Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lake Ouachita State Park --- Another Arkansas Stunner

Lake Ouachita taken from Point 50 on the Caddo Bend Trail

Roger here...  One last hurrah in Arkansas before we cross the border into Texas.  We honestly thought that no other place in Arkansas could compete with Petit Jean State Park, but Lake Ouachita does ---for different reasons.  Petit Jean has multiple amazing hiking trails and views.  Lake Ouachita (pronounced Wash-a-taw) has water activities (kayaking for me) and one great trail with stunning views.  

 Both parks have spacious and  amazing full-hook-up campsites with scenic and tranquil views.  Enough of the comparisons.  Our sitting view at Lake Ouachita is a separate graveled area that overlooks the forest and an arm of Lake Ouachita visible below.  We spent all of our campground time (other than sleeping) in those chairs.  Well, we did a little sleeping in the chairs, too.

So Peaceful!

On our first night, we passed the walk-in tent sites  during our evening walk.  What views they have, plus they have access to the lake.  There is also a secluded boat ramp (separate from the marina) in the camping area.  

Area B sites right on the water
It rained during our first full day, but the rain brought a drop in the temperatures and humidity.  By the time morning arrived, the weather was perfect.  Time to get busy.  We decided to leash up the dogs and explore the state park. 

 At our first stop (down the road via a hiking trail and sidewalk) we found a different camping area.  We are in Area A.  Area B has recently been upgraded to include full-hook-up sites.  They look pretty good. We made note of our "favorite" sites in Area B for a return visit.  As we passed Area C we saw that it was under reconstruction and was closed during our visit. They were adding full hookups to that area as well.  

Further down the sidewalk we walked by the rentable cabins.  They are actually modern, two-story apartments with every amenity...

... even satellite TV.  One of the cabins is handicapped-accessible.  All of them have decks in the back with scenic views of the lake.  This would be a great park for RVers to spend time with their non-RVing friends.  

Check out the space behind  the units.

Decks overlooking the lake

On our walk to see the swimming beach, we stopped at the Three Sisters' Springs.  These historic springs (three of them) claim to cure a number of ailments, dependent upon which spring you decide to bathe in.  

Each of the springs has its own list of curable health issues.  I do not know if they are truly effective, but I put my right hand in one of the springs, and it seems much healthier than my left hand.  Creepy.

The Three Streams 

The swimming beach was just past the springs.  Quite the scenic place for a swim!  The water temperature was 82 degrees on this day.  Not bad.  By the way, as with most beaches (except in Oregon) dogs are not allowed on the beach, so we stayed on the pavement.  They were not happy.  They got over it.  The view from the beach was spectacular:

It was steeper than it looks in this photo -- D.
A little side story....  Dianne does sometimes whine during the less-than-pleasant  aspects of some of our longer walks.  Could be the humidity, too many people, too hot, too cold, too semi-warm, too semi-cool, too clammy, and TOO STEEP.  The walk down to the springs and the beach was TOO STEEP.  I told her to "get over it," but she had the last laugh.

We trudged all the way back up the hill.  We walked 20 yards and paused to catch our breath.  Dianne said "I think I left my water bottle back at the springs."  I then used my late mom's favorite expression, "You gotta be kiddin'!"   Dianne offered to go back down the hill, full well knowing that I would not let her.  So down I went.

Found it!  Up, up, up again.

On my way

I'll carry it in my water sling for the rest of the walk, dear.

Dianne here:  I have to relate a story from our dating years.  I lived and worked about an hour and fifteen minutes from Roger's parents' home in Pendleton, Indiana.  One afternoon he drove an hour+ to pick me up to take me home for dinner with his family.   Later that evening he drove me the hour+ back to my apartment in Frankfort, Indiana.   As I got out of the car to go in, I realized I had left my purse and my keys at his parents' house!   There was nothing to do but drive me an hour+ back to get the purse, then drive the hour+ back to my apartment to take me home, then he had to drive another hour+ back to Pendleton, by this time after midnight.   He handled this with such grace and chivalry that I knew then and there that he was a "keeper"!   Now, that being said, after being married now for 43 years if I were to do that again I'm not sure his reaction would be quite so calm.  Back to Roger....

