Dam Quarry Arkansas is a lovely Army Corps of Engineer campsite located below the huge Norfolk Dam. At the foot of the dam is the meeting point of the Dry Run Creek and the dam spillway. The result is a charming small river with white water over shallow rapids and gravel sand bars and islands. It also happens to be perfect trout habitat. The area is full of trout and trout attract trout fishermen. Most of the people in the campground were there to go fly fishing. Every time we looked outside there were fly fishermen in waders trying their luck, sometimes a dozen or more.
The spring migration was also underway and several great blue heron was busy stuffing themselves before heading further north. The heron seemed to be having far more luck than the fly fishers. In addition to the dozen or so herons we were regularly serenaded by red breasted bluebirds. It was so nice to lie in bed in the morning and listen to the sweet song of bluebirds mingled with the trickling of the small river.
The campground was busy but we had the loveliest campsite up on the ridge. We could look over the river and up to the hills or up at this imposing dam. The weather was lovely. We could be outside without jackets so our first night we ate dinner on the picnic table. Everything about the spot was soothing on the nerves and I enjoyed it immensely. We watched the sun go down and as it got dark flying birds were replaced with flying bats. I like bats.
There were no particular trails in the area and everyone else wanted to go fishing so we decided to walk up the highway to the top of the dam and look down on our campsite from way up high. The road up was very steep with multiple loops. We cut across the hillside instead. It was a vigorous climb but we enjoyed it. There were signs around saying the area was restricted but we made sure to stay between the roadside and the restricted signs. Apparently we set off some kind of security alert anyway because at one point a helicopter flew up to where we were and came down really low to look us over. It then turned and went back. Dick had a walking stick and they especially looking him over so I suspect they were worried it was a firearm. Apparently they decided we were harmless because even though we made jokes about a bunch of police coming to arrest us, no one showed up. At the top of the dam we were able to go down to Norfolk lake on a boat ramp.
Misty was tired and thirsty and she really enjoyed it and took advantage of the lake to have a long drink and swim. We stayed right beside the road on the way back to avoid having the helicopter come and check us out again. We were delighted to find a bunch of small caves visible at the edge of the road. Perhaps that was where the bats roosted daytime. After learning all about local poisonous snakes we decided not to try to go into the caves and see how far they went.
One nice feature of the campsite is they had big individual showers so Dick and I went together to shower and we washed each other’s backs. There was abundant hot water and it felt like a real luxury to have a nice long unlimited shower after months of 6 gallons travel trailer tank. The grounds were mowed and we were able to take Misty for some long walks and let her off leash in the mowed area far from the highway and the campground. There were lots of dogs and children and
Misty made friends everywhere except for one couple. They had a small dog and decided Misty was a danger and they made a big deal of protecting their dog and acting like Misty was a ferocious wolf beast. This bothered Misty because after the first time we saw them, whenever we passed them she would bark at them and growl and rise her hackles. It’s hard for us to think of Misty as threatening but she can be. We took a long walk down to the river’s edge and Misty had another swim and a drink. We sat outside and watched another lovely golden sunset on the Arkansas hills.
The next morning our itinerary called for us to leave but the weather was sunny and lovely again after about four hours of rain overnight. We were so much enjoying the location that we went and paid for another day. I’m glad we did because the nearby fish hatchery truck arrived and dumped hundreds of trout into the river. This caused no end of excitement among the fishermen. For the rest of the day we were treated to happy excited fly fishermen pulling one trout after another out. We spent a quiet day relaxing and had a long afternoon nap and went to bed early after watching yet another lovely sunset. We left after the third night feeling sad and not really wanting to move on. But it was time. We were out of water and three days without contact with family and friends on the internet was long enough. We stopped into the Norfolk Lake Fish Hatchery to get a look on our way out.
Our trip to Reelfoot was a pleasant one. We took lovely side roads that gently rolled up and down and nary an interstate in site. We rolled into Reelfoot about 3:00pm. We arrived to a shock. Our campground was mostly empty and mostly underwater. The gate had a big sign saying “Area Closed” and the red bar was down. We drive to the interpretive centre. The nice lady there called back to the campground and we were assured that there were two campsites we could take. We were told to drive around the closed sign.
True to the instructions we were soon settled into Site 39 well above the water line. The wind was ferocious and we watched big waves, like a gentle day on the Gulf Coast splashing up over the barriers. The flood water didn’t bother the birds at all. In fact several pairs of mallard ducks were happily splashing about in the nearby campsites and a great blue heron was fishing beside an RV’s electric post. We saw several blue birds and as the sun set flocks of hundreds of cormorants went overhead. It was cold overnight but not as cold as it had been.
