Western Arkansas - June 27 - July 3, 2020
Our last RV trip, which was supposed to be our final RV vacation was not our final RV vacation after all. As it turns out, we have had to abandon our international travels this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic that has gripped the world, especially the USA. Fortunately, we recognized what was going on just before we were about to sell our 5th wheel trailer, and put the brakes on that effort.
So this month of late-June and early-July, we are taking another trip in our 5th wheel. This time, we are returning to a place we have visited two times in the past, and which is the only "cool" (temperature) location within 500 miles of Houston. Our favorite location in Western Arkansas is Queen Wilhelmina State Park, near Mena, AR. It is located on the top of Rich Mountain (altitude of 2681 ft.) in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. You can depend on it being about 10 degrees cooler than the valley below. While we were there, the temperature was in the low to mid 70s, so we didn't have to use our air conditioner most of the time.
We are planning more RV vacations in the next months until some kind of vaccine and treatments are available and it is safe to fly to other parts of the USA and world. We don't expect to be able to do that until the latter part of 2021.
[Saturday] We left home at 9:30 am and went north on US-59 to Carthage, TX. We arrived about 3:30pm and spent the night at Carthage RV Park. This is a nice Good Sam park with big pull-through sites, so we didn't have to disconnect the truck for the night.
[Sunday] Today we drove north on US-59, TX-8, and US-41 to Queen Wilhelmina State Park, near Mena, AR. We arrived about 3:00 pm on top of Rich Mountain. The temperature was about 75 degrees, cloudy and windy. We had a brief rain shower after we got set up.
Before we ate supper, we decided to walk around the park road to get our exercise. It is more challenging than in Richmond, because of the mountain.
[Monday] This morning we woke up to the sound of heavy rain on the roof. The mountain top was covered in a dense cloud and even though the temperature was about 70 degrees, it was very humid and windy.
The fog and occasional rain showers persisted all morning, so we remained in the trailer.
About lunchtime, the cloud of fog lifted and the sun peeked through the clouds. It was windy and still wet outside, so we stayed inside. It remained in the 70s so it was very nice.
Later in the afternoon, since the weather was so nice, we walked up to the lodge and checked out the Lover's Leep Trail and the Reservoir Trail, for a day when it is drier.
We then walked across Hwy 88 and looked around the outside of the Wonder House. This unusual house was built on 9 levels in 1931. The house was used as a vacation cabin until 1958 when it became a part of the park. The house was not open, so we peeked through the windows. It appeared to be relatively unused by the park.
[Tuesday] This morning we awoke again back in the clouds, fog and wind on the mountain top. The temperature was still about 70 degrees. We stayed in the trailer in the morning and this time, the fog didn't lift by noon.
About 2:00 pm, the fog finally lifted and we drove the 14 miles down the mountain to Mena. We stopped to look at the old Mena Train Station Museum from the outside. It was open, but we decided not to go inside due to the pandemic. We drove around the town a little, filled the truck with gasoline and started back to the trailer. On the way back we stopped at some of the overlooks (still too foggy for a good view).
As we neared the state park, we passed by the old Rich Mountain Fire Tower. The tower was once used as the primary method of locating wildfires in the area. Chains of towers scattered throughout the mountains would allow lookouts to pinpoint smoke columns and direct fire suppression efforts. Through aerial detection of fires from dedicated aircraft have rendered this tower near obsolete, it is still used from time to time for detection of fires when aircraft are unavailable.
[Wednesday] This morning was a repeat of the previous mornings - fog, wind and occasional rain showers. The temperature was still a pleasant 70 degrees. We stayed in the trailer until it lifted in the early afternoon.
After lunch, the fog lifted enough that we decided to walk up to the lodge, then from the lodge down the Lover's Leep Trail to the overlook. It was 0.5 miles each way down and up the steep mountainside to the overlook platform. Unfortunately, the fog was still too dense to get good views.
We then drove into Oklahoma along AR-88, which is named The Talimena Scenic Drive. When the atmosphere is clear, it is a very nice drive of about 50 miles, with scenic overlooks along the way as you travel between the two states along the Ouachita Mountains. As it turns out, the boundary between the two state is disputed, ever since the first treaty of the USA with the Choctaws in 1820. There is a marker that was erected in 1877 that you can walk down a trail to. We decided that we didn't need to see it. The fog was still around enough that the view from the vista pulloffs was not so good.
On the way back to the park, we stopped at the Pioneer Cemetery and saw some of the rustic stones marking the graves. From 1860 to 1919, dozens or more families called Rich Mountain home. We only saw one grave that had a tombstone that could be read, and it was dated 1952. We saw where the Ouachita Trail goes by the cemetery. The Ouachita Trail is 225 miles long and crosses between Oklahoma and Arkansas. It passes through Queen Wilhelmina State Park.
After supper we walked around the park road to get a little exercise.
[Thursday] This morning we awoke to the best day as far as the fog was concerned. The fog had lifted pretty good by 9:00 am, as we left the park and started back in the direction of Houston. We stopped again in Carthage, TX at the Carthage RV Park for our final night on the road.
This draws to a close our brief trip to Western Arkansas. We hope you enjoyed the photos and brief descriptions of our activities. God willing, join us again soon for another travel adventure.
Goodbye for now,
Lawson & Kay
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5 NIV)