A few days prior to this walk, we watched a documentary about Lake Ouachita and its geology.    Many of the interesting rock formations along the lake consist of quartz-infused shale.  I noticed both kinds of rock during our walk.  As a former science teacher, I had to take a picture of this shale...

 ... and this quartz

Before returning to our campsite, we took a short walk along a forest loop.  A gentle walk in a sylvan setting.

Our morning exploratory walk with the dogs amounted to 4.5 miles altogether.  After lunch, Dianne enjoyed some quiet time in one of our comfortable outdoor chairs.  I was restless and in the mood to do something different.  I actually knew earlier in the day that I would probably be renting a kayak at the marina.

The rental fee was only $6/hour or $15 for the day.  Pretty reasonable.  Two hours would be about right for me.  The trip across the main channel of the lake was choppier and more challenging than I expected, but the muscle strain felt good, especially in the setting.

I paddled into a small cove (or so I thought) that the man at the marina suggested.  

I paddled toward an interesting looking rock formation at the back of the cove....

... and discovered a hidden waterway to the right.

I spent the majority of my time in the kayak exploring that waterway and its various offshoots. It was so tranquil.  I was totally alone.  Loved it.

Crystal Clear Water completely surrounded by Ouachita National Forest

I could have stayed in that cove for the rest of the day, but time was running out.  I snapped this picture of the Ouachita Mountains before paddling back into the main channel.

On the other side of the lake I found a break in the forest.  In 2011 an E-2 tornado rampaged through this area, felling most of the trees along its path.  This more open area is evidence of the forest recovering.  

People who know me can probably see me looking at my watch.  I don't like to be late.  It was time to paddle back to the marina.  I had just enough time.

When I returned, I found Dianne enjoying a sudoku and Tequila resting on her Coolaroo.

The next morning (our last day at Lake Ouachita) we packed snacks and tackled the Caddo Bend Trail.

The beige area on the map shows the tornado damage from 2011
The 4-mile trail skirts the perimeter of a scenic peninsula.  The trail was interesting.  The views were amazing.  Into the woods.....

Early in the hike we passed through the tornado damage from 2011.  It was easy to imagine the swath of destruction that passed across the peninsula and into the lake.

The glimpses of the lake and its many inlets were beautiful....

.... So was the small flower that Dianne carefully photographed.

The view at the Point 50 observation deck was indescribable.

 Photos from the last two miles of the hike....

Nothing like some fungi to wrap up the hike :-)

After lunch we drove to an RV park near Hot Springs to spend a little time with our friends from Retama Village, Eddie and Mary Catherine.  They were in Hot Springs to see their new great-granddaughter.  They had just returned from a huge trip to Labrador, Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces.  It was great to see them.  

Dianne again:  Eddie, being an Arkansan through and through, explained a few puzzlements we had about his state:

1.  How in the world does Arkansas have such awesome state parks and keep them so up-to-date?
Eddie explained that years ago the Arkansas legislature passed a quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to tourism and the state park system.  I will tell you that Arkansas state parks put most others to shame.  We will definitely go back again and again, and plan to try to visit them all.

2.  Why are there no mosquitos at Lake Ouachita?
Eddie explained that the shale drains so well that there is no breeding ground for them.   We were never bothered by mosquitos while there, even in the evening and early morning.  Back to Roger....

We will see Eddie and Mary Catherine again soon  in south Texas.   

The next blogs will be from Texas.  Passing into the state at Texarkana is the half-way point (distance-wise) of our trip.

The pet pictures of the day....

Hey Bandido, why did you tangle this stick with your dog tie-out?

Oh.  OK.  You figured out how to play tug without involving us.

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