|Thanks to Harish for this fancy panoramic photo|
Last weekend, we got ambitious. Last weekend, we decided to tackle Whitaker Point.
Planning is not one of our stronger points, as a group, and Saturday proved no different. We woke, had the forethought to put on tennis shoes instead of sandals as we are all wont to wear, then headed to Sam's Club to hunt for rations and to get gas (we ended up getting gas at the Kum and Go because I got impatient waiting in line at the pump). And so with 2.5 pounds of pistachios, a family sized bag of Lay's potato chips, and a can-do attitude, we headed out to the Ozark National Forest with Dave Matthews' mellifluous voice ringing in our ears.
The heavens promptly opened upon us.
To be fair, it rained while we were in Sam's Club. It was raining pretty hard when we stepped out of the store, but cleared off pretty much by the time we had run to the car. The drive between Elkins and Huntsville had me concerned that we were going to have to scrap this reckless and impromptu trip. We didn't know where we were going. Not really. Only a handful of people actually knew our real destination (being the horrible daughter I am, I only texted my mom, letting her know that if she didn't hear from me again, I was dead somewhere close to Whitaker Point). The rain was beating down upon us as I tried to navigate hairpin turns and steep inclines.
And as suddenly as it had started, we took a turn in a more easterly direction and it was (mostly) clear skies ahead.
The drive from Washington County into Madison County is a gorgeous one. Surrounded on all sides by the Ozark Forest, you've nothing but long stretches of highway bisected occasionally only by driveways and county road turns. We were fortuitous to have the road mostly to ourselves; long roads to sing and talk and be rained upon as we made our way deeper and deeper into the forest towards Boxley, Arkansas.
Finally, about an hour and a half our so from Fayetteville, we turned off onto a rutted, steep dirt road and began our climb of the mountain. We turned off the music and rolled down the windows, the canopy overhead mostly protecting us from the gentle but steady rain that had once again begun to fall. Enjoying the sounds of the forest, we puttered our way up the road, so narrow at points that I was literally close enough to be able to talk to a passing motorist in a reasonable tone of voice. Just when I thought we would be on this horrible road forever, we saw our landmark. An old battered church and a well kept cemetery marked just another quarter of a mile of driving until we reached the trail head.
As we climbed out, stretching muscles grown stiff from sitting too long in the car, I will admit that I figured our hike to the actual crag would be a piece of cake. It's an extremely popular and famous landmark of Arkansas. Of course the trail would be an easy one to trek. And it was only a mile and a half in. Pft I thought to myself as we were wrapping our phones in an extra t-shirt, in case the rain really picked up, I can handle a mile and a half, no problem. What's that, like twenty? twenty-five? minutes. Piece of cake. I was very ambitious and cheerfully marched off into the woods like I was heading for a pleasant afternoon stroll.
|That's me! In the hat! Chandan is ahead of me and Harish is behind, taking unflattering pictures. The hat did not last long on my quickly overheating head|
|Harish front and to the left, me and Chandan sitting on the edge of the world. Ish.|
We climbed down over dirt and rock, stumbled (in my case) over tree roots, crossed a creek that is probably a little bit more powerful during the height of rainy season, and hugged the sides of the mountain as the trail narrowed at points where it seemed like one person traveling it was too many people to pass. We clambered upon huge boulders as we neared the crag, anything to try and get a good look at the valley below us.
|Chandan was excited for every chance to look off the precipice|
Along the way we all found little spots we each liked the best and unoriginally named them our points. We cracked pistachios and threw the shells over the edge, justifying our littering with the promise that the shells would break down and fertilize the ground upon which they fell. The boys packed their pockets after our first snack break and as we carried on, they continued to pull the out and happily munch away as we got closer and closer to our destination.
I have to say, there is something about standing on the edge of a mountain, for though they are small, they are still mountain, or letting your feet dangle off the side that makes you feel small and large and invincible and so weak all at once. It's like you can do anything and nothing and all of your problems are both insignificant and enormous and you simply just don't care about any of it because you're here. You're so far from everything, listening only to the sounds of the most natural of things, staring at the glory and beauty of our earth and for whatever reason you're a part of it and that's all that matters in that moment.
Or something like that. It makes you philosophical. And probably a little pretentious. That's okay.
Finally we reached! And it was magnificent. We were up so high that I literally sat and watched a cloud form:
|Just a little more|
|Selfie! It was a lot bigger than how it looks here in the background. Please excuse my unkempt and grubby appearance.|
|And it's off and away. I watched it be made and I felt a little abandoned when it floated off out of sight.|
|Harish for scale|
The journey back to the car was long and arduous. At least for me. I was tired and starting to get cranky. However, as we came upon the same little waterfall we'd passed earlier, we decided to become adventurous. Probably foolishly, we slid on our bums down the side of a rock so that we could further explore the little creek that fed a small little waterfall.
It was the greatest thing we could have done. It was so cool, so refreshing, so lovely. I just stood by and kept cupping it in my hands and splashing it on my face.
After, somehow, making it back up the rock, we continued on. I stopped many times, certain I was on the brink of death, only to have Harish remind me that I needed to suck it up because the car wasn't that far. Chandan got ahead of us and abandoned us to the woods for the last 20 minutes of our hike.
Once we did make it to the car, I took my shoes off, let cube upon cube of ice melt on my overheated skin, and sat in the front seat with the AC blowing full blast on me. On our way home, we dealt with more bouts of heavy rain, a wrong turn that took us into parts of Arkansas where we none of us had any kind of cell phone service, and Chandan and I counted more than 50 toads that I swerved all over the road to avoid hitting. All in all, it was a good Saturday.
"Wherever you will go, go with all your heart." -Confucius