During our day off between travels we went back to the interpretive centre. We saw historical information about the area. The lake was formed when the big earthquakes at the New Madrid fault caused so much upheaval. The bit of land we were on had risen 15 feet in a few shaking moments diverting the Mississippi and creating this huge shallow lake over what had once been a cypress forest.
The interpretive also had live animals on display. We saw live local snakes, both venomous and harmless. We saw owls and bald eagles that had been rescued and were being rehabilitated or who had been injured such that they could not be returned to the wild. We walked the quarter mile board walk that took us out over the lake. It is a strange shallow lake averaging about 5 feet in depth and yet or maybe because of it, it teems with life. The cypress trees had not put out there summer green but even so they were filled with birds, especially cardinals. The water was also full of life. In summer there are boat tours but they don’t begin until May so we had to forego that pleasure.
Each coloured ribbon represents one known path of the Mississippi as it has meandered through history.
The next morning we awoke to sunny warm weather. I took a few minutes to wash down the damaged parts of the awning and cover the little holes that had been letting the rain through and reinforce some weakened spots with clear Gorilla tape top and bottom. I then cleaned out the gutter and removed a plug of tree debris. The forecast was for a nice two days followed by a night of rain at our next stop and I felt ready for it. We left Reelfoot with regret. If the weather had been nicer and we had more time it would have been fun to stay for a whole week.
The Mississippi is broad and demanding. There are only a few places with proper bridges over it so we had to backtrack south a bit before we could cross. We ended up following Rt412 across northern Arkansas. We turned south at Mountain Home to the town of Salesview and from there to the Army Corps of Engineer campsite called Dam Quarry where we were to spend the next three days.
Getting to Montgomery Bell State Park meant getting down off Fort Mountain and then taking the interstate to Nashville and then going west to Memphis for about 35 miles. We were subjected to more rain and talks about snow storms and noreasters on the radio. Coming down off Fort Mountain made me very glad we had not tried to come up from the west. It was lots of steep grades down in low gear and frequent hitting the brakes. The interstate going north west was the same as any other interstate and we pulled into our campground just in time for coffee. On an amusing note we also crossed the time zone from eastern to central and then everything switched to daylight savings. The net result was no change in time making for the easiest transition of a time zone and easiest spring forward I’ve had yet.
When we pulled into the campground the hosts were on duty and the very nice lady promised us the best spot in the campground on the creek. She wasn’t kidding! That particular spot was gorgeous. It was at the end of the row so we had no neighbour on the door side of our rig and a huge open space. Best of all was that our spot was ringed by a lovely babbling brook of the most perfect size. We were serenaded by gurgling water our entire stay. We had one unpleasant surprise. Our kitchen GFI plug had died. This meant we had to cook, run computer, heaters and everything else off one other circuit and we soon found ourselves juggling things to prevent the breaker from throwing. Another surprise was a nice surprise, the park had internet. It was slow and unsteady but it worked well enough that I could do a good check of weather, get caught up on news from home and get some email off. It was too cold to do much more.
The park was full of local people with lots of big dogs and Misty had several walks where she got petted and admired and got to sniff noses with friendly dogs. Misty is not a huge dog but she is bigger than most so she was thrilled to meet a huge black Great Dane. He was a nice friendly dog and well behaved and returned Misty’s bow and play when a dignified sniffing. Sunday morning the park pretty much emptied and we waited while the forecast zone for winter weather dropped further and further south until we were in the edge of it. We fell asleep to brook and rain sounds. We woke up to a centimetre of wet snow underlaid with a sheet of ice.
The roof doesn’t leak when it’s not raining but there’s nothing like a heavy rain to reveal problems. Before bed we had to contend with water leaking in the big window by our dining area. It tool some figuring but it was soon apparent we had some small holes in our awning, the calking on the window was cracked, and there was something in one gutter. The net effect was a leaking window. I put the awning out partway and then dried the area thoroughly with a towel. I put a strip of duct tape over the window to last until morning. The rest would have to wait. By the time we got up and had breakfast, the sun was shining and the snow was melting away. I was able to dry the area around the windframe and I dug out some calking and recalked it. One part of the leak repaired. We pulled out with water falling like a tap on full, dripping as went. We pulled into Walmart and got what we needed to repair the awning and purchased a new the plug for the kitchen. We were then off to our next destination, Reelfoot State Park in the far north western corner of Tennessee.
