Earlier this week we took a two day trip to Arkansas. Tired of the same route from Texas to Oklahoma, then on to Arkansas, we decided to take a more scenic route hoping to see some autumn leaf color. In Oklahoma we got on Route 1, very near Sardis Lake. Route 1 takes you up through Buffalo Valley to the small town of Talihina, OK. From Talihina Route 1 starts climbing up into the Ouachita National Forest. The road follows the ridge of the Winding Stair Mountain, which eventually turns into Rich Mountain. In Arkansas, Route 1 turns into Route 88.
All along this route there are pull off vistas, I believe there were about thirteen of them, each one with spectacular views of the valleys below. In this respect it out does Skyline Drive in Virginia. We stopped at several of these and marveled at the beauty of the surrounding countryside. You were able to see for many miles, into distant valleys and other mountain ridges. After living in Texas for the past twelve years, it was a real treat to see mountains and forests again. I could not get enough of that feeling of being in the forest and mountains. We are originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Pocono Mountain Range area.
On the Oklahoma side the highest point on Winding Stair Mountain is at 2451 feet. On the Arkansas side it is Rich Mountain at 2681 feet. There is a tower on top of this mountain. You are able to climb the tower and get an even better view of the surrounding area. The height of these mountains is not great, but when you are on the ridge of the mountain it makes you feel like they are the Rocky Mountains.
At one point on this route we were able to see the road meandering over the ridges for many miles. I made the comment that it reminded me of the Great Wall of China as it followed the top of the ridge. There were many birds of prey gliding along on the wind currents produced by the valleys below. Most were buzzards, but I did see a couple of hawks. I never tire of watching them soaring on the air currents. We also saw many monarch butterflies winging their way south.
The leaves were just starting to turn. In a couple of weeks I am sure they would have been very colorful, but the sights made up for the lack of leaf color. I am sure we will be taking this route again in the future and maybe we will luck out and the trees will be showing their color adding even more awe to the mountains.
We ended our drive over the mountains at Mena, Arkansas. I wondered to myself if the people who live in this area realize how lucky they are to be surrounded by such magnificent mountains.
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