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Exploring Arkansas June 2011

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Ouachita National Recreation Trail, Mt. Ida Crystals, Lake Ouachita Trail Riding, Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park
The longest hiking trail in the state is the 223 mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail which extends from Pinnacle Mt. State Park west of Little Rock..across the Ouachita National Forest and ends at Talihinia, Oklahoma.It's called the Ouartz Crystal Capital of the world-Mt. Ida in west Arkansas. The only other two places in the world containing quartz crystals are Madagascar and Brazil Other than by boat, the other adventurous way to enjoy Lake Ouachita is by taking a trail ride on horseback along the scenic vista shoreline. The Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park Marks the initial spot in a swamp in east Arkansas where land surveys began in 1815 for the Louisiana Purchase Territory.

TRANSCRIPT

THE RECREATION TRAIL, IT BEGAN AT LAKE SYLVIA. IT EXTENDS FOR 2300 MILES INTO OKLAHOMA. IT IS NO DOUBT THE LONGEST HIKING TRAIL IN THE STATE. WITH US TODAY ARE SOME OF THE FOLKS WHO ARE INVOLVED IN IT FROM THE GET GO. FRIENDS OF THE OUACHITA TRAIL. AND TODAY THEY'RE GOING TO TAKE US ON A SECTION OF IT.

WE MOVED TO ARKANSAS IN 2001, AND WE HAD SPENT TIME IN CALIFORNIA WHERE THERE ARE WONDERFUL TRAILS AND HIKES. AND ONE OF THE FIRST CLUBS THAT I HEARD ABOUT WHEN I MOVED INTO HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE WAS OUACHITA MOUNTAIN HIKERS. AND I WENT ON A SHORT HIKE WITH THEM, AND I WAS HOOKED. THE HIKERS, THE OUACHITA HIKERS DO HIKE ON THE OUACHITA TRAIL ONCE A MONTH DURING HIKING SEASON, WHICH IS FROM SEPTEMBER UNTIL JUNE. AND IF YOU HIKE THE TRAIL EACH TIME THE CLUB HIKES, IN THREE YEARS YOU WILL HAVE COMPLETED THE ENTIRE TRAIL. AND I'VE GOT THAT AS A GOAL FOR MYSELF. AND THE MORE I HIKED ON THIS BEAUTIFUL TRAIL, THE MORE I LOVED IT. AND WE WERE HIKING AS OUACHITA MOUNTAIN HIKERS. AND CHRIS AND JIM GIFFORD -- IN FACT, WHO IS THE PRESIDENT OF FRIENDS OF THE OUACHITA TRAIL -- TALKED AFTER ONE OF OUR HIKERS THURSDAYS ON THE TRAIL. AND THEY SAID TO EACH OTHER, "OH, THIS TRAIL IS IN TERRIBLE CONDITION, THEY OUGHT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT." AND THEY TALKED A LITTLE MORE AND REALIZED, WE WHO USE THE TRAIL ARE "THEY." AND "WE" WANTED TO GIVE BACK TO THE TRAIL. AND FROM THERE THE IDEA OF "FRIENDS OF THE OUACHITA TRAIL" CAME ABOUT. THEN WE THOUGHT ABOUT THE ACRONYM FOOT, PERFECT. SO, BEFORE WE KNEW IT, WE HAD A MEETING WITH THE FOREST SERVICE. THEY THOUGHT IT WAS A WONDERFUL IDEA, AND WE'VE BEEN IN COLLABORATION WITH THEM SINCE 2005, ACTUALLY. WE BECAME A FORMAL ORGANIZATION, AND WE'RE NOW A 501(C) (3). MY JOB IS TO RECRUIT ADOPTERS OF SECTIONS OF THE TRAIL, AND CHRIS IS THE VICE PRESIDENT OF MAINTENANCE. SHE KIND OF ORCHESTRATES ALL THE MAINTENANCE THAT GOES ON IN THE TRAIL. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

WELL BUILT TRAIL SHELTERS ARE SPACED ABOUT EVERY 10 MILES WHICH HIKERS CAN USE FOREST OR OVERNIGHT STAYS. ♪♪

I THINK IT'S GREAT. I MEAN, IT'S A GOOD EXPERIENCE TO HAVE TO GO HIKING WITH YOUR FRIENDS IS ALWAYS A GOOD THING TO DO. AND TO GET A BETTER FEELING OF ARKANSAS.

