Wednesday, January 2, 2013

March 2011 Spring Break

For this spring break we wanted to explore Arkansas, I have always wanted to go to Mountain Home and fish on the white river, I had also been to Petit Jean several years previously and was interested in visiting again. My son, Matthew is getting more savy with his navigation skills so he pretty much mapped out the trip as we went along.

We stopped and did a bit of fishing at Degray Lake but didn't catch anything-it was a cold gray day but we were both in the mood for a long drive. We would go out across the state and drive straight up to Petit Jean which would be the first place we would stay over night.

Our first destination was Crater of Diamond State Park, although we weren't quite prepared to get filthy and didn't have the tools it was still fun. We rented some shovels and tools and took our place along the dried up river area. We found lots of rocks and interesting things and visited the gift shop but no diamonds-not even my son who is so lucky at finding things-we will definitely returned more prepared next time.

We drove from Crater of Diamonds to Petit Jean State park. When we arrived it had just started to storm and it was beautiful backdrop to a wonderful night sleep. The thunder echoed across the cavern in front of the cabin-I was excited to see the surroundings and by morning I was not disappointed. You look out the back door of the cabin and there is a deep cavern surrounded by moss and lichen covered rocks, the other side of the canyon was almost completely obscured by early morning fog which heightened the atmoshpere. That first step off the back yard is a ridiculous drop off-very scenic and very cold that March morning. There are cedar and pine trees all around you and the fauna is quite different than much of the Texas parks, I was enthused about going to see the falls which is a moderately short walk down the canyon to end up directly beneath the falls.

The way down was wonderful and the excitement of both of us made the trek pretty effortless. Going up was another matter as I felt my age. I kept up with my son and very quickly climbed what felt like straight up the wall and the views were amazing-just needed a bit more oxygen. Let's just say we did it too quickly and I'm not twelve anymore. The falls were well worth the hike, the water beneath the falls is very cold and clear, there are large rocks that we climbed and he got closer and into areas that seemed a bit dangerous but we made it back in one piece. I have done a painting of the falls and it will be out on the website in the next month or so. There is a lot of history about the park and we hiked a lot around the falls and through trails in the park. It is a beautiful place to visit.

Our next place to stay was Rocky Hollow Lodge near Bull Shoals Lake. My first intention was to get a boat for the day but it was really windy and cold and that idea quickly faded. We did fish near the lodge and around the area with no luck but I was determined to get him on some trout. That night we ate dinner at Gastons-even if the food was not as amazing as it was the scenery would make it worth the visit. You sit at the window and look out over the White River while raccoons walk along the deck outside the window, it really gives you that wilderness feel but your in an upscale very elegant restraunt. The food was amazing as well and lots of fishing enthusiasts to share great conversation with. It was worth the price tag of dinner and a very memorable experience.

The next day I booked a fishing guide for trout on the white river. My son caught the largest and the most and he had to ease up on his bass technique he was used to. He ended up with a large brown-I can't remember the guide service or I would include it now because they were great people to go out with. This is the problem with writing about a trip after the fact-as I get more trips uploaded they will get a bit better in details and specifics.

All around the area are many areas to fish for trout and we did well with small trout from some of the bridges in the area. My son is still quite partial to bass but I think he enjoyed the trout as a change of pace. The scenery of the Norfolk and White rivers is so worth the drive and we will definitely go back.

The first Cavern we got to see is the Blanchard Springs Cavern, there are two distinct rooms-an upper and lower chamber, each have their own kind of formations including massive flowstones, delicate soda straws and stalagmites and stalagtites. We also enjoyed seeing the cave salamanders and crickets. Its a very large area-one room, the Cathedral Room is the as long as three football fields. The guides were very informative and answered all the questions we had.

The last day of our trip would be our caving tour, we ended up staying close to Branson Missouri in a small town that was perfect for us to just relax and do nothing for a night. It's hard sometimes to feel like there is no activity plan but on these trips that's often the only time you get to rest and recoup from the climbing, hiking and fishing.

The next day we got up early and travelled to several caverns in the area, Mystic Caverns and Cosmic Caverns- I loved the guide for the mystic cavern, she had a great sense of humor and was quite knowlegable, the amazing thing about the cave was the overwhelming flowstones-they dwarfed all of us and the flow of the path down into the cave was very steep and dramatic. The highlight of Cosmic Cavern was the bottomless cave lakes with blind trout-the green color you can see of the lakes are just amazing. There is also a record soda straw that measures nine foot long. It was the last cave of the day and we both enjoyed the tour although both of us were about worn out.

The rest of the trip was driving through the mountains of Arkansas-a long drive home but an incredible trip with my son. The next trip we planned is a trip to the Florida Keys-this trip is a family affair where my whole family goes for fourteen days. Stay tuned for more pix and more daytripping.

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