Tuesday, February 28, 2006

06-14 Eureka Springs Arkansas

(14) On The Road Again
Eureka Springs, Arkansas

11 days in Eureka Springs. Discovery is what it’s all about. The Ozark mountains are a special blend of low ancient mountain ranges. Much older than the Appalachian Mts. which are young in comparison. Heavily covered with chestnut trees that create a colorful display in fall. The roads follow the ridges and tight valleys in a swirl of curves and turns that would make any rollercoaster enthusiast envious.

It’s been one discovery after another. The town of Eureka Springs has about 6-8 natural springs throughout the town. They are all small springs coming out of the rock cliffs, many surrounded by small park settings. Some can be found inside the shops in town! The town itself is unlike any I have seen in the states. A unique mix of Victorian architecture and late 1800’s stone buildings. The town’s roads wind up and around the surrounding mountains with the log cabins, shops and homes hugging the sides of the tree covered hills. Eureka Springs has a 30% gay population making for a very diverse culture along with the country, hippy, new age, artists and Christian elements. This band of “misfits” are fiercely proud of their friendly cooperative nature.

RV’ers INFO. I’m staying at a small Passport America campground, Beaver Cottages and RV park. But, wouldn’t recommend staying here. For the Rv’er, I’ve found that the Army Corp of Engineer campgrounds on Beaver Lake or Beaver Campground (City owned) would suite most campers who like to be on the water. Trout fishing is fantastic up here. The water a constant 48 degrees. Keep in mind, those campsites would be a long treacherous drive into Eureka. Although Beaver campground (City owned) does have a pleasant back way into town. In town, the Kettle Campground and Cabins would be my choice the next time I come by this way. It’s just on the outskirts of town and has a trolley stop out front.

The town itself has tons of gorgeous cottages and motels that would suite anyone on vacation. The town’s only industry is tourism, but most people fall in love with the beauty and immediately think what it would be like to live in such a beautiful place. I actually hate to even write about the place because it is such a treasure and I know I’ll be coming back. And I hate to think everyone I tell about it may come as well.

Traveling through what has historically been called the Bible Belt and still is, I have been inundated with almost too much religion. The folk music is heavily saturated with old time religious tunes. The radio and even talking to local folks quite often is blended with heavy religious overtones. But with all that said, my most memorable experience follows.

Without even knowing it was in the area, my friends Jimmy, Larry and I discovered Thorncrown Chapel. I had seen it in Architectural Digest and knew it to be a top award winning design. It has won over 4 major Architectural awards including The number one, Top 20th century design award for contemporary Architecture. . So of course I insisted we tour the chapel. It is a chapel built in the woods and is built with all wood struts and glass. Over 6,000 square feet of glass and simple wood struts open the chapel to glorious views of nature. The choir director presented a 15 minute presentation of the building of the chapel and then sang a song which I requested, “In the Garden”. It has always been a favorite of mine from my Spiritualist days and I must admit, for some reason many of us found ourselves gushing tears. As soon as my friend Jimmy heard me request the song, he thought to himself, “Oh Lord, that’s the song we requested for his Mom’s funeral.“ He then did everything not to look at me, knowing I would probably have a few tears and he didn’t want to get caught up in it too. Her voice was so pure and clear in that awesome space. Her talk was the most inspirational talk I’ve heard in years. Telling of the creation of this gem of a Chapel.

I will not tell the story hear, unless you write to me specifically and ask, as I feel that you should try and come here to experience this place for yourself. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do that, let me know, and I will then share this most inspiring story.

Needless to say, I will remember my time at Thorncrown Chapel for the rest of my life as the closest I have ever felt to God‘s grace and love. I have tears in my eyes, just writing about this special place.

Oh, and before getting off of the religion thing, we visited the “Christ of the Ozarks”. One of the 4 largest statues of Jesus. It would have been a bit taller, but as they were building it, they realized they would need to put a red light on Christ’s head because of the airplanes flying over. So they shortened his neck so He wouldn’t have to wear a red blinking light on His head. Still, a neck bending tall statue.

Jimmy, Larry and I have had some great times touring the area and even visiting my friend Chuck on Sunday. He had a great campout on his farm land, next to a creek. I splashed around in the water and we all sat on the edge of the creek, enjoying our picnic and the quiet solitude of this wonderful wooded setting.

There are many caves to visit, but since I’d been in a couple recently, Jimmy and I opted to visit “Natural Bridge and Pivot Rock” . $3 for a nice walk along the edge of cliff and gully. Past the natural bridge and of course pivot rock. The rock formations along the top of this mountain ridge were really cool. Speaking of cool, the path was lined with wonderful shade trees making the steamy 90 degree weather bearable.

The holiday weekend ended with Jimmy and I going to Lake Leatherwood in the evening for music and fireworks over the lake. A nice way to cap off my time in Eureka Springs. Kids having one last swim as dusk set in. A band on the hill playing Scottish and New Orleans music with a tinge of folk sound mixed in. An odd combination that seemed to fit the crowd.

This leg of my journey is just about at it’s end. I’ll be leaving my friends behind and heading NE on my journey to visit my sisters in lower and upper Michigan. It’s been great to have company for part of my journey, along with meeting tons of new people along the way.

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