May, 2019 – Nevada, Missouri

The trip to the northwest towards Kansas City was a short trip of just under two hours as we bypassed Joplin and went north to Nevada, Missouri.  Since nearly all of the trip was along interstates, it went very quickly.  Our destination was a commercial campground on the edge of Nevada called Osage Prairie RV Park.  Like most commercial RV parks next to an interstate, it was just a bit better than an unpaved parking lot.  The sites were narrow with barely enough room for a picnic table and possibly a tree between them.  However, most of the sites were pull-through, at least for the first RV to pull in as each site was actually for two rigs back-to-back.  Each site had full hookups and 50 amp electrical service.  We were able to easily park the RV and get set up quickly.  This was a good thing, since we were there for just over an hour when the weather turned severe with a nasty thunderstorm and high winds.  The rain continued through most of the night and began a cycle of heavy rain and bad storms.  We had already seen a lot of rain the past month and it was only the beginning!

Campsite

Tuesday morning was still cloudy with light rain, so we planned to stay in the campground.  I checked with the owners and got their recommendation for a local RV repairman to get our stairs fixed.  I talked with him on the phone and sent him pictures of the stairs.  He strongly recommended the Mor-Ryde stairs that are solid stairs that swing up into the doorway when traveling.  However, he would not be able to order them and have them by Thursday which was his day to be in our area that week.  So we called Camping World in Kansas City to have them order the stairs and made an appointment for a week from Monday when we would be traveling to Kansas City.  Hopefully, we will be able to get them installed with enough time to go to our campground without losing any time.  By this time we still had half the day, so we decided to travel south back to Joplin and check out the Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw, Oklahoma just over the state line.  We had a nice afternoon at the casino, although we did not come out as winners.

The weather on Wednesday was a bit better, although there were still storms in the forecast for the afternoon.  So we once again headed south to Joplin, this time to explore the George Washington Carver National Memorial.  Through my agriculture education and visiting Tuskegee Institute where he led the Agriculture Department for over 40 years, I thought I was already familiar with his scientific contributions.  However, I was not familiar with his early life that began on the Carver Farm in Diamond, Missouri.  George Washington Carver was born a slave near the end of the Civil War, when he and his mother were kidnapped by Arkansas raiders and taken to Kentucky.  His owner attempted to track them down, but could only find George and had him returned.  After the Civil War, he and his brother James, were raised by the Carvers as their own children.  George was a sickly child and could not do the physical labor required on the farm.  So he spent his early childhood gaining domestic skills of laundry, cooking, and sewing.  This left him a good bit of time to wander in the woods on the farm where he learned to appreciate and understand the natural world and all its wonders.  All of these skills were important in later life.  He also had a burning desire to get an education, which was difficult for an African-American during Reconstruction in the south.  In fact, he left home at around the age of 10 in search of an education.  He attended school, while working at domestic jobs, at a school for blacks in Neosho before moving to Fort Scott and eventually to Minneapolis, Kansas where he finally obtained his high school diploma.  He then attempted to attend college, however, as a black man this was even more difficult.  Highland University in Kansas initially accepted him and then denied admission when they found out he was black.  After trying his hand at homesteading where he spent more time experimenting with alternative crops and establishing an arboretum he moved to Iowa to attend Simpson College where he studied music and art.  Although a promising artist, his teacher encouraged him to seek a degree in Biology at Iowa State.  He was the first black student at Iowa State where he obtained a Bachelor and Master degrees before joining the teaching faculty.  His research was already gaining national recognition when Booker T. Washington offered a position as Head of the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute.  Beginning with nothing more than junk collected from the trash piles, he built a first rate agriculture research program at Tuskegee.  Throughout his career his goal was to develop agriculture practices and programs to assist small black sharecroppers.  He published nearly 50 extension publications on a large range of topics from alternative uses of crops, soil conservation, paints from soils, and the proper storage of vegetables and meat.  He is best known for his work with peanuts as an alternative to cotton, where he found over 150 uses for.  This work with peanuts and other crops were instrumental in creating the scientific field of chemurgy which is today gaining a resurgence in interest.  He became a valued national speaker promoting Tuskegee, peanuts and racial morality.

They have a very nice museum at the National Monument with exhibits and video about his life and career.  Much of the museum is setup for young children to explore and interact with, including a reproduction of a chemistry classroom that is used for school groups that visit.  The most interesting exhibit, however, was the traveling school Carver created to take his wisdom to the public, a model copied by extension services throughout the nation.  There is also a nice trail through the woods he enjoyed in his youth that includes a bronze statue of young George and a reproduction of the home he lived in with the Carver family.  It was a nice short hike as the weather began to be threatening once again.

We headed back to the campground and by 6:00 the weather turned severe.  This time we found ourselves in a Tornado Warning and we were the first to ascend to the office.  Their “tornado shelter” was the women’s bathroom and laundry room in the center of the wooden building.  While not the best structure to shelter in during a tornado, it was the best they had available.  Thankfully, the owners of the RV Park were both retired firemen and had access to the first-responders radio.  They were able to provide constant updates of the location of the tornado, which thankfully stayed about 8 miles to the south of us.  This was the same tornado that did all the damage in Springfield a few hours later.  By this point we had already received more than the average rainfall for the month and flooding was becoming a problem.  Thankfully, the RV Park and interstate are far from any rivers or streams, so local flooding was not a concern.

Thursday was another wet day in the campground with light rain most of the day.  We spent it staying in the campground and working on this blog.  The rain let up on Friday so we headed out to the other National Park in the area, Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas.  This was a quick trip east on US 54 and although it threatened rain all day, it held off until we returned.  Fort Scott is an interesting place that for some reason neither of us had never visited before even though we grew up just a couple of hours away in Wichita.  Most of our vacations growing up were to the west towards the Rockies in Colorado and not to the east.  Fort Scott was established in 1842, as part of a string of forts extending from Minnesota to Louisiana to provide a buffer between the Indian territories to the west and settlers to the east.  It was meant to be a permanent buffer and most of the time was spent running off settlers.  Over the next few years they spent time patrolling the border and providing protection along the Santa Fe and Oregon trails to the west, as much to keep settlers from stopping as to protect them.  However, the Mexican-American War from 1846-1848 pulled most of the soldiers from these forts and the addition of Mexican territory from the war only spurred more settlers and ended the idea of a permanent boundary.  In fact the fort was abandoned in 1853 in favor of the more western Fort Riley and the buildings were sold at auction in 1855.  However, this did not end the history of Fort Scott as a military post as fighting leading up to the Civil War heated up with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.  This Act not only created the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, but also allowed them to determine whether they would enter the Union as either free or slave states based on popular vote.  Men adamant on both sides of the issue began coming to Kansas in order to influence this vote and the blood began to flow, known as “Bleeding Kansas.”  The fort was now the town of Fort Scott and two of the buildings became hotels facing across the drill field from each other.  The Fort Scott Hotel was used by “Free-Staters” and the Western Hotel by proslavery men.  In 1858, radical elements from both factions converged on the area and James Montgomery attempted to burn down the Western Hotel.  During this period, soldiers would return to the fort to restore law and order, which only worked until the soldiers left once again.  While Fort Scott was never attacked during the Civil War, it was used as a supply base, general hospital, training ground, and a haven for people fleeing the war.  The military stores did make it a target for the Confederate General Price who led the Missouri State Guard in two failed attempts to capture it before he was defeated at Pea Ridge in 1862.  Following the Civil War, the nation began the process of healing and railroads were a major factor in this recovery.  Fort Scott became a railroad hub for the area.  The military once again returned to the fort from 1869-1873 to establish the Post of Southeast Kansas, primarily to protect the railroad workers from Indians and upset settlers or squatters that did not want to give up their land to the railroads.  Since the buildings of Fort Scott were never abandoned for long and many continued to used for houses, inns, and business, most of them were still in good condition when the National Park Service obtained the site in 1978.

