Haw Creek Falls

In thumbing through the guest book at Panther Cabin, several things were mentioned repeatedly by numerous guests. Unfortunately, I realized I wouldn’t be able to navigate the two-mile round trip (downhill and back up) hike to the much-acclaimed Glory Hole Falls, but having definitively conquered the fire tower and its accompanying Jiffy Lube precursor, we pressed on to Haw Creek Falls. It was early afternoon, we hadn’t packed a picnic lunch because we were planning lunch out at a special location, and Scott was quite hungry and munching on trail mix as we tooled along.

We did eventually come out – that is, off the dirt road onto pavement – and in less than five miles arrived at our next scenic destination: Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area. This is the one that claimed an “accessible trail to the falls,” which would surely be just the ticket for me.

I will add here that virtually all our goings-on during this trip occurred within the Ozark National Forest, a massive swath of primarily forested hills covering much of northwest Arkansas. Wikipedia informs me that “… the Ozark National Forest was created by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 to preserve 917,944 acres (3,714.79 km2) across five Arkansas counties,” including our long-time favorite, Newton County. I’ve decided that I really like the Ozark National Forest. Its recreational areas, sites, and trails are not as heavily used those of state parks; its minimal signage, while making some trail heads difficult or impossible to find, lets me enjoy the natural beauty more; and in each of my multiple visits to several of its vault toilets, I found them all to be clean, not foul-smelling, and well-stocked with T.P. What’s not to like?

Arriving at Haw Creek Falls Recreational Area, we (in the Durango) forded a low water crossing, parked and could see from our parking place that the “accessible trail to the falls” was actually about a thirty foot-long flat gravel path, and the falls themselves actually weren’t very high.

But they were definitely unique, with water flowing over in two criss-crossed directions at the same time.

I took  several pictures of the falls, and Scott worked hard – and we laughed a lot – trying to take selfies of the two of us with the falls in the background. (I plan to update this post with some of those pictures from his phone when I get them.

All in all, it was a delightful stop before hunger drove us on to the Burger Barn.


Finding Jiffy Lube (continued)

I frequently have a hard time letting go of things (thoughts, worries, and ideas, as well as actual, physical stuff) when I can’t achieve a level of closure, and I kept thinking about that abandoned tower and those puzzling foundations. “You know, Scott, what would be great would be if we could somehow find someone who knows the local history and could tell us about the tower and what the heck those foundations were for.” I don’t recall his response because I was busy inhaling the deep beauty of the drive, what with the redbuds in bloom and the dogwoods just on the verge of flowering and sunlight filtering through that special “new spring growth” shade of light green new that so refreshes my soul. Ah!

Up ahead, an older man crossed the road left-to-right in front of us. I think he was carrying a shovel or a rake or something. In the past decade or so, I’ve overcome my embarrassment of looking like a fool when I want to know something, so I asked Scott to slow down from our rip-roaring 15 mph, and I leaned out the window toward the man. It was an absolutely picture perfect, sunny spring day, about 70 degrees with almost no breeze. I said “Hi” and “How are you today?” and he replied that he’d been better but he guessed he was okay. I commented that he must be a rebel [his hat said REBEL], and that we were out on a joy ride and had driven up to that tower back there [pointing], and he nodded knowingly.

“I’m wondering if you know anything about that tower – I assume it’s a fire tower? – [he nodded] and the foundations of some kind of buildings we saw up there. There were some really weird walls and things that my husband said [here I laughed ashamedly] look like an oil change pit!!!”

“It is an oil change pit!”

“You’re kidding me!”

“No, that’s really what it is.”

Now I’ve known some older men—and some not-so-old-men—who have delighted in telling me crazy stories that I’ve been naïve enough to believe. I couldn’t tell if this man was stringing me along or not.

“You’re pulling my leg!”

[shaking his head and grinning slightly] “No. There used to be a house up there, a really big house. And the family that lived there had some kids that I rode the school bus with. The bus came over the mountain and picked up those kids—”

“You mean up by the tower?!? Up that road?!?”

“Oh, yes! The bus went up over the mountain, up that road and got those kids. Then it came down and [motioning the direction we were headed] picked up my wife down in the little red house, then came back around and didn’t go over the mountain, but went back out and picked up one other boy just this side of Salus [“SAY-luss”]. I rode that bus. And yes, we went up and down that road to the tower every day. And you should’ve seen that bus making that trip in the winter in the snow!!!”


“Yes. See, the family that lived there, the man, he was the fire spotter, and he went up in that tower at a certain time every morning and stayed there till a certain time in the evening, to look for fires. That was his job—“

“Kind of like a lighthouse keeper?”

