I was awake at 5:30 this morning, but waited until the alarm went off at 6 before facing the day. DH said, while punching the alarm we no longer hear often, “We might enjoy ourselves more if we stayed at home today.” I graciously agreed to do that, but he rolled out. He had loaded the bikes last night, and I had made the sandwiches. All we had to do was rise and shine!
We wanted to leave early due the expected heat coming for the day. We chose to cross the state line again and ride in Pea Ridge National Battlefield. It seemed like a good idea. While DH unloaded bikes and helmets, I got a map from the park office. All the National Park Service employees were at the desk since they were just starting the day. A tall man in his crisp greens showed me on the map that there was a hill on the route but it did come down. Funny, since when we got there it was an Arkansas Hill for sure! In Kansas this would have been called a mountain, and in fact, we later heard it referred to as Elkhorn Mountain in the park film.
We headed out and the first mile was gorgeous. Heavily wooded areas shaded the path, and we saw a young deer lope just ahead of us. The breeze was strong enough to sound like running water instead of soughing leaves overhead. This particular area was also part of the Cherokee Trail…my mind imagined sad relatives walking through these trees remembering the home they were removed from in North Carolina.
Soon the trees gave way to an expanse of prairie dotted by strategically placed cannons. The sun was hot but bearable…until the grade started. For nearly a mile we climbed gradually, pumping and switching gears. Then both of us had to dismount and push those bikes because the third mile was straight up, no relief. Another early morning biker, a perfectly built young woman about 25 and decorated in spandex, veered to the left and passed us like a gazelle. That added insult made the sweat stream from every pore! But we reached the top and found a nice shaded overlook where we had water and bananas and enjoyed the most perfect place.
A picture can’t capture the view.
Coming down was not a straight shot either. Lots of pumping and gear switching occurred (which I am NOT good at) before we came upon the Elkhorn Tavern. The building was in good shape for its age and was so peaceful it was hard to think of men dying in the front fields, of a family hiding in the basement as another row of cannons fired into the March air years ago. Another mile and we coasted in to the visitor’s center. The whole trail had been only seven miles, but it felt like seventy to me!
It seems that every Civil War battlefield has some claim as the first, the biggest, the most deadliest, or such. Pea Ridge claims this battle so long ago saved Missouri for the Union. I do know this battle was unique as it is only battle where Indian troops participated. Two regiments of Cherokees fought here for the Confederate side. We watched the film in the visitor’s center, got a drink, and noted the temperature was now about 86. We were glad to be off the bikes, and we decided to go out of our way to see the War Eagle Mill.