Northwest Arkansas

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Reaching about a month back in time, we had a glorious six days in Arkansas with my parents.  We really wanted to share part of our journey with both of our families, and the Ozarks seemed like the perfect place to do so with my family.  My father visited the Missouri Ozarks regularly as a child and has also spent time in Northwest Arkansas.  Given that much of his time in these parts were spent with his grandfather, I thought this would be the perfect place for him to travel with his grandson.  And perfect it was!

We bounced around a bit during those six days, but we saw some pretty amazing places.  Though people who have been to the Ozarks have gushed to us about its beauty, it seems to be a relatively undiscovered corner of our country.  We certainly didn’t get the same reaction from folks when we told them we were headed to the Ozarks as we got when we told them we were headed to the Colorado Mountains.  Oh well…their loss.

We spent our first night at a wonderful bed and breakfast in Mountain Home.  After spending several hours getting to know the woman who owns and runs this beautiful home, she took us to a nearby pair of bald eagles with their new eaglets.  We were all in awe, but my mother was particularly excited to see bald eagles in their natural habitat – a long time dream of hers.

Nesting Bald Eagle in Mountain Home, Arkansas

Nesting Bald Eagle in Mountain Home, Arkansas

There are two things that we saw in Arkansas that stand out to both Alan and me as two of the most amazing things we’ve ever seen.  The first was the Buffalo River, the country’s first national river.  We disappointedly looked through our photos and saw that none do it justice.  Then I looked online for photos of the river and didn’t find any that did it justice either.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful photos of the river taken by much more experienced photographers than me, but I suppose this is a place with a beauty and spirit that just can’t be captured by film.  Perhaps this is why we were so shocked and impressed when we glimpsed this glorious river for the first time.  Rather than post many mediocre pictures of this river, I urge you to take a trip and visit this beautiful, winding gem.  The shorelines are undeveloped, bluffs line the river, and the water is turquoise and crystal clear.  My father and I were lucky enough to float the Buffalo with some friends of friends on the weekend.  It seemed like everyone in Northwest Arkansas was out on the river that day enjoying the sun.  This is another spot that I’d love to return to with Van when he’s a bit older.

Grandpa and Van checking out rocks along the Buffalo River

Grandpa and Van checking out rocks along the Buffalo River

After a couple of days along the Buffalo River and a quick trip to Branson, we headed over to Eureka Springs.  My favorite part of the town was exploring the footpaths through some of the historic residential neighborhoods with my father as Van napped.  We came upon some beautiful homes and inns, spoke with a man working to repair statuary at a petite but meticulous Catholic Church, visited the famous Crescent Hotel, admired the many preserved springs throughout town, and marveled at the early date at which the town began historic preservation.  But the highlight of our stay in Eureka Springs was not in the downtown.  The second amazing place that we visited was Thorncrown Chapel, which has its home in the forest just outside of Eureka Springs.  Again, our photos do not do this brilliant chapel justice, so below is a photo from the Chapel’s website.  We knew that the Chapel was listed fourth on the American Institute of Architects’ list of the top buildings of the twentieth century, so it was not a shock that the building was beautiful.  I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many churches, chapels, and cathedrals, including many of the greatest in Europe.  This is without a doubt my favorite of all such buildings.  It is constructed so that when you’re sitting in the Chapel, it feels as if you are bathed in the forest.  The clear glass pane behind the altar provides a magnificent view of the forest, changing my concept of an altar forever.  Thorncrown Chapel evokes God through its architecture in a way that I’ve never experienced before.

Thorncrown Chapel

Thorncrown Chapel

Alan, Van, and I were so lucky to spend such a fantastic week in Arkansas with my family despite our van troubles.  The beauty and company certainly helped us to refrain from letting our problems get in the way of enjoying our travels.

48th State

We picked up our rental van last week, packed it full of everything from our sad, broken van in Memphis, and traveled west towards the Ozarks.  After our third night here, I’m in love.  I had high expectations – but they have been exceeded at every turn.  It’s also been wonderful to focus on something other than our van troubles.  My parents flew in for the week to spend time with their grandson (and us), so we’ve been able to relax and enjoy time with family.

We spent our first night at a beautiful bed and breakfast in Mountain Home headed southwest to the upper Buffalo River for our next two nights, and are now in Branson, Missouri for the night.  We’ll be returning to Arkansas for the last two nights of my family’s visit – leaving for Eureka Springs in the morning.  We’ve seen eagles nesting in the wild, elk, a gorgeous bluebird, and my mother, husband and son spotted a baby woodpecker yesterday.  Between that and all of the armadillo roadkill, we’ve seen quite a bit of wildlife.  But nothing has topped the Buffalo River, the first national river.  I had heard it was beautiful, but I was unprepared for the sheer beauty of the setting, the towering bluffs, and the clear turquoise water.  My father and I were lucky to get away and float down about eight miles of the river yesterday, with a side hike to a towering waterfall.  An almost perfect day (it would have been perfect if Alan had been able to join us)!

And now, I can update the list of states I’ve visited, spent time in, and (at a bare minimum) spent the night in.  Arkansas was my 48th state!  We were planning to visit what would have been my 49th state next week, but since we need to speed to Colorado and return the rental van, Oklahoma will have to wait.  And Hawaii will make a great trip at some point in the future to celebrate traveling to all 50 states.

I know you’re probably wondering where the photos are after I’ve written so much about the beauty of this area.  Once we have a bit more down time in the next week or so, I’ll be sure the post some photos from our time here.