Eighteen TrailBlazers had a long weekend at Hells Creek Lodge in Mountain View, AR. The large, rustic three-level house sitting on a hill turned out to be beautiful, comfortable accommodations for our group. There was also a safe room that despite the storms on Friday evening we did not have to use.
When we arrived around four on Thursday, the weather was sunny and in the eighties as we explored our large, beautiful house that needed a road map to find various rooms! Several people ventured down the hillside to explore the on-site cave. That evening we had a wiener roast outside on the patio and then celebrated Danny’s and Linda’s birthdays with a rousing rendition of happy birthday and a cake! Our puzzle fans started a challenging 1,000 piece puzzle while others played a board game or visited.
On Friday we headed to the Sylamore Creek Trail at Allison where we first checked out the creek water level prior to shuttling cars to Blanchard Springs Recreation Area. The hike started off with a wet crossing that was a bit nippy but not nearly as cold as on a hike years ago when we thought our frozen toes were going to drop off! It was a beautiful hike with ups and downs, soaring bluffs, lots of wildflowers, and views of the creek including one section that was filled with branches from some high waters that had receded.
We ate our lunch at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area and then headed to the Blanchard Springs Cavern. We had reservations for a tour so most of us whipped out our Geezer Passes (Senior National Parks cards!) to get our well deserved discounts. Our guide, a young man named Buddy, was very interesting and well informed. He did a great job explaining everything to us and answering our questions. The caverns are quite spectacular and Buddy was able to light special areas so we could get a better view of the features and make interesting speculations about whether certain features looked like everything from boats to cartoon characters to political figures. Later we drove to the Blanchard Springs area to take a short walk to see the beautiful falls that come spurting out of the rocks. A short drive from there we walked on a boardwalk and viewed Mirror Lake with its beautiful falls and below them the remains of an old stone mill in Mill Creek. For dinner that evening Kenya prepared pulled pork, her delicious unique coleslaw salad, and baked beans. Great job, Kenya! Of course, a table near the kitchen was covered with all kinds of desserts such as cookies, brownies, cakes, nuts, fruit trifle and banana pudding that we all enjoyed entirely too much.
That evening things became really wild. We watched TV and found that there were tornado watches and warnings in Arkansas, wildfires in Oklahoma, and possibly tornadoes, heavy rain, or hail at Hell's Creek Lodge. With concern for the vehicles, 3 cars were put in a 2 car garage, another two under a shed, and one under the deck. With all the vehicle concerns nobody even thought about using the storm shelter that seemed to prefer protecting hunting rifles over humans anyway! It gets better! A few hours later power went off briefly in the basement and quickly came back on - but not upstairs. Danny and Tom went around with flashlights and Linda with a headlamp trying to find breaker boxes to restore power upstairs. A call was made to the police department and we found out trees were down on power lines. About this time we discovered that there was a generator providing power in the basement – apparently due to the safe room. In the morning all was well and the vehicles were liberated from their emergency quarters.
Saturday morning the weather was good so one group hiked another section along Sylamore Creek from Gunner Pool to Barkshed Recreation Area. Along the way they were treated to swiftly flowing waters, many waterfalls, and lots of wildflowers. The others made a return trip to Mill Creek to find a way down to Mill Creek itself to check out the mill and view Mirror Lake waterfalls from up close. Due to the heavy overnight rains the trail was wet, muddy and slippery in spots! Compared to Friday, the falls had a larger water flow that could be heard thundering down. Then they went back to Blanchard Springs to hike a trail in that area. Later some people ate lunch in town and then checked out the shops, the Amish store, the town square, the dulcimer store and the unusual Mellon’s Country Store where there was a strings concert that evening that some people attended. For dinner we enjoyed lasagna, green beans and garlic bread as we continued eating way too much! On Sunday morning we finished our eating binge with scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy!
Thank you to everyone who brought desserts and goodies of all kinds, those who helped in the kitchen and with the cleanup, and especially to Becky for finding a new April venue and for organizing everything for us.
Please check out pictures posted on Facebook by members as web site has only a sampling of our weekend adventure.