Tag Archives: Camping

West Through Arkansas to Maumelle (Little Rock)

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We drove from Granada Lake only 40 miles (with a detour due to a bridge being out) in order to reach the George Wallace Campground on Enid Lake. Watching the weather, we decided to stay put for three more nights in Mississippi to give the north time to drain a bit. We spent those three days much as we had at Grenada Lake. We biked, we walked, we enjoyed the sunshine. Meanwhile north of us floods were happening all over Nebraska and the entire state was green with flood warnings on the NOAA site. By our third day the flood waters were starting to arrive in the Memphis area so it was time to leave.

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Our campsite in George Wallace Campground on Lake Enid

We decided to avoid the misery of the nightmare of crossing the Mississippi at Memphis. We planned our escape by going over Old Man River at Helena West and then traveling north west and meeting up with the I-40 as it follows the Arkansas River in the valley. I was expecting a few of Arkansas’ famous steep hills and a workout for my transmission. I was pleasantly surprised to find the road was not only lacking steep hills but it was in good repair. After crossing east through the two major Louisiana east west interstates it was a real pleasure. From now on, I cross that stretch through Arkansas.

We arrived at the Maumelle, Arkansas and pulled into our reserved campsite. We normally hate making reservations because it robs us of flexibility but Maumelle is a very busy place. Part of the reason for that is many of the campsites are reserved for people staying in Little Rock for medical treatment. They are long term sites. We met one little girl whose family had been living there for two years of schooling for her. We saw a lot of people with no hair and that thin ghastly look that so often comes with chemotherapy. It is a good thing they have a nice place to stay that must feel supportive of them as they get treatment for their disease.

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Our Maumelle Campground site near Little Rock, Arkansas

The weather report promised one day of rain with thunderstorms. We were under a severe thunderstorm watch overnight our first night. None actually came close to us but one storm did decide to drop a big chunk of hail. It hit smack on one of our vent covers. The vent cover was already sun crazed so the result was exploded plastic all over the roof. We discovered we had rain coming in just as we got into bed. A quick check of the radar showed that thunderstorm had passed but another was coming. So we quickly dressed and my husband spotted me as I got up on the roof. He passed me a cover from a big storage box that fit over the vent and then one of our 2″X10″X6′ levelling boards and I laid that on top to keep the cover in place. Just as we got back inside, the rain started pouring again but our quick temporary fix worked.

The next morning we made a fast trip to a nearby RV place to get a replacement and then I installed it. We had a lot to be grateful. The wrecked vent was right next to the bathroom sunroof which would have been a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult to replace. The break happened when we were parked so we knew right away instead of driving all day and arriving to a soaked interior. Last, the break happened near a big city with a well stocked RV store. On the same trip we made a short stop at a laundromat since our portable machine had died.

We enjoyed three lovely days of relaxing walks, extended periods writing, napping, and appreciating warm T shirt weather. It was then time to continue our journey home by leaving for the Springhill Campground, Barling, near Fort Smith Arkansas.

 

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Forkland, Alabama

We left Miller’s Ferry reluctantly and with some concern about the weather. Yet another storm system was barrelling through the south with the threat of tornados, high winds and other misery. The predictions for the north were much worse. After the time we had spent lingering in southern Alabama I was looking at the calendar with no small amount of concern. We had to start making time north if we were to get home before our health insurance ran out but this storm system looked even worse than the last one. So we decided to move as far north as we could and still be outside the severe weather zone. We also decided to stay three nights which would allow the system to pass us and clear further north.

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Gorgeous Red Bud in bloom everywhere.

We arrived in Forkland Alabama Army Corp of Engineer campground to a nice surprise. Each of these campgrounds has a flavour to it. We had been to Forkland before but the flavour was nondescript woods. This time it was glorious spring and the wildflowers were in full bloom. As if that was not pleasant enough, a full on eruption of migrating songbirds meant the campground was positively thronged with red headed woodpeckers, blue birds, finches and warblers. And third, a storm of delightful whimsical art had hit the place. All over, stumps of wrecked trees had been transformed into birds and animals and mushrooms. The whimsy was positive, friendly and lovely. And so we settled in to a wonderful spacious campsite with our own dock not far from the washroom/shower/tornado shelter.

