Why I love Arkansas

I am so excited to have Kathryn on the blog today! Kathryn is a 6th-grader and an award-winning writer. She loves being outside in her beloved home state, Arkansas. She enjoys reading while she isn’t writing and doing fun crafts with her mom. Her family loves the outdoors which has influenced her and her writing.

Today Katheryn writes about why she loves Arkansas. And I think any Arkansas lover will agree, it couldn’t be said any better.

Why I love Arkansas

By Kathryn Holmes

Arkansas is a wonderful state, the one I have come to know at least. Called the natural state with good reason. I was born here, and have lived here my whole twelve years. The memories I have made here reflect my opinion on it. This state is full of many beauties, the people, the scenery, the places. I believe that Arkansas is very underrated. There is always more to every place you go than meets the eye. Anyone dissatisfied in their experience visiting this marvelous state must be doing something wrong, going to the wrong places, or not digging deep enough. To say it in few words, if you have not yet realized, I really love my home state.

“We are not watching people live on television, we are out living ourselves.” A quote from my dad, an outdoors man. He always is telling our family this on the many escapades through woods, creeks, and on our float trips. On one of many trips we floated the Buffalo River, one of our favorites.

It feels like just yesterday I was just waking up to a cooled nose, and chilled ears. Crawling out of my tent to a fire crackling. Birds chirping softly still in their morning haze. This specific trip was special to me because of the new opportunities and experiences it provided me with. It was one of the first trips I went on that I was an independent camper. With my own tent, kayak, and dry bags I basically could have gone on this trip alone if I wanted to. We had our friends with us, their son and daughter with them. The chilly trip was started in October, a good month if you don’t want to be hot while sleeping in your tent, for my Dad’s birthday. Our group was really excited to start a new adventure.

We put in at Woolum with no trouble, a good sign. Tipping over on a chilly morning is one of the worst things that can happen to you. The river being high helped us out a lot in some slow spots, also lessening severe rapids. The flow was fast and the water ice cold. For second timers, our friends were doing really well. For this float we took my kayak, my dad’s kayak, my mom’s one-person canoe, and an extra kayak and canoe for our friends. We had our dry bags packed with food and clothes, prepared for anything. I had a cooler in the back of my boat, and this turned out to be very convenient for me, being able to just reach behind me and grab stuff at will.

That day was the warmest of all the float days, so I had my jacket off for the main extent of that afternoon. At the end of the day we stopped on a rock bar about hallway to our put-out at grinders ferry. The sky was dimming, and it was time to start setting up camp. I was glad, my stomach was ready for some dinner.

Food on a trip is very important, you have to eat, and also figure out what you can camp with. We usually bring pre-baked brats and hot dogs, easy to warm over a fire. Another camp favorite is instant mashed potatoes. These are heavenly at the so-called time of “Camper’s midnight” at 8:30. Some people would think that we were roughing it, but we were camping in comfort, not glamping, but comfortably sleeping in tents on a rock bar.

Waking up the next morning was a bit shocking. It was very, very cold. I was so glad I slept in my warmest jacket. Downside of sleeping in a tent by yourself, despite the room, is not having as much body heat causing it to be a bit chilly. Crawling out of my tent, I remembered that this was my last night. We had spent the night at the put in, and this was my final night sleeping on the river. I was sad, but it was too cold to just stand at my tent door. I scurried over to the fire and started to warm my frigid fingers.

Sitting in the calm, misty morning by a crackling fire is the perfect time to think or day dream. I recalled the previous evening, where I hung back as we floated through a woody area, seeing the slightest color change in the trees, admiring the beautiful scenery. Even though it got me quite behind the others, the beauty was worth it. A moment of peace in the swirling water.

I was awoken from my daydream by the offer of hot chocolate, a beverage anyone would except on this morning. The steamy liquid warmed me up inside, and when breakfast was over I was ready to pack up. I had a light load to carry, my boat being a small one. Once I got my stuff together and in my kayak, I helped the others who had more gear than I did. Back on the river for our final leg of the trip. Thankfully, it was a rather short distance to the take out. I was ready to go home, but sad to leave. Fulfilled and content, we drove away, me wondering what our next Arkansas adventure will be.

Every year, or at least in the past few years, we have gone to the area around the Buffalo River, around Jasper and Ponca. We find a place to stay with some of our friends and spend our spring break hiking and eating good food.

One of my favorite hikes is in Boxley Valley called Lost Valley. It is quite popular, and well worth the short two miles to get to the beautiful water fall and amazing views it provides. Besides the view, this hike is very special. The best part is climbing up into the cave back in the water fall.

On this trip, I climbed back into the cave with my friend and dad, my mom being claustrophobic. Part of the hike goes off on another trail, leading up some rock stairs to the water fall. The scariest part, in my opinion, is the small crevice you have to hop over. It isn’t very big, or over anything scary, except for some water on its way to the opening of the fall and cave. My dad usually hops over first to help us across the crevice.

The rocks after the hop are a bit slippery, and you have to scale a few of them to get to the entrance to another part of the cave. In the second part, we have to turn on our head lamps. I, unluckily, got the back of the pack. It gives me the heebie-jeebies to look back and see darkness. We squeeze through what looks like two rocks very close together, making a narrow pathway. The dripping water has made a shelf around where my hands rest, and everything is damp. After that narrow walkway comes the semi-challenging part. We crawl under a rock shelf into a short spot. By “short spot” I mean that we were bear crawling in between to slabs of rock. It isn’t the most comfortable, but it is an important landmark, the crawl space being very close to the waterfall.

The obstacle after that was a boulder that we had to crawl under. This was the last part before the main attraction of the hike. Coming out onto to a sort of rocky bank, I looked up in awe. Water was pouring from a spot in the ceiling that was so high up I couldn’t even see it. We all stood and looked around. A small pool in the middle of the cave was surrounded by rocks and the caves walls.

My dad took some pictures so we could treasure the moment, and also show our friends. We all had a little fun spooking the hikers coming in, turning off our lights and then turning them back on suddenly. To mix things up, we decided to use a different way to get out of the cave. Another path that was similar to the beginning of the trail would let us skip the bear crawling, so we used that route. It wasn’t much different from the other path, just without the crawling. It spat us out back to the beginning and we waved to our group. One of my favorite hikes of all time, and well worth the trip.

It is hard to not love where you came from, especially if those memories are pleasant and full of many outdoor escapades and experiences you can see people do on TV, but are doing yourself. I love my family and friends, and I feel lucky to grow up in somewhere where I have many close relationships. Living in Arkansas, I can truly say that, yes this is a natural state. You can float rivers, hike into caves, and develop a community to sustain happiness for however long you reside here. I could have been born anywhere, but I was born here. My heart is here with my family, with my experiences, with my community. That is why I love Arkansas. It is where I reside, where I laugh, where I make friends, where I develop personal connections. Arkansas is not only where I live, it is my Home.

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