Top Posts of 2021

Outside my office window the snow is falling here in Arkansas. Between rising COVID cases and the weather, we are feeling a little stuck. I’m choosing to embrace staying at home by enjoying some chili and watching football with my husband this afternoon. And since it’s a long weekend, I hope to drink some tea by our fireplace and finish my book club book too.

I’m eager to get started with our adventures for 2022, but in the spirit of rest and reflection, today I’m excited to look back at the top 3 posts of 2021. We made such fun memories this year.

Top Post – staying at the lodge at golf shores state park

We typically write about hiking in Colorado and Northwest Arkansas, but this year I also included a review of our trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. It turns out, we were not the only ones drawn to the ocean this year because Staying at The Lodge at Gulf State Park was our top post! Reading it again makes me want to go back right now.

Lodge at Gulf State Park

Runner up: mount magazine cabins: staying at the highest point in arkansas

Our second most-read post was Mount Magazine Cabins: Stay at the Highest Point in Arkansas. Mount Magazine is just two hours south of our home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The cabin we rented had a wraparound deck where we could take in the amazing views of the Petit Jean River Valley. Plus, a hot tub!

Mount Magazine Arkansas cabin

third place: a winter hike on long’s peak trail

Our third most popular post from last year was written by my husband about an amazing winter hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The pictures from his post, A Winter Hike on the Long’s Peak Trail are beautiful. We attempted to repeat this hike in December, which I wrote about here Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park.

These pages and posts have been on our site for a while but continue to be popular.

Happy Birthday to Our Little Mountain Tot

Finally, I want to wish a happy birthday to our youngest daughter who will be turning 5-years-old this month. It’s hard to believe, but when I started writing about our hiking adventures on this blog she wasn’t even born yet.

If you ask Evy, she will say that she prefers ocean to mountains, but when she is in Colorado her favorite activity is to play in the snow. Her favorite hike is Lily Lake and her favorite thing about our cabin is ‘it’s beautiful’.

The Pool: Evy’s First Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

White River Cabin Rental

Have you watched The World’s Most Amazing Vacations Rentals on Netflix? It’s my family’s new favorite show because it’s just as addictive as HGTV remodel shows we’ve binged in the past, but instead of choosing homes to buy, the hosts travel to three vacation rentals and pick which one they like best. Plus, the hosts are adorable and contagiously enthusiastic.

In that enthusiastic spirit, today I want to share about an AMAZING home we rented in Flippin, Arkansas. Listed as a Stunning White River Retreat, the home has five bedrooms and four full bathrooms. It is located on ‘The White Hole stretch of The White River which is six miles below the Bull Shoals Dam in the beautiful Ozark Mountains with the back of the home overlooking a tree-filled bluff along the river.’ according to the VRBO listing.

Helpful Resources:

There were multiple levels of outdoor space including a fire pit where we roasted marshmallows. Each night we staid outside past dark to enjoy the star-filled sky.

white river arkansas fishing

The property backed up to the river where we spent hours fishing in the cool, clear waters. We used both fly fishing poles and basic kids fishing poles. Arkansas State Parks website offers some fishing tips for this area which include paying attention to the water levels because they change based on how much water is coming out of Bull Shoals Dam. We used both dough bait and worms. You need both a Arkansas State Fishing License and a Trout permit to fish.

Besides fishing, I loved watching the fog roll in over the river from the gorgeous outdoor kitchen.

The house had amazing views of the river from inside as well. The owners did a fabulous job of creating little sitting spots to take in views, read a book, or sip a cup of coffee or glass of wine. I also loved the long dining table that fit all ten of us comfortably for evening meals.

Trout fishing in arkansas

Our girls were excited to catch and release a few beautiful trout. ‘Nearby towns include Cotter, The Trout Capital USA.’ according to the VRBO listing. This property is also located near Gaston’s, a well-known fishing resort with a restaurant. There was a Walmart nearby for grocery shopping where we picked up food and other essentials like bait.

The home was also equipped with a ping pong table which was a blast to play with my sister and mom. My Mom and I also enjoyed a nice walk down to the public boat launch down the street.

Growing up going to the lake, I was surprised at how much fun we could have on the river without a boat. I appreciate how family-friendly this spot felt too. Float trips down the river sometimes feel like rowdy parties, but this area seams to attract a more fishing-focused crowd (in a good way). Flippin, Arkansas surpassed my expectations, and I hope we can return soon.

