The Searcy County Blog

Our guest contributors offer you a personal glimpse into the events, attractions and daily life of Searcy County.

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Why Live Here? By Dirk Merle

May 9, 2019

"Why live there?" 

I hear that from time to time. My go-to answer is "It gets in your blood." 

It's hard to answer this one way. Without question, living in rural places can be difficult. I won't discount that, but it also has so many great upsides. 

We live where 50+ miles of the Buffalo River flows and elk roam. We have deer, bear and all kinds of critters. We have rivers, creeks & streams too numerous to count. Mountains, pastures, hollers, and valleys. This is a place you can still find wild, still find an adventure. 

Characters live here. I say that because all too often our lives are contrived. Real folks make this place their home! kayaking, cycling, hiking (the Ozark Highlands Trail is here), rock climbing, horesback riding, fishing, all are in abundance. We still visit with our neighbors, care for one another. You can always find someone with a guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin. We have great places to explore, great food spots. Yes, these activities exist in other places, but there is something special about Searcy County.

"It gets in your blood."

(Dirk Merle is a Searcy County resident, cyclist, and advocate for rural Life. He is also a Trail Builder for Affordable Trail Solutions.

Rebecca Rusch

Rebecca Rusch Rides Through Searcy County, by Darryl Treat

May 19, 2019

Searcy County welcomed a major endurance sports star recently when

seven-time world champion cycler Rebecca Rusch became the first person to

ever ride the Arkansas High Country Race route that transits Searcy County

and Northcentral Arkansas!

The route covers approximately 1,034 miles with 79,034 feet of climbing, predominately in the Ouachita's and Ozarks in some of the most jaw-dropping beautiful, rugged, remote, and lightly populated areas of Arkansas! Day seven of Rebecca's epic adventure saw her leave Ponca heading east where she joined the Richland Creek Road and peddled up to Witts Springs to a wonderful Searcy County reception! The sign proudly proclaimed that "Searcy County Has A Crush On Rusch!" Even the local fire department greeted her! 

After a long descent down Lick Fork Road she arrived in Snowball to find another greeting party highlighted by a little girl with her own handmade greeting sign! Rebecca couldn't resist and stopped to chat a while. It was quickly apparent that this international cycling star has a warm, friendly personality! 

Her great cycling fame allows her to bring attention to our fabulous cycling roads, which stand to help us locally with physical fitness and employment! The more people who come to enjoy the great gravel roads, the more money is left behind to help our local economy.

Leaving Snowball, she headed to the Tyler Bend area of the Buffalo National

River and on to Marshall for a much earned evening meal at a local Mexican

restaurant before she retired for the night in the oldest dwelling in Searcy

County, a rental cabin circa 1850 near the Marshall Courthouse Square. She

had earned her rest! Rebecca covered 110 miles in about 12 hours and climbed

12,751 feet. Wow!

Day eight had Rebecca up early and taking backroads into Leslie before

peddling on to Fifty-Six, Mountain View, and points south. She completed the

adventure on day nine arriving back where she began her journey at the

Clinton Presidential Park Bridge in Little Rock. Being the first to complete

this entire route, she has laid down a fastest known time for the

competitors that will be racing this course beginning on 8 June. Searcy

County's own endurance sports star David Horton is entered in the race!

Rebecca adhered to the same self-supported ultra-biking event rules that the

racers will abide by.  Here in Searcy County we are thrilled that the annual race uses some of the course of our own Ozark Grinder Trail.  Our Ozarks Grinder Trail has more than 150 miles of gravel, pavement, and trail with a main route from Tyler Bend to Fairfield Bay and side spurs and loops! It's predominately gravel and has close to 10,000 feet of elevation gain!

Coming soon is a cross-state route the XARK, that uses much of the same

route in Searcy County that Rebecca used. The XARK is a bikepacking trail

that traverses North Arkansas from Siloam Springs to Memphis with the

diversity of cycling across the Ozarks and the Mississippi River Delta of

east Arkansas, part of the cradle of American music! A great way to soak up

the culture of the region as you peddle across beautiful farm, river, &

forest landscapes, some with hefty mountain climbs!

Witts Springs has a head start on much of the area with an established

annual cycling event, The Pedestal Rock & Lick Fork Ride. This year is the

5th annual. It happens every October, a beautiful time to visit the Ozarks!

This stellar annual cycling event offers two disciplines: Road (Pedestal

Rock 10, 20, 40, 50, 62) or Gravel (Lick Fork 15, 30, 50ish, and 62.) Both

rides start and end at the same location. All riders receive a t-shirt,

ride bag full of goodies, and are served an amazing potluck lunch made by

locals, a rider favorite! Tent camping on-site with access to the rider

village showers, bathrooms, indoor shelter, pool tables, etc. Donation

spaghetti dinner the night before and a free continental breakfast the

morning of the ride. 9AM start! All proceeds go to Witts Springs Community

Voices, a recognized non-profit.

Rebecca gave us a big boost in notoriety! The cycling community will now

know that bikepacking and gravel grinding doesn't get much better than the

Arkansas Ozarks and Heart of the Ozarks Cycling!

To see more images and read more about her ride, click here

Rebecca Rusch

A Visit to Dogwood Hills Guest Farm, by Jill Rohrbach

May 24, 2019

(Reprinted from a feature appearing on

It was a cool, brisk morning when I walked into the barn at Dogwood Hills Guest Farm for my first attempt at milking a cow. Apparently, the trick is to squeeze with the thumb and forefinger, followed by the other fingers instead of one big squeeze with the whole hand all at once. There’s a bit of a gentle up and down motion to it as well.

Aiming was a bit tricky as the milk sometimes came out more sideways than straight. Immediately, the two farm cats crowded around the milk pail and stool, ready for my misses.

In the next barn stall over, goats bleated, butted and jumped on wood structures. Outside, cows grazed rocky fields and chickens pecked at the earth. Dogs took naps and posed as lazy guards.

The breeze carried robust yet pleasant waves of dirt and manure, grass, and livestock.

“The animals are here because the guests enjoy them,” Ruth Pepler told me as we wandered the farm, which is owned by she and her husband. “Everything we’ve built has been in response to what guests wanted.”

Dogwood Hills is a working homestead farm offering a unique hands-on farm experience for all ages. It’s located in Harriet near the middle section of the Buffalo National River.

Originally, the Peplers only offered the rental of their guest house. Those guests began asking to help out on the farm and interact with the livestock. So, the Peplers built some new facilities, including a barn and certified teaching kitchen, and incorporated farm life into the guest experience.

Now, visitors can work on the farm and enjoy fabulous farm to table dinners. The Peplers have fully embraced agritourism and strive to educate as well as entertain.

To read of the entire visit, and see more images, click here