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Old 03-20-2013, 08:09 PM   #1
txplants OP
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Spring Break with Petit Jean

I’ve wanted to make a camping trip to Arkansas’ first state park for some time. From what I had seen and read about Petit Jean State Park, it has so much to offer, ranging from its natural beauty, to archeological sites, to great food at Mather Lodge. It also goes without saying that some of the best motorcycle roads in the southeast are in Arkansas. This year, I felt caught up enough at work to take spring break off and make the trip. The park was absolutely wonderful, and my hope is this trip report will inspire, inform, or possibly stir nostalgia in those that have been there before.
My pre-trip ritual includes a good once over of my bike and in the process getting my traveling tools in order. I probably carry too much, but I like to be prepared and my karmic strategy is that the more prepared I am, the less likely something is to happen (ironically, in the last hours of this trip, I put the tire repair material and mini air pump to work for the first time on the road)…



I like to carry food including selections for breakfasts, dinners, and snacks for hiking and rest stops (this is my typical “fare” to which I added several items before departure).



Last step is amassing all my gear in one place for a final check before packing (I have to say that I really enjoy this part for some reason)…



…and finally packing it all on my bike, and trying to do it better than the last time. It’s 9 AM Sunday morning, (March 10th) and I’m ready to go; I’m just waiting for a rainy frontal system that’s sweeping over the Houston area to pass.



I finally launched at about 10 AM in a light rain that the radar suggests will quickly pass. My plan is to stop for a break in Nacogdoches, and then press on to Caddo Lake State Park to spend the night.

Made Nacogdoches with no problem and stopped at Java Jack’s (on business Hwy. 59 or “North Street” just a short distance from the Stephen F. Austin State University campus) for a break.



This place is a keeper! If you’re ever in the area, treat yourself to a “spicy pig” and “lemon bar” with a hot cup of dark roast to wash it down! I always feel a little awkward taking a picture of my food in a restaurant.



I reached Caddo Lake State Park around 3 PM under clear crisp skies. Site 30 in the Armadillo Run Camping Area is home for tonight.



Big site, elevated level tent pad, lots of trees. I set up camp, changed into hiking garb, grabbed my binoculars and bird field guide and set out.



Caddo is a beautiful state park. I enjoyed the trails and checking out some of the CCC structures that persist in the park.






By the time I finished supper it was dark and getting colder. I enjoyed the night sky for a bit, and then called it a night.

Tomorrow I’ll strike out early and take a not so direct route to Petit Jean State Park. More to come.
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Old 03-21-2013, 10:35 AM   #2
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I have only been on the Louisanna side of Caddo Lake but loved it. The cyprus trees are eerie but cool. There used to be a great resturant there in the 90's. Haven't been to Petit Jean so I am all ears.
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Old 03-21-2013, 06:32 PM   #3
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Not an especially sophisticated route map, but I’m GPS-less.



From Caddo I made my way north to Texarkana via Hwy. 43/59 which in and of itself is a nice ride. On the advice of a member of my local BMW club, I picked up Interstate 71 north of Texarkana to the town of Mena, AR.

It was cold and blustery when I left Caddo, and I stopped only briefly at the welcome station once I crossed the state line to use the bathroom. The temperature hovered in the low 40s during my four-hour ride to Petit Jean, and my hand-grip warmers stayed on high for the duration.

North of Mena, I grabbed State Hwy. 28 headed east through Ouachita National Forest.



Right on State Hwy. 10 near the town of Ola, left on State Hwy. 155 in the town of Casa, then right on Petit Jean Mountain Road (State Hwy. 154) and I’m there. Great roads, especially once you’re on 28. Fast forward and I’m checked in to campsite 54 in Campground “B”.





I typically don’t bother with a campfire, but the forecast for the next few nights is in the high 20s so I splurged on a few bundles of firewood when I checked in (made a second trip for bundle number two)!



Camp is all ship-shape!