We had a great time exploring Fort Scott, which at the time was being decked out with 7000 American flags for the upcoming Memorial Day celebration.  The drill field was literally filled with small flags.  Most of the buildings that make up the fort have exhibits in them and have been restored to their original condition and use.  Our exploration started in the Visitor Center within the Fort’s Hospital.  Exhibits upstairs give a good idea of what it looked like as a hospital.  Next is the largest building in the fort, the Dragoon’s stables.  Mounted troops were known as cavalry during the Civil War, but in 1842 they were Dragoons.  The barracks for the dragoons and infantry were interesting since each had its own kitchen, dining room, and laundry on the ground floor with communal sleeping rooms on the second floor.  One of the three story duplex officers quarters is laid out as originally planned with an interesting floor plan.  The first floor had the family parlor and kitchen, whereas it was the second floor that was more formal with an exterior staircase leading up to the balcony.  The third floor were the bedrooms.  Another of the duplexes was used for a number of different purposes after being sold the public and they have left it in the condition as it was when the NPS got it.  They have done a great job with numbered signs and a brochure to show the original structure, as well as, the changes that were made over time.  Very interesting.  The other surprising thing was the open nature of the fort.  There are no surrounding walls or fortifications.  These were deemed to be unnecessary due to the open condition of the tallgrass prairie and accuracy of the artillery.  Besides trees were too valuable for construction to be used for fortification.  It only took a couple of hours to explore the entire site, so we ate lunch at their picnic area and headed back early to the campground.

Saturday was suppose to be wet, especially in the afternoon, so we spent the day in the campground even though it did not rain all day.  Flooding had now become a regional problem, especially south of us in Oklahoma and Arkansas, so we were happy not to see any rain all day.  However, we did learn that the COE campground on Truman Lake was flooded and they had cancelled our reservation.  So we extended our stay in Nevada for another week.  On Sunday, we were not so lucky as it began raining in the morning and we had storms again in the late afternoon.  We were happy to just stay in the campground once again.

Since we did not travel on Monday, we had another day without rain to get out of the campground.  We had already seen the two national parks in the area, so had nothing else we had planned to visit.  After asking the owners we learned of a couple of state parks that sounded interesting in the area.  So, on Monday we drove a short distance north on I-49 to Butler, Missouri where you can find the Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site.  I was correct in assuming it was a Civil War battlesite, but I was wrong in guessing it was a battle involving the Missouri State Guard and General Price.  Instead, it was a battle, more of a skirmish, between Union troops out of Kansas and Confederate guerillas that were causing problems along the state line.  These skirmishes were actually quite common in 1862-1864 along the Missouri-Kansas border.  What made this skirmish unique was the fact the Kansas troops were the First Kansas Colored Volunteers.  Three months before the Emancipation Proclamation and the forming of colored troops in the Union army, the First Kansas Colored Volunteers had already seen action and proved themselves to be fierce fighters as commented on by both sides.  In October, 1862, the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry of 240 soldiers were ordered to clear out the Confederate guerillas encamped at Hog Island on the Marias-des-Cygnes River.  Arriving on October 27, 1862 they commandeered the home of local Southern sympathizers at the Toothman Farm.  Once they realized they were facing a superior force they barricaded the farm with rail fences and named it Fort Africa.  On October 29, the guerillas retaliated by setting the prairie on fire, which was a common guerilla tactic.  The First Kansas responded with a back fire, but the smoke and fire continued to be a problem.  A patrol was sent out to scout the guerilla positions and were soon embroiled in a fire fight.  An additional party of 20 were sent out to extricate the soldiers but they were soon trapped in a ravine they used for cover.  On the southern slope of Island Mound, the troops engaged in hand-to-hand combat.  When reinforcements from Fort Africa flanked the combat, the rebels fled.  When Union reinforcements arrived the next day and descended on Hog Island and found the guerillas had pulled out.  Exploring the site took less than an hour, as it consists of a 0.6 mile paved loop around the location of Fort Africa.  The battlefield is actually a couple of miles away and is not part of the state historic site.  In fact, they have not even located the farmhouse itself.  So we had a nice short walk around the Toothman Farm fields that are being restored to a tallgrass prairie before returning to the campground.  We did not even take the time to eat lunch before heading back.

Tuesday was another cloudy, cool day without rain, so we headed to another state park south of us, Prairie State Park.  As the name implies, this is a 3500 acre park that is devoted to restoring the natural tallgrass prairie.  We had our choice of hiking trails through different sections of the park, all fairly level and easy grassy trails.  We were lucky to catch the State Ranger at the Nature Center as the Center is not open on Monday and Tuesday.  She provided a map of the many trails and suggestions of where to go.  Areas that were recently burned would be best for wildflowers, trails along the stream were best for birds, and of course the trail behind the Nature Center was best for viewing the bison.  This area is fenced and the 50 head bison herd has free range of the area, so we would have to be careful to stay back from any bison we saw.  We chose this 2.75 mile trail through the restored prairie in the hopes of seeing some bison.  It was an easy trail starting with a small climb to the top of a hill with great views of the park and then down to the stream.  We kept our eyes open for bison, but unfortunately, did not see any.  Except for all the ticks we knocked off our pants, it was a great hike.  The ground was certainly saturated as we had to negotiate mushy ground and mud puddles on the trail even on the top of the hill.  The weather stayed cloudy and the constant westerly wind kept the temperatures cool all morning.  We ate lunch in the truck at the Nature Center before heading back to the campground to more evening showers.  This weather is certainly getting VERY old.

Even though Wednesday was probably the best day with respect to the weather, it was past time to get the laundry done.  So instead of taking advantage of a cool and sunny day with the cold front FINALLY pushing east, we spent the day doing laundry and cleaning the RV.  Hopefully, now we will have a few days without rain allowing the area to dry out a bit.

Thursday was another nice day, however, we decided to give the area a day to dry out after stomping through the muck on Tuesday.  Instead we headed to Pittsburg, Kansas to check out the Kansas Crossroads Casino.  This was another nice, medium sized casino and we spent a couple of hours playing the slots.  While I did alright coming close to breaking even, Kal had a terrible day quickly losing her stake.  Sometimes it is just no fun for one of us.  Thankfully, it rarely happens for both of us.

