Archive for the ‘Trails’ Category

For over forty years a group of male friends has had lunch together once a week and taken a trip together once a year. I’ve written about this unique friendship several times before and the trips we have taken to first class places like Park City, Utah; Breckenridge, Colorado and Scottsdale, Arizona. Not that Branson is less than first class … in fact we stayed in a beautiful 7 bedroom, 7 bath home overlooking Table Rock Lake. So why “did” “we choose Branson? Mainly because it’s close to Little Rock, has a lot going on and more of our guys could make the trip. Good Move … Until the Major Cold, Ice and snow event threatened to disrupt our plans. The weather. as predicted, was bad … even the owner of the house we rented recommended we reschedule. No way for this group! There was a little drama and uncertainty before, during and along the way … but, We made it and SST 2023 (number 44) is now in the record books.

Typical scene along our route to Branson

Mr. G’s Downtown Branson, Missouri

We have several good cooks and most meals were prepared in our well equipped rental home. Below is a photo sampling of food, fun and fellowship.

In spite of our penchant for the fun facet of our time together, we always find time for something a bit more culturally enriching. This trip, we visited Bass Pro founder, Johnny Morris’s Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at Ridgedale, Mo. There are over 75,000 artifacts representing about one third of Mr. Morris’s Collection.This place is truly a “must visit” in the Branson Area. Plus, this is only a small portion of attractions under the Top of the Rock/Big Cedar umbrella. Below are a few photos. Of particular interest to me was the Edward S. Curtis Gallery. I just recently read an amazing historical biography … Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan. This book portrays the lifelong passion of one man in the early 1900’s as he captures in photographs the pictures and stories of disappearing Native American Indian Tribes. This gallery alone is worth a visit to Ozarks Natural History Museum.

Once again it was illuminating, energizing and reassuring to know there are friendships that can last a lifetime. I have seen old guys (ROMEOS … Retired old men eating out) in small town restaurants across America. We are they! However, I bet there is not another like ours that has for over four decades had the consistent commitment to keeping a friendship bond right at the top of the calendar and priority list as we have. Thank you Fellow SST members.

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For more than a decade, a few of my family and friends have taken to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas in search of Charlie Brown’s Christmas spirit. The first five years, we backpacked into remote wilderness areas, set up our tents, gathered firewood donned Santa Hats, selected a small lonely cedar tree and with much pomp and ceremony, decorated it with a few items from home plus edibles for birds and animals. This has become a tradition as seen in the above December 2022 photo. The only difference from earlier years is we now go to one of the beautiful camp grounds along the Buffalo National River near Jasper, Arkansas. Incidentally, the free flowing Buffalo was the first river to be declared a “National River” by Congress.

Above is one of the beautiful limestone bluff lines at Kyle’s Landing where we set up camp.

Just in case you are wondering who would wear a jacket like the black and white one above, it is I. It’s truly perfect for camping in cold weather … down lined with a hood and it didn’t cost much at all. I found it in a discount store in Colorado and immediately declared it my camping jacket. Retail $300 … on sale $32. Enough said?? Also, how about the guy in the first photo with the Goldilocks Santa Hat?

Charlie Brown Campout 2022
The guys … Bryan, John, Daryl, CB, Renie. Showing up later … DJ and Don.

Above is a typical afternoon routine … tents erected, fire started, a little relaxation… happy hour not too far behind. Below, one can see what “roughing it” means to us … Renie preparing our main dish for the evening … pork tenderloin over an open charcoal and wood fire. WOW!! I can attest, his secret marinade made this meal as good or better than any 5 star restaurant!! BTW … Renie and his wife just returned from 9 months in France. Thus, “laissez les bon temps rouler”… “let the good times roll”

It was another unique and special weekend with friends and family. The older I get, the more I appreciate the freedoms and the blessings of living in the United States. In particular, I appreciate how so many before us have seen the value in preserving National Parks, National Monuments and State Parks, especially those here in Arkansas, The Natural State. We are truly blessed!!

Because Charlie Brown Christmas Campout has become a tradition, I am including a few photo memories from Christmases Past !!


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Utah hiking October 2022

My good buddies, Bryan and Daryl, just returned from our annual hiking trip to National Parks. This time to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, both located in Southern Utah.

We drove … almost 3000 miles round trip. That’s a long trip but with three drivers, it was comfortable. With the flexibility of having a car, we made side trips, detours on purpose and an overnight in Chinle, Arizona to visit Canyon de Chelly. The next day we stopped in Page, Az. to see the 710′ tall Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell where the water level is at one of the lowest since the dam opened in 1966. After a short hike to Horseshoe Bend we drove on to our base for the next four days, Kanab, Ut.

