Vacation day 5: Ozark National Forest

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Today was the main nature day of our trip: a short hike in Ozark National Forest to Whitaker's Point. After eating from the breakfast buffet at The Filling Station, we stopped at Subway and I picked up a ham and turkey sub to bring on the hike as lunch.

After an hour and a half drive on narrow and curvy country highways, and another 20 minutes on a steeply inclined and even narrower and curvier gravel road, we reached Whitaker's Point Trailhead where the sign informed us it's a 3.1 mile round-trip hike to the outcropping. We parked the car and headed onto the trail with our backpacks in tow, and I was soaking wet within minutes. It was very hot and I'm pretty out of shape.

Small waterfall and enclosed shelter created by outcropping of limestone

Along the way, we crossed over several brooks, and about halfway to the Point we took a slight detour when we saw one of the brooks create a small waterfall. We jumped down the 8ish foot drop into a picturesque scene: the small waterfall creating a small pool flowing into a brook and the outcropping creating an expansive shelter, complete with campfire remnants and makeshift stone seats from previous campers. An extremely worthwhile detour.

Once we were back on the trail, we came across several vantage points with great views of the valley and surrounding hills, each one better than the last; endless trees, the view was gorgeous. After about four outlooks I thought might be the one, we found it and were sure of it. The outcropping extends straight out of the hillside creating a perfect plateau. Being careful to not get too close to the edge—from which falling would mean certain death—we stopped at our destination to take in the view and eat the food we brought with us. Aside from a single red barn far in the distance, nothing but miles of rolling, unfiltered nature stretched to the reaches of our vision. It was without question the best view I've been able to witness.

Me on Whitaker's Point

I'm normally pretty afraid of heights, but over the course of this trip I've had the opportunity to drive across extremely long and narrow bridges spanning huge rivers, look down from massive hills in Arkansas, and peer into nearly endless depths in Mammoth Cave without much problem. I'm not sure why. I think it's probably because we drove halfway across the country to see these marvels of nature, making being afraid to step near an edge seem pretty ridiculous. The contrast from my normal fear was especially noticeable here on Whitaker's Point where dis Hopefully this fear remains conquered once the thrill of the trip settles.

After about a half hour it was time to begin the trek back. It was past noon by this point, which means that it was even hotter and that bugs were out, attracted to my saltwater-covered body. On top of that, the walk back is almost entirely uphill, I'm in pretty terrible shape, and I had less than a quarter of my water bottle remaining after leaving the Point. The walk back was pretty rough. I really need to start exercising once I'm back home.

Originally we planned to visit the nearby Buffalo River afterward, but I sort of wanted to die at this point so we headed back to town instead.

After showering, changing, and recharging in the hotel room, we had some time to kill until the Illusionist show began at 8 o'clock. We went to check out Quigley Castle, but turns out it's closed on Thursdays so that was postponed until tomorrow. Because we were never able to find any springs, we stopped by the visitor's center to learn where they are. The man running the desk handed us a map with all the springs labeled and recommended we check out Blue Spring, about a 15 minute drive away. Enough to kill an hour and a half until our dinner reservations at 6.

Eerie auditorium at Blue Spring, where we skipped the documentaries

Blue Spring was indeed blue. The $10 admission included two ten-minute videos about the spring and the surrounding area (which we skipped), and a walk around the spring. We didn't skip the walk around the spring, and we also paid 50 cents for small brown pellets that we fed to the fish in the dammed-up spring water. There was a snake coiled up below the pier from which we fed the fish, and after about ten attempts of me trying to hit it with a food pellet, the fish eating the missed pellets scared him away. We dangled our limbs into the cold, flowing spring water for a few minutes, finished the walk around the water and headed off, finishing the hour-long self-guided "tour" in about 20 minutes.

After the walk around the water and the drive back and forth, we didn't have a lot of time remaining so we headed downtown. The Birdcage art studio was closed the day before, so we stopped there first. There was a beautiful photo of a nearby bridge in autumn on canvas that I really liked, but I begrudgingly decided against dropping the $75.

We had dinner at The Grotto, the highest-class restaurant in Eureka Springs's Historic Downtown. A hipstery place with interesting options and ambiance. I had the day's special, a brisket pot pie, with a baked potato with horseradish yogurt. Both were pretty good. The pot pie was interesting, the brisket brought with it noticeable accent of barbecue. I don't think I would order it again, but I'm glad I had it.

Finally, we attended the Illusionist and the Medium show at the Intrigue Theater. It was indeed intriguing; it was a great show. I haven't seen many live illusionists, but Sean-Paul is an amazing performer and very charismatic. The tricks weren't anything incredibly astounding, but they were fun to watch and think about. I was actually chosen to be the skeptic subject of his voodoo doll trick. He stabbed the doll twice and I felt one of them, though it felt a lot more like something nondescriptly brushing my shoulder than voodoo magic. I'm not exactly convinced, but I'm definitely not skeptical of his skill as an illusionist and a performer.

The second act of the show featured the medium Juliana Fay. I expected it to be a typical fortune-telling show where the performer just spews generalities and statistically-backed guesses that are bound to be correct given a large enough audience. Juliana was nothing like that however, her blindfolded guesses of audience member's personal objects and background were extremely impressive. I still don't believe in ghosts or the concept of conversing with spirits, but I have no idea how she pulled it off. It was great.

Tomorrow we're off to St. Louis!

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