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There was one downside to our arrival. The campground host warned us that they had recently had a huge number of rattlesnakes appear. From his description, my guess is they have a wintering place nearby and they had awoken and spread around the campsite to warm and then disperse. Garter snakes do this back home so we have a brief spell of little snakes everywhere. I had done my best to train Misty that little garter snakes were terrible and she needed to stay away from them. I didn’t know if the training would transfer to the rattlers if she encountered one nor if she would recall training from the year before. We were careful never to let her out of the trailer without first inspecting the site and if we went out at night we always had a flashlight and checked where we walked. We did not see a single snake.

The storm system rolled in as forecast on our second day and we were once again watching the radar and checking the warnings. We seemed to have a sweet spot and storms raged north and west of us. As the system got closer a tornado watch was announced and the campground host stopped in to make sure we knew the washroom had a central reinforced room that doubled as a tornado shelter. At one point we were under a severe thunderstorm warning but I could see on the radar we were only in it because of the placement of the county border and the storm was going to miss us so we stayed in the trailer. We heard a lot of thunder and lightning to the north as it rolled by but that was all. We were safe. I was very concerned about the huge mess to the north, especially Nebraska and Iowa where most of the states were in a flood warning but we were fine in.

We spent our days again taking long walks, and many training walks with our Misty. The campground was actually crowded with lots of little kids and so we had plenty of opportunity to practice sitting nicely while children pet you and not barking your head off like an idiot and yanking the leash every which way when passing another dog. Misty did very well. We had one comical episode. A woman there had three long hair “teacup” chihuahuas who got loose and charged at Misty. Her reaction was hysterically funny. She froze and then slowly put her head down while these three little dogs, each one just the size of her head, barked furiously and acted like they were going to attack her. She was just bemused. Her reaction seemed to be “What are you?” I was very proud of her. Everyone around was laughing and laughing as the owner ran around trying to scoop them up while they dodged her and kept up their empty threats against Misty. Eventually we just walked away while she continued to ineffectively call, try to scoop, and get frustrated. People, train your dogs! I couldn’t help but think how one of those dogs would have been a nice meal for a rattlesnake.

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Many army cops of engineers campsite include private little docks and Forkland is no exception. These steps from our campsite led to our own little dock. Unfortunately flood water meant the dock was underwater and the swiftness of the flow with debris meant we didn’t get to put the canoe in the water.

After the third day amid alarming flood reports coming out of Nebraska, we left our site and headed off to our next stop, Lake Grenada area of Mississippi.

Migration Home – Sixth Stop Beaver’s Bend State Park Oklahoma

Sixth Stop

We left the Crater of Diamonds State Park and headed into Oklahoma. We took the less demanding route and the cat rode in the cat carrier in the bathtub. We arrived at the Beaver’s Bend State Park after a grocery stop and settled in. The park has four campsites, three on the water and one in the woods. All the waterside campsite were full so we found a spot in inner campground. We initially signed in for two nights but we ended up staying a full week. The main reason we stayed a full week was that we were tired of traveling and even though our campsite was not very nice, this campground had a lot to do and see. The second reason was the weather turned cold and rainy and miserable and since the park had some indoor activities there didn’t seem much point in moving. Third, we discovered we had started our Oklahoma site seeing in the middle of spring break and a lot of campgrounds, including this one, were full by the weekend.

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The park had the one thing I enjoy beyond anything else, a babbling brook with falling water over rocks. Several time we walked from our campsite to the creek and followed the trails.

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In addition to the creek the park is full of roadways and places to drive and walk. We had our bikes out and we went bike riding every day except one where it rained.

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Going up and down the creek had some demanding parts including this little rock cliff that Dick carefully climbed.

We enjoyed our walks in spite of the cool weather. I have been fascinated by the lifecycle of bryophytes with their sexual and asexual/haploid and diploid stages since I took introductory biology a long time ago. All the mosses were in bloom and the fern were coming up as fiddleheads. I even had luck while carefully examining the ground and found several of the nearly microscopic haploid gametophytes. What a treat!

