A Love Letter to Longpool,
A Beloved Arkansas Campground
Just the other day I was going through a box of old photos (a winter project suitable for a string of days of sub-zero temperatures).
I came across this sweet photo of our three oldest kiddos on our first camping trip to your perfectly situated riverside campsites.
It was a gorgeous Arkansas autumn weekend in 2005, the kind you dream about when you plan a fall camping trip but that you hardly ever get. (Many fall weekends end up being colder than usual or more rainy than sunny.)
The temps that weekend were cool enough for jeans and fires at night, but so warm and sunny during the day that the kids dared each another to swim.
The leaves were dazzling shades of yellow all around. We hiked campground trails, skipped rocks into the river, climbed giant boulders, and sat in the sunshine enjoying the views.
At night, we read one of the Chronicles of Narnia out loud around the campfire. Long days of playing hard outside meant the kids fell asleep quick in their sleeping bags at night. Then the adults sat up late visiting around the fire, staying until it was just embers and coals and we longed for the warmth of our own sleeping bags.
Longpool, you gave us such a perfect weekend on that first visit that we came back again and again. Soaking up our old memories and making new ones.
We returned with more families and friends to try to catch the leaves turning the perfect shades of yellow again.
We came back after our youngest was born, and my husband and I took turns carrying him around in a baby backpack. It was colder that year and I remember digging out every scrap of extra clothing I brought to keep our daughter’s friends warm.
She had brought several girlfriends and they spent their days making a clubhouse on an outcropping that they tended to all weekend. Their sweet giggles made me smile.
The boys dared each other back into the river, even though it was cold.
I loved nothing more than watching my kids play outside when we were camping. Far away from TV and video games, before any of them had a phone, they had only trees and rocks and dirt. And sticks. Sticks for beating the ground and using as swords. And then sticks for the fire and for roasting marshmallows.
Our son, Ben, called marshmallows “marshalotes” when he was little, and he would always ask for “one last marshalote.”
(He always had too many.)
My husband would make pancakes for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and various stews for dinner. Then he lead everyone on hikes and across the river to climb the rocks.
We came back in the winter the year after we bought our pop-up camper. We moved to a different loop of the campground to take advantage of the electrical hook-ups. The temperatures were below freezing, but we had a little space heater so we could thaw out at night after hiking in the cold all day. We had to stay moving to keep warm that winter weekend.
Now it’s been many years since I’ve set up camp in one of your loops or kept warm near one of your metal fire circles.
My three oldest have grown up and left home. It’s been a long time since I saw one of them ride a bike around a campground loop.
I can’t remember the last time one of them brought me something they found in nature, a rock or a stick. A frog or a bug.
Longpool, I’m grateful you have so many of our Chino Family memories stored in the earth there. I’m glad that the trees, rocks and river have collected the laughs of my children.
I think any one of them could return to spend some time in your woods and recall fondly the hours they played there.
Thank you for providing a place for their simple, pure, unadulterated joy.
Hold onto it for them, Longpool. I think they will need it some day.
In awe and gratitude,