Below are a few picture of these amazing places. Of note, crowds are increasing … that’s good and bad. Just be prepared and try to go early.

Canyon de Chelly
Horseshoe Bend Page, Az.
The Narrows in Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Sand Caves Kanab, Ut.
90 Million Year Old Dinosaur Tracks

In closing, once again, I am so blessed to have good friends and we are all so blessed to be able to enjoy and share the freedoms and beauty of our incredible country … USA.

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Good food … Good Wine

It’s Fall and wild persimmons are dropping from the trees.

Yesterday, while on a short hike, I was transformed into a hunter gatherer foraging beneath a huge hardwood tree for beautiful, delicious and ripe Arkansas wild persimmons. After gathering several pounds, I headed home … whereupon, for the first time ever, I made Persimmon Walnut Bread. Thank goodness Patti was there to steer me away from serious mistakes. The above photo is the final product.

  • I’m certain there are less primitive ways to discard the seeds (four or five in each fruit) and recover the pulp … I chose rolling up my sleeves, squeezing one or more between my hands and fingers and extruding the slippery watermelon size seeds into a trash bag. I can attest this is messy, sticky work and that there will be more waste than edible pulp. Regardless, it’s been entertaining, educational and palatable … and a lot of work!
  • Maybe I will forget the work by next October. In the mean time, there’s another Persimmon nut cake in the oven. BIG SMILE! Happy Fall and Halloween!

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Arkansas to Oklahoma to Texas to New Mexico to Colorado and back home.


This little city in the Ozark Mountains is a frequent destination for Patti and me … I suspect I could go so far as to say it is our favorite Arkansas escape. Labor Day is reserved each year as an outing with another couple … Nancy and Steve.

I’ve covered Eureka Springs before featuring its uniqueness … the historic 1800s building, the healing springs, the Ghost tales in the Crescent Hotel and the countless serpentine streets, hills and “steps everywhere”. In this post I wish to draw your attention to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge … a 400 acre lifetime sanctuary for Big Cats and other abused wild animals. Founder, Tanya Smith and her family have dedicated their lives to the monumental task and financial challenge of caring for over 100 animals. Thanks to Walmart and Tyson’s Foods plus 100s of volunteers and thousands of visitors and donors, Turpentine Creek is one of the most successful and respected large animal refuges in the nation. Truly worth of a visit and possibly even an overnight stay in a cabin … complete with lion and tiger vocals. Check it out at: https://www.turpentinecreek.org

Birthday party for Lakota

Oklahoma … Roland and Shawnee

We both enjoy a few pulls of the slot machine handles so a short stop in Roland, Ok. and an overnight in Shawnee, Ok. broke the trip into shorter segments and thankfully didn’t break the travel bank. We had fun … won a little and lost a little. Patti is usually the lucky one.

Amarillo, Texas

This Interstate Highway spot on the map has become a regular for us … usually at Comfort suites where we have developed friendships with the smiling helpful staff. I even mentioned Teandra in a previous post … she’s still one of my heroes. Lots of restaurants, museums and natural attractions in the area … Napoli’s Italian downtown, Palo Duro Canyon and the Cadillac Ranch Sculpture Garden just West of town. Bring your spray paint can.

Palo Duro State Park

Las Vegas, New Mexico

I’ve written about Las Vegas, New Mexico before … especially our stop at the “Skillet Restaurant” … delicious, funky and artsy. Well this trip, we explored more and found a lot more that will keep us coming back on future trips. First of all, there are over 1000 buildings on the National Historic Register including a beautiful Catholic Church, “Our Lady of Sorrows”, The Plaza Hotel on the square, Montezuma Castle … now the United World College, the Dawn Light Sanctuary and our hotel, the Castaneda.

Hotel Castaneda … Our Hotel

I could write a book about Las Vegas, NM … it flows history. As an 1800s Railroad town it was not only a stop on a route but a destination and a settlement city. Patti and I loved our two nights at the incredible railroad hotel … Hotel Castaneda pictured above. This hotel, one of several built by Fred Harvey to serve rail travelers, opened in 1898. It was closed for many years and reopened after extensive restoration in 2019. Mr. Harvey created a hospitality industry, including the hiring and training of thousands of young women … THE HARVEY GIRLS … featured in a 1946 Judy Garland movie. There are now, even more reasons for Patti and I to pause in Las Vegas … plus, the Hotel Castaneda was a serendipitous find!

