Old Friends Come for A Visit
I had been chatting with friends in Wisconsin and they said they wanted to do a road trip in March, since the weather was sort of wintry up there. I had been touting our weather, how nice it was in late Feb and early March with highs in the 60's even reaching into the low 70's and overnight lows well above freezing. They decided on coming down March 16th and leaving on the 19th. Of course as they made their way down south they dragged along the polar vortex and temperatures plummeted as they pulled in my driveway. We dropped down to a low of 26 then 20 for the next two nights, with the highs projected at 39-40. A brisk 20mph wind was promised. None of us wanted to hike in those conditions so we decided to just take a road tour. We had a excellent spaghetti dinner and then made our plans.
Ed had never been to Arkansas but Tommy has visited me before, so we thought a road tour of the Erbie area would be a good first day, and then maybe a visit to Ponca, Steel Creek and Whiteley Springs would work for Saturday. It was brutally cold but sunny and we started our tour by driving all the way down to the old Erbie canoe launch site, now mostly forgotten. Ed was intrigued by the color of the water and I explained that it was due to the geology of the area that caused minerals to dissolve and turn the water a blue green color. One of the unique bits about this launch site is that it has the very best set of rapids between Erbie and Pruitt. Those using the new Erbie launch site miss this exciting bit of the river. We then moved down to the new Erbie Campground and launch site
This well developed campground and canoe launch facility is a featured site on the river. It can handle large crowds and there are adequate toilet and waste disposal provisions. The campsites are very nice and include both tent sites and RV sites with utilities. We we drove through the camping area we didn't see anyone, but it was a Friday and it was cold and windy, not the best conditions for camping or floating. Tommy went exploring upriver while Ed and I meandered around the launch area catching up on years past. Once we finished checking out this area we headed down the road. Our next stop was the Cedar Glade picnic area.
Cedar Glade is one of my favorite places to stop, especially during the week when there is usually no one there. It has a nice view of the river, and picnic tables set in the shade. I almost always stop for a drink or a snack break. A large fire ring fills out the area and across the road there is a short hiking trail that leads to a pond. Tom took off down the trail to Kyles while Ed and I stayed out of the wind and just admired the scenery. We had a few snacks we consumed while waiting for our friend to return. Once he was back we decided to head back to town. Our road trip took 4 hours and we arrived back in Harrison ready to consume a warm supper.
Saturday was a continuation of Fridays weather, windy but a shade cooler. After a nice breakfast we decided to continue with our road trip with a visit to Ponca, Steel Creek and Boxley. It was another sunny day and we headed down to Ponca to see if the elk were out.Driving past the Center Point Trailhead parking lot you could not fit another vehicle in there. The overflow was parked up on Fire Tower road. It was a bit too late in the morning for the elk to be out in their field. We stopped by Lost Valley to use the restrooms. The place was packed, but of course it was the weekend. Then up to Steel Creek access and campsite. It is a beautiful spot, with the bluffs highlighting the spectacular landscape below. There is a very nice tent site and also access to a fine swimming hole away from the launch point. There is also a horse camp with trailer parking spots and very nice facilities. We could see one pair of adventuresome floaters getting ready to start their trip downriver. I thought they were crazy to float in this bitterly cold weather. Tom and Ed went over to check them out. I tailed behind taking a few pictures as I went. We wandered around and also drove the entire complex. One one point worth mentioning is that the Buffalo River Trail from Ponca to Steel Creek is a very worthwhile hike in decent weather.
Our last stop was the Boxley area and Whitley Springs. This is one of my favorite places to visit. Across the fields is a wonderful swimming hole. In the "Old Days" the church used to baptize their flock here. It is spring fed and maintains a clean place to swim all summer long. It is a popular place with the locals. The other main feature is Whiteley Spring. This is where fresh water just bubbles out of a spring. Locals have for many years used this spring to supplement their water when, in summertime, things get dry. Once we finished up here we decided to head on back to Harrison and a warm house. We cooked up a big meal consisting of a freshly made meat loaf with a large batch of air fried tater tots.
It was such a wonderful treat to have my friends come for a visit. My only regret was that the weather was unfriendly. I enjoyed showing off the different aspects of our area, the river, the bluffs, the hard wood forests. We are lucky to have several national forests, the Buffalo River, and two wilderness areas so close to Harrison. I hope that you get the chance to visit our area and enjoy some of the beauty of The Natural State.