I am woefully behind on the blog. I am just now getting around to posting about Thanksgiving Day, when it is less than a week before Christmas. But if I skip past Thanksgiving, then next year, I won’t be able to remember where I was this year. During a recent conversation with my brother Don (who set up my blog for me,) I was trying to recall whether or not I was home for Thanksgiving last year. Neither of us could remember, so I said, “Wait! I’ll check the blog!” only to recall that last Thanksgiving, I was hiking “The Wave” in Southern Utah! How could I possibly forget one of the most fun Thanksgiving weekends ever? So here goes Thanksgiving 2013….just for the record!
This Thanksgiving, I planned to spend the long weekend at Lake Ouachita State Park in Arkansas, another destination I had earmarked to return to one day. I knew the Verizon signal would not be strong enough for the work week, so the four day Thanksgiving weekend would be the perfect time to explore Arkansas’ largest lake for what would be my final stop on my “Eastern tour” before heading back to Texas.
Lake Ouachita , over 25 miles in length, is completely surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest, which means no shoreline development…nothing but miles and miles of beautiful pine trees lining the shore. The lake is known for its clear water, even offering scuba diving and snorkeling tours in the summer.
I managed to get a site backing up to the water’s edge, overlooking the marina. The lights at night shimmering on the water were lovely, but the cold temperatures had me questioning, “When is it too cold to even build a fire?” When does the pain of braving the elements outweigh the pleasure of sitting fireside? Despite the beauty of the lakeside setting, I just could not bring myself to build a fire.
The State Park offers several venues to get out and explore by day, my favorite being the four-mile Caddo Bend Trail, a circuit hike which parallels the shore around the peninsula. Although the hike is through the woods, one never leaves sight of the lake, making for very scenic views all the way around. There are some ups and downs, many of which are over interesting quartz outcroppings.
At the end of the peninsula, “sunset point” has a nice viewing platform to sit and watch the sun go down across the lake. There is a well groomed service road back to the campground should one decide to forgo the rest of the hike and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine at sunset instead. 😉
Back in 2011, a devastating tornado blew across the peninsula, taking down a wide swath of trees, which closed the trail for almost a year. It is sobering to view the “before and after” aerial photos, and observe the marked difference of forest cover along the trail through the effected area.
The park service also offers pontoon-boat tours on the weekends, which could be anything from a snorkeling tour to eagle watch, depending on the season. I enjoyed their two hour scenic lake tour, cruising along the shoreline to see some of the geographic formations, and learn about the history of the lake. The calm, clear waters would have been ideal for the Sea Eagle, but just too cold. The park service has mapped out “geo-float trail,” for observing the unique geographical formations by kayak. Next time….
For me, the only painful aspect of spending a quiet, reflective Thanksgiving Day alone is what I perceive to be the looks of sympathy from my camping neighbors in the cul-de-sac. It is as if I can almost hear them whisper, “Look, honey…that woman is all alone….on Thanksgiving Day!” I want to tell them, don’t feel sorry for me, as my solitude and serenity are at the top of my “Giving Thanks” list! It feels like a gift to spend the day surrounded by nature with no chores, no work, no cooking and cleaning, and no agenda.
I spent the morning corresponding with friends, placed a telephone call home to Mom, and then bundled up and headed out to the Caddo Bend Trail for a nice brisk four mile hike, stopping along the way to reflect on all the wonder and incredible experiences I have had during this richly rewarding year on the road. I came back to my toasty warm RV, feasted on a spread of country pate’, fancy cheeses and crackers that I had bought from the Hot Springs Culinary District, and popped the cork on a chilled bottle of Prosecco, giving thanks with a toast, “To one very fine day among many!”