Westcliffe, Colorado

My buddy, Daryl and I discovered Westcliffe last year while on a hiking trip. I must say, this little town of 586 captured my fascination index … historic Main street, a couple of restaurants, a few retail and outdoor shops and a backdrop of the awe inspiring Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. Nothing notable about our two days here … but then, everything notable. It was relaxing, refreshing, energizing and “spiritual” … out here in the middle of God’s natural wonders.

One other thing … Westcliffe is a Dark Sky City. I was excited to do some night sky photography but, alas, Full Moon. Oh well, Arkansas has one Dark Sky designated site … Tyler Bend on the Buffalo National River.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains Afternoon storm

Westcliffe, Colorado Main Street
Sunset behind the Sangre de Cristo mountains

Silverthorne, Colorado on the Blue River … last stop before heading home.

We’ve stayed here on the Blue River several times in past years and it seems a bit like coming home. Silverthorne, Colorado is a great destination in Central Colorado … cool crisp temperatures, 32 degrees one morning, in the mountains over 9000′, near Breckenridge and Frisco and Vail, plenty of good food, outdoor activities and shopping … of course! The only negative this year … Aspen tree color change was later. We were tempted to stick around for another week or two. I’m not complaining. It was beautiful … see for yourself.

Picnic and hike
we also celebrated Patti’s Birthday … sans traditional candle and cake
Aspen color was a little late but we did see this near Fairplay, Co. as we headed home for Little Rock

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War Memorial Golf Course is a significant piece of the recreational history of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Now it is closed!!

I loved this golf course … partly because it was short, partly because it was in the middle of the city and partly because this is where I spent much of my time attempting to learn  to play this mostly fun, often frustrating game.

In reality, the game of golf has been on a national downswing … Pardon the pun!   Courses have been closing all over the country due to reduced rounds of play and other recreational choices.  I must admit that I too, very seldom play any more and have probably had a cavalier attitude regarding the closing.  So why the big deal today?  …               COVID-19 isolation, fitness center closings and my need for a place to exercise and get some fresh air.

What better place than an abandoned golf course … 

For the past week I have been going to War Memorial where I power walk the cart paths.  Rather than drive the fairways, chip from the fringe or putt the greens, I now enjoy the fresh air, soak in the Redbud tree beauty and refresh my spirit with memories of three hundred yard drives, eagle putts and that occasional  hole in one …  I Wish!!


What about that 3 under par?  Here’s how that came about.  As I walked from hole to hole I began to remember specific rounds from the past.  I remembered the eagle from 125 yards on number 12, the sloping side hill 40 foot putt on number 7, the blind over the hill to two feet on 15 and …  on and on and on for 18 holes … I was mentally playing a phenomenal round of golf.  Maybe it was a compilation of best shots from multiple rounds or maybe it was just fatuous dreaming or oxygen depletion … regardless I was having a ball and all I can say is  …  I was having the best round of my life!


Back to reality … sure, the golf course is closed. And maybe it’s only hitting me now, but I do feel sad about the closing.   I don’t know what the future uses will be but I do know this beautiful spot on the map will always be for our citizens to enjoy and celebrate. In the meantime, I offer this suggestion to anyone who wishes to get a little exercise, walk the dog and breathe in the beauty of Arkansas the Natural State … It’s right here for you at the Former War Memorial Park Golf Course in Little Rock.  Enjoy!


Eileen and friends … Jeff the photographer.  The picture says it all!

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                 January 1, 2020 … Lake Ouachita … Hot Springs, Arkansas

It was one of those absolutely perfect mornings for a hike at Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa near Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Mountain Harbor is one of the finest places in Arkansas to “get away” for a few days with family or friends.  For the past four or five years Patti and I have been doing just that … getting away over New Years with our life long friends, Gwen and JC.  Each morning, JC and I … plus his dog, Herkie, wake up early and hike 2-3 miles.  I took the above photo on New Years Day 2020 … what a special moment to welcome the new decade!


           Bill, Merle, JC, Gwen, Patti, Jim celebrate the season and friendship

Not only are Patti and I thankful for friends of nearly half a century, but also slightly newer friends like Bill (Mountain Harbor Owner) and Merle.  Bill and I served on the Arkansas State Parks Recreation and Tourism Commission together for a number of years.  Mountain Harbor Resort is truly one of the great Arkansas Tourism destinations.

