It’s not about the destination; it’s about the adventure.

Earlier this week, Alex and Beth tossed around the idea of camping overnight at Richland Creek Wilderness. What started out as a lunch conversation in the KC kitchen turned into reality on Saturday morning…

Six of us: Beth, Alex, Rob, Mandee, Tyler, and myself ventured out of Fayetteville bright and early at 10:30am to head to Witts Springs, AR. Each car mapped the destination for ‘Richland Creek Campgrounds’ and decided to meet there, at a rough ETA of 1:15pm. 2 hours and 15 minutes later, we drive through familiar roads of AR-412, AR-21, and Ar-74, and head down this little dirt path. Halfway through, we see a few trucks parked along the road and find out that there is a set of waterfalls waiting for us.

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A few minutes later, our other half of the crew pulls up, and we spend 10-15 minutes exploring – getting our feet wet, checking out the cave area underneath, and enjoying the natural state.

Another 30 minute drive on the dirt path later, we arrived at Richland Creek Campgrounds, where we parked our lovely Ford Fusions and a few of us ventured to find the trailhead while the others stayed behind and practiced Frisbee throwing.

At 2:24pm, we set off to our adventures – not before taking a group photo, though. This captures our happy spirits, slight ignorance, and excitement.

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-25 minutes later- we come back out from going south (vs. going northwest) on what seemed to be the wrong trailhead. Thankfully, Mandee never closed out his Google Maps, and we could see the little gray dotted line of hope that would be the correct Richland Creek trailhead.

With hope, we venture off into the wilderness again, and this time, with a little more faith, we cross a tree bridge with our tents and 45-liter packs.

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-another 15 minutes pass- we were traveling along the creek, rather than on the trail above the creek, so with a few life/death moments and teamwork, we scaled the side of a mini cliff (literally) and made it up to the actual trail. Once again, we were hopeful, and we hiked a good 1/2 mile before stopping at a flat, white rock for a water + wind break.

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Surprisingly, throughout the trail, we meet different group of people that had gone to where we were wanting to go : Richland Falls. Just to give everyone an idea – this trail is not paved, it involved a lot of elevation changes; uphill, downhill, slippery sand, fallen tree trunks that one would have to step over, and giant pieces of rocks made it a lot harder to smoothly hike. Oh, oh, the trail also involved taking off one’s shoes to hike through the creek, such as this:

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What felt like an eternity later, after much exploring and decision-making, it seems that we’ve reached Richland Falls. Beth ventures to see the path, Tyler ventures, and Rob/Alex make the final exploratory trip before deciding whether we’d camp by the falls or go back to a place we’d passed. The last leg of the trip was probably the most life-threatening: most of the path was 2-feet wide, one little misstep would cause you and your 45-liter backpack to fall off the little cliff and into the creek. Thankfully, the only thing that did its tumble was Mandee’s Yeti mug (which Tyler rescued and it ended up not denting at all).

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AND WE’RE HERE!!! Quickly, we set up our tents, hammocks, and gathered fire wood. Not before taking a nice, team selfie…

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Hard to say, but we’d probably spent the last 2-3 hours of sunlight lounging around in our hammocks, taking photos on the waterfall, exploring nearby caves, and eating. Eating PB&Js that Beth had put together and chowing down on snacks. Rule was BYOH: bring your own hammock.

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Next thing you know, it was nightfall, and we’re sitting around the fire that the guys built and sharing our life stories (kidding, but not really). By that time, our entire bodies started hurting…

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Homegirl (me) went to sleep at 8:30pm like a grandma, and woke up at 8:20am feeling sore, tired, yet refreshed. From what I was told, the rest of the homies stayed up a little bit listening to Beth’s ghost stories.

The morning hike back was a lot easier than the afternoon prior, thanks to our expanded knowledge and revived spirits. This time around, we got to tell other groups that they weren’t far from the falls and ‘good luck’ 🙂

After another break on our trusty white rock, we made it back to the campgrounds (our cars) in a nice 2-hour time frame. Tossed our trash, cleaned off our skin with some flushable cleansing cloths, and mapped our way back to civilization. Overall, very rewarding trip, and I’m so happy our group came here. Finished off our trip with some BBQ, grilled mac and cheese sandwiches, and plenty of Coke.

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1/3 Checkpoint of #NWAfor1year

A little overview for those of you who don’t know the backstory for my little hashtag: #NWAfor1year…when I signed my offer with Kimberly-Clark exactly one year ago today (Nov. 11), I committed to doing my CDA (Customer Development Associate) year in Northwest Arkansas. Whether I’m staying in this office past this year is another unknown, but until then, I decided to keep track of my adventures via Instagram through an easily remembered hashtag.

I moved in July 11 and started work on July 20, and these past four months have flown by beyond my belief. I’ve decided to categorize my experiences for organizational purposes (heh):

Places I’ve Been:

  • Neenah, Wisconsin (for the pleasure of 4 separate times in July, August, October, and November): this is the home of Kimberly-Clark’s Consumer Headquarters in the Fox Cities (Appleton/Neenah/Oshkosh/Menasha) and each time I’ve come up here, it’s been layover on layover thanks to flying from regional to another regional airport. These were my first and only four times in the state of Wisconsin and I’ve been brainwashed by cheese curds and hotel heaters that don’t kick-in unless it is < 42 degrees outside.
  • Ponca, Arkansas (also 4 is the magic number…) from a group cabin trip to a 7-mile solo hike to the world-famous Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker’s Point, Ponca has been one of my favorite places in Arkansas. The drive there from my apartment is an easy 60-65 miles, painted by trees and windy roads, and it’s easy to say that this little town of population: 13 will house some of my best memories.
  • Climax Springs, Missouri : a good friend here has a lake house up in the Lake of the Ozarks, roughly a 4 hour drive from Fayetteville. A group of friends drove up there after work on a September Friday and spent the weekend over homecooked food, boat rides, and minnow shots (yes, you read correctly). First time in Missouri, first time eating a live fish.
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  • Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, and Houston: I’ve had the pleasure of being able to go back to UT to recruit, home to Houston to see my parents, and meet up friends in Oklahoma City and Dallas. I’m slowly understanding the ease of living “in the middle of everywhere” minus the expensive flights out of XNA…
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Top Restaurants I’ve Eaten At:

  • Hammontree’s: three times, actually. My goal is to try every single grilled cheese they have here within my time in NWA, and I think I’ll add some weight in that process. Bacon. Gouda. Fries. I shall say no more!
  • Arsaga’s: if you want hipster waiters and delightful crepes paired with some on-point coffee…and be ok with the train blaring in your ear if you sit in the patio area, this is my favorite place for brunch in Fayetteville.
  • La Carreta: we lovingly refer to this as ‘the buggy’ in our office, and it’s this tiny little white truck off Bloomington St. in Lowell, AR (where a lot of the logistics/transportation companies are housed). The dine-in population is 90% men and I often feel much overdressed, but nothing can beat authentic $1.50 tacos and I will admit quickly that I’ve become a taco snob since living in Texas.
  • Eleven: housed inside the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – one gets to sit in a little beetle-shaped bubble and admire the lake, nature, and architecture. I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of food and would highly recommend it for a Sunday brunch (11am-2pm)
  • China Cafe Bistrothe only authentic place I’ve been to here and it is my lifesaver for first time living in a town with very, very little asian influence.

Hikes I’ve Done:

Everyone who knows me well knows that I love, love, love (and need) hiking around the place I live in.

  • Hawksbill Crag (Ponca, AR | 3 miles R/T): this hike got really famous after it landed on a bunch of Facebook and Pinterest pages, and understandably so, one of the most breathtaking hikes I’ve done in the United States. A group of 7 of us met up in the morning after a 2 hour drive (granted, the last 6 miles was all off roading and I cried for my Ford Fusion’s life) and spent a portion of our Saturday engulfed in nature and perfect fall weather. Photos actually do it justice!
  • Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Ponca, AR | 7 miles R/T): I really needed some time to think/breathe early October and decided to go on this hike by myself without telling a lot of people…worth it. It was the perfect 65-75 degrees that day and I packed an apple, some pretzels, and 2 bottles of water for this personal adventure and was rewarded with a cloudless, sunny, peaceful view of the bluffs.
  • Yellow Rock (2x) (Devil’s Den State Park | 3 miles R/T): a classic, easy hike for anyone who wants a view and a breath of fresh air. Nothing challenging, but it’s a good way to spend an afternoon without having to drive more than 30 miles from Fayetteville! Though, I will have to mention that Beth and I did this hike on the hottest day of the year (according to Weather.com) in August, and it was brutal.
  • Pigeon Roost (2x) (Hobbs State Park | 8.2 miles R/T): both times I’ve done this hike, I’ve never done the full 8.2 miles. I usually get to the scenic point where it overlooks a strip of Beaver Lake and I sit on the rocks in peace for a while. The first time I hiked it, I got stung by a giant wasp through my sports bra and through my drawstring bag – very ambitious wasp. The second time, it was very much into fall and the leaves were falling, etc etc etc, but easily a hike for a simple morning.
  • Shaddox Hollow: Nothing memorable…it was the thing we did before hitting up Rogers Oktoberfest that one time.

Miscellaneous:

  • Ziplining in the Ozarks (Eureka Springs): this was my first time ziplining in the US and I was very much not disappointed. I decided to take one of my friends here when he visited and it was one of the best decisions to take advantage of the foliage, fall weather, and Eureka Springs. This place houses the longest line, highest line, and the fastest line in Arkansas!
  • Scarpino’s: when I moved here, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to dance whenever I wanted to but I found this great place in Fayetteville where now I sometimes help teach the Friday night workshop classes ^_^
  • Benton County Fair: I heard the advertisement on the radio the day before it was over and texted Beth real quick to plan this spontaneous saturdate…and we still talk about the scary ferris wheel and church pew live music to this day.
  • Gentry Wilderness Drive Thru: if you’re a fan of animals sneaking up to your car looking for lettuce…this is the place to go. ~45 minutes northwest of Fayetteville out on a giant couple hundred acres is a 4-mile drive through where one can observe zebras, emus, bison, you name it.
  • Fayetteville Farmer’s Market: not surprised that this is the nation’s #1 farmers market – all the vendors are set up around the square and you can get your week’s worth of fresh groceries (for $$$) or enjoy a coffee and breakfast taco while people watching
  • Concerts: at this rate, my friends and I are averaging one concert per month – from Bryan Adams to Corey Smith to Eli Young Band – it’s awesome to think that artists are starting to come to Northwest Arkansas. Another perk – KC has box seats at the Walmart Amp and raffles away 2 sets of tickets per concert 🙂
  • Galas/Charity Events: another reason why I love this area – everyone is so involved in organizations and attends annual events that educate people about the cause and it’s so humbling to be at an event where record donations are made, people’s lives are changed, and the whole community comes together

At the end of my first 4 months, I can gladly say I’ve taken full advantage of my time here so far and already am so thankful for the friendships, lessons, and life experiences. I leave with you with a few of my favorite places (Lake Fayetteville, Beaver Lake, Crystal Bridges Museum, and Sassafras Winery):