Sunday, June 19, 2011

Jasper and the Buffalo

Yesterday we "floated" the Buffalo River outside of Jasper, Arkansas. A fellowship group from church was kind enough to invite us on their annual summer adventure. Made for a great father/son Father's Day weekend experience. The son and I traveled by various conveyances to make the day of it, including bike and Burley to church, car to Jasper, bus to the river, canoe on the river, and then all of these again in reverse order to get home. Half the fun of any adventure is getting there.

The surprise of the day was Jasper. I don't think I knew where we were going other than a river in central Arkanas. I've been spending some time reading Donald Harrington's wonderful Enduring, one of 20 novels in his series of Arkansas novels based on the fictional town of Stay More, Arkansas. Apparently Stay More is based, at least loosely, on Jasper, so it was a pleasure to spend time in the town that inspired the novels.

Jasper is very, very cute. There seem to be a good number of cute towns in Arkansas that thrive as starting off points for outdoor adventures. Although we didn't eat at the Ozark Cafe, they seem to have convinced everyone in the town to recommend it. What we did enjoy was the cute little coffee shop/bookstore, which made perhaps the best smoothies I have ever drunk.

But the highlight of the day was the canoeing itself. Although the water level was low, the float was perfect, especially it was the first time canoeing for my son. The Buffalo is full of smooth rounded stones, so even when you need to portage sections its very manageable to walk it. The bluffs along the river are carved and wend invitingly. Over the course of the day, we saw gar fish, Copperhead snakes, elk, deer, turtles, buzzards, hawks, mule, horse, etc. Some of the water holes on the Buffalo are deep enough that folks climb the cliffs and jump in, or build rope swings. Other spots are big open beaches suitable for picnics.

There were simply hundreds of canoers out floating, something that convinced me that Arkansans know how to recreate, and how to to do it outside, for real. As much as I've enjoyed the Wisconsin Dells and other quasi-outdoor recreational environments, there was something enduring and earthy about folks simply out canoeing.

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