Posts Tagged ‘AR’

Backpacking from Mt. Magazine to Cove Lake, AR, 21-23 Oct 2016

25 October 2016

The High Adventure Team (HAT) of Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma had a really nice beginner/intermediate backpacking trip between Mount Magazine and Cove Lake, AR, last weekend.

Photos from the trip are here on my Google+ site.

Summary, 10.8 miles over two days, with about 1400 ft of altitude loss, and short gains, with mostly contouring.

We headed out from OKC around 1630 and got to Cove Lake around 1930.  It was dark, but the Scouts got tents and hammocks up very quickly.  We sat around talking for a while, and looked at the beautiful dark sky with the Milky Way perfectly clear.  Off to the east, we watched the Pleiades, followed by Sirius, and there was a glow on the horizon that was the Moon about to peek over. We saw a couple satellites.  One thing, there was some sort of bio-luminescent critter in the lake that glowed like a firefly.

The next morning, we got up, had breakfast, and packed up.  We drove up to the Corley trailhead to do a water recon and see if there was a good campsite around the halfway point of the trail, but didn’t really see either.  We decided on a clearing that had been recently cut near a natural gas facility.

A note on those.  We saw three others just like the one I reference above.  A natural gas pipe facility, and very nearby, an acre or more of trees are just bulldozed down with a rough road cut.  I figured they were for parking heavy machinery somehow used by the gas company.

Regardless, after our recon we drove up to Mt. Magazine, visited the visitor center, and went to the trailhead.  We had one vehicle shuttle to do, and we hit the trail.

Two things about this five-mile hike.  It’s a long way down (more than 1200 ft), and there is no water along the way, except in one pond we hiked next to.  There were several nice campsites (I waypointed them on my GPS, and you can see them on the terrain plot on the Google+ site).  Note that the campsites, except the one that was near the pond, had NO water nearby.  There were a number of streambeds that we crossed, but dry.

As we got closer to the five-mile halfway point, we noticed a number of good campsites. There was a decent one about 200 yards south of a point where the trailed joined up with a road for a short distance.  Gutter Rock Creek is a decent-sized streambed several hundred yards SW along that road, but again, it was dry.  Our campsite was in a stand of pine trees, and the trunks were perfect for our hammock hangers, and the copious pine needles were a thick and very comfortable bed for our tenters.  There were lots of rocks to sit on and cook on.

The next morning, we got up and had breakfast and headed out earlier than the previous day.  We had about another five miles to go to get back to Cove Lake. Once you get on the short stretch of gravel road, you find a new trail, with both the road and new trail heading steadily but not steeply up.  You level out at the Corley trailhead.  There is a sign there that points down the road, but the actual trail is west of the trailhead; exit the trailhead to the NW, and a short spur leads you to the trailhead near the bluff.

As you hike along to the north, you shortly come to the best view on the trail, that looks back at Mt. Magazine to the south.

The remainder of the trail contours or gently slopes down.  About a half mile from the Cove Lake trailhead, we crossed one stream with decent water in it, and then Cove Creek, with a LOT of water in it.  There were lots of campsites along the bluff with the good view, or in the forest as you get near Cove Lake, but most of them are dry.

This was a nice backpack, easy on our newbies, with decent views to reward our effort. 90% of the hike was in shade.


Granny’s Kitchen, Huntsville, AR

8 September 2016

Grannys Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This wasn’t the only restaurant in town (in fact, there are a couple others that look worth checking), but it’s good.

We cruised through Huntsville on the way to the Ozarks last Saturday on our NW Arkansas drive. There’s a creek right below the place that I really liked.

I had chicken fried steak. It wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it was FAR from the worst. I rated the CFS a 9 out of 10, mainly because a 10 is 100% fork tender and just bursting with flavor. There were a couple tougher places on this one. I had a cup of chili also, it was OK. The green beans and mashers with gravy were OK.

But… Raegan and Erin got pulled pork sandwiches. Oh my gosh, that was the best pulled port I’ve ever tasted. Fortunately, I got to eat about a third of Erins sammich. Wow, that stuff was tender and had amazing flavor. I liked the fries as well.

The iced tea was excellent, and the service was very friendly. Our check was $41.56. Good stuff.

Roma Italian Restaurant, Harrison, AR

8 September 2016

Hot dang, I’m at TPA early, and they have desks with power and good WiFi, so I’m going to play catch-up on some restaurant posts!

Roma Italian Ristorante & Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raegan and Erin and I did some very relaxed driving through Northwest Arkansas last weekend, and we had a good dinner the second night in Harrison. The front desk person recommended Roma (not Roma’s), it was a good recommendation.

