Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
Only the homiest homebody doesn't want to leave the house and get away for a bit, spend some time in a nice secluded spot where you don't hear traffic or your neighbors or, for that matter, your children. It helps us all to get a little peace and quiet, and if there's water nearby, that's even better. Trees help us chill. Stars remind us how insignificant it is that the laundry has piled up.
Fortunately, there are a zillion places in Arkansas that will afford respite. Here we write about a few of them, places you might want to go with your sweetheart, or other couples, or other couples and their children, or your far-flung family. We have our reasons for the ones we picked, as you'll see. We start with the pricey and move to the home-away-from home-types.
Prim, for the uninitiated, is famous among geologists and other petraphiliacs for its round rocks. The little unincorporated town in Cleburne County has ancient spherical sandstone boulders all over the place; they've apparently popped free of whatever concretion they were once part of. Of deeper interest, perhaps, to someone who wants a bit of seclusion, is Longbow Resort, where famous Arkansas archer Ben Pearson built a getaway amid the bluffs, crevasses and streams of a ridge formation — you might call it the toe of the Ozarks. His son, Ben Pearson Jr., and family run the resort now. Longbow has four private luxury cabins on two acres with hiking trails. One of the cabins, also called Longbow, is built into a cliff and has a 30-foot waterfall and spring-fed pool — always cool, even in an Arkansas summer — at the back in which to take a private dip. A stone patio overlooks the waterfall and pool. Longbow is well appointed, with a Jenn-Air cooktop and such. A walking bridge leads to another cabin, Bushmaster; a short hike away is Diana's pool, formed by another spring-fed waterfall from a rocky overhang. Bois d'Arc cabin is bow-shaped (hence the name) and one-story. In the Sovereign cabin, a cliff wall supports the sleeping lofts. Since Cleburne is dry, the proprietors remind you to stock up on the booze before you come; you won't get cell service, either, in the Longbow or Bushmaster cabins, so deep are they in their box canyon. That's good, right? Sovereign has two queen-sized beds; the others have one, though there are couches. Longbow plans to open a larger facility, Longbow Lodge, which will accommodate 50 guests, a banquet room and bar, in 2017.
Stoneflower, on a prominence above Greers Ferry Lake, is an architect's retreat: E. Fay Jones designed this tall, narrow haven for landscape architects Bob Shaheen and Curt Goodfellow in 1963. It resembles Jones' famous Thorncrown Chapel, but here's the thing: He designed it before Thorncrown. Its inspiration (and Thorncrown's afterward) came from the building materials that Shaheen and Goodfellow salvaged: 2-by-4 timbers and big stones. The one-room-wide cottage, with a Frank Lloyd Wright/Fay Jones Arts and Crafts aesthetic, features a stone "grotto" shower with a man-made waterfall on the lowest level and redwood board and batten siding for the upper levels. According to an article on stoneflower.info, the rear gable's vertical beams were designed to defend it from stray golf balls. You can see a hint of the Thorncrown to come in the cross-braced beams that support the walls. A 30-foot-long deck extends over the back slope of the ravine that Stoneflower is built on and is eye level with the tree canopy. Though there are other homes nearby, the trees keep the feel of privacy. There is one queen bed on the third level and benches on the second level that can serve as single beds.
Riverside Retreat, south of Mena, sits on a bluff overlooking the Mountain Fork River, which flows into Oklahoma. The exterior is nothing fancy — just your 21st century long-cabin look — but it has direct access to the river, a screened-in porch out back with a view of the water and woods, a fire pit (wood provided) and a two-person Jacuzzi tub. You don't even have to haul your canoe here; there's one provided for you, along with life jackets and paddles. The Upper Mountain Fork is seasonal, so go in late fall, winter and spring if canoeing, kayaking or fishing is your thing (the river is calm here; the rapids are downstream). If just vegetating in the woods is your thing — and why shouldn't it be? — or if you've decided to bring along the kiddos (there's a sleeping loft with twin beds for them) and want them out of your hair, there's a 32-inch flat-screen TV with a satellite feed that provides 250 channels, on which there should be one or two you'd let the kids watch. There's also a washer and dryer.
The family that built the English Cottage — on their family farm — modified a floor plan from New Orleans after Katrina, their daughter Christine says. So you'd think it would be a French cottage. But whatever, this little stone house, surrounded by the formal gardens much like Christine's mother has seen abroad (except for the corn patch), is surpassingly beautiful outside, with bronze herons cavorting in a pond in front and a rocky water feature and lily-pad pond out back, all connected by tile and gravel paths. There's a meadow view backed up by the Boston Mountains, a porch complete with swing, a fire pit for fireside chats. Indoors, the cozy living room features a very British tile-surround fireplace and a country chic kitchen with copper counters. This looks like the place to be in spring, with a pot of tea (or maybe a glass of Guinness), binoculars and a guide to butterflies, for surely those flowers bring in the beauties. The main farmhouse is nearby, but the owners are often traveling, Christine said. They've been known to leave baked goods to welcome their guests.
Take your pick at Cove Creek Cabins: There's the "Creekside," a new blond wood one-and-a-half story, with picture windows and deck overlooking the stream, and the older "Retro Cabin," which looks sort of a like a fishing lodge at an old-fashioned country club, with a tin roof. Both are near the creek and a swimming hole below the barn on the property, and each have distinct attractions: The Creekside, which can sleep six, has modern furnishings, Tempur-Pedic beds and a private outdoor bathtub facing the creek, with privacy curtains. The Retro (sleeps two) is 1950s style, outfitted with an aluminum table topped with Formica and aluminum chairs to match in the kitchen (but the countertops are granite, so the cooking area isn't out of date). There's a hot tub outside. But this is what grabbed our notice about Cove Creek Cabins: The barn is a fully stocked bar, with lots of Louisiana State University memorabilia. The owners also offer dinner cruises on Lake Hamilton.