THAT'S RIGHT, ENJOYING THE OUTDOORS.

RIGHT, ABSOLUTELY. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

SO FAR I LIKE IT. ONLY BEEN ON IT A COUPLE HOURS. STARTED ON HIGHWAY 9. REAL COOK, DONE A LITTLE BACKPACKING BEFORE, BUT THIS IS MY FIRST TIME REALLY STAYING THE NIGHT. WE'RE GOING TO TRY TO GET TO LAKE SYLVIA AND MAYBE GO A LITTLE FURTHER.

RIGHT, IT'S AN ADVENTURE.

YEAH. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

PROBABLY ONE MAN WHO KNOWS MORE ABOUT THE NATIONAL RECREATION TRAIL THAN ANYONE ELSE IS JIM RAWLINS WHO HAS HIKED IN 47 STATES AND IN THE MID 1980s WROTE A HIKERS GUIDEBOOK ABOUT THE TRAIL.

WELL, THE OUACHITA, ARKANSAS, HAS GOT ITS OWN UNIQUENESS TO ME. SIMILAR TO TENNESSEE OR MISSOURI, BUT A WHOLE LOT DIFFERENT FROM TEXAS. BUT -- AND THE OUACHITA IS DIFFERENT FROM THE OZARK IN THE ROCK TERRAIN, THE FORESTRY. THERE'S A PEACEFULNESS HERE THAT  YOU DON'T FIND IN A LOT OF OTHER PLACES. YOU FIND THE PEACEFULNESS, BUT IT'S A DIFFERENT KIND, LIKE THE BIG WATER FALLS OR BIG MOUNTAINS IN THE ROCKIES. IN ARKANSAS, LIKE THIS TRAIL, IT'S JUST A PEACEFUL PLACE. IT'S LIKE A SUNDAY AFTERNOON HIKE. IT'S MORE LIKE A WALK IN THE WOODS THAN A HARD JOURNEY. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

ANY PARTICULAR SECTION THAT YOU PERSONALLY LIKE?

YEAH, THERE ARE TWO. THERE ARE TWO THAT ARE SPECIAL. AND BOTH THE WILDERNESS AREAS, FLAT SIDE WILDERNESS JUST WEST OF HERE, AND REAL EASY TO GET TO FROM LITTLE ROCK. AND THEN THERE'S ANOTHER WILDERNESS AREA IN OKLAHOMA, THE RIVER WILDERNESS. ONE REASON THEY'RE SPECIAL IS THAT THEY'VE BEEN SET ASIDE -- HAVE BEEN FOR A LONG TIME. SO, THERE'S BEEN NO FORESTRY PRACTICE. IT'S JUST -- THE LAND HAS BEEN ALLOWED TO STAY NATURAL. THE STREAMS ARE CLEAR. YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T DRINK THE WATER OUT OF THE STREAM, BUT IF YOU DID, YOU'D PROBABLY BE ALL RIGHT. IT'S THAT PRISTINE. THOSE TWO ARE MY FAVORITES. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

MOST OF THE OUACHITA NATIONAL RECREATION TRAIL IS WITHIN THE OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST WITH THE EXCEPTION OF 32 MILES WHICH EXTEND TO PINNACLE MOUNTAIN STATE PARK WEST OF LITTLE ROCK. 137 MILES OF THE OUACHITA TRAIL IS OPEN TO MOUNTAIN BIKERS AS WELL, AND WITH ELEVATIONS RANGING FROM 600 TO 2600 FEET AS THE TRAIL PASSES THROUGH FOREST AND MOUNTAINS, VALLEYS, CLEAR RUNNING STREAMS, LAKES, IT REALLY IS AN ARKANSAS TREASURE.

