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southern arkansas trip report: part 1

2004-04-21 - 6:16 a.m.

all photos � 2004 by
Elaine Radford and Roger Williams

the dogwood flower, the southern symbol of easter

Easter Sunday, April 11

The weather report had threatened constant thunderstorms and even a chance of "small hailstones," but it was mostly just a cold drizzle as BF and I headed north up the Mississippi River. One time I looked down into a small green valley just off the roadway and saw a huge male wild Turkey displaying to another attentive Turkey. We had a very windy picnic lunch of home-made potato salad and oven-fried sesame chicken at the Mississippi riverboat welcome center outside Greenville. I didn't see the home-made dinosaurs and giraffe that I used to see on the drive to Greenville. The road was being widened, and I suspect that the dinosaurs have been dismantled.

Once we got into Arkansas, I started working on my bird list with the help of Mel White's A Birder's Guide to Arkansas. We explored Grand Lake, coming to within about a mile of the Louisiana border. We found a puzzled Snow Goose that had apparently been left behind when the other birds migrated -- don't you hate when that happens? -- as well as an abundance of Eastern Meadowlarks and an unfortunate Red-Tailed Hawk being mobbed by Mockingbirds and Blue Jays.

For dinner we found a not-too-imaginatively named restaurant in Greenville called, Hunan Restaurant, but the "beef with orange flavor" was to die for. BF's fortune read: Stop procrastinating -- starting tomorrow. Mine said: You will continue to take chances and be glad you did.

the sinister canada goose

Monday, April 12

The wettest and gloomiest day of the trip, it was too dark to encourage any photography. The birding was pretty good, though. We explored the Lake Chicot area. Lake Chicot's claim to fame is that it is the longest oxbow lake in the United States or maybe the world -- in any case, it is a very long lake, almost riverlike in its look. At the state park, two very wet Northern "Yellow-Shafted" Flickers pecked on the ground near the car, their faces intent and close together as they worked. Near a windy reservoir heavily populated with Coots and Double-Crested Cormorants, BF spotted a young Bald Eagle being harassed by American Crows. She was a huge Eagle and made the Crows look like sparrows, but she couldn't maneuver to chase them off and had to fly some distance away. We saw where she landed and drove over for a nice long look.

We ate dinner at the LakeShore Cafe, although we couldn't see the sun set because it was already wet and dark. We had some very enjoyable live entertainment provided by "Miles," who was a real one-man band from Greenville. Of course, back in the day when I was playing two-for-one blackjack in the clueless Greenville casinos, some Greenville tourist agency had sent me some magazines, a cassette tape, and some brochures, all on the theme that the Delta in general and Greenville in particular were the original source of all literature and music, so I made my usual jokes about Greenville, Mississippi, birthplace of the arts, but the truth was that we had a great time and enjoyed a fun performance. And, while I doubt Robert Johnson is tossing and turning too restlessly in his grave, we can say that we've seen a genuine Greenville musician.

stone eagle at hot springs national park

Tuesday, April 13

In the morning we drove down some country roads to Hot Springs. We lunched at the Arlington Hotel, where Al Capone and entourage used to take the entire fourth floor. The story goes that, in ancient times, the Native American tribes agreed that weapons could not be used, and that wars could not be fought, in the Hot Springs area. All peoples could put down their weapons and bathe together in peace. When the white settlers came, they continued the tradition, and Prohibition-era gangsters from all over the U.S. would not fight each other while vacationing in Hot Springs.

detail, wall mural, arlington hotel in hot springs, arkansas -- they had 
spoonbills on the mural too

We visited the uncapped hot springs across from the Arlington, hiked up Hot Springs Mountain, and came down the Dead Chiefs Trail to the Open Spring. If you have not visited the springs, you might think the bright green algae is an artifact of the image processing. Nope. The algae is really that bright green in real life.

hot spring national park

We browsed the books at the Golden Leaves, but weren't inspired to purchase any books of ancient wisdom to add to our collection. I think we might have been a little nervous. Then it was time to check into our bed and breakfast,

where we got married
after only 20 years and 6 months of living together. Then we had some excellent steaks at the Brick House Cafe, where the hostess penned us a poem on the theme of "from Hot Springs to bed springs" in honor of the newlyweds. Then we went back to our spacious room and opened a bottle of champagne.

OK, OK. It does seem a little sneaky. But you can't invite one person to your wedding without inviting everyone, so the usual choice is to throw a Princess Diana style bash that leaves you bankrupt, stressed, and miserable, or else to throw a more modest ceremony in the full knowledge that you will be leaving someone out and hurting someone's feelings. In fact, we went through something similar not too long ago, with someone we thought a close friend, who clearly didn't think we were close enough friends to be invited to his wedding, and, well, it just isn't a pleasant feeling. But spending a zillion bucks to keep everybody happy who needs to be kept happy -- and, by the by, forcing relatives to drive or fly from out of town to attend what is, after all, a fairly tedious ritual -- nah. And if I had to wear white and be photographed with flowers, well, it just wasn't going to happen. So the secret wedding.

Even my mom didn't know in advance. It was just me and the BF. And I didn't wear white and try to fob myself off as the world's most well-aged virgin. I wore the blue cashmere dress with my white triple layer pearl necklace.

And so to the champagne...

one of many angel and cherub statues in the garden at the gables inn

Part Two of our southern Arkansas adventure, Explosion at the Butterfly Factory, is coming soon.

Hummingbird Report: Lots of chasing. Both male and female RTHU present.

Kite Report: Still here, still active. I just saw a Mockingbird chasing one of the Kites.

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