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8 of the Best Things to Do in the Ouachita National Forest

Did you know Arkansas is the home of the largest national forest in the south? The Ouachita National Forest provides access to all types of outdoor activities, on the trail, on the water, and beyond. The opportunity to enjoy the park is not just limited to the young and super fit. The national parks and forests are mandated to be all-inclusive. Because of this, even the family caregiver will find many activities accessible to all, including those who use adaptive equipment such as a cane or wheelchair. The park can give anyone a break from routine and leave you with a lifetime of memories.

As you and your family plan what activities you want to take part in, consider the needs of your group first and foremost. If Mom enjoyed hiking but is now in a wheelchair, you may want to opt for wheelchair-accessible trails for her to indulge in. You can ask for help from her caregiver if she has one. Caregivers are responsible for making a realistic assessment of your family member’s abilities, both physical and mental, and can help you plan a day out. You don’t want to be one mile into a three-mile hike, only to find out Dad is running out of energy.

Here are some suggestions for all activity levels:
1.      Go for a car ride.  Start with a car ride on the Talimena Scenic Byway. This highway runs from Mena, AR to the Oklahoma portion of the park. There are numerous scenic overlooks as well as attractions worthy of a stop and a picture along your route. There are many picnic sites along the way too. Take a break to eat your favorite lunch. If you happen to be a family caregiver for an elderly parent or disabled family member, a car ride through this magnificent forest will be stress-free and enjoyable for everyone. The Talimena Byway is particularly beautiful in spring when the wildflowers are blooming and in fall when the leaves turn into a blaze of reds and golds.

2.      Go for a hike. Ouachita National Forest has some of the best hiking trails in Arkansas. The serious hiker will want to consider backpacking the longest trail in the park, the Ouachita Recreational Trail, which travels the entire length of the park and is a rolling, winding, jaw-dropping 192 miles. Don’t worry! The day hiker will find trails that range in difficulty and length to satisfy their level, too. The best plan is to choose an area of the park you want to explore, and then choose the trail that matches your ability. There are even several wheelchair-accessible trails available, including the Friendship Trail, the Orchard Trail, and the Shady Lake Trail. Friendship Trail has an added bonus of a fully accessible bathroom at the trailhead, which helps simplify elder care services.

3.      Ride the trails.  Horseback riding trails are available throughout the park, and parking is even available for your horse trailer. Have a mare that loves a challenge? An old plod-along gelding that prefers something simpler? The trails vary in difficulty, length, and surface, with some being covered with gravel. You can find the perfect trail in the park for your horse’s needs and your own desires.

4.      Hook the big one. If you love to fish, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to cast a line in the Ouachita National Forest. Most of the lakes within the park are accessible to boaters ready to hook the big one. If you are a shore fisherman, there are fishing piers located throughout the park, including North Fork Lake, Shady Lake, and Lake Hinkle. There’s also a fishing pond right on the side of the wheelchair-accessible Friendship Trail. Ouachita is also full of rivers and streams for fishing if you’re willing to hike rougher terrain to get there. Bring your fishing license and hook one of the crappies, bass, sunfish, and catfish swimming around the park.

5.   Search for treasure. Crystal Vista is a must if your family member is interested in treasure hunting. Once the site of an old quartz mine, Crystal Vista is now open to the public. There is no fee, and you are allowed to remove up to 20 pounds of material for your personal use. Even if you are unsuccessful in finding quartz crystals, the view is worth the climb. The site overlooks Ouachita Lake and Mount Ida. Note that this site is on the top of Gardner Mountain and is an approximate 25-minute uphill hike on a well-maintained trail. 

6.      Pitch a tent.  If you and your family are ready for an extended visit to the park, there are numerous options available for a cozy campsite. There are sites for tent camping as well as RVs and campers that require electrical hookup. Camp Clearfork even has rustic cabins available by reservation only for groups such as family reunions, church groups, etc. Grab your sleeping bag and favorite book of scary campfire stories and find your spot.

