DIGGING FOR DIAMONDS



MONDAY

TRAVEL DAY
STOP #239



Today we drove a little over 100 miles due south through the mountains and valleys of the Ouachita National Forest. Early on in the route we found ourselves in a unique position, we were driving our Ford F150, affectionately named ROVER, through a small town in Arkansas coincidentally also named ROVER (pop. 198).

I did a little quick online researching and to the best of my knowledge there are no other towns named ROVER in the United States, so that will most likely never happen again.


Campsite #38 at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, AR




WEDNESDAY - Today we start our new careers as Diamond Miners!

We woke up early, ate a hearty breakfast, grabbed all of our mining gear and headed towards work. When we arrived we paid our $10 entry fee and joined over a hundred other prospectors hoping to find the next BIG diamond.

Just 18 days ago on October 2nd a woman from California found a 4.38 carat yellow diamond and on Labor Day 2020 a man found a 9.07 carat diamond, the second largest ever found here.

We are going in with no expectations of finding anything so we won't be disappointed when we leave empty handed, like a majority of people do. But it will be a once in a lifetime experience since no where else in the United States can the general public go diamond hunting and get to keep what they find!


I call this next series of photos:

"DIAMOND MINING FOR DUMMIES"


STEP 1 - Find you way to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfressboro, AR


STEP 2 - Pay your $10 fee to gain access to the 37-acre diamond field.


STEP 3 - Pick a lucky spot and start digging and filling your bucket.


STEP 4 - Wash all the dirt out of your rocks through a 3-layer process
of ever increasing fine mesh screens hoping to spot something shiny.

If you get real lucky and manage to uncover a large diamond you too could get your name on a 6-foot tall metal shovel with a plaque commemorating the location of your find.

We however did not find anything, as expected, so our names will remain unknown to those who come here in search of diamonds.


The experience was fun, in a hard work kind of way. We spent 4-hours in the field and felt if we were meant to find a diamond it would have happened by now.

There were probably a little over 100 people out spending their Wednesday morning looking for diamonds. We were told that this past weekend saw nearly 2000 people searching each day.

The best part of today was listening to the stories that "the regulars" tell, you know, the ones who come out several times a week to search. Some were very secretive about their methods of searching and some were very eager to share tips on how to increase your chances of actually finding something.

One guy there claimed to have found 10 diamonds of 1-carat or larger over the last 6-years. Another guy drives 11+ hours from northern Illinois about 4 times a year to try his luck. He claimed to have found a bunch of smaller diamonds for a total weight of 23-carats, however most of his finds were 10-points (1/10 of a carat) or less.


We both feel glad that we had the experience of diamond mining, but feel no need to repeat the process anytime in the future. We may have felt differently had we found something valuable!



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HIGH (UP) IN ARKANSAS



MONDAY

TRAVEL DAY
STOP #238



Today our route is still due south trying to avoid getting caught in the freezing temperatures later this year. Last year we were a little slow in heading south and really paid the price spending a few nights below freezing and in the upper teens. We don't want to make that mistake again!

This weeks camping spot is just a short hike and a few hundred few below the highest point in the state of Arkansas. The summit of Mount Magazine is called Signal Hill and is at an elevation of 2753 feet.

ROVER and THE POD climbed the road leading to the peak of this flat-topped mountain, or mesa, like a champ. Now going back down the other side on our way to the next campground might be a different story if Ford can't find anything wrong with the brakes when there truly is a hidden problem. Cross you fingers, we will be!



TUESDAY - This morning we treated ourselves with a Buffet Breakfast at the Mount Magazine Lodge. We were there when the opened at 7:00AM and watched the sunrise from our breakfast table. We were the first to arrive and I for one sure got my $9.95 worth of food before leaving!

The sunrise view from just outside the window of our breakfast table.


That's Blue Mountain Lake down there and guess what,
there are two Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds on the lake.


A viewing platform and telescope to check out the valley floor far below.



WEDNESDAY - Today is our oil change appointment at Ford down in Paris, AR.

