June 24, 2013

The Ozarks - Roadtrip Across America part 3

{If you need to catch up, part 1 of our roadtrip can be found here & part two can be found here.}

Days 5 & 6 of our roadtrip were spent in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. It was beautiful there. Everything was green. The water was clean, clear & cool. We had a great time.

Day 5:

We left early in the morning from our KOA in Alma, AR & headed up to the Ozark National Forest. We wanted to take the more scenic route, so we took the scenic byway. It added some time onto our trip- but it was so worth it: amazing views, windy roads, deer & elk everywhere, & even viewpoints to stop at along the way.

We finally arrived at our destination. We camped at Gunner Pool Recreation area. It was a nice campsite with all the sites pretty spread apart. There were no showers, but there were toilets (the non-flushing kind). It was only $8 a night to camp there, self-pay. Just a few feet away from our campsite was the man-made Gunner Pool & the creek. 

After we set up camp, we went on a hike along the creek, stopped & had lunch, & came back. When we got back, we went to see what the pool looked like. While there, there were some locals fishing. One of the guys was really nice & offered to hook J up with some fishing line, hook, weight & bobber (I don't know if those are the correct terms-- I'm just guessing, but basically- he hooked J up!). J used his machete to cut down a sapling (RIP) for a fishing pole & we went fishing. Unfortunately, we didn't catch anything. So no fish for dinner for us that night. But it was a fun day of exploring.

Gunner Pool

Day 6:
After breakfast, we headed to Blanchard Springs Caverns located about 3 miles from Gunner Pool. We initially wanted to camp here the first night, but it was closed due to flooding a few days before. But it had been sunny the past couple of days, so we were hoping they would re-open it. And when we got there- it was open! So we were happy for that. The lower circle was still closed though, so we camped at the upper circle. 

Blanchard Springs is an awesome campground. The sites are all really nice with fire pits and picnic tables. There are free showers, water, & flushing toilets. And it's right by hiking trails and the creek. For only $10 a night, it's quite a steal. 

Blanchard Springs Caverns has nice, large picnic areas, an amphitheater, a lot of places to fish and swim, and as the name suggests- caverns.

After settling in, we went on a hike, ate lunch, hiked some more, & filmed a little music video at the amphitheater (I'll post that up once my hubby gets it finished).

Blanchard Spring.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the Blanchard Springs Caverns center to check out prices of their tours. There are three different tours you can take. Each one takes you to different parts of the cavern. Right when we walked in, there was a tour just about to go, so we went on it. It was $10 a person. I cringed a little at that price (mostly because I'm the cheapest person you'll ever meet), but it was SO worth it. 

We went on the 1-hour Dripstone Trail. Right when we walked in, I was in absolute amazement. It was incredible-- a massive room with beautiful calcite formations. The ranger (our tour guide) was very informative and entertaining. The whole trail is paved and they put something on it so it's not slippery (J & I were wearing flip flops and were just fine). I've been to quite a few caves, but this one tops my list of favorites. It was just amazing. These pictures really don't do it justice.

We worked up an appetite walking through the cave. We decided to head to Mountain View, a town about 15 miles from Blanchard Springs, for dinner. We went to Jo Jo's Catfish Wharf & ordered a table-full of fried goodness: catfish (of course!), hushpuppies, fried pickles, popcorn shrimp, slaw, beans & relish (where J and I were first introduced to pickled okra-- he can't stop talking about it!). The food was good, just really heavy because of all the fried-ness. We just wanted to go back to our tent & knock out.

For more information on Blanchard Springs Recreation Area, click here.
For more info on Blanchard Springs Caverns, click here.

We really enjoyed the Ozarks and we're really glad we added it to our list of stops. It's a great place for nature lovers & the outdoorsy types. Not only is there camping, hiking, fishing, & swimming- but there's also kayaking, rafting, boating, and mountain biking. Lots to do in a such a beautiful area.

Next time, we'll be on our way to our final destination. Stay tuned!

And if you want to catch up on part 1 & part 2 of our roadtrip, you can check them out here:

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