Outside on the quiet side

Popular outdoor destinations in our little corner of the state get even busier during the Big Three’s summer vacation weekends.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, even though it’s still spring on the calendar. School is out, the swimming holes are getting warm enough for a dip, and the sweat on our foreheads tells us, yes, it’s summer.

The region’s renowned outdoor hotspots may be the busiest this first holiday weekend of summer. Fortunately, the diadem of outdoor opportunities in these regions sparkles with little gems of nature-filled destinations that aren’t on everyone’s radar screen.

Here are some ideas for a quieter weekend away from the crowds. But first, it’s important to remember the real reason we observe this holiday, formerly known as Decoration Day. It is to remember those who have passed away before us, especially those who have died in the service of our country.

• Peaceful paddling: This unofficial kickoff to summer means water for many people packing a picnic to hit the lake. Kayaks are all the rage these days and the area is dotted with quiet little lakes ideal for soaking a paddle.

Among the area’s aquatic gems are Lake Sequoyah southeast of Fayetteville and Lake Lincoln 4 miles north of Lincoln.

Sequoyah Lake is a kayaker’s dream. After paying a small launch fee at the lake office, paddle south under the one-lane bridge into the wilderness of the upper end of the lake. Here, the quagmires and bays call for exploration. Paddlers glide under the trees, hear all kinds of birdsong and see waterfowl flying.

Later this summer – a real summer – water lilies and water lotus blossoms are bright yellow blooms among carpets of lily pads on this upper Sequoyah Lake.

The reservoir is 389 acres located on 1,400 acres of Lake Sequoyah City Park. Fayettevile purchased the land in 1958. Call the lake office at 479-444-3475 for more information.

Lincoln Lake is equally dreamy. The 98-acre reservoir has been described as a flooded Devil’s Den State Park. Cliffs and rocks cradle the wooded shore. Lincoln Lake has a beautiful wilderness feel. Kayakers paddle without the traffic of motorboats. Only pedal boats and electric motors are allowed.

There is no charge to launch kayaks or canoes at Lake Lincoln. Both Sequoyah and Lincoln lakes welcome paddlers, but swimming is not permitted in either lake.

• Bike the quiet side: Bentonville bills itself as the mountain biking capital of the world, but all of northwest Arkansas can lay claim to that fame with so many trails to choose from.

Cyclists will no doubt be riding a lot in the Hobbs State Park Conservation Area this weekend to ride miles of trails in the 12,000-acre state park. Hobbs is Arkansas’ largest state park.

The busiest routes are the park’s Monument Trails network which opened a few years ago. Cyclists can expect a conga line of cyclists circling the Monument Trails, especially the Karst Loop that encompasses much of Beaver Lake’s shoreline.

These trails have diverted much of the bike traffic from the Hidden Diversity Multiuse Trail, which is the park’s other off-road bike trail.

Hidden Diversity is made up of three loops. Little Clifty Loop is 9 miles. Bashore Ridge Loop and Dutton Hollow Loop are about 4 miles each. Bashore Ridge Loop is suggested for beginner riders. Trailheads and parking are located along Townsend Ridge Road and Piney Road.

Hit the Hidden Diversity Multiuse Trail for a sunrise mountain bike ride and you might not see another soul. Stop by the Visitor Center for more information or call 479-789-5000.

• Pedal on the pavement: The Razorback Greenway is a favorite for road biking. The Greenway has transformed one of Northwest Arkansas’ original safe bike routes into a quiet place to ride.

Bikers are still looking for an 11 km scenic route to Pea Ridge National Military Park, east of Pea Ridge. It’s a nice loop through the Civil War battlefield where the Battle of Pea Ridge raged on March 7-8, 1862.

Cyclists share the road with slow-moving cars along Park Road, making Pea Ridge a safe place to ride. It is ideal for families. There is a hill on the route that will catch a cyclist’s eye.

The battlefield is a great Memorial Day destination. Confederate and Unionist casualties combined total over 3,000 men. Call the Visitor Center, 479-451-8122 for more information.

• Gone Fishing: Want to see an excited kid? Help this youngster catch his first fish.

Lake Springdale, Murphy Park Pond in Springdale, Lake Atalanta in Rogers, and Lake Fayetteville are well suited to take the kids fishing. Most offer plenty of spots to fish from the shore. The Lake Fayetteville public fishing pier is ideal for young anglers. These little lakes shouldn’t be too crowded this holiday weekend.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s brochure, Fishing 101, is a great guide full of tips for taking kids fishing. It is available at the Game and Fish Springdale Nature Center and at area tackle shops.

A good tip is to leave the worms at home and use bait such as hot dog bits, raw bacon or luncheon meat. Children may be reluctant to handle a live wriggling worm and put it on a hook. All sorts of panfish and catfish will also gobble up these store-bought baits.

And when a child wants to stop fishing and fetch crawfish or play at the playground, that’s the time to stop. After all, this is a trip for kids.

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