First of all, Roma is one of the Stealthy Chain Of Italian Restaurants That Is Not A Chain. The giveaway Spaghetti The Works was on the menu.

We got there about 1840 and the place was not even close to crowded.  I had Spaghetti the Works.  Aside from the fact that the marinara was a little more orange than I’ve experienced at the other places, it was perfect, a big pile of noodles and a ton of meat sauce, mushrooms, and a very good meatball.  Raegan had manicotti and Erin had chicken fettuccine al fredo.  All were outstanding.  We had the usual table bread, and some of that outstanding al fredo to dip the bread in, and it was just great.

Service was friendly and just right.  Our check was $50.30.  You probably can’t do better for Italian, or much better for anything else in Harrison.

Lucy’s Diner, Fort Smith, AR

7 February 2016

Lucy's Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back on 20 December, Raegan, the kids, and her Mom were in Fort Smith to visit the National Cemetery. We had lunch afterwards at Lucy’s.

I started with a cup of very good beef stew. For the pretty raw day, it was a good warm-up. Erin had a basket of chicken chunks that she said were very good. Ian had an Ultimate Breakfast, that included eggs, hash browns, bacon, and biscuits and gravy. I liked the gravy a lot. Ian had to work pretty hard to finish all that chow, but he did and he said it was very good. The other three of us had the Sunday special, which was a huge couple slices of excellent roast turkey, with mashers, gravy, and dressing. It was too much for Raegan and her Mom to finish; I finished mine with an effort. It was great stuff, tender and juicy turkey and perfect poultry gravy.

We had tea (sweet and straight) and water; the tea was excellent. Service was fast and very friendly. Our check was $78.32, not bad for such good food for five. I would eat at Lucy’s any time.

Old South Restaurant, Russellville, AR

10 January 2015

Old South Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday evening we were exploring the area of Russellville, and needed dinner. Old South was a good choice.

Raegan, her Mom, and I all got fried chicken. It was great stuff. Each meal was four large pieces of chicken, perfected fried up, and filling a platter. The chicken came with mashers and decent gravy. That was a heck of a lot of chicken. It was, however, just juicy enough, not dry anywhere, and while there was a bit more breading than I usually like, I ate all four pieces.

Our relatives also got hamburger steaks and liked them.

The iced tea was great and kept refilled, and service was right on and very friendly; the only issue we had was getting a couple sides of okra mid-meal. The check for all six of us was $59.78, which I think is great value for six people. I’d be happy to go back.

Cheddar’s, Fort Smith, AR

31 May 2014

Cheddar's on Urbanspoon

This is a way-behind catch-up post. We had dinner here with a number of Raegans family members in December.

Ian and I had steaks, Erin had chicken tenders, and Raegan thinks she had crispy chicken salad. I remember it was all very good. Raegans brother got the check, so I don’t know the cost, but we all though the service was above and beyond; our two servers were super friendly. We had 10 or 12 people, and they handled things fast.

So Cheddar’s are usually pretty good, and this location was better than pretty good.

The Lighthouse, Wickes, AR

29 March 2014

Lighthouse Drive-In on Urbanspoon

While we were on our Cossatot backpacking adventure, our base campers Christi and Lauren saw The Lighthouse and stopped in, and liked it. I did to. After leaving Cossatot, we stopped here to get the Scouts ice cream, of which The Lighthouse 24+ varieties. Erin backed into a decision to have watermelon flavor, and I got vanilla. I also got a bacon cheeseburger that was excellent, along with the iced tea I got with it.

My check was $6.50, and service was lightning fast, as I ordered it while ice cream was being had, received it and was able to eat it before we headed back to OKC. Good stuff.

Cruizzer’s Drive In, Mena, AR

29 March 2014

Myers Cruizzers Drive-In on Urbanspoon

We stopped here for lunch on the way to our Cossatot River backpacking trip last week. It was great!

Erin got a cheeseburger and fries, and I got a double bacon cheeseburger and chili cheese tater tots (hey, we needed our protein!). It was all great. The burgers were thick and juicy and had great beef flavor, the bacon on mine was crunchy. The chili on the tots was very good as well, and there was quite a bit of it. We got Cokes to drink, and they were very good.

The check for Erin and I was around $15. In spite of the fact that about 15 Girl Scouts descended on the place with no warning, service was fast, from order taking to food delivery. We all sat on the tables in the center of the drive in. After the meal, about half of us had soft-serve ice cream that was a nice end to the meal.

