It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game. How much money, how much time, how many square feet. My favorite is tent nights. Every year I try to calculate how many nights I spent camping out. This year has been a good one so far, not only for camping in Arkansas but camping in general. I’ve spent nights cocooned in down and nylon in both West Virginia and Colorado. I’ve also spent some wonderful nights in Arkansas’s outdoors.
A couple of weeks ago a friend from the distant past, someone I’ve known since 1971 came to visit. He lives in Virginia and had never visited the Natural State. An entrepreneur, Chris owns Dizzy Pig Seasonings and is also a top competitor on the BBQ circuit. After a really good competition at the Kansas City Royal a couple of weeks ago, he decided to pay us a visit.
Chris and I first met in elementary school on a field trip to the Appalachian Mountains of Western Maryland. We spent the next several years riding bikes all over the Washington D.C. and Baltimore metro area. Our parents had no idea how far we rode. Later in our 20’s we started backpacking together exploring more of the Appalachians and then heading west to eventually backpack parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho together. We backpacked in the waist deep snow of the Mount Mitchell area of North Carolina and hidden spots in Joyce Kilmer National Forest. We grew up outside.
So now was my chance to introduce Chris to Arkansas. I only had a couple of days and I knew that he’d be tired from the competition so a whirl-wind tour of the state was out of the question. I kept it simple. We headed into the Flatside Pinnacle area of the Ouachita National Forest to camp on top of a ridge.
Two nights of camping and driving through the forest was just what we needed to catch up with each other’s busy lives. It was the middle of the week and besides some workmen rebuilding a bridge out near Story, AR we didn’t see anyone on those forest roads.
With Chris along you never have a problem with food, he brought a grill (Big Green Egg) and cooked chili, ribs and other wonderful things while we enjoyed the campfire and the view from our mountain top perch.
Chris has always enjoyed looking at the stars, the moon, the heavens at night. On any given day he can tell you what phase of moon to expect that evening. On a cool night, when it gets dark and the sky is clear he can usually be found looking up. Unfortunately, Chris lives in Northern Virginia where light pollution is prevalent he was amazed that just 45 minutes from downtown Little Rock we had the incredible view of the night sky. Of course we were situated between Little Rock and Hot Springs and I knew of much better vantage points in the state to view the stars. When you look at the map below and see the differences in light pollution between his home just south of Washington D.C. and just about anywhere in Arkansas, you can understand why he was so impressed.
It’s easy to take what we have for granted in our mostly rural state. Always wishing we had things found in large modern cities like Dallas, Atlanta and Washington D.C. but let’s make sure that we don’t loose those things that can’t be found in those places, going headlong into developing more subdivisions west of Little Rock and east of the I-540 corridor will erode our views of the night sky and replace the beautiful natural areas of our state with more trendy strip centers, must visit restaurants, and nice new well-lit parking lots.
So go enjoy some tent or hammock or laying on the ground on a blanket nights. Take some time to look up and learn the night sky before we have to visit it in a museum.
Learn more about the night sky from the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society.
Great article Joe, and I am now fully jealous of where you live. I really never knew Arkansas was so beautiful…and peaceful. Thanks for the hospitality brother!