Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Southeast Road Trip, Day 2

Day 2 of our trip dawned bright and early.  We woke up in Lake Bob Sandlin State Park with plans to travel through Crater of Diamonds State Park to Daisy State Park.

Secora started the day with some very serious "jumping off a tree stump" practice.
I joked with Josh that this was his, "12 more days.  I've got 12 more days of this" face
I really just caught him off guard and before he'd finished his coffee though
We ended up packing the Starbucks VIA packets for our coffee so we wouldn't have to deal with cleaning the french press we've camped with before.  I got regular pike's place roast and columbian and was pleasantly surprised with both.  Of course, it wasn't the best coffee out there, but it was way better than I expected.  I expected tolerable and it actually crossed the line into good.   We will definitely be using it again for backpacking.

While we worked on packing up the tent site, the little girls wandered off a little bit.  Turned out they were searching for earth worms.  And it turns out Secora, usually the sensory avoider, loves holding on to earth worms, who would've known?

Before we left, the girls practiced a little "leave a place nicer than you found it" and picked up some trash the people before us had left
And then we said bye to the bunny who lives somewhere really close to the bathrooms and pulled out of the campground
Before we left the park, we stopped near the trout pond to hunt for our first geocache of the trip (you can see that paracord pouch for an altoids tin hanging on Sierra's left side.  It's black and orange)
Sedona made us stop so she could identify animal tracks (raccoon)
And I made us stop because, well, why wouldn't you stop and ponder the existence of bright orange fungi??
And then this guy made us all stop, our first snake of the trip.  See him going towards Josh's shoe?  He's got a yellow collar and part of his body is under the leaf
Eventually, we arrived at the right spot, but none of us could find the cache
It had been covered extremely well, but Josh finally found it and dug it out

And then we were on our way!  Before long, we crossed the border into Arkansas and stopped at the Texarkana welcome center.

It was lunch time, so we settled down at a picnic table and set to work making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Secora regularly ate PB&J on this trip!  BIG success!)
We bought a box of jelly packets to make this part of the trip easier.  We planned to just eat PB&J for most of our lunches since we'd be on the road and 5 or more sandwiches a day adds up pretty quick, but we didn't want to worry about keeping a jar of jelly cold
Not long after lunch, we arrived at Crater of Diamonds State Park.  I have family in this area and my mom had been to Crater of Diamonds as a kid and did not have good things to say about it, but the girls had been asking to go, so we decided we needed to give it a try

We did not plan to sleep at Crater of Diamonds because it felt like they were trying to nickle and dime you.   Each separate activity here would cost money, so right from the get go, we planned to sleep somewhere else so we weren't having to constantly tell the kids, "no".  In particular, getting into this "water park" would have cost us $26, on top of the camp site fee and the diamond searching fee.  I took a picture of the water park because I was shocked it was so small
Searching for diamonds involved sifting through the dirt in that giant brown field out there

Sedona got into a little zen meditation moment out there, but in general, the girls didn't enjoy it all that much.
We found some cool stuff, but no diamonds.  If decide to make a trip out here, there are shade pavilions, but you'll want to be sure you have plenty of sunscreen, water and a hat.  It'd probably be more interesting to actually dig and use a sifting screen to search, but we didn't have room to pack things like that in the car and we didn't want to pay to rent them.  This is one of those things that isn't all that fun or interesting.......unless you happen to be the one to find a big diamond.  About 20 bigger than 1 carat are found each year.

The girls were hot and cranky, so when we left, we made a quick stop at a gas station for icees and then we were at Daisy State Park
The lady at headquarters was really nice and helped us pick a great campsite.  We ended up in site 94, which was easy walking distance to the bathrooms without being too close to other sites.  Most of the sites had this cool terraced set-up

Bathrooms were clean, but about half a step down from Lake Bob Sandlin.  They were a bit more buggy and the shower stalls were smaller.

We started to designate camp jobs at this point.  The girls set to work setting up the tent with help from Josh as needed

And I would get the campfire going and start dinner

The plan for this night was scrambled egg, sausage and potato foil packets.  Back at home, I had cracked the eggs into a plastic jar, lightly beat them, then froze the jar.  This kept them cold in the cooler, but they didn't quite thaw before I was ready to use them
That kind worked out in my favor, though.  When I put them on the foil (sprayed with cooking spray) they stay put a lot better than I imagine eggs normally would.

I turned the camera over to the kids while I worked on this, which earned me some rather interesting pictures....
Before long, dinner was over the fire and it turned out really good!

With dinner squared away, we headed out for more geocaching.  Daisy State Park is celebrating their 60th birthday this year, so the park put out several caches.  It's been our experience that caches put out by state parks are easy enough for the kids to find and generally hold decent swaps.  There was a night cache we wanted to check out, and it wasn't quite sunset, so first we set out to grab one that was supposed to be easy to find though the terrain was jokingly marked as difficult.  Sedona spotted it first!

There were some really neat animals made out of paracord in this cache, and Secora was thrilled to find an Olaf magnet
The start of the nighttime cache was HARD.  We ended up getting a hint from the nice lady at headquarters because we were lost on where to look.  She ended up pointing out that none of the plants where we were looking are watered and that led us to a fake sprinkler.  With the clue hidden there, it soon became obvious we were looking for these reflectors that showed up well with a flashlight.  In most places there was just a small one, like what's in the center of this reflector.

At first, we took the wrong pathway and by the time I figured out the trick and got to the right path, it was fully dark, we had crossed paths with a snake, and the girls were scared.  Now that I knew it would be possible to follow the same track during the day, we just went back to camp and came by the next morning to grab the cache.  I'm glad we did, it would have been hard to spot the box in the dark.  This was a birthday themed cache with lots of party favors inside

One last picture from day 2, all the flowers I stopped to take pictures of!  The top row were spotted in Texas and the bottom row were spotted in Arkansas.
I highly recommend Daisy State Park if you're near Lake Greeson in Arkansas.  If we'd had the time and money, it would have been fun to rent a canoe or kayak and spend some time on the lake.  They even do a ranger-led nighttime canoe trail about once a month.  This is one place we all agreed we want to visit again for long weekend.  Also, when we left, the girls insisted on buying "mystery bags" in the gift shop.  They cost anywhere from $5-$10 and I was very skeptical they'd get their money's worth.  I'm glad they didn't listen to me, because they ended up with some really cool souvenirs that were worth way more than they paid.  Don't be scared of the mystery bags!

After another peaceful night sleeping without the rain fly on, we were ready to tackle Day 3!  Next up is a long drive day, with a stop at Little Rock Central High and then a night at a camping spot I would never recommend to anyone, followed by a day in Nashville.

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