Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 3:
Our third day in the woods we moved away from the steep rocky mountain paths with lots of stream crossings of Western Arkansas into the rollings hills of eastern Oklahoma. We were caught off guard by the beauty of the hillcountry in Oklahoma. We'd imagined it a flat and sparse place but found the eastern portion of the state to be fair and abundantly green with few residents - at least, where we traveled.

Route finding through Arkansas was fairly intense as we were off the map for a few sections on ATV paths that didn't show up on googlemaps or our topo maps. Not in the photos was one particular section that almost forced a turn-around that would have cost us hours and we probably would have run out of fuel. The Land Cruiser walked up a series of off-camber stone and loose dirt steps that no jeep or truck had climbed recently. Have I mentioned yet how much time we spent on ATV trails? It was an intense minute as Stephanie spotted from the outside of the vehicle and I maneuvered the top-heavy truck as it listed towards the deep ravine. Between the second and third step I had to reverse the truck to get a better angle on the last and biggest step. Any slipping of the wheels would have slid us closer to the drop off which was only inches (literally) away. Reversing I caught the muffler on a large rock and bent it down a few inches. In position I tried to ease the truck up the ledge with just the right amount of speed to keep moment but not rock or damage the vehicle. In the process my front left tire lifted a good foot and a half off the ground. Not bad for a big and heavy truck. 

Surmounting this obstacle we were faced with a downed tree and still had no idea what more lay ahead of us. Thankfully, that was the worst of Arkansas had for us. This is one of the hardest parts about navigating these routes: you never know what lies around the next bend, where a tree or an obstacle will force you to turn around, or to better estimate the abilities and durability of your machine. Running no spare fuel throughout Arkansas also added another stress. A forced turn-around deep in the woods might have left us stranded. I keep 10 spare gallons on the truck at all times now.

 The beginning of day three. After a short section of road, we climbed up to a ridge and followed gravel for many steep and rocky miles. Though in the photos it looks smooth and fast, in reality it was very slow going.
 Miles of this up on a ridgeline with views to both sides. Lots of red blackberrys.




 We didn't see a single other car throughout the entire run of national forest roads.
 Below is the test-piece for most dual-sport motorcycle riders who ride the Trans-America Trail. They say it's the hardest section east of the Mississippi. But we found it surprisingly easy compared to the ATV trails that we had routed through in the Ozarks.


 We had anticipated more difficulty here.
 And after the serious offroad sections of the day before...
  it was hard to tell if this was a let-down or a relief. 

 The hardest part of it was avoiding a low hanging tree which is just visible in the photo above. Remember, we are pretty tall compared to motos and ATVs.
 This mud-hole also proved a little sticky.

 Somewhere around the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma we crossed this creek on Creek Road no less. Video of the river-crossing. Steph didn't hit the record button the first time through so, of course, I had to go back through to prove I'd crossed it.
 We had a good swim and shave(?).

 And then back on to some beautiful winding gravel roads...

 where we were able to make up time lost in the Ozarks.


 Can you believe this is Oklahoma? On the highway, which Steph and I have driven four or five times, you miss this subtle and slow transition from mountains to plains.

 This is our version of a highway. Wide, well-graded Oklahoma roads. We could average around 45 on these roads and 55 later when they straightened out in the plains.
 Driven this way, it's impossible to miss out on the beauty of these forgotten places.


 Lots of preserves, ranches and cattle.




 Looks like rain here but that's just a mixture of bug guts and rain.



 We knew camping was going to be difficult to find as there just isn't much national forest or BLM land in eastern OK. It's mostly private. We checked out some state campsites on a reservoir oustide of Salina. But we couldn't stomach paying $20 to stay next to generator-running campers in close quarters.

 So we moved on down the line and settled here in a field with a bunch of locals on the shore of the reservoir.
 They assured us that no one would bother us as long as we were quiet and didn't trash the place. They also assured us that they knew the mayor and he stayed down there sometimes.

 Setting up with the locals in the background.

 As we prepared dinner, the kids did what they do.
The stats for day three are on Stephanie's phone I think. I'll get them up soon.



Steph's Addition:

Here are some of the hundreds of pictures taken in Arkansas. Sorry they are jumbled up ( I steph hijacked the blog while Jesse is at the pool with the big kids and I'm still figuring out how to get the pictures in the proper order). Anyway, you get the idea. We exclaimed over and over about how beautiful Arkansas was. We loved it (although it's nothin' compared to our love for Colorado). Jesse and I have been so amazed by the creativity of our children at the campsites. When we arrive at a campsite they immediately jump out of the car and get to work on some pretend play ideas, usually involving vehicles driving through dirt :) It hasn't been all fun and games though! We have had some really difficult times with our children as well. Anger, jealousy, pride, lack of self-control, selfishness have all come out in each of us daily! It has been very hard to know how to respond to each issue. Knowing that our kids are exhausted (and so are Jesse and I for that matter), it's hard to know when to discipline them accordingly and when to have grace and let things go but not let them get away with murder at the same time. wow! we did not expect it to be this hard but I am so glad Jesse and I have been such a great team through it all. I cannot think of a single argument we've had (other than a few differences on which road to take at a crossroad) and we have remained a united front before the kids. We are continuing to pray daily for our children to become more self-sufficient and pull their weight, love each other well, be kind to others, no hitting, screaming or throwing (geez, i wonder where they learned that from...) And we are hopeful that God hears our prayers and will continue his work in all of us. Thanks for keeping up with us. We have LOTS more posts to come. These pics are from the first 3 days of our trip and we've been gone for 18! Love to all, Steph
Game face on!

Ready to navigate!




Add caption

Just getting unloaded for our first night camping in the wilderness. The Ozark National Forest in Arkansas.




Hanging out with Sis at the campsite.

Exploring the campsite.

We eat a lot of this stuff with added veggies, meats, salsas etc.

Mama cooking dinner. 
Mommy's breakfast. I have since started adding Almond Milk to make it into a cereal.


Hanging out the window enjoying the scenery and fresh air!









One of Harper's two naps in the car so far.


We loved these old stone walls!



This huge Catalpa tree looks like a giant green bean tree!


This is the wretched campsite where Harper and I got our bug bites. She was bitten all over her face and I on my torso. These were the largest bites i've ever seen and I never saw a single bug! I am probably going to have scars from scratching them so much. It was awful! That was only our 3rd night, too.

Isn't Arkansas beautiful!
Another amazing stone wall.



3 comments:

Will Whitmire said...

Love the new post! Can't wait to hear more. You're probably in SLC now. We are catching you. Left Lookout yesterday around 9am and arrived in Shreveport around 9pm. While we were on the interstate. Being in the 22ft penske truck towing my car behind us on the well-worn roads of alabama, mississippi and louisiana felt like off-roading at times. Hope everything we packed is still in one piece. I wish I were doing it your way. Tell everyone hello for me. Miss y'all. Praying for you.

Travis said...

Awesome! We miss you guys! The whole neighborhood is gone this week, at least the kids and George is at camP. Paul asked if he could cross the river too! What a beautiful adventure!

Olivia said...

Love these pics and details. Your breakfast looks yummy!