Disclaimer: For this post, I will be temporarily lifting my self-imposed ban on including more than 15-ish images per blog post. I will return to my normally high-horsin' ways shortly.
Around this time last year I traveled to Arkansas with Jess to shoot a wedding. It was an incredible weekend, due in part to the bride and groom being two incredibly special, incredibly inspiring, incredibly generous people. The inclusion of four identical adjectives into one sentence would suggest as much, wouldn't it? It would indeed. I'd been to Arkansas twice before to visit my grandparents, once as a child and once as a preteen, but I scarcely remember much more about it apart from fireflies, Folgers coffee, and an abundance of greenery (add angst, ennui, and The Corn Palace to the latter trip). Since my birthday was the day following the wedding, we opted to stay until Monday so we could spend Sunday celebrating.
Jess and I gave a cursory glance to what the Internet had to offer by way of tourism but left most of the day up to chance, only briefly researching possibilities more in depth the morning after the wedding. I'm not sure why I never blogged about the trip until now, but it exists as one of my favorite trips ever, and most certainly marks my 27th birthday as being an all-time favorite as well. For someone like me, spending an entire day exploring some wild, unknown space with my best friend at my side is the stuff life is made of. Those of you who know me know that discovery and exploration are tantamount of my existence, and if what's being uncovered happens to be at all derelict, kitschy, off-the-map, off-the-radar, off-kilter, abandoned, or likewise populated by a bunch of kooks, then I'd nearly pass out from bliss. In this case, my heart instantaneously expanded to three times its size, and when it exploded confetti and puppies came out. Unfortunately, Jess is the only one to have witnessed it, and she swears it never happened.
(Time to find a new best friend. I'll be taking applications. Must be a ginger. And willing to cook me food.)
But back to the veritable wonderland that is northwestern Arkansas. With a rough sketch in place, we set out for the day, stopping first at Thorncrown Chapel, a soaring monument of steel and glass nestled amidst a thicket of trees near Eureka Springs. If it looks familiar, it is very similar to Wayfarer's Chapel both in size and in context. When we walked in, "It Is Well With My Soul" was being played which further cemented that my 27th birthday was going to be absolutely perfect.
Following Thorncrown, we happened upon a treehouse resort. The guy who owned it hailed from Palo Alto, so given our mutual West Coast stomping grounds, he gave us a key and let us explore one of the houses. In other news, somewhere in California, my sister Jody's head exploded from envy. In this case, puppies were NOT involved.
The next-next stop? The Passion Play Theme Park, an Easter-themed kiddie-land wherein the Easter Bunny is resolutely banned. The entire spectacle is encircled by a to-scale replica of the Jerusalem Wall, its infrastructure and inner walls made entirely of styrofoam. The park is completely deserted until May when the nightly play opens and Christ ascends into the sky every 24 hours. Having our minds melted, we ventured finally into Eureka Springs, a baffling amalgamation of Disneyland, the Wild West, Europe, and - why not - New Orleans. My photos don't do Eureka Springs justice, but I'll say this much: When we descended the hill into the town center, my eyes nearly popped out of my head because I swear to you, I've dreamed about a place like that before. And in both cases, I'm unable to take decent photos.
An unfiltered peek into my psyche, folks. First one's free.
What followed as the day began to wane was the kind of exploratory fluff that gets my heart beating wildly. While driving out of the Springs, we noticed a sign heralding a mysterious Dinosaur World. And then the gentle, pastoral strings from the Jurassic Park theme song began playing in my head. Jeff Goldblum's unfortunate fate be damned, we had to investigate. What we found was an abandoned dinosaur-themed park, shuttered and left to deteriorate in the heavily wooded hills off the main highway. Despite the "No Trespassing" sign, we screwed our courage to the sticking place and wandered around the prehistoric playland, mouths agape (not unlike the papier mâché cavemen who were permanently visiting).
Right? Amazing. I have no words. (Especially because I've been trying for the past twenty minutes to remember a certain word synonymous with atrophy, decay, and deteriorate and it's been dogging me to no end.) (And the Internet has been of NO help at all.)
The next day, Jess and I found a wild animal park nearby which basically allowed you to cruise around the grounds freely (in your vehicle, of course) with the wildlife, and since we were so emboldened by the previous day's trespassing, we totally rolled our windows down. Take that, Authority!
Oh, look. NATURE.
We briefly hopped over the line into Oklahoma to discover Eden, of all places, and high-tailed it to the airport for our return flight to Los Angeles. So next time you find yourself questioning, "Arkansas?" I'll go ahead and supply the answer for you: Arkansas!
Now who wants to go exploring with me?
That's a little baby monkey, by the way.