IT'S REALLY BEAUTIFUL. WE'VE ONLY BEEN HIKING FOR ABOUT AN HOUR, BUT I REALLY LIKE IT. I'M EXCITED ABOUT CAMPING OUT TONIGHT.

GREAT. IT'S A PERFECT TIME OF THE YEAR.

IT IS, IT'S NOT TOO HOT.

BEATS BEING OUT HERE WHEN IT'S 95.

UM-HM. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

HERE IN THE OUACHITA MOUNTAINS IN WEST ARKANSAS NEAR MOUNT IDA, PEOPLE COME FROM FAR AND NEAR IN SEARCH OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS. BECAUSE THE ONLY OTHER TWO PLACES ON EARTH WHERE YOU CAN FIND THIS IS IN MADAGASCAR AND BRAZIL.

THERE'S 40 ACRES UP HERE. ONCE YOU TURN OVER A ROCK AND IT HAS CRYSTALS ON T YOU'LL KNOW WHAT TYPES OF ROCKS TO LOOK AT SPECIFICALLY. L I'D ENCOURAGE YOU TO MOVE AROUND, EXPERIMENT A LITTLE BIT. YOU'RE LOOKING FOR -- THIS IS WHAT -- THESE CLEAR CRYSTALS. THERE'S MILLIONS OF THEM.

LOOK AT THIS ONE. THIS ONE IS SMALL, BUT LOOK AT IT.

THAT'S COOL.

OOH.

IT WAS IN 1979 WHEN RICHARD WAGONER CAME TO MOUNT IDA TO HIS UNDEVELOPED PROPERTY AND BEGAN DISCOVERING GLEAMING QUARTS CRYSTALS IN THE TRENCHES ALONG THE MOUNTAIN SIDE.

WALKING AROUND MY PROPERTY AND DISCOVERED CRYSTALS UP ON THE MOUNTAIN SIDE AND THOUGHT THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL AND BUSY BUILDING A HOUSE, SO I PUT IT ON THE BACK BURNER FOR AWHILE. THEN I DID A LITTLE RESEARCH ABOUT THE MARKET, AND CRYSTALS ARE IN DEMAND ALL OVER THE WORLD. SO, I THOUGHT IT'S SOMETHING I SHOULD PURSUE, STUDY MINERALOLOGY AND MINING. IT TURNED OUT TO BE A FASCINATING BUSINESS. HERE WE ARE 30 YEARS LATER, HAVING FUN, I LOVE IT. IT'S GREAT.

THE WHOLE THING, WHAT YOUR PHILOSOPHY IS, IS LIKE PEOPLE ARE DOING RIGHT NOW, YOU LET THEM ENJOY, LET THEM SEE HOW UNIQUE THIS AREA IS AND HOW UNIQUE THESE QUARTZ CRYSTALS ARE.

IT'S FASCINATING. PEOPLE COME FROM ALL OVER. PEOPLE FROM LOUISIANA, OHIO, CHICAGO, ALL OVER RIGHT NOW, WALKING AROUND THE MINE. THEY ACTUALLY ARE FINDING CRYSTALS PEOPLE HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. THEY'RE DISCOVERING IT HAVING THE EXPERIENCE TOGETHER AS A FAMILY. THIS IS OUR STATE MINERAL. IT'S A GREAT SOUVENIR FOR THEM TO TAKE HOME, TELL THE STORIES WHEN THEY GET BACK HOME WHEN THEY DISCOVERED.

YOU ALSO HAVE SOMETHING HERE , WE'LL HAVE SHOTS OF, ARE THE PHANTOM CRYSTALS.

