It's hard to beat driving up (or down) Arkansas 7 on a gorgeous spring day with the windows rolled down. Better yet, on a gorgeous fall day when the leaves are changing. Better yet, a winter day, when there's a little snow on the ground and Christmas lights in the homes. Better yet . . . .
Who're we kidding? This state is made for driving and looking. But back to Arkansas 7:
Hop off Interstate 40 at Russellville, continue north until Harrison, and you'll find yourself staring at the Arkansas Grand Canyon, a magnificent wonder that needs to be on the bucket list of every Arkie.
When we were young 'uns and our parents drove Arkansas 7, we'd stare out the window and imagine ourselves hang-gliding down into the canyon (or valley, as the geoscientists would prefer it be called) on a smooth sunny day. Not sure we'd ever have the guts to do it, or if it'd even be possible with all the trees, but it sure did make for an excellent daydream.
As we made our way through the paper last Monday morning, imagine our joy when we came across another Bill Bowden special. Bill's a right nice fellow if you ever get a chance to speak with him, but trying to figure out his beat has always been a challenge. He's listed on the website as "northwest news reporter," but it'd probably be more accurate to call him the "out of left field" reporter.
He's covered everything from pig ordinance problems in Eureka Springs to Dogpatch purchases and auctions. If a story can't be put into a regular beat like crime or city government, it probably gets assigned to Bill. Who then works wonders.
On Monday, his story focused on the Arkansas Grand Canyon, and he got to speak with the folks who own Cliff House Inn, a charming little motel and restaurant that overlooks the Arkansas Grand Canyon:
"Jane and Chris McNutt renamed Vendor Valley in the early 1970s in an attempt to draw tourists to their Cliff House Inn along scenic Arkansas 7, about six miles south of Jasper. And the name [the Arkansas Grand Canyon] stuck. Fifty years ago, the McNutts purchased the Cliff House Inn, a motel overlooking what was then known by area residents as Vendor Valley or Big Creek Valley. Tour buses were regularly traveling Arkansas 7. The McNutts figured their motel was a logical place for a restroom break, being 60 miles north of Russellville, which is on Interstate 40."
The cool thing is Cliff House Inn is still running to this day, though by different folks. Try getting in there to eat lunch on a Sunday when the Jasper church crowd lets out. If you're too late, you'll have to drive back down into town and hope Ozark Cafe still has some room.
If you've never eaten at Cliff House Inn, you should. Just call ahead and make sure the place is open. You have to watch carefully not to miss it if you're heading down the big slope into Jasper. But when you see it, slow down, pull off, find a parking spot, and just sit there looking at the valley for a few minutes.
Then go inside the restaurant, get a table next to the window, and order a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. It doesn't get much better than that. Crunching on the crust while you gaze out below and daydream about hang gliding down into the canyon--that is to say, valley. Not a ravine, either.
We're such fans of the place that we celebrated a birthday there once.
So next time you've got a lazy Sunday afternoon, and the weather is not awful, consider a drive up or down Scenic 7. Just make sure you pull off to look into the canyon instead of doing it while driving. If you go off the road, it's a long long long long way down.
Editorial on 02/10/2020
Print Headline: Editorial notebook