Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

Arkansas

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In mid-November, I decided to embark on a domestic journey inside the central part of The United States - to, DUM DID E DUM, Arkansas. Arkansas looks just the same as most of the US with a few different chains and restaurants but all in all, same shit, same country. I flew into Northwest Arkansas which was a small, regional airport which had very few flights in/out which is fine, except for the fact that somehow along the way, my bag got my lost in transit. For as much flying as I've done - this was the first time I have ever had a bag lost! Hurray American Airlines - you win! (1/16 flights isn't bad though as I was flying so much between October and November). Going from Providence, RI, I was sent to Charlotte, NC then to Cleveland, Ohio then to Northwest, Arkansas - probably a guaranteed bag loss - anyways, it arrived the  next day so not a total loss.

My friend and I decided to try hiking in the Ozarks - the pride and joy of Arkansas (maybe?). They pride themselves in being "The Natural State" so when visiting "The Natural State" it is obviously assumable/recommended to visit its natural side. Upon doing many hours of research, our chosen path was a so-called "strenuous" 15 mile hike in Devil's Den State Park in the Ozarks/Boston Mountains.

I'll be honest, I like the idea of hiking much more than the actual sport. I am painfully lazy but I usually feel better about exercise after actually doing it. I hate doing things that give me too much thinking time, i.e; washing/drying the dishes, driving long distances, hiking as it provides too much time to get lost in thoughts and/or over think things. Anyways, to the point, we agreed upon Butterfield Trail in the park.Upon entering the state park, you are required to visit the ranger's office to check-in. A 15 mile hike takes a considerable amount of time and we assumed that'd we'd be camping out in the wild for the night so we got a free pass and map of our very exciting trail. You don't know it yet, obviously, but I say exciting in the most sarcastic way possible.The Butterfield Trail was a giant loop and ended exactly where we parked the car which was a great idea in that we wouldn't have to back track or see anything we'd already seen.

The Butterfield Trail was an old stagecoach trail at some point in time and led westward. Our hike was in early November so many trees had already kicked the bucket for the Winter and were more or less bare. At the beginning of the 15 miles (maybe mile marker 1 or 2) we saw a sign for a cemetery. We never really saw its exact location but it existed I suppose. That was the only sightseeing part on the entire trail. We also had to cross a stream which is not my forte and within the first thirty minutes, my shoes were soaked with stream water. Around mile marker three, when we left the state park and entered the Ozarks themselves, we had to cross a road - that was something to see I guess.Hiking a mile took us more or less 30 minutes - in total probably 8 hoursish. There were pretty consistent mile markers and trail markers - that was probably more exciting to look for than the actual surroundings/points of interest since there weren't too many overlooks and streams. This trail was described as "strenuous" but to be honest, there weren't many places that I was genuinely saying "fuck my life." Parts of the trail were going steep uphill and then steep downhill which took time and extreme focus, but other than that, it wasn't as nearly living up to its "strenuous" description.

The highlight of our entire hike (in my opinion) - this is sad - was a camping site someone had left behind. They had built caveman/Flinestone type chairs. We were temporarily amused before trekking on and it was amusing enough that I took out my camera for it. Another thing we noticed was that there was a major lack of human life along the trail. We passed maybe three camp sites along the way with people and other than that, the trail was pretty silent for a Saturday afternoon. We did cross paths with some Japanese people going way off the path in the wrong direction with some Nordic walking poles, however. haha.  Fine!

Lint Fire

After 8 or 9 miles, the sun started to set and we set up camp. My friend had come prepared with dryer lint - apparently that stuff is great at catching on fire. Due to the lint, we had a decent sized fire. Shortly after, however, we got bored and ate our pathetically packed Nutri grain/tuna cracker dinners, and then decided to sleep ridiculously early.

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I haven't camped out in the straight wild since I was really young. Camping to me was mostly always in civilized campgrounds so this was definitely a camping adventure for me. When we found a spot to pitch our tent, we cleared a decent amount of sticks and rocks so we wouldn't be sleeping on a lumpy surface. We apparently sucked at that because it was a lonnnnnnnng night of tossing and turning to avoid having sticks in my back. haha. Also, because of that, I was awake frequently which was terrifying in that there were nocturnal animals so close to our tents that I could hear them breathing. I pretty much assumed I was going die then and there in middle of nowhere Arkansas by some wild, rabies-infested animals. What a sad way to go that would've been. "World Traveler dies by animal in bum-fuck Arkansas."

The next morning we continued on our path to nowhere. The most exciting part of the day was seeing a deer with a white fuzzy tail standing straight up. Towards the end of the trail, it was obvious that we were merging with a horse trail because we started dodging horse shit for a good mile. We also got lost on the last two miles and had to back track. Wow, this story is really boring. I can tell without even proofreading this. Jesus.Finding the car was an exciting moment in our lives. We probably made it back to the car around 11 AM Sunday and thus concluding our riveting journey through the Ozarks! The photos make it sound prettier. Look at the photos.