We still find ourselves out of town with some regularity, but with family far away, the bulk of our travel is devoted to spending time with loved ones in Washington, Kansas City, and Nebraska. These visits are great, and we always have a good time...but they're not exactly vacations. For that reason, we took some time after our Christmas visit to the Midwest for a family vacation to Mountain View, Arkansas.
When we decided we needed a vacation--since we couldn't remember the last time we'd taken one--we'd originally planned to go somewhere that a) had snow for skiing and outdoor activities and b) would allow us to unplug. We'd initially thought Wisconsin would be a good choice, but then we actually looked at a map and realized it was much farther than we wanted to go, particularly after our Thanksgiving roadtrip to Washington DC (written about here). So then we thought Iowa would be a good option. We'd still have snow, but it was much closer to Nebraska, where we'd spent Christmas. But, alas, our plan was thwarted by Mother Nature. The only snow we saw was at the beginning of our trip (that forced us to drive all night to Kansas City). Elsa made the best of it, though:
|She's already a better skier than I am|
Fortunately, we're flexible because Option C proved to be an excellent decision. On our way back to Memphis from Kansas City, we stopped in Mountain View, Arkansas, a small town near the Ozark National Forest, and stayed in a "cabinet" (what Elsa mistakenly called our cabin, and the name stuck) for several days. I could feel myself relaxing as soon as the trip began; it was just what we needed.
|Arkansas Traveler, our home away from home|
We ventured into town for breakfast the morning after we arrived. It was a quaint downtown, and now that I think about it, a lot like Kirksville. We found a small cafe and had a delicious meal made even better by the fact that an anonymous stranger picked up the tab. Talk about hospitality! We browsed in a few shops before the day's big adventure: Blanchard Springs Cavern.
It was my first trip to a cave, and it did not disappoint. (Lena, however, was not impressed and slept in the carrier most of the time...although to be fair, it was close to naptime.) The man who designed the lighting did a tremendous job because all of the rock formations were so striking.
The tour was really informative, and we learned a lot. It may sound obvious--or not--but I hadn't really considered the fact that caves are living entities that are constantly changing. Very cool.
After our time underground, we had to check out the Blanchard Springs, as well.
|The only way to guarantee they'd stay still for a picture|
That was enough activity for the day, so after dinner at the cabinet, we were in for the night. The next day we decided to return to the forest for a short hike. I'm not quite sure what happened on the drive over, but when we arrived at the trailhead, we had one sleeping baby and one pouty preschooler. Elsa and I began the hike, but had to stop numerous times throughout. At least the scenery was beautiful. Before we finished the short loop, Jon and Lena joined us so we could all finish together.
|"Take a picture when I point this stick at you"|
A snack seemed to perk Elsa up, but she still requested to go back and take a nap--she must have been really tired from our travels--so that is what we did. Jon and I took advantage of the opportunity to do a tag-team run (one ran while the other stayed with the girls, and then we traded) around town and through the woods. Once everyone rested as long as they needed to, we set off on a quest for fish for dinner. Unfortunately for us--but fortunately for them--all of the local restaurants advertising fish from the river were closed during the offseason. We had to settle on a Mexican restaurant instead.
The next morning was a flurry of activity as we (and by that, I mean Jon) packed up the car for the seventeenth time during the break. It was a short drive back to Memphis, and we returned home rested and rejuvenated, ready to begin a new year.