Out And About In Arkansas

During our stay in Hot Springs, Arkansas we needed service work done on the RV several times. This meant leaving the trailer at the repair shop. Since we had to find temporary housing it was a great opportunity for some short “vacations”.

Our first trip was to Fort Smith, AR on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. We visited the Fort Smith National Historic site. Originally built as an Army fort on the far western frontier to protect settlers from Indian attacks and outlaws in 1817, it later became a federal courthouse and prison until it closed in 1896. There are exhibits on the U.S. Marshals, outlaws,  Judge Parker and the Trail of Tears. We’d hoped to return to participate in one of the trial re-enactments they hold there but didn’t make it. Fort Smith has one of the most unique Visitor Centers we’ve seen. It is in a former brothel. We thought we’d just stop in for a moment and look around. This is a slow time of year and the docent asked if we’d like a tour. So for the next 45 minutes we were entertained by the story of  “Miss Laura”, her girls and their gentlemen callers as well as the details of the house and how it became the Visitor Center.  Last on our list of places to visit was the home and museum of General William O. Darby who formed the special WWII unit eventually called the Army Rangers. This is privately run and hours very. When we were there the docent was one of the founders. Sensing an interested audience talked for almost two hours and displayed items in their collection not normally on display. We had to graciously depart or we would have been there a lot longer. We can’t find our pictures so these are from the internet.

Fort Smith NHS

“Miss Laura’s” As The Fort Smith VCB

Renovated To Its Former Style

“Gentleman” Waiting At Miss Laura’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Wm. O. Darby

Boyhood Home Of General Darby

The second trip took us to the north central part of the state near Harrison and the Buffalo River National Scenic Riverway. We rented a dog friendly cabin through VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) at the same price as a motel room. We visited the Buffalo River National River, a NPS site although it was too chilly for on the water activities. We did a few short hikes and enjoyed the area. We are saying “when we come back” as it would be a fabulous place to paddle. Yes there are shuttles available if you like us have only one car. We also drove to the Mountain Home area to visit one of Steve’s uncles.

Buffalo River View

Imagine Paddling Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip number three was at the end of our stay and we headed to Petit Jean SP. This was Arkansas’ first state park. Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service was consulted and you can see his influence in the lodge. It looks like a smaller version of the great park lodges of the west. The CCC did a lot of work here in the 1930s from building cabins (like the one we used), to a stone water tower, to furniture still in use at the lodge today.  For those who can do a strenuous hike there is a beautiful waterfall. We plan to return some day and use the excellent campground. The story of Petit Jean, a young woman who stole aboard ship to be near her beloved but pretended to be the cabin boy.  A favorite of the crew “he” was nicknamed Petit John. Not until “he” became ill was it discover she was a female. She died and is buried at the park overlooking the Arkansas River.

A Beautiful Place To Hike

Overlooking The Arkansas River At Petit Jean SP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve and Opal At PJSP

 

Our Cabin

Exploring A Cave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some day trips took us to Mt. Magazine SP, the highest point in Arkansas. This park also has a beautiful lodge and some of the cabins come with hot tubs! We are very impressed by the state parks we have seen in Arkansas. On our way there we stopped at Hickory Nut Overlook for a great view of Lake Ouachita and Ouachita National Forest. Another trip took us to the Lum & Abner Museum. I don’t remember this radio program but a friend of mine does who was raised in Arkansas. They were local “class clowns” who entered a local station’s talent contest making up the characters of Lum and Abner from Pine Ridge on their way there. Like Andy Griffith they used their home town area and people they knew in the routine. They became regulars and later went on to be syndicated. The store they featured in the program is now the museum. It is full of L&A artifacts and implements from early years in the Ozarks.