Friday was another cool and comfortable day so we headed east out of Nevada to explore the nearby Osage Village State Historic Site.  This was the location of one of the large Greater Osage Villages that in the early 1800s numbered between 2000-3000 inhabitants.  The Osage lived in semi-permanent homes made of wood struts and woven mat walls.  They would spend the winters at the village, going out in the spring to hunt beaver and bear for furs, returning in April to plant their crops of corn, beans, and squash.  They would then leave for the summer to hunt and return in the fall to harvest their crops and repair their homes for the winter.  The Osage were the dominant Indian tribe in the region by this time until they were forcibly removed to the Indian Territory in the 1830s.  Except for the kiosk near the parking lot, there is not very much to see at the historic site.  They have a nice loop trail that circles the hilltop with numbered signs that correspond to a brochure.  However, most of the stops tell about other villages, trading posts, and settlements in the surrounding area, which were difficult to understand without some kind of map.  Since the homes were only semi-permanent to start with, it is not surprising there is nothing left today.  Archeological work has found a couple of home sites which are mentioned in the brochure, but there is nothing on the ground to indicate their locations.  Once we traveled around the circle we ended up with more questions about life in the village then when we started.  Since the trail is only an 0.8 mile loop we had another early trip back to the campground.

The weekend was spent in the campgrounds relaxing and working on this blog.  We will have to start to get ready to move on Monday as we need to leave here by 8:00 in the morning to get to Camping World by 10.  This is going to be difficult since I am generally getting up around 7:30 to 8!  Oh, the sacrifices we have to make!!

May, 2019 – Cape Fair, Missouri

The trip north was a short trip of just over an hour as we moved from the southern end of Table Rock Lake in Arkansas, to the northern end in Missouri at Cape Fair Campgrounds.  This was another Corps of Engineers campground that are all around the lake.  Unlike Cricket Creek, Cape Fair was an older campground designed for smaller RVs.  Most of the sites were nicely laid out with rock walls and asphalt pavement.  However, the road through the campground was narrow and winding with sharp turns and rocks to be avoided on both sides.  Our campsite was also narrow with a rock wall on one side and a drop off into the site next to ours.  It would have been very difficult to get into if we showed up later in the week.  Thankfully, on Monday the campground was fairly empty and there was nobody camped in the site across from ours.  I was able to pull straight into the sight across the road and then back the RV into our site with no difficulty.  We got set up quickly and settled in for another week on Table Rock Lake.

Campsite

Tuesday was cloudy, but thankfully no rain so we headed north to Springfield to explore Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.  With all the Civil War battlefields east of the Mississippi it can be easy to forget the Civil War was fought west of the Mississippi as well.  In fact, the fighting in Missouri and Kansas started years before the Civil War following the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.   Unlike the Missouri Compromise years earlier that allowed Missouri to be a slave state, Kansas and Nebraska would decide their own fate.  This led to men and their families flooding into Kansas that wanted to influence this decision.  Both pro and anti slave supporters.  Violent clashes between them, as well as, atrocities on both sides occurred on both sides of the state line.  “Bloody Kansas” became a common term for this conflict before the Civil War.  Missouri was also violently split on the issue.  When the Civil War began in 1861, Missouri narrowly voted to stay with the Union.  Governor Jackson did not agree with this and called up the Missouri State Guard to “protect Missouri from all invaders”, which to him meant the Federal troops.  He created Camp Jackson outside of St Louis to train the Guard, which was a direct threat to the vital Federal armory there.  General Lyon understood the threat and surrounded the camp to break it up.  After a couple failed attempts at peace, it was obvious the Governor would settle for nothing less than war.  Most of the Union soldiers in St Louis under the command of General Lyon were from Missouri including a large number German immigrants from St Louis.  The Missouri State Guard were all Missouri natives under the command of General Price.  So began the Civil War in Missouri which was already a civil war between those in favor of and opposed to slavery.  In the spring of 1861, there were a number of skirmishes between the Union and Missouri Guard soldiers until General Lyon was occupying Springfield, the state capitol.  General Price intended to retake Springfield and joined with the Confederate army out of Arkansas commanded by General McCulloch.  With this combination the Confederate army finally outnumbered the Federals, by more than 2-1.  General Lyon knew he needed to withdraw back to St Louis, however, this Confederate army was a serious threat to a safe withdrawal.  He decided to surprise the Confederates, hitting them quick and hard, to allow him an opportunity to withdraw without opposition.  The Confederates were camped along Wilson Creek, south of Springfield and also had plans to attack at the same time.  They broke camp to advance towards Springfield on August 9, but a late afternoon thunderstorm stopped them as they were concerned about keeping their powder dry.  They returned to camp, but failed to reestablish pickets that night, so they had no warning.  The Federal troops also left Springfield on August 9 with plans to attack at dawn the next morning.  Without pickets, the Confederates never saw them coming.  General Lyon was not only going to attack with inferior numbers, but he also split his command with a third of his force, all German immigrants under the command of Colonel Sigel circled around to attack the Confederate rear.  Initially the attack west very well for the Federals with Lyon driving the northern part of camp allowing them to obtain the high ground on what became known as Bloody Hill.  Sigel also successfully made his way around to the rear without detection and hit the camp with an artillery barrage at dawn.  The sleeping Confederates initially scattered allowing Sigel to establish a position across the Wire Road cutting off Confederate retreat.  However, later in the morning he mistook a counterattack for Lyon’s Iowa Company who also wore gray uniforms at this point in the war, allowing them to get within point blank range.  Sigel was routed and scattered to the woods.  In the meantime, Lyon was stopped on top of Bloody Hill and thus began a 5 hour defensive battle.  Three times the superior Confederate forces, now more than 3-1, attempted to drive them from the top of the hill and failed.  On the third attempt General Lyon was killed, thus becoming the first Union General to die in the Civil War.  With the loss of their leader and no sign of Sigel, the Union army withdrew after the third attack.  The Confederates were already running low on ammunition, which was in short supply at this point in the war and chose not to pursue.  So the Confederates won the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, although Lyon achieved his objective which was to eliminate the threat to his withdrawal all the way back to St. Louis.

Kal and I had actually visited this battlefield years ago, but it was during the winter and very cold.  We did not spend much time exploring the battlefield and I really did not remember much of the battle, so it was great to see it again when we could spend the day exploring it.  Once again we purchased the auto tour CD of the battle, which gave a lot more information about the battle, the stops we visited, and the principals involved in the battle.  The auto-tour had 8 stops on it taking us from the northern end of the Confederate camp around to the southern end where Sigel hit them in the rear.  Highlights of the tour were the Ray House, which is the only structure to survive to today, that sits on the Wire Road.  The other highlight was the only monument erected at the battlefield to mark the location of General Lyon when he was killed in a countercharge during the battle.  It was interesting that at the time General Lyon was a national hero for the Union with a funeral train all the way back to Connecticut where he was buried.  In comparison to the monuments at other battlefields, this monument is very modest.  I suppose the reason is that this battle was primarily Missouri versus Missouri soldiers.  It was also interesting to learn that the monument replaced a cairn of rocks that had been built over the years to over 8 feet high.  It was a nice day to be out without dealing with rain.

Wednesday was spent with Kal finding a laundramat in West Branson while I cleaned the RV.  Thursday was also spent in the campground as it rained most of the day.  When I stepped out of the RV after dark, the steps suddenly sagged on the left side.  We got out the flashlight and had a look to discover that the brace that attaches to the RV had broke.  I put some wood under the steps to help hold them up until we could get it fixed.

