To celebrate the 7th anniversary of our first date, Mona and I booked a cabin in Eureka Springs, Arkansas for a long weekend of quiet in the outdoors. Well, not so much a cabin. It’s a caboose. (As I told my parents, “It took me over thirty years but I finally get to be one of the boxcar children.”)
Caboose 103 was once pulled behind a train until retired from service and redesigned to serve as a weekend getaway in the woods near the Ozark National Forest. The historical exterior was preserved and enhanced with a fresh coat of paint, while the interior was equipped with electricity, running water and heating. Caboose 103 is part of Livingston Junction, which maintains three such cabins on a small property a few minutes outside of Eureka Springs. Each one is isolated by a private drive and a steep densely wooded incline that provides seclusion from other vacationers.
Each caboose has a unique theme. Ours was the Old West. The interior was decorated with a lot of kitschy Western themed décor that we loved. I was particularly partial to the historical advertisements in the bathroom ranging from miracle for eternal youth to advertisements for lonely bachelors and bachelorettes seeking companionship on the frontier.
We don’t typically travel to Eureka Springs in the winter. The main road is Arkansas Highway 23, also known as the Pig Tail for its winding roads and hairpin turns that curl through the Ozark National Forest. For the unfamiliar, it can be nerve-wracking in the best of weather. I was hoping that we wouldn’t have any snow or ice.
But on our first morning, we had a bit of a surprise. We woke up to about a half an inch of snow covering the ground and flurries continuing to fill the clouded sky. Though our original plan was to drive to a nearby trailhead, we decided it would be safer to stay inside our caboose and wait to see if the weather cleared. I settled in with a cup of coffee and a book (The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett, if you’re wondering) while Mona ventured outside to take some beautiful pictures of the snowy Ozarks.
There was no stove, so we used the outdoor charcoal grill to make “hobo packs” for lunch. I’m sure there’s a more politically correct name, but that’s what I’ve called them since I was a kid. We filled tinfoil packs with ground beef, Yukon gold potatoes sliced onions, and some broccoli. We covered them with salt, pepper, Italian seasonings and a little oil for veggies then folded them up and tossed the packs into the heated charcoal grill. It was the perfect filling, warm meal to eat surrounded by the quiet of snow and trees.
In the afternoon, the flurries stopped and a clear sky emerged. We thought we might be able to squeeze in some hiking. We drove to Lake Leatherwood, only 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, a patch of ice on a sharp turn made us turn around so we didn’t make it to the main trailhead that was our plan. We stopped at the short Sloryde beginner trail. It was a lovely walk through the trees, incredibly easy terrain and never far from the road. While we would have preferred a longer hike, it ended up being a good turn of events that we weren’t too far from our car. The weather quickly changed again as the temperatures dropped and grey clouds filled the sky once again.
After a brief stop for hot chocolate in downtown Eureka Springs, we were back at the cabin. There, Mona had an excellent idea. If we couldn’t hike, then we might as well take advantage of the hot tub. The caretakers were kind enough to turn it on before we arrived so all we had to do was scrape off some snow, peel back the cover, and climb in to the deliciously warm water. We sat in the beautiful quiet, absorbing the warmth of the water, and enjoying the gorgeous view of snow filled trees.
I think my favorite part about our trip was taking a break from screens. There was a television with a DVD player, but we decided against watching any of the movies we brought. Instead, we put away our phones (except for taking pictures and playing the Myths and Legends podcast). We focused on reading, talking, and playing games. It was incredibly relaxing.
Making a concentrated effort to not look at my phone made me realize how often I have it in my hand without realizing it. That surprised me. I’m terrible about answering calls or messages, often for days. I realized that even when I’m not using it, I’m still always checking to make sure it’s nearby. Even during our trip, I found my hand reflexively searching the table beside me to make sure it was still there.
Then came the snowstorm on the day we were leaving. I grabbed my phone and started searching reports from the various Departments of Transportation of the states we were travelling through. I found Facebook groups reporting road conditions. I checked multiple weather sites. After all my talk about taking a break from screens, that morning I was incredibly grateful for an LTE signal and a fully charged smart phone. With a little help from the internet, we made it safely home.
It was a wonderful trip and an amazing opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company in nature without distractions. For anyone looking for a romantic getaway in the Ozarks, the Livingston Junction cabooses are a destination I would strongly recommend.
We received no compensation from Livingston Junction or any other source for this post.