I'll spare you the boring details, except to let you know our brakes checked out just fine and we should be safe leaving the mountain top with THE POD on Monday.

We did also pick up our forwarded mail at the Post Office in town, got our laundry done, got the chip in ROVER's windshield filled, pumped a quarter tank of gasoline and did grocery shopping for the next week or so.

And even with all that we were back at the campsite before noon.


Seeing as how we are in Paris, I knew the Eiffel Tower had to be nearby.


This stick-bug (Phasmatodea) was waiting for us back at the campsite.
Thankfully he was on the outside of our dinette window.

We have now seen these odd creatures all over the park.
Here is one we saw on the move, they look even odder when they do that!



THURSDAY thru SUNDAY - Thursday and Friday we were pretty much fogged in at the campsite. A cold front came through the area Wednesday night and left the entire top of Mount Magazine literally in the clouds for two days.

Saturday morning the sun was out and we went back down into town to the Ford dealership to pick up a cabin air filter for ROVER that they didn't have in stock Wednesday when they did the oil change.

We also spent $10 at a weekend Farmer's Market that was taking place in the town square. We picked up a bunch of home grown garden vegatables for really cheap!

When we returned to the mountain top we took a short one-way scenic drive that completely encompassed the campground. There were several overlooks to stop at to peer at the valleys below.


Sunday we finally got around to hiking the trail up to the very top of Arkansas. It's only a half mile from THE POD's front door and we climbed up and back down the trail in just less than an hour.

I'll share all of our photos in one slideshow because I can't seem to get two slideshows to work properly on just one blog post.



SCENES FROM MOUNT MAGAZINE



The roadside Welcome Sign for Mount Magazine State Park.
A view of the first overlook along the Scenic Drive.
All those trees are just a small part of the Mount Magazine Wildlife Area and the Ozark National Forest.
One of the sharp cliffs that make up the mesa that is Mount Magazine State Park.
A view from another overlook along the Scenic Drive.
A view of the Army Corps of Engineers dam that created Blue Mountain Lake.
The outflow passage they use to control the water levels in the lake.
Blue Mountain Lake is one of the top fishing destinations in Arkansas.
This is what the Mount Magazine Lodge looks like form the valley floor.
On our way back up to the campsite we saw this controlled burn back down in the valley.
This is what the outside of the back deck of the lodge looks like.
This is the view from the rear deck of Blue Mountain Lake.
Here I am starting the hike up to the Arkansas Highpoint.
The sign to let you know you made it to the top.
It's hard to tell from this photo but the stonework on the ground is in the shape of the state of Arkansas.
This carving in the map shows the location of the Indian Reservation in the southern part of the state.
This star is located on the map where the capitol city of Little Rock is located.
And this geodetic marker depicts the location of the highpoint where we are standing now.

All of the markings in the rocks in the pictures in the slideshow were brought to our attention by a Boy Scout Leader who happened to be visiting with his troop at the same time we were there.

He also pointed out that the larger and taller rocks in the northern edge of the map depict the mountains located in that area of the state. Also there are solid concrete veins running through the map that depict the major rivers that criss-cross the state.

If he wouldn't have taken the time to share that with us it would have probably all gone unnoticed by us. Thanks for helping us to better appreciate what we were standing on!!



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TWO CAVES IN ONE DAY



THURSDAY

TRAVEL DAY
STOP #237



During today's short travel day, less than 50 miles, we found ourselves still going up and over the Ozark Mountains instead of following the valleys in between. Also these roads were tight winding and twisting roads with 40MPH speed limits instead of the long straight up and down roads like before.

Towards the end of the route we passed through the small tourist town of Eureka Springs, AR. Google says they have a population of around 2100 people, but this weekend I imagine that might double.

Even while we were still 15 miles out of town we started seeing an extraordinary number of Chevy Corvettes on the road. Sometimes three or four in a row passing us on the highway. After we crested the final ridge before town we saw every single hotel/motel had dozens of Corvettes in their parking lots and each of the gas stations had one or two at the pumps.