Lum And Abner Store And Museum

Lum And Abner In Real Life And In Character

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum Inside

 

 

Ozark Women Wore Corn Husk Hats To Work Outside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading south we visited Hope, AR, and the NPS site, boyhood home of President Bill Clinton. Arkansas loves Bill Clinton. Hot Springs is where he graduated from High School. There is a big sign letting you know it. Apparently, another claim to fame for this small town was the world’s largest watermelon. Now although surpassed several times, the sign still brags about the event. I had to stop and take a photo of a bit of roadside humor photography at a local grocery. The name of the town is Hope for a reason as it has seen better days and is hoping for a recovery.

Bill Clinton’s Birthplace

On A Ranger Led Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Town Named Hope

They’re Proud Of That Melon

Make You Hungry?

We made several day trips to Little Rock to visit Heifer International Headquarters, The McArthur Museum, eat at Cotham’s Mercantile, tour the Arkansas Capitol and return to Central High NHS since we’d missed the ranger led tour when we were there in 2014. Steve’s Mom has been donating to Heifer International in lieu of giving Christmas gifts for the past several years. We were very impressed with both the philosophy of the organization and its totally green headquarters. For history buffs the Mc Arthur Museum is a treasure. This is where General Douglas McArthur was born. Right next door is the Arkansas Art Museum where we viewed early works by Ansel Adams. If you are going for lunch at the original Cotham’s Mercantile (there is a new one in town), do get there early. It gets busy by noon. They’re famous for the Hubcap Hamburger. Free tours of the Capitol give you an overview of state history and government. It is the only state that let’s you enter the vault and hold on to a big pile of cash. They do insist you give it back though! For anyone wanting to have an “in the moment” experience of what Civil Rights in the 1960s was all about should take the ranger led tour at Central High NHS. Since Central High is still used as a high school the tours  inside are available only when school is in session and very restricted hours. You need to call ahead and claim a spot but the tour is free.

Heifer International Museum

Heifer International Green Headquarters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mc Arthur Museum

Korean War Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas State Capitol

Stained Glass At The Capitol

Show Me The Money!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Cotham’s Mercantile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would You Eat Here?

We had a wonderful and busy three months in Arkansas and still didn’t see everything we wanted to see or do. So as we like to say… “When we come back…”

Make A Plan But Don’t Plan The Results

We left Flaming Gorge NRA after a fabulous summer in early September 2016. We made a straight shot with only two quick overnight stops at Cortez, CO and Winslow, AZ for our first camp host job at Parker Canyon Lake near Patagonia, AZ. We were supposed to be there for six weeks. To make a long story short, it was nothing like the job that had been described. We decided to leave after three days.

Now what? We had lots of unplanned free time. So we headed for Roper Lake SP in Safford, Arizona (southeast part of the state) to recoup and put together a revised plan. Our only constraint was that we needed to be in Corinth, Mississippi by the first weekend of November to connect with reservations already made. Here is our revised trip plan.

Google Earth, RV, travel

2016 Fall Trip Plan Revised

Safford, Arizona is in the San Luis Valley with the Pinaleno Mountains to the west and the Dos Cabezas Mountains to the south. It is mostly a ranching and farming area. The towns of Safford, Thatcher, Benson and Wilcox form the Arizona Salsa Trail. So the first thing we did was to eat at one of the restaurants on the trail. We chose Casa Mañana as many locals were eating there. The restaurant has been on the same site for sixty years. It began when a family started serving from their own kitchen. The original home was expanded as the restaurant grew and is still the center of the restaurant. The food was so good we went back for dinner another day. When they say a huge chimichanga, believe them! We had enough left over for another meal.

Arizona Salsa Trail, Mexican food

On The Arizona Salsa Trail

Casa Mañana In Salford, Arizona

Casa Mañana In Salford, Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After catching up on errands we headed to Chirichacua National Monument. Once again we were saying “What else can they do with rock?” The scenic drive was wonderful. Of course we took many pictures.

