– Denton, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee –
So this is a departure from the norm for us- going east on a trip? We almost always go west, as our frequent followers will no doubt have noticed. In fact, we discussed going west, or south to the beach, but in the end we decided that we should go east, because we never do. Since it’s Memorial Day weekend, and we are trying to get all of the parks in the National Park System, not just the 59 real national parks, we decided to travel around the southeast, visiting mostly National Battlefields. Hence the trip’s name.
It’s a little weird, visiting the sites of Civil War battles. You don’t really know how to feel. More on that later, though, when we’ve actually visited some battlefields. For today, we had two small parks to visit, neither of which were battlefields, and a long drive ahead of us.
Our morning began at 6am, with a shower, some last minute packing, and some breakfast. We were on the road around 8, which was a little later than we had intended, but nothing terrible. We stopped at a Quiktrip on the way out of town for some iced tea and a bag of ice for the cooler. It’s pretty warm for May, so the ice from our refrigerator was not going to cut it.
In any event, we did not do a lot stopping between Texas and Arkansas. Just a few gas stations, really, as you might expect. We are pretty well-prepared for our cooler lunches, so we didn’t even have to stop at a grocery store, as we might have on another trip.
Our first park was in Hope, Arkansas, not too long past Texarkana. It was around noon when we arrived. The park is called President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site. The name is quite a mouthful. It is… pretty much a house. And from what I can tell, President Clinton wasn’t really born in it. He was born in a hospital. The house belonged to his grandparents, and he lived in it for 4 years. So… yeah.
Regardless, we stopped by, since the place is definitely a park of the National Park System. It has a little visitor center, and of course the house itself, which you can tour. We didn’t tour the house, since it was hot and Ripley was not allowed inside, but we did walk the grounds. It’s a nice little park, I guess. I noticed, in passing, that the Wikipedia article about this site lists the location as Little Rock, which is over a hundred miles away from its actual location, so if anyone knows how to fix that, you should.
From Hope, we drove three hours across southern Arkansas to our next park. We stopped along the way for lunch from our cooler, which always works out well. It had been over 90 degrees earlier in the day, but as we drove east, the temperature dropped and we started dodging rain clouds and thunder. It never rained on us much, but we could tell that some of the areas we were driving through had recently seen a decent amount of rain. We could also see lightning in the distance. I wish some of that would visit Texas.
Arkansas Post National Memorial is close to the border with Mississippi, and close to the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers. It is directly on the Arkansas River, and commemorates the first settlement in what is now Arkansas. The site was established in 1686, was very briefly the capitol of the Arkansas Territory, and was the site of multiple forts and towns that were destroyed as a result of flooding or erosion and had to be rebuilt. Considering it is basically swampland right on the river, it’s hard to imagine why anyone thought it was worth building again after the first or even second time it had been destroyed.
We arrived at the park around 4pm, and the visitor center closed at 5, so we wanted to make sure we got what we could out of our visit before it closed. To be fair, the grounds do not close until dusk, but with almost constant thunder growling away in the distance, we thought we’d still better be out of the there about the same time the ranger left the park.
First thing, we of course got our stamp for our national park passport book, then briefly walked around inside the visitor center. The temperature had dropped significantly thanks to the rain, so it was a very humid 75 instead of the 90 degrees of earlier in the day. It would have been pleasant if the air hadn’t been so oppressively moist. Just as we went to get Ripley out of the truck and walk around, the ranger came out and pointed out a baby deer to us, down from the visitor center and nearer to the old settlement area. Mark checked with his zoom lens, but without binoculars like the ranger had, we couldn’t yet see anything.
One of the funny things about this park is that there’s really nothing left of the settlements. The last was destroyed during the Civil War, according to the ranger. It was decimated by Union ironclad gunboats during the Battle of Arkansas Post. That means that the park basically consists of a large green field, hemmed in by sidewalks, trees, and the river, with signs where the buildings used to be. It’s a bit strange, to be honest.
The best part of the visit, really, was the wildlife. We did finally see the fawn. Mark is terrible at spotting animals, but as we got closer, I pointed out the little fawn to him, hiding in the grass beneath a large tree next to a little pond. He was still a reasonable distance away, as we did not want to frighten him, but Mark had his zoom lens, so we were still able to get very good pictures. The little guy was adorable, and so, so tiny.
We walked around the park for a bit, getting sprinkled on while Mark took his photographs and the thunder rumbled on, but before too long, it was closing in on 5pm and we hurried back to the visitor center to use the restrooms before the park closed. On the way up, I spotted an armadillo, and Mark chased it (slowly, trying to sneak up on it) along the sidewalk, trying to get a good picture. Ripley and I waited, thinking the armadillo might find Ripley a little scarier than Mark.
From there, we drove on to Memphis. It was around 8pm when we made it over to our hotel on the south side of town, and we picked up dinner from a Panda Express on the way by. Rice and steamed vegetables is really all they have for us, but we enjoy it, for whatever reason. It was nearly 9pm by the time we’d finished eating and unpacked the tacoma. It’s been a really long day.
Tomorrow we will visit at least 3 national parks in the Mississippi/Tennessee area, then spend the night in Tupelo. We’re going to get up early to run, probably at 5, but it shouldn’t be quite such a long day, thankfully.
– Trip Total : 522 miles –