Our next stop was Fort Mountain State Park in Georgia, Again, because of the very nice reserve system Georgia has we made reservations before leaving. It was spring break and Tallulah Gorge State Park was very busy and near full so we were concerned about having space. We needn’t have been. The drive to the park was completely different from the last two drives of unrelenting interstate. Instead we had a lovely visual delight going through rolling Appalachian foothills through farm country. The other business that seems to thrive in the area is antique shops. Every turn we saw an antique shop. If we had been the type to stop for antique and vintage shopping the trip could have lasted a whole week. The last stretch of highway into the state park itself was harrowing. We came in from the east so we took the easier less steep 18 miles route and a good thing we did. We had to stop three times to let the tranny cool and we had one stretch at “Pheasant Hill” of about a half a mile where it was so steep we had to do the 4 wheel drive in 1st gear to make it up. We made it by early afternoon and settled in for two nights.
The feel of Fort Mountain was entirely different. Tallulah Gorge felt touristy and busy. It began when the ranger warned us they had been having some bear issues so be alert for hungry bears just awake from hibernation. Our campsite was very nice with a little creek curving around. There were laundry facilities that were 75 cents each for wash and dry so we took advantage of that to change a mound of dirty laundry for clean. Our fellow campers were mostly serious camper types. There were far less chidlren and a lot more folks with heavy duty hiking boots and higher quality campers. We didn’t see anyone with tents. The temperature had plunged to below freezing overnight and our propane furnace had to work hard to keep us warm. Strangely enough, this campground campground had some kind of fancy cable TV over air set up so we passed the cold with 50+ TV channels.
Fort Mountain is for hikers. It has several miles long trails and a few shorter ones. We took in the “Wall” trail. This trail goes up to a mysterious wall that is a remnant of a fortification of what the Cherokee call “The Moon People”. The Moon people were blond with blue eyes and present when the Cherokee arrived. The Cherokee and Creek went to war with them and killed them all. Exactly who the builders of this and several other similar fortifications and the reason for the buildings are unknown. The builders left no artifacts. My personal guess is northern Europeans made it into the area before the Cherokee and Creek and were the first indigenous people. They were then displaced and killed or integrated into the arriving tribes from Asia. That would explain some apparently European genes in the gene pool of North Americans even though the standard text book answer is everyone came over the Bering straight from Asia. Of course my guess is as good as anyone else’s as we will never really know. The black rock wall is certainly a place of mystery and a such is very interesting.
Misty had her own puppy mystery to cope with. Our previous dog Fred got very sick and almost died after a nasty bite from a cotton mouth in the south. Because of this, I used the small harmless prairie garter snakes in our home that migrate through in great numbers to train Misty to never touch a snake. Every time we saw a migrating snake I reacted with horror and shouted and pointed at saying “Off!” and “Bad!” and “Danger!” and the training seems to have stuck. The result of this has been that Misty is extremely suspicious of anything snakelike and barks in alarm at it to signal us a snake is present.
On the trail Misty spotted a small brown lizard and she jumped on it with her front paws. The lizard leaped away and Misty tried to bite it, catching it by the tail. The lizard spun around and bit her nose and then ran off leaving it’s tail behind that twitched and squirmed. Misty was not hurt just startled and totally bewildered. Apparently the lizard also tasted bad because she dropped the tail. The wiggling tail looked like a small snake and, horrified, she backed off and barked her snake alarm at it before circling wide to get away from it. I praised her for her discretion and I could see her puppy brain trying to process it. Small mouse-like thing became a small snake. Snakes are yucky. It was a good training experience and I’m glad the poor innocent lizard got away with only the loss of a tail it can regrow.
That evening the night was colder yet and ominously, snow was being predicted for Tennessee. Our next planned stop was Falls Creek State Park in Tennessee but we did not want to hit snow. After a check of the map we decided to skip that stop and go straight to the middle/west of Tennessee to Montgomery bBell State Park.
Our first migration home destination was Tallulah Gorge State Park in Georgia. This was spur of the moment stop. While I was hanging out at the KOA I did some random searches on sites to see in northern Georgia and I came across a blog describing the top seven places to see in Georgia. A quick check of the map showed the gorge (described as Georgia’s Grand Canyon) was very near our planned course so we went just a bit farther and little bit further north to take it in. The first part of the drive was harrowing in pouring rain and fog. We had to stay on the interstate for virtually all of the trip. I so hate interstates, especially in pouring rain with lots of construction. The rain stopped as we turned off hte interstate.
