Arkansas autumn is amazing. Ours is not called the natural state by mistake. Arkansas is beautiful all year. Fall color accentuates its loveliness.
A few weeks ago, a group of mothers and I loaded up 15 Girl Scouts and drove them to their own Camp NOARK near Huntsville, Ark., to experience this new season up close. I know I’ve shared before, I like to camp. However, I am not a fan anything that creeps and crawls on the ground. These girls were participating in Buffalo River Adventure Patch days to raise funds to help keep the Girl Scout Camp NOARK open and maintained.
Our first task as parent chaperones was inspecting the cabins to spray for insect pests. I didn’t volunteer to help with this. The two moms stuck doing the job discovered a baby snake in one of the cabins. Very few of our troop members are country girls. We were all pretty creeped out by a baby snake winding its way up one of the cots. Thankfully, the reserve ranger came and shooed it on its merry way and the girls were able to set up camp.
Later in the evening underneath a beautiful starry sky the girls cooked their own dinner, complete with hot dogs, popcorn and s’mores over a bonfire. We were joined by reserve rangers and friends of the camp for a talk about safety during hunting season. This was followed by several rounds of campfire songs. It had been a long day and the girls were ready for bed. The adult chaperones followed.
In my own creaky cot I was willing myself to sleep under the noisy tin roof without thinking about creatures lurking in the night! After what seemed like an hour of sleep, we started waking early. Bunsen burner coffee was brewed, kids fed and cars were packed as we set out on a day of adventure near the Buffalo River.
Our first stop was the Whitely/Villines Grist Mill tour near Boxley, Ark. This was a special tour of the old mill building and old fishing cabins. The mill was built in 1870 and gave the scouts a little taste of Arkansas history. Next, we traveled over to the historic Kingston square. The girls explored the old Bunch store and all of its antique treasures. Our hungry campers feasted at the local café on the square for lunch and topped it off with old fashioned ice cream cones from the counter at the Bunch store.
We then headed out to the Ponca colorfest where scouts interviewed local artists and helped paint a natural state mural. The girls were able to explore at the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission’s Elk Education center. The story of this beautiful herd of wild animals is incredible. The wildlife in Arkansas is breathtaking. We finished our trip with a hike up the Lost Valley trail. The short hike ended at a magnificent waterfall in an enchanted Arkansas setting. The final stop was on the way home to collect their hard-earned patch.
I’m not a big fan of giving kids extravagant gifts like i-Watches and X-boxes. I’m a fan of giving kids experiences in their natural surroundings and passing on life skills to the next generation. This event was a great experience for the adults and kids to unplug and explore. We were also able to raise some additional funds for Camp NOARK which is near and dear to my heart.


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