Midway into next week I’ll be a full two weeks into my summer break and will have spent the equivalent of a full work week on school business. I spent a day at school helping other teachers, the equivalent of two more days leading contract negotiations, and next week calls for two more days at school leading some test development. Interruptions for school business will continue throughout the summer, so the only way to really decompress and get some true vacation time is to get out of town.
The weather is already quite warm, so I’m pining for a sixth summer trip to the cool Pacific Northwest. But that would interrupt my long-term savings plan for a new car, so instead I’ll have to settle for some hot mountain hikes closer at hand. I could save a lot of money were I willing to camp out, but in this heat that doesn’t appeal to me one bit.
So in less than a week I’ll be heading back down the Muskogee Turnpike and I-40 to Arkansas. I greatly enjoyed circumnavigating Mount Nebo over Spring Break, so I’ve set my sights this time on Mount Magazine just west of there. It boasts the highest point in Arkansas, promises temperatures 6 to 20 degrees cooler than down below, and has a great lodge. I can’t afford to stay there, but I’ll certainly make use of its restaurant. For a nice shower, bed, and blogging support I’ll make use of a room an hour’s drive away in Russellville.
I am grateful to the lodge for its high prices in one way – they shifted my internal price meter. The heat had already shifted me from a $25 per day camp site to a $60 budget hotel room. But the prices at the lodge and the hour-long commute to escape them gave me mental permission to splurge on a jacuzzi-equipped room at a recommended hotel, since I told myself it was still $77 less per night than what a great suite up on Mount Magazine would cost.
I’ve bought some stronger insect repellent after picking up four ticks on a hike last week at Elk City Lake up in Kansas. As a kid I found ticks physically revolting, but now I just see them as a disease vector I need to dodge. And I’ll remember to carry a lot more water than what I was packing on my winter day hikes. Who knows, if I have enough fun in the sun I can always extend my stay in Arkansas for a few extra days…but at a budget hotel.
UPDATE: I’ve decided to add two days to my trip, spending two nights in an inexpensive cabin at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, where I can not only recover from my day hikes but also enjoy food and music in the evenings. That will allow me to add hikes at Pedestal Rocks, King’s Bluff, Indian Rockhouse, Rush Mountain, and Tylers Bend to my Mount Magazine adventure. That could add over 17 miles to my hiking total, hitting over 31 miles over the five days if I do them all.