The next and final stop on our SE adventure was Lake Ouachita State Park, Arkansas. It was a short drive at four hours and we had heard about the Crater of Diamonds State Park from a guy at work which just happened to be on the way so we figured we'd stop off a couple hours to strike it rich mining for diamonds. Mining for diamonds was fun but it was too hot out to stay very long. We rented a screen and washed rocks in the blazing sun for a while. We found a lot of things we thought maybe could be diamonds but turned out to be just quartz. Little tip be sure to go through and look at all the diamond exhibit stuff before you head to the field, probably would have helped us figure out what we were looking for. Sounds like only 1 or 2 diamonds are found a day so pretty unlikely we would have happened across one but it was fun and if it wasn't so hot I could have stayed all day washing rocks. After mining for diamonds it was a couple hours to Lake Ouachita. We got setup and headed out to the beach. It was a very clear water lake. We could see fish swimming around so spent a lot of time snorkeling around looking at them. I even saw a really big bass which was cool. We were there for two days the first just swimming and hanging around the campsite, it was still really hot but we had a couple of camp fires here anyway. The second day we went to check out Hot Springs National Park. It was only 15 miles away and must be the strangest national park ever. It's really in the town and is mostly a row of bath houses and a couple of trails. I think I was expecting a big hot pool/lake of water or something but it's nothing like that. We walked around and filled our water bottles up with some hot and cool spring water and drank some 4000 year old water. There was a mountain tower overlook that we went to and then we drove around to the west mountain loop road. Overall it was neat just not what any of us expected. We went back and swam in the afternoon and the boys and I did a quick 1/2 mile hike on a trail by our campsite and got ready to head home the next day.
The ride home was brutal. We figured on 14 hours from AK to SD but with stops and everything it took us 17 hours. We left at 8am Friday morning and got home at 2am Saturday morning. We didn't have any trouble with the ride and the kids did really well it was just a long day for everyone. The kids decided to have a Disney movie marathon so could only pick Disney movies out of their collection for the entire trip. Which caused some turmoil when Marcus tried to pick a none Disney Movie about 12 hours in. His rebellion was quickly and mercilessly crushed, with full parent support (after all they had been talking about it all day and were this far in). We got home blurry eyed and piled out and went to bed leaving the trailer hooked up and parked in the road instead of backing it into the drive way.
|View from our Jimmie Davis site|
|A lot of camper movie time these last two stops|
|Our site at the Lake Ouachita Campground. The campground was one of the nicer one's I've seen with everything up on retaining walls overlooking the lake and flat crushed rock or cement camping areas. My preference if for something a little more natural but it was really nice.|
|More Lake Ouachita|
|Lucas and Marcus made a bowling alley out of some starter firewood and the bocci ball set|
|The lanes were open late|
|Hot Springs NP, hot water coming out of a fountain|
|Trail behind the bath houses where you could see some hot water from the springs coming down the hill in a natural setting|
|Marcus photo bomb|
|Marcus' future career??|
|Just lovely, and there's a nice flower in the picture as well.|
|The Mountain Tower|
|Top of the tower|
|View from the top|
|Marcus and I took the stairs down|
|The top of the west mountain driving loop|
|I finally got some hiking in. Lucas, Marcus, and I on the dogwood trail by our campsite. It's a short 1/2 mile hike.|
We are done, another trip in the books. Our SE Adventure had some ups and downs but overall was another epic trip. I'm writing this over a week after being home, it's funny how after just a few days the struggles and hardships that were there in the moment and even took center stage on this one a little more than our other two trips are fading away and leaving fond memories. There's places I'd go back to in a second and some I'd skip but there's wonder and adventure everywhere in this great country, I can't wait to hit the road again and explore some more.
And Finally the Family Truckster update
Miles Driven: 4956
Gallons of Gas: 487
Time in car: 127 hours
We had the longest drive ever this year with the last drive back home, 802 miles which took over 17 hours.