I am stunned by Arkansas.
When I had driven through it a few years ago, I couldn't see much because the highway is lined with enormous trees. All you can see for hundreds of miles is the straight line of the highway, and tall trees on either side of it, blocking out everything from view.
This past weekend, I actually got to see it, and it just blew me away. I haven't had an emotional reaction to a landscape like that anywhere other than Central America, and the comparison is actually quite apt. The whole countryside of Arkansas is covered in greenery. Centuries-old trees tower over everything - deciduous and evergreen. Enormous vines grow up every tree trunk. Some trees have beautiful pink flowers all over them. Magnolias grow wild. Butterflies are everywhere. It's like a jungle, but not tropical.
The mountains look just as they do in New Hampshire, Vermont, etc. They aren't towering rock structures like they are in the Rockies, but the valleys fall down, down, down into winding creeks and pristine lakes, and green murky ponds.
The cities and towns are quiet, decent little places where people run and bike along every road you see - with good reason, because everywhere you turn in Arkansas is like a distance runner's fantasy. There are rolling roads switching up and down mountainsides or along farm fields, ideal for the most discriminating road cyclist. There are twisty, turny, routes that take you through town and into national forests and wildlife preserves within the span of a few miles, replete with little hidden things to see - perfect, absolutely perfect for a distance runner. There are extensive forest trails, great for mountain biking and ATVs alike (both kinds of trails/roads). There are even rocky cliffs ideal for rock climbers.
What can I say? The place is an outdoor paradise. I really think Arkansas is a hidden gem. I mean, it's not on anyone's radar except for hunters, boaters, and fishermen from Texas and Oklahoma. It's just lying in wait for outdoor endurance sportsmen to discover or rediscover it, and in a way I hope that doesn't happen because it's already perfect as-is.
If you are looking for a fun vacation spot that's not on your radar, go to Arkansas. It is amazing!