Atalanta

_MG_2253.JPGIn March we traded a Fayetteville apartment for a Rogers rental house, so I’ve been exploring. The house is within walking distance of a little artificial lake surrounded by miles of walking and biking trails called Lake Atalanta. I happen to have strolled down there once a month so far, so I’ve gotten to know the place all while one season gave way to another. These first few are from March.

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_MG_2297.JPGThen April:

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_MG_2876.JPGFinally, from last weekend:

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_MG_3484.JPGThe lake itself is nice, but my favorite part of the area is probably the trail connecting it to this house and the rest of downtown. Clear creeks gurgle along the way, and at one point there’s a stream on both sides. The woods are thick and lush. On Sunday I came across a couple members of Captain Burton’s Fun Time Sideshow Circus while they were visiting from Austin. And I heard a loud owl’s hoots as I walked back home. Not a bad move so far.

The Little Missouri

_MG_2907.JPGIt’s time to see a little more of what makes Arkansas the Natural State. Instead of a massive trip to Yosemite Valley or the Badlands, my plan this year is to take several shorter,  smaller trips around this state and fill in some gaps in my personal Arkansas map. There’s no shortage of gaps to fill, with Petit Jean State Park, the state’s northeast and most of the Ouachita Mountains in the state’s center-west as some of the most egregious examples. I began this week with the Little Missouri River trail in the southern Ouachitas. (For you non-locals, that’s pronounced wah-shih-tahs’).

The Ouachitas feel like a different beast than the familiar Boston Mountains here in the northwest. Unlike the chaotic Bostons, these run west to east in rugged, roughly parallel rows, essentially massive wrinkles pushed up before the dinosaurs by northward and southward geologic forces. Their bones also seem sharper than those of the north, with boulders and outcroppings of craggy, flinty novaculite. But these strange hills are still coated in dense forest and laced with streams, just like home.

This is all to say it’s a challenging and beautiful place to explore. The Little Missouri and its tributary creeks run strong and gorgeous and clear. Spring has fully arrived.

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_MG_3025.JPGWe hiked just short of a rocky area known as the Winding Stairs — the path crosses the river, which was a bit deep for that. Next time, I guess. We went back the way we came and drove down a couple of gravel roads to another trail landmark, a series of cascades and pools called the Little Missouri Falls. It was a peaceful and easy end to a long day of tough hikes.

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_MG_3367.JPGSomehow this corner of the Ouachitas reminded me of multiple states at once, recalling the falls and swimming holes of Johnson’s Shut-Ins in Missouri, the thin, towering trees and rocky streams of Yosemite, the dark, pine-covered hillsides of the Black Hills. Arkansas’s no slouch in its own right.

There’s a lot more to see around this area, too, if anyone’s interested. We hiked just part of the Little Missouri trail, which in turn is just a segment of a 27-mile loop. As with much of the state, it’s good to bring a good map to not rely too much on Google’s fanatical adherence to the shortest way. Unpaved roads are the rule throughout much of the range’s interior. Some were essentially car-width creek beds.

Thanks for looking.
Dan

Winter’s last

_MG_2773.JPGSpring is here. It’s here. It’s here, no matter how many snowflakes fell Saturday morning and regardless of the fact that it’s forecast to fall below freezing yet again this week. The sun is higher in the sky, the waterfalls are flowing and the flowers are out, if they can endure the freezes. Fresh fern fronds are unfurling over last year’s worn-out models. But the forests around Devil’s Den State Park and the rest of this region are still largely bare for the moment — dogwoods and redbuds are busy, but oaks are slowpokes. It seems less like a seasonal transition than a seasonal battle.

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_MG_2852.JPGNo matter how many last-minute freezes nature throws in, soon spring will win out and the place will explode with green, and I’ll be there. Thanks for looking.

Dan