A month ago we got home from a really fun business/camping trip to Northwest Arkansas. I attended a conference at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (which is a great little city, by the way… see the photos below).
After the conference ended Theresa and Eliza flew out to meet me. They flew into Springfield, Missouri (cheap flight) and we went to church that Sunday afternoon. Then we drove down to Branson, Missouri and camped for the night by the lake at Table Rock State Park.
Branson is famous for musicals, musicians, and amusement parks and entertainment geared to families and retirees. It’s a little bit like a combination between Disneyland and Las Vegas. On Branson’s equivalent of The Strip, you’ll find things like the Segway racetrack and Titanic Museum below. You’ll also find shows featuring The Osmonds or tribute bands covering songs from pretty much any genres that were popular before the 1980s.
Branson also has a really nice waterfront along the White River. We spent a while wandering along the boardwalk. The weather was pretty hot (and humid), so it was nice to be close to the water. Before driving down to Arkansas we had a picnic lunch under a giant tree by a pond at the College of the Ozarks.
Finally, we arrived at our destination: the Buffalo National River, a wild and undammed river lined with bluffs and running through the beautiful Ozark Mountains. Eliza loved playing in the river (and eating s’mores at the campsite).
I think I already said that the weather was HOT, but I should mention this again. I don’t think it ever got above 100F (which was a nice break from Arizona), but it was in the 90’s everyday with a humidity percentage about that high as well. At night it didn’t even get cool enough to use a sleeping bag. After our first night we ditched the rain cover on our tent (that was like sleeping in a steam room) and just slept under a mesh roof under the stars. It was still too warm and wet, though. But at least there were fireflies (below). And we didn’t have rain, which was a miracle given the downpours I saw during the first couple days of the conference!
The next day was our big hike adventure. I had seen pictures of this place called hemmed-in-hollow falls. It was one of the sights that sold me on the idea of taking a camping trip to the Buffalo River, so we had to do it–rain or really hot shine. This was a 5-6 mile round-trip hike down into the river canyon and then up a small valley to the falls. We dropped over 1000 feet in elevation from top to bottom.
These falls are supposed to be well over 200 feet and the tallest between the Appalachians and the Rockies. All the falls in the Buffalo River were rain-fed, so they get much bigger after storms and then trickle down to almost nothing during dry weather. We got something in between that…
After we got back up the hill, we were tired, sweaty, and hot. We went back to the campsite and cooled off at the river, which was just a short walk down a path past our tent.
To end the day, we headed to a town about 30 miles away to join a class about foraging for edible plants. Pretty cool stuff, although we have a very different variety of edible plants here in Tucson compared to what they grow in the forests and fields of Arkansas. Still, it was nice to interact with some people and learn about their plants.
The post about the end of our trip is coming very soon (it’s going to be posted tomorrow night).