There’s something special about escaping to nature. There’s something even more special when you get to do it with a group of friends.
Spring break is finally here and there was no better way to start it off than road tripping three and a half hours to Ponca, Arkansas and the Buffalo National River with 12 friends for a weekend away.
We packed our cars, piled in, and began our adventure. We arrived at our campsite just before sundown, set up camp, then relaxed around the campfire amidst good friends and good conversation.
Darkness crept in and with it came a beautiful light show, not stars, but lightning. We watched as it rolled in but it didn’t dampen our spirits. Within the next hour, the ranger came by letting us know the area was under a severe weather warning.
The rain started slowly but began to come more steadily. We packed away what couldn’t get wet into our cars, then piled into our tents. Before we knew it, it was pouring. We were safe in our tents, or so we thought. The rain began to seep in from all sides, making for quite a night. Half of the group resorted to sleeping in cars, while the other half remained steadfast and soaking wet inside their tent.
The disheartening first night soon passed. We ate a quick breakfast, laid out our sleeping bags to dry, and left for our first hike of the day. What began as a foggy, cool day turned into a beautiful day with clear skies and sunlight.
However, the trials were not yet over. We soon left our intended path, turning a six-mile round trip into an 11-mile hike. Oh, but it was worth it. We found ourselves at the bank of the river, where some of us soaked in the rays while others took a dip in the water that was equally as chilly as it was beautiful and clear.
An experienced hiker crossed our path and happily helped us. After twice crossing the river that was up to our knees, we finally found our initial destination—a 209 feet tall waterfall called Hemmed-In Hollow Falls. It was beautiful and the set back was absolutely worth it.
The hardest part still awaited us, however, as we made our way back up to the trailhead. With heavy breaths and beating chests, we pushed our way to the top. It was no easy task.
After making our way back to our campsite, we met up with a few others from our group who couldn’t make it down until Saturday. We ate lunch, rested and regrouped, then went back out for another hike.
We had hiked this trail before, so the three-mile round trip was simple. The natural bridge, boulders, waterfalls, and caves made for a fun and easy hike with little to no strain. We were thankful, to say the least.
After our second hike, we went back to our campsite, ate dinner, and sat around the campfire and under the stars. It couldn’t have been a more picture perfect moment. Our sleeping bags and tents had dried during the day, which allowed us to sleep comfortably and get some much-needed rest during the night.
The next morning we packed up our campsite and drove to the trailhead of the next hike. We had stopped in town beforehand to make sure we didn’t have a repeat of the day before, then began our third and final hike—another six miles round trip.
Once we reached our destination, we were met with beautiful views and steep cliffs. We soaked it in as we recapped how awesome our trip had been, despite the mishaps. After an hour or so, we began the trek back uphill to our awaiting cars. With heavy legs and full hearts, we found our way to the top, hopped in our cars, and made our way back to Missouri.
We laughed together, we nearly cried together, but most importantly we grew together. This weekend will forever be ingrained in each of our hearts and in each of our memories.
In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir