5 min read

An Arkansas getaway

When I was eleven, my family visited Arkansas for spring break with some friends. It may not be what most people think of as a typical "vacation hot spot," but then again, maybe that makes it more appealing. It is a beautiful state—lush, green, rolling hills, bluffs, and well worth another visit sixteen years later with family (and Nicholas, of course) this time.

We met my family at our Airbnb cabin, located on a stunning property which was also a miniature donkey farm (please google image search that). The cabin was darling and cozy with a big front porch, the kind of place where you feel at home almost immediately, with the kitschy dishes and the interior planking. We grilled steaks and peppers, and had hash browns and salads on the side, and brownies to finish it all off.

On Saturday, my brother, Matt, Nicholas, and I woke up before dawn to drive south to Petit Jean State Park to see some higher water levels at a notable waterfall, Cedar Falls. It was drizzly, chilly, and foggy, but we warmed up enough and the weather made for lighter trail traffic. Nicholas and I sat on a dry ledge under some rocks while my brother composed his waterfall photographs.

We hiked back up the steep trail to meet my parents at the lodge, and then we drove to a few overlooks and short hikes, including Rock House Cave and Cedar Falls overlook (which is a bird's eye view of our morning hike destination). Rock House Cave has barely perceptible rock paintings, dating to the first half of the seventeenth century which we found after some diligent searching with flashlights.

After that, we enjoyed BBQ at a local restaurant and drove west to Mt Magazine State Park, where things got a bit interesting. Mt Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas and all that moisture that was forecasted to clear by afternoon settled into a moody fog and little to no visibility at such an elevation. I'm glad we saw it, although we couldn't really "see" anything, there was something especially beautiful about the fog's dimly-lit dreaminess.

That evening, with clearer weather, we met our hosts and their thirty miniature donkeys. We learned a lot: they're social animals, and are a bit like dogs in they all have different personalities and favorite "people." They came over to us and nibbled on my sandal-clad toes and leaned up against us and (just generally) charmed us.

On Sunday, we slept in a tiny bit, had breakfast and coffee on the sunny porch, and then drove north to Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area. It was a beautiful, winding route with only a short stop to change a flat tire; the boys worked quickly and the girls knit. The day was beautiful and fresh and cool in the 60's and 70's, with a light breeze and enough sunshine to make up for the previous day. We hiked both trails loops, doing our best to dodge muddy puddles and poison ivy, but the views were rolling and green with few encounters with other hikers. The Pedestal Rocks are first seen from "the top," but we also dipped down to explore the caves and recesses on "the bottom" trail. It's fascinating to revisit places you first saw as a child, especially when they've changed very little and you've changed so much. I'm not eleven anymore, but the same parts of my heart that recognized beauty back then still do the same today. Nicholas and I wore our chacos for the first longer hike of the season (always a bit of a blistery adventure), and not one of the five of us wore enough sunscreen, but that didn't make the afternoon any less wonderful.

Before supper time, we drove back to the cabin, made coffee and tea, and then my brother grilled sausage while Nicholas took on the role of primary-pancake-flipper-extraordinaire. We had a quiet family evening of togetherness, watching a few episodes of Petticoat Junction and playing a few rounds of Ticket to Ride out on the porch.

On Monday Morning, we woke up early, packed up the cars, and drove to the tiny town for breakfast at the kind of local cafe that has bottomless coffee and the sweetest waitress. And then we parted ways, Nicholas and I back to Austin, my parents and brother back to Minnesota.

Other favorite little parts of the trip:

  • seeing my mom's most recent quilt top project
  • showing my family my pieced quilt squares and my finished Arctic Cardigan (I still need to write a post about that!)
  • eating really good, simple meals
  • drinking cashew milk
  • curling up under vintage quilts on the hideaway bed
  • basically zero cell phone service (apart from a Walmart parking lot)
  • knitting a surprising large amount on my May cardigan
  • chatting with Nicholas and listening to podcasts on the drive to and fro.

I don't love that we live far from all our family (honestly, it's really hard), but I'm so thankful for these extra fun getaways and meaningful time together, made even better when we can enjoy God's stunning creation together. We love you guys!


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