Memphis to Arkansas Ozark Mountains

After an exciting night of honky tonky, all of our stomachs were feeling a little wonky on our way to Memphis. Because of our over excitement for having them, we forgot to mention that after stopping in Asheville, Paige and Chelsea (friends who Tyler knows from working at a camp in North Carolina) joined in on the journey. In Memphis we parked the bus next to a Bass Pro Shop shaped like a pyramid and went out to grab some famous Memphis barbecue from Central Barbeque. We then enjoyed some blues on Beale Street with Aidan (another friend of Tyler's from camp) who grew up in the area. After spending the next morning walking through the powerful exhibits at The National Civil Rights Museum located in the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, we headed to Hot Springs, Arkansas to counteract the impending cold weather. The Hot Springs were neat to see, but unless you are there looking to spend some money on a week of spas there is only so many steaming fountains one can look at. Sadly Paige and Chelsea had to make their way back to North Carolina so we dropped them off in Little Rock on our way north to see The Ozarks. 

Tyler on the Buffalo River near our campsite

As we traveled north from Little Rock, which is a pretty impressive city in terms of size, we were reluctant to see the town population size signs significantly lower the farther north we drove. Fewer people was partnered with the addition of some more interesting geographic landscape, making us feel a little more at home. We spent our first night at a camp site named Carver on the banks of The National Buffalo River (did anyone else not know a national river was thing?). Conveniently the camping area was free due to the winter season. We quickly found out why we were the only ones at this campground, as the temps dropped into the single digits that night. We woke to some frozen water pipes and a bus that was not psyched on starting in such cold temps. Being resourceful though we utilized our heater for keeping the inside of the bus warm and set it under the engine, allowing us to the bus started in no time.  

Crimp Scampi

Dancing Outlaw

With a happy bus and some sighs of relief we got back on the road and headed towards Horse Shoe Canyon Ranch. We both wanted to check out the ranch after seeing it featured in a Reel Rock Film tour, highlighting their 24hr climbing competition called Horseshoe Hell. Upon arriving at the ranch we were faced with the first task of making it down their dirt road.

After some "crooked and steep" roads, we made it to the office.  Despite the request of the ranch, the bus was not going to make it to the campground, so we parked in a flat spot and decided to make the best of the rest of our afternoon of sunshine after the cold from the night before. We paid our fees and headed towards the cliffs.  We only had about an hour but were able to get on three great climbs including a few classics such as "African Herbman" and "The Greatest Show on Earth."

After climbing we were able to make use of the showers at the campground, our first showers in quite a while.  Once again, we paid our fees and were happy to find that they were warm.  As morning arrived we found more sun.  We decided to stick the cliffs that would be warmer with this great weather and headed back up to the North Forty area.  We hit a few more classics such as "Green Goblin", "The Controversy", "Dancing Outlaw", "Season of the Storm" and "Crimp Scampi".  All of the rock in the area had tons of cool features with lot's of chicken heads and plates. One downfall of the entire area is that there is goat poop everywhere, and we mean everywhere.  After a solid day of climbing the clouds started to roll in and it got a bit chillier.  We decided to make our way towards another climbing area called Sam's Throne.

Our camp spot at the ranch

Getting to Sam's Throne included more crooked and steep roads, one in particular had about 5 hairpin turns in a row that were very steep.  We gained the giant hill and found the free campground that sits directly on top of the cliffs.  We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the low for the evening would be in the high forties which was nice after 3 cold nights in a row.  Morning came and it was almost 60 outside.  After fueling up with some breakfast, we eagerly got out to the cliff.  We had found tons of climbs we wanted to do on Mountain Project earlier in the week and with this weather, we were hoping to get to a lot of them.  We found our rappel down to the climbs and started to learn our bearings of the area.  Unfortunately we found that the majority of the cliff was wet due to the huge temperature swings of the days before.  Climbing wet sandstone is a no go, but we were able to look around at some great crack climbs, and some difficult face climbs that we may be able to get on if we're ever in the area again.

 

The Road out of the Ranch

After exploring Sam's Throne it was time to drive out of the mountains.  We decided to swing through Little Rock for the night to break up our ride down to Monroe, Louisiana where we would meet our friend from college named Dylan.  We ended up finding out about some great mountain biking trails on a military base in the area called Camp Robinson. We learned about the trails on MTB Project.  The trails in the area were fun and included a mix of fast single track, as well as some slower windy and technical areas.  We rode the 5 mile loop which was okay but found more trails that had a bit more flow and were faster such as 10 Bridges.  On our way into the base we stopped at Angry Dave's, a local bike shop and per his recommendation we also hit the Buddha Trail which utilized some of the more interesting topography in the area.

 

For anyone interested in biking here it's worth leaving yourself a little extra time getting into the base for the first time.  You will need to purchase a sportsman's pass for a few dollars, and have a background check.  The whole process took us a little less than 30 minutes but not everyone can say they've mountain biked on a military base. We think it was worth it.

Getting chased by helicopters!

From Little Rock we head South to Louisiana!  We are excited to visit with a friend in the area and to see New Orleans.  Thanks for reading!  If you are interested in reading more consider subscribing to our blog via email below.

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