Chasing Fall(s) in Arkansas

I wanted to strategically plan my trip to finish up the Arkansas National Park sites in fall so I could enjoy all the beautiful colors. I’d been to the area earlier this year for a wedding, and my drive to the northwest corner of the state was so beautiful, I was excited to head back with some yellows and reds added. One of my best friends, Margaret, lives in Bentonville, so after work on Friday me and my friend Jenna headed that way. Side note: I will never head out of town between 4PM and 7PM again. Dallas traffic is pretty dang awful.

After arriving late enough that there wasn’t much to do, we woke up early the next day to enjoy the sunshine in the cooler weather. We started with a two hour drive further east into Arkansas, which I wasn’t at all upset about. The state is truly beautiful, with its rolling hills and plentiful trees. Arriving at the Buffalo National River visitor center, we chatted with the ranger for a good half hour trying to figure out where to head for the day. We’d done minimal research and I was excited to get the insider perspective on the hot spots.

In fact, I had only looked up one major lookout to see the river (which the site was named after obviously), but the ranger recommended a closer river lookout that would save us almost two hours of driving round trip. As a planner, I’m really trying to figure out how to plan future National Park trips. There’s always so much to do that we never have enough time, but the rangers aren’t always available for me to ask an hour’s worth of questions over the phone long distance. I’ve learned the best approach is to research using a full map of every trail (and driving distance between!), look up any pictures you can find (which gets hard), and then start your convo with, “What do you recommend?”

So we headed to the nearby River Overlook Trail to checkout “America’s First National River” and see the land. It was an easy twenty minute hike through a field with some surrounding woods. We passed the Sod Collier homestead on the way, a few buildings that were preserved by the Park. The crunching of leaves under my feet was so nice – I was glad to be hiking in a new season! Getting to the overlook, I was impressed by the view of the river, but also glad I hadn’t driven somewhere else when this view was great. Plus, we saw the river – worth it! I hope to head back in summer to enjoy some kayaking or other river sports.

We headed to the west area of the park where the most popular hikes were found. First, it was time to take on the Lost Valley section. This turned out to be such a busy trail! I don’t mind seeing people every now and then on a trail, but I guess I’m a bit of a selfish hiker. Having to pass people, or not feel rushed when trying to get a good picture, or wait on switchbacks so everyone could proceed safely – it was kind of terrible. We did our best to be on our own, but people were out in hoards. I guess Arkansasians love their outdoors!

On this trail, we first ran into an off shot of the Eden Falls which had a little cave you could hike through. After a couple of pictures, I slid and slid and slid. Even with my hiking boots on, the moss on the side of the rock was so slippery, once I started – I didn’t stop until I was in a puddle of water at the bottom. It was cold, but mostly I was just embarrassed and glad nothing hurt. People saw me (because of how busy the trail was) so I hurriedly ushered Jenna and me along through the cave to escape their concern. Then just as we were able to laugh about it, going down a hill of roots and steps – I fell again.

Seriously, I have never fallen on a hike – and here I’d fallen twice! In the span of fifteen minutes, on the busiest trail I’ve hiked to date, I embarrassed myself by falling probably about six feet each time. An older gentleman helped me up from my second tumble and this one had hurt a bit more (my legs are still bruised up) but I awkwardly laughed and rushed forward to the falls.

The falls weren’t too impressive, though they were nice minus the loud surrounding chatter from so many people on the trail. The trail looped back through the trees and it seemed most people decided to go back the way they’d come, so finally we got the trail to ourselves. And we found fall. The trees were so beautiful with the golden hues. Ah, peace and quiet – and flat ground.

It’s Fall, Y’all!

Well, it’s kind of fall. Technically, October has arrived – but the weather hasn’t exactly gotten it together in Texas. I might’ve unpacked my sweaters, but I’m still wearing short-sleeved shirts the majority of the time. However, that wasn’t going to stop me from visiting a pumpkin patch!

Our first attempt was rained out (and our second too, almost) but finally my friend Jenna and I were able to make it out to the middle of nowhere Texas – Gunter – to enjoy some good ol’ fall activities! We got there on a Saturday morning and realized this farm was mainly for families with small children, but we decided to just embrace it!

First stop: petting zoo! There were a bunch of stables filled with goats, sheep, cattle, and chickens. With our entry we were given a cup of feed to coerce them into coming closer. Full disclosure – I’ve pet a few goats over the past year and this livestock was pretty dirty. It was fun to feed them, but I was not about to touch them. Also let’s just say this portion of the day was done when I saw a cow’s tongue reaching for me (or me holding out food).

Near these stables was the corn maze! I’d never done one of these before so I was kind of excited. It was a bit small, but completely empty except for one (very lost) lady – haha. I will say I’d love to do one of these kind of mazes as a haunted attraction – finding my way in the dark with people popping out at me sounds like such a good time.

After exiting the maze – it took us a total of four minutes – we spotted the hay ride. Jenna’s dog, Florence, took a lot of our attention (and taking some photos) since we were pretty much just sitting there, but it was a nice little ride around a small pond. It was hot though, proving even though I was having a fall day, it was summer weather.

The pumpkin selection was pretty sparse to be honest, but it was fun seeing all the different kinds. I’d never really looked into pumpkins, usually just buying the grocery store ones, but there are actually a lot of different varieties and colors! My secret is that we didn’t end up buying at the farm because we’d both seen them for cheaper at Trader Joe’s. I’m living on a budget!

When we got home, I cracked some cider (because you got to) but then our weekend day got away from us. Between friends coming over and state fair plans, we decided to get our pumpkins and decorate another time. So because weekdays are slow, we stopped by Trader Joe’s on a Monday to continue living like it was fall.

We hadn’t even thought about carving tools until we’d purchased our pumpkins, so we hit up Dollar Tree for some cheap knives. (Being a terrible cook, I own one very small knife – haha!) Cutting the top of my pumpkin proved to be difficult for me. I just couldn’t get it to come out easily, but luckily the rest of the carving went pretty well. I searched some simple faces on Pinterest, and realized no matter what kind of face you decide on, they all look good. I went forward with that encouragement!

One of my bucket list items has been rewatching season one of American Horror Story, and funnily enough when we put it on it was time for the Halloween episodes! They were carving pumpkins just as we were! (Except like, they’re carving a macabre Marie Antoinette and I’m carving googly eyes.) Sure enough, after a bit of carving, cleaning out, and popping in a flameless candle – they turned out great!

Next was painting a quick ghost pumpkin! I think I love painting pumpkins so much more because it’s easier to get something cute. I did these little guys in about five minutes – the effect is so easy. By the end of all my pumpkin decorating, I was surprised how much more I enjoyed carving this year than painting – probably because I liked the challenging activity more! I’ll have to start making a point to carve a pumpkin each year.