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The Ozarks - Arkansas
by Tommy Ford

If you’re hungry, I mean REALLY hungry, stop by "The Front Porch," Restaurant in Yellville, home of the "Largest Buffet in Marion County." The Front Porch was written up in Southern Living and certainly lives up to it’s reputation. It’s worth the very reasonable price just for the smoked ham and barbecued ribs if nothing else but be sure to try the green beans. I don’t know how they flavor them but however they do it, wow! You can call Dave or Laveta Tablish at 870-449-5500 for current hours and prices.

The number one destination in the Arkansas Ozarks has to be Eureka Springs home of The Great Passion Play. The play starts at dark in a huge open air amphitheater. Get your seats in advance to insure you’ll be as close to the front as possible.

As the lights dim and the drama begins you’ll find yourself swept away by the intense emotions aroused by the final ten days leading up to Christ’s resurrection. Even the hardest of hearts must be touched by the strength of the drama which involves a large cast as well as camels, horses, sheep, donkeys and doves. The sudden appearance of Christ in the upper room is not soon forgotten.

Even my two eight year olds watched the two hour spectacle in silence.

The only thing I disliked about the play, and it was a very minor thing, was that the voices were all recorded. In working with such a large and diverse crowd I suppose this was necessary but can be a little distracting such as when an old woman’s voice comes from the young girl playing a leper. Don’t let this keep you from seeing the play however, you get used to it quickly and it really doesn’t distract from the message that is sure to touch you regardless of your religious beliefs.

Near the town of Mountain View, Arkansas lies a below ground treasure, Blanchard Springs Caverns. Blanchard Springs is administered by the U.S. Forest Service and they do an excellent job.

The caverns offer three tours. The Dripstone Trail tour is offered year round and is easily accessible, though there are some steep inclines so if you have any sort of disability please take this into consideration. The Discovery Trail is offered only in the summer. With 700 stairs this trail is strenuous. A third "Wild Cave," tour is also offered. Please contact the forest service for details.

Blanchard is a "living," cave which means it’s features are still growing.

We took the Dripstone Trail which begins with a short elevator ride to the huge Cathedral room where you’ll see a variety of cave features. The tour takes about an hour. Oooh’s and aaah’s were heard in abundance. A short bus ride returns you to the visitor’s center.
Blanchard Springs, ArkansasAfter your cave tour be sure to take the short boardwalk trail which leads to Blanchard Springs, a beautiful waterfall where the stream emerges from the caverns. Don’t give into the temptation to taste the crystal clear water however. A trailside sign warns that since the stream has just emerged from caverns inhabited by thousands of bats, drinking the water is not a good idea.

Blanchard Springs also offers a beautiful swimming, camping and picnic area.

The Old Country StoreIf you journey on into Mountain View, stop by Mellon’s Old Country Store (shown here) where you’ll find a large variety of souvenirs and curiosities as well as a cold bottle of sarsaparilla.

The first time we stopped at the store three elderly gentlemen were on the front porch, two playing checkers while the other entertained them with a harmonica. A yellow cat watched nearby. It was a perfect picture of rural life which I would have recorded on film if that darn cat hadn’t run off after a butterfly.

Mountain View is also the home of the Ozark Folk Center. We didn’t have time to visit the park that day but did stop by the gift shop and enjoyed an excellent meal at the park’s restaurant. A special attraction of the restaurant are the large windows which open onto a wooded hillside studded with bird feeders. There’s something relaxing about enjoying a meal indoors while just beyond the glass dozens of tiny birds enjoy a meal of their own.

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Photographs by Tommy Ford

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