Hot Springs National Park

Today I want to share about a trip we took over Thanksgiving break to Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We rented a cabin right on the lake and enjoyed hiking within the park which I wrote about here.

Lake Catherine State Park Arkansas
Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Springs Arkansas

What to do in hot springs, arkansas

We spent a large part of our time hiking and relaxing at Lake Catherine, but we were excited to explore the area too. There is a lot to do!

Garvan Woodland Gardens is the botanical garden of the University of Arkansas. We didn’t make it to the gardens on this trip, but a stroll through the Evan Childrens Adventure Garden which features the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House is high on my list for return visits.

The Mid America Science Museum is another spot that is high on my list for our next trip to Hot Springs. The museum has an outdoor exhibit called Dino-Lites which features festive dinosaurs dressed up for the holiday season.

Hot Springs National Park is located in historic downtown Hot Springs. The indoor tours are currently closed because of COVID-19, but we were happy to walk the trails and read signage about the history of the park.

Hot Springs National Park

According to hotsprings.org, ‘Native American tribes called this location the “Valley of the Vapors” and believed that the naturally hot springs had healing powers.’

Hot Springs National Park
A penny for good luck (and a donation).

Grand promenade at hot springs national park

The Grand Promenade is a National Recreation Trail. Learn more about the history of the promendade here. Despite being adjacent to the busy downtown streets, this area felt serene. Our girls loved stomping in the autumn leaves.

Hot Springs National Park

We also enjoyed walking past Bath House Row which consists of eight bathhouse buildings and the historic Arlington Hotel , the largest hotel in Arkansas according to the hotel’s website.

“Politicians, dignitaries, actors, gangsters and entertainment and sports legends bathed in our bath house, danced to our music and enjoyed our splendor and charm. The Arlington has survived a devastating fire, economic downturns, changing social attitudes and much more. Steeped in history, The Arlington is truly a legend.” (arlingtonhotel.com)

Hot Springs Arkansas Arlington Hotel
Arlington Hotel

where to eat in hot springs, arkansas

As we strolled the streets of downtown Hot Springs, we made mental notes of several restaurants and breweries we hope to visit on return trips (post COVID-19). This time we grabbed a quick (and delicious!) cupcake at Fat Bottomed Girl’s Cupcakes. This local favorite was featured on the Food Network’s television show, Cupcake Wars.

We also found a great lunch spot with outdoor seating outside downtown. Taco Mama was a hit for our whole family. The authentic Mexican food was fresh and delicious. The local owner exuded hospitality.

Hot Springs Arkansas Cupcakes

I’m currently reading a book called This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are which explores place attachment. I admit that I never expected to live in Arkansas, but since moving here two years ago, I’ve enjoyed exploring the Natural State. Trips like this one, and our recent trip to Mount Magazine State Park, have been great ways to build a deeper connection to the beautiful state which we now call ‘home’.

Arkansas in the Fall: Lost Valley Trail, Buffalo National River

My original post about hiking Lost Valley Trail in the Buffalo National River area continues to be our most popular post about hikes in Arkansas.

On our first trip to Lost Valley, we went in the middle of summer. A copperhead greeted us on the trail. On our return trip this fall, we spotted a tarantula!

Tarantulas in arkansas

“Texas brown tarantulas, the only species found in the state, live in dry, upland areas like the Arkansas River Valley and the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains” according to Kristen Bartlow, watchable wildlife coordinator with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (article from Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

But don’t let spiders or snakes keep you away.

Natural Bridge

There is a lot to love about this hike including caves, bluffs, and waterfalls.

The trail is 2.4 miles round trip with countless rocks and trees to explore.

On the day of our hike the water was low, so the rocks were less slippery (and the waterfalls were less spectacular).

Eden Falls Cave was closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

But overall, this hike remains one of the best hikes we’ve gone on in Arkansas!

elk in arkansas

Another highlight of this autumn trip was spotting elk near Ponca, right down the road from the Lost Valley trail head.

“Fall is especially a great time to elk watch as the bulls go into mating season form, bugling and battling for herd domination right before your eyes!” according to buffaloriver.com.

ozark cafe

To top off our adventure, we ordered a round of cinnamon rolls to-go from the popular Ozark Cafe in nearby Jasper, Arkansas. This was a delicious decision.