Vacationing in Northwest Arkansas

By Marjorie Bull

We have a large extended family and wanted to vacation together in the Ozarks near the Buffalo River.  Fortunately, we located a fantastic place to stay while we took day trips in the area.  We stayed at Robin and Ruth Moore’s Pine Lodge located on 450 acres in Compton, Arkansas.  Originally their home, now it is a family lodge for their descendants.  It is owned by Aremores, LLC, whose members are also descendants. Their family includes Mr. Robin, Mrs. Ruth, their 5 children, and several grandchildren.   Therefore, the furnishings and décor are primarily personal family property.  Compton is centrally located and is about 60 miles from Branson, MO, 60 miles from Fayetteville, AR, 50 miles from Eureka Springs, AR, and 25 miles from Harrison, Huntsville, and Jasper, AR.  It is only 10 miles from Ponca, Kingston, the Upper Buffalo National River, and historical Boxley Valley, where elk herds are often seen.  It is 2 hours from Bentonville, AR, the home of the Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art and Amazeum Children’s Museum.

This lodge is wonderful!  It is suitable for 16 guests.  The large vaulted ceiling and open-floor plan give ample space for family togetherness.  Included are 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths in the earth-bermed lower level, giving protection in case of storms and a quiet sleeping experience.  A spiral staircase in the great room leads to a fun-for-kids crow’s nest that sleeps 4 (bring your own sleeping bag).  Linens and towels are provided.  A half-bath is included on the main level. There is an attached 1 -3 person efficiency apartment, and a game room with pool and ping pong tables.  Amenities include miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails, a Native American bluff cave, a basketball court with bleachers, horseshoes, volleyball, and tetherball.  There are outside patios with a chimenea and a fire pit.  Wi-Fi and major network television stations are available.  I really appreciated the attention to details in the lodge.  This had been the Moore family home for many years.  Mrs. Ruth told me her boys learned to ride their bikes all around in the great area on the first floor.  Their four-year-old used the crow’s nest for his play area so he could sneak away from his one-year-old brother.  By the spiral staircase are many beautiful crosses on the wall.  The kitchen has everything one needs for cooking, even salt, pepper, and Tony’s Creole Seasoning. There is also an ice machine, which we used to keep our coolers filled with ice.    We brought plenty of food to cook and enjoyed every minute.

Outside, a barbecue gas grill was located on the patio, with plenty of propane, so we barbecued pork chops one night and hamburgers on another night.  The open pit outside had a lot of fire wood already chopped and stacked for use.  Smaller pieces were located in a storage box near the chimenea.  Downstairs, a washer and dryer with detergent and dryer sheets were provided.  A library was there also.  I enjoyed looking at the Foxfire Series, all of the Boy Scout manuals and Eagle Scout certificates, and many other books.

Our cell phones would work sometimes on the west side of the lodge, but a land-line phone is located in the game room in case of emergency.  It was so enjoyable to all be together in one lodge area.  Had we stayed at a hotel, we would have needed four hotel rooms, and we would not have been able to cook, or feel comfortable that the children were safe.  Staying at the Moore’s Pine Lodge was like staying with kinfolks.  On the first day there when I went to their home to register, Mr. Robin and Mrs. Ruth were in the garage stirring up a huge pot of Jambalaya for the church supper that night.  They invited our family to come eat that night, but we had driven all day from Natchitoches, Louisiana to get there, and had to unpack and tend to kids.

During an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Moore, I learned that they will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2016.  They were preparing for a 6-day canoeing trip on the Buffalo River with their family.  Mrs. Ruth said they started going “steady” when she was 12 years old.  She taught school for her career and then had a second career teaching on the college level.  Mr. Robin has a PhD. In Chemical Engineering, his first career.  He also spent many years as the youth and music director at Hebron Springs Baptist Church in Louisiana.  His third career has been building houses.  So far, he has built 13 of them.  Before building Pine Lodge Cabin, he did core samples of the soil to make sure the cabin would be built on solid shale rock.  They began the cabin in 1971, then added the workshop (part of the game room area).  The Moore family had purchased the land from the state of Arkansas.  It was known as Old Section 16 – 640 acres.  They were one of the first private owners, and the first to live on their land.  Since 1982 they have begun tree farming.  Small sections of 10 – 12 acres are cleared annually and replanted with loblolly pines.

During the 1980’s energy crunch, energy efficiency was very important.  Mr. Robin used big overhangs (7 feet), and very thick glass in the cabin.  The cabin has a western view facing the bluffs in order to see the sun set.  He also loved using the open design for the main floor.  Mr. Robin built a towering triangular monument with a large LED cross on top to memorialize family members.  Names are engraved on the rocks on every side.  There is a nice bench located in front with flowers blooming all around.

The Moore family believes in using good stewardship on their tree farm and in the rental of their cabins.  They also have a primitive cabin called Primitive Pine Cone Cabin, which sleeps up to 6.  It has no electricity or drinking water, but there is water for washing and cut firewood.  The wood cook stove found in the cabin once belonged to Mrs. Ruth’s grandmother. An outhouse is located outside of the cabin.  If you like the idea of roughing it, this is a great little cabin!

Our family drove about 10 miles to Ponca, and visited the one-hundred-year-old general store.  Then we went to the Ponca Elk Education Center where the kids enjoyed the hands-on activities about elk, wild cats, and bear.  Lots of informative brochures about the area were available as well as recipes for fish, deer, and other types of wild life.  There were historical letters about life in the Ozarks in the 1800’s, tanned hides, and many educational games about nature.  We found reasonably-priced walking sticks for the kids to take on a hike the next day.

