Goin' down to see my boy Garth! I have a former co-worker and adored friend now living in Bentonville, AR. It can feel very intimidating going into states alone on my 100 mile walking missions, so I set my first stop on my tour of Arkansas to be with him. I arrived on a Jefferson Lines bus from Joplin, Missouri midday Monday Oct 23, 2017. Garth fetched me in his new truck from my first of many gas station bus drop offs.
Arriving at Garth's place near the middle of town we sat out on the lawn enjoying gorgeous warm fall weather with a pleasant breeze. We talked and crunched on local apples (take note of these apples they grow in importance) and then toured what remained of the backyard garden. It was during our bantering in the yard that I mentioned possibly catching an Amtrak at midnight in Texarkana later in my trip. That country song title worthy scenario stuck in our minds the whole time we were together.
Next, it was time to take Pea Ridge. A short drive northeast from Bentonville lies historic Pea Ridge National Military Park. With what remained of the fading daylight we hiked around its pristinely preserved Civil War battleground. The visitor center guide gruffly greeted us like rogue Confederate soldiers charging up the Old Wire Road, but once we set out on foot around the lush green fields surrounded by native trees things were golden.
We covered 4 miles around Pea Ridge walking up to sunset. Retreating back to the house I tag teamed with the resident chef on a chicken curry. Garth baked the chicken skin to a perfect crispiness in a cast iron while I diced up vegetables and drank a Coors Light. Some of my happiest moments when I travel are when I get to help cook and this was no exception.
The next day's adventure was a hike Garth picked out to the east along the Buffalo National River. Things got sad over breakfast though. Coffee, eggs and toast check check and check....but that was the last of the bread. No more eggs. Peanut butter jar found barren. Basically there was nothing left to pack for food on our hike (a personal nightmare with my many scars from past hiker hunger incidents). Nothing except 4 small local apples and some water! We set off quickly trying not to worry about cannibalizing each other.
The majesty of the Goat Trail on a clear Fall day was enthralling enough to keep us distracted and then some. And eating those apples, real slow mind you, on a rocky bluff overlooking the winding Buffalo River was special.
It was hardcore naptime once we got back to the house. Garth went out cold on the sofa as I collapsed on the floor. It had been a warm but very windy day and many hours of air pounding against your skin take a toll. That and walking constantly uphill for 800 vertical feet over 3 miles on a two apple lunch to finish the hike. We both still wanted to do some yoga together just like old times. Once we both got back alert I took us thru a class in the living room. Slept like a rock that night.
Time to move on the next morning because: 1) lots of ground still to cover in the state to reach my goal of 100 miles of walking and 2) staying longer when I start to feel at home makes leaving emotional torture. Time to walk 15 miles south into Springdale. A paved trail called the Razorback Greenway runs 36 miles between the towns of northwest Arkansas and I followed it out of the suburbia sprawling south of Bentonville.
Once I had cut thru the meat of suburbia, I strayed from the safety of the greenway. Future suburbia then came starkly into view. Farmland for sale within earshot of busy Interstate 49:
Sidewalks disappeared as I got farther south. The dangers of uneven footing played out before me:
Another mile on and there was influx of pavement over what once was surely a farm field. Behold the sadness of new housing:
It was getting to be time to sit and eat the ham n' cheese croissant Garth sent me off with. I stumbled upon an undisturbed and historic parcel of land at just the right time. A cemetery and historic Mt Hebron Church provided me with the perfect spot to sit under a tree and relax. I took a solid hour break including some yoga and napping on top of eating.
After lunch the roads narrowed and car traffic eased off. I was coming into still active grazing areas:
It was while giddily photographing the above cows that I heard pounding on the road behind me. I turned to look; surprised to have company since I hadn't heard a vehicle. Yeah no vehicle just a charging billy goat...I was screwed no time to take a picture, but something similar to this guy who we'll just call Carl had it's head lowered running downhill at me. I had to book it down the road and around the bend before the grumpy beast let up.
Sobering civilization was just ahead of me after I caught my breath. A new highway was being cut and I had the privilege of viewing it from a freshly constructed overpass:
Next came the last stretch of charming country roads before the suburban outskirts of Springdale, AR took hold.
Soon traffic picked up and I was in neighborhoods. Stoplights and eventually sidewalks appeared as I closed within a few miles of my first destination: YogaGypsy Hot Yoga for the 6pm class. Just a few trucks to shoo out of the way before I finally made it:
Yoga Gypsy is in short strip of businesses near to a major road, so I was the only person who didn't drive to class. I arrived while the previous class was finishing and waited in a pretty bad ass lobby:
Everyone was so welcoming. The owner is a very generous human treating me to class that night and allowing me to teach the 6pm class the next. The owner also set me up with a host in town for 2 nights who fed me several pounds of food, had a great family, 2 dogs (one very deaf and blind) and entertained me with colorful conversations. Again it was very hard on me to depart.
I had a full day of walking around Springdale highlighted by getting to the historic downtown. I found downtown quiet, number of businesses sparse in spots, but on the upswing. The journey to downtown was not pleasant for a pedestrian. Many new and unimaginative strip mall structures, chain stores and few sidewalks.
After nearly 3 miles of crap walking the town finally showed some redeeming qualities for me. Cozy residential areas adjacent to downtown. Then two of favorite things in tandem: a park next to a nice public library (with floor to ceiling windows out to the park no less):
A next level turn to the day then unfolded. I was on the hunt for a coffee shop to hang at and then some lunch. First homerun I hit: Trailside Coffee. I lounge with shop dog Charlie on yet another warm windy day overlooking the Razorback Greenway which makes its reappearance.
Next over the top goodness was a block away at Natural State Sandwiches. They floored me with funny and swift customer service before delivering me some hot deliciousness called The Pittsburgh. Redemption for Springdale in my eyes finally. Plus the chatter among locals at both places was of the impending opening of a Tyson Chicken home office nearby that was sure to bring more business.
As I said hard to depart from my experience in Springdale, but onward I pressed under gray skies heading south to Fayetteville. The wind had turned cold and unfriendly for the first time on the trip.
I picked up the Razorback Greenway again:
Stepping very close now to Fayetteville and ever more near to mystical Texarkana. See me continue on in Part 2