Unplug in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains [PHOTOS]

Heather relaxes on a beautiful Ozark morning

The Ozark mountains are a restful destination where we love to reconnect with nature and good friends.
(Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

We love our friends in Texas, but sometimes the chaos of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is enough to drive anyone batty. That’s when we know it is time to escape to the mountains.

My mom’s best friend, Diana, moved there from California a few years before my own family relocated to Southern Arkansas. So many of my fondest childhood memories were made in the hills and valleys of the Ozarks.

I first took Heather there when we were engaged, and she fell in love with the people there too. Every time we visit, we are impressed at their big hearts and open arms, not to mention the breathtaking beauty of the locale.

Jathan, Heather, Daniel and Priscilla in the Ozarks - Photo by Joe Sain

We had a great time taking two of our favorite people, Daniel and Priscilla, to the Ozark mountains. (Photo by Joe Sain)

This past weekend we took two of our favorite people from Dallas to the mountains with us. We affectionately call Daniel and Priscilla “the kids” because they’re both about fifteen years younger than we are. Excited to leave, we loaded up the car early Friday morning and made our escape from the city.

From Dallas, it’s only about a six hour drive to Newton County, which has approximately eight thousand residents. First, we drove to Oklahoma where we stopped for lunch at the Eufaula Flower Shoppe and Cafe. The owner of the Stuffed Olive, Debi, had recommended it, and we could see why. It offered the perfect respite from the storms outside with its adorable restaurant, yummy eats, and super-friendly staff. If you go, the chicken salad is delicious, and Heather loved the Ruben. But honestly, everything was exceptional. Our amazing waitress even made sure we had drinks to go before we even asked for them!

Eufaula Flower Shoppe and Cafe

The Eufaula Flower Shoppe and Cafe is one of Oklahoma’s little culinary gems.
(Photo courtesy Eufaula Flower Shoppe and Cafe, Facebook)

We arrived in Newton County around 5:30 pm. The rain had finally stopped, and although it was cloudy, the kids had the chance to see the magnificent vistas of the Ozarks for the very first time. Our friends, Joe and Kay, live in the tiny town of Cowell, and we stayed in their adorable guest house, which was just perfect for us. It had a little galley kitchen and living room area, two bedrooms and a bath, all of which they have decorated lovingly so it is warm and inviting, even though the cool temperatures were enough to make Priscilla shiver.

Sain guest house

The tiny guest house we stayed in was adorable, warm and inviting. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

The property is flanked by two glittering ponds, lyrically drawn deciduous trees, and occupied by plenty of wildlife, including songbirds, bunnies, and the occasional bear, although we didn’t see one on this trip. It makes for a stunning landscape that is both restorative and restful.

Sain guest house ponds - Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment

This Ozark view from the guest house is one of my favorites. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

Heather and I quickly whipped up dinner, as we had promised, then headed over to the main house where we dined on our penne with Italian chicken sausage and vodka sauce, a tossed green salad, herbed Italian bread, spiced Italian green beans, and a nice Cabernet Sauvignon.

After dinner, Joe and Kay pulled out the dominoes and taught us to play a game called Mexican Train. We caught on quickly and had a great time. It’s always funny when you play games with friends. You see just how competitive some of them can be! But no one got out of hand, and it was all in good fun.

Heather makes buttermilk pancakes

Heather whips up a batch of her famous buttermilk pancakes. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

Saturday, Heather and I woke early to make breakfast and pack a picnic lunch. We were going over to Mt. Judea (pronounced Judy by the locals) to visit folks in that area and knew we wouldn’t be back by lunchtime, so we needed to bring our eats with us. So while Heather made the buttermilk pancakes with warm maple syrup, eggs, and peppered bacon; I made roast turkey sandwiches with provolone cheese on baguettes for lunch.

