“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
Regardless of where I might travel, adaptability is key to enjoying a trip. Even the best laid plans can go awry, and enjoyable experiences mean going with the flow in the moment. Even if the travel is a short family vacation to Russellville, AR.
Located near the Ozark National Forest, a trip to Russellville usually means
day hiking trips. Rather than taking a full day to drive and hike in the national forest, we decided on a quick hike at Mount Nebo.
Mount Nebo is located just off Lake Dardanelle and is one of the state parks in Arkansas’ system. At a total elevation of 1,345′, hiking around Mount Nebo does not offer challenges (like how to breathe) faced in other regions with higher elevations. However, the state and federal parks around Russellville offer a large amount of history that cannot be found by hiking a 14,000′ mountain.
Mount Nebo was one of thousands of development sites established and worked on by the men in the Civilian Conservation Corp. Passed by congress in 1933, the CCC was a program developed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and was the most successful part of the president’s New Deal. Putting thousands of young men to work each year, with a total of 3 million participating by the program’s end in 1942, the CCC focused on developing and preserving U.S. natural resources while housing and employing the country’s young men.
Almost 90 years later, the state and federal forests around Russellville have buildings, parks, and trails distinguished by the CCC’s trademark masonry capabilities. Every year I see these monuments of an innovative Great Depression recovery program, and every year I am astounded by the artistry and lasting nature of the work.
After eating a quick picnic lunch at the pavilion, we headed over to the visitor center where we picked up the trail head for the Rim Trail. As suggested by the name, the Rim Trail wanders around the edge of Mount Nebo, providing hikers with a 360* view of the surrounding landscape. After a steep decline from the visitor center, the trail turns to either the left or the right, with left as an easy route to another trail head and right a strenuous route to another trail head.
After a quick discussion, we decided we will head to the left. The hiking party included me, my sister, my husband, and Vivian. The plan included my father and stepmother picking up the hiking party at the trail head where easy became moderate, about 45 minutes along the rim from the visitor center.
With Vivian in the lead, we started off. Although the property belongs to Arkansas,
private residencies still exist along the top. The houses cannot be expanded, and no new development can occur, which means all the houses are 1920’s and earlier remodeled construction. The beginning of the Rim Trail takes hikers along the front of the houses, providing an amazing view of the valley and beautifully restored homes.
My sister and I were discussing the ideal location, as long as there were no ice storms, when we came to a fork in the path. Without a pause, my husband starts walking downwards, following a path marked Bench Road Trail. After a beat, I stopped and commented taking a right seemed to take us away from the rim. As is normal with our family, we followed the one most convinced he was right.
We descended down the mountain and into the trees as my sister and I kicked 2″ gray cobblestone that seemed to make a roadbed. Slowly our party of four was separating into two parties of 2 with Vivian walking fast in the lead. I realized as the two in front picked up speed that we were the worst prepared hikers considering our obvious deviation from the plan. Not only did we not bring a snack, I left my water bottle in the car. I mentioned this to my sister. She replied after a thoughtful moment, “we won’t be out here long, and this is an easy walk.”
Vivian and my husband reached a four way sign before my sister and me, and they waited for us to catch up. We were informed we did take a wrong turn, and now we have
a choice of four roads. Instead of taking the left road in an effort to cut back up to the original trail, and knowing all three adults were averse to going back the way we came, we decided a right turn towards Observational Point. We remembered driving past the point, so we knew where we would come out.
Lately Vivian has been in a phase where she wants everyone to hold hands “because we are a family, and families hold hands,” so we continued our walk four across down a dirt road marked by blue tree tags. Although we talked about what the blue might signify, we didn’t get our answer until the next divergent path.
Suddenly rising off to our right were moss covered stone slabs. At first, Vivian was just curious to walk up one or two. I was drawn to the stairs but they looked very steep, and my sister is a researcher and needed to know where we would end up. After a quick Google search, we learned Nebo Steps would take us back to the visitor center, were considered strenuous, but the entire hike was only 3/4 mile and we were on a small portion of it.
Up the stairs we went. Vivian scampered with energy fueled by excitement as the adults grumbled and made various cryptic remarks about our decision. I kept thinking how history changes perception. We were complaining about the steepness of the steps, but at some point each stone was placed by a worker while standing on a steep hill.
We reached the top successfully and called to alert our ride that we were back where we started. Although we deviated from our intended plan, we saw an amazing aspect of Mount Nebo’s charm. The whole adventure reminded me that wandering can afford us more growth and experience.