Thursday, May 20, 2010
Goodbye to Arkansas
I am now in a Super Eight hotel room in Lamar, MO, the nearest hotel we could find to Prairie State Park. When we woke up this morning on Mount Magazine, it was very rainy -- we were woken in the night by thunder booming through the valley -- and as we left, a thick fog was rolling over the mountain.
Luckily this bad weather did not last long, and by the time we got to Fayetteville, there were blue skies and warm weather. We stopped at Prairie Grove battlefield outside of Fayetteville, mostly for Greenturtle, who is a Civil War buff. I SHOULD find this Civil War stuff more interesting -- I do have a BA in history -- but the Civil War has just never been my thing, and to me "history" does not mean pondering where the artillery was located or which troop charged up which hill. Just tell me who won. However, I certainly don't object to stopping at battlefields, because birds generally like them. I remember seeing some very nice tufted titmice at Antietam and a red-headed woodpecker at Gettysburg, and that was before I started listing. (On a travel, non-birding note, unless you absolutely NEED to go to Gettysburg for research or something, my advice is, avoid it, unless you like being swarmed by tour bus after tour bus and elbowing other tourists every step of the way -- and I went in the off season!)
This battlefield was not particularly exciting -- neither Greenturtle or I had ever heard of the battle before -- but there were some nice birds. I got a couple more state birds, the yellow-billed cuckoo and the Baltimore oriole, and enjoyed watching a huge flock of waxwings flying from tree to tree, and I also saw three of my favorite wren, the Carolina, two of them singing at great volume. In the large fields, the buzzing of dozens of dickcissels filled the air.
After this stop, we ate lunch in town and stocked up on some picnic supplies at a natural foods co-op -- hooray, I got more Lara bars at last, there IS civilization in Arkansas -- and headed back for the highway. Greenturtle seemed quite taken with Fayetteville, probably because it's the first town we've seen yet that doesn't seem...well...I don't want to be flamed by irate Arkansans should any of them read this, so I'll just say it's more like what we're used to. In both a good and a bad way: this is the first area during our visit that's been blighted by McMansion sprawl.
Just as we were leaving I saw a sign that said Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, so of course I had to stop. At first I was bummed out because we only had an hour before it closed but it was quite small, so that turned out OK. I was glad we stopped because of the adorable chickens they had, brown ones with black speckles and extremely cute little chicks. One of my dreams is to live somewhere that I can keep chickens.
After that, OMG, the traffic!! It was "rush hour," and there was way more traffic than I would have expected between Fayetteville and Bentonville. We did not stop to see the Wal-Mart visitor center, even though the highway sign proclaimed it an area attraction. Even though Sunwiggy works at Wal-Mart, I hate that store.
Finally...finally...we got close to the Prairie Park. By this point I felt grimy and tired and crabby and not fit for anything but a shower and then sitting on a bed communing with my laptop. As the last of the Ozarks dropped away, we came to...wide open spaces. The evening light, the play of colors and shadows on the vast open sky, the green fields (not as much corn as Illinois, quite attractive) stretching from horizon to horizon.... It was not dramatic and wild and craggy like the mountains, but it was so pretty and restful and calm. Looking across the fields I felt...at peace. At home. I guess, in the past eight years, despite having to get acclimated to it, I really have become a flatlander, because I looked across the open fields, and found them good.