I had the opportunity to take my first WHO expedition this past Wednesday, and it was a great experience! The entire group is pictured in this photo, shortly after we had stopped to chow down on the sack lunches we were carrying. WHO is short for Women Hiking (the) Ozarks, which is an affinity group composed of people that have at least two things in common---first, they are female; and second, they all enjoy hiking/walking. The turnout for the hike in the Tyler Bend area of the Buffalo National River (www.nps.gov/buff )consisted of 17 hardy souls, ready for a day of experiencing the Ozark outdoors, on a beautiful spring day when the newly blooming wildflowers can be easily spotted against the brown leaves, that have covered their hiding places all winter.
We met at the magnificent Tyler Bend Visitor Center just off Hwy 65, near Silver Hill. If you haven't taken the short drive off of Hwy 65 to go down to the Visitor Center, I would certainly recommend that you do so, if for nothing else but to use the clean restrooms available there. The Tyler Bend Visitor Center has museum-quality exhibits about the area, a "theater" for viewing a short video presentation about the Buffalo National River, a fireplace, information desk, and gift shop/bookstore. One of my favorite parts of the building, are the wrap-around wooden decks, with ample seating for taking in the beautiful views, or enjoying a quick snack. After a brief orientation by National Park Ranger, Joyce (shown in green uniform in lower left photo, pointing out wildflowers), our group headed out on the River View Trail, that goes through dense forest, crosses stream beds (some with a bridge, like shown in upper right photo, while others had only stepping stones). Those who "survive" the moderately steep climb to the top of the ridge line of the trail, are treated to some expansive views of the Buffalo National River along the way, as shown in upper left photo. There is a wide range of ages in the WHO group, and the photo in the lower right shows one of the original WHO members, Hazel, with her granddaughter, Jessie. Being able to take a grandmother/granddaughter hike in God's great outdoors, has got to be one of the rewards for staying physically fit and healthy! Another reason for getting out on these trails is to see your tax dollars at work. As you can imagine, the trails in the Buffalo National River area were devastated by the 2009 ice storm. The NPS ranger said it was this year's governement stimulus money that paid for the additional workers needed to come in and clear the trails so that they would be ready for the spring 2010 hiking season.
We are fortunate that part of the National Park Service's mission includes historic preservation, and that is just what they have done for the Collier Homestead shown in this photo collage. The Collier Homestead is worthy of mention because of its unique origin. Although the Colliers did not come to the property until 1928, they were able to occupy it as a result of the Homestead Act of 1862. The 1862 Homestead Act gave folks a title to various parts of public land, in return for their making improvements to the land. ( The Homestead Act is significant to my family because it was one of the reasons my ancestors ended up settling in rural Boone and Marion Counties of Arkansas.) Because of the remoteness of the Collier location, and the physical difficulty of reaching it from the river, hundreds of feet lower down the mountain, it was an "island" of unclaimed land until the Colliers came. In upper left photo, Sharon poses in front of the barn that was one of the outbuildings on the property. The upper right photo shows the living quarters, and handsplit paling fence surrounding the cabin. The lower right photo shows Gay in one of the windows of the log structure. The cabin was built with a system for catching rain water from the tin roof, and storing it in the cistern (shown in lower left photo). In today's language, we would say the structure used "green", earth-friendly architectural design, because of its water conservation efforts. Probably, the Colliers would simply call it "common sense"!
The Buffalo National River is one of the parks participating in in the AETN (Arkansas Educational Television Network) Passport Program, illustrated in this collage of photos. It was one of my Facebook friends, Fern, that first told me about the program, but YOU can learn more about it at www.aetn.org/parks. Basically, it is designed to get people to visit Arkansas' national and state parks, by getting participants to collect a stamp from 12 different sites throughout the state, then entering their completed "passport" into a drawing, to be held later this year, for various prizes. The REAL prize you will receive, however, is that you will have visited some of the jewels our state has to offer. It is more than just a figure of speech to use the term "jewels", because Crater of Diamonds State Park is one of the twelve designated parks on the list! You might wind up with the type of "jewel" you can put in a necklace! If all this talk about about being outdoors has been of interest to you, and you would be interested in participating in future WHO hikes, email Dawn ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) for more information. I can certainly recommend the group as a great way to explore the Ozarks. I met so many new ladies, each with a unique story about how they have chosen the Ozarks as the place they now call home. Likewise, each had something to share about their life experiences, that I found interesting. It reminded me of the first part of Proverbs 13:20, that says "He who walks with the wise, grows wise..." so that means I am little bit wiser today than I was before the hike! Have a great weekend, with miles of smiles! Tricia