An abbreviated stay at Buffalo National River – Yellville, AR

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The plans for our first stop in Arkansas (the “Natural State”) were cut short due to two major storms that threatened as we entered the state.  We set up camp at Buffalo National River, staying at Buffalo Point on the lower river.  It is one of three designated wilderness areas within the park’s boundaries.

Buffalo National River, AR

Buffalo National River

Located in the heart of the Ozarks, Buffalo National River became America’s first national river in 1972.  It encompasses 135 miles of the 150-mile long river.  Although termed a national river, the 94,293-acre park includes lands surrounding it, as well as the river itself.

Because of its natural wilderness and towering limestone bluffs, this is a very popular place not only for the locals, but also for those who love rivers and water-related activities. Steve had designs on floating down the beautiful river while we were here – but it was not to be 😦

Buffalo National River, AR

The free-flowing Buffalo National River is one of the few remaining unpolluted rivers in Arkansas that has not been dammed, and it is a state treasure.  It begins as a trickle in the Boston Mountains, 15 miles above the park boundary.  Following what is likely an ancient riverbed, the Buffalo cuts its way through massive limestone bluffs as it travels eastward through the Ozarks and into the White River.

Buffalo National River, AR

Buffalo Point, Buffalo National River

A little person in front of a big bluff

With only one day of sunshine to enjoy before all weather hell broke loose, we immediately embarked on the only hike we would do while here.  I took off on a nice long adventure, while Steve followed a shorter path in another direction before doing some needed work on Betsy.

Overlook Trail, Buffalo National River, AR

My 7.5-mile trek started from our campsite, as I followed a network of moderately strenuous trails that took me to the Indian Rockhouse.  Traversing through pines, hardwood and eastern cedar within the campground, I followed another trail that wound around hillsides and along a beautiful stream to the spectacular Indian Rockhouse. The rockhouse was once used as a  shelter for prehistoric bluff-dwelling Native Americans. It was huge inside, and a beautiful clear spring ran through it.

Indian RockHouse, Buffalo National River

View looking out from inside the bluff

Indian Rockhouse, Buffalo National River

Inside the rockhouse, a spring ran through at the far end

Some critters caught my attention as I trudged along.  I would never have detected this guy if he hadn’t moved:

Stick Insect

Have you seen a walking stick?  Meet Stick insect!

Chigger

A Chigger!  I hate them and can’t believe they’re still around in autumn.  I terminated this one!

Grasshopper

A face only his mother could love

If not for the torrential rains, fog and overcast skies, hiking at the Upper River would have been very desirable – especially at Lost Valley.  But at least we were able to drive there to observe the bull elk with their large antlers, as they monitored their harem of cow elk.  We learned this is rut season, and when we arrived the bull elk were bugling loudly as they kept an eye on their favorite cows, while trying to attract still more of them.  Too bad we didn’t see some bulls fighting while we were there, that would have been exciting!

Boxley Valley, AR

We spent about 45 minutes driving through thick fog each way – not fun

Bull Elk bugling

Our reward –  a bull elk rounding up his harem

Bull Elk, at Boxley Valley

Babe, I got you babe

Elk at Boxley Valley, AR

The ancestors of the elk currently in Arkansas were actually Rocky Mountain elk, which were introduced here in 1980.  The Eastern elk that called Buffalo River home became extinct just as Arkansas gained statehood in 1836.  So for a very long time Arkansas did not have wild elk.  In 1980, 112 Rocky Mountain elk were introduced.  The original 112 thrived and have multiplied to where it is estimated that there are now 500 of them roaming around Boxley Valley.

Bull Elk

What are you looking at?

Boxley Valley is not only home to those state-released elk, but also to traditional farming communities.  Surrounded by many hills, open valleys and wildlife, it’s an amazing area to drive through.  With a good rain and low-lying fog in the valley that morning, it had a mystical and haunting feel.  Arkansas has a gem right here!

Boxley Valley, Ar

Boxley Valley, AR

Arkansas has happy cows, too!

The fall colors had not yet peaked here, but we were glad that some of the leaves were changing colors.  In two weeks the mountains would be in full fall splendor, but for now we were happy to get a look at these early starters.

Fall Foliage, Boxley Valley, AR

The forecast called for another severe storm coming our way.  With no connectivity to the outside world due to our remote location, we decided to pack up and move further north and closer to civilization.  That shortened our stay, but there wasn’t much else to do here anyway, except sit inside and stare out the window at the horrible weather.  Steve’s review of the campground is here.

Buffalo Point Campground, Yellville, AR

I guess happy hour will be held indoors today…

So we followed the twisty road into Eureka Springs and hunkered down at a nice campground in town.  But hey, when the storm ended we found out what a cool place this little town is – stay tuned!

 

Next Up:  Fun times in historic Eureka Springs



 

Experiencing nature in Pennsylvania

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We have spent a lot of time lately playing tourist – taking historical, chocolate, brewery and wine tours – so now it’s about time we experience the wild side of Pennsylvania.  Our home base on this stop was in the western part of PA at Woodland Campground.  Click here for Steve’s review if you’re interested.  Once settled in, we began researching things to do around the Woodland area.  Initially we didn’t find much, but we were happy to eventually find a few nearby activities.

