Eureka Springs

Eureka! I couldn’t resist. 🙂

Before I even get started here on Eureka Springs, Arkansas, let me say that the three day weekend felt like just a taste and had me fantasizing of a return to Arkansas at the very outset: a dream of driving throughout the entire Ozarks day after day, in search of more amazing fried pies…er uh, I meant amazing scenery. There will be an encore in the future.

Road scenery

On a lovely day in November, my guy and I left Oklahoma at dawn on a quest for pure Zen but quickly discovered that a weekend of unplug would require some he/she negotiation when audio GPS threatened to send us to couples counseling. Yes, I admit I was a bit shrill in my disdain for what I considered a chatty interloper. I found it completely unnecessary to have two females in one car telling my guy what to do but my guy defended the lady-robot’s announcement every forty-five seconds that our exit was coming up by rationally explaining that he derived relaxation from having the trip computer-mapped and handled. I responded equally rationally by hugging my paper map to my chest and throwing myself on the floorboard of the car while sobbing about the murder of our connectedness by a technological she-devil.

We immediately compromised and turned off the GPS. Now if you think for a second that I score in every round,  think again. Upon winning the argument to camp for free in an off grid zone rather than in a safe pay campground  during hunting season, I took a hit when my guy, methodically setting up the tent with a sly grin on his face, opened this conversation as I bounced around exploring.

Scott – Hon, you do have an orange cap with you, correct?

Me – (finding his sudden fashion focus odd) Orange? No, why?

Scott – (shrugging casually) It’s just wise to wear hunters orange so you don’t find yourself accidentally in the crosshairs.

Me – Ha! Very funny, it’s not like someone would hear me rustling around and just fire randomly in my direction. Right?

Silence. And then he handed me the flier he’d grabbed during our fried pie stop that clearly stated all hikers should don hunters orange while traversing hunting zones. And as icing on the cake, he cheerfully pointed out an arrow wedged in the tree beside our tent (no joke). This was when I knew that he’d won this round and the weekend would require that I feign indifference while constantly remaining ever vigilant, scouting for any Dick Cheneys inhabiting the woods.

Our two nights camping proved to be relaxing and joyful though I did hear the sound of distant gunfire both mornings upon waking. My guy (Cheshire cat smile firmly in place) slept peacefully through the rat-a-tat with visions of his girl ducking at every pop, dancing in his head.

Mcllroy Game Management Area is fourteen thousand-plus acres of lush woods with a lovely show of fall color even when you arrive past peak as we did. And how exactly do you camp here? Just drive down the clearly marked and easy to follow dirt road and stake your claim for free.

Sign

In our case, the first night (one mile in) there was not a soul around and the second night, after a camper truck set up in “our” meadow, we simply drove another four miles deeper and once again had complete solitude.

Camp spot AR

We parked the car, popped out our tent, chairs, bbq, and then perfected the fire pit before kicking back to enjoy the sunset through the trees.

Sunset

Morning in Arkansas found me sipping hot coffee and watching for the sun to blink sleepily through the trees. The light-play of gold and shadows was enhanced by the crisp fall air and I found myself leaving behind the dueling traffic and crowds of Los Angeles in favor of a quest for dueling banjos.

Early sun and shadows

After some down time, we headed in to explore the tiny, eclectic town of Eureka Springs. The streets in this community are a zig-zag of shops and restaurants and the population seemed to be a mix of artists, bikers, country folk, and city slickers. Dining options were plentiful: after grabbing hibiscus tea and a Mexican coke while sitting on a terrace people watching, we checked out a delicious candy store (ok, two) and grabbed a book from the independently owned Eureka Books.

Our time in Eureka Springs complete, we headed back along winding country roads and chose a path that included the famed Talimena Drive. Through mist and rain, the fall color show had us enjoying this beautiful time of the year as well as the coziness of an out of the way roadside diner, filled with hunters and folks clad in – yes, hunters orange and yes, I was clothed in a shade of brown too close for comfort to that of a deer (absolutely serious).

On the drive out of Arkansas, GPS remained off and my guy only offered up an amused wink when I zoned out while holding the paper map and forgot to announce our exit. He even went so far as to comment that our unintended detour was more scenic: I believe he was still a little drunk on the fried pies.

Gold close and distant

**Our only miss was the mild and kid-friendly, River Overlook Hike as the morning we’d set aside for this turned out to be rainy and we hadn’t prepped. For info, check out Adventures In The Ozarks, a good article on the hike, complete with pictures, can be found here.

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