Chirichaua NM, Arizona, geology

Balanced Rocks On Pinnacles

The Sea Captain Monolith

The Sea Captain Monolith

Scenic Drive At Chirichacua NM

Scenic Drive At Chirichacua NM

Steve At The Overlook

Steve At The Overlook

 

Another day we joined the tourist ranks and headed over to Tombstone for the Second Annual Territory Days Celebration. Yes we saw the OK Corral but declined to pay $8 for their daily gunfight. We enjoyed the parade through town and the Folklorico dancers. We did spend time in an oil and vinegar store where we purchased some tangerine balsamic and a tasty BBQ sauce.

Territorial Days Parade

Territorial Days Parade

Hickcock We Presume?

Hickcock We Presume?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo Soldiers

Hanging Out In Tombstone

Hanging Out In Tombstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horsepower

Horsepower

Local No Kill Shelter "Cowboy"

Local No Kill Shelter “Cowboy”

And You Think You Had A Crappy Job?

And You Think You Had A Crappy Job?

Folklorico Dancers Performing

Folklorico Dancers Performing

Dancer In Motion

Dancer In Motion

Portrait Of A Dancer

Portrait Of A Dancer

The real surprise in the area was a drive into the Pinaleno Mountains along the Swift Trail. In only 35 miles you climb over 5,000 feet. The temperature when we started was ninety-two but at the top only a breezy fifty-one. Great tent camping here but only space for truck campers and popups around a lake. We stopped at a family run orchard and bought some apples which became apple pie and applesauce. They told us to feel free to pick some for eating then. We did! It’s been a long time since I’ve had an apple this juicy. For such a short distance we were surprised when it took us two and a half hours to get to the top. A nice change from the heat of the valley. There’s quite a bit more to do in this area and so we say “when we come back…”

A View From Swift Trail

A View From Swift Trail

apple-of-my-eye-72

He’s The Apple Of My Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake At The Top Of Swift Trail

Lake At The Top Of Swift Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

For When We Come Back

For When We Come Back

Backroad Beauty in Northern Utah

We love to drive backroads and always find the most beautiful spots. Here are a few of our favorites within the general area of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. We’ll identify the general areas but let the photos speak for themselves. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Just outside of the National Recreation Area but still within the Ashley National Forest is The Red Cloud Scenic Backway. This is a 65 mile loop that can be accessed from US 191 or from the town of Vernal. We drove sections of it many times and even camped there. We loved the area so much that we returned to our roots and bought tent camping gear to enjoy the free dispersed camping in at Oak Park Reservoir. Elevation ranged from entry at 7600′ to over 10,000′ at the trailhead for the High Unitas Wilderness. While not part of the Red Cloud Loop, the Little Brushy Cave is nearby and worth a stop. During high volume Spring runoff the creek pours through the cave. Steve was game to climb down while I stayed safely high and dry. Toward the Vernal end was Remember The Maine Park with paintings high on the sandstone cliff for the Maine and Pearl Harbor. Nearby were the fascinating Fremont petroglyphs of McConkie Ranch (privately owned but public invited).

Scenery Along Red Cloud Loop

Scenery Along Red Cloud Loop

The Power Of Water During Spring Runoff

The Power Of Water During Spring Runoff

Wildflowers Along Red Cloud Loop

Wildflowers Along Red Cloud Loop

Huge Columbine

Huge Columbine

Dry Fork Canyon

Dry Fork Canyon

Oak Park Reservoir

Oak Park Reservoir

Inside Little Brushy Cave

Inside Little Brushy Cave

 

 

View from Remember The Maine Park

View from Remember The Maine Park

Another of our favorite areas was Dinosaur National Monument about 40 miles east of Vernal. While most people visit the fossil quarry very few venture into the interior of the park. Now don’t get us wrong, the quarry is fascinating. We visited twice. Don’t stop there. Some roads do require 4 wheel drive. Others are paved. Below you will see Steamboat Rock. We were told that this is the site where John Wesley Powell was dangling by his left (and only) arm when a crew member dangled pants over the edge to pull him back up. He had to let go and grab the pants! Fortunately he did.

