Exploring the Ouachita National Forest

One of the things we were really excited about on our trip was going through the Ouachita National Forest via the Talimena Scenic Byway. Unfortunately for us, there’s a sign at the beginning saying that the byway is closed in ‘foggy or wintry conditions.’ We thought, oh, it’s not that foggy. We’re totally good for go. Right?

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Wrong. The road looked like that until we got to the first windy turn. Then suddenly our visibility dropped to about 25 feet in either direction.

There was a giant cloud sitting on top of the Byway.  It was flat on the bottom, but as soon as you ascended into the mountains, suddenly there was cloud. Disappointed, we called someone with a computer to tell us when all the fog would burn off. The answer? Thursday. It was currently Tuesday.

After several curses, we resolved to hit the main highway and stop at every single stop that looked like fun to make up for the day we were going to spend touring the scenic route. By Jove, we were going to make our own scenic route!

Our first promising find was a pullout on the Ouachita River. The sign led us down a pleasant country road…

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…And into a giant mass of vultures.

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As we passed a turn, a funnel of the dark birds swirled up from around a house and started circling it, landing in the trees above it. We decided that since the chances of some kind of Nevermore Necromancer living in Arkansas were kinda slim, there was something else pulling that many of them to the area.

The correct answer was that there was a dead calf in one of the fields they were having a heyday with. Shrugging and feeling bad for the bugger, we moved on to find a river.

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The snow that had poured down about a week before had mostly melted, swelling the river system and making it pretty cool. We even enjoyed wandering along it and scouting for potential trout/bass fishing. Except for the dog, who refused to drink either from the river or the water we brought, instead preferring to directly eat the snow.

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We wound up stopping at several river accesses along the way, most of them nice little digressions from the drive.

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Several overlooks later, we found ourselves a picnic spot…

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…And, unfortunately, a dog who apparently decided that now was the perfect time to stop wussing out and go swimming.

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Luckily, some common sense and a leash got the better of him and we continued on to our final destination: Hot Springs.

As an aside, I was very glad I cleaned out the car and made sure everything was packed into a tiny corner of the back seat so the dog could have extra room. Why? Because he decided that the pile of blankets and camera bags was much more comfortable than the seat itself. I guess that’ll show me the next time I do something nice for the pup.

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