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Little Rock Family Blog

Events, activities, news, insight and opinion from the trenches of parenthood by Little Rock Family Magazine Editor Heather Bennett and her editorial staff. Share tips, news and feedback with Heather here.
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Traveling Arkansas' Scenic Highway 7: Day 5

Gallery by Kat Robinson

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Spring Break is a great time to travel to a destination and enjoy experiences with your family. But what do you do when you’re used to travel? For me and my daughter Hunter, it’s time for a road trip.

Last week, we traveled the entire length of Scenic Highway 7, the longest state highway in Arkansas.  We found attractions along the way and share where we went.

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Friday morning, I was up before dawn so we could watch the sunrise on Mount Nebo. Hunter, though, was having none of it, so I walked down to the Rim Trail just below our cabin and watched it myself.

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I noticed the birds waking and getting louder over the several minutes it took for the sky to get brighter. The sunrise was just around the corner of Mount Nebo, but the colors spread in bands across the horizon.

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There was a large bird with a red crest I spotted in a bush not far from me. He went flying after a sparrow a few moments after I saw him.

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Once Hunter got up and we had breakfast, we spent time relaxing and looking around. We noticed that the bread that Hunter had put out for the birds the previous night was gone, but it wasn’t birds that had taken it.

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It appeared to be deer. We were able to figure that out, thanks to the Animal Tracks, Scat and Sign program we attended at DeGray earlier this week.

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Hunter wasn’t feeling her best, so we took it easy, leaving Mount Nebo around noon. We stopped for gas and saw this amusing bench.

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And then off we went up Scenic Highway 7. Through Russellville and up into Dover, the highway is five lanes, but once it gets into Dover, it goes back to a two lane road.

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And after it leaves town, a rumble strip accompanies the double yellow stripe in the road. There’s even a sign that states the next 56 miles are steep and curvy.

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We stopped briefly to take a photo at the old Booger Hollow Trading Post. It’s been closed eight years now, and it’s starting to really fall apart. The double decker outhouse out back has seen the worst of it, but there are also busted windows and open doors now. The property is fenced off from the road. It’s very sad to see.

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Something good to see, though, is Rotary Ann. This rest stop, located just inside the Ozark National Forest atop a mountain, was the very first rest stop in Arkansas. Back in the 1930s, the wives of Rotarians noted the heavy traffic along the highway and decided it needed a good stopping place. They worked to raise funds to have this structure completed. Today, it’s an unmanned 24-hour rest stop with clean restrooms and a magnificent view to the west.

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There’s a lookout several more miles up the road that has a great handmade rock wall. This place gives you a great view from the south end of what’s called the Arkansas Grand Canyon, a deep valley to the east of Scenic Arkansas Highway 7. The lookout spot is big enough for several cars to park, and I always try to stop and take a photo here. It was constructed as a "thank you" to the Arkansas Farmers Union Green Thumb, and was built between 1966 and 1969.

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We decided to stop for a bite to eat at the Cliff House Inn. This restaurant, perched on the edge of the Arkansas Grand Canyon, has a magnificent view of the valley below. It also has a whole lot of memorabilia from Scenic Highway 7’s glory days, when places like Booger Hollow and Dogpatch USA were still in operation and the entire length was studded with motorcourt hotels and restaurants for travelers to try. The Cliff House Inn also has the pie of the Arkansas Sesquicentennial, the Company’s Comin’ Pie, which is a meringue-crusted pineapple cream pie.

Hunter wasn’t feeling too well, so she poked at her vegetable place. I rather enjoyed the homemade chili, which was full of big chunks of ground beef and had cheese on top.

Hunter had picked up a brochure along the way, and shared it with me. She really wanted to go see a cave, so we decided to amend our plans. Instead of going to see the Elk Education Center in Ponca, we decided to stay on Highway 7 and go to Mystic Cavern and Crystal Dome.

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Back on the road, it wasn’t long before we passed Scenic Point at the highest point along this section of Arkansas Highway 7. We quickly descended into Jasper, which is a lovely and quaint little town that’s home to the second oldest restaurant in the state (The Ozark Café), a nice bakery, the Buffalo Theater and Emma’s Museum of Junk. 

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On the north side of town, we noticed a lot of construction going on. It looks like the road may be widened in this area.

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We briefly stopped at this monument across from the old Dogpatch USA. This marker was placed here to commemorate the place where the Arkansas stone came from for the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. That’s right--the Washington Monument was built with stones from every state, and this is where the one from Arkansas came from.

Just past the turnoff to The Hub, there’s the turnoff for Mystic Caverns and Crystal Dome. We went up and managed to get in on the last two tours of the day.

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Crystal Dome was our first cave. Mind you, it’s a 300-foot incline to walk down before you get to the entrance, and you then go 110 feet down into the cave.