All Alone In Dinosaur NM

All Alone In Dinosaur NM

Exquisite Scenery At Dinosaur NM

Exquisite Scenery At Dinosaur NM

An Old Shepherd's Wagon At The Clew Ranch

An Old Shepherd’s Wagon At The Clew Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overlooking The Yampa River

Overlooking The Yampa River

Steamboat Rock Where The Yampa And Green Rivers Meet

Steamboat Rock Where The Yampa And Green Rivers Meet

Dinosaur Logjam

Dinosaur Logjam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our favorite drive took place close to the end of our time in Utah. We set out for Indian Canyon Scenic Byway then turned onto Antelope Canyon (not the famous one near Page, AZ) Mother Nature cooperated by giving us a dry rain over the canyon for drama while not getting us wet. Then we found some great old ranch houses and abandoned farm equipment. At one old ranch there was so much rusty equipment strewn about that Steve named it El Rancho Rusto.

Indian Canyon Panorama

Indian Canyon Panorama

Rain Over Indian Canyon

Rain Over Indian Canyon

Old Indian Canyon Ranch In HDR

Old Indian Canyon Ranch In HDR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Farm Truck

Red Farm Truck

 

 

 

El Rancho Rusto

El Rancho Rusto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rusty Green Truck

Rusty Green Truck

Still Too Long

Still Too Long

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Lined Pyramid

Tree Lined Pyramid

 

 

End Of Trip

End Of Trip

You Can’t Brand A Wet Calf

ranch, cattle

Waiting For The Cattle

Shortly after starting work at Flaming Gorge NRA a brochure circulated announcing the 6th annual calf branding exhibition at historic Swett Ranch. Sweet Ranch is located in the Ashley National Forest and is open for both self guided and docent tours. The Swett family homesteaded in the Uinta Basin from 1909-1970. Many of their descendants still live in the Vernal, Utah area. Three generations graze cattle on National Forest land each summer. In order to graze cattle in Ashley NF they must be branded and the brand registered with the state of Utah. The flyer said in case of rain the event would be cancelled as “The cowboys won’t melt but you can’t brand a wet calf.”

roundup, cattle,

Round ‘Em Up

We were working that day but two of the other volunteers who had been here before took a few extra hours so we could attend the branding. Thanks Judy and Fred! The branding took about 2 hours. Teams of two first roped the calf, a third got it on the side and tied the feet and the fourth did the branding. Two women gave injections. If the calf was a bull, he became a steer.  The only part that bothered me was the smell of hair burning and yes, skin too. The smell stayed in my nostrils for a couple of hours. We noted some cows could have cared less when they were separated from their calves while others followed closely and checked their offspring thoroughly upon release.

roping calf, cowboy, branding

Roping The Calf

Teamwork

Teamwork

This Won't Hurt

This Won’t Hurt

Branding Time

Branding Time

cow, calf, ranch

A Concerned Mother

 

Our favorite part was watching the youngsters “help” while dressed in their best western wear. One four year old had a swagger and strut that made us laugh.

The Next Generation

The Next Generation

child, Utah, ranch

Cowboy With Attitude

Another day we hiked the 2.5 miles from Greendale Overlook to Swett Ranch enjoying scenery and wildflowers along the way. Fellow volunteers George and Diane gave us an in depth tour. Oscar Swett built the first one room cabin in 1909. He married Emma and they raised 16 children here. A two room cabin and the ranch home were built to accommodate  their growing family. Oscar farmed and ranched here. He was very thrifty and repurposed many things such as the 1917 Hudson windshield used as a workshop window. Here are a few pictures from the historic homestead.

Three Swett Homes

Three Swett Homes

Horse Barn

Cow Barn

Laundry On The Porch

Laundry On The Porch

 

Starting Our Summer At Flaming Gorge NRA

Canyon, Flaming Gorge

Firehole Canyon On Wyoming Side Of Flaming Gorge

We drove from Fuita, Colorado to the Ashley National Forest in northeastern Utah where we will be volunteering at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The drive through the mountains just north of Fruita was beautiful as was the drive from Moab through Vernal. Much of this route is part of the Dinasaur Diamond National Scenic Byway. We reached a maximum height of 8500 feet. We are planning a third trip to Fruita as there is still much to explore.