7.      Go boating.  Whether you’re fishing, tubing, or just drifting around the lake, boating is a great way to spend the day at the park. Many of the lakes have paved boat docks for you to launch your boat easily for fishing or just sightseeing. If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent a boat at numerous sites on the Ouachita Lake.  Most can also provide non-motorized equipment such as canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats. Which brings us to our next suggestion …
8.      Hit the off-road trails.  Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) are growing in popularity and, yes, they are permitted in the park. There are numerous trails designated for OHVs; wever, they are all multi-use trails. Some of the trails include room for ATVs, hikers, bikers, and horseback riders all potentially at the same time. Be respectful of everyone when you pass.
Open year-round, the Ouachita National Park offers things to do throughout the year; however, some amenities are seasonal. If you are planning on a specific activity or area of the park, you might want to call first to be assured that it is available when it is offseason.

Guest Post - By Susan Ashby.
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Mandu - City of Love destroyed by Powerquest

Situated approx. 100 km. from Indore, Mandu is a small ancient city in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Mandu rose to its peak of glory under patronage of then king Baz Bahadur. This was the time when love story of Baz Bahadur and his queen Rani Roopmati had painted the Mandu in colours of love during 16th century. Till date their love story is the flavour of all folk tales and song-dance theme in this Malwa region. Baz Bahadur (commonly known as Brave Hawk) was a warrior par excellence who fall in love with Roopmati, a shepherd with a symphonic voice.
Testimony to their fairy tale saga: To respect the desire of Roopmati to worship river Narmada every morning, Baz Bahadur constructed a Pavilion (Roopmati Mandap) cum military observatory fort to enable Roopmati get a sight of and worship river Narmada daily from terrace of pavilion.

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LALITGIRI - The Pilgrimage from Ancient History!

Flourished under the patronage of legendary king Ashoka, the kingdoms of Magadh and Kalinga became important centers from where Buddhism spread to the outside world. Present day areas of Bihar-Jharkhand used to be the kingdom of Magadh and parts of Odisha-Andhra Pradesh composed Kalinga kingdom. At their peak these places were often referred as most prosperous regions on the earth and were full of amazing temples and universities imparting ancient Indian knowledge. However, with passage of time dust accumulated on these sites and these places gradually faded out from the eye of common people. In fact, many got buried with layers of earth and since then have been waiting to get resurfaced in future.

With the development coming to these areas, many of these extinct places are coming to life. One of the such places I came to know during one of my visit to this part with lots and lots of things to discover was Lalitgiri. Lalitgiri is situated at a distance of 10 kilometers beyond the River Virupa in Cuttack district, about 90 kilometers from Bhubaneswar which is the capital of Odisha state.
Excavations in this region have indicated towards existence of very ancient Buddhist complex. With the discovery of Lalitgiri, and stitching together the chronology of event with iconographical similarities, the timeline of Lalitgiri goes back to the 2nd century BC. Based on this, Lalitgiri can be safely considered as one of the most ancient Buddhist establishments. So I was about to walk into one of the lost chapters in our history, with due excitement. 
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Trek to Laxman Temple/ Hemkund Sahib

Laxman Temple/Hemkund Sahib, at a height of 4300 meters above sea level, lies in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state. Challenging trekking route and spectacular beauty of the mystical valley has always tempted botanists, nature lovers, foreign tourists and adventure lovers. Valley boast off over 500 species of wild flowers of unparalleled appearance and fragrances.

This is the place where Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of Sikh community, did intense meditation to please Lord Brahma. Please by the austerity Lord Brahma commanded Guru Gobind Singh Ji to take birth in Kal-Yuga in order to kill demons and protect holy people. Undoubtedly, the Hemkund Trek is a steep challenging trek and you will often hear from the locals there that – “Mountains are for FIT not FAT”. You trek from 9,600 ft to 15,000 ft in just 6 Kms and that’s what makes it a tough trek.

Place remains open to the world from June to October and for rest of the year it remains snow clad.

Journey to the Hemkund starts from Haridwar, where you can easily hire a cab for your entire trip. Below is the entire itinerary in brief. 

1. Haridwar to Govindghat - Around 300 Kms
2. Start from Haridwar - Cab is recommended. Very less frequency of buses.
3. Route: Haridwar – Rishikesh – Devprayag – Jayalgarh – Srinagar – Rudaprayag – Karnaprayag – Nandaprayag – Chamoli – Pipalkoti – Joshimath – Vishnuprayag - Govindghat
4. Govindghat – (Motorable-4Km) – Poolna (Trek 10 km) – Ghangaria – Total 14 Kms
5. Split routes from Ghangaria for Hemkund Trek and Valley of Flowers Trek.

Drive to Govindghat around 300 Kms, which would take 10 – 12 hours of time to reach depending on the road conditions, please expect land sliding at various points throughout the drive.

