Backpacking in the wintertime

You might not think that January would be a good time to go backpacking in Northwest Arkansas.

I’m happy to tell you, you would be wrong. Of course, it helped that we picked the perfect weekend to go. Or maybe it was such great company. Six adults, one nine-year-old, and seven dogs went camping at Hurricane Creek, Arkansas, January 28-29.

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Elvis, Chris, Andrea, Oliver, Liza, Sean, Bella, me, and Michael

Barton and Andrea spearheaded this trip, and also lent Michael and I the bulk of our gear. Thanks, Barton and Andrea!

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Andrea and Barton. Barton has an entire closet dedicated to backpacking gear, and we borrowed a LOT of it.

Of course, I think the trip was also an excuse for Barton and Andrea to bring their son, Oliver, out on his longest backpacking trip yet. He was a real trooper!

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About 1/4 mile into this hike we had our only real obstacle: a water crossing. This was not a surprise, but we were all hoping the water would be lower and that we wouldn’t have to get wet.

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No such luck. We all changed shoes (I wore my Chacos) for the crossing. Barton went first, and because he didn’t know exactly how deep the water would be, and because he didn’t want wet pants…. Barton crossed Hurricane Creek in his underwear.

Yep. And of course there are pictures (taken by Michael, which makes me feel the need to point out that Barton and Michael have been friends for over 20 years). But the internet is forever so I have opted not to post any of those pictures. Let’s just say that Barton has some mighty white legs, though.

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To get your mind off that image, here’s Andrea.

During my crossing I kept waiting for the cold water to make my feet numb, but no such luck. Crossing Hurricane Creek hurt like hell.

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After that, the hike was pretty and pretty easy. Only a couple of tree limbs to navigate.

We even walked past this awesome natural bridge.

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Before I knew it we were at our campsite. Right on Hurricane Creek, with views like this:

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Time to set up camp!

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Yes, I am wearing a skirt. It’s by Icelandic Design and it did a great job of keeping my butt warm, since I wore it over my wool tights. Plus it looked cute, and that’s what counts when you’re out in the woods camping, right?!?

 

I was also pretty excited to show off our awesome Revel Gear lights. I charged them up the day before and hung them next to our tent.

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Okay, so it’s not the prettiest setup, but everyone in the group was totally impressed with our solar lights.

 

 

We also had a big, fat bonfire.

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This is Sean, who did a fantastic job of keeping that fire stoked. Yay, Sean!

I have to admit that the only thing I was worried about for this trip was Elvis. He’s a little hard of hearing these days, and he’s not as strong as he used to be. Would he be able to keep up? Would he wander off?

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My fears were pretty much overblown. Elvis kept with the pack for the whole hike in, and even played with some of the other dogs. Once we got to camp, though, Elvis crashed right the hell out.

 

 

 

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No worries about Bailey, either. He loved playing with all the other dogs, and still managed to maintain his status as the Snuggle King.

 

 

 

 

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The next day, we took off on another adventure to a nearby drainage. This one proved to be too much for old Elvis, though. I mean, this was the start of the hike:

Michael tied Elvis up to a tree near our packs. He told Elvis to guard the campsite and headed out, but then ducked behind a little rise where he could still see the dog. Elvis was asleep in about five minutes.

 

Once we got going I was pretty glad Elvis had stayed behind.

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Sean and his dog Bella watching Piper the wonder dog and Andrea.

Andrea showed off her balance skills:

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Eventually we reached the end, this amazing waterfall.

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We hiked out on Sunday afternoon. Crossing Hurricane Creek sucked just as much the second time, let me tell you. Back at the trailhead we celebrated with snacks and then headed home.

What a great trip! I’m going to miss Northwest Arkansas.

 

 

 

 

Good times in Fayetteville

Thursday (the 19th) we got to do something we’ve been trying to do for months: go to a bluegrass jam.

An old family friend, Reed Doke, has been trying to get us to come to the Bear’s Place jam since we arrived here in November. It’s on the third Thursday of every month. Things kept getting in the way, though, and so we were pretty excited that the stars finally lined up.

It was a small jam (six people total), but everybody was super talented and I had a great time. I don’t think my dobro teacher would have been particularly proud, as some of my breaks were terrible, but I took more breaks than I ever did as a guitar player so I consider this a win. It was fun! And so wonderful to play and sing again.

So that was the first round of awesome.

