My girlfriend and I had the whole week off. We made no concrete plans to go anywhere but discussed going to St. Louis or somewhere similar to get out of town. We ended up laying around the house all week, being lazy. Finally, on Friday she suggested we go to Buffalo River for the day to swim and go hiking.
She has never been to Whitaker Point, so she was adamant that we check it out. We fucked up and didn't leave until 7:30 am, right in the middle of rush hour traffic. It wasn't a great start to the day sharing the road with people half asleep trying to get to work. The drive was awesome once we left the city, and the road was utterly void of traffic.
I have a pickup truck, but it's getting older, and I'm a bit scared to take it too far out of town, especially along the Buffalo River as there is virtually no cell phone service. Plus, I almost burned up my brakes going down those hills the last time I had it out there. So I decided to take my little Honda Civic. The drive to Whitaker Point is excellent except for the last six miles, a curvy, poorly maintained gravel road. To my surprise, the car did well going up the hills; the rough road kept me under 20 mph the whole way up the mountain.
Once you get up to the top there is a nice little two-mile hike out to the point. The last time I was out there, I was in great shape. This time... not so much. We still managed to make short work of the hike, passing the only other group heading out there along the way. I was surprised that the whole time we were there, only two other groups were there. The place is usually packed near the weekends.
School is starting back this week, so that may be why the area was so barren. Whatever the reason, it was lovely.
We didn't spend a crazy amount of time taking photos. You usually would stand where I was in the image above and take pictures of everyone. We didn't bother doing all of that. We were exhausted when we arrived, so the hike back weighed heavy on our minds. It was getting warmer by the minute, so we decided to get going and head to the river.
I took several more photos in this area, but it seems cliche even to post them as this is known to be the most photographed spot in Arkansas. They are a dime a dozen, and a quick search for Whitaker Point will inundate you with thousands of the same images.
I'll give you three, lol. The photo above is taken from a rock just above the overlook that is so popular. I enjoy sitting up here to relax, and usually, I can watch everyone taking pictures. Today it was just us. If you like to people-watch, this is a great place to hang out.
After we finally made it back off of the mountain, we headed to the river. I didn't want to travel further east to the lower part of the river, so I checked out the Steel Creek Campground area. The river is little more than a large creek this far upriver. I was hoping that with all of the rain we had during the week, the water would be up a bit, but to our surprise, it was down to a trickle.
I'm usually in this area in the springtime when the water flows more. We did find a few deep pools to go for a quick swim near a low-water bridge outside of Ponca.
Getting out of the city for a bit was nice, but I realized something today. I think I'm turning into a city boy.
I was born and raised in Southeast Missouri, the middle of nowhere. The nearest mall was 1 1/2 hours away. There is nothing there but farm fields as far as the eye can see. I never liked hunting, but I loved fishing and camping or hanging out in the country. The thought of living in the city around so many people was always a frightening prospect. I never thought in a million years would I want to do that.
Though I have always wanted to move closer to a larger population, I've wanted to live just outside of a larger population for a long time to have more options when I want to get out of the house.
When I was 35ish, I finally made my move, my kids were grown up, and I needed a change after my wife and I split up. So I moved to Jonesboro, Arkansas. It's a small city of about 70,000. My brother lives there, and he talked me into making the move. Initially, I was hesitant, but to my surprise, I loved it. I loved renting an apartment and not worrying about maintenance or even mowing the yard. I found it gave me far more free time.
After about four years, I decided to take it one step further and move to Northwest Arkansas. The population here is closer to 600,000, and jobs are plentiful. It's slowly morphing into a larger city. This area is blowing up very fast. It is consistently mentioned as one of the top places in America to move to, and people are listening, as did I. On average, 30 new people a day move here.
Before I left Missouri, I wouldn't have entertained the idea of living inside a population this size. It's been 2 1/2 years since I moved to the NWA. I initially moved here to be closer to things like the Buffalo River and the area's outdoor activities. But as time passes, I've noticed that my yearning for the outdoor activities I've always loved is waning. I still like hiking and biking, but I do so in the city now. This area has so many trails and things to do in the city that going outside of the city to do them doesn't appeal to me. Typically I would've stayed out at the river all day, but we were back in the city by 1 pm.
I don't find the hills as appealing as I once did. I think I am a city boy now... Yikes!