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Modern Stylish Tallboy - Hyundai All New Santro

Way back in the 1990's a relatively unknown name from South Korea entered the Indian car market and dared to compete with well established Maurti, Ambassador and Tata. It was the time, when compact/ small car buyers were accustomed to small engines and a features deficit product. It was then, Hyundai introduced the Santro, which claimed to offer superior technology, features, space and interior quality, that were often neglected or better unheard till then. Most important Santro offered "Power Steering" as standard fitment and made driving a comfortable affair.

Very soon Santro was the preferred choice for Indian Car buyers and changed the dynamics of Indian Automobile Sector. Sales figures are sufficient enough to indicate the magic Santro left on its proud owners. 
  • From 58,646 in 1999, sales figure reached to 65,515 in 2000. 
  • Trust and excitement continued with average sales nearing 1 Lac per year over the next decade. 
  • November 2006 - Santro crosses 10 Lac sales in eight years.
Despite high demand, Santro was discontinued in 2015 after 16 years of love affair with Indian Roads. It was a heart break moment for numerous Car Lovers across the country, however the memories never left the Indian Car Buyers. 

23rd October 2018 was the day when Santro made a comeback to rule the Indian roads. At a Grand launch ceremony attended by Shahrukh Khan, Media and leading Bloggers from India, curtains were pulled off from "All New Santro". 
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Day out in Beijing

Beijing, capital city of China is one of the ancient cities on Earth with more than 3,000 years of recorded history. Evidence of human ancestry dating back to 700,000 years ago has been found in the southwest part of Beijing, where the remains known as 'Peking Man' were found.
Amidst one of the tightly packed trip to Beijing got some time to check out the City of Beijing. Landing in Beijing at 1:00 PM, had no option but to run wherever I could have in the available one half of the day.
As I always say, best plans should be kept in the earlier part of the program. So to explore Beijing attractions, I dumped the luggage in hotel room, took the Metro/ Subway map in my hand and started to “Tiananmen Square”. Tiananmen Square is one of the most popular and renowned spot around the world. There is no tourist who comes to China, leaves without a visit to this place. 

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On Nainital and Mukteshwar: A Lake, Deodars and Maple Leaves - part 2 of 2

We left for Mukteshwar at around 11 AM. Somehow it got cloudy again and the roads got under thick white mist. It took a while to drive out of the town since there were many people on the road. Soon it started to drizzle and it felt good. Mukteshwar is at a height of about 7200 ft and is right in the middle of Banj Oak and Deodar forests. The forest is evergreen and mostly covered in mist. You can see that green moss and lichens have taken over the whole forest since it rains here almost every day, even in summer. 


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On Nainital and Mukteshwar: A Lake, Deodars and Maple Leaves - part 1 of 2

We left home while it was still dark. Dark clouds were high up but it was not going to rain. The morning was warm and there was no wind. I woke up at 4 and was out on the road by 5 AM. The drive started pretty smooth and we were in Haridwar by 6:30 AM. The road is mostly wide with little traffic in the morning. The most interesting and exciting thing about this route is that it runs through Elephant corridors. The area has a large population of deer, wild elephant and leopards. You can see roadside signs with jumping deer, crossing leopards and elephants.
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Shri Krauncha Giri, Kumar Swamy Temple - Discovery of Chalukya Legacy

Whether you are travelling on the road or off the road, you are never far off from a wonderful Offbeat Spot. Such is the beauty of Land called India. 

The era of Vijayanagara empire has been often called as the most prosperous region ever to have happened, on this earth. Other than the majestic Hampi Kingdom, this region also has some impressive monuments which are yet to be explored. While meandering in this region came to know about a panoramic temple on Krauncha Giri (Giri means Hill in hindi language), somewhere nearby.
Search for that exclusive temple took me to the Swamimalai Forest Range, wherein lies the legendary Krauncha Giri mountain. I had no idea that I was going to walk into a legendary chapter of our Mythology. Legendary…? 

Located 10 km away from Sandur in Bellary district, this mountain is the site of the famous Kumar Swamy temple (also spelled as Kumaraswamy/ Kumaraswami). The  Kumar Swamy Temple complex consists of 2 temples dedicated to Lord Karthikeya and Goddess Parvati (Mother of Lord Karthikeya). Lush green mountains in the backdrop make a perfect canvas for this temple.

