It was Sunday evening and I was making my way along Highway 43, headed on over to Fire Tower Road, and Azalea Falls Lodge. Alf Carter and Kathy Trimble had invited me to spend some time hiking with them and use Azalea Falls Lodge as my base camp. I was delighted to accept the offer, as this is my all time favorite place in the Ozarks to stay, especially when you want style and luxury. Their 3,000 sq. ft. vacation rental home sits on 90 acres of beautiful Ozark land. The home is surrounded by 3,000 sq. ft. of deck and stunning rock work, the deck cantilevering out towards the falls. As long time readers of The Barefoot Traveler will know, Alf is one of my favorite persons to hike with. His deep knowledge of the Upper River, Wilderness Areas and National Forest and his willingness to allow me to tag along, makes for some great adventures, seeing spots I would probably never find on my own. This week we were going to try and plan at least three days of hiking, if possible.
I arrived around 4 P.M. and after stopping in at the office and checking in with Kathy, I drove down to the lodge. I am always impressed at the natural stone rock, masterful carpentry and expansive glass windows that comprise the lodge. The interior decorating is simply grand. Tasteful and elegant, yet functional and comfortable. I moved all my stuff into the master bedroom and installed my weeks groceries into the freezer and refrigerator. I slipped out onto the deck and sat down. Around me, I could hear the sounds of the birds, singing back and forth between the trees.
The sun was setting deep into the hollow when I decided to come off the deck and make some supper. The kitchen at Azalea Falls Lodge is top notch deluxe! Whether you want to make a sandwich or a five course meal for a large group, this kitchen has it. Electric cook top, built-in stove, microwave, dishwasher and trash compactor as well as everything you might need to feed a group of 24! Elegant dinnerware and accessories are there to compliment your table. I decided on a sandwich and some potato salad and a glass of milk. The dining room is very elegant and the pass through area makes serving very easy. I sat there eating supper and watching the last rays of sunlight disappear. .
I relaxed after supper in the entertainment room. Lying on the couch I watched a movie on the satellite TV system they have in the lodge. There is also a stereo with CD player and VCR. I had brought along my old laptop and hooked it up to the phone line and logged onto the internet (my provider covers this area and informs me guest accounts are available. ) After watching the movie I decided to move into my bedroom suite. The master bedroom has beautiful carpentry and it's own sitting area complete with fireplace and private exit onto the huge deck. I sat and read some of my book and then went to bed with the screen doors open, listening to the waterfall. .
I woke up Monday to the sounds of rain. Even though the weather man had predicted a nice day, there was grey clouds and a slow rain falling. Alf decided to run in to Fayetteville for the day and I decided to take a road trip and visit some friends. On the way back to the lodge, I stopped in Ponca and saw a single elk in the fields down by the access area. Monday evening found me watching a new Inspector Morse murder mystery on A&E.
Tuesday morning Alf and I decided that since it had just rained, we would go in search of some waterfalls. We got out Tim Ernst's book and decided to make a go at Paradise Falls and then Magnolia Falls. We started out towards Beon Gulf Branch in the Wilderness area. Parking in the appropriate spot we started our search for Paradise Falls. After a couple of hours bushwhacking our way along old logging roads we came to a standstill. Although we felt we were on the right track, the brush had become quite overgrown and we decided that we would turn back, making a note to try again in the winter when bushwhacking would be much easier. After returning to the truck we went a short way down the road and parked for the next attempt. The hike to Magnolia Falls was much nicer, along an old road and well used trail. We had no trouble finding the falls. Magnolia Falls was a height of about 20 feet, while the Wood Brothers Falls was probably 40 to 50 feet tall. We sat for awhile and had some lunch, then decided to head back to the lodge.
After returning from the falls I decided to make a nice supper and then take a soak in the master bath's jacuzzi tub. Pork chops, mashed potatoes and baby peas made up my supper, which I ate on the deck. After a long, hot bath I spent the evening in the entertainment room, alternating between watching tv and reading. I fell asleep early.
Wednesday was a great day. Although it was overcast to begin with the weather man promised blue skies and a high around 80. Kathy was going into Eureka Springs with a couple of her friends so Alf and I decided to do a day hike along the river from Erbie to as far as we felt like going. We have done this hike several times already and always find it an enjoyable one. I didn't take my camera along since I had already taken pictures of this hike several weeks ago, just prior to the leaves budding out. We started out following the Goat Trail at Erbie. Once we made it to the bluff, we continued down to the old Farmer homestead. After exploring it for a short while we followed the old river road down to the river, but instead of crossing and following the trail we stayed to the right and on the north side of the river and explored our way upriver. We came to an area of flat rocks and since the river was low we could simply walk along the river on the rocks. It was a very nice day and Alf had his golden retriever, Stonewall, along for the hike. We saw some folks floating the river as we walked.
After hanging out at the flat rocks and talking with the floaters we worked our way along the right bank. The sun finally burned off all the overcast and the blue sky and clouds made for the perfect hiking day. Soon we could see a high bluff ahead and we ran across some hikers consulting their maps. They asked if we knew where a good crossing was, as they wanted to follow the old river road. We said sure, follow us and led them towards the bluff. Once we arrived, we showed them a shallow crossing area. Stonewall decided to escort them across. We had decided to turn around at this point and make our way back, but before we did, Alf decided to see if we could continue the walk along the north side of the river at another time, and he and Stonewall made their way over the rocky terrain towards the bluff. Once they made it all the way there and back, Alf said it would be no problem to continue walking the north side for as long as he could see from that vantage point. We vowed to come back and see how far we could go. Once they returned we made our way back to the truck and returned to Azalea Falls Lodge.
I awoke Thursday morning to the sound of thunder rolling down the mountain. It was overcast and sprinkling out. I turned on the TV and tuned to the weather channel. It looked like rain all morning, so I decided to just relax for the day and went out onto the deck. there is an 8 foot overhang and I set up a table and chair for myself underneath it and watched the storm roll in and the rain get heavier. It was fun listening to the thunder echo down the hollow and watching the dark sky briefly flash with lightening We stayed close to the lodge all day as the rain continued. Friday came and my time at Azalea Falls was over.
I enjoyed my time at Azalea Falls Lodge immensely and it is my opinion that this is the premier luxury establishment in all the Ozarks. I recommend it highly for anyone who wants to spend time here in the Ozarks in style and luxury. I enjoyed being able to get out into the wilderness and yet come back to the comfort and conveniencies of the 21st century that Azalea Falls provides. It is located in the very center of the Upper Buffalo River area. Canoeing, hiking, rock climbing or just a lazy day spent along the river fishing and swimming are all just minutes away. As the Memorial Day weekend approaches and we start the summer season, I encourage you to find some time to visit the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas with family or friends. Give Alf and Kathy a call and make a reservation today for your luxurious, romantic Ozark getaway! You will simply love it! If you would like to read my previous review of Azalea Falls Lodge, click here.