RIGHT. THAT'S ANOTHER MINE LOCATION. WE HAVE DIFFERENT MINES AROUND THE AREA. THIS MINE PRODUCES PRIMARILY CLEAR CRYSTALS CRYSTAL QUARTZ MINE. THREE MILES FROM HERE WE HAVE ANOTHER PHANTOM MINE, CLEAR CRYSTALS WITH MAGNESIUM. IT REPRESENTS THE SMALLER CRYSTALS, HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO. NOW YOU SEE IT, IT'S TRAPPED INSIDE OF OUR CLEAR LAYER OF THE LARGER CRYSTAL THAT'S FORMED SINCE THEN. FASCINATING.

NOT TOO MANY OF THOSE AROUND IN THE WORLD.

THAT'S RIGHT, THAT'S RIGHT. IT'S REALLY A SPECIAL LOCATION. SO, THOSE ARE MUSEUMS AND PRIVATE COLLECTIONS ALL OVER THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. WE REALLY ENJOY IT. IT'S REALLY A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO COLLECT. IT'S A LOT OF FUN FOR US.

WE ACTUALLY ARE LOOKING FOR WARM WEATHER. SO, WE DECIDED TO GO FOR A ROAD TRIP AND THERE WAS A BLIZZARD. WE WENT SOUTH. VIRTUALLY EXPLORING ARKANSAS. SO, WE ENDED UP IN BRANSON AND THEN TO THE SPRINGS. THEY'RE STUDYING ROCKS IN SCHOOL, SO WE PROMISED THEM TO GO MINING FOR CRYSTALS OR DIAMONDS, AND WE ENDED UP LOOKING AT THE MOUNTAIN HARBOR. WE ASKED THE GENTLEMAN FOR A SUGGESTION. HE SAID THIS WAS THE PLACE TO GO. SO, WE KIND OF FOLLOWED HIS DIRECTIONS AND ENDED UP HERE. WE THOUGHT WE WOULD BE THE ONLY ONES HERE BECAUSE IT WAS ALL THE BACK ROADS. WE'VE BEEN HAVING A -- THIS IS KIND OF HOW WE TRAVEL. WE KIND OF GET IN THE CAR AND GO AND SEE WHERE WE END UP.

THERE YOU GO. THAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT.

SHOW US WHAT YOU HAVE HERE, SHOW US YOUR BUCKET.

THIS MUCH.

LOOK AT THERE, LOOK AT THERE. YOU GET THOSE CLEANED UP, YEAH, YOU TAKE THEM BACK HOME, YOUR FRIENDS ARE GOING TO BE JEALOUS, HUH? [LAUGHTER]

I'M GOING TO SHOW THIS TO MY COUSIN.

YOU'RE HAVING A GOOD DAY HERE.

SOMEBODY GAVE ME THIS. SOMEBODY GAVE ME THIS.

WOW, IT'S PRETTY.

YOU NEED TO FIND A BIGGER ONE THAN THAT.

IN THE 10,000 SQUARE FOOT GALLERY AT WAGONER CRYSTAL MINES, YOU CAN SEE UP CLOSE THE MUSEUM PIECES THAT HAVE BEEN COLLECTED, AND SOME ARE JUST SHORT OF BEING SIMPLY AMAZING.

HERE AT MOUNTAIN HARBOR RESORT ALONG LAKE OUACHITA IN MOUNT IDA, YOU CAN SEE THE LAKE BY BOAT OR TRY A DIFFERENT WAY, AND THAT'S BY HORSEBACK. SO, WE'RE GOING TO TAKE YOU ALONG WITH US. RAY, HEAD 'EM UP AND MOVE 'EM OUT.

OKAY. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

GETTING UP ON MY HORSE, WE EMBARKED ON QUITE THE SCENE I CAN TRAIL RIDE THROUGH THE OUACHITA MOUNTAINS THAT WOULD EVENTUALLY TAKE US TO SOME WONDERFUL VISTAS OF LAKE OUACHITA.

