2018 In Review

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Vacation Wrap-Up

On our last day in Arkansas, Sally and I met Jonathan, Rae Lyn, Beth, and Peggy at Stoby’s, Conway’s famous breakfast place. It burned down a few years ago and has been completely rebuilt. The food was very good.

Sally and I drove to London and spent the rest of the day with Tim and Velvet. Tim, Luke, and I drove to Haw Creek Falls. The road into the park was closed, but we scrambled down a hillside to the falls.

This is the bridge over Big Piney Creek. It was built in 1931.

Josh and Sarah came over with their kids in the evening. Sally and I stayed in the cabin, which was delightful except for the rooster that woke us up at 5:00 and crowed every two minutes from then until we got up at 7:00.

We drove to Salina, Kansas on Saturday, which also happened to by our 39th wedding anniversary. We stopped in Wichita to explore an antique mall and eat supper at Texas Road House. We pushed it through the rest of Kansas and Colorado on Sunday and were home by 12:40.

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Before we went to Arkansas, I asked Tim if he’d take me kayaking. I’d never been, and thought I should try it before it was too late.

I met him and Joshua at Tim’s house, and we drove a short distance to Piney Bay, part of Lake Dardanelle that is connected to the larger lake by a long channel. I squeezed into my kayak. My left foot was wedged in sideways, and for the next two hours I couldn’t move it. The seat had a very short back, which gave me no back support. I was soon uncomfortable and there wasn’t anything I could do about it, but I enjoyed being out on the water.

Tim was in another kayak and Joshua was in a canoe. We paddled along the shore and then up the channel a ways. It had rained a lot during the week, so the water was high and several waterfalls were pouring down the hillsides.

After a couple of minutes of getting used to the kayak, I felt secure. I didn’t hesitate to head out into the middle of the channel to get closer looks at a large flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls. We also saw White Pelicans, Kingfishers, and a Bald Eagle.

I wasn’t in great kayaking shape, so after about an hour, I decided to turn back. I encouraged Tim and Joshua to keep going. They did take off an explore a side creek, but they soon caught up to me. The adventure of getting out of the kayak and unbending was the chief excitement of the day. I would do it again, but only if I had room for my legs and more back support. Tim took some photos along the way.

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In the 1930s, Trumpeter Swans were almost extinct. Since then, they have been reintroduced throughout their historic range. In 1992, part of the population that now nests in the upper Midwest began migrating to central Arkansas. As many as 300 have returned in recent years.

I drove up through the fog and gloom on the day after Christmas. By the time I arrived at the ponds where the swans hang out, it was raining steadily. The swans are wild birds, but the are obviously very used to humans. A corn feeder ensures that they stay close to the viewing area.

There was a car already there, and the birds were swimming further out in the lake. When that car left, I pulled up about 20 yards from the shore. The swans drifted in and were soon eating the corn and paying very little attention to me.

Among the 103 Trumpeter Swans, I spotted a lone Tundra Swan. It stood on the shore right next to a larger Trumpeter and gave me a great chance to compare the two birds. There were also a few Canada Geese and a single Snow Goose among the swans.

Trumpeter Swan (back) and Tundra Swan (front). You can see the yellow spot on the Tundra’s bill that distinguishes it. It’s hard to tell from any distance, but when the two birds were right next to each other, the Trumpeter was obviously larger with a longer neck.
A Trumpeter Swan. The pink line along the bill is visible in this shot.
Trumpeter Swans

After about half an hour, I drove to the second of the three ponds where the birds are seen. There were 56 more Trumpeters there. At the third lake, some of the 14 birds irds were swimming right next to the shore. There was also a large flock of Ring-necked Ducks and some Buffleheads nearby. (See the last clip in the video.)

The rain ended while I was watching the swans, but started again as I drove back toward Conway. I didn’t let that stop me from hiking around the lake at Woolly Hollow State Park. Even there, on a wet and gloomy day, I ran into several other people on the trail.

I spent a couple hours touring antique stores and eating an unexciting lunch at David’s Burgers.

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