A Texas-Louisiana-Arkansas Hipcamp Road Trip: Arkansas' Baby Bear Camp and Blue Mountain Peak in Texas Hill COuntry
Day 1 - Tuesday
This really is the summer of Hipcamp. When the opportunity came up for Scott to do some campsites around Austin we knew this was also the perfect excuse to see our friends Cevonne and Jose. With the time I've taken off of work already I wasn't sure I'd be able to go. Luckily I was given the okay and we were on our next adventure.
Brooke did in fact get off and one night in mid-July we were driving as far as we could in one night through Iowa and onto Missouri.
Scott picked me up from work with plans to get as close to Arkansas as we could.
We ended up camping the night at Rochester Falls outside of Kansas City.
Scott found a free campground for our quick stay. I hate having to pay when we arrive somewhere late with plans to leave in the morning. When we arrived at night there were a few campers there and the cicadas were so loud. It was pretty hot already so we slept with the rain cover off. Then a storm came through. When we emerged in the morning the other campers had already left.
The falls weren't spectacular and the camping was just sufficient. This was exactly what you need for an overnight camp.
Before we knew it we were entering Arkansas Ozark country.
Our first stop on the trip was Baby Bear Camp at Walter's Woods in West Fork, Arkansas. We'd be sleeping between three bluff faces tonight. Pretty rad.
The shade was nice on this already hot portion of our trip.
Before arriving we were warned to bring bug spray with deet. Natural bug sprays wouldn't cut it. We were expecting the worst when in reality there were hardly any bugs!
Of course Meadow spent much of the day climbing the bluffs.
She really wanted to keep going higher. I so need to sign her up for rock climbing lessons next summer.
She kept trying a few times. At one point she asked, "Are these rocks here for people to climb?" Sure Meadow sure.
It was hot. In fact it was going to be in 90s more or less every single day of the trip. You know what you do when it's hot? Go swimming at the local watering hole.
It seemed like the whole town was here.
On the other side people were cliff jumping. Makes me want to go to the Redgranite quarry again.
Back to the rock climbing.
We were set to go on a hike through Walter's Woods with the namesake Walter and his partner Sarah.
First we had to eat our mac and cheese dinner. Only easy and quick meals on this trip.
They sat down with us while we ate and we learned some things about the land and their work at the University of Arkansas in nearby Fayetteville.
This would be the first of many camp sites where we'd nosh on wild black raspberries.
The bugspray with deet was a warning for ticks and the new to us bugs, chiggers. I figured I would carry Meadow on my back.
The view from the compost toilet.
Apparently a Playboy shoot was done at this creek.
Walter's land features a creek, two ponds and extensive woodland trails.
We just kept going and going.
It also has wicked views of the Ozarks.
Walter and Sarah hope to covert one of his old bbq buses into another Hipcamp site. Smoking meat was his first job out of college.
After our hike we came back over to the creek to play in the natural pool.
Meadow's rainboots weren't really useful.
Day 3 - Thursday
We had originally had two Arkansas camps on the way down to Texas, but one had been canceled. That meant we had to wake up before sunrise to get down to Mason, Texas.
Of course we stopped at a casino buffet somewhere in Oklahoma along the way. Only Meadow had a total meltdown when we got inside. It was also not a good breakfast buffet by any measure.
She kept crawling on the floor crying. A few waitresses stopped by to talk to her, but it didn't help. Needless to say we ate quick and she was in big trouble.
Welcome to Texas.
We even got to drive through scenic Dallas-Forth Worth.
As in we saw a lot of this.
This was the worst drive.
This is only the second time we've stepped foot in Texas, but I do know they have some of the best rest stops in the country.
We had some PB&Js before heading on the road.
We drove through some small towns to get to our next site. I noticed a lot of the old towns had steps down to the road.
I definitely felt like I was in Texas.
After passing through tiny Mason, Texas we drove to the outskirts of town to Blue Mountain Peak Ranch.
We knew Google Maps weren't going to help because of all the private roads in Texas. Our camp host, Richard, should've just told us to look for the giant state flag. Ten plus hours later we were here.
After driving down a mile long private road we were at Blue Mountain Peak Ranch. That's Old Tex the longhorn.
We then went on a lengthy tour of the 2,000 plus acres of fully restored Texas ranch. If you want to know what Texas looked like before settlers, this is the place to stay.
Richard and his crew had just completed a prescribed burn, but you could already see how this natural cycle brings the landscape to life.
Richard took us on one section of land that still is thick with cedars. Here the land was devoid of dirt, but you could easily spot fossils from the past.
Richard was a former tech executive who'd bought land in Big Sur, but was told he couldn't build on his land. After losing a fight at the Supreme Court he ended up in Texas.
Meadow could have had the chance to sit in a Rolls Royce, but refused.
He has tirelessly restored the land and put much of his retirement savings into this piece of land.
We ended up setting up camp near the main spring just before sunset.
Richard offered us a couple of times to see if we wanted to stay in his hunting cabin with a/c. We didn't want to pass up this unique opportunity.
The views didn't stop us from the fact that there were rattlesnakes, scorpions, lizards, chiggers and fire ants on the property.
Meadow has a random facts about each state book. She has been doing really well in learning her states.
Lucky kid has already been to 24 states by 4 years old.
Lucky kid has already been to 24 states by 4 years old.
While we were driving Richard had noted that we need to watch out for fire ants. I'm not sure if they were fire ants, but Brooke had put down some dirty dishes on the ground. Soon all of our cooking equipment was full of the buggers.
Luckily we didn't get bit by ants and I finished cooking one of the worst camp meals I've ever cooked. FYI fine corn meal and polenta corn meal are not interchangeable.
Meadow and I were wiped out. Scott kept saying to look at the stars. At one point in the night I woke up and looked up and was like, whoa.
Last to bed...
Day 4 - Friday
...And first to rise.
I did a little exploration while the ladies slept.
I'm so much more braver letting the tent cover be off. Richard said some people come here and just sleep in sleeping bags. I'm not sure I could ever do that. Maybe someday.
I then made some oatmeal.
Our go to breakfast on this trip is our instant oatmeal cups. It's fast and uses no dishes.
Somewhere along the way Meadow conquered the somersault.
She tried and tried until she could do it. I may have to get this kid in gymnastics.
We weren't in much of a rush this morning, so we took Richards advice and hiked the creek.
Meadow insisted I carry her.
Until we got to the water and she wanted to walk in it herself.
We saw so many tadpoles.
This is exactly what I pictured Texas camping to be like.
We did have to meet the Torres' two hours to the east, so we said goodbye to Richard, his wife and the cattle of Blue Mountain Peak Ranch.