Archive for the ‘Trails’ Category

We came to hike Zion and Bryce but were locked out by Congress and the President …

Obviously we are disappointed with the ridiculous shutdown.  That said, we have been thoroughly enjoying the wonderful and equally beautiful State Parks of Utah.  For the last two days we have hiked the Escalante and Kodachrome State Parks. Below are a few of my shots just to give you a taste of Utah … without the National Parks.



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Thank You Arkansas Park’s staffer, Richard Smith …


At 8:34 AM I pulled into the parking lot at Pinnacle Mountain State Park and decided to make a pit stop at the men’s room before hitting the trail.  Richard Smith, pictured above was cleaning the restrooms and emptying trash containers.  I acknowledged him, said “thanks for keeping the park and restrooms clean” and asked if I could take his picture to be highlighted in my blog as another of my Local Heroes. Permission granted I took the picture and headed for the trail.

Over the next 90 minutes of hiking, my mind bounced back and forth between enjoying the beauty of this iconic park to thinking about Richard and the important job he performs so we may have a pleasant visitor experience.  Upon returning to my car, I noticed Richard was still fastidiously going from picnic area to picnic area picking up trash, emptying containers and installing new plastic bags all in preparation for another full day of new visitors.

I write this in hopes each of us will think about, appreciate and say “thanks” to  the hundreds, maybe millions of Richard Smiths who make our world a better and more enjoyable place to live, work and play,

Richard Smith … You are my local Hero !!!!

Now a couple of shots from the hike …


I think Bigfoot roams the Pinnacle trails … with this beauty, one can certainly understand.


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Why Eureka Springs, Arkansas  … what’s the big deal?


Well … after a long weekend in Eureka Springs … let me tell you What’s the big deal.

This tiny historic mountain city sometimes called the Little Switzerland of America may be one of the most uniquely diverse spots on the Arkansas map … maybe on any map. In short it is one of the most tantalizing collections of Sights, smells, sounds, stairs and healing springs of just about any small town in America.  For starters, pictured above is the 1912 Carnegie Library, one of four built in Arkansas by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and still operating as a Public Library.

ImageOne of the top one hundred small Arts Cities in America

As the main street, Spring Street, snakes its way up the hill from Basin Park Spring,  it passes thru a wide selection of collectable art studios and galleries, gourmet coffee bars, restaurants, hotels and shops plus the random placement of street singers, guitar and banjo players.  In the cliche of old, “there’s a little of something for everyone here”.

ImageImageImageImage..Sights, sounds and Stairs …

The hood ornament on an old car fits the “sights” category,  I guess we can include deer and architectural details as well.

ImageImageStairs, Stairs and More Stairs,

One of the challenging and engaging facets of the city is the thousands of stairs … stairs as fire escapes, stairs from one street level to the next, stairs between buildings, stairs directing a patron into basement restaurants, bars and shops  …

Ouch !!!


Clearly, one can see this is a very special place to visit.  I’ve barely scratched the surface … haven’t even touched on the colorful local politics … this topic could merit another blog entry.

I haven’t talked about the healing springs, the hundreds of B&B’s (my favorite, the Peabody House), the thunder of motorcycles or clinking of beer bottles dumped each morning in the recycling trucks … nor have I mentioned the Catholic Church one enters thru the bell tower, or the haunted Crescent Hotel … OK, OK, enough, enough.

Come see for yourself … you can’t  just go once.

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An Arkansas Treasure … and my recent visit as a Parks Commissioner


Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond producing place in the world where the public can actually dig for diamonds and keep those that are found. With a long history of private ownership and attempts in the past to do commercial diamond mining, the Crater of Diamonds is now owned by the state of Arkansas and is preserved for the enjoyment. education and hope of finding the most valued gem in the world … all this right here in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.


My first visit in about 40 years …

I was hoping to find a picture of a visit some forty years ago with my family and another family of friends.  What I most remember, other than finding no diamonds, was the heat.  It was a typical Arkansas July or August summer day … probably in the upper 90’s with 90% humidity.  In spite of the weather, this anxious group of four adults and six under ten children excitedly spread out with state of the art garden tools …  each person fully expecting to be the first to scream “I found one”.  Unfortunately it didn’t work that way … however, we did make a memory.  

My only other trip, until last week, was with my two sons.  We played it a little smarter in that we made the visit when it was not quite as hot, we spent less time in the sun and we opted to bring back a bucket of processed diamond gravel to be examined at our leisure.  Once again, no diamonds … once again, made a memory.  Incidentally each visitor is still allowed to take home up to a five gallon bucket of processed gravel.

Thank you Park Interpreter, Margi Jenks, for an informative tour:


Margi is just one of a number of friendly, helpful and hospitable staff I met … starting with the wonderful young ladies at the front desk.  Margi is a Geologist that moved here from Idaho and now spends her time with educational programs and bringing smiles to the faces of the thirty of so visitors per month who actually do find a real diamond.

I plan to go back … when the weather is a bit more pleasant.

I was so impressed with the park, the museum, the staff and the fact a Water Park has been added.  I was fascinated with the history of this place, the geology of this volcanic crater and the knowledge our Arkansas Crater of Diamonds is preserved, wonderfully staffed and maintained for our citizens and visitors from all over the world.

Let’s go dig for Diamonds !!!!