When we finally got setup in our new campsite I went online and found out this weekend is the 30th Annual Eureka Springs Corvette Weekend.

I'm not much of a Chevy guy as you may know, I prefer Fords, but we did see several Corvettes from the 1950s and 60s. Those were a little more appealing to me and maybe we'll go into town to see if we can get a closer look at some of them.

I sure hope these Corvette owners aren't big fans of cave tours, because we have two planned for this weekend and I don't like to share my tour guide with just anyone?



Our empty waterfront campsite awaits our arrival.


All snuggled in after backing down that very long driveway.


A view of our picnic table and firepit area.
We'll have to be sure to take advantage of this space this weekend.


This weekends view out of the rear open hatch.


Here is a view of the swimming beach and THE POD from the other side of the campground.


Our first sunset here overlooking Beaver Lake.


ALL OF THIS FOR $14 A NIGHT? AMAZING!




FRIDAY - Today wasn't the first time, and probably not the last time, we have visited two caves in the same day.

I went ahead and checked our Cave Tours Page and was surprised to find it's actually the seventh time we've done this.

The two caves we're visiting today are War Eagle Cavern and Onyx Cave, both here in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.

Since the first cave is south of Eureka Springs, and the second cave is north of the town, we once again got to see the new, and old, Corvettes all over town. Also in between cave tours we stopped at a roadside BBQ joint named Bad To The Bone BBQ for lunch. It was nothing more than a small concrete block building with a huge parking lot and a dozen tables under some trees, but the food was tasty and realtively inexpensive.

I'll include some Corvette photos in between the two cave tour photos in the slideshow below!



EUREKA SPRINGS - CAVES AND CORVETTES



The entrance to the War Eagle Cavern property.
Our guide discussing the discovery, history and development at the cave entrance.
The first big room was wide and shallow.
This cave has plenty of water running through it.
Even at 5'8" I had to duck my head to one side to pass through.
This cave salamander had no trouble with the low ceilings.
This area had a sinkhole collapse and created a new entrance to the cave.
Just inside to cave entrance looking out at the end of the tour.
After our first cave tour we got caught behind this parade of Corvettes going 15mph under the speed limit. I thought people bought Corvettes to go 15mph over the speed limit on these winding mountain roads?
Once back in Eureka Springs the Corvettes were everywhere.
There is nearly 70 years difference between the oldest and youngest Corvette in this photo.
Even the vacant businesses had Corvettes parked in their lots.
The Onyx Cave entrance. This tour is delivered through a set of headphones.
You walk until you reach a yellow painted line on the floor and then press the green button to turn on additional lights that reveals what the narration is describing.
A mammoth sized coloumn formation greets you just inside the entrance.
Just around the next corner was this triple column formation.
There were also some larger than normal stalactite formations.
Use your imagination to spot the elephant shape in this photo. (HINT: trunk of the left, behind on the right)
This is what happens when soda straw formations become clogged. They take off in all different directions and are then called helictites.
Exiting the cave with my headphones in my hand.
No Tricia you can't take Cat home with us!



Just another Saturday night,
hanging by the lake,
waiting for the sunset,
after a lazy day of doing nothing terribly important.
Ahhhh. Life on the road!


In case any of you missed this photo on Tricia's Instagram account I thought I'd share it here.
It's Tricia doing her best impression of a butterfly inside of the Onyx Cave gift shop!



SUNDAY - Tonight is our last night here at Beaver Lake and we nearly have the whole campground to ourselves.

That's the way it usually is when all the weekenders go home and try to get ready to return to work tomorrow morning. We've had some windy days and nights here on the lake, each day had a wind gust up into the mid-30mph range. The overnight winds were slighly gentler with gusts only into the mid-20mph.

We're forecast for some rain tonight and early tomorrow morning, so we'll pack up as much as we can tonight before bedtime, so as not to have to do it tomorrow in the rain.

After five stops in a row in the National Forests and then a couple of Army Corp of Engineers Parks, we next have several State Parks on our route.

Our next stop is for an entire week, so it'll be awhile before you see the next post.



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TWO PEAS