We arrived safely at the Tallulah Gorge State Park in Georgia after another 45 minutes of driving down a pleasant country highway. It was a smooth ride in with minimal steep hills. The transmission temperature gauge didn’t budge from normal. The campground itself is highly variable in site type. We had reserved a 50ft site. I think about half the 24ft sites would have fit our 30ft trailer and truck if we unhitched. About a quarter of them were long enough we could have fit the whole rig in without unhitching. Some of the sites are very small, very tight or have extremely steep paths down to them. You cannot reserve a specific site. You can only reserve either a 50ft (green tag) or a 24ft campsite (red tag) and when you arrive you simply pullinot one of the appropriately coloured spaces and occupy it. The park is reportedly the most popular state park in Georgia so I recommend reserving one of the few 50ft campsites if you are over 24 ft or don’t want to unhitch.
When I checked before departure from Charlotte there were only two 50ft parking spaces so we made a reservation. We normally prefer not to make reservations because I prefer the flexibility of being able to change destinations on a whim. I also really resent having to pay a huge fee for the privilege of locking myself in, typically 48 hours in advance. The Georgia system is so sane and nice. One flat fee and you can make your reservation in the morning before you leave. This was especially nice for Tallulah Gorge State Park. The roads here are narrow and twisty. The campground is the first turn in on arrival. With reservations, you can just pull into the campground, pick your site, unhitch, and then drive down to the interpretive centre to register. This saves dragging the trailer down four more miles of narrow twisty driving. The rain quit just as we arrived.
Misty was being her usual confined-puppy-going-crazy self but Dick was exhausted from his business meeting and not up to a walk. So we compromised. I took Misty for a nice long walk on the south rim and Dick had a nap. The south rim walk was wonderful! It took Misty and I about an hour. We were able to walk from the campground to the bridge over the dam. The trail follows the rim edge and has several lovely look outs with fabulous views into the gorge. We walked to the end and back and it was just right for tiring out a puppy. We settled in for the evening with a tired out and therefore and well behaved pup.
The next day was cool but sunny and lovely. The three of us all walked the north rim trail. Again we were treated to stunning views at overlooks along the trails. The gorge is so lovely and the assorted waterfalls and rapids are a treat to the eye and ear. When we got back Misty was sufficiently worn out that we felt safe leaving her while we went back to do the interpretative centre and suspension bridge where dogs are not allowed. We drove to the interpretive centre which is about the centre of the north rim trail and close to the suspension bridge. The interpretive centre was well done and we were able to learn the history of the park, the natural geology of the area and we enjoyed seeing birds pictures to help us identify the birds we had been seeing.
The suspension bridge was a hoot. We had to go down over 1000 steps to the bridge on heavy open grill metal steps. The number of steps was 20-40 per stretch with small landings. Some of the landings had benches. Going down was fast and easy for me. Hubby dearest has a problem knee from a very bad break just below the knee that he did back in 1988. He was much slower than me. The suspension bridge was wide and well constructed and hardly swayed as we walked it. The sun was close to the rim of the gorge so we didn’t linger too long.
The way back was a lot harder. We would do one staircase at a slow pace until we reached a landing. At the landing we would pause and wait for our heart rates to drop to normal again. I can’t say it was all due to age since we saw many much younger people and children as well, who were equally tired out on the climb back up. One nice thing the happened was as we rested other people would stop and rest as well and we got to meet a lot of people from all over the country. It took a lot longer to go back up but it was a lot more fun. As we climbed up the gorge the sun kept pace so that as we reached the top, the sun had just begun to sink below the tree line. We returned to our truck and drove back in twilight. Tallulah Gorge State Park was a real treat and we loved it.
General Coffee State Park
We stopped at the General Coffee State Park the first night staying only one night. I regret that because the park had a very nice historical agricultural centre that would have been fun to see. We did get to see the short trail where tortoises live. It was still hot so we saw no tortoises but it was a neat walk. We were obviously tired from our time in Florida because we both went to sleep at 7:00 pm and slept through the night awakening at 7:00 am. A 12 our sleep is not that unusual for me but it is almost unheard of for hubby dearest to do that.
Standing beside a baby tree in General Coffee State Park. We’re on the tortoise trail. Misty, like most dogs, loves traveling.