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But it’s beautiful, full of stalagmites and stalactites in a living cave. Millie, our guide, showed us different figures inside the cave, including what appeared to be a dragon. She also had us look up when we got to the bottom, to see the crystal dome overhead that gave the cave its name.

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Crystal Dome was discovered in the 1960s, after people were aware of how caves grow and live. Mystic Caverns, the other cave we went in, was discovered long before. It was accessed for a long time by a ladder down a sinkhole…but when it was purchased by Dogpatch USA, an easier access was created.

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The sad part about Mystic Caverns is that it’s no longer a living cave. It is full of history, though. Back during Prohibition, moonshine was made in the cave and people would climb down the ladder to drink. Eventually it became a speakeasy, where bands and people who wanted to dance could come down and enjoy themselves. 

In many places, the cave is stained with smoke. Many of the stalagmites and stalactites were removed by people who sold them for quick cash back decades ago. But it’s an interesting cave to tour, and I suggest if you go, you should take both tours so you can see the difference and learn a whole lot.

That evening, we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Harrison. After an hour and a half of climbing around the two caves and several days on the road, we were pooped. But not too pooped for Hunter to go do her favorite thing--swimming in the hotel’s indoor pool.

Tomorrow we’re going to go trout fishing at the easiest place to fish anywhere I know… and tomorrow night, we’re going to stay in a treehouse. No joke! 

If you’d like to read more about our adventures, feel free to check out my blog, Tie Dye Travels.

The Voices of Addiction & Depression Part 3: Pastor, Child, Professional

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a series of articles provided by The Bridgeway called “The Voices,” which gives readers a glimpse of mental illness through multiple perspectives. Everyone needs to be heard and understood when dealing with addiction and depression. It is our hope this series of articles will encourage someone to seek help and healing. To read previous articles from the series, visit our Health section.

The Pastor's Voice

Suzanne carried her little brother Tommy as they walked across the church parking lot with their parents Mike and Beth. They were meeting Pastor Daniel Smith to talk about the upcoming baptism of Tommy, who was not yet a year old and ready to be baptized.

“What a happy child,” Daniel said while gazing at the infant who seemed to be smiling while cradled in his mother’s arms. “Yes,” said Beth “he always seems to be smiling and laughing.” “That’s good,” said Daniel, “but I was talking about Suzanne. She seems to be happier than she was a few months ago.” Suzanne smiled in approval. Mike looked at his daughter and said, “we got off-path for a while there but we’re back on track now.” “If you don’t mind my asking,” Daniel said, “what happened?” Suzanne looked at her parents as if they might speak for her. “Go ahead and tell him if you’re comfortable,” offered Beth. “It’s your story.”

“It was just a bunch of things,” Suzanne said, “and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep up.” “What do you mean?” Daniel asked. “With school, cheerleading, student council, babysitting and youth group, I had a hard time doing anything right.” “That is a pretty full schedule,” Daniel said. “I guess so. I almost flunked out of school and ran away,” Suzanne said, “I wanted to do it all to make my parents proud...” “We are proud of you,” Mike interrupted. “She didn’t feel like we were proud of her,” Beth added. “I would just hide in my room and go out with the wrong people,” Suzanne said, “even though that didn’t solve anything.” Beth inerjected, “We tried talking to everyone—teachers, coaches, neighbors—until we finally talked to Suzanne.” “Once we knew what she was feeling and thinking,” Mike said, “we felt it was time to see a therapist.” “What did you learn from the therapist?” asked Daniel.

The Professional's Voice

“As we finish our observation of Suzanne and her family,” says Megan Holt, LCSW, Director of Clinical Services at The BridgeWay, “we see that outpatient therapy was beneficial to the family. And to answer Daniel’s question, here is what Suzanne and her mother and father learned:”

The family learned how to increase the communication with their daughter and new parenting techniques that supported Suzanne. The sessions also aided the family in improving their ability to express empathy with each other.

Suzanne learned to verbalize the emotions causing the withdrawal from friends and family, and the need to escape her current environment. This helped her to change her negative thoughts and replace them with more positive self-talk that built her self-esteem.

Finally, the family and Suzanne learned about substance abuse and treatments. Suzanne joined a local teen meeting and her parents began going to Al-Anon.

“Considering how concerned I was previously,” says Holt, “I’m relieved that they sought therapy. Although it was Suzanne who told her story to Pastor Daniel, this was really a story about the family and how they came together by working with a professional.”

Seeking Help

The BridgeWay is one option for central Arkansas families seeking mental health care. The center offers both outpatient treatment and inpatient care. Outpatient treatment may be an option when a person has mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, chemical dependency or other issues. The center’s outpatient progam, known as Bridges, is overseen by an expert psychiatrist and serves children, adolescents and adults. The multi-discipline approach may include:

• A small, safe and structured treatment environment

• Psychiatric evaluation

• Medication management and evaluation

• Family therapy

• Substance/dependence/abuse treatment

For more information about The BridgeWay, visit TheBridgeWay.com.