This 1,000-square-foot log cabin on a rise above Lake Catherine was built around 1920 as part of a workers' campground, manager Nathan Schanlaber says, and was at one time owned by the Bale family of Little Rock. Schanlaber says the restored cabin must be seen in person to be fully appreciated: It has "an aura to it that you can't describe." From pictures, it appears it's the aura of a quiet, simpler time in nature outside the Spa City. The cabin has a beautiful view of the lake from its covered front porch and a wrap-around deck with lovely deck furniture. There are vaulted ceilings in the living room and the modern kitchen, a stone fireplace, a spacious bedroom (and an air mattress for extras), lots of light, and, oh yes, a flat-screen television for those who can resist the lure of the outdoors. The furnishings include leather couches and craftsman tables and chairs; pets are allowed. The cabin is only 2 miles outside Hot Springs, and if you stay three nights, you get two passes to the Quapaw Bathhouse. Schanlaber said the owner of the cabin is renovating the Thompson Building downtown as a boutique hotel, so he's already in the lodging business.
The fortunes of Lake Lucerne, a resort that dates to 1920, have been up and down. The "Coolest Spot in the Ozarks" was a thriving vacation spot until the late 1960s, but declined. It went under in 2001. California transplant Faryl Kaye began buying up parcels of the original property in 2004, and by 2008 she'd pulled together 40 acres of the resort, which now features nine cabins and a six-acre pond. Five of the cabins are restored older cottages with jetted tubs and fireplaces and nice furnishings, including feather-top beds. Two new cabins, Sassafras and Valerian, are the honeymoon spots, stylish and outfitted with what a newlywed couple needs: A private location, a fancy tub, a king-sized bed and a minibar. Some of the cabins, like Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher, which date to the 1980s, overlook Lake Lucerne; all have decks. Lake Lucerne, by the way, feeds Keel Creek (as in Keel Creek Winery downstream), and an otter family sometimes pays a visit to the lake. Besides the setting and its proximity to Eureka Springs, here's something many people will especially love about Lake Lucerne: Kaye's hobby farm, which includes alpacas, donkeys, chickens and a llama named Atticus. You can visit during feeding time and learn about the animals.
Historic Washington State Park, the state's Confederate capital, is a destination for people whose hearts beat faster when they're surrounded by historic houses and big Magnolia trees and can dine family-style dining in an antebellum cottage. Now, thanks to the 1920s Grace Cottage in the town of Washington, you can stay near the park in homey circumstances rather than in the motels at the Hope exit on Interstate 30. There are two bedrooms and one bath in this simply appointed cottage, and no charge for additional guests. There is a television (no cable, but Wi-Fi) and DVD player, antiques and a screen front door to the big porch. The big draw is its proximity to the park, where 30 restored historic homes and buildings create the atmosphere of Arkansas in the 19th century. You can dine in the 1832 Williams Tavern, stop in at the blacksmith's shop and learn about Bowie knife maker James Black, visit a weapons museum and a cotton gin, dip candles, visit the antebellum cemetery, do research at the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives ... or just walk around town. Then head back to Grace Cottage to sit and think about your day. Josh Williams, who happens to be the park curator, and his wife, Jaimie, live near Grace Cottage, and are on hand if needed. Jaimie is a baker, so the couple usually provides baked goods for guests
And for families...
The Nature Conservancy owns this sumptuous lodge-like property overlooking the Trigger Gap Valley area of the Kings River Preserve. It can sleep 20, so it's a suitable, and beautiful, place for a retreat. The den features an oversized rock fireplace, and windows form one wall of the house. There is also a wraparound deck from which to enjoy the view. The Deckhouse sleeps 12 people in two bedrooms and two sleeping lofts. The bungalows sleep four each in two bedrooms and each has a porch and view. There is an outdoor pavilion with a grill for dining and a milelong hiking trail is being built from the house to a bluff overlooking the Kings River. If you want to paddle the river, there's a canoe outfitter nearby.
Picture a five-bedroom house atop a hill on a 27-acre spring-fed lake, a wood-and-stone getaway with a fireplace, a double oven in the kitchen, two decks off each story providing a view of the lake. That's not what owner and writer Ginny Edwards envisioned — she thought she would build a little cabin on the lake. The topography suggested she do otherwise, and she ended up with a cabin she named Engedi, for the Ein Gedi oasis in Israel, referred to in the Song of Songs. Fido is welcome to Engedi, and if you must leave the woods to shop, there's historic downtown Heber Springs, where you can buy art and antiques, see a movie at the Gem, or get coffee at the Jitterbug cafe. If kayaking, canoeing or fishing on Lake Moore isn't exciting enough for the crew, Greers Ferry Lake nearby will accommodate. Engedi sleeps 14; there are also a few safety features for older folks, such as accessible bathrooms.
Yes, it's Beach Nut, not Beechnut. This four-bedroom log cabin on a hilltop offers the same respite from busy lives that a view of the ocean might provide. The cabin, open only since Memorial Day, has a woodstove and lots of loggy furniture indoors; outdoors there's a panoramic view of the rolling Ozarks. Beach Nut distinguishes itself by letting guests bring their horses for riding on the farm's 500 acres (updated Coggins test required), and there are ATV trails as well. If you want Beach Nut to buy your groceries for you, that's possible with a fee and 48 hours' advance notice. The cabin is far away from city lights, so stargazers will appreciate a nice, dark night sky. One unusual touch: There's a treadmill in the cabin. The owners say it makes a nice place for a small wedding party, since it can accommodate 12 guests.
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