The next round happened the next day. First, we had a “max reps” challenge at CrossFit. As in, pick a heavy weight (mine was 105 lbs) and do as many reps as you can, unbroken. 105 lbs is a lot of weight for me, and I was hoping to get to 20 reps.

I got to 37.

Hell Yeah! But afterwards, trying to put my weights away, I could barely walk. Which also elicited a Hell Yeah!

That evening we got to head back up to Branson, Missouri, for a dinner invite with Richard and Bambi. You might remember Michael’s amazing uncle and aunt from this post in December. Well, we needed to bring up a couple pieces of furniture, so Richard and Bambi turned dinner into a big family event. So we got to see our cousin Tyler (who we haven’t seen in a couple of years) and his lovely fiance, Allegra, as well as cousin Zach, his wonderful wife, Molly, and their two kids.

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Allegra and Tyler are both professional orchestra musicians – Allegra plays the harp and Tyler plays trombone. The’re getting married this spring!

We had a great time hanging out with everyone.

Saturday the 21st was the day of the Women’s March, and I have to tell you I was so proud to be an American. I followed it all on Facebook. I love all my strong nasty women!

Saturday afternoon we met up with our friends Barton and Andrea and Shireen and Liz at Crystal Bridges  Museum of American Art up in Bentonville. I had mentioned to Andrea a little while back that I’d love to go to the Frank Lloyd Wright house that’s on the premises now. And she said, “Really?!?” Because apparently she’d been wanting to go for a long time. Yay!

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We toured the house, which was awesome, although we couldn’t take any pictures inside. If you click on that link above, the museum has several pictures online. I loved the view of the trees from those giant picture windows.

After the tour we all went out to dinner at a place in Bentonville called Tusk & Trotter. Their menu looked so fabulous, and with the exception of serving foie gras I think this place would fit right in on Pearl Street in Boulder. (If you don’t get that joke, check out this article from the Wall St Journal, the most objective piece I could find.)

Dinner was amazing. The food was wonderful and made all the better by the great company. I had something that I actually don’t see on their on-line menu: porridge. Yep, that’s what they called it. A mixture of farro and oatmeal, with a little pulled pork, three decadent pieces of pork belly, a hard-boiled egg, and pico de gallo on top. It might sound a little weird but let me tell you it was delicious. Delicious!

It hasn’t been too cold here this week, but it won’t stop raining. We’re both totally looking forward to Florida.

Time to get going… soon

Let’s get the big news out of the way first: the Fayetteville house is under contract. We close on February 3rd.

Whew.

Actually, there’s not much else to report. It’s winter here in Northwest Arkansas, and that means if the sun is shining it’s about 20 degrees. If it’s warmer – say, in the 50s – then it’s totally overcast, except those clouds won’t actually produce any rain.

So it’s safe to say winter in the south is not my favorite thing.

Michael and I did check out the Fayetteville Air Museum, which was super cool for me since I love things that fly.

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Yeah, I love things that fly, but this one? No thanks.

I mentioned in my last post that Michael’s parents moved into an assisted living facility, and it went pretty smoothly. We brought all the big stuff first, like the dresser and the TV and clothes. The stuff they really needed. For the past week now we’ve been visiting pretty much daily and bringing things with us each time. You know, the small stuff that makes an apartment feel like home, instead of a hotel room.

My happiest find was what I’ll call a knick-kack shelf. Beth has a lot of small glass pieces around the house and I knew she’d want them in the apartment, but table space is kind of at a premium there. I went looking for shelves. Mostly online, so I could show Beth. This became the front runner:

Knick knack shelf Etsy

 

I found it on Etsy, and you can click here to go direct to the seller’s page.

I liked it because the spaces are all different sizes and it can hold lots of stuff. I thought the price was a bit high, but Beth told me to go for it. The problem? Shipping. The seller was charging $200 for shipping.

Maybe because it was oversize? I don’t know, but $200 for shipping was a deal breaker.

 

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So I started a local search through the flea markets here in Fayetteville. Here’s what I found (after a few coats of Krylon):

I’m actually quite proud of myself for this one. Beth and Steve love it.

 

Anyway, Michael celebrated his birthday on the same day we closed on the house, Friday. We started the day with a brutal CrossFit workout (it involved a fabulous weightlifting move called a snatch), and since it was his birthday Michael requested “Eye of the Tiger.” That’s right, we worked out to the Rocky III soundtrack.

