Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Diamonds and Teepees

This writer nearly shot an arrow through a peacock in April. I have had some strange and wacky weekend retreats, but I must say my weekend in Murfreesboro, Arkansas has to be at the top of my most entertaining getaways.
This outdoor weekend almost didn’t happen. My friend, Caroline, and I had originally planned it for Thanksgiving Day 2010. Then, she caught the flu, so we had to cancel. We had re-scheduled it for November 2011, but she ended up going to New York City and I went to Germany. April we decided would be a good time.
I left on a Friday after work and headed to her house in Shreveport. Saturday morning, we headed north across the Arkansas line. The weather was perfect—sunny with a light breeze. The skies were clear and blue. We stopped in Ashdown to shop at one of Caroline’s favorite antique stores. Then, we completed the nearly three-hour drive to Murfreesboro.
The town’s center was quaint, shaped in a square and lined with various souvenir and antique shops. We passed through and headed to our lodging for the night at Diamond John’s Riverside Retreat…to our teepee. Yes, a teepee. I’ve stayed in some odd places, but never a teepee.

The campground was beautiful—built on a hillside next to a slow-moving river with a scattering of leafy green trees and ground covering of lush clover. A myriad of animals roamed the campground: peacocks, geese, two Shetland ponies, goats, cats and a dog. There was a massive wooden main house, where the family resides and then there were several small cabins and even a treehouse cabin to rent.


We had let one of the four teepees. They were set up off the ground on decks. Inside, there was a futon and a queen-sized bed, a microwave, mini-refrigerator, a TV with cable, a heater, a fan and an air-conditioner. The place even boasted free wi-fi—though the signal did not reach our teepee. That’s what I call roughing it! (Ha.)



After checking in, we headed back to town to do some shopping. In one of the shops, we met a local diamond hunter. He has found several diamonds at Crater of the Diamond State Park, including several over three carats. I asked him for some tips. He said that since it had rained recently, the soil would be turned over, so we should look on the surface area for about 30 minutes. Then, he said we should sift dirt at Canary Hill—a section farthest away from the mining field entrance. The hill is where a huge canary diamond was discovered.
After town, we enjoyed an afternoon at the campground. We paddled in a canoe on the river and relished the peaceful current, sunshine and sounds of trickling water and chattering of squirrels and birds overhead. Next, we took off to hike the nature trail along the river except it was blocked by barbed wire.

I’ve recently gotten back into archery, so we set up an old board in the woods and shot my recurve bow and arrows. The owner okayed it, but each time the arrows hit it echoed like a muffled gun shot—which brings up the peacock comment.
The Huntress

The possible target

Later, we had a nice dinner at Buddy’s Ranch House Café in town with Caroline trying the half-pound chicken fried steak.
That is just too much food, Caroline! :)
Then, we settled in for the night. The temperature had dropped and it was quite cold. We had to keep the fan going to drown out the occasional cry of a peacock in a nearby tree. I spent the night curled up to keep warm and tried to stay asleep as the peacock sounded. I was tempted to send an arrow through him by morning. Once asleep, the bird did not bother me, but I kept waking up from the cold. It was a rough night. I should have brought earplugs and thermals, but regardless I was glad for the one-night teepee experience.

The peacock did live—though we were tired. We slept late, watched the ponies run round and round at full speed around the yard and then checked out. We borrowed a sifting screen and shovel and went to Crater of the Diamonds State Park. The park is our nation’s only diamond mining site open to the public. It’s finder’s keepers. Besides diamonds, there are a load of minerals to discover such as quartz, barite, jasper, among others. There are live demonstrations, but we watched the instructional video. The mining area consists of a 40-acre field with rows of dirt.

Digging in the dirt, Part One

It is inevitable to get dirty, so we came prepared. I wore an old pair of army green pants, a T-shirt, rubber boots and a cap. It’s also good to think out what equipment to bring. Besides the shovel and screen, we had a bucket, two trowels, two pairs of gloves, a kneeling mat and my archeology kit with brushes and chisels.

Equipment can be purchased or rented at the park and even with a simple spade and bucket, there can be things found. I loaded my backpack with bottles of water and snacks. After talking to a park employee, she told us to head right at the entrance to search a part of the park that had recently opened for searching. We heeded the advice, but after dry sifting the ground for minerals Caroline only came away with a nice sized quartz crystal.

Digging in the dirt, Part Two

My finds! But no diamonds... :(
Canary Hill was our next destination. On the way there, we walked through the middle fields and surface spotted a lot of minerals—though no diamonds. I turned over clumps of dirt with my boots and we searched the ground for anything that sparkled. The hill search was fruitless, but at the days’ end we had quite a collection. I had found pieces of jasper, quartz, lamproite, barite, volcanic tuff and hematite. The whole trip was educational and fun. The weather was gorgeous and being in the outdoors provided the peaceful retreat we needed from everyday life. For more information about the park, visit www.craterofthediamondsstatepark.com and our lodging - www.diamondjohns.com.

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