It's amazing what you can do when you dig down deep enough inside of yourself. The Arkansas Delta was the most physically challenging leg I've faced thus far. A hundred plus miles of mostly shadeless, shoulderless low lying farmland starting east of Little Rock on Highway 70. Punishing heat in triple digits with humidity hovering around 100%. At night, mosquitoes the size of swallows from all of the fish ponds and rice fields.
If you can lose all that - even briefly - you can appreciate the rich ecosystem that thrives there. Yeah, the mosquitoes are brutal and unrelenting. After four coats of spray I found myself still under constant attack. It was like they were systematically testing my defenses.
But if it wasn't for the abundant mosquito population there you wouldn't find one of the most brilliant array of dragonflies I've ever seen. Like an impressionist painting, some checkered in black in white, others in irridescent greens, yellows, and blues. And feeding off of them are red winged blackbirds, great blue herons, and other egrets indigenous to the area. Simply spectacular the diverse palette of life found in the Delta.
Including people. I was just outside Hazen searching for shade when I saw a sign for Murry's Restaurant. At last - A/C and some ice cold water but when I tried to enter the doors were locked. Open 5pm it said. It wasn't much past noon so I sat on a bench outside, opened my pack, and started snacking on my trailmix. Moments later, a man appeared, shirtless yet wearing an apron. He, too, must've been feeling the effects of the heatwave.
I asked for his permission to rest and repast on his patio. He invited me in and over a glass of sweet tea, offered to make me lunch. That's Stan on the left and he's the chef and proprietor. Should your travels ever take you to Hazen, stop by Murry's. Stan's food is second only to his life stories so make sure you ask him how he became a cook. And try his bread pudding.
It was my last luxury in Arkansas. I went to church that Sunday then walked for the next 24 hours, rested a day, then got back on the road and completed a 60 mile stretch in two days of walking through Crowley's Ridge and almost to West Memphis. One of the most fascinating sights was between Forrest City and Madison, which seemed entirely draped in Kudzu, a highly invasive Southern vine.
If you recall, my last best personal two day record was 41 miles. The Arkansas Delta was too dangerous to walk with the boys but being without them kept me highly motivated. And the heat index encouraged me to keep moving at night. But I couldn't have accomplished it without our host family in Lonoke AR, Larry and Linda. That's him on the left with his two Irish Wolfhounds, Twister and Kermit. We met them through their daughter, Ashley, whose husband, Trey, is over in Iraq. Thanks guys for transporting and providing support to us.