We continued to work our way south and east on our way back from our eclipse trip in Wyoming. We found some unusual and scenic places in the Ozark Mountains. We were challenged by Arkansas’ liquor laws which kept our beer drinking down to survival limits.
So That’s Why It’s Called the Dismal River!
After we left western South Dakota we were back in the flatlands with very few camping opportunities. We had a long day’s drive through eastern South Dakota towards western Nebraska and the Bessey Recreational Complex near Halsey where we had camped on the way out. Rather than stay near the entrance where we would be kept awake by the coal trains, we decided to drive the 26 mile four-wheel road to the Dismal River campsite. When we got there we were thrilled to be the only ones there. A nice breeze blowing off the river as we set up our tent. We waded across the river and dunked ourselves a few times to remove the road dust. We made and had dinner as the sun started to set and the wind off the river died down. We then found out why the river was named the Dismal River. We were viciously attacked by hordes of mosquitoes the likes of which we haven’t experienced since Alaska. We suited up in our rain gear since bug spray was useless and we hurriedly cleaned up and got ready for bed. We were in the tent by 8:00 pm!
Chase Anniversary Free Night in Wichita
We were still in a dearth of campsites as we rolled into Kansas. I had a free night left on my IHG account so we booked the Staybridge Suites in Wichita. The cash price was $144/night and they upgraded us to a two-bedroom suite. We enjoyed the free appetizers and drinks during happy hour. The next morning we drove to downtown Wichita, parked the car, and toured the old town on bicycles. There is a lot of construction happening on the Riverfront. When we got home, I noticed a charge for $144 from Staybridge Suites. I learned that they had accidentally charged us the upgrade fee. This sounds bogus that the room costs $144 and the upgrade costs the same; however, I had no trouble getting the charge reversed.
Traveling Too Quickly Through the Ozarks
Our plan was to drive through the Ozarks in a day. The problem is that there are so many distractingly interesting things to see and many short trails to hike. Our first stop was the hard-to-find White Rock Mountain Campground that is built on the top of a limestone knob. There are views in every direction on the trail that circumnavigates the top of White Rock.
We drove past Natural Bridge and the Pinnacle Rocks area, and took 2 mile hikes at each area. The bridges and pinnacles are formed by the dissolution of limestones and make for spectacular scenery. By the end of the day we had hiked at least 8 miles.
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
We had camped the previous night in an unremarkable campground in the Ouachita Mountains, and drove the next morning to Hot Springs. We parked the car in the free parking garage and walked the length of Bathhouse Row admiring the fancy old spa hotels. There are only two facilities now where you can bathe in the thermal waters. We chose the Quapaw baths because it had several pools of varying temperature and you can stay as long as you want. It cost about $20/person. The Buckstaff Bathhouse is also open–it had a set price of $55/person but included a massage.
If you visit Hot Springs, make sure you take the free tour of the Fordyce Bath House, which is also the Park Headquarters. Don’t miss the gymnasium on the third floor which still contains the work out equipment from the 30’s.
Arkansas–Great State But No Beer
We loved our time in Arkansas but have to mention a little black spot about our time there. When we are camping and driving long distances we like to hydrate and relax with a couple of beers while we set up camp. Most counties in Arkansas are dry, and even in the ones that aren’t it is really hard to find liquor stores. We’re used to stopping at gas stations to get fuel, ice, and beer. But in Arkansas you have to step on the brakes hard if you see the illusive liquor store. Our trip through Arkansas was hampered by miserly rationing of beer; indeed there were two nights that I only drank one beer (sad emoticon here.)
Next–We cross the Mississippi and head towards home.