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Big Surprise in The Natural State

After reserving a hotel for the night in Little Rock, Arkansas, I left Memphis, Tennessee with the only thing I knew about Arkansas: that’s where the Clintons come from! The only reason I chose to stay overnight in Little Rock was its location and because I thought I would visit the Hot Springs nearby. My plans thereafter were to stop in Dallas, Texas to visit a friend I had not seen in years. From there head on to New Mexico where I had one National Park on my list; literally, Arkansas was on my way, so to speak.

As I checked in to my hotel in Little Rock just a few blocks from the State Capitol, I got the recommendation to go to The Big Whiskey’s as it was one of the few places that would still serve food at that hour. The place was full of life and packed with a diverse crowd, which were both good news being that it was past eleven. So far on this trip most of the places I had been through had long ceased to live after nine o’clock in the evening. Certainly, diversity was not something I had seen since I left New York. Yep! I was already happily surprised in Little Rock.

A couple of days into the trip I had changed my profile on all social media apps to reflect what I was doing. That way I would curb the enthusiasm of people who just wanted a date. So, while I sat at the bar waiting for my food and enjoying my beer, a message came through from someone asking me where had I been hiking in Arkansas? My response was “I haven’t and won’t hike in Arkansas”. He then told me that it was a shame because Arkansas, as The Natural State, has about 50 state parks. I later ran a search and found out that The Natural State actually has fifty-two state parks. Wow! I had no idea! Nobody ever talks about Arkansas in the Northeast! I might be wrong as I am not a TV type of person, so for me to say that I have never seen an ad on TV featuring the State of Arkansas as a hiking destination would just not be right and fair.

My new friend in Little Rock, David, turned out to be an avid hiker and biker who convinced me to not visit the Hot Springs on my way to Texas. Instead he told me to at least visit one park: Petit Jean State Park just about one hour northwest of Little Rock. He also was surprised when I told him that I was not going to do anything in Texas other than visit a friend in Dallas. Again, he was shocked that I seemed to be “bypassing” the wonders of the South. So, I tried to justify by saying that my eyes were on the Southwest and the Pacific Coast. But my heart is soft and one of the purposes of a road trip is to discover things one never heard of. I had no schedule and no commitment other than trying to stay out of bad weather. We met and chatted for a couple of hours or so and by the time we said good-bye he had twisted my arm. I was headed to Petit Jean the next morning hoping to get a camping spot for at least one night! And did promise I would at least drive through Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Lone Star State.

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