In Vernal we headed north on US 191 also known as the Uintas-Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway. If we hadn’t been pulling the trailer we’d have pulled over at the many overlooks and interpretive signs detailing the geology of the area. The area is known for its geology and paleontology. Dinosaur National Monument is only an hour and a half away and Vernal has a museum that’s part of University of Utah’s paleontology collection. As you drive north you pass from the youngest geological layers to the oldest ones at a billion years old. There are 10 switchbacks and several 5-8% grades but we had no trouble even with the new 40’ rig.

Red Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Ashley National Forest

Red Canyon From The Rim Trail

We arrived at the Red Canyon Complex where 15 RV volunteers will be housed in RVs and a duplex. We settled in. The volunteers work in different areas of the forest from fee collection/boat ramp management, the historic Swett Ranch and the Red Canyon Visitor Center. The USFS provides us with an RV site and full hookups, uniforms including pants and reimbursement for propane and mileage. We are even being given 350 miles to explore the area so we can talk knowledgeably to visitors.

Steve At Dowd Mountain Overlook

Steve At Dowd Mountain Overlook

Uinta mountains, landscape

Snow Capped High Uintas Wildness

As if that’s not enough they provide a day on the river at Volunteer Appreciation Day. Our days off will be spent driving scenic back roads, hiking, paddling/rafting and fishing. Besides the reservoir there are some 600 lakes in the Uintas (pronounced U – win – taz) although only a few are accessible by car. There are numerous campgrounds and lots of dispersed camping in these, Utah’s highest and oldest mountains. Last winter was the snowiest one on record in 25 years so the High Uinta Wilderness with peaks to 13,000 feet still have four feet of snow. In anticipation of the melting snow the dam began releasing water from the reservoir to the Green River at 6600-8600 cu. ft./sec. for 24 hours a day for at least two weeks. A float trip on section A of the river that normally takes 2.5 hours now takes just 45 minutes. Quite a show.

Flaming Gorge Dam Releasing Water

Flaming Gorge Dam Releasing Water

Green River Below The Dam

Green River Below The Dam

 

 

 

So far we have walked a portion of the Canyon Rim Trail, climbed the historic Ute Fire Tower (just reopened after being closed for 8 years), visited Dowd Mountain Overlook, driven Sheep Creek Geological Loop and the Red Cloud Scenic Backway, toured Flaming Gorge Dam, visited the Utah Natural History Field House, observed a cattle branding at Swett Ranch and put the kayaks in the water once. Is it any wonder we’re behind in posting? Weather for our first 2 weeks was cool and rainy. Now temperatures have warmed up with sunny days but pleasantly cool nights. This is going to be a fabulous summer.

wildlife, pronghorn

Pronghorn In Aptly Named Antelope Canyon

Bighorn sheep

Rams Rest Under A Tree At The Volunteer village

 

 

Out And About Around Fresno

After a much too long break we are back blogging again. Whew! Can you believe we had to go back almost a year to catch up? So here we are in Spring 2015.

campground, California

Eastman Lake from Cordoniz Campground

We moved on up the central valley of California to another Corps of Engineers campground called Codorniz, about an hour northeast of Fresno. It overlooks Eastman Lake. Due to low snowpack the lake levels were down. Once off the interstate we are immediately in another agricultural area and as we approach the campground the road becomes a bit rough. The campground is wonderful and we had reserved one of the full service sites. This put us near Fresno, CA.