The weather on Friday was marginally better, at least it was not suppose to rain, so we headed back to Arkansas to explore Pea Ridge National Military Park.  The Civil War battle that took place at Pea Ridge was the next major chapter in the Civil War after Wilson’s Creek.  Following the loss at Wilson’s Creek the Union forces withdrew back to St. Louis where they got a new general, Brigadier General Curtis and reinforcements increasing their number to 10,500 soldiers.  Since Wilson Creek, General Price and the Missouri State Guard had essentially a free run of Missouri during the fall of 1861.  However, this was about to change as General Curtis’ objective was to drive the Confederates from Missouri and keep the state a part of the Union.  By mid-February, 1862 he had chased Price and the Missouri State Guard into northwest Arkansas.  There they once again joined up with Brigadier General McCulloch’s Confederates in the Boston Mountains, south of Fayetteville.  On March 4, Major General Van Dorn took over command of the combined forces that now numbered 16,000 soldiers and led them north.  However, Curtis was now dug in across his path on the bluffs above Little Sugar Creek, not far from Elkhorn Tavern on the Telegraph Road and Elkhorn Mountain on the Pea Ridge plateau.  Knowing a frontal assault would be a mistake, he decided to swing north to come in behind the Federals.  This meant a grueling three day march leaving their supply wagons behind to catch up.  Plans were to strike Elkhorn Tavern at dawn on March 7, however they arrived far behind schedule.  In fact, the Confederates were strung out and General McCulloch’s forces were miles behind General Price.  So Van Dorn decided to divide his army and ordered McCulloch to cut east short of Elkhorn Mountains and approach the Tavern from the west instead of the north.  However, this put McCulloch running into the left flank of Curtis’ forces who had quickly repositioned from the bluffs.  In fact, the intense fire from the Federals killed both McCulloch and his second in command, McIntosh and captured the colonel next in line.  The command structure was practically destroyed, leaving McCulloch’s men scattered without command in the field and effectively out of the fight.  Meanwhile, Van Dorn and Price fared better slowly pushing Curtis south of Elkhorn Tavern when night fell.  The Confederates thought the battle the next day would be short and decisive, however, they forgot that their supply wagons were still attempting to catch up.  On the morning of March 8, Curtis counterattacked the tavern area.  This began as a two hour artillery barrage which for once was terribly effective.  They managed to knock out one Confederate battery after another and then turned on the soldiers dug in on Elkhorn Mountain.  The Confederates thought they had a good position, but against artillery that exploded in the rock walls behind them turned it into a death trap.  They had to withdraw to tavern area.  Meanwhile, Curtis lined all of his soldiers in a long line over 3 football fields long and charged the Elkhorn Tavern.  Even though the Confederates still outnumbered the Federals, their ammunition was dangerously low and they had no choice but to retreat to the north and east and the battle was over with a Union victory.  They had driven the Confederates out of Missouri, securing it for the rest of the war for the Union, although there continued to be guerilla fighting in Missouri for the rest of the war.  This was the second major battle in the Civil War west of the Mississippi and the last.  Nearly all of the troops from both sides were moved east of the Mississippi River for the remainder of the war.  Missouri continued to be technically neutral although it continued to provide men and supplies to both sides.

The Pea Ridge battlefield is actually not very large and the driving tour around the battlefield is only 7 miles long.  Once again we purchased the auto-tour CD which gave some valuable insights on the battle, although it was still difficult to understand the battle itself.  Part of the problem was due to the fact that Van Dorn turned the battle around by circling around to the rear of the Federals.  This meant they were attacking to the south and the Union to the north.  Also the maps in the brochure were terribly confusing and did not match with the very well with the interpretive signs at each of the stops.  We never did figure out the battle near the town of Leetown where McCulloch and McIntosh were killed.  The short trail to the town site did not help since there is nothing left of the town today.  The best part of the trip was the overlook on Elkhorn Mountain.  From there you could see the field where the battle for Elkhorn Tavern took place.  They placed cannon along the line through the field where the Federals lined up for their advance on the morning of March 8.  I was surprised to find that Elkhorn Tavern had survived all of the fighting until I found out it was a replication of the tavern.  There are a number of trials that circle the area around the tavern, however, after walking no more than 100 yards, Kal found three ticks crawling up her pants.  At this point we decided not to take a hike, which turned out to be a good thing as we talked with some other hikers that were very busy picking off ticks!!  Without any hiking, it did not take long to explore the battlefield and we returned to the campgrounds early in the afternoon.

Once again Saturday threatened rain, so we decided to drive back into Branson, this time from the west, to play another couple of rounds of mini-golf that we were both enjoying.  Kal had seen a pretty fancy course last week, so we headed to the Shoot For The Stars Mini-golf.  Visually it was very fancy with a lot of objects depicting Hollywood, including mockups of Gramans and the Hollywood Bowl among others.  The idea was it represented the 18 steps to becoming a movie star.  They had an agent with prerecorded messages at the beginning of each hole, when the recordings worked.  In fact, the course was more glitz then substance.  The holes were very easy with few challenges, but still was enjoyable.  After we finished that course, we decided to go back to Pirates Cove for another round on their more challenging course, Blackbeard.  Of all the mini-golf courses we played in Branson, this was our favorite.  We also checked and found out we had played fewer than half of the mini-golf courses in Branson!

Sunday was spent just relaxing in the campground while it rained once again.  This weather has gotten ridiculous and did not look like it would change anytime soon.

 

May, 2019 – Branson, Missouri

While I have titled this blog as Branson, Missouri where we spent most of our time, our campsite was actually just across the state line in Arkansas.  We were located on the shores of Table Rock Lake in one of the many Corps of Engineer campgrounds on the lake, Cricket Creek Campground.  The trip was a short trip west from our previous location, mostly along US highways, which were still slow and twisted.  Once we got through Harrison, Arkansas, we were on US 62 which is today a 4-lane highway where they have taken out most of the curves and steep gradients.  Just before we crossed the state line into Missouri, we took off to the west for 5 miles down to the shores of Table Rock Lake.  The reservation page on recreation.gov had listed the campground without water hookups, so we showed up with full fresh water tanks, only to find out the webpage was wrong.  Every site had water hookups and 50 amp electrical service.  Each site was also paved with nice stone work around the site.  The site we had also had two stone picnic tables for some reason.  Unfortunately, the trees blocked any views of the lake, but otherwise was a very nice, small campground.  The only challenge was a tree right in the way of backing the RV into the site, making me having to make nearly a 90 degree turn into the site.  Thankfully there was another site across from us, so I was able to use it to get the truck back around in front of the RV.  I had to pull the RV up and back a couple of times to get it all straightened out and then it was easy to put it where we wanted for the week.  It was also great that our site had a paved area to the side where we could put the truck.  Kal really liked this feature.  Thankfully, TV reception was not too bad although it would be nice to have CBS.

