Go West Travel Journal, Day #5 10/16/17 TN-AR
Some of my earliest memories are of being with my family, camping at Blanchard Springs Recreation Area in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas, being in the campground, playing in the crystal clear creek, skipping rocks, hiking, seeing the springs, and exploring the caverns. In my child mind this was a magical place full of wonder. Camping now, as an adult, it’s always there as this mystical place by which to measure all other campgrounds and adventures.
We were taking I-40 west. I looked at the map in plotting our route, Blanchard Springs wasn’t anywhere near the interstate. If I was going through Arkansas, I was going to Blanchard Springs. I wanted so much to share it with Wiley. I told him it was a non-negotiable and planned the detour. As it got closer, I started to worry, what if my childhood memory was inflated and exaggerated, and this park and campground wasn’t anything special?
As soon as, we arrived in the park then made our way to the campground, fording the crystal clear creek to get there, all my worries were laid to rest and all my memories came flooding back. It was magical and we were there!
Our campsite overlooked Sylamore Creek. It was the beautiful wooded campground right on the creek, I’d remembered. We parked and immediately started hiking from the campground along the creek. The creek is so clear and beautiful, shallow enough to walk in. The puppies loved it! The beaches are otherworldly smooth rocks of white. It looks like another planet.
We hiked from the campground to the picnic area, where there was a cave, I remembered standing in and marveling about as a child. We hiked the Sylamore trail from the picnic area up the mountain and high above the campground and canyon below. Headed back when the sun started going down.
We pulled out all the party leftovers, Peyton had packed for us, and had a gourmet dinner at the campsite overlooking the creek. It was perfect! Had a campfire and s’mores for desert for old times sake.
The next morning we packed up and drove Happy to Blanchard Springs. We saw deer on the way. Nigel and Pippa were both in my lap looking out the window, Nigel squealing and Pippa quietly pointing, as usual.
The Springs shoot out of the side of the rock cliff, like nothing, I’ve seen anywhere else. It was beyond my expectations, and greater than my memory of it. It’s gorgeous! We left the springs and drove up to the Caverns. Sadly, they didn’t open for another hour and we were ready to hit the road. We decided, we’d be back and see them another time.
All I can say is Blanchard Springs rose to the occasion. Sharing a piece of my childhood, having it be everything and more, to experience it and discover it again with Wiley, was the reason for the detour and so worth it. It was one of those times, you want to share something with someone, but you’re worried, you’ve built it up so much, that they’ll be disappointed and just not get it, but then they love it too and thank you for sharing it, and it becomes one of their favorites. This was one of those times. Blanchard Springs, I love you! Thank you!