After leaving there, we traveled a few miles up to Steel Creek Recreation Area and had a blast. Day use of the river was free.   We backed the truck up under shade trees and had a picnic, went swimming in the Buffalo downstream, splashed around in the shallow part with the young children, and watched kayaks and canoes pass by going down a small ripple of rapids. In the swimming hole below the shallow section is a rope swing on an overhanging tree limb. What fun to swing out and drop down into the cool Buffalo!  Before leaving, we cut the dark green watermelon.  It was dark red on the inside and very sweet, just like a watermelon ought to be.

The next day we traveled to the Lost Valley Trailhead, near Ponca, and hiked the trail.  The box canyon, which forms Lost Valley, was once underground.  Cobb Cave and a small underground cave are all that is left of that large cavern.  The first ½ mile of the trail is easy to walk and is also wheelchair accessible.  Cobb Cave is actually a large bluff shelter, and acquired this name due to the ancient corn cobs found at the site.  The small underground cave is about 150 feet long.  Take flashlights and stay to the right side all the way to the waterfall room.  Then turn around and go back the way you came in.  Watch out for bats that may be hanging from the roof of the cave.  Traveling from Ponca, take Highway 43 1.5 miles south, then turn right.  This is 0.5 miles from the trailhead parking lot, which contains plenty of parking spaces, sheltered picnic tables with electrical outlets, an outside faucet, and bathrooms with running water.   Lost Valley is for day use only – no charge, but no pets allowed.  Along the trail one can see wild flowers and medicinal plants, such as bloodroot, mayapple, columbine, and comfrey.  Photographers love the area for shooting during all seasons.  For tent camping, visit Steel Creek or Kyle’s Landing Campgrounds.

Steel Creek is 3 miles east of Ponca off Highway 74.  It has 26 campsites and 14 sites for the horse campground.  GPS Coordinates:  36.0407758,-93.3440483

Another great day trip is traveling to Branson, Missouri which is 60 miles away.  There are a lot of shows, attractions, and eating establishments, but some things are free.  For example, the Branson Landing Fountain shows begin at noon daily featuring 120 feet tall geysers and blasting fire cannons choreographed to a variety of toons.  The Dewey Short Visitor’s Center has a Native American artifact exhibit, a movie showcasing the construction of Table Rock Dam, murals, interactive maps, and an observation deck for viewing Table Rock Lake.  Shepard of the Hills Fish Hatchery is another interesting free place to tour.  Table Rock Lake State Park has no admission fee and offers a wide range of activities, including various types of boat rentals for use on Table Rock Lake.  Copper Run Distillery and Tours and Tastings at Stone Hill and Lindwedel Wineries are also free for adults.  The free downtown trolley operates from 10 – 6 daily from March through December with pick-up and drop-off every 15 minutes.

There is a free on-line Branson Visitor’s Guide.  Web code is BPC4GZ, and the phone number is 1-800-554-7952.  One can learn about current shows, attractions, museums, dining, and lodging in the area.

Another great day trip is visiting the caves in the area.  Marvel Cave is located at Silver Dollar City near Branson and is America’s third largest cave.  The cave trail is 300 feet down, but a 0.5 mile tram ride is provided to get back to the surface.

 

Blanchard Springs Caverns are located north of Mountain View, Arkansas in the Ozark National Forest, and are open until 6:00 p.m. daily.  NF 54 Forest Road. The phone number is 1-800-757-2211.

Cosmic Cavern is NE of Harrison, Arkansas.  The address is 6386 A-R-21, Berryville, AR, and the phone number is 1-870-749-2298.  The cave closes daily at 5:00 p.m. daily.  The tour lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes, mostly on level ground.

Mystic Caverns is located 8 miles south of Harrison, Arkansas at 341 Caverns Drive.  It is 5 miles north of the Buffalo River.  The phone number is 1-870-743-1739.  Tours include the Crystal Dome Cave and end at 5:00 daily.

For bicycle enthusiasts, the Upper Buffalo Bike Trail is a free area connecting mountain bike trails that ae kept up and patrolled by volunteers.  This trail is near the Buffalo River and is also close to Boxley Valley and Ponca.  There are two different trailheads for access to the Upper Buffalo Bike Trail.

The first is Knuckles Creek Road Trailhead.  GPS Coordinates are 35 51 23.151”N-93 29 40.056”W.  From the intersection of Highway 21 and 16 at Fallsville, go west on Highway 16 for 10 miles.  Turn right on Knuckles Creek Road/FS 1430 for 0.9 miles, then take the left y for 0.2 miles.  The trailhead is on the left.

Cave Mountain Road Trailhead is the second point of access.  The GPS Coordinates are 35 52 26.37”N-93.30 42.86”W.  From the intersection of Highway 21 and 43 at Boxley, take Highway 21 south for 1.0 miles, then go right on Cave Mountain Road just before the Buffalo River.  Drive about 9.3 miles to Knuckles Creek Road/FS Road 1413. Turn left, and go .9 miles, then take the left y for .2 miles south.  The trailhead is on the left.

We found the perfect centralized spot to stay at the Aremores, LLC Pine Lodge Cabin located at 1247  Newton C 1350, Compton, Arkansas 71624.  Mr. Robin and Mrs. Ruth Moore’s phone number is 1-870-420-3227.  The email address is aremores@ritternet.com and the web address is aremores.com.  We hope this is the first of many trips for our family to the Buffalo River area.  Our family is discussing a trip in late spring next year for canoeing on the Buffalo.  We had a wonderful time in Compton, Arkansas.  Thank you, Mr. Robin and Mrs. Ruth Moore!

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