Gary Jones Photos | Blog | First Day of Hiking in Arkansas during our Fall Photography Trip
Getting started in hiking during our week long trip to shoot the Fall color in Arkansas. It's important to start out with shorter hikes to build your balance and stamina, but short hikes can be just as educational as hikes of any ength.
Bella Vista, Arkansas, Fall Photography, Fall Color, Travel, Hiking, Hobbs State Park, Tim Ernst, William Rainey. Airbnb
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Arkansas 2019 | First Hike

Van Winkle Hollow

Arkansas 2019 | First Hike

Since arriving on Saturday at our Airbnb rental in Bella Vista, we have been getting settled in and finding our way around Bella Vista, Bentonville and Rogers, Arkansas.  Our place is located in a tree-lined neighborhood and sits off the main road next to an adjacent vacant lot.  Christine does the best job of finding places that meet our needs and this one is perfect.  Two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a nice-sized kitchen and a dining and living room area where we can setup our laptops to edit images. Plenty of room to store all our extra stuff in the spare bedroom and give us room to operate. It seems almost all the homes around Bella Vista are built along the side of a hill, so our back deck is up about level with the middle of the trees and makes for a nice feeling of being in the woods. 

We woke up to a nice clear day and the promise of mid-60 temperatures later in the day.  The trees are showing some signs of color, but not the kind of color that pops off the page when looking at a print.  Sometimes you have to get yourself in-place and wait for the weather to do its thing.  If we are lucky the temperature will drop and the recent rain will really get the colors changing.  So, we decided for today to make a run to nearby Hobbs State Park and see what’s there.  It’s just outside of Rogers so it’s not far away and we thought it might give us a chance to get in a hike today.  We needed to get our legs use to hiking up and down trails and on uneven surfaces for longer hikes to come.

After crossing the lake that sits within the park, we drove through the winding roads of the park up to the Ranger Station and Lodge.   It’s a really nice place that also serves as place to learn more about the natural elements of the park.  We spoke with the park representative at the front desk and she outlined some nearby short hikes in the park.  Since we had given most of our day to just looking around the area, it was already early evening with only about an hour of sunlight left.  Not a lot of time for hiking, but maybe a short one.  There are four trails in the park and we picked the shortest hike (half-mile) known as the Historic Van Winkle Trail.

The skies were clear, but the temperatures had already dropped into the 40’s as we started off at the trailhead.  We started off down the paved path that sweeps under the highway through a pedestrian tunnel and then changes to an earthen hiking trail.  The trail makes a loop through the Van Winkle family homestead where in the late 1800’s the family established a home and businesses in the small valley. The primary business of the family was a lumbermill where they were the primary lumber providers for homes and businesses in about a 100 mile circle of the valley.

As you reach the valley floor, the hills rise around you and it all is quiet.  The only sound you hear is the sound of wind in the leaves above you and the river that runs through the valley around you.  It’s a small river, but enough to power the steam-powered mill the family created for cutting trees into lumber for selling in the area.  As we walked along the trail in the evening light, the sky began to turn yellow and then pink through the bare tree branches above us. The colors of the sky reflected in the waves of the stream as we watched the light change.  Just standing still for a bit to take in the serenity of it all, I had to wonder about the days gone by here.  How did those that lived here and those that worked here experience the place?  How did they see life in this valley? 

The Van Winkle family, built a large home even by today’s standards – almost 3600 square feet – and a number of businesses here for almost 75 years.  (Of course, owning a lumber mill was certainly a plus!)

With the light fading though and becoming more orange, we took some images and short videos with our cell phones and turned back to get out before it was completely dark.    All in all, it was a good start to our hiking adventures, and we learned more about the local area and the story of a family we would never know existed had we not hiked the trail.    As the sun set on our way out we stopped by this stream for a short bit to take in the solitude and sounds and let everything else go.

If you are interested in more information about the family and trail, check out these articles also for some interesting history and details.

Can you imagine living so deep in the woods that you have to be self-sufficient with EVERYTHING? While an idyllic valley with lots of resources, it still came down to hard work and fortitude to make it.

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