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Well today was much smoother than yesterday!  I skipped my morning coffee as I wanted to get an early start.  I saw these cool purple berry shrubs all around the campsite area.  I took a picture because I thought they were pretty.  Anyone know what they are?  Shortly after leaving the camp grounds I found a mama, papa and 2 almost newborn puppies in the middle of the road.  They were near a house, but somehow I got the feeling they were dumped there.  I felt so sad…I certainly couldn’t house 6 of them and had no clue where a vet or shelter would be.  I moved them to the side of the road and left them some food.  I hope someone took them in!

My first stop on the route today was Pedestal Rocks.  Reader’s Digest explains that “natural forces – millions of years worth – have carved the rocks so that large boulders are upheld by pillarlike ones” and that the trail is one mile long.  It sounded pretty cool to me and “dog doable”, so off I set.  Pedestal Rocks is located in the Ozark National Forest.  The National Forests are more rugged than the National Parks and State Parks.  I pulled up and VANilla was the only car in the dirt parking lot.  As I approached the trail marker, a sign read “Caution, bears may frequent this area.”  My mom will be happy to know I carried along my bear mace, though I think the tags on my dogs’ collars jingle enough to scare the bears away.  The trailhead sign also showed a 2.2 mile hike (not 1 mile), a little long for the dogs, but it was the first hike of the day and somewhat cool, so I decided they were up for it.   The only other items of interest at the trailhead were some “walking sticks” that looked like people had picked up and then left them at the end of the day.  I kind of wondered why in the world you’d need walking sticks for this trail.  I soon found out.  In my opinion, they weren’t for walking, they were for knocking down cobwebs!!  I’m not exagerating when I say I walked through at minimum 50 cobwebs.  You could not suffer from arachnophobia and do this hike.  Spiders were everywhere (Speaking of spiders, a daddy long legs crawled across my shin as I was driving today…I nearly wrecked, it scared me so badly!! I hope it doesn’t join me this evening).  After about 30 minutes, I arrived at some rock ledges that overlooked a treed area and my first thought was I walked though cobwebs and sticker brush for this?!?  It was pretty, but not what I was expecting.  There happened to be a geocache in the area, so I walked a little farther, but the brothers I met yesterday told me to be careful there because it is easy to get lost if you stray from the trail so I was a bit hesitant to go too far off the beaten path.  It was worth straying a little…rock caves, huge boulders…really cool.  I’m glad the cache was there too because I was so sick of the spider webs I was going to go back the way I

The cache at Pedestal Rocks

came instead of continuing on the loop until I saw all these rock formations…pedestals, an arch rock, trickling waterfalls down sheer cliffs.  The second part of the loop made this a fantastic hike!  I’d love to go back and explore a bit more and maybe have lunch on the rock ledge.

My next stop was Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area.  It is located in the Ozark National Forest as well.  According to Reader’s Digest, “the combined actions of wind, water, and gravity transformed a huge mass of sandstone into an imposing natural bridge” – 130 feet long, 20 feet wide – and you can walk across it.  I checked the map at the trailhead…it looked like it was 1,ooo ft or so

Taken from Alum Cove Natural Bridge of side of mountain that is starting to get carved out like the bridge

down the trail, so dogs were in tow.  I walked across it and took a picture from the top looking down toward the mountain where a cave was sort of carved in the stone from the water to try to get a general idea of what it was like, but my guess is you’d have to walk much further down the trail and navigate through some bushes to really get the gist, so opted to move onward….lots of great things to see today.

I stopped quickly to take a look at the view of Arkansas’ “Grand Canyon” as pictured here.  Slightly

Arakansas’ Grand Canyon

different from Arizona’s I’d have to say.  I also passed through Jasper, a cute little town worthy of a picture and stopped at a couple of different historical markers along the route.  One marks where the marble for Washington’s Monument was taken in 1836.  The other marks where an ill-fated journey to California began with 150 people of which all but 17 children were massacred in Utah by Mormons disguised as Indians.

Jasper

The brothers told me to go to Buffalo National River as did Reader’s Digest; however, the book suggested I go all the way to Ponca (only 14 miles), but the roads here are built to go over the mountains, not through the mountains, and it was going to take a good hour plus for me to get there, find a place to walk around, and come back to Hwy 7, so I kept going.  I got to drive over the river near Pruitt, and it is beautiful.  It looked like Long Pool…milky blue water with big boulder edges.

My final scenic stop of the day (before using the wi-fi at McDonald’s in Harrison and then driving another hour or so toward Thayer, MO where the scenic drive begins tomorrow) was Mystic Caverns. I took a guided tour in one of the two caves (didn’t want to leave the dogs in the car too long).  Mystic Cavern was discovered in the 1800s while the Crystal Dome Cavern wasn’t discovered until 1967 as there wasn’t a natural entrance to the cave.  Some workers were escavating some dirt and found it as they cracked the top.  The Crystal Dome Cavern has a spring in it that feeds into the Buffalo National River (the first National River by the way), so during strong storms when the river floods, it fills up with water.  Uniquely, it is right next to the Mystic Cavern, but there is an underground barrier so Mystic Cavern doesn’t fill.  The cave includes calcite formations called soda straws that are very new (meaning maybe a 100 years old), cave pearls, and sawtooth draperies just to name a few.  Hopefully I got all that right.  I didn’t catch the ladies’ names at the caverns, but if you are reading, feel free to correct or add anything you want.  One of the ladies wants to go RVing full-time and told me of a website called www.escapees.com.  It is a forum for full-time RVers.  I’ll have to check it out so I know all the cheap places to camp, what local mechanics to use (hopefully none), and find out other tips and tricks of the trade.

So the campsite I found is at a lake.  The mutts and I walked down to the boat dock and then enjoyed the pink sky just 10 feet from my hookup.  ETB

Websites:  http://www.fs.fed.us/oonf/ozark/recreation/pedestal_rocks.html, http://www.fs.fed.us/oonf/ozark/recreation/alum_cove.html, http://www.mysticcaverns.com

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