sunrise on Lake CatherineSomehow four days have gone by and I have to leave Lake Catherine today.

I would rather not.

I would like to move in here, to sit in my campsite and listen to the kids playing (so many kids! so much laughter!), to wander around the park and hike on its trails and kayak on its lake for, I don’t know, forever? I guess I’d get bored eventually. But I haven’t even done the hard hikes yet! And I only kayaked once!

I’m not sure how the past three days passed so quickly. They were the kind of days where one moment flows seamlessly into the next, where you never think, “What should I do now?” because there always feels like an obvious next thing to do.

Obvious next things included some cooking: granola (made, for future reference, with oats, pecans, pine nuts, chopped dates, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, coconut oil, maple syrup, honey, and cinnamon); a mushroom and asparagus omelette with hollandaise sauce; a spicy veggie hash topped with a fried egg; grilled chicken breast marinated in yogurt and herbs on mixed greens; and chicken salad with veggies and lime. Also a delicious cantaloupe with prosciutto one day; strawberries and yogurt with my granola every morning; baby carrots and celery with avocado ranch dressing for snacks… yes, I ate well. I mostly do, anyway, but… well, once before I questioned whether I am happy when I am cooking creatively or whether I cook creatively when I’m happy. I don’t know the chicken-and-egg relationship of those two things, but the happiness/food circle was definitely in full flow.

Another obvious next thing was some cleaning. The pollen here is so incredible that everything gets coated with a sheen of yellow powder in about two hours, so I’ve been steadily dusting. But also I desperately need to do laundry, so I took the opportunity of having an almost empty clothes cupboard to clean it out and re-organize. I was grateful to find no sign of mice. Less grateful when I did the same thing to the top drawers in the bathroom and kitchen because there was plenty of evidence of mice in them, grr… I also washed the incredibly dirty van, most of it with just a jug of water, no soap, and a dishcloth that is likely to never be clean again, but all the windows with Windex. Plus swept and washed dishes, rearranged the dog’s beds, changed the sheets… the usual sort of cleaning stuff.

Lots of walks, mostly with Zelda. Mostly just meandering around the campground, but we hiked on the shortest trail — 2 miles — on Sunday and it was terrific. It was hilly and narrow, running along a stream, with occasional bits steep enough or slippery enough that I regretted wearing sandals instead of sneakers or my hiking boots. About halfway through, Zelda was done, so I had to persuade her along for awhile, by walking out to the end of her leash, then crouching until she came to me, rubbing her ears and telling her how good she was, then doing the same thing all over again. I should probably not have made that our third walk of the day.

Eventually, the path led to a small waterfall with lots of kids playing. Zelda walked in the water for a while and perked right up. At the end of the trail there was a bridge that reminded me of nothing so much as the one on Tom Sawyer’s island, wobbly and shaky and so, so fun. In fact, this park in general reminds me of Tom Sawyer’s island. There are packs of kids running around everywhere — also biking, skateboarding, scootering — and it sure seems like they’re making friends with other campers, not just hanging out with people they know. They’re really cute. One of my neighbors has that perfect kid laugh, an uninhibited gurgle of joy. I love the sound of it.

And today I kayaked. I should have tried sooner, but I wasn’t sure about the walk to the water. The kayak is something like 35 pounds and unwieldy. My site is far enough away that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get it to the water’s edge — well, and more to the point, it would be annoying to get there and then be too tired to have fun on the water. Plus, then there’s the getting back to the camper part. But I should not have so underestimated myself. Not only did I make it to the water, no problem, I had fun kayaking.

I brought Zelda with me, and made her wear her life jacket. I wish I’d been willing to risk my phone to take a picture of her because she was adorable. She was not sure about the kayak for a while, but eventually she settled into hanging over the side, her front paws in the water, and let me paddle. It was gloriously beautiful. At one point, a butterfly fluttered by — yellow and black, not one that I recognized at all — and I thought, “I am on a lake. In Arkansas. Kayaking. With butterflies.” Which sure seems like stating the obvious, except — I’m in Arkansas! I feel like I should be pinching myself regularly. Not that Arkansas was some dream destination of mine, but maybe it should have been. It’s lovely. I think it’s more that I can’t believe this is my life right now.

Possibly one of my very favorite things about Arkansas is that a great many small boys, ranging from reasonably little — 4? — to reasonably big — 12?, inform me that they like my dog. They’ll be walking by or riding their bikes and they don’t say hi or anything, they just call out, “I like your dog!” After the fourth or fifth time, I finally settled on my response, which is to call back, “Thank you, I do, too!” But it is so endearing. I’ve had some nice conversations with the ones moving more slowly, about spring break and fishing and their own dogs, and that’s been fun, too.

So yeah, I like it here. But off I go, because a) I have to be back in Florida in ten days and b) I have a reservation tonight at Crater of Diamonds which sounds so incredibly cool and c) my time is up and the campground is full.

But it is with a definite sigh of regret. Two thumbs up for Lake Catherine State Park. Oh, but their showers — you get no control over water temp or pressure! You push a button and the water flows for a minute or two. Hot and hard, so I’m not complaining, but I definitely wasted my first minute or two trying to figure out how to make it not quite so hot. Doesn’t change my two thumbs up at all — this place is paradise (a perception helped by the absolutely fantastic weather of the last few days) — but it definitely struck me as notable!