Mt. Judea creek

The creek beds were full to overflowing on Mt. Judea. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

After breakfast we made it out on the mountain. The previous day’s rain had even the streams running like rivers, so we had to be extra careful we didn’t cross any waterways in the car for fear of being washed away. By the time lunch came, the fog was so thick, we weren’t able to make a long day of it as we had hoped, and had to get back to the house shortly after we ate. It gave us the chance to nap a bit and for the fog to clear before we went over to our friend Linda’s house for dinner.

Daniel and Heather play cards

Daniel and Heather take their game of Crazy Texas Canasta seriously. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

She’d made up a pot of gumbo served alongside warm bread and a lemon cheesecake for dessert. Everything was very good, and most of us had seconds. I think Daniel may have even had thirds! Afterward, she taught us to play Crazy Texas Canasta. It’s quite different from the traditional Canasta game we normally play and took us a while to catch on, but once we did, we all got quite serious about it. She also taught us to play Ida Rummy, named after the woman who taught it to her, but which was actually a little easier and very fun.

Sunday morning, we rose again to make breakfast and lunch. Heather made buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy while I made up a pot of my Hoppin’ John. After breakfast we dressed and went to worship, and it was fun to see friends in the tiny congregation there. There are only about 30 people who attend at the top of the mountain, but they’re all very welcoming and made the kids feel right at home.

Two of my oldest and dearest friends, Johnny and Diana, followed us back to the little house where we were staying and we all broke bread together, which was nice. I’d made my skillet cornbread and a mess of greens to accompany the simple meal, and it was nice to catch up, and for the kids to get to know everyone else a little bit better. Joe finally ambled over from the main house to see if we wanted to go for a hike later, so after Johnny and Diana left, we changed and headed to Glory Hole Trail.

Heather on Glory Hole Trail

Heather takes a break on her climb down Glory Hole Trail. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

I’ve hiked lots of trails in the mountains, but had never been to this particular spot before. After all the rains we’d had, the water was tumbling down the mountain, creating lots of lovely waterfalls. It also made the limestone quite slick going down, and I quickly realized I wasn’t wearing the proper boots. Mine didn’t have much tread on them, so I couldn’t make it all the way down. Heather and the kids had worn sneakers, however, and they managed to traverse the treacherous trail a little easier.

Priscilla and Daniel on Glory Hole Trail

Priscilla and Daniel carefully traverse the rocks along the bottom of Glory Hole Trail.
(Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

I might have been more adventurous if Joe hadn’t already told us that this is where he once slipped and broke his ankle only to have to crawl over a mile back out to the main road. With the steep incline, this sounded like torture to me, so I erred on the side of being cautious. Still, it was a great place to visit and everyone had a great time, even if we were a bit winded climbing out at the end.

Glory Hole in Newton County

Over time, water wore its way through the limestone to create Glory Hole. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

By the time we got back to the little house, we relaxed a bit, had a late dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and baby peas, with Heather’s apple crisp for dessert. We all chatted a bit with Joe and Kay, then retired for the evening so we would be ready for the drive home Monday morning.

Limestone

There is a subtle beauty to the moss covered limestone formations of Newton County.
(Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

All in all, it was a lovely way to spend a weekend, despite the weather. Good food, great friends and gorgeous scenery just can’t go wrong, and it doesn’t hurt that the cell phone reception and wi-fi signals were intermittent at best. It kind of forced all of us to unplug, which is never a bad thing. We hope you had a great weekend as well. If not, we pray that you’re able to take some time out for yourself soon, reconnect to nature, and spend time with people who make you feel special and loved.

Heather savors the Ozarks - Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment

Moments before we had to leave to return to Texas, Heather could be found savoring the morning mountain air of the Ozarks. (Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

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About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

3 Responses to Unplug in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains [PHOTOS]

  1. Debby Carrico says:

    Thanks for this view of another part of our country!

  2. Jathan Fink says:

    Reblogged this on Jadeworks Entertainment and commented:

    Jathan and Heather head for the hills for a restorative weekend spent with good friends, yummy eats, and lots of stunning scenery. Check out all the photos from their Ozark adventure!

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