, Arkansas, we once again had a beautiful Army Corp of Engineer campsite. This time at Horseshoe Bend Campground on Beaver Lake. We were right on the water. The view out our window across the lake was stunning.
Jessica, always the ultimate planner and organizer, had an itinerary of things for us to do. She kept us busy. There was not much down time as each morning we were up and out to meet everyone for the days adventures. We did a variety of activities. Listed below are just a few highlights from those adventures.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art — This art museum was an amazing surprise, but with the backing of Walmart’s Alice Walton, what should we have expected? A small town art museum in the Ozark’s, it rivals many larger U.S. city museums. With 200,000 square feet and another 100,000 square feet currently under construction, the large modern facility showcases an impressive collection of American art. I was particularly drawn to the paintings of George Washington by artist Charles Willson Peale, Andy Warhol’s painting of Dolly Parton, and John Vanderlyn’s Niagara and the Rapids, though there is much more to amaze and inspire.
One could get lost wandering the trails through the forest and flowers of the 120 acre museum grounds where you pass by sculptures and cross over bridges spanning streams from natural springs. The grounds and permanent art collection is free to the public. A small fee is charged for visiting the special exhibits that are temporarily exhibited.
Canoe Trip on Little Sugar Creek — This was a glorious combination of sunshine, warm temperatures, good company, pristine water and scenic nature. The canoe and kayaks were provided by Bryan’s brother. Seasonal rains had Little Sugar Creek flowing more rapidly than normal making this an adventurous trip. Our skills were put to the test immediately when we encountered an 12”-18” drop over the rocks. Happy to report Grammi and I remained dry the entire trip, though there were times when I had my doubts. I can’t say the same for everyone who came along. Paddling downstream, we passed a couple of fishermen hoping to entice a bite from the skittish smallmouth bass we often saw hiding in the shadows. Grammi pointed to a bald eagle sitting on a nest in the top of a tall tree. We stopped on a sandbar in the middle of the creek to stretch our legs and eat our lunch. It was a perfect day.
Mushroom Hunting — Foraging for wild mushrooms brought back childhood memories for Grammi. Her father and uncles would bring bounties of the delicious delicacies to the table during the spring. She says wild mushrooms were all she knew as a child. So when Bryan’s brother invited us to go hunting for morel mushrooms, her eyes widened and her mouth watered at the prospect.
It was near the end of mushroom hunting season. Most of the spots Chad took us to were already picked clean. No big deal for me. I enjoyed just walking through the woods. I love being in nature. At the last place we stopped, Grammi shouted, “I see one”. I was so happy for her. She was thrilled. A few minutes later, our daughter Jessica found another. We didn’t get skunked. Back at Chad’s house, he gave Grammi a bag of morels he had picked a couple of days prior.
A place we stopped while hunting mushrooms was the grounds of the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel located in Bella Vista. Situated on a hill over looking a lake, the unique architecture of this non-denominational chapel is a popular wedding venue.
Sampling Spirits at the Tall Pine Distillery — Located across the state line in Missouri, we bellied up to the bar at Tall Pine Distillery for a tasting of flavored moonshines. The owner, Joe, poured us each a small taste of the various flavors like apple pie, blueberry, and cinnamon-vanilla describing what each is best mixed with. Regardless of the flavor, there was no disguising the distinct overpowering flavor of the corn whisky.
An Old Fashion Crawfish Boil — How many mud bugs can you eat? I think I set a personnel record but I have no way of verifying as I did not keep count. Suffice it to say, it was so good I found it hard to stop eating. A crawfish boil is a social event. The spicy boiled pot of crawfish, potatoes, corn, andouille sausage, mushrooms and green beans is spreads across the table where folks stand elbow to elbow and eat with their fingers. Bryan’s brother hosted the event and invited family and friends for good eats and good times.
Natural Falls State Park — About an hour drive west, we crossed the state line into Oklahoma to visit Natural Falls State Park where we took a short hike to Dripping Springs Scenic Waterfalls. A waterfall in Oklahoma was not something I would have expected to see, so I was eager to make the trip. Down in a gorge was a lovely waterfall splashing into a pool of water. I was happy we came. It was like an oasis. We took a hike on one of the trails through the park and astonishingly had a Bigfoot sighting. A closer look revealed we were in no danger. 😉
As stated, this is just some of the highlights of the good times spent with our son-in-law’s family. It would be difficult and lengthy to list all the fun we had. This area around Rogers, Bentonville and Bella Vista is a beautiful place with many parks. There are hiking and biking trails all around. We found a campground at Blowing Springs Park for a possible return visit. By all appearances, it would be a grand place to live.
Not all was a good time though. A thing happened. I hesitate to include it in this blog because I am embarrassed I let it happen. I should have known better. But ultimately we feel it is best to include the bad with the good in our travels.
On what was to be our final night at Horseshoe Bend Campground, we arrived back at the camper late and went straight to bed. At dawn the next morning a strong storm passed over. Hail pitter-pattered on the camper. Strong winds blew across the lake and hit us broadside. We had no protection. Oh no! We heard it and jumped up as quick as we could. We had left the awning out. Not all the way out. Just far enough to cover the slide out. The fierce wind blew the rain sideways. Like a hurricane the howl was deafening…and scary. It was so strong I could not push the door open. It did not matter, it was too late and the awning was destroyed.
Later that afternoon our daughter and son-in-law came to help us remove the awning from the trailer. I don’t no what we would have done without their help. We called our insurance company. We contacted repair shops. It would be late in the afternoon before we got everything sorted out. We changed our plans and arranged to stay for another night.
Later that night, around 10:00 p.m. we got a stern knock on the door. It was a park ranger telling us to evacuated the site because of rising flood waters. We were already hitched up, so we were out quickly to higher ground.
We left the park the next morning without an awning. Looks like we won’t have one until we return home in the fall. Replacement parts are not available and service centers are booked out weeks if not months in advance. An inconvenience for sure, but we’ll manage just fine. I believe we fared better than some. We heard that an RV park a few miles from where we were, was flooded so fast the campers were washed downstream, reminding us to pay closer attention to the weather and to keep an eye to the sky.
So until next time…happy days and safe travels.