The weather on Tuesday was cool and partly cloudy, but thankfully no rain.  So we headed south to the Visitor Center on the Buffalo National River south of Harrison, Arkansas.  Years ago we had visited Buffalo National River with my sister on vacation, so it was a repeat.  The time before we floated down the lower river in a canoe and kayak.  However, that was late summer and this was early spring.  Not only was the temperature too cool for floating down the river, but most of the river was closed due to high water from the all the rain.  This time we were interested in doing some hiking.  After getting information from the Visitor Center about hiking trails in all three sections of the river, we traveled on down to their picnic area where they had tables set up on the bank of the Buffalo River.  It was a very nice spot for lunch.  After lunch we decided to do just an easy 1.25 mile trail near the Visitor Center that started at the Collier Homestead which was settled by a family from Kentucky until the land was sold to the National Park Service.  They have done a little work on preserving the small cabin on the site and their orchard behind the house is still there.  The trail to a spectacular overlook of the Buffalo River was an easy trail.  For those of you not familiar with the Buffalo National River, it was the first National River dedicated back in 1972.  Up to that point, there had been multiple plans and attempts by the Corps of Engineers to dam the river, primarily for flood control and this finally put an end to those attempts.  The Buffalo River is a pristine natural area for plants and wildlife all along the 135 miles within the park.  If I had paid attention, we should have gotten out last week to see some of the lower areas of the park as we were quite close.  I suppose all the rain was another reason we did not take advantage of it.  In any case, we enjoyed the hike until we came back around on the return trail.  This trail started with a steep downhill section along the bluff on the river with a couple of more nice views and then returned back to the farm site through the woods.  Of course, this meant the return trip was mostly uphill and we both regretted not getting in more hikes over the past few months!  By the time we returned to the truck, we had both had enough of hiking, so we returned to the campgrounds.

By Wednesday the rain had returned once again, although there was no severe weather to deal with.  So it was another easy day in the campgrounds.  Thursday also threatened rain, although we saw only a few brief showers, so we headed into Branson, Missouri to see if we could deal with our time share mistake.  We really knew better, but 10 years ago we entered into a very small time share to try out that approach to retirement.  This was before we had made the decision to full time in an RV.  We purchased a single week every other year at a reasonable rate, that came with points that could be used in their transfer program.  As it turned out, it was not cheaper to use a time share, even though the accommodations were a LOT better then we would book ourselves.  We used the system only a couple of times over the years and now that we are living in an RV, it makes no sense at all.  If it were not for the maintenance fees every other year, we would just ignore it.  While these fees are not huge, they are irritating that we continue to pay for something we no longer want.  Since the time share company has the right of first refusal, we figured we would give them their opportunity while we are in the area.  However, the time share office is not open on Thursday and is only opened on Friday, so it was a wasted trip.  So the day was not a complete lost we decided to check out one of the many fancy mini-golf courses in Branson, Dinosaur Canyon.  They had two 18-hole courses that wound around the many dinosaurs and water features in the park.  We played both courses before heading back to the campground and had a great time.

So on Friday, it was back to Branson to meet with someone to discuss the time share property.  We got there early, but had to wait for a 12:00 appointment since we needed to see someone who was not a salesperson.  So we headed out to check out another of the mini-golf courses, Pirates Cove.  Like Dinosaur Canyon, Pirates Cove consisted of two 18-hole courses that wound around some fun scenes and water features.  We took on their more challenging course, which not only included a hole on their pirate ship, but also through and on top of their “mountain”.  The most interesting feature was a hole which was nearly impossible not to bounce the golf ball into the small stream running to the side.  It turned out that this was actually the best chance for a hole in one, since the stream went under a small rock feature which somehow shunted the ball into a pipe that shot the ball at the hole.  Very cool feature!  We did not have enough time to play both courses, as we needed to get a quick lunch before heading back to the time share office.

What then occurred was the most amazing sales pitch I have ever witnessed.  We had the “privilege” of meeting with an independent agent of the time share “police”, although he was still being paid by the time share company.  He was under an “obligation” to inform us of the impact of a relatively new Florida law which is suppose to protect the consumer.  We looked up this Florida law and could not verify anything that he told us about.  It was his “duty” to inform us that this law addressed the three major problems with time share.  First, was the inheritance tax when the time share passes on to our children, none of which are interested in inheriting the time share.  Since time shares have been classified as “luxury items” that are not subject to the exclusion cap for estates and could be taxed as high as 30% of their value depending on the state.  This Florida law, supposedly, remove this luxury tag and our estate would not be hit with this tax.  However, I fail to see how a Florida law would have anything to do with how Alabama wants to define luxury.  Second, is the maintenance fee which you have to pay whether you use the time share or not.  Under this new contract, the company had to refund part of the maintenance fee so long as you relinquish your weeks early enough in the year that they can rent those weeks to non-members.  According to our agent, it was “fortunate” that we bought our time share when we did.  The property we owned had now gone through two owners and the current owner was based in Florida and thus subject to this law.  Our maintenance fee was still tied to the original rennovation schedule for the first company and therefore was quite low by industry standards.  If fact, according to him, the fee was going to jump by over 6 times the current amount and become a significant burden.  Supposedly we had already been notified of this although we never got anything in the mail that we recognized.  In addition, he could not show us what we should have received.  However, under this new contract we would be getting most of this back IF we gave up our weeks each year in January.  Now came the real sales pitch!!  Under our current contract we earned a set number of points each year, which under the new owner was worth 10 times more!!  In other words, our points, which supposedly would not change, would now be worth 10 times as much under the new contract.  So instead of one week every other year, we would have enough points for 5 weeks a year!!  This meant that instead of getting refunded for one week every other year we would receive 5 weeks of refund and still only being paying the original maintenance fee.  So, instead of paying out each year, we would be making a lot of money on the maintenance fee.  Does this sound like a reasonable business model for time shares to you??  Now remember, this guy was “not” a salesperson for the time share company and assured us the time share company does not want us to sign the new contract.  It was important to him that we understood that signing the new contract could not be for purchasing additional points, which it was not.  Each point we currently had would just be worth 10 times more.  Now came the real kicker.  In order to sign a new contract we had to invest additional money up to the current value of the property.  Part of his hand waving now entailed being amazed by the low amount we originally paid for the property which on average everyone paid 5 times more for the same contract.  When asked how this could be possible, he made up a wild story about someone must have defaulted on their deal and the company could only sell it for what was still owed them.  I have never of this kind of restriction on any repossessed property.  Because of this difference, we had “forced equity” which for some reason reduced the amount we would have to pay for the new contract.  This is entirely backwards, since the “investment” was to bring us up to the current value of the property which should mean we would have to invest more not less.  I bet you can guess what the final investment figure was after all his magic was done.  If you guessed 4-5 times our original investment, then you were right.   However, he was not done performing his magic.  The third aspect of the Florida law was that once the company sold off all of a property, they had to establish a “resales office,” the purpose of which was never made clear.  He made it sound like at that time the time share company would begin to buy back property, which makes no business sense at all, without ever actually stating this was their purpose.  Projections are that the current property in Branson would be all sold in less than 3 years, which means at that time we could sell them back our property instead of having to hold it for a minimum of 5 years as required by the Florida law.  So in 3 years we would be able to make a killing on our investment, which has not only increased significantly in value all ready, but would skyrocket because the company is building a new time share in Branson.  For his finale he showed us how the crazy refunds of the maintenance fees would more than offset the monthly payments.  So we would not only be able to make money on the maintenance fees every year, but we would be able to sell this new contract in 3 years for a minimum of triple our investment.  Talk about a “no-brainer”!!!  When asked if he would put all of this in writing, he quickly steered the conversation in another direction and we left after 5 hours with loan forms to fill out overnight and a promise to call to set up a meeting on Saturday.  Of course, we never heard again from this idiot with his no-brainer deal.  Bottomline:  we talked with a non-salesperson who could not sell us additional points, but for an additional huge investment we could get 5 weeks a year and be in a position within 3-5 years of trying to sell back a property in no better position then we are today.  I suppose I am one of the 5 percent of time share owners that could not see the benefits of this new contract.  While it was a waste of time, they did give us a check for $150 for attending their “enrichment seminar.”

