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Day 1: Arkansas

Day 1: Arkansas

Most of the time when our alarm clock goes off we hit the snooze. It goes off the second time and we either begrudgingly get out of bed, or we hit the snooze again. If you are like me you have to set your alarm clock at least a half hour earlier than you intend to wake up because this process repeats until you can’t fall back asleep without dreaming about your alarm’s incessant call.

The night of a trip is nothing like this. You wake up before your alarm goes off. Only 2 hours until you have to get up. Fall back asleep. The next time your eyes are open, it’s only 1 hour and 45 minutes until your alarm calls. It is one of those rare moments where you anticipate your alarm rather than dread it.

This morning was one of those days.

It was the start of my Grand Adventure tour, to which I call Caves, Waves & Future Paves. Aptly named, as the goals of this 77 day tour is to a) visit potential grad schools b)collect data, photos and other information from a broad spectrum of caves throughout the U.S. for my own research and c) to relax among the worlds wonders (including friends, family, mountains, canyons, geologic marvels and one of my personal favorite: coastlines).

Starting out in Missouri I will be doing two loops: My Eastern loop, which I started today, a short 3 day stop at home, and then my Western loop.(See the map below)

 

My first stop was just South of the Missouri border in Arkansas: Cosmic Caverns. Along the way I also had a plan of selling some of my stone creations, so I have produced a dozen “cave candle holders” and have them with me. (go to www.geojeep.com/stone-creations to see a picture of it) The Cosmic Caverns gift shop purchased two of them, and seemed likely to want to sell more. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Cosmic Caverns Berryville, AR May 9, 2011

 

 

The tour of Cosmic Caverns was fantastic. Taking tours on Mondays seems to be beneficial. I was on tour with one couple and the tour guide. The tour guide was very informative and knew a lot about the geology, mineralogy and history of the cave. I was very impressed since I often run into cave tours that know very little about the cave geology. I scribbled an entire page worth of notes in my field book, and noted the size of different items I used as scale so I could reference them later. The tour only costs $14 for general admission, so if any of you are near the area I highly recommend it. There are lots of beautiful formations to take pictures of and the group that works there is very friendly and knowledgeable. If they don’t know the answer they will try to find it for you.

 

Cosmic Caverns Berryville, AR May 9, 2011

 

My next stop was at another cave that was only a 30-40 minute drive from Cosmic: Mystic Caverns. Here I was going to actually tour two caves owned on the property: Mystic Caverns and Crystal Dome.

I was the only one who arrived for the next tour, and while they don’t normally allow a tour to go with just one person for safety reasons, the lady allowed me to go because she knew I was doing some research and data collection. Going on tours alone goes nice and fast, and especially if you are someone like myself who has been in enough caves that they don’t have to repeat the same script they have rehearsed uncountable times. I was able to get photographs of almost everything I wanted, with different items of scale.

Mystic Caverns, me in front of a large bell, May 9, 2011

Mystic Caverns is not a very big cave, but it is pretty well decorated- speleothems are in great numbers as compared to the size of the cave itself, although many of them are no longer depositing.

Crystal Dome. May 9, 2011.

Crystal dome is right next to Mystic, and run by the same private owner, but is not known to connect. While the tour route is pretty short the cave itself is much larger. It has a beautiful dome that is covered in draperies, and one of the biggest pieces of cave bacon I have ever seen. (Although the speleothem density is much more sparse than it’s neighbor, Mystic).

Crystal Dome. A large piece of cave "bacon". May 9, 2011

 

The drive from Mystic Caverns, which is located near Harrison, AR, to Russellville, AR where I was to meet my friend from high school was a beautiful drive. The weather was sunny and warm, so I was able to take the Jeep’s top down and enjoy the air. The view from the top of the mountains was breath taking.

As with any of my trips, I did have an almost crippling mishap. I had put my Jeep top down after touring Mystic Caverns and Crystal Dome and slid my side windows to my soft top under the back of my top, folded down. I was driving south on the curvy, steeply-graded, 7 highway that runs from Jasper, AR to Russellville, AR and I noticed a flash of black in my rear view mirror. One of my side windows had flown out onto the highway into the northbound lane. I pulled over into the nearest driveway, made a u turn and had to stop, mid highway with flashers on, to reclaim my lost window. Without that window, rain would not be a fun weather event. Luckily the time of day I was traveling afforded very little traffic to fight. Close call!

I am now in Russellville at a good friend of mine’s home, enjoying grilled chicken and other good food with her husband and her neighbors. The night is beautiful, and they live right next to a bayou. Tomorrow morning she is going to take me to Petit Jean National Park to see a 90′ tall waterfall, and then I will be treking my way in my Jeep with the top down to Mississippi so I can camp for the night.

It’s funny how we spend life dreading some alarm clocks and anticipating others. This Summer will be a part of my life where every alarm clock will be something I look forward to. I think it will prove to be a great lesson in life. Every day we wake, whether it be to the sun rising and the birds chirping or that incessant buzzing of an alarm, should be cherished. Each alarm allows you to start the journey of a new day.

 

Until my next alarm clock, here’s a couple more pictures of my journey!

-Nicole

Me, near the Buffalo River

The Buffalo National Scenic Riverway Campground, access to the river next to beautiful bluffs. May 9, 2011.

Looking back at my Jeep standing on the beach of the Buffalo River 5/9/11

I pulled over to look at the Boston Mountains along 7 highway fairly often. 5/9/11

Looking back at the Mountains at a lookout, South of Jasper, AR. 5/9/11

May 9th, 2011 | 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Day 1: Arkansas”

  • 05/10/11

    tanya nevils says:

    I will be waiting for new posts as much as your are waiting for the alarm to sound!!! :)

      05/10/11

      tanya nevils says:

      *you’re* dang typo!

  • 05/10/11

    Diane says:

    Beautiful pictures, wish I were with you!

    05/11/11

    Don says:

    Drive safe, be cautious and have fun.

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