7/13/17 to 7/16/17
Thursday 07/13/17 Our next stop was Branson, Missouri which is 427 miles from Memphis. Just a little too far for us to drive in one day pulling the trailer. So looking at the map I found that the Ozark National Forest is between the two. I had researched campgrounds in that area and found a place called Aux Arc Park. This campground was 260 miles from Memphis and took us around five hours to get to. Aux Arc Campground was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers the same time they build the nearby small hydroelectric dam. The campground sits on the shores of Ozark Lake in the Arkansas River Valley. A very nice campground, and cheap too. Only $18.50 a night so we booked 4 nights. Every site in this campground is nice. Lots of space between trailers, a nice wide road and a blacktop drive to back the trailer onto. A gravel area next to the trailer with a big picnic table, fire ring, and post to hold a lantern. The only negative is that there is no sewer hookup. But with our holding tanks, we can last 4 days without a problem. They do have a sewage dump station which we will use when we leave. We picked a wooded site but there are also some that back right up to the water. Once we got set up we ran out to get diesel fuel and check out the area. The closest town is Ozark which has a population of only 3,600 so there isn't too much to see. We plan on doing some scenic drives in the area and just relax for a couple of days.
Friday 7/14/17 We have been having problems with our air conditioner for about two months now. I've tried everything I know to fix it other than replacing it. When we were in Orlando I bought a new thermostat. But that wasn't the problem. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It ran fine all night and then around 11:00 today it stopped working. Last year I installed an Electrical Management System in the trailer and it was giving me a low voltage error. So I went up to the office and asked if they could have someone check our sites electric box to see if that was the problem. Someone showed up about 30 minutes later and replaced the breaker, plug, and wiring in our site's electric pedestal. We turned the air back on and it seemed to run fine. Good thing, because it's been very hot and humid here.
Once we got that done we took a ride to the Ozark National Forest. There is a scenic drive near our campgrounds called the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. It's a 19-mile one-way drive through the rugged and forested Boston Mountains region of the Arkansas Ozark Mountains. Because of all the sharp curves and the heavily wooded area, it's a favorite ride for motorcyclists and is rated as the #2 best ride in America by USA Today. But we had to do it in the truck. Once we traveled the 19 miles we turned around and headed back. The Ozark Highlands Trail crosses the road about half way through so we stopped to do a little hiking. We wanted to hike a couple of miles in and then turn around and hike back but we didn't get far. I'm not sure if it's because of the time of year or it happens all the time but the spiders were terrible. They build their webs across the trails and as you're hiking you walk right into them. It's not a very nice feeling to get a face full of spider webs. I would even wave my walking stick in front of me hoping to knock them down before they got all over me. But I still kept getting spider webs in my face. After about a half of a mile, we couldn't take it anymore and turned back.
Right before bedtime, the air conditioner went off again. We left it off for a while and turned it on and it stayed on the rest of the night. I guess I'll have to find someone to check it out when we get to Branson.
Saturday 7/15/17 Nothing exciting today. Today was a "do nothing" day. The air conditioner is working fine right now and we spent most of the day in the trailer.
Sunday 7/16/17 Looking at the map Arkansas' highest point is located on Mount Magazine, a state park which was only a 45-minute drive from our campground. The road up to the top is also considered a scenic byway. We didn't have plans today so we took a drive. The weather was great and it was a nice ride up the mountain. Near the top is a large rustic style lodge that is run by the state park system. It's built on the south bluff of the mountain and overlooks the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake. It offers some of the best scenery in Arkansas. The lodge wasn't very busy so we parked and walked inside. It's a really nice place. It has 60 rooms, a restaurant, a conference center, business center, indoor swimming pool, fitness center, and gift shop. Plus they host weddings, reunions and other special events. A picture perfect lodge on top of a mountain with most of the rooms overlooking the valley.
We walked out back and took a short trail to the cliffs to enjoy the view. Just down the road, they have a place where hang gliders can launch to fly over the valley. We also took a short hike to Signal Hill the high point of Arkansas. Okay, I know that 2753 feet is not that high but Arkansas is proud of it. They had a big sign at the top and a mailbox with a book to sign your name and address. Along the way, we saw a couple of deer and our first scorpion.
Arkansas was a nice surprise. This area was supposed to be a stopover between Memphis and Branson but it turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. The forests, mountains, rivers, and farmland make this a beautiful part of the country.
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