Traveling Arkansas' Scenic Highway 7: Day 4

Gallery by Kat Robinson

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Above: Hunter delights in the slag glass at Jessieville's Coleman Rock Shop.

Spring Break is a great time to travel to a destination and enjoy experiences with your family. But what do you do when you’re used to travel? For me and my daughter Hunter, it’s time for a road trip.

This week, we’ll be traveling the entire length of Scenic Highway 7, the longest state highway in Arkansas. We’re going to find attractions along the way and share where we went. You can follow us at @TieDyeTravels for live updates.

Yesterday, we were awakened at four in the morning when the thunderstorm rolled in. We’d opened one of the windows in our room at The Arlington Hotel and Spa a bit to let in the temperate air outside, but when the storm came it caused some sort of disturbance that actually knocked a picture off the wall!

After that, Hunter went back to sleep, but I stayed up and wrote a bit. You can hear what’s going on along Central Avenue from this room on the eighth floor, but it’s not overpowering. I would take a look out from time to time as the sky started to lighten.

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Hunter slept in, but when she did finally decide to get up, we went across the street and had breakfast at the world famous Pancake Shop. The 75-year-old restaurant is a favorite of mine, and as usual it was packed. We managed to get a table in the back. Hunter got a blueberry pancake and an order of sausage, while I had my usual cheese omelet and toast with apple butter. Hunter decided she really liked the apple butter and the sausage, and the pancake, too. She couldn’t eat it all, so asked for foil and stuck the sausage in her pocket. I could not make this up.

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Once we were done with that, we went next door and checked out The Savory Pantry, which offers samples of all different sorts of great gourmet products from here, there and everywhere.

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Because it was raining, we decided not to go play miniature golf or visit the alligators. Instead, we set out to see what Galaxy Connection had to offer. This sci-fi store and museum along Hobson Avenue had caught our eye on the way downtown from Mid America Science Museum.

Inside, we found a Star Wars-themed gift shop and we were asked if we wanted to take the tour. Well, sure. After a short wait, another family came in and we went through the exhibits.

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When she saw this X-Wing model a gentleman in Memphis had built, she had to get in. There’s a lot of cool stuff there, including actual Stormtrooper and Darth Vader costumes from the original movies. We learned a lot of great stories there, too. Hunter wasn’t so thrilled with her first photo op with Darth…

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Our tour guide, Richard, even got in on some Darth Maul action with Hunter. Read more about our visit to Galaxy Connection here.

It was time to head north. We made it up to Jessieville and visited the Coleman Rock Shop. I’ve been going to this rock shop since I was a child, and I have plenty of tumbled stones, crystals and necklaces from it. But Hunter had never been. She went a bit crazy.

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At first, she was enamored with the little stone animals. Then it was tumbled stones. Then slag glass. There were a lot of rocks she wanted to add to her collection.

We had dined a bit too late to be hungry when we passed The Shack in Jessieville, so we kept on going. Just north of town, we spotted a Ouachita National Forest picnic area.

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Turns out, this little park is a trailhead for the Hunts Loop Trail. Hunter immediately wanted to walk the entire trail, but I put the brakes on that, pointing out that we’d be late getting up to our final destination for the evening.

We found other sites along the way through the Ouachita National Forest. There were still a lot of pine trees, like in the Timberlands, but they were perched on rounded-off mountaintops. After all, the Ouachitas are the only true mountain range in Arkansas, an ancient one that’s been weathered down to the small peaks and valleys we know today. The Ozarks, if you were wondering, are actually a weathered plateau.

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Just up the road, we saw the historic site for the original Hollis CCC camp.

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And a little bit further up the way, we stopped at the Hollis Country Store. It’s been open since 1930 and still uses some rather old gas pumps. When you go inside, there’s about anything you’ll need, including an old fashioned deli where Petit Jean barbecue loaf, ham and bologna are sliced to go on a sandwich with red-wax cheddar. They sell bait, too.

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We kept climbing and passed Lake Nimrod. Once you get past Nimrod Dam, there’s a long elevation on Scenic Highway 7, with drop-offs on the side. At the very top, you can just see Nimrod peeking through the trees from a distance.

A few miles further and there’s the town of Ola, and right past Ola the road flattens out. This is where Scenic Highway 7 enters the Arkansas River Valley. This wide expanse between Ouachitas and Ozarks is home to a whole lot of our grazing land and many communities both large and small.

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As you come into Dardanelle, it’s flat as a pancake—but to the left, there’s Mount Nebo looming over it all. We stopped briefly for groceries and then drove up.

