Another month has sped by in a blur of work and play. We completed Arkansas' Ouachita, Ozark, and St. Francis National Forests, Holly Springs and Tombigbee National Forests in Mississippi, and Alabama's Bankhead and Oconee National Forests. That makes 47 National Forest done. Only 108 to go. If the variety in Forests left are anything like what we have experienced in just the past month, what adventures await us!
We thought it would take something special to top the beauty we found in the Ouachita National Forest and we were right. We didn't, however, expect it to be the next Forest we visited - the Ozark. There are about 60 miles (as the crow flies) between the Ouachita and Ozark but geologically the difference is striking. The Ouachita Mountains, the backbone of the Ouachita National Forest, were formed by ancient mountain-building forces. Basically, these forces caused by intense compression, up-lift huge blocks of rock from deep in the earth. The layers of upper/surface rock are tightly folded, bent, and twisted, forced upward, and then broken by thrust faults. Much of the rock we see was made into something new by these metamorphic forces. On the other hand, the Ozark Mountains in the Ozark National Forest represent millions of years of accumulated sediment and volcanic ash deposited in a marine environment than eroded by water to
what we see today. The difference can be seen in the mountains' profile and in road cuts. As you look over the Ouachita Mountain range you can see individual ridges. The Ouachita's green ridges appear to be enormous boat's bow-waves frozen in time rolling toward a distance shore. The Ozark Mountain range has a gentle, rounded appearance, like Grandma's down-quilt or a bowl of green scramble eggs.
Another geological difference between the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests is the former has hot and warm springs, the latter has only cold springs. (In this area the distinction between a "creek" and a "spring" is that a spring is fed from an underground source and a creek is basically a surface water run-off.) While Ouachita's hot springs are interesting (and provide a great bath), the Ozark's have one of the most spectacular examples of water's ability to create a fanciful world - Blanchard Springs Caverns. This cavern was "discovered" in 1963 and opened to the public on July 4, 1973. Blanchard Springs Cavern is small with a variety of colored formations. The color is produced by minerals leached out as the water passes through the rock. While the total length of the Cavern is 6 miles, the tour area is only .4 of a mile. The walkway winds around and through 2 to 5 million year old cavernous rock formations. We spent an hour wandering among the stalactites, stalagmites, columns, flowstone, dripstone, cave bacon, and drapery. It was a very "up-close-and-personal" experience 216 feet below the surface.
We also enjoyed three very diverse cultural experiences during the past month: the Ozark Folk Center; Mississippi's Annual Pilgrimage in Holly Springs; and, an Aaron Tippin concert. The Ozark Folk Center is a State Cultural Park near Mountain View, Arkansas. Their mission - to preserve the heritage and way of life of the Ozark Mountain people. The Park has a very user-
friendly design. The crafts people (they don't consider themselves artisans) occupy a cottage with the tools of their craft - the spinner has a spinning wheel, gunsmith has a tool bench, weaver a loom, etc. The visitor enters a cottage and observes the draftsperson at work. Pretty neat.
Suzi enjoyed the Holly Spring's Pilgrimage by herself while we were in Mississippi. The Pilgrimage was a walking tour of six homes, four gardens and three churches. The homes, gardens, and churches change from one year to the next. All the homes on the Pilgrimage are pre-War between the States, or antebellum, full of antiques, and wonderfully restored.
Then, on the other side of the culture scale, was a "feel-the-music-in-the-middle-of-your-chest" country-western concert. If you are familiar with Aaron Tippin you know one can OD on the testosterone at his concert. His music is set to the blue-collar worker what Strauss' waltz is to the ice-dancer. It was fun participating in these three examples of distinctive Southern culture.
Somewhere during our travels, we were told Spring moves north sixteen miles a day. This may be true but we were able to spend most of April enjoying Springtime blossoms and warm weather. This is not to say we were warm everyday. We got to experience what folks in Arkansas called "Dogwood Winter." While in Mississippi we experienced another cold period which we learned was their "Blackberry Winter." It was somewhat strange walking Tory under a white cloud of full-blooming dogwood trees wearing a down-filled coat, mittens and sock cap.
One feature of what we are doing is meeting a lot of different people. One individual we want to tell you about is Eugene "Buster" Spell man, a National Forest employee. A resident of the Ozark Mountains for his total life, Buster spent the better part of one day showing and telling us tidbits related to the Ozark National Forest. Although too young to have enrolled
in the Civilian Conservation Corps CCC), Buster had a brother at CampHeber, near Fifty Six, Arkansas and lots of memories. He would visit his brother at the CampHeber for special occasions like when "the man with a talking doll" came or to watch "a man who tied a rope around his neck and had them play tug-a-war with him in the middle of that rope" or when they had a dance and "the fiddlers played for everybody." We ended our visit with lunch at Fifty Six's best (and only) restaurant,Cody's. Buster's sister bakes the pies forCody's and they are the "bestest" you'll every
try! Buster is quite a storyteller and we enjoyed our time together.
It sounds like we spent most of our time in Arkansas and we didn't. It is just Arkansas' Ouachita and Ozark National Forests and the people there were so delightful. We are now looking for equally special places with similarly interesting people to visit. Maybe they are just over that next mountain or around another curve. We will keep you posted.
Suzi and Fred