                        Garvan Woodland Botanical Gardens, Hot Springs, Arkansas

While in the Hot Springs area we visited Garvan Gardens to experience one of the most spectacular Christmas Light displays in Arkansas.  A stroll (or golf cart ride) thru this amazing lighting extravaganza is a “must see” that rivals any I have seen in theme parks from Disney to Silver Dollar City.  Just as I touted Mountain Harbor as a tourist destination, I classify Garvan Gardens as a Tourism Attraction Destination.

Also of note, don’t miss seeing the Tulips at Garvan Gardens in the Spring.

                                                            TULIP TEASER Photos !!  

More information on Mountain Harbor and Garvan Gardens,  check them out online.



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Don’t panic … it’s not as bad as it sounds!

This was to be the weekend … the weekend for the seventh annual Charlie Brown Christmas Backpacking/Camping adventure in the Ozarks of Northern Arkansas. However, Mother Nature had another idea … not this weekend … unless you want a camping weekend without a campfire.  Sooo … for the first time in seven years, Charlie is not showing up in December in the Natural State at Richland Creek.

Don’t fret … this unique and special event is rescheduled for mid January.  

To refresh your memory, below are some photos from the past … and, with any luck you will see Charlie Brown twice in 2018.


As an FYI, you may look at any of these photos full size if you click on the one you want.







Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  See you soon … 

Jim D … AKA … Charlie B

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Thanks to Sam Walton (Walmart), Alice Walton (Crystal Bridges) and now the Grandsons … this sleepy little town is truly the best example of what a successful city of the future looks like.  

After spending three days attending the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Bentonville, I am pumped up.  This place is alive … it is exhilirating … it is energizing … it is the place I would choose to live if I were younger… It is the place to be … It is the future!

Patti and I went to the University of Arkansas years ago and would drive  to Bentonville to sit on the park bench in the square.  We were the only ones there … now this place is teeming with commerce, hotels, restaurants, brew pubs, bike shops and people from all over the world.


From the new Buckminister Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome to the soon to be opened inside/outside Dale Chihuly exhibit to a converted church (now that’s pretty funny) into a restaurant and bar called the Preacher’s Son, to a closed cheese factory to be an art and activity center … on and on and on … this place is changing for the good and for the future.  The quality of life amenities such as mountain bike and greenway trails and fun places to eat or have a craft beer, Bentonville is the place to live, be creative, be active, be educated, seek a fulfilling career or simply visit.

I made this comment after one presentation about even more plans in the works:

“I am proud of the things that have been happening in Little Rock over the past 25 years, but after spending three days in Northwest Arkansas, I am convinced that Bentonville is becoming THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE !!

I’m just happy that Bentonville is in our state of Arkansas …                                    




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Visits to Mount Magazine, Woolly Hollow, Lake Ouachita and Old Washington

There are a few of our state parks I have not visited, but as an Arkansas State Parks and Tourism Commissioner, I’m attempting to remedy that.  Just in the last 10 days I have visited the above parks with some of our staff, including the new Director, Kane Webb and new Director of Parks, Grady Spann.

A few highlights along with a picture or two for each of these four parks.

Mount Magazine State Park … highest elevation in Arkansas.

This beautiful state park has wonderful cabins, a magnificent … I should say …  Grand Lodge, miles of hiking trails, beautiful vistas and a cool retreat when it is hot and humid in the lower elevations of Arkansas.



Woolly Hollow State Park

This park is a serendipitous surprise … with a lake, swimming and fishing, camping plus miles of hiking and off road mountain bike trails.



Lake Ouachita State Park

This park has one of the most inviting settings on the crystal clear Lake Ouachita surrounded by National Forest. With hiking, camping, major boating, fishing, kayaking and canoeing, there is plenty to do.  My buddy and I did what the State Parks calls “First Day Hike” on January 1, 2016.  We did the hike and then were treated to a tour by the Asst Superintendent and lead Interpreter. At this park, they are trying some new models of Restrooms and Camper Cabins … Bravo!!



Historic Old Washington State Park

This is just like stepping back into Arkansas History.  In fact this Park/Community was the Arkansas Civil War Capital.  Today it is a well maintained premier historic village staging interpretive tours with character and clothing of the mid 1800s.

Several staff and commissioners were “persuaded” to provide entertainment for everyone else by re-enacting an 1800s jury murder trial. Kane and I shared the Prosecutor role. My wife was a trooper and served as a witness for the prosecution..IMG_3485.jpgIMG_3488.JPGIMG_3494.jpgIMG_3514.JPG

For more detailed info one Arkansas Parks go to:


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