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Trailers longer than 24 feet are prohibited, and this is why—switchbacks that can be difficult for longer vehicles.

We picked up directions at the Visitors Center and headed out to our cabin on the south side of the mountain.

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This is an original CCC cabin that’s been updated to accommodate all the modern conveniences we’re used to. It has a bedroom and a futon in the living room, which meant Hunter got space to herself. It also has a spa tub the size of a full-sized bed.

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And out back, there’s a stone terrace with an outdoor fireplace. Let me tell you what…while we awaited the sunset, I tried to get that dang fireplace lit, and I just couldn’t get it done. Matches would have been helpful! Or a lighter!

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We tried for a while, but once the sun went down and the temperature started to drop, we came in and roasted our hot dogs over the fire in the fireplace.

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Today, we’re headed up to Jasper to visit the second oldest restaurant in the state, the Ozark Café. We’ll also make a lot of stops along the way, and plan to take a side trip to visit the Elk Education Center at Ponca.

If you’d like to read more about our adventures, feel free to check out my blog, Tie Dye Travels; and follow our spring break Highway 7 travels all week here with Little Rock Family!

Farm Fresh: 6 Farmers Markets to Visit in Central Arkansas

Gallery by C. Waynette Traub

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April showers bring May produce—and maybe some flowers, too. Shopping at your local farmer’s market is not only tastebud-friendly, it’s also a great way to support your local growers, discover where your food really comes from, and help the earth by reducing shipping costs and more. Oh, and did we mention the free cheese samples? Grab your reusable grocery bags and head to one (or more!) of these six farmers markets.

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1. Argenta Farmers Market: This Saturday morning market, located on Main Street in downtown North Little Rock, boasts an impressive number of vendors at the height of the season. Look for eggs, berries, squash, cheese, honey, bread, meats, hummus and more. Shoppers can also enjoy an artisan market and live music. Plus, shopping is made even easier with a special token system that eliminates the need for cash. Swipe your credit card at the Argenta Farmers Market booth and receive tokens that can be used at any vendor booth. The tokens don’t expire, so if you don’t spend them all, you can bring them back the next week for more shopping.

The season's soft opening will be March 28; hours are 7 a.m.-noon each Saturday. Located at 520 Main St., North Little Rock. For info: (501) 831-7881 | Facebook

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2. Bernice Garden Farmers' Market: Sunday shoppers can pick up sustainably-raised and -grown produce, cheese, nuts, salsa, soap and more at this hip market in SoMa. Scope out the public art and sculptures in the surrounding garden and treat your family to a snack from Boulevard Bread Co. or the participating food truck—we spied the Waffle Wagon on our last visit. After picking up your goods, enjoy the nearby shopping at Moxy Modern Mercantile and Green Corner Store.

The market opens for the season April 12; hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each Sunday. Located at 1401 South Main St., Little Rock. For info: (501) 617-2511 | Facebook

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3. Little Rock Farmers' Market: This mainstay has been serving up fruits and veggies in Little Rock's River Market for over 40 years. Find bargains on fresh Arkansas crops, as well as a bountiful array of handmade arts and crafts. In addition to Saturday markets, this year will also include a “Night Market” each Tuesday.

The Saturday market opens for the season May 2 and the Tuesday market opens June 2; hours are 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Located at 400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock. For info: (501) 375-2552 | Facebook

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4. Westover Hills Presbyterian Church Farmers' Market: This evening, mid-week market is perfect for picking up last-minute needs like veggies, fruit, flowers, baked goods and more. The market takes place on Tuesday evenings, but the spot is also known for its frequent food truck gatherings.

The market opens for the season May 5; hours are 4-7 p.m. each Tuesday. Located at 6400 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock. For info: (501) 420-4132 | Facebook

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5. Hillcrest Farmers Market: Little Rock’s only year-round farmer’s market is located at the Pulaski Heights Baptist Church in Hillcrest. Stroll down Kavanaugh Blvd. on Saturday mornings to survey all-local honey, greens, nuts and granola, eggs, bacon, dog treats and more. Plus, visitors can enjoy brunch at one of the regular food trucks.

The market is open year-round; hours are currently 8 a.m.-noon. each Saturday. Located at 2200 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock. For info: (501) 661-1129 | Facebook

6. Cabot Farmers' Market: This Saturday market, located in Re:New Community Church’s parking lot, features produce from local growers, as well as wares from crafters and artisans in the Cabot area.

