What The Heck IS In Arkansas?

Hot Springs National Park-Goat Rock Trail     |     Photos by JoYo York (@JoYoYork)

@joyoyorkA few years back, I was invited to a wedding in Tulsa, OK. I decided to drive down and make it an epic adventure, visiting anyone I knew in the basic drive path. I saw friends in northern Kentucky, central Missouri, Oklahoma, and Austin, Texas.  My friends from Austin were going to a big Grateful Dead show in Chicago and were headed out the same day I was leaving to return to Cleveland. We decided to head back through Arkansas so my dude Blaine could check out a spot he wanted to see, Crater of Diamonds State Park, where you could dig in a HUGE dirt field for real volcanic diamonds and keep them!Though we didn’t find any, it was pretty cool. Afterwards we camped at Lake Catherine State Park and then drove on to Illinois.  I didn’t get a chance to see much of Arkansas that day, except that dirt field and a bit of lake at sunrise.  But I remember an hour or so of driving out of Lake Catherine as being one of the absolute purest, pristine, and magical drives I have ever taken.  I had to go back to explore!

But just like you are probably thinking, I wondered what the heck else could be in Arkansas–especially that which would justify driving 14 hours or taking an expensive flight and still having to drive for hours to get into the extreme rustic backcountry. I shelved the idea for a couple years in lieu of trips to the Adirondacks, Colorado, and Mammoth Cave. But Arkansas was always in the back of my mind.  Then one day in December, my boy Risha Red, out of the blue, suggested we take a driving trip somewhere in February where we could get some warmth and good camping. I assumed he would suggest the Carolina coast or the Smokies, but instead he said, “How bout Arkansas?  I don’t know anything about it, have no idea if anything is even there, but it looks like it will be in the 50s then.” I said, “OOO, heck yes!”  What are the odds? What I thought would take many years to get back to was now a fast approaching excursion.

As I sat down to study the outdoors opportunities of our journey, I thought the same thing every single person asked when I mentioned I was headed to Arkansas. “What the heck is in Arkansas?”  I came to find out that it is called the Natural State for good reason.  It has two huge national forests—the Ozark and the Ouachita. It has the Buffalo River, which is the first river to be declared a National River by the National Park Service.  It has Hot Springs National Park. The International Mountain Bike Association has declared only 47 “Epic Rides” in the entire world, and Arkansas has 5 of those.  Needless to say, we traveled to Arkansas last week, and I can tell you, after filling 7 days with intense hiking, beautiful vistas, bucolic drives, and gorgeous camping, I now know why it is called The Natural State.  There is indeed a HECK of a lot to see in Arkansas.

[Buffalo River National Scenic River-Steel Creek Campground (above, left); Ouachita National Forest-On top of Flatside Pinnacle (above, right)]


Ozark National Forest – Arkansas Razorback Ridges     |     Photo by JoYo York


Ouachita National Forest-View from the top of Flatside Pinnacle     |     Photo by JoYo York


Hot Springs National Park-View from North Mountain     |     Photo by JoYo York (@JoYoYork)

Read the full print edition of The Tremonster Issue #44 online

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