A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
Summer camp is one of those perks of childhood that’s supposed to disappear forever once you’ve collected a high school diploma.
And it does, for the most part. But adults looking for the mixture of fun and learning experiences that summer camp offered can find opportunities all summer long in every corner of the state.
Arkansas’s state parks and the Game and Fish Commission offer all kinds of programs and classes during the warm weather months. Most last half a day or so, but there are occasional overnight outings, and one that lasts an entire weekend. You may not get to sing “Kum Bah Yah” around a campfire (although you never know), but you can escape the everyday grind, get outside, meet some new people and do something you’ve never done before.
You can learn Dutch oven cooking, go on guided canoe and kayak tours, learn to play the autoharp and to harness and drive mule teams, make soap and birdhouses and corn husk dolls. And while panty raids are probably out of the question, there is at least one event coming up that would satisfy anyone’s desire for wacky fun: The second annual Stuart Pennington Running of the Tubs in Hot Springs. The May 12 bathtub race through downtown highlights the Spa City’s bathing history, and trophies will be given out for winning the race as well as for Most Original Tub and Most Humorous Tub.
The largest of these adult camp opportunities is the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, sponsored by Game and Fish. Founded more than 15 years ago in Wisconsin as a way to get more women interested in hunting and fishing, BOW has expanded nationwide, and Arkansas’s version offers hands-on classes in more than two dozen outdoors-related subjects, including canoeing, birding, orienteering and fly fishing. It’s a great opportunity for women to learn new skills in a low-pressure environment, said Phyllis Speer, regional education coordinator for Game and Fish and organizer of the BOW program.
“Research showed spousal units didn’t make good teachers of outdoor skills for women,” she said.
This year’s BOW weekend is Sept. 28-30 at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale, and registration will begin in mid-June.
“It’s not just a lecture thing,” Speer said. “It’s a very participatory workshop. It’s designed for the beginner level, for women who’ve maybe never participated in outdoor activities before.”
If you’re looking for something shorter — or if you’re a man — check out the Department of Parks and Tourism’s calendar at www.arkansas.com/calendar. Parks across the state will be hosting classes and seminars all summer long, from a beginning autoharp lesson at the Ozark Folk Center on June 18 to a Dutch oven cooking class July 14 on the grounds of the Powhatan Courthouse. Most workshops last a few hours and charge a modest fee.
“Our workshops are designed to be a relatively large period of time where an adult can come and actually learn to do something,” said Jay Miller, manager of interpretation for Arkansas state parks.
Pretty much all state parks located by water offer day-trip kayaking or canoeing tours. Lake Ouachita State Park takes it one step further, with occasional guided overnight kayaking trips.
“Generally what we do is go out to an island, and everybody brings dinner,” and the group camps out for the night, said Ashley Wynn, an interpreter at Lake Ouachita. Wynn said the next overnight trip will probably be this fall. For more information, call the park office at 501- 767-9366.
The Elderhostel program also offers several summer options through the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. These programs, for people 55 and older, combine group travel with a cultural or educational experience. There’s a trip to the Hot Springs Music Festival in June, which includes special meetings and lessons with participating musicians, attending rehearsals and master classes, and nightly concerts. A trip to the Opera in the Ozarks Festival in Eureka Springs in July offers a similar behind-the-scenes experience. There are also programs designed for grandparent/grandchild pairs: Study the arts and Ozark music in Eureka Springs, or science and discovery in and around Hot Springs.
For details, call 800-952-1165
— Jennifer Barnett Reed