The little river that runs through the campground has an old weir in it. The weir is nonfunctional now and is basically just a pretty waterfall. This is a working river and it came equipped with a siren that went off when water levels changed. And wow did they change going up a meter or more shortly after the siren sounded and then dropping back down again. Along the edge of the river is a long straight flat trail perfect for walking or bike riding. (The siren never went off while we were near it.) The trail along the riverside was full of wildflowers and tiny creeks and springs and the rocky ledges that were the most perfect for hunting up bryophytes. We took a walk every day, often with the dogs, and many a bike ride with several fast trips to watch the water levels change. The park also had a nature centre with a reasonable display of local flora and fauna. Dick noted an error in their diatom display and left them a comment card about that. The park also had a really nice museum of forestry in Broken Bow area that took about three hours to properly walk through. The walk ended with a small art gallery and a really nice gift shop. It was a perfect diversion for a rainy afternoon.

The campground was full of people and we met many of them. It was a bit peculiar. One man showed up on Thursday and parked a huge fifth wheel on one site. He had three teenagers along with him and they set up tents on three other sites. He told me the rest of his family was coming that weekend along with the other members of his church and their families for their yearly reunion. Friday night the campground really filled up with many large families. We saw several groups of women in long skirts, obviously pregnant or carrying babies, enjoying nature. The man with the fifth wheel helped three women with children to park their own rigs on the campsites he had put the tents on. By Saturday every site was full of these extended families. The children of whatever this denomination was, were all exceedingly polite but acted exceptionally wary around us, never speaking to us beyond a “Yes, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am” with a broad Texas twang and averting their eyes and running away if we said anything beyond hello. They traveled in happy packs, always with at least one older teen minder, like wild creatures set loose in this wild setting after a long captivity. The men organized group games like baseball whenever it was not raining. One campsite for each extended family group was set up as a sort of communal kitchen and every evening all the groups in a family would descend, gather and eat. Feeding this crew must have cost a fortune! On Monday, they began dispersing and by Tuesday the campground had a few empty places. On Sunday they had an open air service. I enjoyed watching them, the boys in blue jeans and jackets, and the girls with their long hair and modest skirts and leggings.

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And there was one special treat. I’m not sure what the special ingredients were, but the shaved ice sold from this little vehicle was absolutely the best tasting I have ever had. The owner had 14 flavours to choose from. I had pina colada and it was beyond delicious. It was even better after I went back to our camper and added a little vodka. Everywhere this fellow went, he had one long lines eagerly waiting their turn to pick a treat. He must have made a killing financially.

Every third day we drove into the nearby town of Broken Bow to check internet and weather forecasts and possible places to go. Finally, after a full week enjoying Beaver’s Bend State Park, we packed up and headed north to explore more of Oklahoma.

Here is my review of the park:

Beaver’s Bend State Park

Exceptionally nice state park. When you arrive at the main office, you can either go up the hill to the spillway area or continue down the river to the lower campsites. Going up, there are many unserviced campsites in three sections, half can take a larger rig and some are right on the water. These sites are $14. There are 15 non reservable campsites with water and electric. The upper area has paddle boats & canoes for rent, tackle shop, boat launch, easy lake access, miniature train, stables and a lodge. The lower section ends at the old dam that is like a waterfall and very pretty. The lower area has a good restaurant (We loved the fried pie!), nature centre, a museum of forestry and a gift shop. There are three camping sections of campground sites, Buckthorn, is reservable, Acorn and Cypress are not. Acorn and Buckthorn are all big and spacious and on the water for $27. There are also five sites specifically designed to accommodate the handicapped above Acorn. Cypress has many very narrow turns and all back in sites, When we were there, it was wet and muddy on either side of the narrow roads. We did not get stuck but we saw other longer rigs that did sink right to the jacks because they could not make the tight turns without going off the roads and into the muck. The sites are close together and set at haphazard angles so you don’t have much privacy. Our site was, like most, short and we had to unhitch to fit in. $24 but we got $2 off as nonresident seniors. The area below the dam has lots of tempting rocks to climb on and it looks perfect for wading. It isn’t. There are sirens that go off to announce water level changes at the dam and they are big changes. A man comes around selling snow cones for $2-3 and they are the best snow cones I have ever had so try one. We might go again if we can get a reservation first and it isn’t spring break.

