I actually began this post in early December of last year, shortly after the trip. Obviously, I haven't been keeping the blog up too well lately as my last post prior to this one is from July of last year, but here's this post finally, and I hope to post more regularly as this year goes along.
Peggy and I enjoyed our trip down the Talimena Scenic Drive last year that we decided to do it again this past fall. Last year we went around the middle of October and were a bit early for the peak fall colors. Some tree's leaves had begun turning colors, but overall things were still pretty green. So this year we decided to go later. Initially we planned on the last weekend in October, but we waited too long to book a place to stay so we ended up moving it back to the middle of November.
When we went last year, Peggy really wanted to find a cabin in the area to stay in but since we tend to "plan" our vacations at the last moment (we like to think we're spontaneous), we couldn't find anything that looked good so we stayed in hotels. This year Peggy began searching earlier and found the River's Edge website. Looking at the virtual tours of their cabins soon convinced us to reserve one of them.
We reserved the Bear Cottage, one of the lower priced cabins. It seems a lot of their pricing is based on cabin location as some of them sit right on cliffs overlooking the Mountain Fork River making for spectacular views. Our cabin wasn't situated like that, but the view from the living room was still quite beautiful, especially with all the fall colors going on as the photo below shows (you can click on any of the photos in this post to see a large version of it).
View from the front porch
I shot this photo of the big tree right outside the front window from the cabin's living room.
Another nice thing about our cabin was the size. Most of the cabins are essentially one-room affairs, with a fireplace/living area, kitchen and bed all spread around the large room. The Bear Cottage however has two bedrooms, the living room and a kitchen. Each bedroom also has its own bathroom and shower and the master bedroom has a two-person jacuzzi (all the cabins have a jacuzzi).
A shot of the fireplace in the living room.
Here's a photo looking up toward the kitchen where Peggy was preparing breakfast.
The master bedroom sits off the kitchen and has a door to the back porch which has a picnic table and charcoal grill. There is also a fire pit behind the porch. They also provide all the firewood you could possibly need. We used the charcoal grill the evening of our second day there for our dinner.
Here's one more photo of the cabin interior. I shot this from the kitchen looking down over the living room where Peggy was enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, the morning of our last day there. You can see the large front windows that provided the excellent view.
Looking down on the living room
On top of the beautiful cabin and peaceful seclusion we had, we got our own dog to go with it all! Okay, technically it wasn't our dog. The proprietors of River's Edge own a couple of retrievers and Pete, the younger of the two adopted us during our stay. When we were outside he was right there with us most of the time, and when we were inside he tended to sleep on the front porch or hang out in back waiting for us to come out.
Pete takes a nap.
There is a minimum two night stay at River's Edge, and that gives you one full day there, plus the afternoon/evening of the day you arrive and the morning of the day you leave. Our first day, we arrived right at 4 PM which is the normal check-in time. We found our cabin and unloaded the car and put everything away. The place is quite secluded and they recommend bringing all the food and whatever else you think you might need while you're there because it's a bit of a hassle to get somewhere you can buy food and supplies. After settling in we took a hike down to the river which is a couple of hundred yards down from the cabin. After a bit of time there, we went back to the cabin and made dinner. After dinner we built a fire out back and sat on the back porch watching the fire for a while before retiring to the cabin for the rest of the evening.
The next day turned out quite nice for the middle of November in Oklahoma. A good part of November this year was unseasonably warm and the highs were in the low 70's while we were on this little trip. Since it was such a nice day we decided to take the canoe (provided free with the cabin) out on the river and look around. We paddled downstream a ways while Pete swam along with us, hoping we would let him in the canoe.
Pete takes a break from swimming.
We found a good spot and beached the canoe then got out and walked the bank a ways, taking some photos and looking for good rocks. Pete busied himself finding sticks for us to throw for him.
Pete tries to get Peggy to notice the stick he has subdued.
Looking down river.
Nice color along the river banks.
After a bit, we decided to go the other direction and paddle upstream a ways. The river thru this area was very slow moving so going upstream was not any trouble other than working our way through some shallows.
We worked our way upstream around a big bend and continued thru a couple of narrow, shallow areas until we came to the last cabin owned and operated by Rivers Edge, a three-story affair for families. We stopped in that area for a while, enjoying the scenery and looking for more rocks.
More fall color.
Pete found a big stick
As we headed back, we noticed the couple of cabins Rivers Edge offers that are perched on one of the cliffs overlooking the river. Here's a shot of them from down on the river. The one on the right is kind of hard to see as it's partially obscured by the trees in the foreground at the bend in the river.
Cabins on the cliffs.
After returning to our cabin, we enjoyed a lazy afternoon then took the bicycles (also provided free, with the cabin) out for a little ride. We started to go up the road that leads to the cliff-situated cabins, but it turned out to be too steep for us to tackle so we rode down the road that comes in to Rivers Edge for a half mile or so before turning around and heading back.
We enjoyed our last evening there, cooking our dinner on the charcoal grill on the back porch and watching a movie on our laptop later on. We ate breakfast the next morning then reluctantly began packing everything up and loading it back in the car.
Bidding Rivers Edge a fond farewell, we headed East to Mena, Arkansas which lies on the East end of the Talimena Drive. After a short stop in Mena we began the drive. As we climbed the mountains the temperature dropped significantly, and it became overcast and very windy. After passing the Queen Wilhamena Lodge, we noticed a marker on the side of the road and pulled over to see what it was. It pointed us to the "Pioneer Cemetery" a short hike from the road so we decided to take a look. It was a very small area bordered by railroad ties and populated with a small number of graves, most of them only marked with large rocks. In fact, there was only one "real" headstone in the cemetery. As we left we noticed an unusual tree, its trunk and one large branch forming the number "4". Here's a photo of it.
The Pioneer Cemetery was used by the handful of residents that lived on the mountain in that area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After the cemetery, we continued a few more miles before pulling over at one of the many scenic stops along the drive to eat our lunch. As we ate, we watched the sky which was mostly overcast, but had breaks in the clouds through which rays of sun shone creating a beautiful vista. The wind was blowing hard and the sky was constantly changing because of that so we decided I ought to get out and shoot some pictures while the view was so good.
I set up my tripod and put the camera in panorama mode and fired off several shots that I later assembled in Photoshop to get the following photo. You can click on that picture to see a 1600 pixel-wide version of it.
We continued the drive for the next two hours or so, stopping at some of the scenic pullover spots to appreciate the scenery and shoot more photos. Here are a few of them.
Some of the beautiful foliage.
Another shot from the same area.
Some more sky ambience.
Looking up the road from one of the scenic pullouts.
We stopped at a nature center (which was closed) along the way and hiked around in the woods surrounding it for a little while. It had a couple of beautiful maples planted out in front.
As it got late in the day, we had some really cool clouds surrounding us. You really ought to click on the picture below to see the large version of it. These clouds are excellent!
As evening neared, a the sky below the clouds took on a beautiful golden hue which was soon followed by a spectacular sunset.
A golden sky shortly before sunset.
We found ourselves finishing as the sun was setting. We originally planned on staying the night somewhere in the area and heading home the next day, but we decided to go ahead and drive home that evening. We actually made pretty good time and arrived home at a reasonable hour. If anything, we enjoyed the trip even more this year than last and are tentatively planning to make the trip again this year.