“Yeah, I’ve been up there many times when he was up there. And his kids rode the bus to school. They had a really nice big house, and that was their oil change pit. For real.”

“Wow… the foundation was so big, we thought maybe it was some kind of business or hotel or something.”

“No, it was a house, just one family, and when they closed the tower, then they left.”

“I have better manners than to ask how old you are, but—”

“I’m seventy.”

“… so… it’s been a while since you rode that school bus.”

“Yes, it has.”

“Do you know what happened to the tower? When they closed it?”

“Well, it was about in the 70s. They used to have fire towers everywhere, but then they brought in planes and they started closing the towers. It was in the 50s and 60s that they lived there and I rode the bus up that road. They left this tower after it was closed, but a lot of them they took out. They used helicopters to carry them out. They disconnected them from the ground and then lifted them out with helicopters!”

Wow. His was the most amazing story, and he was glad to share it with us. We thanked him and headed on our way. Since he lives on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, I’m guessing not too many people have asked him about that tower lately, but I was so thrilled to hear that history. There’s nothing quite like a living, breathing primary source, and we were surely blessed with a wonderful one on April 10, 2019 on the side of Johnson County Road 5598.

Who’da thunk? It really was an oil change pit.  = )

Finding Jiffy Lube

Scott and I are enjoying a mini-vacation at a cabin deep in the woods of Johnson County, AR, and yesterday we decided to take a little road trip in search of a hiking trail that a previous guest at Panther Cabin had mentioned in the guest book. “We didn’t get to do as much hiking as I would have liked, but I would definitely recommend Pam’s Grotto. Details are below… Access is off Hwy. 123 about ½ mile from Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area. The trail head is not marked but can be found. The hike is ~1/2 mile one-way and starts moderate but ends with a short stretch that is STRENUOUS. The reward is a waterfall & pool (small) with a large shelf cave. Good luck!”

So our immediate goal was to get from where we were, out on a logging road about three miles northwest of Ozone, to the Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area, which we were able to locate on our trusty Arkansas highway map. As it turns out, it would have been most helpful to have had a Johnson County map that shows all the little dirt back roads, but alas, the only county maps we own (Taney County, MO and Newton County, AR) are currently at home in our map bin in the playroom.

A brochure in our cabin indicated that Haw Creek Falls campground had an “accessible” trail to the falls, so we thought we’d head there first, then maybe locate the trail head that “is not marked but can be found,” and possibly hike to Pam’s Grotto before eating a late lunch at the (highly recommended) Burger Barn in Ozone.

Scott drove, which is always the best option on country roads. He is better at navigating them than I am, and it leaves me free to ooh, ah, point, enjoy, and commentate. According to the Arkansas highway map, we’d need to take Highway 21 north to Salus (a town whose name we didn’t know how to pronounce), then spend some eight to ten miles on a road that was gray and unnumbered. We like exploring those kinds of roads, and with Scott driving and ¾ of a tank of gas, I was merrily unconcerned.

It was a fairly rugged dirt road (think rocks, ruts, and 15 mph), and maybe two miles in, I spied, very high up in front of us, a TOWER! It looked like a fire tower; you know, one of those with lots of flights of steps zig-zagging to a little covered deck at the top? Oh, how exciting! While dozens of steps don’t do anything in particular for me, I have known Scott to be compelled to explore such structures, sometimes even climbing past warning signs… Anyway, I saw the tower, and the road was definitely climbing, but somehow I lost sight of it, and when we seemed to be up on a relative flat that was surely near the top of everything, the tower had completely disappeared from view. Bummer! How could something to prominent suddenly be so gone? The road curved, and then just at the point where it appeared we would start heading down, we passed another dirt road that cut off to the left.

“Scott! I bet that’s the road up to the tower! Let’s go check it out.”

He hesitated. Genetically, Robertses are disinclined to turn around and go back—in any area of life, and especially on road trips. [NOTE: I do clearly recall that he did turn around and go back (I think for the first time in his life) when we were on a road trip to meet his parents before we got married. We were headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway and had just passed the last bathroom for many miles when I announced that I had to go. He looked at me in a certain tone of voice, asked if I could hold it for fifty miles (I could not), and somewhat grudgingly turned around. I think one of my subconscious goals for the past 32 years has been to avoid asking Scott to turn around, J and I will say that nurture has triumphed over nature; he has mellowed greatly on this point through the years.]

This time he said, “You really want to?”

“Oh, yes! We’re so close, we’ve just got to check it out!”