The market opens for the season May 2; hours are 8 a.m.-noon each Saturday. Located at 1122 2nd St., Cabot. For info: (501) 920-2122 | cabotbeautiful@yahoo.com

Meet the Farmers

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Get to know the farmers, bakers and makers you’ll meet at central Arkansas’ farmer’s markets. Here are a few vendors we love:

  • Arkansas Fresh Bakery supplies some of Little Rock’s favorite restaurants with incredible rolls and breads, and you can find them serving up breakfast and baguettes at the Argenta Farmers Market on Saturdays.
  • Barnhill Orchards in Lonoke is a family farm established in 1980 by Bob Barnhill. In addition to selling at several Little Rock markets, “Farm Baskets” are also available for purchase online. For info, visit BarnhillOrchards.com.
  • Falling Sky Farm raises chicken, duck, turkey, cattle and pig free of antibiotics, growth hormones and synthetic pesticides. Year-long meat shares are available online at FallingSkyFarm.com.
  • Freckle Face Farm is a family affair—a family of nine! In addition to raising seven kids, this farm family raises cows, pigs, and chicken. At the market, you can buy a variety of meat products, including free-range chicken, bacon, brats, chorizo, chops and sausage.
  • Geek Eats produces hummus, pesto and granola. Made in North Little Rock by a husband-and-wife team, you’ll find yourself addicted to snacks like Carrot Curry Hummus, Rosemary & Black Bean Hummus and Cilantro Almond Pesto.
  • Kent Walker Artisan Cheese crafts distinct cheeses in downtown Little Rock, including Habanero Cheddar, Leicester and Gouda varieties. The local favorite is a constant on the farmer’s market circuit, though you can also find the products at stores around town. For more info, visit KentWalkerCheese.com.
  • Laughing Stock Farm is a USDA Certified Organic farm in Sheridan that is dedicated to farming sustainably. You’ll find their plants and veggies at Whole Foods, as well as local markets.
  • Little Rock Urban Farming grows organic fruits, vegetables and flowers right in the heart of Little Rock. Learn more about the group’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and how you can be a shareholder at LittleRockUrbanFarming.com.
  • Jelly Madness, produced by the Martin Family Farm in McRae, satisfies cravings for sweets with its homemade jellies. Don’t miss adventurous flavors like Lavender Peach, Dandelion and Hot Pepper; sugar-free jellies are also available.
  • North Pulaski Farms, a USDA Certified Organic farm, is owned and operated by Kelly Carney. Produce is grown year-round in high tunnel hoop houses; seasonal goods include blackberries, kale, tomatoes, sweet peppers, raspberries and more. Learn about the farm’s organic CSA membership program at NorthPulaskiFarms.com.

Traveling Arkansas' Scenic Highway 7: Day 3

Gallery by Kat Robinson

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Above: Doug’s Special Burger at DJ’s Drive-In at Bismarck

Spring Break is a great time to travel to a destination and enjoy experiences with your family. But what do you do when you’re used to travel? For me and my daughter Hunter, it’s time for a road trip.

This week, we’ll be traveling the entire length of Scenic Highway 7, the longest state highway in Arkansas.  We’re going to find attractions along the way and share where we went. You can follow us at @TieDyeTravels for live updates.

We slept very well at DeGray Lake Resort State Park and were sad we had to leave our comfortable room in the lodge, but we had plenty of things to do this Wednesday.

The first order of business was a program called Animal Tracks, Scat and Sign at the park. Interpreter Jonathon shared with us the different tracks and scat we might find in the park. Scat, in case you were wondering, is animal poop. The kids find that fascinating.

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After sharing the information, we set off with the group in attendance on a walk on Towering Pines Trail, a half mile trail that weaves through the pine forest, out to the lake and along a babbling brook. Jonathon tried very hard to find some "sign," but the best area for doing so was underwater. The lake, like the Ouachita River that was over Highway 7 to the south, was very high.

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Finally, we found scat, and the whole group stopped to check it out. Using the handkerchief guide he brought along, Jonathon allowed us to guess at what sort of scat we had found. It was either possum or skunk. We continued on, but didn’t see any tracks.

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After the program, Hunter and I roamed around the park for a bit, looking at all the other things available to do and see. We made it out to the point where the yurts are located, and immediately decided that next time we visit, we’re staying in a yurt.

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These really cool tents are based on the Mongolian gher tents from centuries past, but have all sorts of amenities inside, such as real beds and electricity. There’s also a fire pit close by, and great views of the lake.

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For lunch, we decided to try out DJ’s Drive-In at Bismarck. I’ve passed this place so many times over the years meaning to drop in. Hunter went the easy route and had chicken and fries, and I tried out the Doug’s Special Burger. What makes the burger special is that it’s seasoned with steak sauce. Though the waitress heard me wrong and went no mayo instead of no mustard, it was still a good burger.

Hunter really wanted some ice cream and asked for a banana split. I was expecting the usual five inch long banana boat you get at most drive-ins. Imagine my surprise when our banana split came out to the table in what appeared to be a mixing bowl! The massive amount of ice cream sat on top of two bananas cut lengthwise, and it was all covered with dollops of pineapple, strawberry and chocolate and a whole lot of whipped cream. We really weren’t expecting something that massive, and felt a little bad that we weren’t able to finish it.