While the weather on Friday was not great, it was certainly better than Saturday, when once again it rained off and on all day long.  Sunday was certainly an improvement and since we enjoyed the miniature golf so much, we decided to head back to Branson again to check out some of the other courses.  First, we played the easier course at Pirates Cove since we got half off from the time before.  This second course was also fun, but not as good as the more challenging course.  We still had plenty of time on our hands so took off looking for another course.  The first one we saw was at Bigfoot Fun Park, where the single 18-hole course was around other attractions in the park for young kids.  While this course was not as good as Pirates Cove, it was more difficult.  Not only were there a series of three holes in the dark with black lights, but they had a par 5 hole on top of the cave which it would have been easier with a wedge instead of a putter.  In any case, we had a good afternoon playing around in Branson for our last day in the area.  It was going to take a while to get over the bad memories I now have of Branson.

April, 2019 – Mountain Home, Arkansas

The trip north from Heber Springs to Mountain Home was not very far, but since it was along state highways winding their way through the Ozarks, it was very slow.  It took over two hours for the trip, but it was very scenic the entire way.  Our next destination was Robinson Point Campground, another Corps of Engineers site, on the shore of Norfork Lake, just outside of Mountain Home.  We were now deep into the Ozarks with its oak/hickory forests along with a few shortleaf pines.  Our campsite was actually in the center of a small loop of campsites, which gave us a view of Norfork Lake in three directions.  I was not sure why I had chosen this site, since it was in the middle of the loop until I realized we had the only site with a water hookup next to the RV.  The other sites have water spigots in between two sites that might have required more than the 100 feet of hose we carry with us.  However, I was able to back the RV into the site with no problem and we had both electric and water hookups.  We were soon set up for the week.

Campsite

It was good that there was no state parks or other historical state parks we were wanting to explore, since the weather did not cooperate all week.  In fact, we saw rain every day of the week, including Monday before we pulled out of Heber Springs.  Tuesday was the worst, since there were tornadoes all day long in Missouri and west of our location in Arkansas.  We spent a significant part of the day watching the local TV broadcast of their continuous weather alert.  The storms stayed mostly to our north and strong storms did not hit us until after dark.  Wednesday we got a break although the forecast was for rain throughout the day.  It would have been a day to get out, if you wanted to ignore the forecast.  By Thursday it rained all day long, although no severe storms this time.  Friday was a little better, although there were still periods of rain, so for something to do we both went into Mountain Home to do laundry.  While Kal did the laundry, I ran errands and we both got done at about the same time.  I guess this was the highlight of the week, as it rained again for most of the weekend, especially Saturday night.  Hopefully, the weather will be better next week as there are a couple of places we want to visit.

April, 2019 – Heber Springs, Arkansas

The trip north through Little Rock took us into the Ozark Mountains from the Arkansas River Valley.  The terrain quickly went from the flat floodplain to the hills and mountains of the southern Ozarks.  The trip itself was only 1.5 hours, about an hour of which was along the Interstate and four lane US 64, so it went by very quickly.  Our destination was another COE campground, John F. Kennedy Campground, located just below the Greers Ferry Dam on the Little Red River.  The name surprised us until we learned that President John F. Kennedy dedicated the completion of the dam just a few months before his assassination in 1964.  In fact, it was his last public event before the trip to Texas.   The campground is very nice strung out along the bank of the Little Red River.  Our campsite backed up to the low bluff overlooking the river, which unfortunately we could not see very well due to the trees and brush in the way.  However, it was still a very nice spot in a quiet campground until the weekend when it literally filled up and became very busy.

Campsite

On Tuesday we drove over to the COE Visitor Center on the other side of the dam.  There we found information about a number of hiking trails in the area that we could choose from ranging from easy to challenging.  Not being all that interested in climbing up to the top of Round Mountain, we choose to explore the Mossy Bluff trail at the Visitor Center.  It is a 1.5 mile trail travels just below the bluff overlooking the Little Red River below the dam.  It was suppose to be an easy trail that could be made into a loop by traveling one way along the paved road at the top of the bluff.  The volunteers at the Visitor Center recommended starting out on the road to avoid climbing up the nearly 100 steps to get above the bluff at the dam overlook.  I am not sure this was such a good idea, since the hike along the road was 2 miles long with some serious up and down hill sections.  By the time we got to the overlook, we were both ready to call it a day.  However, after taking some pictures of the dam, we headed down the steps to the bluff trail.  As advertised this trail was fairly level all of the way back to the Visitor Center and had some really great views of the Little Red River over 100 feet below us.  They also had a nice brochure giving information at over 20 marked stops.  Unfortunately, nearly half of these stops were missing and it was too early in the spring for most of the plants being pointed out.  Still it was a good hike on a beautiful spring day in the Arkansas Ozarks.

Wednesday was spent doing laundry and cleaning up the RV with rain in the evening and most of the day on Thursday, which we also spent in the campgrounds.  The weather on Friday was great so we headed north to Mountain View, Arkansas to check out the Ozark Folk Center State Park.  This was actually a repeat for us, as we visited the park over 10 years ago on a trip with my sister. I remembered quite a bit about that visit, especially the wooden broom we bought and are still using in the RV.  If you are interested in the arts and crafts of the Ozarks, then you must visit this park.  It consists of over 20 artisans working in a picturesque setting.  Each artisan has their own workshop or area to demonstrate their craft.  We visited with the artisans in each shop and had a great time.  I am not sure I can name all of them, however, I know they included an apothecary, blacksmith, painter, leatherworking, glassworking, toy making, brooms, candles, pottery, carving, and others.   They also have local music performances throughout the day and we enjoyed listening to the band of 4 musicians performing traditional mountain music.  While I don’t generally enjoy shopping, this was totally different as we spent more time talking with the artisans about their craft and lifestyle.

Saturday was another nice day with occasional light showers, so I decided to explore the disc golf course over by the Visitor Center.  I have played a number of courses over the years and this course is one of the best I have ever played.  They have put a lot of effort in designing and maintaining the course.  It starts out in a young pine plantation where they have created grassy fairways by clearing out some of the trees.  It then winds uphill through a mature pine/hardwood forest where they even have moved the rocks out of the fairway to line the course.  The even had one hole that was completely lined with rocks on both sides and all around the cage, which they called “the island”.  You slowly climb the hill and then after a couple of holes on the top you start back down.  This is done quickly with a couple of short fairways where a good tee shot could easily be birdied, which I actually did on one hole.  Except for the one hole that went across a small pond, the course is not very technical, but still there are plenty of trees to hit on either side of the fairways.  While I hit fewer of these trees then is normal for me, I still hit a fair number of them.  It was a beautiful day on a beautiful course.

Sunday was spent relaxing the campground as all the campers once again cleared out turning the campgrounds back into a quiet place.

