I've hit the road!
Anxious about a really long first day's drive, I headed out a day earlier than planned on Saturday, October 22. After grabbing my last Quills latte for a while, I headed out I-64 west, past Evansville, through Illinois and St. Louis, and eventually ended my day in Hollister, Missouri, just south of Branson. I didn't do much in Branson other than drive through the town, and the next day I was eager to get moving again.
Sunday, I visited Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. The park was founded by the owner of Bass Pro Shops. It was a little too commercialized at the entrance, but once I hit the trail through the Ozarks, it was really lovely. It is definitely more manicured than your average hiking spot, including a hiking trail that is paved in its entirety. I thought this was a nice feature, especially for anyone who might be in a wheelchair. It's so rare to see nature be truly accessible. There were plenty of waterfalls and big, beautiful fish. I walked the entire trail, altogether somewhere over 7 miles in total. The fall weather was fantastic and it felt great to stretch my legs.
From Dogwood Canyon, I drove through the Ozarks to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This little town is filled with shops, restaurants, and incredibly friendly people. I spent a little time yesterday walking the historic town, and all day there today. Although I love all the little galleries, gift shops, and boutiques, it is a little strange to browse them now that I have essentially no belongings and am not set up to acquire any. So, I mostly enjoyed the scenery. I also splurged on a big brunch at Mud Street Cafe (I've been mostly eating peanut butter, crackers, and apples), checked out the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa, a true historic gem with a phenomenal view of the mountains, and visited Thorncrown Chapel, a chapel acclaimed for its architecture located just outside town in the woods.
As I already mentioned, the people in Eureka Springs are very friendly. Southern charm is in full effect here, and of course, they are reliant essentially 100% reliant on tourism so it is to their benefit to be pleasant. One of my highlights for today was meeting a man named Reck who was working at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. Reck asked what I was doing in town, and I told him that I had sold all my belongings and was traveling the country for a year or so. He was very intrigued with this and we talked about Eureka Springs, other parts of the country to visit, and also about the value of being nice. He gave me a hug before I left with a big smile on my face.
A few minutes later, I was making my way up the street (literally UP... my Fitbit tells me I climbed 52 floors today) and a car pulls up. Reck pops out and says he just ended his shift, and wondered if I wouldn't take his cell phone number and send him a photo from my travels occasionally. I said I would be happy to do so, and snapped his photo so I'd remember the first new friend I made on my journey. It only took three days! :-)
Tomorrow, I am headed off to Hot Springs, Arkansas... a little sad to leave Eureka Springs so soon, but I'm sure I'll come back again someday.