WE STRIVE FOR FAMILY. ALL AGES CAN RIDE. STARTING FROM AGES 2 TO 92. I MEAN, THERE'S NO BREAK IN BETWEEN. WE STRIVE -- THEY CAN RIDE BY THEMSELVES, AGES 5 AND UNDER LITTLE KIDS RIDE WITH AN ADULT. THEY'RE FREE OF CHARGE, OF COURSE. SO, WE TRY TO GET THE WHOLE FAMILY TO COME OUT HERE. WE DO GIVE ALL OUR KIDS, YOUNGSTERS ONE ON ONE INSTRUCTIONS WHEN WE PUT THEM UP ON THE HORSES. EVERYBODY ELSE GETS A ONE ON ONE, THE SMALLER ONES. WE PUT THEM DIRECTLY WITH OUR GUIDE. SO THE GUIDES ARE THERE TO HELP THEM ALONG TO TRAIN THEM, TAKE CARE OF THEM LIKE THAT. THE TRAIL ITSELF WILL TAKE 50 MINUTES TO AN HOUR. JUST DEPENDING ON THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE ON THE RIDE, OF COURSE. THEY'RE ALL WOODED TRAILS. THEY'LL TAKE YOU THROUGH THE OUACHITA FOREST AREA RIGHT HERE. AND IT WILL ACTUALLY TAKE YOU UP ABOVE LAKE OUACHITA WHERE YOU GET GREAT VIEWS. IT'S REAL NICE. PEOPLE REALLY ENJOY THE VIEWS FROM LAKE OUACHITA. AS YOU KNOW, WE HAVE A LOT OF PRETTY DIFFERENT TYPES OF VIEWS COMING FROM HORSEBACK. WE WERE OPEN -- AS A RULE, WE OPEN UP SPRING BREAK THE FIRST PART OF MARCH, FIRST WEEKEND IN MARCH, WE OPEN UP. AND THROUGH OCTOBER IS NORMALLY A LOT OF HONEYMOONERS AND STUFF, WE GET A BUNCH OF THOSE DURING THE MONTH OF OCTOBER. THEN OF COURSE THANKSGIVING WEEKEND IS ALWAYS A VERY IMPORTANT WEEKEND FOR US. WE GET A LOT OF PEOPLE. THAT'S OUR LAST WEEKEND OPEN FOR THE SEASON. YEAH, IT'S AN ALL-FAMILY THING. YOU DON'T NEED NO EXPERIENCE TO COME OUT HERE. WE TRY TO HAVE THE HORSES TRAINED PRETTY GOOD. AS A RULE, WE HAVE SAFETY, SAFETY IS A VERY IMPORTANT PART -- IN THIS BUSINESS 23 YEARS, STARTED WHEN I WAS 16 YEARS OLD MYSELF, THE FIRST STABLE BUSINESS. AND, SO, YES, IT'S BEEN A LOT OF FUN, A LOT OF FUN.

AND I GUESS YOU GET QUITE A FEW FOLKS FROM OUT OF STATE.

WE DO, WE DO. ACTUALLY, ALL OUR STATES AROUND US -- WE'RE WELL KNOWN. THEY COME TO AREAS LIKE THIS, HOT SPRINGS. WE GET A LOT OF BUSINESS FROM OUT OF STATE.

I SEE YOU'RE PASSING IT DOWN TO YOUR SON. HE'S ANXIOUSLY AWAITING TO GET STARTED.

YEAH, HE'S PART OF WHAT YOU CALL THE BORN-INTO-IT, YOU KNOW. WE HAVE A SON THAT TRAVELS. HE STARTED WHEN HE WAS A COUPLE YEARS OLD BEING ON HIS OWN HORSE. OF COURSE WE SPACED IT A FEW YEARS APART. HE RIDES ALL BY HIMSELF. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

ALL RIGHT, FOLKS. GET DOWN HERE TO THE BOTTOM, WE HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF WATER, MUD. WE'RE GOING TO BE RIDING THROUGH. JUST GOING TO PULL BACK ON YOUR REIGNS, SO YOUR HORSE WALKS THROUGH NICE AND EASY. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

RESERVATIONS AREN'T REQUIRED DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS FROM JUNE THROUGH AUGUST, BUT THEY ARE REQUIRED IN THE SPRING FROM MARCH THROUGH MAY. AND IN THE FALL FROM SEPTEMBER THROUGH NOVEMBER. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

AND IT'S A WONDERFUL DAY HERE AT MOUNTAIN HARBOR RESORT AS THE END OF ANOTHER TRAIL RIDE AND THE END OF ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL DAY.

