Road Trip V, Days 24-28, Celo, NC to Dallas: The Coolness of Discovering State Parks You’ve Never Heard Of

The real joy of road trips is discovery. The Mate and I travel with camping gear and all our various outdoor layers–a sort of mini, mobile REI–so that even if the weather discourages us from camping, it can’t keep us off the hiking trails or bike paths.

In the past few days we were lucky enough to discover two cool “green spots” in places where our expectations of scenery were low. (Face it, we’re hopeless west coast scenery snobs.) But here we were pleasantly surprised.
#1: Chickasaw State Park in southwest Tennessee. We were going to be pulling in late, plus it was our anniversary, so we sprung for a cabin. Not only was it cheap, the site was lovely.

Our cabin, seen from across the lake

Our cabin, seen from across the lake

There were only four miles of hiking trails, but for a quick stop, that was just the ticket, and we left feeling like we’d be happy to come back and camp.

Cypress knees are so cool!

Cypress knees are so cool!

Cute little old lodge we didn't stay at.

Cute little old lodge we didn’t stay at.

My western soul misses these eastern flowers--blunts, or Quaker Ladies.

My western soul misses these eastern flowers–blunts, or Quaker Ladies.

#2: Mount Magazine State Park in western Arkansas. This one had a little more hype, in that our giant atlas noted it as Arkansas’ highest point. We looked at photos on the web and figured, well, those are probably the three views they have up there, but let’s go take a look. Boy, were we impressed.

Beautiful bluffs in the clouds

Beautiful bluffs in the clouds

The view from our room--imagine it on a clear day!!

The view from our room–imagine it on a clear day!!

This time our weather luck deteriorated; it was 39 and raining when we got up there. Their cabins were pricey, so we opted for the lodge–much more than we usually spend, but very comparable to national park prices. And they’d captured that national park lodge New Deal-era architecture perfectly, with giant posts and beams. We felt both spoiled and right at home.

Highest poi? The Mate makes me laugh.

Highest poi? The Mate makes me laugh.

Moral of this story? Keep your eye on those green spots. Sometimes you don’t have to go far from the freeway to feel very far away.

Got your own special green spot? Some overlooked place that shouldn’t be? Please share.

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