One note: Cruizzer’s is cash only. Christi and I walked over to an ATM on the parking lot to the east to get the cash.

If you are in Mena, Cruizzer’s is recommended.

Lewis Family Restaurant, Fort Smith, AR

3 June 2013

Lewis's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

As we drove from NW Arkansas to Dallas this afternoon, we were in Fort Smith for lunch. We chose Lewis simply because it was on the way.

Raegan and I had the special, turkey and dressing. The turkey was OK; I thought it was a little tough, and it wasn’t just overflowing with flavor. The dressing was pretty good. The gravy was great! We had sides of green beams (very good), mashers (great, with more of that gravy), corn, and cranberry sauce (yum!). The meals came with a decent salad. Erin had a bacon cheeseburger that she devoured.

Service was prompt and friendly. Our check was $31.06, I think a good value. Not bad at all.

Ridge Runner Cafe, Devil’s Den State Park, AR

3 June 2013

Ridge Runner Cafe on Urbanspoon

We stayed this weekend at Devil’s Den, an extraordinarily beautiful park in western Arkansas. We had two perfect breakfasts in the cafe.

Breakfast is 100% ala carte. We had various combinations of the following:

Eggs (over medium, scrambled, sunny side up)
Biscuits and gravy
Hash browns
Sausage patties

All of this was excellent. The bacon and sausage were perfectly cooked, as where the eggs; the pancakes had flavor and texture; the biscuits were made on-site; the gravy was wonderful.

Service was spot on and very friendly. Our checks were $29.27 and $25.56. I would eat here anytime; great place to eat. I will try the lunch items next visit.

The cafe is open 0800 to 1500, seven days a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and then open on weekends only through October.

AQ Chicken House, Fayetteville, AR

2 June 2013

AQ Chicken House on Urbanspoon

AQ holds sentimental value to me.  It is a destination restaurant for my family when I was growing up.  We would make the several-hour drive at least once a year to Springdale to feast on golden fried chicken.  I still remember being at AQ and being allowed to take cash to the register to pay the check.  I’ve had Raegan and the kids there several times.

We were in Fayetteville today, and we decided to give the AQ location there a try.  They had a special, all you could eat chicken and ribs, for $2 more than the standard chicken dinner.   I got that, with pan-fried light meat.  The chicken was excellent, with a nice crispy crust,  tender, and juicy.  The ribs… don’t bother.  The sauce was not good, and neither was the meat.  Raegan liked he r dark meat also.  Erin got CFC, it was very good.

The sides.   Green beans,  excellent.   Mashers and gravy, also.  Baked beans,  not so much; they had too much jalapeno. Mac and cheese, very good.

We finished with a dessert of fried peaches, yum!

Service was good, as was the iced tea.  Our check was $43.94.

Mel’s Diner, Prairie Grove, AR

1 June 2013

Mel's Diner on Urbanspoon

This is a great place.  We picked it basically by driving by.

I started with a cup of excellent chili made from beef and sausage.  Just the right spice level, and just a few black beans.

I had a patty melt. The beef was textured and had great flavor.

Erin had baked catfish and glommed it down.

Raegan had a BLT and liked it.  She finished off with good pecan pie.

The iced tea was great, very sweet tea.  Service was attentive and very friendly.  Our check was $29.46.  Recommend.

Backpacking Eagle Rock Loop Trail, ONF, AR

14 June 2012

This past weekend, the Extreme 15 patrol from Boy Scout Troop 15 of Oklahoma City had a backpacking trip to the Ouachita National Forest east of Mena, AR. We backpacked part of the Eagle Rock Loop trail.

Summary: 21.1 miles in very hot and humid conditions, significant altitude gain. The posted trail mileage is wrong!

I posted the photos from this trip to Picasa.

We got out of Oklahoma City about 1500, stopped to gas up the van, and headed east. We got to Mena, AR about 1930, had a quick dinner at a Subway in the local WalMart (and picked up the peanut butter the hike leader had forgotten!), then headed the 18 miles to the trailhead. We had five Scouts and three adults.

The plan had been to get to the trailhead, hike about 1.5 miles to the top of the second ridge and camp, then do half the remaining trail Saturday, and finish up the rest Sunday, probably mid-afternoon.

None of this worked out. It was almost a real issue.

We got out of OKC an hour later than planned, and then spent longer on dinner, and then the last six or seven miles to the trailhead took a lot longer than we thought due to the roughness of the roads. We got into the trailhead well after dark. We needed to do a final prep (load fuel into the stoves, pump water, etc.) that meant at least 30 minutes of work before we could hike, and I wasn’t thrilled about hiking in the dark (no moon). We decided to camp at the trailhead and start early the next morning.

