I left Hot Springs this morning and headed west through the Ouachita National Forest. Winding around and around through the gorgeous trees, there was nearly no civilization until I arrived in Mena, Arkansas. I even passed a tiny airport that also housed a dentist's office along the way - now I call that RURAL (and efficient?).
Mena is the eastern starting point of the Talimena National Scenic Byway. I had crafted my route to see this stretch of road at the suggestion of my mother. Long ago, before I was born, my parents lived in Wilburton, Oklahoma, which is near the western end of the byway.
As soon as I turned onto the byway, the road started going up, up, up, and I was quickly greeted with amazing vistas of the Ozarks and the valleys and lakes below. The engineers who designed this roadway were smart, providing ample turnoffs and parking areas to stop and take in the views. I didn't skip any of them, which means I might win the world record for longest amount of time to drive this stretch of road.
Along the trail, I entered the State of Oklahoma, land of my birth. I snapped a photo with the sign and took a short jaunt down to the historic spike marking the state border. I also got so excited that I left my sunglasses in the grass there. I guess I get to shop for a new pair of shades!
Shortly after my stop at the state line, I hopped out at another overlook. A couple was finishing up taking photos, and she excitedly turned to me, showed me her hand, and said, "We just got engaged! I know I don't know you but I have to tell somebody!" They were so happy, and it was too sweet. I insisted on taking their photo together so they would have a good one to remember the moment.
I took about 1,239,552 photos of the mountains on my way along the Talimena today, but none of them could ever truly demonstrate the true beauty or scale of this gorgeous area. I'll do my best to portray my version of it, soon, when I finally sit down with my paint and brushes... :-)