And he backed up (no problem as there was absolutely no traffic) and nosed the Durango up a very deeply rutted, very steep dirt road, strewn with large tree limbs and big rocks, and several places where it seemed we might bottom out. It was like walking the Durango up a ladder, one tire at a time. I was praying for God to have mercy on me (for making this crazy request) and protect us from damaging the car and/or getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. Well, Scott is an excellent driver who loves a challenge, and he inched that baby over, up, and through every obstacle without so much as a scrape, and as we finally got up on the flat and turned to the right, there in front of us was the base of that glorious tower. How terribly exciting!

Durango left

3041 left

Like virtually all fire towers these days, its lowest flight of steps had been removed, probably to keep vandals, teenage boys, and people like My Hero from climbing up and possibly getting hurt. We walked around it and took pictures, but with all the trees grown up around it, it was hard to even see the whole thing. Originally, I think it must have had something like seven flights of wooden steps. We scoped the bluffs behind it. Although much smaller, it reminded me of Petit Jean or Mt. Nebo: similar height, flat on the top, with gorgeous views in several directions of faraway valleys and ranges that stretched away to the horizon.


It was definitely a worthy fire tower, and while we were up there, Scott strolled over to the other “side” of the mountaintop and called back, “There’s a house here. More than one.” Of course, this I had to see. The actual house(s) were gone, and joining him, I stood looking at a series of curious rock foundations. Curious because, for one thing, they were built on the side of the mountaintop that faced away from the gorgeous views (why would anyone do that?), and for another thing, there were several squares or rectangles of them all in a row. Had this been more than one house? Or some apartments? Or, a la Mt. Nebo, some kind of hotel for guests?


And even more curious was a long set of two-tiered concrete “beams” jutting out from the rest of the foundation(s) on the downhill side and supported by extensive rock work. Scott examined them and said, “Looks like an oil change pit!” Yeah, right!


Finding historical gems like these always delights and intrigues me. Being naturally curious, I’m highly motivated to figure out what they are and who created them – and when and why. We wandered around the ruined foundations and took a few pictures—just in case we ended up in Clarksville and went to the Johnson County courthouse and found some elderly history buff-ish person whom we might ask about the fire tower and the interesting foundations near it; we could show the person the pictures so he or she would know what we were talking about. Walking back to the Durango, we also noted a long line of equally spaced, upended boulders on the opposite side of the circular dirt turn-around that seemed to indicate a parking area. It seemed like this whole development must’ve been some kind of a commercial enterprise, but up on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere?!? We laughed about Scott’s crazy statement about those concrete “tracks” being an oil change pit, then piled back into the Durango, inched our way back down that treacherous road to the main dirt road, and turned left heading (hopefully) toward the elusive Pam’s Grotto trailhead near Haw Creek Falls.

To be continued…

Overly ambitious

Given our innate differences in personality (introvert/extrovert), our differences in what we consider fun, fulfilling, or energizing (“why do something with people that your could do by yourself?” vs. “why do something alone if you could do it with someone else?”), my current physical limitations (minor knee issue, major foot issues), and my ever-increasing “loss fatigue” (weariness with and resentment about nearly always losing to Scott – even at pure luck games!!!), we have been challenged lately to come up with things that we enjoy doing together. But we have realized that we both very much like to declutter. = )

We’ve successfully tackled the kitchen junk drawer and one or two other small areas, but I think we bit off more than we could chew with our choice the other day to “set a timer for 30 minutes and clean off the high shelf in the shop building.” Now really, what WERE we thinking?

For one thing, the shop is full of all kinds of things about which we disagree. More accurately, there are many items in the shop that we agree we don’t need to keep, but in most cases, I want to throw it out and Scott wants to give it to someone who could use it.

For another thing, even getting to the high shelf is a bit of a logistical challenge. I didn’t think to take any before pictures, but here’s the shop interior as we left it 30 or 40 minutes later.

While Scott navigated around the bike, stood on the end table, and pulled himself up onto the armoire, I fulfilled rather useless tasks like driving the Durango up to the shop and then walking back and forth to the house to get a broom and dustpan, enabling My Hero to handle all the climbing and heavy lifting. He’s a gentleman, for sure.

I could see the blue baby bath and a bed rail, and I knew the Christmas stuff was up there (~4 boxes), but the number of additional boxes he hauled down was truly impressive. Even more impressive was the fact that most of those boxes had numbers on them.  I had labeled those boxes with Sharpie marker numbers when we packed them in Little Rock 23 years ago, and I had listed in a small red notebook the main contents of each numbered box. As Scott heaved them down, weaved around the piles of furniture, stumbled over the rolled-up carpet, and hoisted them into the back of the Durango, he panted, “Some of these boxes we haven’t looked at since we moved! “My college textbooks; why on earth do I have these?”

“You don’t even like to read.”

“I never read them in school.”