The people who were camped by the nice stream at the trailhead told us there were not any more campsites there. Here is an example of when getting into camp before dark helps. Glen went off a bit, and discovered a very nice camp pretty much right in front of where we parked the van. There were at least two more camps on the west side of the parking area as well. We got camp set up, and everyone pretty much crashed.

Notes on the area: there are no trash cans or any potable water at the campsite. The stream had excellent water flow.

The next morning, we got everyone to breaking camp, having breakfast, and getting ready to go. We got out of camp around 1040 – way later than we wanted.

I usually put this towards the end of a blog post, but it needs to be here. It’s the altitude plot for this adventure.

We wanted to do the loop counter-clockwise. The first day is a series of decent ridges. On post-hike analysis, we did more than 2400 ft of altitude gain! That huge amount of gain was exacerbated by the 90F temps and 90% humidity. We were sweating buckets. There wasn’t very much in the way of breeze to help cool us off, but we did have most of the hike under the tree cover. There was good water in every one of the valleys, also.

We also had one problem. One of our adult leaders was completely out of energy after the first ridge. We had an extended rest but he was not recovering. We both felt it better if he returned to the trailhead to rest, so he went back with the van keys. FORESHADOWING: This would turn out to be very lucky for us on Sunday.

There are a number of side trails to overlooks and the like. I never saw a trail marker pointing to the side trails. At the top of one ridge, we stopped for a short rest, and I just happened to notice that a faint trail ran off to the west. Some markers would be nice.

One thing I was really disappointed about. We stopped for lunch between the third and fourth ridges, in a beautiful camp next to the confluence of a stream and a river, with a lot of tree cover. While eating lunch, I noticed smoke from a fire ring. There was active heat and fire burning in that ring! Someone had camped there Friday night and left a fire burning. Another fire ring nearby (about 10 ft away) was full of partially-burned pouches that used to contain dehydrated backpacking food, and it was also smouldering. It’s really lazy to partially burn stuff just because you are too lazy to pack it out. One of the Scouts and I dumped about 10 bottles worth of water on the fires to put them completely out.

This was a very hard hike. Our packs were at their heaviest, of course, with food and water. You can see from the altitude plot that we did no less than six ridges that first day. It made for frequent rest stops and a slow pace overall. There were wonderful views at many of the locations along the trail.

There was an amazing camp on the last ridge, at about the 8 mile point. It has wonderful views to the west and east. It’s a dry camp, so you can either walk back north about 3/4 mile for more water, or carry enough up to begin with.

At the 10.05 mile mark we made camp. We were on the Viles Creek trail, which is the south part of the Eagle Rock loop. The creek/river had plenty of water.

That evening we made a wide variety of backpacking food to try out. We didn’t eat nearly all of it, but we darn sure packed out everything!

The walk along Viles Creek was much faster. We got out of camp an hour earlier than Saturday morning, and made much better time. There are amazing rock formations all along this area.

A note about rocks. The variety of rocks was amazing. This illustrates:

The rock on the left is a soft, chalk-like specimen. The center piece is a slick piece that was one of two that flaked off a larger rock. The piece on the right is almost translucent. There were veined pieces (white rocks with black veins, black and brown with lighter veins), many varieties of marbles and granites, and polished river rock. That part of Arkansas must be very geologically interesting.

One example of the rock veining is on the Picasa site. If you look around that rock, there are several other types of rocks in the frame as well.

At the end of the Viles trail (about Mile 13), you cross the Little Missouri River. Most of us took our boots off, used water shoes if we had them, and waded. The water was about 18″ deep max. At this point, we started up the trail, and got to a “T”. We didn’t realize it was a “T” and headed south. After about a half mile, we realized something was wrong. It was next to a very pretty, perfect swimming and fishing hole. We turned around and headed back, picking up the north trail and getting back on track.

We came through the Winding Staircase area, which is really neat. The trail passes a cave. Right before that, we took another wrong turn and gained about an extra half mile of hiking. The Winding Staircase area featured beautiful river swimming holes. One thing we found out was that the parking area for this area is about a mile away, so you have to walk in with all your stuff (we saw the usual tents, but coolers, cots, and lots of other semi-portable infrastructure that had to be carried in). We had lunch here, and a couple of the boys took a swim.

Just upriver of here is a second river crossing, requiring another wade. You also head up into the hills again, so make sure your water is filled up. This is a moderately hard hike segment.

