Today is nothing but rain, so I'm stuck inside and figured I'd catch up on my blogs here. So far, I've been at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas for four days and it's been quite an experience.
I arrived Saturday around 7 p.m. I saw on freecampsite.net that there was a free campground here, Big Fir, and I decided that was where I'd stay. The only problem was that I didn't know how the free campsites worked. Do you just pull up and pick a spot? Do you need to check in and get a permit from someone? No idea. I tried calling the office before I left but no one answered. With my "figure it out when I get there" attitude, I assumed I could just go to the office and talk to the people when I got there. So I drove about 4-5 hours from Memphis to Lake Ouachita only to find that the office was closed. Damn! Now what do I do? I drove around for a bit to try and see what was around, but it was pitch black and it's really a big pain in the butt to drive my big old mobile home up a big, windy mountain in the dark. I decided to head back to a gas station I saw along the way and asked the guy inside if he knew how the free camping worked. He didn't. But he said if I needed to, I could probably just park in one of the parking lots for the night and figure it out in the morning when there's sunlight. That seemed reasonable. I went to the parking lot he suggested and spent a solid half hour freaking out about whether or not I was actually allowed to park there overnight. I opted for putting a sign in the window in case someone came to knock on my window. And that was that. I couldn't figure out the camping when I got there so I slept in a parking lot.
The next morning I drove back up to the office and they were still closed. I was so frustrated, I just looked on Google maps, picked a public spot to go check out, and decided if I couldn't figure it out before it got dark I was leaving. I picked out the Brady Mountain area and parked Roman in the lot. Me and the pups got out and walked along the lakeside and through the woods. There was a campground there, but it appeared to be closed. After a little while, we went back to the RV and I saw a park ranger pull into the lot across from us. Hell yeah! Finally, someone I can ask about the free camping! I approached the white truck and the man inside didn't look up until I got all the way to his window. He rolled it down and I inquired about camping at Big Fir. He ended up giving me a map and pointing out the two free spots, as well as the spots that you pay for. Apparently it's their off season so there were only a few open. I was so glad I went over and asked. The park ranger's name was Byron and he was extremely friendly. We chatted for a little while and then he drove me around the campsite we were by so I could see it all. It was absolutely beautiful. The clear water and small islands throughout the lake reminded me a lot of the Apostle Islands.
I said farewell to Byron and took off toward Big Fir. To give you an idea of how big this lake is, it was a 40 mile/1 hour 15 minute ride from Brady Mountain to Big Fir. I passed through Crystal Springs on the way and stopped at a Dollar General for some water and marshmallows. Good thing, too, because it turns out Big Fir is a pretty secluded area and it would have sucked to have to go back into town just to grab something. The road going to Big Fir was a bumpy, gravel road. Let me tell you, that SUCKS in a motorhome. I probably cruised at a solid 5 mph the whole way to the campsite. It was worth it when I got here. I backed into a site and parked the RV. I couldn't believe the view I had from my bedroom window. Woods, blue water, and a steady stream of sunshine! Ahhh! This is the type of place you go to when you just want to get away from everything and enjoy some quality time with nature.
Byron mentioned that if I walk by the lakeside and look where there is red clay, I may be able to find some Quartz crystals. I leashed the dogs and we went out looking for crystals. I ended up finding some cool pieces sitting in the tree on my site (I guess someone left them) so I snagged those up and then called it a day. For those of you who know me, you know I'm blind and couldn't find something I'm looking for if it was right in front of my face. I can, however, find firewood. There was plenty of good firewood just laying around, so I went off and collected a bunch for when the sun set. I was so proud of myself when I started my fire! I got it going with just a little bit of cardboard and a couple of napkins. It was roaring! It was nice... but I couldn't get rid of the feeling that it would be better if someone else was there enjoying it with me. I started feeling lonely and decided I didn't want to be that isolated and would take off after one more night.
I don't know what it is about this lake, but every night since I've been here I have had the most vivid dreams. That night, I had one of the most bizarre, but comforting dreams. Never mind the weird stuff, I just quickly want to mention that my mom visited me in my dream. I looked in a mirror and instead of seeing my own reflection, I saw my mom. She just smiled and waved at me. I love when I have these dreams; it's like a reinforcement that I'm headed in the right direction and that my parents are still here by my side, looking out for me. They didn't travel much when they were alive, but they sure get to now! In the morning, the girls and I took off to do some more exploring. We moseyed around in the woods for a while and then went back to our site. I set up the slack line that my friend Tyler bought me as a going away present and fooled around with that for a bit. Boy, do I need practice. Those things are a lot harder to get a hang of than they look.
There was one other couple camping in the loop that I was in. I was down by the water and saw them digging in the dirt, looking for crystals I assumed. I brushed away the fear of rejection and walked over to say hi. Worst case scenario: awkward silence or obvious cues that they didn't want to be bothered and I'd leave. They turned out to be a really awesome couple. Digging for minerals/crystals/gems (all the good stuff) was a long time hobby they both shared. They actually met in the woods somewhere when they were both off on one of their trips. They started digging here at Big Fir and hit the jackpot! I scoped out their hole and you could see all sorts of crystals growing in there! It's amazing, the things we walk on top of every day, never suspecting that there is such beauty below our feet. I invited them over for a campfire once the sun set and they took me up on my offer. We had good conversation and my feelings of loneliness vanished. I guess I just needed some human interaction! I was good to stay a few more nights now.
Monica and Nick (the other campers) joined me again for a fire last night. I offered them a couple of bottles of water since they didn't have any (part of my goal of being less selfish and giving to others) and Monica brought me over a cookie. It reminded me of the barter system. Water in exchange for a cookie! Today was just rainy. I figured I'd take advantage of it an try for a shower in the rain. It KIND OF worked. I ended up having to use a bottle of water I filled at my last couch surfer's house to finish rinsing out my hair. Whatever. It worked well enough to wash my cave woman status away.
That about sums up my stay at Lake Ouachita. I got some time away from the big cities to enjoy nature, I met two awesome people who I may be able to meet up with again once I make it to Arizona, and I had my first real go at boon-docking. Tomorrow I'm going to head off to Crater of Diamonds State Park and hope I can find my Suzie Q!
I'm a city girl off on a journey to find happiness. My blogs will contain stories that I feel are significant to my voyage.