General Coffee State Park had a lot of Spanish Moss. Just a bit further north on our trip and the moss vanished. We were now too far north for Spanish Moss. I was sad to say goodbye to the lovely stuff.
A perfect setting for a ghost story.
We had one misadventure. We stopped in for gas and out trailer made the usual clunk clunk as we did a tight turn. A man came up and told us he was a truck driver and he had detected something seriously wrong with our trailer because of the clunk clunk. We didn’t actually think there was a problem but we decided it was worth a check anyway. I inspected the axles and the only I could see was a little thingie was missing where we had recently replaced the four shackle bolts. There was a truck/trailer place right nearby so we pulled in. A quick inspection and a replacement of the grease fitting and we were on our way, reassured. They charged us $10. If you are ever in Pearson Georgia and and need work done, be sure to check out Four C’s Tire LLC at 915 W Albany Ave, Pearson, GA 31642. They are very nice honest folks.
Following 441 north took us straight through farmland.
From there we continued to Milledgeville where we visited with our friends and Dick’s colleague who is working on a book with him. That meant the morning working for Dick with Kalina Malyonov and then a social evening with her husband, Vlady, and I joining them. Kalina is a professor at the university in Milledgeville. They have the loveliest home. It was a real pleasure to get caught up again.
We then broke our own easy travel rules and drove 246 miles to Fort Mills to the KOA right near Charlotte North Carolina. KOAs are of a type and mostly okay but they tend to have small sites, tight crowded roads and very little space to walk a dog. The plus is they are clean, have standard good to excellent amenities and they are often near cities making them a good place to stay if you have business and don’t expect a true wilderness feel. The Fort Mill/Charlotte KOA was no exception. This KOA was undergoing renovations so it was not the nicest stay even for a KOA. The city has grown up around what was once a campground out in the country so all day long airplanes went by low overhead, sirens sounded, and traffic noise was endless. The trip to the KOA was almost entirely interstate and the closer we got to our destination the worse the traffic became. Dick then did his presentation while I stayed with Misty in the campground. Unfortunately, no great business deal was made but the visit was at least productive enough to mean progress and more work ahead for him further developing his idea. We departed Charlotte with relief and finally were able to really start our adventure. We were off to Tallulah Gorge State Park.
Kack Rudloe, Jane Brand Misty, Rita and me with Dick taking the picture after our last beach walk of 2018.
We had a lovely nearly three month stretch in Florida. The first week was warm like spring with temperatures reaching the 80s (27C) every afternoon. We arrived to discover that Bugula neritina was in full bloom and Gulf Specimen Marine Lab had an order for 1000 pounds so everyone was busy gathering the purple stuff. The temperatures dropped in time for Christmas and everyone disappeared for their holiday time with family. We were privileged to join the Skye Rudloe’s in laws, the Haberfields, for a lovely dinner. As the weeks went on, we regularly feasted on special southern coastal delicacies like the award winning hot fish dip made with mullet, grouper and sheep’s head fish, fresh veggies (especially jalapino peppers) and secret herbs that make a literally award winning combination.
The cold came and with it the great turtle rescue. Soon after that the great turtle release. I am very glad we were able to be a part of that. After that, the heat came back and and humidity. We were soon gasping every afternoon and sweating without blankets at night, praying for a cross breeze. The Floridians laughed at our discomfort over heat in the mere 80s. We had several days with very heavy rains and the humidity stayed near 100% for days at a time and everything in the trailer began developing a dank smell. My asthma flared and I was mildly wheezing constantly and living from antihistamine to antihistamine. The no-see-ums and deer ticks awoke with a vengeance and I spent time walking the corral and sprinkling poison on the rapidly sprouting fire ant hills. Every day we went to one of the local beaches to walk and enjoyed the sun and fresh air but the climate had shifted to uncomfortable. While I hated the thought of leaving my friends, I was beginning to really look forward to heading north.
Monsoon time in the corral looking at the guest house.
March 1 arrived and it was time to hitch up and begin our trip home. We decided to repeat last year’s nice trip. We would take the trip in our now favourite long and slow manner. This means trying to not do more than 200 miles in a day and staying two nights at each stop. Before we could start our trip we had to make a side trip to Charlotte NC where my husband had a meeting over a business venture. So our trip began by breaking our own rules. Business is business after all. And so, with no small amount of sadness and a bit of relief we rolled down the highway and headed north.