And here is our path thus far on our long migration home.

6th day

Rushing River Ontario Provincial Park

Rushing River is arguably the loveliest and most popular of the many lovely and popular provincial parks in Ontario. I say that because for many local families camping and going to Rushing River are synonymous. Due to this, you simply can’t get in during summer without a reservation. The location is what makes the place so special. Dogtooth Lake is a lovely lake with deep clear cool water, perfect for water skiing, or tubing. Where the lake narrows and empties, it creates a river that goes over many small rapids and past many deep pools as it eventually finds its way to Lake of the Woods. Beyond that the water will enter the drainage system to Lake Winnipeg and from there to the Hudson Bay and the arctic ocean going north.

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My grandson Luke with part of the first rapids in the background at Rushing River. (Picture by Anne Marquez-Hunstad)

In several places small beaches with fine sand have formed in calm spots, perfect for a toddler to splash in, especially in late afternoon after the sun has warmed the otherwise briskly cool water in the little bay. There are also natural wild places which challenge the strongest swimmer with water reportedly 25 feet or more deep, sheer cliffs of 5 metres that you can run and jump off into very deep water and giant rock islands you can swim to and then crawl up and sit in the sun to warm up or use as diving towers. It’s also a perfect place to launch a canoe or kayak. Inflatables are practically required here. Big red booms crossing the top of the rapids in the swimming area keep the inflatables and their passengers on the proper side of the rapids.

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Dick and my son Alan and Luke and Noah help haul the canoe and the inflatables from the beach back to our campsite.

The river does indeed rush. It also gurgles, splashes, tinkles, roars and thunders depending on where you stand. The lake is set in granite rock of the Canadian shield and there is little in the way of soil. Scrubby pines and spruce cling to sheer drops and granite faces. Extensive woods on both sides mean abundant wildlife, especially birds and game fish. While out walking the dogs near the water’s edge I saw a trout that must have been four or five pounds lounging in a shallow pool. This is a place where when they say put your food away because of bears, they are not kidding.

 

The park encircles the area where the lake narrows and the includes the first two sets of rapids. The individual lots range from huge grassy pull-throughs to tiny little spots on granite where you can barely fit a two man tent. There are four campgrounds and they also vary. Two are right near the rapids and have showers and flush toilets, playgrounds, and all amenities. Two of the campgrounds are further away from the rapids wrapping around the lake. Lots of the roads are paved and there are steep hills and flat areas making it perfect for my 11 year old grandson to go biking with his BMX type trick bike. There are several trails to walk, from the easiest flat type a toddler or someone in a wheelchair can manage to long demanding trails of several kilometres. One day when my husband and I felt the need for a time out from the delightful constant demands of the children, we took the lower rapids trail which is partly stairs and wooden paths but it still a very wild and demanding to walk. Since it was late summer, hints of fall colour were already present. The wildflowers were spectacular and we saw a beaver munching in a pool. Dick did take a spill and got all muddy but he was unhurt. We traveled with one son, his wife and their two sons and one other grandson. We also made one afternoon trip into the city of Kenora which is about a half an hour away and is right on Lake of the Woods. Kenora has fancy hotels and lodges if camping is not your schtick.

We had such a wonderful time we want to go again every year and get the rest of the family to come as well.

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Visiting with the grandchildren means endless rounds of ball chasing, wrestling, lots of delicious normally off limits dropped (and occasionally snatched) food like hot dogs and bacon strips and marshmallows. Fred also loves swimming and at Rushing River there were lots of places he could swim without worrying about gators or sharks even though the official beaches are off limits to dogs. On our way home after the trip, Fred checks the air and sighs a big sigh. He had a wonderful time but we all arrived home simultaneously exhausted and refreshed.