July in the Deep South

Greetings from Oxford, Mississippi!

It’s been a wild ride these past two weeks in the SCA. We began this hitch with a trash pickup at Clear Creek, a quiet little beach where many of the locals go to get away from the big beaches and swimmin’ spots at the Northern Mississippi lakes. It’s become a haven for us here on the A.C.E team 4 so, we figured it only right to make it spotless for the rest of the folks down south who love it as much as we do. While we were there we stumbled into the jungle and found several tricky animal traps and had to skedaddle out of the woods and stick to the beach. Seven GIANT trash bags later and we headed to the dump to dispose of the funk. It caused us to consider how important Leave No Trace concepts are and we’re beginning to discuss ways of educating the local populace about these basic principles. Some of us have been in contact with a local elder whose been telling us tales of the Civil RIghts movement here in Mississippi in the sixties where her husband was one of the lead activists and, through her contacts, we’re hoping to lead a seminar on Conservation opportunities in the community.

Moving ON! We were visited by Dick Kasul from the Army Corps office in Vicksburg, MS who observed and took notes on the process of surveying, the interactions between us as surveyors and the public as respondents. We had a series of observation days filled with laughs and by the book operations. On Dick’s last day we had a potluck breakfast and found many solutions to some of the small issues we had with the project. Thanks Army Corps! He left us in a stay of calm and we began planning our first team overnight adventure! Away we gooooo!

Josh House and Joe Kolar took it upon themselves to plan a trip for the A.C.E. 4 Ole Miss crew to head up into NW Arkansas and camp in the Ozark Mountains on the Buffalo National River. Team building at its finest. You learn a lot about yourself out in the wilderness! We sure did. We spent several nights camping in the woods, cooking over campfires, eating smores, roast vegetables and enjoying spring water from the Ozarks. Everyone had their own tents and Lacey and Adam took a tarp and slept under the stars. When you’re way out, away from the cities, the stars are out of this world! (Literally) During the night, flashlights in tow, we watched the eyes of the raccoons, opossums, armadillos, deer and whatever else was lurking in the shadows meander around us, looking for leftovers. Soundly sleeping we awoke to a day of perfect weather, bright sun and a cool river. The majority of us were in the river the entire trip, meditating on the current, gazing up at the different hawks soaring overhead and dive-bombing after their prey. We took a group trek a few miles upriver and found a swimming hole, partly in the shade and deep enough for us to splash and frolic until it was time for lunch. Minnows nibbling at our skin, dragon flies landing on our noses and nothing but the sounds of Nature to listen to our laughter.
On our last day, Lacey and Adam hiked on the Clabber Creek Trail. They found abandoned mines with Quartz glistening off the rock faces, they went to Clabber’s Overlook and watch the rushing river flow serenely around the river bends. On their way back to the campsite, they visited an old Civil War cemetery with graves dating back as far as 1802! Then they found a secret lagoon, just off the trail. The gem of the hike, here was tall crags, a waterfall, and a six foot deep swimming hole as clear as a blue sky in springtime.

Josh, Paul, TIna, and Joe headed back to Oxford via Memphis, Tennesee and Lacey and Adam took local roads the whole way back and dug Arkansas. Stopping at Mom’s Diner, the Jamesport State Park where they saw a tornado machine learned about some confederate history and had an interpreter take them around and show them some sites. At the White River they stopped under a GIANT bridge and made coffee and watched Barn Swallows did and dive through the pillars, riding the wind as though they were weightless. The Arkansas Welcome Center in Helena, AK provided fresh coffee and Ms. Barbara the clerk who told grand stories of the history of Blues in the Deep South. Last stop!

They ventured into historic Clarksdale, MS just before heading back to Oxford. Clarksdale is the home of Robert Johnson, the legendary Blues Guitarist who was satirized in the Cohen Bros film, “O Brother, Where Art Though”. It’s believed that at the intersection of Highways 61 and 49, Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil for the gift of plucking the guitar strings and there and then founded the great music we know now as the “Blues”. After an epic journey, Lacey and Adam made it back to Oxford and we all ate a big supper of stir-fried vegetables and pancakes! All us would love to head back up to Arkansas to enjoy that landscape once more but, who knows, maybe next stop Nashville? New Orleans?

Enjoy it SCA! We’re all Living the Dream!

-Adam Bryant