A pseudo professional writer and friend of mine from Arkansas combined a little work and family fun recently. He ended up writing this journal type of story that many will find interesting. It is a bit long for a BLOG, but reads smoothly and quickly - enjoy and learn from it.
Like many of us, when we think of travel, we often times think of going off to “far away places with strange sounding names” as the song goes. Not many of us stop to think, pause to explore what is right in our own back yards. Not so with this traveler. My family and I –residents of L.A. (Lower Arkansas)- enjoy taking what we call “One Tank Trips” to discover “treasures” that are nearby. So this year, with a goal to “See Arkansas First,” we opted to visit as many Arkansas treasures as one tank in our “not quite a clunker” will allow.
This particular “One Tank Trip” finds our charts pointing us northward on Scenic Highway 7 for a fall adventure blessed with incredible color, remarkable bluffs and scenic overpasses. Our destination: The Arkansas Ozarks and specifically The Gateway to the Buffalo National River, Harrison, Arkansas, and One of America’s Dozen Most Distinctive Destinations – Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
We arise early from our slumber, wave goodbye as our paperboy is making his rounds, and begin our adventure. We detour off of State Highway 7 at Jasper on to the Buffalo National River corridor and head towards The Boxley Valley. In route to this enchanted place we are presented with our first collection of “Arkansas treasures,” trumpeter swans and a herd of elk. Yes, elk, roaming free in Arkansas.
Once we arrive at Boxley Valley, we stop off for a two-hour hike in what many claim is a true “hidden” treasure, Lost Valley with its “secret” caves, massive rock formations and mirror glass ponds. The more adventurous members of our family (they know who they are) encouraged a moderate but enormously scenic hike that took us to probably one of the most photographed sites in The Arkansas Ozarks, Hawk’s Bill Crag. Sticking our imaginary family flag on this jutting rock formation for our own photo was the main attraction... plus it satisfied “everyone’s” outdoor needs.
As lunch called (figuratively, since we always vow to turn off our cell phones on these “One Tank Trips”), we headed to the world-famous (at least in this neck of the woods it is) Ozarks Diner on the Jasper (AR) Square. Following a feast of “treasures” that made us all have to loosen our cargo shorts, the day continued with a little local antiquing.
Soon we were back on the road with wonderful curves (a big draw especially for our friends who choose to travel on two wheels rather than four) and visual surprises at every turn. Mystic Caverns is a great stop and the Buffalo River Visitor Center in Pruitt (AR) is the perfect place to direct you off on a day-trip full of fun and adventure in “The Natural State.”
We are now just seven miles from Harrison (AR), so we choose to head in and check out the 1929 Hotel Seville. Our pre-journey on-line research told us that The Seville had been recently and totally renovated to its original grandeur. The kids liked the fact that each room has wireless Internet, LCD televisions and all the modern conveniences. “The Mrs.” and I liked the fact that we could relax and enjoy a good meal –and an adult beverage- at the hotel’s John Paul’s restaurant. (Ya’ see, Harrison is in a dry county but John Paul’s has a permit, etc., etc… part of my pre-journey research!) By the way, chalk up The Seville as one Arkansas’ “newest” treasures. With its comfy beds, historic yet trendy ambiance and affordable price, The Seville is a “must discover.”
The Seville is only one of Downtown Harrison’s many treasures that include great parks and walking paths, Lake Harrison, the Marine Museum, the historic courthouse, and the highly-functional 1929 Lyric Theater.
The sound of songbirds and ever-brightening horizon tell us our next day’s journey is upon us. Today we not only go down the road a mere 38 miles but we go back in time nearly two centuries as we “escape to the town that time forgot,” Eureka Springs Arkansas.
Eureka Springs has been designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America's “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” and it is the state’s most treasured collection of preserved 19th-century commercial buildings and homes that are open and vibrant, each displaying a welcome-mat for all to see.
As we get ever closer to this community we realize why Eureka truly is the “extraordinary escape” locals claim it to be. All of us feel the magic of a mountain town that is nestled between three rivers (White, Kings, Buffalo) and two lakes (Beaver, Table Rock)… so much in such a small circle of land. The historic sites are amazing from the “Little Golden Gate Bridge” in the majestic, neighboring town of Beaver to one of the country’s largest historic districts including and surrounding Downtown Eureka Springs with its more than 2,000 historic stone buildings. Driving through downtown Eureka is like driving through limestone canyon. Magnificent!