IT WAS CONSIDERED THE GREATEST REAL ESTATE DEAL OF ALL TIME, AT LESS THAN 3 CENTS PER ACRE. THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE OF 1815, AND IT ALL BEGAN IN THE SWAMP IN EAST ARKANSAS SOUTH OF BRINKLEY. AND THIS MARKER MARKS THE INITIAL POINT OF THE SURVEY. IT IS A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK, AND IT'S ALSO THE BEGINNING OF THE OPENING OF THE AMERICAN WEST.

THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE ADDED AN ADDITIONAL 830,000 SQUARE MILES TO THE UNITED STATES, AND PRESIDENT THOMAS JEFFERSON WAS VERY INTERESTED IN THIS NEW LAND, SO, HE SENT SEVERAL EXPEDITIONS INTO THE TERRITORY, INCLUDING HUNTER AND DUNBAR AND LEWIS AND CLARK. RESULTS OF THEIR FINDING STIMULATED INTEREST IN THE REGION, ITS RESOURCES AND ITS WILDLIFE. FOR MORE THAN 100 YEARS THIS INITIAL SURVEY POINT AT THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE WENT UNNOTICED UNTIL THE PHILLIPS AND LEE COUNTY LINES WERE RESURVEYED IN 1921. SURVEYORS DISCOVERED TWO TREES MARKED AS "WITNESS TREES" TO INITIATE THE SURVEY OF THE TERRITORY. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FINDING WAS RECOGNIZED BY THE DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION OF MARIANNA, AND IN 1926 THEY DEDICATE THIS HAD MARKER IN COMMEMORATION OF THE U.S. ACQUISITION OF THE LOUISIANA TERRITORY. A BARRIER FREE BOARDWALK MEANDERS THROUGH THE SWAMP TO THIS GRANITE MARKER. ALONG THE WAY INFORMATIONAL PLAQUE PROVIDE ALL SORTS OF DETAIL ABOUT THIS NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK, ALONG WITH INFORMATION REGARDING THE UNIQUE HABITAT. THIS SWAMP IS WHAT'S REFERRED TO AS THE HEADWATER SWAMP. A VANISHING NATURAL ENVIRONMENT ONCE COMMON IN THE MID SOUTH. A HEADWATER SWAMP SELDOM FLOODS DEEPLY, YET RARELY DRIES UP. AND BECAUSE OF THESE UNIQUE CONDITIONS, UNUSUAL PLANT AND ANIMAL SPECIES THRIVE HERE. THIS HABITAT WAS ONCE COMMON IN EASTERN ARKANSAS BEFORE INTENSIVE LAND RECLAMATION WHEN SWAMPS WERE DRAINED AND CLEARED. IN 1977 THE ARKANSAS NATURAL HERITAGE COMMISSION RECOGNIZED THE AREA'S NATURAL VALUE ADDING IT TO THE REGISTRY OF ARKANSAS NATURAL AREAS. AND, SO, THIS SMALL REMNANT OF AN ECOLOGICAL SYSTEM IS PRESERVED FOR GENERATIONS TO COME, AND FOR THE PLANTS AND ANIMALS THAT LIVE ONLY HERE. SO, TAKE A TOUR FOR YOURSELF OF THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE HISTORIC STATE PARK IN EAST ARKANSAS. AND FOR MORE ON THIS DESTINATION, PLUS MANY OF OUR OTHERS, AND TO ORDER A COPY OF AN EPISODE, VISIT OUR WEBSITE, AETN.ORG/EXPLORING ARKANSAS. AND WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME FOR ANOTHER ADVENTURE OF EXPLORING ARKANSAS. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

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