Thursday, March 11, 2010

Petit Jean

I love this picture!!! Nancy took it as an afterthought, but I love the image it conveys. Gavin and I are right on the very edge of the abyss with Cedar Creek canyon spread out before us. We are dwarfed by the surroundings - it captures so well the feeling of standing there looking down into the valley below.

Arkansas pleasantly surprised me and I enjoyed every moment of our visit. The scenery was at times breathtaking and I've never met such friendly people. I don't think I could have asked for more from our trip.

The morning after the marathon we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel in Little Rock and decided to explore the capitol building before leaving town. We wandered around and inside the complex, and a friendly lady took this picture of us on the steps looking back into downtown.

After lunch we drove out of Little Rock and hit the back roads that would take us up to Petit Jean state park - our home for the next few nights. It was a scenic drive, and we stopped at Lake Maumelle for a break before getting to the park mid-afternoon.

Petit Jean mountain is named after the legend of a French girl who disguised herself as a cabin boy to accompany her sweetheart to the new world. She fell ill, died and was buried on the mountain (there's even a gravesite for her). The park itself was Arkansas's first State park and owes much of its early development to the Civilian Conservation Corp, including trail building and the impressive and rustic Mather lodge.

I can't say enough about the staff at the park. They treated us like old friends - I went to check in and pick up the keys to our cabin, and Nancy must have wondered what had happened to me because I was in there for a good 20 minutes chatting away (it seems the Welsh and the Arkansans both love to chat).

We loved our cabin - it had a wooden swing outside (which got a lot of use), and was a very cozy and romantic getaway in the woods. The first night we were there the weather turned a little cold and it rained during the night. It was wonderful to lie there watching the flames from the fireplace dance on the ceiling and listening to the rain falling on the roof.

The next morning we awoke to a beautiful new day. The rain of the previous night had given way to a wonderfully fresh morning, and I enjoyed a leisurely time drinking my coffee on the swing.

We'd earmarked the day for some hiking and headed off down the trail toward the Cedar Falls. It was a good few miles hike across some fairly technical and steep trail, but Gavin was determined to be "the leader" and once again showed he has great potential as a trail runner - I wish I had half of his balance and poise on the trails. He set a good pace which saw us pass and stay well ahead of all the other hikers, which meant we had the falls all to ourselves.

We hiked back to the trailhead, found a cafe and got some sandwiches (along with some delicious homemade butter pecan fudge) for lunch. We ate them on another trail overlooking the same falls we'd hiked to in the morning. I'd figured that Gavin would be out on his feet, but he still had a boundless supply of energy so we spent the rest of the day playing in the woods "hunting bears" around the cabin.

We ate supper at the Mather lodge which had a panoramic picture window overlooking Cedar Creek canyon, providing a spectacular backdrop to an equally impressive sunset - the perfect way to end a perfect day.

The food was pretty good fare too - and huge portions to boot!!!

We drove home yesterday, taking our time and meandering lazily through back highways, byways and twisty mountain roads. We came down through the town of Hot Springs, which had the feel of a quaint old English town and eventually connected back up to the Interstate which we followed back over the border into Texas. We got home late last night with both boys fast asleep - Gavin had managed to stay awake all day before succumbing to sleep about 20 minutes outside of Austin.

And a great homecoming present - had a letter waiting for us saying that Gavin's school transfer request (which I'd waited in line overnight for back in February) had been successful.

That put the final swirl of icing on a hugely enjoyable vacation cake.

1 comment:

DavidH said...

Dig the pics. I am about ready to pack up the family and head north.