As the evening sun shone bright in the western sky, I reclined in a pale green Adirondack chair, refreshing beverage in hand, soaking in the the soothing sound of Fayetteville based singer/songwriter Gable Bradley performing on the small stage below the stone tower at Hazel Valley Ranch. The smooth style of the Springsteen sound-alike balladeer was almost as relaxing as the late afternoon hammock nap we’d taken after a day of hiking, mountain biking, and outdoor yoga. It was the end of an incredible day at Mayfest in the Mountains, but only the beginning of an evening of fun and fellowship.
We arrived Friday night with just enough daylight left to set up our camp at Hazel Valley Ranch near Fayetteville. The second annual Mayfest in the Mountains (known last year as the Saddlebock Mountain Bike Festival) was already underway with trail runners and mountain bikers getting ready for night excursions on the miles of trail surrounding the main house on the ranch. We found a semi level plot of ground with a few trees for tying up our hammocks. Out of the bed of the truck came the hammocks, sleeping bags, and pillows. BAM! Camp was up. No tent to bother with left us with plenty of time to hang out at the house enjoying the company of friends new and old, listening to and sometimes dancing to the tunes belted out by Septembers End. The fully stocked bar inside the house is a masculine paradise with a pool table, shuffleboard, and leather furniture that must have taken some very large cows to make. There’s lots of wood and leather with antlers and old signs from beer companies, ski lodges, and other interesting memorabilia. But to save anyone from missing the fun out on the lawn, there is also a walk up window connected to the patio where folks were sitting and milling about on the lawn, the bonfire was just getting started. Another musical duo took over the stage playing a fun and funky acoustic set. Pure entertainment is a band that can do a song from Disney’s Mulan that gets even the adults up to sing and dance along. We talked and laughed and drank and danced until the call of the hammock could no longer be denied and we slept in the cool night air, swaying to the sounds of the coyote calls and owl hoots. Many of the campers set up down on the shores of the Middle Fork of the White River which flows through the property.
Morning brought a chance for a walkabout around the property, there would be archery tournaments and rock climbing to witness in the upper reaches of the hills. We watched as contributor Cliff Li’s kids marched by on their way to a morning of archery that would win them a couple of prizes. By mid morning I was ready to test my bike handling skills on the “easier” side of the trails. Easier if you don’t mind a few straight up climbs, some climbing switchbacks, and some bomber downhills on loose gravel. Which I don’t, so all was good and I got to sweat a little. Just as our short guided ride was ending, we crossed a creek bed were I popped a tube. If you’re going to flat out, do it at the end of the ride. And if you are me, go do some outdoor yoga, drink a beer, fall asleep in your hammock, and let your husband and Nate from Phat Tire Bike Shop fix your flat for you, lazy bum. Some of the other events that filled the day were a kids fishing tournament, a chili cook-off and disc golf on the ranch’s private course.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association was represented by our South-Central Regional Rep, Steve Schneider. The Ozark Off-Road Cyclists lead numerous mountain bike rides, plus the folks at the Ozark Natural Science Center were on hand to provide learning experiences for the kids. For the grown ups, local beers from Northwest Arkansas were on tap including Ozark Beer Co. and Saddlebock.
Long time Arkansas Outside supporter Fayettechill Clothing Company was one of the Mayfest sponsors. The Fayettechill team brought the Chillstream, balance boards, and a crew of generally cool people to hang out at the festivities and they also invited Yoga Deza to lead a class on the lawn Saturday afternoon. I rolled my mat out next to Melissa, whose husband Roger was out working all over the ranch making sure everyone was having a good time. Instructor Natalie led us through a nice workout under the harsh afternoon sun, making certain we all ended the session with glistening skin. She even stuck around and demonstrated some acro-yoga moves and helped a couple of us work on improving some choice poses. Some wanted to be able to hold a headstand, some were looking to move on to variations of the crow pose. I personally had been looking forward to it since I saw it on the weekend lineup; I was not disappointed.
The lodge staff bragged on the outdoor showers that I wish I would have taken advantage of but you have to leave some new experiences for the next visit. Hazel Valley Ranch describes their amenities like this:
Hazel Valley Ranch (HVR) offers overnight & weekly rentals for 10+ people in an immaculate 5000 sq. ft. lodge. Three full bathrooms, five beds & five cots, Full kitchen facilities. The famous “Buffalo” saloon with exquisite cedar finish and rustic cowboy style provides entertainment for all ages with shuffleboard, pool table, darts, as well as, satellite TV and radio. Enjoy the His & Her outdoor showers, the outdoor BBQ shack & gas grill, “Giant” yard chess while taking in stunning views all round. HVR offers 300 acres & over 12 miles of trails to hike or bike. Located just 25 miles southeast of Fayetteville, Arkansas in majestic Hazel Valley. The Ranch has the Middle Fork of the White River flowing through the center of the property and is surrounded by forest covered Ozark hills. The Ozark National Forest is a short distance away, as is White Rock Mountain, Lake Fort Smith State Park and Devils Den State Park, all of which provide a wonderland of opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast.
The nap brought on by the post sunshine yoga extravaganza and beer was just what I needed to spend a little more time on the bike in the afternoon as well as joining Cliff’s kids on a scavenger hunt around the ranch that ended with finding a roaming buffalo on the grounds. I was worn out again before finally settling in again for the live music and libations that were an integral part of the activity filled weekend. Which brings the story back to the green chair, listening to music, the crackle of a big bonfire, and the laughter of children.