The Hills of Western Arkansas
Trip Start Aug 16, 2009
66Trip End Dec 25, 2009
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Where I stayed
Frank and Penny's
Leaving Memphis we crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas it was raining and as we drove west the rain increased making the driving treacherous; add to the mix semi trucks, a 70 mph speed limit and two narrow lanes it was probably the most dreadful day of driving we have yet experienced. The conditions remained constant with the only break coming as we stopped in Little Rock for lunch. We had missed Corky's BBQ in Memphis but found one in Little Rock; it WAS good BBQ and the stop provided a few moments of rest from the stressful driving conditions. We still had a few hours ahead of us and finally as we entered into the mountains of western Arkansas a break in the weather and crossing the mountains we once again saw patches of blue sky and the tension began to drain from George's shoulders and neck. What a horrible driving day!
Our host in Arkansas, Frank, had provided very detailed and what looked like very complicated directions to their ranch so when we reached Mena we called, not knowing how far out of town they were and to see if there were any other little tips he or Penny could provide to help us find their place but the directions were spot on and we managed to get to their gate before we had to call again. Frank had mentioned a rickety metal bridge that we needed to cross, he wasn't kidding.
George had worked with Frank in Bremerton and lost touch with him other than Christmas card updates so it has been about 16 years since they have seen each other. He and Penny along with their 18-month old golden retriever, Bacchus, live on 100 acres of land with their house sighted so that out of every window a lovely view of pasture, a lake, a pond and trees, lots and lots of trees, mostly hardwood and pine. It is lovely and we look forward to exploring the property with them tomorrow.
Penny and Frank worked together to prepare an incredible meal after which we spent the evening enjoying a little wine, homemade cherry pie and reminiscing.
We awoke to partly sunny skies and cool temperatures. After a HUGE breakfast fit for royalty we bundled up to go out and walk the property. We donned orange vests as it is hunting season and apparently the locals like to shoot down their pasture from vantage points along the road or the bridge, a little unnerving.
Frank and Penny have worked hard renovating the house and improving the land in the five years they have lived here. One project involved planting thousands of pine and hardwood trees in layers along the roadside and riverside to form a buffer and close off sight access for the gun-happy locals.
We walked across the pasture and bushwhacked our way down to the river where we could see the bridge and then followed the edge of the pasture before crossing a slough to return once again to the river. We learned what armadillo holes look like and red ant hills along with ironwood and mistletoe, all new to us. Following the shore we could see evidence the hundred-year flood that had occurred two years previous with debris that had washed down river still visible high in the tree branches.
The entire time we were walking Bacchus was true to his breed; he lives to retrieve, stick after stick, after stick. It didn’t seem to matter whether we were walking in the wide-open pasture or bushwhacking our way through the underbrush; he was ever ready for someone to throw the stick and never tired although the four of us did. He is a very sweet and highly energized juvenile. It was a lovely walk through their little piece of paradise and so nice to be out moving around in the cool crisp air.
Frank and Penny both have an adventurous spirit and enjoy exploring as much as we do, a really delightful couple. We settled in for the evening with great food, wine and conversation. They are both familiar with the Texas shore having camped and fished along the gulf coast many times and it sounds like a place we might have to explore someday.
December 4, 2009
We bid Penny and Frank farewell after breakfast and hope they will come to visit us in Redmond on one of their trips north. It has been a wonderful visit and we so enjoyed their company and hospitality.
On to Texas.
"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles." -Tim Cahill