Saturday, April 2, 2016

An Arkansas Spring

Well, of course winter wasn't really over in da U.P. -- no matter what the groundhog said.  Even as I sit here in WI, winter came back.  But I'll get to see my beloved little town tomorrow.  It's been weeks...

I remember driving out of da Harbor last month.  I had a tear in my eye.  A real dripping tear!  I said, Heart, it's okay to be sad right now.  That just means you really love it here.  But think about how happy you will be when we come back!  Heart settled a little, so I could see while driving.

We spent a few days in Wisconsin on each side of our Arkansas trip, but Arkansas was the highlight, so we'll go right there.

One different thing I noticed right away as our plane swooped down, was white trees.  White trees?!?!?  The flora nerd in me was giddy.  I couldn't wait to see what they were made of.  Yooper me thought they were cotton trees.  Haha.  Nope.  They looked more like saskatoon trees in full floral bloom.  We have those here, but they did look a bit different, and I didn't get to find out their exact species.  They just lit the landscape up with a soft whiteness.

There were purple trees too!  Here is what they look like from afar.

The purple flower tree

Lovely, aren't they?  By the end of my trip, the tiny green shoots were starting to pop out of the ends.  Here is what those flowers look like up close.

Flowers on the purple trees

I don't know what kind of trees these were either.  They didn't have much of a scent that I could decipher.  I wonder what they look like in the summer.  Some of the flowers were starting to fall by the end of my two weeks.  No leaves came out while I was there.  Next time I'll have to bring a flower book for the area.  Sheesh!

I also saw a few unidentified flowers.  Unidentified to me, that is.  One I thought was wild basil, but it didn't taste like I'm used to.  And I think it was too early for those.  Dandelions were out.  Violets too.  And white trout lilies!  I've never seen those before, and I assumed that's what they were by the mottled leaf and structure of the plant.

This is not a good picture, but this plant just boggled me.  I've never seen leaves grow like this before.  It's almost as though they were hiding the flowers.  Do you know what this one is?  The leaves stand almost perfectly vertical either when they first grow or when it's dark out.  The stem is square and the flowers themselves remind me of a nettle.   Just a few inches high, and I think they were done growing.  I'll have to check Peterson's.  

The mystery plant

So it was certainly springtime there.  I thought there would be more moisture in the creeks and such, but again, that is my Yooper brain expecting runoff.  No snow means no runoff.  Luckily we missed the tornados and floods!

While there, I got out for a couple hikes and one bike ride.  Let me start this out by saying that the landscape reminded me of Wisconsin with it's rolling hills, big oak trees and cattle pastures.  It seemed like a nice place to be, and the people were nice.

I mean, really nice.

They would look you in the eye, smile and say hello or hi or hey there.  And mean it!  Now I am someone who usually extends the first greeting, but down there, I was often second because it is just so engrained in people.  I guess that's what they call "Southern Hospitality."  I like it.

But back to the trails.  I got to hike at Bella Vista, where one of Aaron's crews were just finishing up.  It was a nice valley-side trail through some cool horizontal slate rocks and unusual flora.  I saw cacti and moss in the same space!  Didn't know that was possible.  

I also hiked at Hobb's State Park.  It was a busy Saturday morning down at the park.  I forget how busy recreational places can get, but it's just nice to see people out enjoying the sunshine.  This was a nice hike in the early spring.  It was a bit dry with only an "elbow" view of Beaver Lake available, but I was just glad to get out.  It made me realize how amazing the Keweenaw scenery is, if that was popular in Arkansas.  I know, I'm such a critic, hey?

Our bike ride was the best part.  Mostly because I love riding a bike, but also because I thought the trails were awesome!  We rode at Slaughter Pen.  Just when a climb was becoming a bit too much to bear, we got to go downhill.  There were lots of creeks and rivers flowing through.  They had some fun, big berm and jump lines to rip.  One section of which Aaron's crew built, and one section the home team built.  Some of the trails themselves were old school and rocky, but I really had a blast.  I could tell that people there are proud of their recreation.  I would recommend riding there.  In fact, IMBA's World Mountain Bike Summit is going to be held in northwest Arkansas, so many of the mentioned trails will be showcased as well as some they are still building.  After all, that's why Aaron is there.

And do you want to know something else I saw that I didn't realize actually existed?  The first ever Wal-Mart.  There, in downtown Bentonville, on the side of a tall brick storefront, was a Wal-Mart sign.  I wish I would have taken a picture.

I also wish I would have gotten a picture of our little family in front of the "Rogers, Arkansas" sign.  I mean, the Rogers family was living in Rogers!  Maybe only I think that is neat-o, but I don't mind.

What did I take pictures of?  Stuff that grows.  So here are a few more of some trees that were all over that I liked.

The red cedar smelled incredible

Perhaps an apple tree
It blossomed just before I left

Some kind of a holly tree?

Some cool, paper-thin fungus

The only other wildlife I noted was a red fox by the guys' apartment.  I watched it saunter through the leaves and brush.  Then it did something I never saw a fox do before: pee.  Yup.  It stood there and peed just like a female dog.  I don't think it would have done that if it saw me.  Also by the apartments, there was a pond.  A decent sized pond, but the fish I saw swimming in there were at least two feet long!  When I scared them, they dove into the mud, so I bet they were bottom feeders of some sort, but I didn't get a good enough look at their heads to tell what kind.

Oh, I did go for one more hike.  That was the spot Aaron was working on when I was there.  I wanted to see it because he was surprised and slightly frustrated with all the rock they had to work with and around.  Though this picture doesn't depict the rocky sections, it sure depicts my handsome boys.

My boys on a hike

I'm surprised I got to compose this post before my next trip to Portland, OR.  Guess I just like you that much.  Be well, and we will meet again soon!