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March 19-20: Foss, OK to Mountainair, AR

We're home! Or at least it feels that way now that we are in the land of hills and trees and wildflowers. This is our third stay at Lake Fort Smith State Park in Arkansas, and our time here was just as restful and enjoyable as our other stays. We opted for two night here, so we would have a full day to hike and tend to "household" tasks.

The delicate, nodding flowers of trout lily were growing alongside ferns and spring beauties.

The Ozark Highlands Trail originates at the park and extends about 270 miles to the Missouri border north of Lake Norfork. We hiked just a few miles of it, looping back along the the Shepherd Springs Trail. Along much of our hike, we could see the eerily blue-green-silver water of the lake. Glen's theory is the water gets its color from the clay in the surrounding hills that washes down into the lake in various streams and stays suspended in the lake's water.

The water of Lake Shepherd Spring Reservoir is a distinctive color I cannot really find a word for.

It felt so good to walk through the forest filled with some familiar trees, with sweet gum being one of the dominanant species. Sweet gum seed pods were scattered across the trail and forest floor, along with an occasional sycamore seed pods.

Sweet gum seed pods were plentiful on the ground. Sycamore were less common.

Black cherry, nut and musclewood trees grew throughout the forest we hiked through.

Other spring ephemerals included mayapple, trillium and what I am guessing is woodland phlox.

Glen looked forward to seeing the unsual rock formations along the trail. We lovingly refer to them as poopy rocks, because...well, that's what they look like. They are likely fossilized aquatic organism trails.

Very interesting fossilized rocks along the Ozark Highlands Trail.

Completely uncooperative dogs when it comes to having their photos taken.

Glen checks the vernal pools for frog eggs. None found - strange.

We also saw bloodroot and toothwort blooming, along with some other spring ephemerals.

Young nut tree saplings were also unfurling their leaves from within their destinctive buds.

Just this time, I will spare you close-up photos of lichens, but here are a few that include lichens. : )

All in all, the hike was delightful and rejuvenating. I told Glen that Lake Fort Smith State Park is in my top five places we've stayed on this trip - with my criteria including peacefulness, beauty, private campsites and nice facilities.

Our kitchen set-up is contained in a bin for ease of access and organization.

Something I've been meaning to do is to take a photo of our "kitchen", both to share on this blog and as a reminder for our next trip. We get by with a single burner induction stove, three essential pans (one for boiling water for coffee and tea, one for cooking pasta and stews and the cast iron pan for stir fries and such. We really didn't need the plates since we pretty much eat straight outta the pans. The left hand bin contains bottles of various spices, including Glen's hot sauce, and the right hand bin has our morning beverage supplies.

We also have a cooler which plugs into the car or one of the batteries Glen brought along. We've needed to buy ice a couple times to tide us over. In addition to the cooler, we have a bin of dry/non-refridgerated food. We replenish the cooler with vegetables and other essential items every couple days.

Our sleeping set-up is similarly paired down to essential items only. Our tent footprint is about 44 square feet and is tall enough to sit up without our heads touching the roof. We add the silver tarp under the outer fly on evenings when the temps are going to be chillier than about 45 degrees.

We have four z-rest mats (one each for under our thermarest blow-up mattresses and one each for the dogs). We also have a light sleeping bag we spread on top of the mattresses to prevent heat loss below, and two heavier sleeping bags we zip together and spread on top of us, comforter style. We purchased the (formerly) white comforter early in the trip, when it became apparent we were going to freeze our asses off without it - that goes under our sleeping bags. And we have a postage stamp sized electric blanket for added warmth on those evening when the temps drop down into the 30s and 20s. We each have a little pillow and that's about it. It's actually very cozy.

Our cozy little traveling bedroom provides all we need for a good night's sleep.

The dogs' comfort is always important! : )

One other item to mention is our handy little lightweight chairs. They are super comfortable used as Twyla is demonstrating above, but we've also figured out a hack to turn them into what I refer to as bark-aloungers, using our blow-up mattresses in combination with a flipped over chair to make an incredibly comfortable recliner. I'll try to remember to get a photo of Glen in one.

That's all for now. As I write this, we are wending our way to Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, near Memphis. More soon!

Please forgive any typos


Your smiling, relaxed faces tell of time well spent on a very good vacation😊


Wow, the color of the lake is amazing.

Tribal Scribal
Tribal Scribal
Mar 21, 2023
Replying to

I went to the color chart and came up with a teal shade for Lake Shepherd Spring Reservoir


Mar 21, 2023

You heading straight on 40 through Tennessee,what a long state


Mar 21, 2023

Sweet gum is that what is all over my yard,what a nuisance I have thousands of them ,when I moved to my house,34 years ago those trees were small I should have cut them down then ,way to big now . I see how you got your tent comfy with the mattresses but how you fit that all in your suv electric with all that and the two dogs is a wonder.We have been cold the last three weeks but today it’s 62 ,I’m back to work and I may go out west in 20 days .

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