The Best Weekend of the Year
Octoberr 20-22, 2006
Stacey and I could go just about anywhere for our weekend anniversary getaway and it would still be my favorite trip of the year. To spend that weekend in Buffalo River Country.. it just doesn’t get any better.
Friday morning we grabbed breakfast from the McDonald’s drive-thru in Ozark, then enjoyed some great scenes of sunlit fog over pastures along I-40. We tried to find the Wal Mart in Russelville but wound up all the way in Dardanelle so that Stacey could buy a fishing pole and a few lures (we’d forgotten our gear at home).
As we traveled north on Hwy. 7, Stacey listened to Roy D. Mercer on the nano I’d just given her, and I listened to her laughing constantly! Our first stop was at Falling Water Falls, which was running well, then we pulled over at Six Finger Falls to explore a little. I hadn’t timed things so great, and we were in the middle of nowhere (actually Richland Creek Wilderness) with lunch time about to end. We raided the snacks we’d brought along as I dug out my state road atlas and tried to find a route along back roads to Jasper. We truly got lost for a while around the upper reaches of Cave Creek (at the foot of Lost Mountain no less!), yet we discovered some fantastic scenery of green pastures surrounded by Ozark mountains speckled with fall colors.
I was quite relieved when we reached a spot named on my map, the Bass community. The great views continued as we took Hwy. 74 to Mt Judea then Hwy. 374 through Vendor. About a mile before we reached Hwy. 7, a military cargo plane passed in front of us flying surprisingly low. We just knew it was going to crash into the mountains! We actually asked around about it later, but never heard anything about a plane crash.
The easiest place for our late lunch was the Ozark Cafe in Jasper. I’m fond of the joint, but we’d dined there three times last year! We were excited to check out our cabin for the weekend, located along Spider Creek just east of town. As soon as we were unpacked we got back in the Tahoe and drove to the Steele Creek recreation area. While Stacey fished, I waded across the river and found a way up to the top of Roark Bluff. The best view of the bluffline is at the end of natural rock wall protruding from the bluff. On the left side it’s a 300-foot fall to the river; the right side is just a bit less scary because there’s a 20-foot drop to a steep slope BEFORE that same 300-foot drop. Worse, there is a 3-foot dip in the top of the wall near the end. I managed to scoot along the wall, stand up in the dip, then scoot to the very edge.
For dinner we got a fully-loaded pizza from The Junction convenience store to take back to the cabin. We came with a good supply of Pop Secret Homestyle and Wiederkehr Niagara, but the cabin owners hadn’t yet put in a microwave and a corkscrew was nowhere to be found. I had some of Stacey’s Smirnoff Ice instead. We had to settle for a Charlie’s Angels movie on the TV, yet I still treasure that evening.
I got up early Saturday and drove to one of the scenic overlooks along Hwy. 7 to watch a meteor shower while waiting for the sun to rise. I could tell the sunrise was going to be a dud so I drove down into the Big Creek valley to find a picturesque barn we’d noticed on our drive in the day before. While waiting for the right light,  I drove over to the Piercetown community and caught the first rays of the sun illuminating Red Rock Point.
Highway 74 circled back to the lane leading to our cabin. Thin fog drifted through the air, adding to the beauty of a crisp fall morning. The little creek in front of the cabin was lined with brightly colored trees shining in the early morning sunlight.
Stacey had a nice breakfast waiting for me. After some strong coffee and a cool shower I was ready to embark on a day outdoors. First we headed for Triple Falls. We “oohed” and “wooed” at the fall colors at several places along the steep road down Sherman Mountain.
We spent a couple of hours hiking Ferny Canyon. While I had to pick my route carefully to avoid getting my feet wet, Stacey was wearing her “chicken boots” and just plowed right across the stream whenever we had to cross.
We decided to skip lunch and drive to Harrison for an early dinner, though we went by the cabin to change clothes first. The food and atmosphere at Colton’s was just right. On the way back we stopped at the grocery store in Jasper to pick up a corkscrew, but once we got back to the cabin I realized I was so tired that one drink would most likely knock me out. We watched Syriana on DVD then I hit the sack.
I talked Stacey into getting up early for another sunrise drive through the Big Creek valley. Then we returned to the cabin to pack and check out. Traveling down Hwy.  7, I thought we were headed home but Stacey surprised me by asking if there were any interesting places to visit in the area. We were almost to Hwy. 16 so Alum Cove was the obvious answer. It was downright cold that morning, and we had to bundle up. I had been to the natural bridge several times, but didn’t realize there were so many cool rock formations further down the trail.
We backtracked to Hwy. 7 then turned west onto Hwy. 123 for a more scenic route. We pulled into Haw Creek Falls campground and ran into Leslie and Heath as they were about to leave after a weekend campout.
One last treat (for me at least!) was a stop at the El Parian in  Clarksville for lunch. Seems like every time I’d passed by, their parking lot was full, and I wanted to find out why.