Arkansas… I Finally Reached My 48th State!

For the third time since setting out on my journey I found my way “home” once again. Home being Washington State, and specifically the town of Longview, where I grew up. I’ll share more about home in my next post, but suffice it to say I was happy to roll back into town for a little down time with family and friends.

Before arriving I’d made plans to fly back to Texas to spend time with Elissa, and while there do a portrait session for former clients who were willing to wait for my return to update their family wall portrait. (It had been a few years, and in addition to three beautiful girls they now had an adorable young son.)

So… within a week of my arrival in Longview, with Jazzy and Sadie safe in the care of my mother and step-father, I hopped a plane to Dallas. It was a dreadful day of travel. A mechanical problem grounded our plane, and everyone was on their own to find another flight. After more than six hours delay I flew from Portland to Dallas squashed in a center seat, thus cementing my displeasure with air travel these days.

The moment I saw Elissa’s smiling face and open arms my day’s frustrations melted away. For the next few days she was all mine! 🙂

While making plans with my clients it was decided that the ideal place for a meaningful family portrait would be at their cabin in Broken Bow Oklahoma; more specifically Beavers Bend State Park, where they spend a lot of time.

It was a long drive after a long day of air travel, and a late arrival at our hotel, but we met the Clark family early the following morning as planned and enjoyed a delightful session with them. After we finished up and said our goodbyes, I turned the camera on my all-time favorite subject… 🙂

Beavers Bend State Park

My lovely! 🙂

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Although only a few hours from where we lived in Frisco Texas, we’d never been to Beavers Bend. It was quite lovely, and set us up perfectly to continue on over the border into Arkansas, my 48th and final continental state since beginning my journey more than two-and-a-half years prior!

Broken Bow Oklahoma

Beavers Bend State Park

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Some would debate whether I should count this car trip into Arkansas, (specifically my brother Topher) but I would argue that this journey was never about traveling in a motorhome. It’s always been more about experiencing these amazing places across the country, with one of the greatest blessings being the people I meet along the way.

People like David and Beth Lewis for example… who I met almost two years ago while camped in Grand Teton National Park. We got to know each other over a campfire and hiked together in those mountains. We happened to cross paths again several months later while traveling through Virginia where we camped in the same park, and hiked together again! (Tales of those encounters can be found at these two links- The Tetons… Way Beyond Grand and Virginia… Safe Haven and Great Friends.)

David and Beth happen to live in Fayetteville Arkansas, so that was our next destination. We stayed at the historic Inn at Carnall Hall on campus and walked down to their main drag… Dixon Street for dinner. The Razorbacks have every right to be proud of a very nice campus!

After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast at David and Beth’s we were all off to Buffalo National River to hike “Goat Trail” out to a very high bluff above the river.

Elissa with my fiends David and Beth

Elissa with my fiends David and Beth

Selfie with Beth, David and Elissa

Selfie with Beth, David and Elissa

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Kayakers along Buffalo River

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Elissa on the trail

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From Goat Trail above the Buffalo River

Elissa, between a rock and a hard spot. :-)

Elissa, between a rock and a hard spot. 🙂

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On Goat Trail above the Buffalo River

As we neared the end of our hike droplets of rain, as if warning us of what was to come, found their way through the dense trees. When we reached the parking lot we said our goodbyes to David and Beth and hopped in the car to continue our journey south. We didn’t get a mile down the road before the sky opened up with a good hard rain, and after a few miles… just as suddenly… it stopped and the clouds parted again. (Making it a very warm and muggy day.)

We spent the rest of the day traveling down Scenic Highway-7, stopping from time to time at beautiful vistas, and taking in a few more hikes to places I’d read about, like the Alum Cove Natural Bridge and Pedestal Rocks.

Arkansas' Grand Canyon from scenic highway 7

Arkansas’ Grand Canyon from scenic highway 7

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Alum Cove Natural Bridge

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Pedestal Rocks

Elissa sits on a pedestal :-)

Elissa sits on a pedestal 🙂

Tuckered out after a full day we arrived at the Alpine Inn (interesting little place with themed guest rooms) in Hot Springs. The following morning we set out to visit my 30th National Park on my journey. (33rd in my lifetime)

Hot Springs National Park is a different kind of national park than I’m accustomed to. It’s more about the hot springs and historic bath houses than grand landscapes, wildlife and hiking trails. Our first stop was the tower at the top of Hot Springs Mountain for a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Hot Springs Arkansas

View from the top of Hot Springs Mountain Tower

Hot Springs Arkansas

The Grand Promenade

Hot Springs, Arkansas

“The Ozark”

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Quapaw Baths

What we found most interesting was the Fordyce Bathhouse, proclaimed in 1915 to be the best bath house in Hot Springs, it is now a museum filled with original furniture and equipment from yesteryear. The steam cabinets, mechano-therapy and hydrotherapy equipment, and beauty tools appeared more torturous than relaxing to me, but they were all the rage in their day it seems. Regardless, the place was quite interesting.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Stained glass ceiling in the Fordyce Bathhouse

Hot Springs Arkansas

Central Men’s Bath Hall, Fordyce Bathhouse

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Chiropody Room, Fordyce Bathhouse

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Music Room, Fordyce Bathhouse

Hot Springs Arkansas

Beauty Parlor, Fordyce Bathhouse

Elissa, who was a competitive gymnast for several years and is  now a gymnastics coach, was particularly amused with the gymnasium… with it’s bars and beams and vault (not to mention the men’s pommel-horse and rings!)

Hot Springs Arkansas

Gymnasium, Fordyce Bathhouse

We had a great lunch at Superior Bathhouse Brewery before heading back to Texas. The next few days were spent visiting several wonderful friends, most of whom I had not seen since I left the state in September of 2011. There are far too many of you to list here, but I want you all to know how delightful it was to see and spend time with all of you! I hope you will continue to travel along with me on my journey, because it truly does make a difference to me to know that you are there! A special thank you to Brandi and David Stanford, and Cherrie and Brian Haugh for hosting me while there, and Mary Bickel for hosting an evening gathering with all my old neighborhood lady friends. Special times y’all!

With my mom and step-dad by my side I proudly applied the Arkansas sticker to the map on my motorhome upon my arrival back in Washington. I have to say, during all my travels… of all the maps like this that I’ve seen… I have never seen one as full as this! (I should point out that although the wheels of my motorhome did not roll into every single state… in a few cases I camped in one and did day trips into others… every state on the map has been a part of this journey.)

It's official… 48 states since the journey began!!

It’s official… 48 states since the journey began!!

And… shortly after my arrival back in Washington I set out over the border to spend seven weeks traveling through two more provinces in Canada! That’s where I’m writing from as a matter of fact. Lac la Hache, British Columbia to be precise. Two and a half weeks in and I’ve seen some breathtaking sights and encountered a tremendous amount of wildlife… including several grizzlies! Stay tuned! You don’t want to miss this!!

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