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From there, we drove on into Hot Springs to visit the new Mid America Science Museum. I was really surprised to get there and see people parked along the road to the museum. The parking lot was full. We were lucky to get a spot when someone else pulled out. I can’t remember a single time I have ever seen that parking lot full.

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Inside, the new front desk is steel and there are things to do the moment you walk in the door. SO many things… I mean, a whole lot of things. Too many for me to cram everything in (which is why you can do that over at Tie Dye Travels).

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We crossed the skywalk, which is now called the Skybridge, and played a bit with the different light displays.  Right inside the main building, there’s a two story water sculpture that the kids just adored—with kids below lining up balls to be shot by water up to the second story, and the kids on the top aiming balls to go into a giant spring that drops balls into a water funnel to take them back down. It’s far more impressive than I just described it.

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We walked to the back of the top level, where Hunter attempted (but didn’t care for) the Arkansas Underfoot adventure. What she really loved was this crazy 3D topographical activity where kids use these little rubberized pellets to make mountains and river, and with sensors and light the machine they’re in makes them into topographical details, even putting snow on mountaintops and “raining” when you hold your hand over an area.

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Down below, Hunter immediately had to attempt the Gyroid, a geodesic playground structure. There were kids all over this thing. It had handholds and curves. Hunter couldn’t figure out how to get to the top, but that was okay.

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There was also a Tinkering Studio, and Hunter was soon absorbed in creating electronic circuits. She really liked making these little fans and lights go.

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We went outside and climbed the steps to get up to the Skywalk. This neat structure takes visitors high up in the air on a walkway.

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There’s a musical bench on the first landing… but to use it, you have to hold hands with others on the bench.

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At the end, there’s a giant trampoline structure and a couple of tightropes. Hunter was all gung-ho to get on the tightrope, but once she got down she declared it was never for her again.

The museum was really, really cool.

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We went to check in at our hotel, The Arlington Hotel and Spa. It’s the biggest hotel in Arkansas, and it’s very historic. The rooms are neat and the spa operates with the famed thermal waters from the hot springs that gave Hot Springs its name. But that wasn’t what Hunter was interested in.

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She wanted to go swimming again, and she was absolutely gleeful when she discovered that there was more than one pool. The one on the deck right outside the seventh floor is three feet deep—perfect for splashing and playing. And then there’s one above it that’s five to six feet deep for larger kids and adults. There’s also a great hot tub up on the side of the mountain.

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For dinner, we went to Rolando’s Restaurante, another favorite of mine, where we shared the Plato de Adventura. It’s a platter that includes a quesadilla, tamale or taquito, a big flattened chicken breast, shrimp, pickled cucumbers and onions, guacamole, black beans and rice and it is very, very good. It really surprised Hunter when it came to the table.

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Tomorrow, we’re heading north again. We’ll do some cool things in Hot Springs and then make our way to our next stop, Mount Nebo State Park.

If you’d like to read more about our adventures, feel free to check out my blog, Tie Dye Travels; and follow our spring break Highway 7 travels all week here with Little Rock Family!

5 Events for Weekend Fun: Easter Egg Hunts, Fantastic Mr. Fox and More

Image by Shutterstock

Above: An example of Pysanky, a Ukrainian tradition of beautifully decorating Easter Eggs.

Easter is on its way! There are several egg-themed activities for families this weekend, including an underwater egg hunt and egg-decorating workshop. Families can also catch an affordable family-friendly flick at the Ron Robinson Theater downtown, or take part in free activities at Heifer Village.

Workshop: “Eggscellent Easter!” at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs: Pysanky, or Ukrainian eggs, are created through a simple process using wax and dyes, and the results can be stunning. It’s great for the whole family and you can’t beat the excitement of revealing the final design underneath as the wax is melted away. All supplies provided; children 6 and older are welcome; parental supervision required. $25; members are $10. 1:30-4 p.m. March 29. Info: (501) 262-9300, GarvanGardens.org.

Screening of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" at Ron Robinson Theater: Wes Anderson's stylish, stop-motion flick features an all-star cast (George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray) as the voices of a fox family, their wildlife neighbors and the unhappy farmers who plot to stop the animals from stealing their food. Rated PG. $5. 2 p.m. March 28. Info: (501) 320-5715, CALS.org.

