Nature Experience #7 – Eureka! (Springs, that is)

In Northwest Arkansas, about three hours from my home in Tulsa, is a little village deep in the Ozark Mountains known as Eureka Springs. A quaint, old village built into a narrow valley between rocky hillsides, the place has retained its eclectic, Victorian charm over more than a century. Narrow streets wind through the town, with no rhyme or reason to their path or their width. Bed and breakfasts abound, and the town is a mecca for shoppers, antique hunters and anyone who enjoys a ‘brush’ with the past. True to the Ozark tradition, music and shows play a large part in the town’s tourist draw, as does the beautiful Christ of the Ozark’s, a huge white statue on a hillside overlooking the village.

For a nature lover like me, the terrain of the town fascinates. Climbing hundred-year-old cement stairs from one level of the town to another and visiting the numerous springs that bubble from the hillsides and give the town its name, provide hours of pleasure. But for me, the most enjoyable part of the visit is just outside of town, in the wild, beautiful Ozark Mountains.

Driving in from the west, the road is twisty-turny, climbing and dropping as it crosses the mountains and skirts the White River. Numerous places to stay are tucked into these hills, and some of the most amazing are located on a mountain-top high above the White River.

One such place offers a nature experience like none other. From the deck of the two-story ‘cabin’ a breathtaking view of the river far below seems a treat that only an eagle ever gets to experience. The glittering river snakes through the pine-covered hillsides far below. At night, lights from rare homesites poke up through the trees. And a blue sky hovers over it all, filled with twinkling stars and, if you’re as lucky as I was, crystalline snowflakes dropping from the heavens.

During daylight hours, the Blue Springs Heritage Center and Gardens offer a treat for those who haven’t come to bike, kayak, fish or otherwise boat on nearby Beaver Lake. I first visited this site many years ago when it was known simply as Blue Springs. The acreage is also a botanical garden, complete with walkways and native vegetation. In the past, this awesome park provided room to romp and play in nature for my family. Now, slightly more cultivated and tamed, the place still provides a respite from crowds and intense shopping opportunities. There’s space for a picnic, and planty of room to throw down a blanket and contemplate the cloud creatures floating above.

For me, stillness and quiet are key to a ‘nature’ experience. Both my cabin, and the Heritage Center offer this opportunity, and then, there is always a lake nearby, i.e. Beaver Lake and Lake Leatherwood.

At Eureka Springs, a place known more for shopping and entertainment, there are opportunities to ‘connect’ with nature. I’m always looking for them, and they keep me grounded in who I am. Wherever you visit, there is bound to be a city or neighborhood park nearby. Perhaps there’s a state park on the road  to where you are going, or even a National Recreation Area. You don’t have to be physically fit to enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. My challenge to you this spring is to find that natural place wherever you travel, and to enjoy a few moments connecting with the world we live in.

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