Eventually we made it into the Albert Pike area. It shows on the maps as closed, but it’s open for day use, and there are commercial cabins there. There is also very nice swimming. We were at Mile 20+ at this point.

We also had a rude surprise. We had expected to be about six miles from the van. Looking at a map there, we were 10+ away! So it was about 1600, and we were looking at three to four hours of hiking, in the dark, with an already tired crew. A park ranger drove up, and I asked him to drive to the trailhead we had used, and ask Glen to drive the van back and get us. Was this the wrong thing to do? I don’t think so. The safety margin while hiking drops when you go after dark. Walking rocky trails with heavy packs, when we were already tired, was just too much of a risk. So THANKS! to the Ranger for helping us out.

It took a bit over an hour, but Glen drove up in the van. It took a good 45 min to get back to Mena. The van was gassed up, we got a quick dinner, and headed for home, getting to the church at 0045.

We saw three other groups on the trail. One was a group of three trail runners that were doing the entire trail in a day (WOW!). We saw a family, and a Venture crew from south of Houston, TX, which was really neat (we first ran into the Venture crew as we passed through the ridgetop camp I mentioned above).

Trail notes: Overall, the trail is rocky. This is not for sneakers, folks. You need boots. The water crossings are much safer with water shoes instead of barefoot. On the south and east sides of the trail, it’s pretty wide open for the most part. On the west side, the Ridges, many parts of the trail have brush right next to the path. We found a number of ticks, all of which met instant death. There was quite a lot of poison ivy as well.

The advertised mileage for this trail is 26.5. The actual trail mileage has to be around 32. Trying to do that in two days is just too much. Even if we had done the Friday part as planned, we still would have been in a world of hurt Sunday afternoon. So that’s why it worked out for the group as a whole when Glen needed to return to the trailhead.

Most of us carried too much. We didn’t coordinate on food as well as we could have, and ended up carrying quite a bit of re-hydrated food back.

Water wasn’t really a problem. Most every creek/river had enough to filter.

There are real restrooms and trash cans at Albert Pike.

We had two of the relatively new Sawyer Squeeze filters. They worked really well, and light, and fill water bottles fast. The kits come with three bags; one will fill about a Nalgene and a half, the medium one fills one Nalgene, and the small one does about half of a Nalgene. I think I will carry all three bags – they are almost weightless when not filled, but can be filled and used to carry water to a dry camp if needed. One thing about the Sawyers: they really need running water to fill. Since they collapse, they have no air in them, so submerging them won’t really fill them. Flowing water, especially a small waterfall, works well. We also used a cooking pot to scoop water and pour into the Sawyer bag.

As a shakedown for a New Mexico trip later this summer, this trip was very successful. It was a good shakedown. It was very hot and humid. We did some serious altitude. I would have liked to do the loop, but I think that the loop is three days, or even four! Three 10-mile days is doable. Something like 9/8/8/5 would be a good option that leaves the last day short to enable a decent drive back home (if you start at the Little Missouri trailhead in the northwest, that first 9 will put you on that on-the-ridge camp).

Below is the trail we hiked overlaid on a Topo and Google Earth terrain.

I’m looking forward to going back and doing the last ten miles!

14 June 2012 update:

I looked at the altitude profile again, and saw some interesting data. The GPS clearly shows the river flow levels. Here is an annotated plot.

While we were walking Vines Creek, it didn’t fell like we were walking that steeply downhill, but the GPS altitude clearly shows it.

The really amazing number is the altitude difference for the Little Missouri River between our trailhead, and down to the Albert Pike area first, and then going farther down to the confluence of the Vines and Little Missouri. That drop is about 650 feet total. If we had tried to hike that last segment, we would have added 400 ft more to the 250 ft+ along the river, and on top of the 450 ft that we got from going up the last two ridges. That would have been a total days climb of more than 1100 ft. That just reinforces my thought that we were lucky that the Ranger had come along when we were at Albert Pike. Thank you again, sir!

Chicken Country, Jacksonville, AR

6 August 2010

Chicken Country on Urbanspoon

I left this draft post in my BlackBerry and thought I ought to finish it.

We ran across Chicken Country after visiting nearby Little Rock Air Force Base. It wa quick and good.

We got there around 1400 and left around 1445.

All of us got fried chicken except Ian, who got chicken strips. I’ve had better fried chicken, but not very much, and lots worse.

All of the sides we got (green beans, masher, and corn) were good. The rolls were plain white bread.

They have good fill-yourself iced tea.

We were there on a Sunday afternoon (11 July). The place was almost empty when we got there, and pretty much the same when we left.

Good place. Our check was around $25, not bad.