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— I spent a recent weekend with my three sisters, Nina, Elaine and Lois. We have one of these “sister outings” a couple of times a year and we do it just for us. No husbands or kids are allowed.

We sometimes spend an evening at a favorite restaurant, followed by watching a movie, with that being followed with a stop for late night dessert and decaffeinated coffee at another restaurant. That gives us more time to talk. As often as possible, however, we stretch our sister outings to include a full weekend, and occasionally even manage a multiple day out-of-state “sister trip.”

These “Edwards Girls” gatherings have become something we all look forward to. We usually plan one in the summer and one in the winter, but that schedule isn’tset in stone. Anytime one of us feels the need for a “sister time,” we just get the word out to the others and that sets the plan in motion.

This recent weekend was a little different that usual. One sister, Elaine, did all the planning. The other three of us knew nothing about it except when and where to show up and what kind of clothes to pack in our overnight bags. We started this variation a couple of years ago - whichever one of us plans the weekend for all of us - and refer to these outings as “Mystery Sister Weekends.”

Elaine assured us the activities she had planned would be casual and relaxing, loosely scheduled, would not be expensive and would include plenty of time for us to do what we enjoy the most - talk.The only thing that could make it better, I thought, was to visit some places that I could tell my readers about in my next weekly column.

Although I don’t think this consideration crossed Elaine’s mind, her planned worked right in to mine. After meeting on Saturday morning at her house south of Fayetteville, near Winslow, we loaded into her car and waited to see where she was taking us. She headed south on old Highway 71. Since being bypassed by the new Interstate 540 years ago, this route gets little traffic. Due to its hills and many curves, it has been called “the roller coaster of the Boston Mountains.” It’s a scenic drive and one best taken when the roads are dry and you have no reason to hurry.

As Elaine’s plan for us unfolded, we saw that she had chosen some interesting stops for us along the route.

We browsed at the Ozark Folkways Heritage Center and Gift Shop located near Winslow. It is housed in a two story rock building constructed in the 1940s and ‘50s and features an interesting variety of original arts and crafts, handmade in the Ozarks. This place also plays a role in preserving Ozark traditions by offering classes that teach crafts such as quilting, rug hooking and wool spinning.

Another fun stop a little farther south was Artist Point Gift Shop and Museum. This place offers locally-made crafts, homemade fudge, jams and jellies, and many windows along the back wall that make it possible to enjoy the million dollar view without braving the winter chill. The shop also features a one room museum chocked full of native artifacts and many other interesting items. There is also a hiking trail nearby for those who want a closer view of the scenery. All this at no charge unless, like us, you can’t resist the homemade candy.

Our next stop was Lake Fort Smith State Park at Mountainburg. Even though there is plenty to do on the grounds of this all-new state park, we chose to stay indoors and wander around the nice visitor center, reading the displays and enjoying the lake view through the windows. We also took time to watch the 20 minute video that gave some background about the park and surrounding area.

After returning to Elaine’s house for more sister talk time and dinner, we headed out for our mystery evening entertainment. This turned out to be another fun stop along highway 71, the Brentwood Bluegrass Show and Jam. On the first and third Saturday nights of each month from October through April, the Brentwood Community Center puts on this music event. It starts at 7 p.m. and features whatever bands and individual musicians show up. The admission price is right at only $3. Thanks to some talented cousins, we grew up listening to this kind of music, so the evening made for a fun step back in time for the four of us.

After the show, we returned to Elaine’s house, where she extended her hospitality to include overnight lodging - a sister slumber party of sorts. Although we’d had a busy day, we didn’t get much sleep, mostly because it was a long time before we ran out of things to talk about. Finally, after a 3 a.m. dip in her patio hot tub, we decided we better close our mouths and call it a day.

Elaine’s plan included everything needed to make our recent mystery sister weekend a hit. There were interesting places to go, fun things to do, good food, lots of time for visiting and even a few surprises along the way. The best part was reconnecting with three of the neatest women I know, who, luckily for me, happen to also be my sisters.

Annette Rowe is a freelance writer and a speech language pathologist at Siloam Springs High School. She contributes a regular column about parks and other places of interest to visit in the local area. She may be reached by e-mail at awalkinthepark50 @ yahoo .com.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 02/17/2010

Print Headline: A Walk in the Park Enjoying a weekend sister outing

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