Feeding The Soul: Adventures in Arkansas

“Should we stay in the cave or should we find a new spot for tonight?”

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Thus launched Saturday’s conversation between my dear beloved pal Lindsey and I as we sat cross-legged in our wonderful soft-earthed cave floor sipping Stanley french-press coffee from blue tin mugs. The Arkansan air was timid and peaceful, stooping down to caress the little creek which contained Buffalo River nestled just outside our haven.

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We had journeyed our own voyages many miles to meet each other at Steel Creek Campground in northern Arkansas the previous Thursday; the last time I had been in the presence of the perspicacious Lindsey had been more than half a year ago in Austria.

Our reunion was exquisite, featuring Josie slow-motion jumping into Lindsey’s open arms, both eruptions of giggles echoing around the bluffs which towered over the campground. Immediately we clambered past the traditional camping grounds into the woods marked “do not camp past here” towards the river.  

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We found a great bellow of a cave snug in a half-moon ring of trees and set up our hammocks amidst the trees. The gentle rippling of the creek serenaded our work and the benevolent breeze breathed through the golden leaves.

Perfection.

My soul had craved this sort of adventure for many moons. This relentless forward progress. The majesty of meaningful conversation. This “whoops-I-forgot-soap-and-we’ll-be-here-four-days” sense of release.

Our cave was faultless; we called it our “PB Cave of Wonder” in honor of our mutual love for the great goddess Peanut Butter and how much verbal wondering we did while hankering over a propane stove of beans and veggies each night.

I would love to share with you the exfoliated details of each hour, for each hour meant something incredible. But for the sake of your time, I will simply skip to Saturday. A day and a night of infamy that shall not be long forgotten.

It began with a question:

“Should we stay in the cave or should we find a new spot for tonight?”

It was decided that we would venture back out into the unknown; we had capitalized our PB Cave of Wonder for too long anyways.

We spent the day hiking through quintessential Arkansan beauty, the weather as immaculate as could be hoped for; stopping for a capital lunch of avocado and chips and salsa, reading in the shade of fall-pigmented trees.

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After working up a gentle sweat in the afternoon warmth, we took off for a section of swimmable creek and dove in. The dirt flaked off my skin as tiny fish paddled around my toes, clearly visible in the crystal creek.

For the first time in what felt like a significant portion of time, we were clean.

And it felt amazing.

On top of the world, we took off for a site we thought would welcome our hammocking selves for a night; only to arrive at a clearly posted “DAY USE ONLY: NO CAMPING”. We ate dinner under the shelter, and decided to head back to our swimming hole at dusk to risk camping in the woods by the creek there.

The sun was falling fast indeed as we drove back to the creek, again to be met with a friendly: “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING”.

We were running out of options as quickly as the sun was falling.

In a moment of unprecedented genius, Lindsey took the reigns and started writing a note for any kindhearted Park Ranger who might stumble upon our illegally parked, unpassengered cars.

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We grabbed our hammocks and flashlights just as the light was slipping and tucked into the woods.

Much stumbling and scrambling later our efforts were rewarded with four decently paced hammockable trees. It was almost completely dark by this time and unlike at our cave positon, the mosquitos here were much more friendly.

Both of us wrapped ourselves in the stuffy hammocks to ward away the bugs, and to conquer the insecurities that we felt about being in this location about which we knew barely anything–except that we weren’t really supposed to be here–we began tossing back things to be grateful for.

That helped.

The stars peeked out at us from above the canopy of trees, and the last shivers of pale horizon was emersed by a deep indigo. I yawned widely.

“What time is it?” I asked. Linds looked at the clock on her phone.

“7:30”, she said plainly.

I burst out laughing.

“7:30?!” This whole “circadian rhythm” thing fashioned a mind of it’s own in the purity that is dusk and dawn.

A third long, full day of relentless forward progress had rendered me exhausted. I snuggled down further into my hammock; we told stories for a bit and then gently tapered off to silence.

It was a rough night.

Lindsey didn’t sleep much at all (a doze here or there), and my normally-coma-like sleep was tossled by bad dreams and mosquitos.

At 3:32 I awoke with a start; my hammock had picked up it’s swaying velocity and the wind which propelled it was suddenly 15 degrees colder. The night sky above me was a milky orange color and gone were the twinkling indigo stars.

“Lindsey?” I called. No response. “Lindsey?!” I called again.

“Yeah?” came the sleep-deprived response.

“I think it’s going to storm!”

We scrambled out of our hammocks and began wildly to untie the black straps which latched them to the trees. Fat drops of fast-falling water began pattering all around us, soaking into our scalps and fingers as we clawed at the knots.

Quickly we gathered our belongings into a large bundle and took back off down the slope of the woods, slipping and sliding in our sandals against the wet leaves and branches.

After what felt like years we reached the cars parked below; very fortunately still where we had left them. I fumbled with the key fob to unlock the car, and we both threw ourselves into it as the rain turned torrential.

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Safe inside a watertight container as the elements raged around us, we turned towards each other–

–and broke into maniacal laughter.

“Did you sleep at all?” I asked Lindsey. She giggled deliriously, shaking her head.

We decided to peace out of this sketchy “NO OVERNIGHT PARKING” lot by the rising creek and drive to the parking lot outside of the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca.

We spent the next few hours eating peanut butter and telling more stories, both of us in hyper-adrenelene mode. With the dawn came a misty, foggy mountain scene and our time for departure.

Long, slow, drawn-out hugs ensued as we bid each other a fond farewell, until the next adventure.

Until the next adventure.

Relentless forward progress.

Peace and Blessings,

Josie  

 

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