Traveling Arkansas' Scenic Highway 7: Day 4
Above: Hunter delights in the slag glass at Jessieville's Coleman Rock Shop.
Spring Break is a great time to travel to a destination and enjoy experiences with your family. But what do you do when you’re used to travel? For me and my daughter Hunter, it’s time for a road trip.
This week, we’ll be traveling the entire length of Scenic Highway 7, the longest state highway in Arkansas. We’re going to find attractions along the way and share where we went. You can follow us at @TieDyeTravels for live updates.
Yesterday, we were awakened at four in the morning when the thunderstorm rolled in. We’d opened one of the windows in our room at The Arlington Hotel and Spa a bit to let in the temperate air outside, but when the storm came it caused some sort of disturbance that actually knocked a picture off the wall!
After that, Hunter went back to sleep, but I stayed up and wrote a bit. You can hear what’s going on along Central Avenue from this room on the eighth floor, but it’s not overpowering. I would take a look out from time to time as the sky started to lighten.
Hunter slept in, but when she did finally decide to get up, we went across the street and had breakfast at the world famous Pancake Shop. The 75-year-old restaurant is a favorite of mine, and as usual it was packed. We managed to get a table in the back. Hunter got a blueberry pancake and an order of sausage, while I had my usual cheese omelet and toast with apple butter. Hunter decided she really liked the apple butter and the sausage, and the pancake, too. She couldn’t eat it all, so asked for foil and stuck the sausage in her pocket. I could not make this up.
Once we were done with that, we went next door and checked out The Savory Pantry, which offers samples of all different sorts of great gourmet products from here, there and everywhere.
Because it was raining, we decided not to go play miniature golf or visit the alligators. Instead, we set out to see what Galaxy Connection had to offer. This sci-fi store and museum along Hobson Avenue had caught our eye on the way downtown from Mid America Science Museum.
Inside, we found a Star Wars-themed gift shop and we were asked if we wanted to take the tour. Well, sure. After a short wait, another family came in and we went through the exhibits.
When she saw this X-Wing model a gentleman in Memphis had built, she had to get in. There’s a lot of cool stuff there, including actual Stormtrooper and Darth Vader costumes from the original movies. We learned a lot of great stories there, too. Hunter wasn’t so thrilled with her first photo op with Darth…
Our tour guide, Richard, even got in on some Darth Maul action with Hunter. Read more about our visit to Galaxy Connection here.
It was time to head north. We made it up to Jessieville and visited the Coleman Rock Shop. I’ve been going to this rock shop since I was a child, and I have plenty of tumbled stones, crystals and necklaces from it. But Hunter had never been. She went a bit crazy.
At first, she was enamored with the little stone animals. Then it was tumbled stones. Then slag glass. There were a lot of rocks she wanted to add to her collection.
We had dined a bit too late to be hungry when we passed The Shack in Jessieville, so we kept on going. Just north of town, we spotted a Ouachita National Forest picnic area.
Turns out, this little park is a trailhead for the Hunts Loop Trail. Hunter immediately wanted to walk the entire trail, but I put the brakes on that, pointing out that we’d be late getting up to our final destination for the evening.
We found other sites along the way through the Ouachita National Forest. There were still a lot of pine trees, like in the Timberlands, but they were perched on rounded-off mountaintops. After all, the Ouachitas are the only true mountain range in Arkansas, an ancient one that’s been weathered down to the small peaks and valleys we know today. The Ozarks, if you were wondering, are actually a weathered plateau.
Just up the road, we saw the historic site for the original Hollis CCC camp.
And a little bit further up the way, we stopped at the Hollis Country Store. It’s been open since 1930 and still uses some rather old gas pumps. When you go inside, there’s about anything you’ll need, including an old fashioned deli where Petit Jean barbecue loaf, ham and bologna are sliced to go on a sandwich with red-wax cheddar. They sell bait, too.
We kept climbing and passed Lake Nimrod. Once you get past Nimrod Dam, there’s a long elevation on Scenic Highway 7, with drop-offs on the side. At the very top, you can just see Nimrod peeking through the trees from a distance.
A few miles further and there’s the town of Ola, and right past Ola the road flattens out. This is where Scenic Highway 7 enters the Arkansas River Valley. This wide expanse between Ouachitas and Ozarks is home to a whole lot of our grazing land and many communities both large and small.
As you come into Dardanelle, it’s flat as a pancake—but to the left, there’s Mount Nebo looming over it all. We stopped briefly for groceries and then drove up.
Trailers longer than 24 feet are prohibited, and this is why—switchbacks that can be difficult for longer vehicles.
We picked up directions at the Visitors Center and headed out to our cabin on the south side of the mountain.
This is an original CCC cabin that’s been updated to accommodate all the modern conveniences we’re used to. It has a bedroom and a futon in the living room, which meant Hunter got space to herself. It also has a spa tub the size of a full-sized bed.
And out back, there’s a stone terrace with an outdoor fireplace. Let me tell you what…while we awaited the sunset, I tried to get that dang fireplace lit, and I just couldn’t get it done. Matches would have been helpful! Or a lighter!
We tried for a while, but once the sun went down and the temperature started to drop, we came in and roasted our hot dogs over the fire in the fireplace.
Today, we’re headed up to Jasper to visit the second oldest restaurant in the state, the Ozark Café. We’ll also make a lot of stops along the way, and plan to take a side trip to visit the Elk Education Center at Ponca.
If you’d like to read more about our adventures, feel free to check out my blog, Tie Dye Travels; and follow our spring break Highway 7 travels all week here with Little Rock Family!