A hard wind buffeted us much of the way across the country as we drove and strengthened again as we left Oklahoma and entered Arkansas. We stopped at Fort Smith National Historic Site to see the history of the place and to stretch our legs, but the bitter wind cut our visit short.
I wanted to see the Trail of Tears along the river and see the place where “Hanging Judge” Parker presided. While my mom went inside the building, I spent my whole time there outside with the dog, who was very happy for a lengthy walk in the middle of another long day of driving.
The building that held a jail and courtrooms where Judge Parker presided now holds a museum, too.
Arkansas was the first state with a landscape that felt more familiar to me, more like home than the other states we had driven through. Having just come through the part of the country where bleak reservation land dominates everything, I had an even harder time imagining what these tribes faced as they journeyed from their homes in the east to harsh, unfamiliar land. I was journeying home but looking out at a place of sadness for those who would never see home again.
Overlooking the Trail of Tears at the confluence of the Arkansas River (right) and the Poteau river (left)
In a place of historic battles, the only turmoil on the day of our visit (besides the wind) was the point where the two rivers meet.
This is the last installment of our trip across the country here on the blog, though we would have another day and a half of driving after leaving Arkansas.
We crossed the Mississippi River in the dark, got lost the next day trying to find a state park in Tennessee (Cummins Falls State Park) that would have been our one long stop for the day, and then drove across into North Carolina. Ah, home.
Home is where my thoughts and heart have turned, and so starting next week, the blog will turn toward North Carolina and what it means to be home for this weary traveler.