[Note that my husband completed his bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics at one of the most academically rigorous schools in the state in three years without reading any books. I’m telling you, the guy is really, really smart. A scholar and a gentleman.]

“And if you didn’t read them then, you’ll surely never read them now! Even if you did want to read something, you wouldn’t pick up a 35-year-old college textbook. Throw them out!!!”

And so it went.





But there were also a number of boxes of sentimental things, and on those I decided that I (or maybe even “we”) would need to go through those boxes, reminisce, cry, save a FEW especially meaningful items, take pictures of some – or a lot – of the others, and then either throw them out (my preference) or give them to someone who can use them (Scott’s preference).

In the meantime, our excessive ambition means I won’t have to worry about losing at pool any time soon.

A few of my favorite things

~ daffodils blooming

~ blue hyacinths blooming

~ waiting on the driveway for kids to come home

~ sunlight through new, tender, green leaves

~ tomatoes sprouting

~ waiting at the airport glass doors for Scott to come home

~ almost anything spring

~ editing, proofreading, blogging, writing

~ The Great British Baking Show

~ walking along or sitting beside the creek

~ organizing things or procedures

~ strawberries, peaches, watermelon

~ decluttering

~ walking out of the gym after finishing a workout


Amazing packing tip!

I was looking at two things on my bed. One, the “absolutely must to be taken, one way or the other” pile of stuff, and two, the open carry-on bag into which it all had to fit. I was overwhelmed. The volume of the former far exceeded the capacity of the latter. My bag has a zipper extension feature that lets me expand the bag, making it a couple inches deeper, and I had already unzipped it in anticipation of “The Great Cram,” but even with that, it was clear that the situation was impossible. None of my stuff was optional, and there was no way for that bag to hold it all. If only there were some way to compress it.

Then I had an absolutely brilliant idea. Or, more accurately, I remembered someone else’s brilliant idea. I never got the lady’s name, so I can’t credit her, but a number of months ago, when I was in Walmart looking for super-sized Zip-loc bags to store our washed and dried lettuce, a lady was putting a box of two-gallon Zip-locs in her cart. When she saw me picking up a box and considering them, she mentioned that they were great and that she used them for everything, especially when traveling. I was curious, she was enthusiastic, and now I know why. She said she put shoes in them, used them for dirty clothes, and especially loved the fact that she could use them to squeeze all the air out and compress things so they’d take up a lot less space.

Well! Who’da thunk?!? I happened to have some two-gallon Zip-locs downstairs, so I brought them up and proceeded to fill several of them with all my fabric items that could stand to be crushed – socks, undies, PJs’, a jacket, winter gear, etc.

I proceeded to lean heavily and/or lie down upon heavily on each loaded bag, carefully zipping and squeezing until each one was “vacuum-sealed.” I then stacked each rock-solid packet into the suitcase, and, lo and behold, it closed – with room to spare!!! There was so much room to spare that I zipped closed the extension, and it STILL closed easily!

How did I ever live this many years without learning such a wonderful tip?

Travelogue – part 1

Sunday 12/30/18 – Katie asks me to come visit her in February over the long President’s Day weekend. I gladly agree, and she generously books my flights! I will leave on Friday 2/15/19 and return on Tuesday 2/19/19. We’ll have three full days together.

Tuesday 2/12/19 – Katie informs me that a minor accumulation of SNOW is forecast for Saturday in Gordonsville!!! She has a pair of snow boots I could use if I wanted. Schedule-wise, I would be arriving Charlottseville at 9:36 PM, and we’d have a 30-minute drive home. We had previously planned to tour the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on Saturday, go to church and have lunch with her pastors on Sunday, and do whatever we wanted on Monday. I’d be flying back out of Charlottesville at 9:45 AM Tuesday. The snow might require alteration of our garden tour plan, but who could complain about snow?!? = )

Wednesday 2/13/19 – listening to a podcast, I hear a woman talking about her attitude in some unexpected circumstance, and her phrase, “I’m going on an adventure!” sticks with me. I tend to obsess (a nice word for worry) about the details of (pretty much anything and everything), and I had been umm… obsessing… about how I was going to pack regular clothes, church clothes, things for use in transit (phone, books, food, etc.), all my normal daily stuff for a total of five days away, plus winter gear, ALL in one carry-on and my laptop bag. So after hearing that woman’s phrase, I decided, “That’s how I’m going to approach everything about this trip: I’m going on an adventure!”

Thursday 2/14/19 – having finally gotten caught up on a number of work, ministry, and family/home-related responsibilities, I began to pack. It was a pretty detailed project, and as I packed, God said to me, “Remember, I’ve got you in this.” I thought that was odd, but thanked him, filed that statement away, and kept packing.

To be continued…