After that it was a seafood kind of day. Beth and Steve took us to Red Lobster for lunch, where I wolfed down some lobster tacos and Michael thoroughly enjoyed a giant plate of crab legs. I needed a nap after that meal. And I was barely hungry hours later, when we met up with some friends for sushi at Wasabi on Dickson Street. It’s the second time we’ve eaten there – the first time was at the end of December, after seeing the Cate Brothers at George’s Majestic Lounge.

Yummy stuff at Wasabi. I mean, I get the sashimi plate nowadays (to avoid the rice) but everyone said the rolls and nigiri were fabulous. After dinner it was on to Arkadia Retrocade. They don’t have a website but here’s a link for more information.

The retro arcade feels like a recent trend. Boulder has the Press Play Bar and we went there a few times. It’s fun!

The really cool thing about Arkadia is this: $5 gets you in the door and once inside all the machines are free. How awesome is that?!? Games like Spy Hunter, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Galaga, Paper Boy, X-Men… and that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. This place is packed with games. Only four pinball machines (and only 2 worked), though. I saw bubble hockey. Air hockey. There are a few couches set up in front of retro (read: 1970’s) TVs and couches, with retro game consoles and boxes of games to choose from. We played bowling on a first generation Atari. It was hilarious and awesome and crazy to think about how far we’ve come with graphics.

There’s even a snack bar! Since you might be there for a while, gotta keep up your strength and all.

Then we met the owner – Shane. Super cool guy, unapologetically nerdy. He just walked up and introduced himself and was so happy that we were having a good time. I asked him about the pinball machines, and here’s the deal:

Arkadia Retrocade has been in business for about four years. It took him three years to set aside enough money to buy the pinball machines. They’re a lot more expensive than a video game, and, with more moving parts, are more prone to breakage. As an example Shane said he can buy an arcade video game for $600-700. A pinball machine is between $3,000 – $5,000. And when they break (which they do, and often), he tries his hardest to replace them with the correct-era parts, and those can be hard to find sometimes.

So I can’t complain about the lack of pinball machines. They sound like a pain the ass, actually.

We’ve got three weeks to get our stuff together and come up with a travel plan. Right now we’re thinking Florida. Since I am missing out on the snowboarding season, I want some sun and sand. And warmer temperatures.

Happy New Year!

It sure has been a busy weekend here in Fayetteville.

It all started earlier this week, when the furniture we ordered for Beth and Steve’s new apartment arrived. Michael and I had to be there for the delivery – and then we had to make sure everything worked, of course. But that meant we could start the moving process.

We could have started Friday, but the big story for the day before New Year’s Eve was getting to see The Cate Brothers at George’s Majestic Lounge. These guys are legendary here in Fayetteville and the show was packed. We went with our friend Andrea, and afterward the three of us went for sushi at a place on Dickson Street called Wasabi. Yummy!

It was a fun night, and we needed it. Because Saturday (New Year’s Eve) is when the work began. Beth’s brother Richard came down from Branson with a flatbed trailer, and he helped us move some furniture into the apartment, as well as pick up a few family heirlooms that he took back to Branson.

I’d like to say we had a rockin’ New Year’s or something, but we were all pretty tired from moving stuff and honestly I’m just proud that I stayed up until midnight. I watched some of the NYE coverage with Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper. Has Kathy Griffin always been so annoying? I used to think she was funny.

Anyway. Sunday (New Year’s Day) was the day we took the bulk of the items up to the new apartment in Springdale. Moving always takes longer than you think it will, so we didn’t get started on dinner until almost 7:30. And this was a special dinner.

Apparently in the south, eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day is supposed to bring luck and prosperity for the new year. Michael’s take on the whole idea:

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What is this beautiful creation?

Crispy black eyed pea fritter with cabbage & red onion slaw, pineapple pico de gallo, and avocado puree.

It tasted even better than it looked. And that wasn’t all! In fact, the fritter was just the appetizer for the main meal:

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That’s right, jealous people. My new year’s day dinner was fried chicken with mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus.

I actually made those mashed potatoes. The chef’s contribution to my dish came when I told him I didn’t want to add any more butter, but I thought they still needed something. He added a fat dallop of duck fat. Yep, we found duck fat sold by the jar at Whole Foods. It made those potatoes heavenly.

I’ll leave you with a few shots of the plating of this meal.

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Start with the black eyed pea fritters, placed on the pureed avocado…
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Add the cole slaw…

 

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And finish with the pineapple pico de gallo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty cool that all this came from “we need to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s for luck!”