(above) The Museum and Visitor Center as seen from the mine fields


Above … an early washing pan from the first mining plant

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Pictorial Update …


The steps of Bisbee, Arizona Image

Montezuma’s CastleImage

Red Rocks of Sedona


Horseshoe Canyon … Page, ArizonaImage

Antelope Canyon … Page, Arizona



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Richland Creek … a very special place.

Richland Creek, in my opinion, is one of the most spectacular scenic wilderness areas in Arkansas.  The creek is a place of house sized boulders, towering bluff lines, turquoise waters, cascading waterfalls and a treasure trove of fossils. It’s a place where one can just sit and relax, stroll along the creek, hike in solitude or aggressively trail blaze to hidden wonders like Sandstone Castles (featured in an earlier blog).

These few pictures show a sampling of the natural beauty of Richland.  In addition they celebrate the aborning tradition of a few simple spirits who enjoy nature, good food (like Betsy’s lasagna warmed in a homemade double boiler over hot campfire coals), the season of Christmas, decorating a tree in the forest and most of all, time with good friends.

DSC01282 DSC01284ImageImage


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Third annual backpacking/Christmas Tree decorating in the Ozarks…

Clearly,this is destined to become a tradition.  For the third year in a row, a few outdoor loving, mostly senior, backpacking friends gathered in the Ozark Mountains, loaded … and I mean ‘loaded’ …  our backpacks, hiked into the beautiful Richland Creek Wilderness area, set up tents, cut up firewood and celebrated the spirit of Christmas in a rather unique way by decorating a live Cedar tree.  In fact, this Charlie Brown Tree is the same tree decorated in December of 2010 and 2011 … each year testing the limits of imagination and creativity as well as fulfilling a desire to leave edible treats for animals and birds of the forest.

I suppose, if the truth be known, my personal vision and wish is that in years to come the word will spread and hundreds if not thousands will join our small group to decorate not one but hundreds of trees in Richland Creek Valley.

The finished tree and the Five Santa Helpers:  JC, John, Bryan, Daryl, Jim.



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The Buffalo National River … a special place in Arkansas

In 1972 the Buffalo river became the first National River … so designated by Congress … protecting it as a 150 mile free flowing natural river. Sometimes I forget how special this river is with its 200 – 300 foot multicolored limestone bluffs, its diverse forests, turquoise pools and at times challenging rapids.  Yesterday I and two of my friends backpacked on the Old River trail, camped overlooking the river with a 200 foot backdrop bluff line.  Simply getting out of the car at the trailhead was enough to remind me of how very special this place is … not only in Arkansas but as National Parks go throughout our nation.

One of my friends thought we were camping in the campground, did not bring his backpack so this first picture is of JC looking more like a happy homeless hiker than a fully outfitted backpacker.



buffalo richland bryan n JC 014


In addition to the natural beauty, there is an abundance of historic reminders of early settlements along the river.




And, finally, what would a backpacking trip be without  a little Single Malt … especially a little Single Malt served in the spirit of Christmas in none other than Crystal Stemmed Red Plastic glasses.  These were  Christmas gifts to me and JC from our friend Bryan.  HO, HO, HO.


Now I will finish this entry with a few more photos of the Buffalo National River … Enjoy and visit soon.



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The trail is easy … just follow the old road … at least that’s what the trails book indicated.  Well, “easy” it was not.  The old road has fully returned to nature … small saplings, tangles of shirt shredding briars, piles of downed ice storm branches, trees and logs to be navigated around, stepped over or crawled under.  In two hours of bushwhacking we had covered only six tenths of a mile.  At this pace we feared there might not be sufficient time to continue to Sandstone Castles and return to the car before dark.

Fortunately, in just over another half mile, the trail opened up, we made much better time and … WOW, all our efforts were rewarded with our first successful visit to Sandstone Castles.


The entire Richland Creek Wilderness area is awesome but I believe we may have found a place almost as spectacular as Twin Falls.  Plus, this can be appreciated whether the creeks are flowing or not.

Located high on Big Ridge at over 2000′ this bluff line is a nature photographer’s treasure trove. There are  cavernous rooms large enough to shelter a Boy Scout Troop of campers.  There are connecting passageways, naturally carved windows overlooking the Richland Valley, and numerous natural bridges, massive columns and hundreds of yards of etched bluff lines.


Fortunately on the return hike to our car, we found a trail which took us unintentionally across private land.  On my next trip to Sandstone Castles, I plan to seek permission to use this alternate route.  If not, it may be back to briars, brambles, branches and a slow pace.  Regardless, this is one Ozark find, away from the crowds, worth visiting again.

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Okay, so this is not my hiking foursome.  The truth is I am so excited about leaving later this week for another adventure … hiking in one of America’s incredible national parks, I simply had to inject a bit of levity.  Two years ago we did hike in Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks and I took this photo of a  photo hanging in the park’s lodge.  It certainly gives one the sense of the size of these monsters.

During the past ten years we have hiked, camped and backpacked in Yellowstone, Smokey Mountains, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and this year we are heading for the majestic Grand Tetons. In addition to two or three days in the Tetons, we will spend one day sightseeing and hiking in Yellowstone. I am blessed to have been here before so my anticipation is only surpassed by the memories of this special place in Wyoming.

More actual current day pictures and tales to share when we return.

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