Easter Egg Hunt & Family Fun Day at Excell Park in Jacksonville: Bring your basket to Jacksonville’s largest Easter egg hunt! Toddlers to 10-year-olds are invited to participate in this holiday tradition in a fun and safe environment. The Easter bunny will make a special appearance, too! The egg hunts include 2,000 eggs per group. The schedule is: walking to age 3 (field 2) at 10:15; ages 4-5 (field 2) at 10:45 a.m., ages 6 & 7 (field 3) at 10:30 a.m., and ages 8-10 (field 3) at 11 a.m. All participants must arrive at Excell Park by 10 a.m; in case of rain, all ages meet at the Jacksonville Community Center at 10 a.m. After the egg hunt, stay for Family Fun Day! All ages are welcome, and food and admission are free. 10 a.m. March 28. Info: (501) 982-4171, CityOfJacksonville.net. FREE!

Spring Fling at Heifer Village: Send off spring break week at Heifer Village. Through March 29, visitors can explore how to change the world with free activities, including interactive exhibits, scavenger hunts, a fishing game, crafts and relay activities. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. March 23-29. Info: (501) 907-2697, Heifer.org. FREE!

Underwater Easter Egg Hunt at Jim Dailey Fitness & Aquatic Center: Kids can swim and search for Easter Eggs, win prizes and meet the Easter Bunny. Free for members; Non-members pay daily fee: $5, children under 16 $2. 1 p.m. March 28. Info: (501) 664-6976, LittleRock.org/ParksRecreation.

For more central Arkansas events, browse our full online calendar here.

Traveling Arkansas' Scenic Highway 7: Day 2

Gallery by Kat Robinson

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Spring Break is a great time to travel to a destination and enjoy experiences with your family. But what do you do when you’re used to travel? For me and my daughter Hunter, it’s time for a road trip.

This week, we’ll be traveling the entire length of Scenic Highway 7, the longest state highway in Arkansas. We’re going to find attractions along the way and share where we went. You can follow us at @TieDyeTravels for live updates.

For our second day, Hunter and I had a good breakfast at our hotel, then hit the road with some tunes. We got out a little late, since Hunter slept in. Our first day wore her out!

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Our first stop was the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover. This neat place details the history of oil and brine in the region. A temporary exhibit called Shaping Our World caught Hunter’s immediate attention. She loved the hands-on activities such as the sand wheel and this neat magnetic iron filing activity.

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She was very excited about taking the time traveling elevator to the past. On our progress through time, we learned about the different organic creatures that over time became the oil that brought people to Smackover in the 1920s after the discovery of a 68-square mile oil field below the surface.

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The little town of 95 people bloomed to more than 12,000 in a very short period of time, and that brought all sorts of troubles. The streets were so muddy and hard to slog through that mules sometimes gave up, fell down and drowned in the mud. So many people came in to seek their fortunes in oil, and others came to run stores, restaurants and hotels to put those people up.

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Once you get through the entire oil and timber exhibits, there’s a tinkering station. At first, we wondered what you were supposed to do in the station… but after a few minutes we figured out that the pipes and fittings set out with pegs were to be used to construct marble courses on a wall. We ended up spending 45 minutes just making marble courses. It was a lot of fun--read more about our visit to the museum here.

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Al that hard work got us hungry, so we headed north. Right on Highway 7 on the south side of downtown Camden sits the White House Café. It’s the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the entire state of Arkansas. It used to be located right on the rail line that ran by the depot, but the line has been moved and now it’s about a block away.

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Hunter immediately took to the really neat looking bar, which was custom-made out of steel when the restaurant was built. I had the plate lunch of chicken fried chicken, PurpleHull peas and macaroni and cheese and she had a corndog and fries. After we ate, we climbed the spiral staircase at the thin end of the restaurant (it’s shaped like a wedge) and looked around the upstairs rooms and the back deck.

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We looked around Camden and then started to head north. I noticed that Sandy Beach Recreational Area, where there are usually a lot of daffodils, was under water.

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Then we discovered a problem. Scenic Arkansas Highway 7 was flooded! We pulled out our map and started to look for an alternate route. A nice guy with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department saw us stopped and asked if we needed help, and then had us follow him on a loop that took us back around to Highway 7 north of where the flooded section stood. Even with that, water was up to the edge of the road in several places. When you’re out driving any Arkansas highway, be sure to check out IDriveArkansas.com to make sure the roads are clear and safe!

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We noticed a lot of things along the way. In particular, there were a lot of daffodils along the road, which made for some very picturesque sights.

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I pointed out to Hunter how the Timberlands look. This particular homestead is pretty typical for the area – slightly rolling fields, pine trees, cleared pastureland, barns. Rural sections like this are reminiscent of the Arkansas Delta, and that’s a good description, since these homes are situated on what is essentially the old Ouachita River alluvial plain!

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When we got to Arkadelphia, we stopped at the New Highway 7 Park to take a photo of the classic old bridge crossing the Ouachita River. We noticed there was some excavation going on right next to the bridge. There’s another bridge to be built here, but I don’t know the fate of this old beauty right now.

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We also passed the Captain Henderson House which is run by Henderson State University. One day I want to drop in. But Hunter wanted to hurry along. I found out why later.