It was still early so we decided to park and ride the Eureka Springs trolleys that took us all over. We rode one trolley to Thorncrown Chapel which made our daughter’s “I’d like to be a bride here someday” eyes sparkle. We rode another trolley out to the grounds of The Great Passion Play and site of the tallest statue of Christ on the northern hemisphere, The Christ of the Ozarks. (You talk about looking small. We had our picture taken at the foot of the statue and we were teeny in comparison.) Yet another trolley took us around the historic loop where we got to see historic homes (most built into the hillsides) and the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa.
We jumped off the trolley at The Crescent and went upstairs to their fourth floor overlook, the highest point in Eureka. What a view. The Christ statue. The ridges of the Ozarks. The valley below. Great photo opps. And a great place to wrap our lips around an unbelievable Kobe beef burger from Dr. Baker’s Extraordinary Bistro and Sky Bar. And since “the doctor” has al fresco seating, we could have our lunch and panorama too.
But as good as the food was, the kids were most excited about discovering some of the ghosts that The Crescent has become famous for. We didn’t see any ghosts (although “The Mrs.” did capture an orb on her camera) but we did see three different bridal parties enjoying receptions at the hotel. We did not, however, stick around to catch a bouquet… we were heading back downtown.
The trolley dropped us where we had parked our car. We then drove just a few blocks and stopped near the front entrance of another one of Eureka Springs’ historic hotels, the 1905 Basin Park Hotel which is in the heart of downtown. (Actually it is right next to “the spring where it all began,” Basin Spring, the reason the town was inhabited then founded.) We went inside. Asked if they had a room. They did. We asked the price. It was most reasonable. We checked in. Asked about parking for our car. We were told of the hotel’s shuttle service. And the next thing we knew we were in a great room, settling in and preparing to discover the treasures of Downtown Eureka.
The kids and I opted to step outside the hotel’s front door and go geocaching to find “treasures” placed around the downtown area by the Eureka Springs Downtown Network. “The Mrs.” opted to discover the “treasure” of a full-body massage at the hotel’s Serenity Spa. (I think it was the hike to Hawk’s Bill Crag that got her!)
Following geocaching sprinkled with some serious shopping in some really wonderful shops and galleries plus an occasional stop for some sweets (candy and ice cream shops are oh so tempting), we headed back to the hotel. In the room we found the “massagee” smiling, relaxed and ready to hear about our “Indiana Jones-style” adventures.
Dinner that night was another al fresco delight. The hotel has The Balcony Restaurant which allows you outdoor seating but one floor up from street level. The kids went wild pointing to all they spots they had been that afternoon. The live music was delightful as well. The food was hearty, tasty and abundant. Once again we left a restaurant well satisfied… yet let your heart go out for the horses.
Following dinner the shuttle driver (the Basin Park and Crescent, we found out, are sister hotels) took us back up to the Crescent where we went on a horse-drawn carriage ride. Don’t know if it was the big meal, the two days of adventures or the hypnotic clip-clopping of the horse hooves but my family told me my snoring wasn’t too distracting in what they say was a fabulous equestrian sojourn.
Morning came ever too early but a cup of Starbucks from the War Eagle Outpost located in the cave behind the hotel’s front desk got me bright eyed and bushy tailed. I had a chance to talk to the front desk clerk. I told her what a memorable time we had had and she told me that was part of the Basin Park and the Crescent’s creed: Creating lifetime memories while protecting the irreplaceable. I told her they had accomplished both.
All packed up, the shuttle took us to our car and we began our drive home. Not only did we have treasures in the trunk but we had a warehouse full of “treasures” in our mind from this “One Tank Trip.” Thank you Arkansas for being such a bountiful treasure chest of pleasant memories just waiting to be discovered.
One Tank Trip Packages:
A GREAT DEAL…
..of things to see .. of money to save . of HISTORY TO BE MADE
Just $249 This One Tank Trip enjoys One-Night at each of these three Historic TREASURES (1886 Crescent Hotel, 1905 Basin Park Hotel, 1929 Hotel Seville).