Back to School

_C1_7647.JPGI loved lots of things about marching band at the University of Nebraska, but one of the subtler pleasures was moving in a week before almost anyone else for the 14-hour days of band camp. I (goofily) felt like the campus was ours and the rest of the students were intruders, coming too late to know the place as well as we did or to pour as much of themselves into it. But I loved their return anyway, because it also meant returning to great friends I hadn’t seen all summer and soaking up the infectious energy that boomed from the loudspeakers at every pep rally and welcome ceremony.

The excitement’s not really aimed at me these days, but it’s hard to avoid when roughly one-third of Fayetteville’s population learns or works at the University of Arkansas. The 27,000 undergrads are a pain to some and a boon to others, as my colleague Stacy Ryburn cheekily wrote for today’s paper, but you can’t deny they have a good time.

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_C1_7767.JPGGood luck to all of the students, and to the people who have to deal with them. If all goes well, the undergrads will get their names etched into the university’s sidewalks when they graduate, an Arkansas tradition that I caught a glimpse of as I left campus.

Thanks for looking!

Dan

Greenway V

_C1_7396.JPGIt only took eight months, but yesterday I got past the Fayetteville section of the Razorback Greenway and into parts I’ve never seen before. A beautiful Saturday brought a few more miles of the 36-mile thread that carries characters like this pair, who were taking a break during a ride from one end of the trail to the other and back — I’d need a breather, too. Others included some disc-golfing fraternity brothers and a bulldog puppy named Princess that got doused with water to cool off from the trek around Lake Fayetteville.

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_C1_7449.JPGWe’ll see what’s going on in Springdale next time. Thanks for looking.

Expectations

IMG_5302.JPGI set out last weekend to explore a new corner of the Buffalo National River, and for the most part I failed.

The Cecil Cove Loop Trail braids back and forth over Cecil Creek, winding past an old cemetery, long-abandoned settlements and rock walls and a spur trail that leads to two lovely waterfalls. But I didn’t get to see those things. First, I drove down a dirt and gravel road I shouldn’t have driven down, and only the fact that we were going downhill saved us from getting stuck (a sign at the end of this road helpfully alerted traffic from the other direction to hazardous conditions). Almost as soon as we came to the first creek crossing on the trail, the sighting of what looked like a sizable cottonmouth spurred a quick about-face.

Back at the trailhead, we stopped by the century-old Erbie Church, a tin-roofed, five-pewed building that wouldn’t look out of place in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, or maybe The Walking Dead. Eventually I wanted to re-try the trail’s loop in the other direction, away from the creek. By then our water supply was too low to make the miles-long hike, so we gave up on that attempt, too.

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IMG_5319.JPGI wasn’t ready for this one. I’ve hiked seven hours in sand and up quiet and rugged corners of Yosemite, not to mention all the time I’ve spent around this corner of the state, but little old Arkansas still has some tricks up its sleeve. My hiking ability doesn’t matter much if I don’t know enough about the place I’m going to. I didn’t even think of snakes as an issue, which I suspect is because I haven’t spent much time alongside quiet, slow-moving creeks. I was overconfident. Lesson learned.

The weekend wasn’t a total bust — I got some time at Silver Dollar City, both above and below ground, and caught an unusual sight in my apartment parking lot.

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IMG_5232.JPGThanks for looking, and be safe out there.

Dan