Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hiking (practically) in our backyard

Arkansas, the Natural State - if you've never visited, that's a catchy slogan, but it's hard to conjure up just what it might mean. Once you live here, you realize that it's almost totally insufficient to describe just how stunning this state is. The natural beauty all around us here in Northwest Arkansas is something I never take for granted. In our four years here, I've really only scratched the surface of all of the amazing outdoor activities within a couple hours' drive.

A tremendous - and unexpected - benefit of starting this blog and then writing down my Life List has been the increased willingness to just go DO it. Whatever it is, more and more I'm inclined to take action; to make the trip; to go on that adventure. Forget the fatalistic never knowing if you'll have another tomorrow; it can be as simple as not knowing what the weather will be like once you do finally make time. I'm super comfortable with saying the laundry can wait; the dishes will get done; we'll go through the drive through or pick up a pizza.

Last Saturday was another one of those remarkably beautiful Saturdays here in Northwest Arkansas. Justin was in Little Rock for class, so it was me and the kids at home. I didn't have any pressing work to do; there were no scheduled activities after soccer and Lego League were done. The kids usually spend Saturdays playing with friends in the neighborhood, playing together in the playroom, or in Caroline's case, reading. I had the itch to get outside for some activity, though, and to spend time together.

Mt. Kessler is only fifteen minutes from our house (and that's if I hit the red lights), with easy hiking trails that anyone can manage. In the fall, it erupts in glorious colors as the trees change, and for a couple of years I've said that one of these days, I'm going to go hike it. October of this year rolled around, and I had not yet made good on my pronouncement. While the leaves hadn't started changing yet, the day was just beautiful - blue skies, warm sunshine, and a promise of a breeze combined to make it picture perfect. I texted my friend Mary for tips on the best way to reach Mt. Kessler's trails, she offered to meet us there, and our afternoon plans were set!

If you're local and have never hiked Mt. Kessler, put it on your list! It's a very easy trail for legs of all lengths and strides of all sizes. We headed for the south side to the new lot off of Cato Springs Road, where there was plenty of parking. The only downside was it is a bit of a walk from the parking lot to where the mountain trail actually begins, but the path is well maintained and easily traversed. While we were on foot, there were also plenty of mountain bikers up there with us. To Caroline's delight, the trail is also perfect for dogs!
Once up on the mountain, there are several scenic overlooks to take a break and look down on the Boston Mountains in the distance. I can only imagine how breathtaking it will be in a week or so when the leaves begin to show their fiery oranges, reds and yellows of an Ozark fall. We walked for about an hour and then turned around to head back to the car. We didn't make it over the mountain, but next time I think we'll bring some water with us and plan for a longer hike to try and at least get to the top. Given how easy it is to get there, I hope to go again when the reds, oranges and yellows begin their fall show.
There was nothing fancy about our plans that day, nothing expensive about the outing. It was simply a chance to spend time together with my kids and my friend, unplugged and active. Y'all come see me here in Arkansas - we can discover some more of the Natural State together.

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