OZARKS

where they say a lot of “hippies” migrated to back in the 1970s. It’s gathering of unique shops along the main street are interesting, but the more interesting parts of Mountain View occur near the village square, where the “Pickin’ Park is located with three gazebos.

On a daily basis, when the weather stays above 60 degrees you will find musicians hauling out their stringed instruments to jam on their favorite tunes, be it folk, country, bluegrass or gospel. Three different jamming gazebos are equipped with chairs and benches, both for those playing and for those who just want to listen. As pickers and singers gather round, spectators file out from their cars with their portable chairs for a free concert.

Thanks to advance planning, I packed my own guitar and had the privilege of sitting in on a couple of occasions.

Even the mayor of Mountain View takes part. He joined our jam with a small suitcase full of harmonicas one afternoon while finishing up a practice for an evening show.

In the evening, it’s not uncommon to have hundreds of people packed around a group of musicians, to hear what they have to offer as each one takes a turn choosing songs around the circle.

Around the corner is one of the best music stores in all of northern Arkansas, that always beams out tunes with lessons given on the front porch, and jammers gathering around a warming pit at night.

Even the village hall is equipped with a stage for performances right in the main square.

Excellent hosts

We had the privilege of enjoying some fine Arkansas hospitality from our hosts Jerry and Carole Weber at the Country Oaks bed and breakfast just out of town.

They gave us lots of insights into the community and the town culture during conversations at breakfast and in the evening. And, they pointed us to the best food in town at a modest and somewhat beat up old restaurant known as Tommy’s on the edge of downtown.

Anyone who knows southern barbecue restaurants knows that they have to look a little beat up to really be good. Tommy’s ribs were the “to-die-for” variety.

Taking the trip underground

On our first full day in Mountain View, we decided to go underground with our touring, heading up the back roads to a spot near Fifty-Six, Arkansas, the home of Blanchard Springs. Fifty-Six, not much more than a convenience store stopover, got its name because the townsfolk couldn’t decide on a name, so they selected the moniker of the school district— Arkansas School District No. 56.

Blanchard Springs offers a cave complex in the Ozark National Forest. Set in the rolling hills, the cave complex offers three tours, of which we had to opportunity to enjoy the Dripstone Tour.

The tour, 20 stories below ground includes two major rooms in the upper level of the cavern system. The cathedral Room is long enough to hold three football fields and still have space left over. There are many snow-white formations of pure calcite (or calcium carbonate) in the Coral Room.

With pathways and controlled lighting, the tour-guide offered great insights into the geological wonders in the cave. At several points, bleachers had been erected to allow for visitors to sit and gaze at the amazing and colorful natural wonders.

We learned that Blanchard Springs

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