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Lake Catherine State Park: Locked Out & Let In

I know that title makes no sense now, but please let me explain. Our drive to Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas was for the most part uneventful. There were major storms coming through and we hit a major traffic jam that added time to our drive. We made a stop in Jackson, Tennessee just in time for lunch before the sky really opened up, had some good filling food and had a bit of a stretch. I realized that there was no real urgency to mush on for filming purposes because the weather report was saying storms for the rest of the day and the night.

Talk talk talk, blog blog blog, we are there. Our key is waiting for us at the check in. We grab it and go find cabin#14. As Thomas would say “Amazeballs!” Even in the dark it was quite obvious we have hit the super cool cabin jackpot [insert slot machine sound]. It’s always a sort for stuff when we get to our destinations; what do really need, what are we actually going to take in now? Dragging our stuff and our bodies into the cabin, it is obvious that it just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Immediately I think, whom could I get to come back with me because this would be a great place for a group. The entire place is nicely appointed with two bedrooms and a pull out, fireplace, full kitchen and a great large dining table. It was country cabin living at its finest. I am not joking, there were even swan shaped towels canoodling on the bed. On the table was a journal where guest could leave notes about their stay. It was such a nice touch to read other guests stories that have stayed in that cabin. I, of course was way to eager to leave my own for those coming after us.

Locked Out: So what had happened was… in our excitement of checking out the place like we were on the first few seasons on MTV’s Real World, where everyone scrambles to look at the place and claim rooms, we both went out onto the screened- in porch, than went outside on the large stone veranda to look at our lakeside view. I follow Thomas back to the door to go back inside and he asks me if I had the key. Uh, the key? No. Why do I need the key? He is such a jokester; I thought this was another one. He had actually gotten me pretty good earlier in the day. Yeah, so we locked ourselves out. Apparently the doorknob is one of those pushbutton handles. I didn’t even look at the handle when I opened it. Luckily, Thomas at least had the key to the car in his pocket, which will be the lesson learned here. If he hadn’t told me once, he had told me a million times already on this trip, that he always keeps the keys in his pocket. Lesson learned. ALL KEYS MUST STAY IN POCKET. I used his phone to check my email for a contact number that I was praying would be available to help us. Thank goodness our Lake Catherine angel Cheryl Vincent, Assistant Park Superintendent answered my prayer. She answered the call, said she would be down in 10 minutes, but was down in about 5. I have no idea what we would have done without her.

Let in: Time to eat. Back out of the park we go for a late night meal. More top-notch- executive decisions were made about where to eat. After much deliberation, Waffle House it is. It is obvious that we are the only customers. Everyone greets us nicely when we walk in. We chit chat with our lovely waitress April. At some point when we were finished our meal, she noticed our New York tag on the rental. I told her that we were actually from Maryland. She mentioned that she had been there several times. I decided to try to use my interviewing skills since I could tell there was something special about her. The long of the short is she lets us “in” and talks to us about how she used to be a truck driver and that’s why she has been to Maryland several times and she loves traveling. She tells us that her stepfather started driving trucks when she was eleven years old and he would take her along. She would travel with him for 15 years all across the country. It was like having that feeling when you are fishing or crabbing that you are about to pull a real big one in. Guess what she says next? “I have been to 48 states, every state but two.” I had to stop her and ask her to have a seat after I laughed and glanced at Thomas. April has been every of the 50 states but Alaska and Hawaii! It was meant for us to meet. She will return once her daughter gets older. Unbelievable. I am definitely doing what I am supposed to be doing. That was confirmation. Bedtime.

I wake up and shower. Thomas is already outside filming on the cabin pier. Which in the daylight was any fisherman’s dream. The option of an ADA cabin is brilliant, especially one with access to its own pier. A nice ramp bends and directs you right onto the peer to fish or watch the ducks in the lake. The option to have a camping experience for those with family and friends that require an ADA facility is exceptional. Everyone should be able to enjoy the great outdoors. There is too much to see at Lake Catherine State Park, which is good when you have time. Since we are on this quick crunch journey, it forces you to make some tough decisions. I decided that we should take the Falls Branch Trail. It is approximately a 2-mile loop. Lots of steep declines on wet rocks from the rain the day before made for a slippery hike. I normally don’t feel the need to use my hands for support but I did today because of the slickness and that fear you have after a certain age of falling. The trail was teeming with little falls, medium falls and the big fall at the end that was the treasure. This particular fall is a watering hole where some of the hikers have transformed into waders. I would have loved to jump in there and joined them. Nonetheless, we are on a “waycation.” I made that up today. That is a mix of work and vacation. Not smart to get your clothes wet when you have cameras and have to get on the road when you are done. Thomas got some amazing shots of the falls that look like the ones you see on postcards where the water is fuzzy. Thomas also got a picture of this young boy who I was too afraid to watch jump off the top of the fall, into the very shallow pool. I still looked. Thank God he made it. Thank God there are parks for us to swim, hike, fish, paddleboat, suck in fresh air and find people do stuff they should maybe think about. Lake Catherine State Park is a water person’s dream. If it involves water, you can do it. I see why the Grahams stayed there for almost a week in 1982.

By the way, today is Thomas’ birthday, so we will be on the hunt for a cake sometime soon. I am going to end this now so I can keep looking out the window while we drive to Oklahoma. Be good and go see something!

The 52 state parks of Arkansas are administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

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