by Elaine Strom
“Scenic 7,” the hushed pathway that twists and turns north and south through the Ouachita National Forest of the Ozark Mountains, is the breathtaking byway of central Arkansas.
A misty morning drive along the byway at daybreak, dipping through hollows and rising to ridges, culminates in a scenic view of the Ozark Canyon in its surreal stillness. Cotton candy clouds hang in the canyon and miniature Brown-Eyed Susans wave in the wild to escort the way. You’ll pass diamond fields of caverns, quarries, and crystal mines… camping, corn crops, and picnics… while little brown turtles in army-green helmets cross with care.
Activity abounds on “Scenic 7,” whether you’re in vacation mode or just passing through. Cottage-like homes with hanging baskets brimming full of summer-bright blossoms line this peaceful byway.
Frequent memorials of the dearly departed fondly greet the traveler from the many cemetery headstones, each gracefully draped with a summer floral spray. Quaint craft shacks, antique stores, and rock shops offer leisurely treasure troves. Outdoor enthusiasts indulge in canoeing, caving, hiking, and drizzling sorghum on pancakes steaming hot off the grill!
Freshwater lakes create a fishing paradise as far as the eye can see, with ample tackle and bait and boat launching. For those in the fast lane, treetops ring with the whine of speeding boats and jet skis.
Check in later to a high-end condo resort overlooking the lake, and savor a crisp, cool glass of Arkansas wine. Or retreat to the quiet calm of a cabin, and inhale the high of the “fresh” forest. At the end of the day, bask in the restorative waters of one of many bath houses fed by the volcanic hot springs of this geological haven.
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