Bilger’s Rocks

Located in Grampian, PABilger’s rocks was rescued and restored by a local non-profit group after teens in the area had used it for years as a party spot where they defaced the unusual boulders with graffiti.  Today, it has been cleaned up and promoted as the beautiful spot that it is.  Walking trails meander among the huge moss-covered sandstone blocks that average 20′ to 25′ thick.  This is the “greenest” spot we’ve ever seen!

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300 years ago, “Rock City” as they called it was formed by Frost Wedging.  Water seeped into cracks of the sandstone slab and as it froze the rock cracked and eventually broke into sections away from the main body. As water continued to enter the cracks it slowly eroded the soft sandy soil out from under the broken rock sections.  Gravity then slowly moved the large boulders down the hillside, which is what we witnessed.

There are several trails in the area and we covered 6 miles of them that lonely day, for we were the only ones on the trail – just the way we like it!

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Green, green everywhere!

Elk Country

We just learned that Pennsylvania is considered elk country, and to showcase that is the newly-built Elk Country Visitor Center located at Benzette, PA.  It was designed specifically to allow folks to experience these animals year-round and to learn more about them.  They even boast having the premier viewing location and home of the largest wild elk herd in the northeastern United States.  So off I went as Steve told me there would probably be no elk there this time of the year – he decided to stay home and clean Betsy.  Was he right?  Well, yes and no.  There were three viewing areas within the visitor center area and I did not see a single elk roaming around.

Elk country Visitor Center

One of the viewing areas at the Elk Country Visitor Center

During my visit I enjoyed an informative and interesting 30-minute 4-D show complete with a new level of sensory experience – smoke, snow, and crackling campfires.  An historical account of elk in Pennsylvania was presented, including their behavior during all four seasons.  The ongoing conservation efforts were also explained.  I learned that the current elk population came from Yellowstone, as all elk previously in PA were killed due to overhunting.

Although I learned a lot, the trip would be incomplete without seeing a single elk.  Luckily, on my way home and miles away from the visitor center, I caught a glimpse of these cow elk grazing quietly.  Getting proof that Steve was wrong after all brought a smile to my face!

Grazing Elk in Elk Country, PA
Cow elk (females) with their babies

Parker Dam and SB Elliott State Parks

Within 20 miles of our home base were two state parks, S B Elliot and Parker Dam State Parks at Penfield, PA,  where we found several trails to choose from.  The Old Horseman Trail at SB Elliott was a dud, muddy and not clearly marked.  We turned around after two miles of exasperation trying to follow the overgrown trail.  The park was very green, lush and quiet, however.

Parker Dam State Park, on the other hand, was a different story.  The Beaver Dam and Laurel Run trails were decent and well-marked, so we walked both of them.  There were some muddy and infrequently-traveled areas on these trails, and the gnats and other flying bugs were the worst we have encountered.

Beaver Dam Trail

Beaver Dam Trail

But despite those relentless critters we completed eight miles on the wildflower-laden trails, enjoying dense forest and the sounds of the gushing river as we trudged on.

Laurel Run Trail

Laurel Run Trail

Parker Dam State PArk

Just being stylish – not!  That white thing on my glasses is an insect repellent

Clearfield County Rails to Trails

On another day we found ourselves on a bike path in nearby Clearfield, PA, about 10 miles from our campground.  The crushed gravel path is fairly flat from Clearfield to Curwensville, and we chalked up a 15-mile ride there.  The trail initially parallels the PA879 highway, but after a mile and a half we rode in tranquility beside a river and more blooming wildflowers.

On our last day here we got up early and went back for a 6-mile walk on this path.  It was the day after a big storm hit the previous night, and there were several downed tress and branches blocking some sections.  But crews were already cleaning up and the path is well taken care of.

To regain all the calories we burned, off we went to Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub, home of some of the world’s largest burger challenges.  This place was a blast!  Steve loved it so much that we came here twice in one week!  Check out these burger challenges:

Denny's Beer Barrel Pub

Outrageous burger challenges

They have over 30 beers on tap, and 37 different sauces on their wing menu.  And for entertainment, how can you beat watching people trying to eat a 2+ pound burger in under an hour?  On the first day we were there, a man from NY was attempting to do just that.  We had to leave about 30 minutes into his challenge, but he was already about 2/3 finished.  However, we learned that although hundreds of people try it, this particular challenge is completed only once every few months.  And we find it hard to believe, but it’s true – one man completed a 15-pound burger in less than 5 hours, and another wolfed down a 3-pounder in 9 minutes and 3 seconds.  Wow!

And you know you’re living right when you get onto the freeway and see the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile just ahead of you!  Steve got up to 80 mph just to check it out, and of course I had my trusty camera at the ready.  How cool is that?  Check out the cute Wisconsin license plate.

I’m just realizing we were actually quite active during this one-week stop.  During our hikes and bikes I managed to get a glimpse of these very unusual and colorful mushrooms/fungi…

…and flowers with beautiful critters pollinating them…

…and some other notable critters.

Next up: Hanging out with friends in Warren, Ohio

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places, so we can check them out:

Niagara Falls

Toronto

Adirondack State Park, NY

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