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Hawaii for the First Timers: How to Plan the Perfect Getaway


It is only plausible that you have kept Hawaii in your list of must-visit destinations for quite some time, because duh! It’s Hawaii! It has been a dream destination for all of us 90’s kids who have grown up watching every favourite character on television or films going to Hawaii for a dream vacation, relaxing in the beach, indulging in a fair share of water sports and enjoying the Hawaiian coastal weather to the fullest.
However, whenever these characters used to visit the beaches it was given that they know their way around, putting up at the best of places, enjoying the best of cuisines and making the most out of a short trip in general (Cinematic Liberty anyone?). The scenario IS possible though, given that there aren’t many places in Hawaii where you would be completely disappointed with the experience but the truth is that Hawaii has a lot to offer in terms of its islands. Each of the islands has its distinctive culture and diverse things to offer to a person who is visiting for the first time.
Though accommodation is seldom a problem with comfortable Hawaii rentals available at affordable prices with stunning views (since every place in Hawaii is a breathtaking locale in its own) and each morsel of the Hawaiian cuisine is delectable, the true challenge when visiting Hawaii for the first time is deciding which all places to visit and more importantly which places to leave out.  The most popular destinations, namely, the Big Island, Maui, Kauai and Molokai, each with a completely different set of characteristics, different flavours and different things in store for people who visit them. Confused? Don’t worry, we have come up with a list that you can consider as your guide if you are visiting Hawaii for the first time.

Visit O’ahu for the Best of Good Times and Good Life: 
Does a vacation for you truly equate to the most relaxing time of the year? Then no questions asked, O’ahu is your pick of the trip. O’ahu has got the best of the beaches, food and culture to offer. Almost 75 per cent of the native people call ‘the Gathering place’ their home. The city is crowded in general and it might look a bit too crowded at the bus stations or at the sidewalks since it is here that the all the amenities of a city life can be enjoyed, but beautiful beaches and amazing forest hike trails are just a few miles away, if you are looking for a quick and tranquil getaway. Not to mention the historical museums that you might catch a sight of while putting up here.
Another one of the major attractions of O’ahu is the amazing food that is available here. All of Hawaii’s A-list chefs with their A-list preparations have chosen O’ahu as their base, and fusion menus find their own, sweet way into your tables. Not only that, there are food trucks spotted and the Farmers Island Market in here at O’ahu and if a trip for you translates into passing out into a food coma, then this is the place for you. 

Go on an Adventure Tour in the Big Islands:
If you want your fair share of adrenaline pumping activities, then you must make your itinerary keeping the Big Islands as your focal point. Hawaii is technically a volcanic archipelago and some say, in spite of the multicoloured sand beaches and the impressive lush forest ranges present, the main attraction of Hawaii is the lava tour you get to experience here. Kilauea in Hawaii is the world’s most active volcano and for hikers, it is a dream come true to travel through the barren surroundings of the volcanic mountain. You can even spot volcanic eruptions, hot and slick lava and other dried up remains that will make your hike a thrilling experience.
Emerald valleys, ice cold waterfalls merging into pools, lava flows colliding against lush rainforests and the loftiest summits are the things these places are made up off. Also, extra points if you are a wildlife lover because the Big Islands is the place where you can spot spinner dolphins and sea turtles along with some awe-inspiring coral gardens that are packed with vibrant coloured fish. However, the best rare animal spotting can be done in the winters, where you can catch a glimpse of the humpback whale in all its glory. 

Surf and Surf in Maui:
For some of us, beaches mean endlessly indulging in water sports. It is a truly rejuvenating experience when you can let go and become a total water baby. Maui provides you with that opportunity. Surf and surf in the well diminutive waters of the Maui and experience an adrenaline rush like never before. There are a lot of surfing schools which help you train so that your surfing experience is safe and sound. Apart from that, Maui like O’ahu offers you a good eating experience too. Maui is home to a lot of upcountry pastures where the beef is grass-fed and thus you can have a meaty affair to remember for your lifetime. Apart from that, Maui also provides you with an opportunity to hike with the bamboo forest and lofty ridgetops. 
Though there are a lot of other places you could very well visit in Hawaii, these places form the crux of the Hawaiian heaven. The choice of your places also completely depends on your choices as an individual and what you are looking to get out of a trip. However, rest assured, you can never be disappointed when you visit the Aloha state. 

So lets pack your bags and book your tickets to Hawaii.  

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