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Just under Interstate 30 in Caddo Valley, we spotted the Front Porch Bakery. The neat little house isn’t so little on the inside! It’s full of antiques, t-shirts, all sorts of things. And of course it’s full of baked goods. We had to make sure to get a couple of apple fried pies and some snickerdoodles to take with us.

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Hunter really liked the wind chimes out front. There must have been two or three dozen of them, and it was cacophonous there.

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Hunter was very excited to reach our destination for the evening, DeGray Lake Resort State Park. It’s located on a peninsula on the lake, and as we drove out there I pointed out the marina and the horseback rides and the golf course. But Hunter had just one thing in mind, and fortunately…

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It was open -- the swimming pool was actually open! It’s a heated swimming pool, too. Hunter was so excited to hear it was open that she insisted we get into our bathing suits and go enjoy the pool right off the bat.

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Once we got out of the pool, we got dressed for dinner. We went down to The Fish Net, a seafood restaurant. Hunter filled up on these amazing little hush puppies. She must have eaten a couple of dozen of them.

Before we got there, though, we had to stop at the Corps of Engineers park on DeGray Lake so we could catch the sunset. It was another good day. It was such a good day that, even though she kept protesting that she was wide awake, she fell asleep so quickly when we got back to our room that she didn’t even get into her pajamas.

Today we’re going to enjoy DeGray Lake Resort State Park a bit more before heading to Hot Springs and MidAmerica Science Museum.

If you’d like to read more about our adventures, feel free to check out my blog, Tie Dye Travels; and follow our spring break Highway 7 travels all week here with Little Rock Family!

4 Tips for Raising Adventurous Eaters

You’ve worked for hours to prepare a meal your toddler will eat, still mortified that the Brussel sprouts from lunch ended up on the floor and the walls…and the ceiling. Don’t give up on your picky eater yet. You can make mealtime more enjoyable (for you and your tot).

Don’t be afraid to ask your toddler for help. Take him to the grocery store with you and let him pick out an item he would like, or allow him to help you put together a colorful meal in the kitchen. Involvement will make your child more engaged in the process, and more likely to try new things. Worrying about packing all essential nutrients in one meal is not necessary. Proper nutrients will even themselves out with various meals throughout the week. Being supportive of a creative and colorful meal also helps promote fruits and vegetables, which are missing in most diets. Fruits and vegetables also hold more fiber and allow your picky eater to feel satisfied, so he doesn’t feel the need to snack on junk food.

Take a moment to step outside of the box. Making homemade smoothies is an activity you can do together. Your toddler will feel a sense of pride in eating something she has helped create.  Also, making shapes with food stimulates creativity and entices your toddler to allow her palate to explore new foods. As suggested in “10 Tips for the Picky Eater” on ARBetterBeginnings.com, “creativity can be found by adding chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, topping cereal with fruit slices, or mixing grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.” Additionally, the experts suggest that dessert should not be offered as a reward. Rewarding good eating with a dessert can label the sugar-filled foods as the most desirable.

Remember: Routine is an important part of your toddler’s growth. Ask your childcare provider when snack time is scheduled. Knowing when your toddler snacks during the week will avoid unnecessary stress on the weekends or days off. Avoiding distractions, eating “on the go” and not staying seated for the entire meal will help mold your toddler’s cooperation. Snack time and meal time should be in the same location. Differentiating snack time from play time will help prevent him from getting up during the meal. Make sure toys are put away and music and television are turned off, so attention is on the meal. Consistency will allow him to focus on the task at hand.

Introduce new foods gradually. To keep your toddler from feeling overwhelmed, include at least one of her favorite foods in each meal. The Baby Center suggests introducing new foods at a time when you know your toddler is hungry. Remember to be mindful of portion sizes, too. The Baby Center says, “A serving size for a toddler is about 1/4 of a single portion for an adult. A serving of meat for a 1-year-old is about the size of the palm of her hand, and a serving of vegetables is only about 1 or 2 tablespoons.” If she is on a routine of three meals per day with snacks in between, don’t be offended if she doesn’t finish all of her food. Toddlers are known for ‘grazing’ their foods throughout the day.

Take these simple steps and you may be able to avoid cleaning your toddler’s next meal off the ceiling. Then again, with toddlers, there are no guarantees!

Need additional help with mealtime and other toddler topics? Visit www.ARbetterbeginnings.com
and browse the Resource Library for tips on everything from brain development to choosing appropriate toys.

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About The Author
Jennifer Pyron is the Associate Publisher and Editor of Little Rock Family magazine. She is the go-to gal for family events, activities, news and opinion. She and husband Charles are the proud, exhausted, penniless parents of Charles Jr. and Emily. Plus, should you need a pop culture lifeline on "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire," you may call her.
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