Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hot Springs AR to Fort Smith AR

Tuesday , May 8, 2012
Great night sleeping in the Sprinter – sometimes the first night out you do not sleep very well but not this time!  We had comfortable temperature and quiet campground.  Coffee made with the hot springs pure water was very good – I just did not make enough !

We headed out of camp just as it was beginning to rain – sounds like yesterday leaving Memphis but this time we were going to be headed north on AR 7 to Interstate 40. We would be traveling through national forest area so we were expecting curvy roads.  The first hour was steady rain but not as heavy as yesterday. The mountains were not high but the road was definitely curvy. The curves ranged from 25 MPH to 40 MPH. There were a few vistas but mostly too fogged in to see anything. There were some villages along the 60+ mile trip and even a couple small towns that looked like they were primarily vacation or summer homes. The bridges were very interesting – we passed a CCC camp remnants - so were on the alert for CCC projects. It was the bridges…some were beautifully arched riveted steel bridges. The lower sides of the bridges were not concrete as many seen from the 30’s but were very attractive stonework similar to those seen at Biltmore.  In a few places they had removed the stonework on one side of the road to widen the road….most were still narrow and beautiful work.
AR 7 to Dardanelle
Finally we came to Dardanelle. This was one of the locations where the Butterfield Stagecoaches had to be ferried across the Arkansas River.  Another notable site was a 400-500 year old oak standing on the south side of the river.  We noted this street along the Arkansas River in Dardanelle had a total of 8 very nice homes for sale in the 3-4 blocks we drove along to reach the oak.  They were high above the river so don’t think it was flooding issues – probably the economy. Dardanelle is really a suburban area of Russellville which is on I 40.  

The 400-500 yr Oak on Arkansas River

We took I 40 west towards Fort Smith.  As we approached Fort Smith we decided to head north on I 540 to Fayetteville where we would visit the lady who sent Ben the Butterfield Trail books when he first began his research. She works for the Fayetteville Visitor Center and they are instrumental in working with the Dept of the Interior to have the Butterfield established as a National Historic Trail System of the National Park Service. Most of the work is done and they hope to have it on line by 2014. We anticipated a quick trip up the 60 miles of interstate, a short visit, quick lunch, and return down the interstate. More on that later!

The interstate was fairly new – had huge concrete bridges spanning deep valleys. The Butterfield Trail came through these mountains – we were bordering on the Ozarks – and could see the railroad and an old road far below in the valley. 
I 540 to Fayetteville
 We reached Fayetteville and stopped in a large parking area somewhere near the University of Arkansas and ate lunch. Usually when traveling we eat a snack lunch – cheese, crackers, fruit, veggies, dip etc.  Then we headed for the Fayetteville Visitor Center.  Downtown Fayetteville has one of the most impressive “courthouse squares” I have seen. It is just an ordinary courthouse, but the entire square around the courthouse is filled with flowers. They were in full bloom and stunning!  The visitor center is located on one corner of the square. Evidently two days a week the area farmers drive their pick-ups in all around the square for a farmer’s market.  

FLowers around town square in Fayetteville
After our visit we found the post office a block away and bought stamps so we can send post cards to Daniel from each state we visit…we skipped TN but today the AR went in the mail! Tomorrow will be OK and then who know how many days in TX….back to today.

Ben found a map at the visitor center that follows the Butterfield Trail from Fayetteville to Fort Smith…so nothing would do but that we take it…so we left Fayetteville headed south.  Much of the trail is gone but in this area they have been able to establish the route very closely.We started out on a regular 2 lane state road…progressed through farmland and into foothills of the national forest. The state road became a county road – “Bug Scuffle Road” that headed along the spine of hills as you could see down into very deep valleys. A few of the farms along the route seemed quite proud of their location on the Butterfield Trail as evidenced by the signage. 
Along Bug Scuffle Road
Suddenly there was a PAVEMENT ENDS sign and we were on a partly gravel and partly dirt road.  After a while we realized this was a forest service road as we had entered the Ozark National Forest.  The curves were numerous but the grades for the most part not too steep. The Butterfield Trail route was carefully selected as they wanted the least difficult grades for the stagecoaches. It has been written that in some locations the passengers were asked to get out and walk if the road was steep. With this unpaved road it was easy to imagine a stagecoach traveling the route.  On one of the first trips west a New York journalist wrote the travel through the Arkansas Mountains was fearful.
Interesting signage - just nailed to a tree

Butterfield Trail Arkansas
 When we felt we could not be bounced and jarred anymore  ( about 20 miles)  we came back to pavement on the south side of the National Forest and continued on through the small town of Cedarview. As we were about to enter Van Buren where the stage was ferried across to Fort Smith and then on to Oklahoma we decided to find a campground instead of heading into Fort Smith. 

We selected a KOA Campground near Alma. Tomorrow we will visit Fort Smith and cross into Oklahoma. Alma’s claim to fame is their sheriff was killed by Bonnie and Clyde after a robbery in Fayetteville.  This KOA is quiet with a playground, a lake, and the every few day essentials of TV, WIFI, and showers!   
Tonight’s dinner was the Chinese leftovers from Memphis – just as good the second time. Now to post two day’s blogs so I do not get too far behind.  VERY slow internet so no photos tonight!

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