The Mutiny Follows the Trail of Rooster Cogburn {Fort Smith, Ar}

{Dates of Visit: Apr 9-14, 2014}

We had been advised by a lot of people, including Jason Snow (one half of the Snowmads) who used to live in the area, that North Western Arkansas was a must-see. We made it as far as Fort Smith (with a side trip to Fayetteville for a concert) and could see why. The area is beautiful...full of trees and mountains and lakes and wildlife...nothing like I was expecting when I think of a Mid-Western state.

Fort Smith, believe it or not, is actually a Wild West town and was voted the #1 Top True West Town in 2013 by True West Magazine. It was the location for some very well-known western books and films including Lonesome Dove, True Grit and Hang 'Em High. There's even a True Grit tour that stops at places like Hanging Judge Parker's Courthouse and the gallows at the Fort Smith National Historic Site.

The old jail cells were pretty high tech for their time...three stories tall and housed inside the courthouse.
If you thought Judge Parker was harsh you should meet Judge Bonelli!
The gallows...the park staff will hang the appropriate number of nooses on the anniversary of hangings. The day we visited no one had been hanged.
The Visitors Center, aka Miss Laura's Social Club, is located in what was once a bordello (the only brothel on the National Register of Historic Places) and should be the first place you stop at when you come to this history filled town. The staff is {strangely} very knowledgeable about the goings-on inside this house of ill-repute and will happily take you on a tour (including the upstairs, what???) for a small "donation"...heehee. You can also find a plethora of information on what-to-do in the area.

The "racy" stained glass window in the Brothel/Visitors Center.
We camped at Springhill Corp of Engineers campground which is technically in Barling, Arkansas. They offer 50 amp (with water) sites for $20 per night ($9 for Senior Park pass holders). Some sites have river views and most are fairly spacious (aside from the tree that wouldn't allow our awning to extend fully). One word of warning for most of Arkansas...TICKS. Last spring there was practically an infestation and we pretty much found ticks on our pants almost every time we hiked or biked...check yourself, each other and your pets daily.

Large site but a close tree,...
The campground offers fishing, swimming (lake), boating and 10 miles of mountain biking trails which we were more than happy to check out...

The bridge was little too narrow and long to attempt on the bikes.
And since that wasn't enough exercise we visited the Janet Huckabee Nature Center in Fort Smith for some hiking. This is a beautiful area comprised of 170 acres of land, including Wells Lake...perfect for hiking (4 miles of intersecting trails), bird watching, wildlife spotting and peace and quiet. Super easy, but interesting and pretty hikes, suitable for kids. It's also free but I couldn't find any information on whether or not it's pet friendly so be sure to call before you bring your fur-babies.
The entrance to the Janet Huckabee Nature Center. This is the perfect place to bring your kids (of all ages).

We didn't spot any wildlife (other than birds) but we did see a piece of burl that looked like a moose...hey, we'll take what we can get.

If you close one eye and squint out of the other you can see Bullwinkle, right?
We had learned that one of our favorite Country/folk singers, Paul Thorn, was performing up the road in Fayetteville and jumped at the opportunity to go see him. Paul is the kind of artist that makes you feel like you're hanging out with a friend...well, a friend who can actually sing (not karaoke Sally who embarrassed you with her drunk version of I Will Survive at your last "book club" meeting). He writes great lyrics and the energy he brings will make even the biggest hater of country music (ahem, me) into a fan. With song titles like I Don't Like Half the People I Love, Guess I'll Just Stay Married and Burn Down the Trailer Park you're sure to have a great time. To top it off, Paul pretty much always hangs out in the crown after the show for photos and autographs (we met him in California a few times so we skipped the photo op on this night).

Small stage, small venue...the best way to see live music. George's Majestic Lounge.
Unfortunately, with the hour drive (one way) to Fayetteville we didn't make time to do any sight-seeing. From what we were able to see of the downtown area it's a really cute, the perfect college town. Lots of little eateries and bars with tons of people walking around on a Friday night. We'll just have to come back and spend some time in the area and do it up right (we were still feeling a little down and out after losing Cleo).

Arkansas really surprised us. Funny how preconceived notions can make you miss out on some of the best things the world has to offer...luckily we took the plunge anyway.