hiking and trails, nature, photography, travel

An Arkansas Getaway

While visiting Missouri, Syl and I took to the south for a few days to explore parts of Arkansas along the Buffalo River. We were most excited about caves and cliffsides since we don’t have many caving opportunities in Oregon. (However, my Mom did call me up yesterday to tell me she heard about some Mt. Hood Glacial Caves being spotlighted on NPR that morning…I am still wondering if she actually wants me to go visit them or if she just wanted to let me know that we, in fact, have a few caves in Oregon. Since it was coming from my Mom, I’ll assume the latter.) 😀

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The National Parks were just starting to close due to the government shutdown, so a few of the well known parks around the Buffalo were starting to get blocked off. Luckily we were able to still seek out some of the surrounding wilderness areas maintained by organizations other than the USgov.

One of my favorite spots was a natural bridge via cave. The rock wall colors were so vibrant, and the colors changed with the lighting depending on where you were standing.

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Just look at those pinks!

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These two photos of Syl walking across an inner ledge don’t do justice to the sheer size of the cliff wall that is crafted above him. The size and width of the rock is out of this world. It is massive, and mighty, and then curves upwards and shoot straight into the sky, forming a huge vertical bluff!

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And the part that made the whole trip work out and so utterly awesome: Amazing and kind Missouri friends! We were given  the opportunity to spend a few days in a sweet little cabin just south of Ponca, AR, which was owned by some of my friends from the area. And thanks to the above mentioned friends, we were also given a handful of local guide books, providing us with an array of waterfall adventures, hiking outings, cave exploring, and self-guided tours. Without these guides, we would have missed out on so much unmarked territory and waterfalling magic! While back at the cabin, we were able to relax and enjoy hot tea, fireside stories, competitive games of checkers, and a warm, cozy bed. To top it off, the front door opened up to an amazing view of the colorful valley below.

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And then we explored some bluffs. These are unlike any bluffs I have ever explored. It is amazing to see these huge, hollowed out cliffsides, with smooth pale rock providing a (mostly) level foot base. It is fascinating to think about all the people that have walked the same, skinny cliff path as well as the inhabitants that have found shelter in those bluffs.

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At one point, we found ourselves more inclined to shimmy through a small (much more secure) hole in the thick rock, rather than try to scoot down a skinny bluffside and cross a barely there ledge. Again, it is amazing to think about all the people that have traveled this path and will continue to travel this path. At 550 ft tall, Goat Bluff is considered the tallest sheer bluff face found between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains.

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While out on big bluff, we had the unique opportunity to experience the large, age-twisted junipers that grow along the trail’s edge. They somehow cling to the sheer rock with very little soil to depend on. The juniper needles are so full of fragrance in the hot sun. They stand there, silent but sturdy, with limbs and body leaning towards the open air, possibly for a better view and a touch of the open air breeze. Some of these trees have been dated to over 800 years old by the National Park Service. It was an amazing experience to stop and pause, with glittering eyes, at these thick, gnarled trunks as they watch over the river.

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One of the last trails we visited on our Arkansas Trip was Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker Point. The trail was only a mile and a half in, I believe, so a short and sweet trail was a nice way to end our hiking getaway.

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Hawksbill Crag is one of those places that provides a complete feeling of serenity. The massive rock formation provides a somewhat wide and level crag to step out on to for an amazing view of the landscape and the valley below. There are actually quite a few crags along the trail cliffside, all with their own special shape and ominous positioning.

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When you are positioned out on that massive rock, your world changes. You can hear the wind blowing in the trees and feel it dance across your skin. You see the large wings soaring overheard and hear the echoing cry of the hungry birds looking down into the valley.  The experience really put me in my place — a nice reminder of how small I am in this vast wilderness of life. And it brings up time for thanks — thanks for living, for loving, for family, friends, quiet moments, loud moments, and peace. It reminds me to stop longer, listen better, and love stronger. And in the words of Roald Dahl,

Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

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The Arkansas wilderness is one of the most beautiful places I have experienced and I wish I would have taken advantage of the landscape during my teen/young adult years. I remember a few of my college mates were really into rock climbing, Arkansas adventures, and the Missouri State Natural High Club. I always wanted to get involved in the NHC outings but just felt intimidated at the time — I guess I was at a stage in my life where I just couldn’t make awesome decisions on my own. I bet they would have been so awesome to hang out with outside of school! Ah, c’est la vie. They were an amazing inspiration none-the-less. <3

hiking and trails nature photography travel
  1. Amazing photographs and scenery!

  2. AE

    Good words and awesome pictures! You two covered a lot of ground! Lost Valley is great, glad it stayed open during the shutdown. The cave at Eden Falls at the very end of that trail, past the big dome cave, opens into a big room with a tall waterfall in it if you crawl back into it a bit. Lots of great spots to see down there.

  3. Sarah

    Thanks for sharing Jessica! So beautiful!

  4. Jana

    The picture on the front porch of your cabin getaway made me feel good, a little bit like I was there sharing the fresh air and some of the earthy good times….thanks!

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