April, 2019 – Little Rock, Arkansas

We traveled northwest along the Arkansas River, through Pine Bluff, to about half way to Little Rock, to our next location along the Arkansas River at Tar Camp Corps of Engineers campground.  Since nearly all of the trip was along the four lane US65 and I-529, it was an easy and quick trip.  When we pulled into Tar Camp we were pleasantly surprised.  Nearly all of the sites back up onto a great view of the Arkansas River and we had one of these sites.  I would argue that they have the sites angled backward as we had to find get turned around before backing the RV into the site.  Of course, this also meant that we would not have to get turned around to leave next Monday, so maybe I’m wrong.  In any case, it was very easy to back the RV into the site and we quickly got set up.  The sites were especially nice since the picnic tables came with a nice cover over them, which made for a great place during the rains later in the week.  We also enjoyed watching the many barges moving up and down the river all week.

With rain forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, we took advance of the great cool weather on Tuesday and went to the explore Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park.  As the crow flies, the park is less than 15 miles from the campground, except it is on the other side of the Arkansas River.  We had to travel all the way into Little Rock before being able to cross the river and travel back to the state park.  Thus this 15 mile journey took all of an hour.  As you probably guess, the Toltec Mounds have nothing to do with the Toltec Culture in Mexico.  It was misnamed back in the late 1800s by the owners of the property and the name has stuck.  While not as impressive as many of the ancient Native American sites we have seen in our travels, a lot of this is due to past farming practices.  Of the 18 mounds that were there originally, only about 5-6 remain today.  In addition, the ten foot high earthen embankment that surrounded the complex on three sides is mostly gone to the plow.  The two largest mounds, which are abut 40 feet high, of course still remain and are still the focal point of the complex.  In terms of size, this is one of the largest in the country and certainly the largest in Arkansas.  Like all of the other complexes we have visited, this one is primarily for ceremonial and religious purposes as there is little evidence that very many people actually lived on the site.  The embankment, which is somewhat unique, is believed to mark the edge of the sacred area as opposed to any defensive use.  There were likely hundreds of small farming communities scattered all around the area that congregated at this location for ceremonies multiple times of the year.  There is also strong evidence that the mounds themselves were placed to create sight lines for astronomical events such as the summer or winter solstice, likely to time these events.  There are two hiking trails, the shorter of which is paved and travels to and around the main Mound A.  We elected to take the longer unpaved trail that cover the entire complex, as well as, the major mounds.  Both trails have numbered stops along them, with along with the brochure you get at the Visitor Center, provides a lot of good detailed information about their culture, mound building, and archeological work over the years.  It was another fascinating look into the ancient Native American culture dating from 650 to 1150 A.D.  It still amazes me that this spans 500 years as compared to our society that dates to just over 200 years!  The most interesting thing we saw, however, was not the mounds themselves.  Rather it was their Native American garden where they are attempting to identify the plants cultivated or gathered and to plant the wild natives to these plants that still exist today.  One of the seeds they are working with is similar in size to rice, but they don’t know what it is.  They call it SeedX.  Unfortunately, in early spring very few of these plants are identifiable or may not even be planted yet.  Still it was fascinating to see the wide variety of plants they grew or gathered to make up a large part of their diet.

As predicted, Wednesday was cloudy and threatened rain so I spent the day working on our reservations for the next month through Missouri.  However, it never rained that day, although it threatened most of the afternoon.  The rain finally came overnight with a vengeance.  We probably got between 3-4 inches of rain, however, Little Rock recorded over 5 inches and had quite a bit of flash flooding.  We worried about what this would do to the Arkansas River that we were so close to, however, we never detected any significant rise in the water level although the current certainly got a lot faster over the next couple of days.  I guess the COE flood control is effective!  It continued to rain off and on all day on Thursday, so we just spent another day in the campground where Kal enjoyed watching TV since we were so close to Little Rock.

Friday was our day to head into Little Rock to explore two interesting locations.  The first was Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.  This is the only site of the National Park Service that is still a functioning school.  When it was built back in the 1930s, it was the largest and most grand high school in the country and it is still a beautiful building.  However, in 1957 it became a focal point for the desegregation of the public schools.  The Supreme Court had ruled school segregation was unconstitutional in Brown v Topeka Board of Education and like all public schools, especially in the south, Central High School had to integrate black students.  Their plan was to do this slowly over time, beginning with 9 black students in the fall of 1957.  Segregationists in Little Rock were not going to allow this to happen so they planned protests and violence to prevent it.  In support of this, the Governor called out the National Guard to bar entrance to these students, which lasted for about 2 weeks with the image of armed guards at the school making the national news every night.  President Eisenhower tried to defuse the situation, however, he eventually sent in the 101st Airborne Division and federalized the Arkansas National Guard, effectively taking them out of control of the Governor.  For about a month they protected the 9 African-American students, however, by the end of October, they were on their own.  The stories of their physical and emotional abuse that year are horrifying, but the problems were only starting.  Over the summer the Governor signed a series of acts challenging the federal government’s rights to interfere in the education system in the state, which is identified in the Constitution as belonging to the state.  His plan was to close the 4 public high schools in Little Rock and have them reopen as private schools, thus continuing segregation.  There was even a referendum that passed in support of the plan.  In May of 1959, 44 teachers were fired for refusing to sign a pledge in support of the plan along with most of the high school administrators.  This year is known as the lost year since all of the high schools were closed.  This set off the white citizens in Little Rock who blamed the African-American community for the closings and the year was marked with a lot of violence.  Over the summer of 1959, three of the most segregationists on the school board got replaced by more moderate members who reinstated the fired teachers and opened up the schools in the fall of 1959 with the now 8 African-American students included.  One had been expelled back in 1957 for retaliating against the abuse and had transferred to a high school in New York City.  This did not end the abuse in the high school, but was the first step in finally integrating the schools in Little Rock and marked an important chapter in our history.  Since the high school is still functioning, tours are only conducted when school is not in session and you have to have reservations far in advance.  Thus, all we could do was check out the great exhibits in the Visitor Center and take pictures of the high school from across the street.  Thus it took only about an hour to see all we were allowed to see, still it was an interesting story that I remember from my childhood attending high school when integration and cross busing was still a problem leading to riots in the 60s.

HighSchool1

Since we still had most of the day available to us we drove over to explore the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum.  At first glance, it does not appear as nice as some of the other Presidential Museums we have visited since it did not have the extensive grounds associated with it.  It is a mostly glass structure overlooking the Arkansas River and downtown Little Rock.  However, once we got inside the building, I had to revise my opinion.  It is actually a beautiful building and houses a LOT of information.  There is not much to see on the first floor, except the Presidential Limousine, since it primarily a space for large functions such as the luncheon that was going on.  The second floor, however, will blow you away.  Starting with the excellent video narrated by President Clinton, there is a mock-up of the Cabinet Room and a host of exhibits.  The exhibits are all about the accomplishments of his Administration.  These range from the economy, education, environment, foreign policy, and many other subjects.  While most of the information was a review of things I already knew about, it was still amazing how many good things he accomplished.  Besides all of the regulations and bills designed to reclaim, protect, and enhance our natural environment, many of which Trump has now gotten rid of, his most noteworthy accomplishment was the economy.  He led our country from massive deficits during the lengthy recession of the 1990, to a balanced budget, and even a massive surplus.  In addition to trying to pay off some of the mounting debt, his first priority was the saving of Social Security, which I am now VERY grateful for.  Now that the Federal Government has “borrowed” most of the Social Security “excess” and the Republicans under President Trump want to privatize in order to “save” it once again, I am quite scared about its future.  I should mention the third floor of the museum, which includes a mock-up of the Oval Office and exhibits of a sample of the international gifts he received while being President.  While I enjoyed all the information about his Presidential accomplishments, where I spent over 2 hours looking at, I was disappointed there was little information about his early life, his accomplishments while Governor of Arkansas, or his numerous accomplishments since leaving office.  When we explored other Presidential Libraries I enjoyed the parts outside of their years as President as it was information I was not already familiar with.