While looking online to see what we should check out we found Forestiere Gardens. This goes down as one of the places Chari thought was fun and Steve came along rolling his eyes. It is a California State Landmark and listed on the National register of Historic Places. The Underground gardens and home were the life’s work of an Italian immigrant named Baldassare Forestiere. After arriving in New York he worked his way across to California with the hopes of owning an orange grove. He bought land only to find a layer of hard pan a few feet under the surface prevented him from growing his crop. The scorching summers made him start digging a shelter in the cool earth below. One room became 2…3…a home…a potential hotel…a productive citrus grove and garden…the work of a lifetime. While Baldassare Forestiere died many years ago from complications following hernia surgery (that’s what 50 years of digging gets you) the facility is still managed by his relatives. Access is by tour only. You wind along through corridors of stone and adobe through “rooms” of his house, past citrus trees almost 100 years old and wonder how one man could spend his entire life building it. Definitely one of the more unusual historic homes we’ve visited.

On tour at Forestierie Gardens

On tour at Forestierie Gardens

Forester Gardens, Fresno

Orange Tree Growing In Subterranean Garden

Original Entrance

Original Entrance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dining Room and Climate Information

Dining Room and Climate Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niche For Radio

Niche For Radio

 

 

Also in Fresno we stopped at the farm store operated by students at Fresno State. This agricultural college has its own meat processing plant, dairy, vineyard and garden. We bought cheese, sausage, syrup, bread and (of course) ice cream. Well worth a stop.

Much of the rest of our week long stay was spent driving through the countryside enjoying Spring blossoms, stopping at roadside markets and finding interesting historical markers like the one about Grub Gulch. This area along a stream was one of the many gold panning sites of 1849. The name came from its reputation that miners could always find enough gold here to grubstake themselves. In the 1880s a town by that name was established. although it had a store, bars and a hotel the sign claimed it never had a church. The town burned down in 1920.

Scenery Near Grub Gulch

Scenery Near Grub Gulch

Where Next #9

Laguna Atascosa NWR, Flaming Gorge NRA, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado

From LANWR To Flaming Gorge NRA

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted on the blog. Guess we needed a vacation from having so much fun! Before we get too much further behind here are our travel plans when we leave Laguna Atascosa NWR and head for our summer volunteer position at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

When we head out we will go north to the piney woods of northeastern Texas to see Big Thicket National Preserve, Cane River Creole National Historic Park in Louisiana and the area should be in bloom with azaleas and dogwoods. Now add local BBQ joints and fried catfish to the mix. We’ll be staying at Alley Creek Camp, a USACE campground on a lake with water and electric hookups. We bought fishing licenses but haven’t been able to use them. Maybe we will here.

Then we drop back south a bit where we’ll be 75 miles NW of Houston. Lots of small towns, Spring blossoms, the Texas Painted Church tour and hopefully getting to Galveston and sightseeing in Houston too. We’ll stay at Cagle Recreation Area, a USFS campground with full hookups.

On to the Hill Country where there is so much to do I know we won’t scatch the surface. We’ll be staying at Cranes Mill CG on Canyon Lake, a  USACE campground with electric and water hookups. We plan to visit Fredricksburg,  New Braunfels and San Antonio. There will be many drives through the famous blue bonnets and we’ll meet up with friends volunteering at the LBJ NHP.

On to west Texas via Amistead NRA (a reservoir on the Rio Grande), Guadalupe Mountains NP and El Paso. From there we turn north to New Mexico and hope to stay at Elephant Butte Lake SP. Using this as a base we will visit White Sands NP, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Salinas Pueblo Missions and Pecos NHP. If there is time we will stop to see fellow volunteers at Sevilleta NWR.

Hoping to make up for our missed visit last Fall, we will drive north to see friends in Los Alamos, NM. Other points of interest will be Santa Fe and possibly 5 more NPS sites. We haven’t camped that much in Colorado so we look forward to staying at Cheyenne Mountain SP near Colorado Springs. Our last leg will turn west toward Dinosaur NM and Fossil Butte NM. If we see all 17 planned NPS sites we will have seen 42% of all the parks.

We’ll put down roots (or as close as we come to it these days) for 3.5 months in NE Utah. Home is where you park it.