I never stopped for lunch, and around six in the evening realized I was famished. I’m okay with the occasional freeze-dried meal, and Mountain House is hard to beat, but I tried something a little more complex than adding boiling water to a bag. I combined this “Caribbean red beans and brown rice” with canned chicken breast (that cost a small fortune in the organic section) in a pot, added a cup of water, and simmered it for a spell (which is not easy with a whisperlite stove as you know). It tasted phenomenal!



Each campground has its own bath-house, and after two days in the saddle that’s a good thing. After that I worked on the book I was reading until dark (while occasionally looking up and enjoying this view)…



Enjoyed a campfire after dark, and by the light of my headlamp made plans for the morrow.
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Old 03-21-2013, 06:41 PM   #4
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Old 03-21-2013, 07:33 PM   #5
Bug Dr.
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Petit Jean is in my back yard. Welcome to the Natural State! Looking forward to hearing your RR.
Cheers,
Mike
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Old 03-21-2013, 08:13 PM   #6
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Lovin' it...
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Old 03-21-2013, 08:53 PM   #7
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I was through there last Fall, loving the ride report!
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Old 03-21-2013, 11:00 PM   #8
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Sweet

I'm in

It's been to long since I have been up there but here next week we are finally going again. Can't wait to see where you rode. we mainly stay north of 40 above Russlleville. Beautiful area and awesome roads!

** BTW what was your normal gear for riding (pants/jacket?) since you said it was pretty cold. Just trying to get an idea on what to pack.

Thanks

-Matt
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Old 03-22-2013, 05:52 AM   #9
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Nice photography.
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Old 03-22-2013, 07:57 AM   #10
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I lived in Russellville when I was a kid,we went to Petit Jean all the time,someday I want to ride N.W. Ark.
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Old 03-22-2013, 03:39 PM   #11
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txplants

Diggin' your ride report. In March of 2004 I rode from southcentral PA to the Barber Motorsports Museum and Park in Birmingham, AL, then west to Petit Jean S.P. (beautiful view of the Arkansas River and had a great meal at Mather Lodge) and then rode southwest to Mena, where I picked up the 54 mile long Telimena Scenic Drive up to the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge. I stayed at the lodge for three days and used it as my home base for exploring the area, the food at the lodge was some of the best I've ever had, the lodge is closed at the present while undergoing a year and half long remodeling and won't reopen until late 2013, but the Telimena Scenic Drive remains open, it's listed on many of the best motorcycle roads in the United States.

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Old 03-22-2013, 05:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bug Dr. View Post
Petit Jean is in my back yard. Welcome to the Natural State! Looking forward to hearing your RR.
Cheers,
Mike
Much obliged! Entomologist by chance?
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Old 03-22-2013, 05:37 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MG2TX View Post
I'm in

It's been to long since I have been up there but here next week we are finally going again. Can't wait to see where you rode. we mainly stay north of 40 above Russlleville. Beautiful area and awesome roads!

** BTW what was your normal gear for riding (pants/jacket?) since you said it was pretty cold. Just trying to get an idea on what to pack.

Thanks

-Matt
Hey Matt!

I wore the following combination (over exofficio "fast dry" boxers and an adidas wicking long sleeve sports t-shirt) and it kept me reasonably warm…

“Lavawool” balaclava
Mid-weight fleece ¼ zip-up top and bottom
Snowboarding socks
Tourmaster Solution waterproof road boots
Olympia Motorsports AST2 Touring Jacket and Ranger 2 pants
Alpinestars Apex Drystar winter gloves

It was cold enough at night that I removed the liners from my riding jacket and pants to sleep in. My Big Agnes 30-degree bag stuffed inside my Big Agnes 45-degree bag wasn’t providing quite enough insulation.

Have a great time and ride safe!
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Old 03-22-2013, 07:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by txplants View Post
Much obliged! Entomologist by chance?
Yes. Currently not practicing. Botanist by chance?
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Old 03-22-2013, 08:06 PM   #15
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Nice -

Used to love the Ozarks and such as well.
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