There really was not a whole lot else we wanted to visit in the area, so we spent the weekend relaxing in the campground where I tried to get caught up on this blog.  I did manage to get all of the writing done, but as you have noticed, we did not have a good internet connection all week.  I was unable to upload the many pictures to the pages and blogs, so you were all inundated with multiple blogs a the beginning of this week.  Such is the life on the road.  Sometimes you have good internet and sometimes you have good TV reception, and sometimes you even have both.  Although there are also those times when you don’t have either, especially when we like to stay far away from large cities in isolated areas.

 

April, 2019 – Dumas, Arkansas

I really don’t like traveling with the RV in the rain, but that was what we had to do on Monday.  We waited until almost noon for it to stop raining and was able to close up the RV before it started raining again.  I don’t like closing up the slides when they are wet as this puts moisture into the RV, but we had no choice.  It rained most of the way to the north to our new location along the Arkansas River near Dumas, Pendleton Bend Park, a Corps of Engineers campground.  Thankfully, the trip itself was short, just over an hour, so we still got in before 2 pm.  It is a small campground of only about 30 sites, but they all had water and electric hookups.  I had to be careful backing the RV into the site as the ground was mushy and the paved pad was very narrow.  I could not pull the truck very far forward due to the wet ground across from the site, so it took a couple of times to get the truck back in front of the RV without putting it into the mush.  We got in with no problem and were able to get set up in a light rain.

Campsite

The rain over the weekend was finally done Monday night, so Tuesday was clear and cool.  So we decided to head across the river to the Arkansas Post National Memorial. I did not know anything about this memorial, but I suspected it was an old trading post that dated back to the 1700s on the Arkansas River.  I was partly correct, but way short of the importance of the site.  It has a rich and long history dating back to the French in 1686 when it became the first European trading post and settlement west of the Mississippi River in the lower Mississippi region.  Over the years the French traded with the Quapaw Indians who were a peaceful tribe, unlike the aggressive Chickasaw over in Mississippi.  The actual location of this trading post is thought to be about 5 miles downriver of the memorial, but as we found out the Arkansas Post was moved multiple times.  In 1749 it was moved about 25 miles upriver to a bluff that was less prone to flooding and farther away from the Chickasaw.  After the French and Indian War began with Britain, the French moved the post back downriver close to where the memorial is today to protect their interests along the Mississippi.  After the French and Indian War the entire Louisiana territory was ceded to the Spanish who took over the post building Fort Carlos, again near the present day memorial.  However, in 1779, the Spanish once again moved the fort back to the Red Bluff to get away from the flooding.  By the time it was purchased by the US as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it was once again back at the memorial.  By 1819 the Arkansas Post was the commercial center for the region and became politically important as the first territorial capital.  This lasted until 1821 when the territorial capital was moved to Little Rock and thus began the decline of the Arkansas Post.  In the 1830s it continues to thrive as a center for cotton production and a major river port, but by the 1840s the boom subsides and the town declines.  During the Civil War, the Confederacy builds an earthen fort, Fort Hindman, at Arkansas Post to defend the river approach to Little Rock.  In January, 1863, General McClernand brings over 30,000 soldiers upriver along with Admiral Porter’s gunboat and on January 11 force the fort to surrender.  The Union army continues south on the west side of the Mississippi River to join in the siege of Vicksburg.  Since the fort and most of the town were destroyed in the gun battle, its future was bleak and in fact it never recovered.  Along with the declining river traffic and railroads bypassing the town, it was doomed and to top it all off the Arkansas River changes course in 1912 leaving the Arkansas Post a half mile from the river.

For such a rich history, there is almost nothing left for a visitor to see.  They have a nice, small Visitor Center with an excellent video about this history and some nice exhibits displaying colonial period artifacts.  Outside the Visitor Center there are some interpretive signs, of which talks about Fort Carlos, which is believed to be downriver of the remains of the town and currently underwater.  Even though the Arkansas River no longer flows by the site, it created an ox-bow lake and the rise in the water level by the dams on the river have flooded the location of not only Fort Carlos, but also Fort Hindman, a short distance upriver.  Archeologists have located the town streets and most of the buildings in the final version of the Arkansas Post and there is a nice paved walk through what remains of the town with interpretive signs about the houses or businesses that once stood there.  Other than this, there is not much to see.  There is also a nice paved Nature Trail that goes to a point where you are suppose to be able to see the Arkansas River a half mile away and around the shores of Bayou Post.  It was a beautiful day and a very pleasant walk.

After this hike we drove up to the closest location to Fort Hindman where they have some interpretive signs about the Civil War battle.  From here stretches a line of Confederate trenches and rifle pits that the 5500 Confederate soldiers attempted to defend the fort against the 13,000 Union soldiers.  We then drove to the picnic area for lunch before stopping and taking a short trail to a point where you could still see the remnants of the Confederate trench.  Again, not really much to see after 150 years.  I really enjoyed learning about the Arkansas Post and the two short hikes were nice, but there is really very little to see at the site since it was completely abandoned after being nearly destroyed in the Civil War.

Wednesday was another nice day and since rain was back in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, we headed north to the White River National Wildlife Refuge.  This is a huge refuge covering over 160,000 acres along nearly 60 miles of the White River.  Since it’s primary purpose is the preservation of the bottomland hardwood ecosystem for migratory birds and other wildlife, you can imagine the condition of the refuge after all the heavy rains of the past couple of weeks.  As we suspected, few of the roads were open on the refuge and we restricted ourselves to just those trails at the Visitor Center near St. Charles, Arkansas.  The Visitor Center itself is very nice and worth the visit with its many exhibits about the history, culture, purpose, and wildlife habitats on the refuge.  There is also a long boardwalk behind the Visitor Center over a flowing bayou where we saw a number of gar swimming around.  The boardwalk exists onto a gravel hiking trail that circles a spit of land leading to the White River.  However, this path was underwater beginning at the end of the boardwalk and in fact, it was obvious from the debris on the boardwalk that it was recently underwater itself.  Therefore, the hike was cut short and we were forced to look for an alternative.

KalOnBoardwalk

We drove back towards AR 1 and stopped at their Upland Trail, which was about a mile loop trail through a rare upland forest at the refuge.  At least it was not likely to be flooded and in fact it was a nice walk through the woods, with only a short piece through a wetlands spanned by a boardwalk.  In fact, the entire hike was a surprise because the entire trail was paved!  This was certainly unusual for a wildlife refuge.  Since we only had a couple of short hikes, it was still early enough to head back to the RV for lunch and a quiet afternoon.

KalOnTrail

As predicted, Thursday was threatening rain all day with showers late in the afternoon, so we spent part of the day doing laundry and cleaning the RV.  Kal managed to find a nice laundry in Dumas, so it worked out well since we had not done laundry in nearly two weeks.  Friday it literally rained all day, so we spent the day at the campsite where I got started on making reservations taking us north into Missouri.  The weekend was not much better, although it did not rain all day like on Friday, so we just spent the days relaxing in the RV.