I had a wonderful birthday with a marvelous friend who indulged me like royalty… opening the car door for me, escorting me as a gentleman does a lady.
Although the predictions of inclement weather (freezing rain, sleet and snow) would have been off-putting for some, I was elated with his unabashed enthusiasm to sally forth for lunch at Mather Lodge.
A casual 90-minute drive from my abode along two-lane blacktop roads that dip and turn through the scenic wonders of rural Arkansas, with the wipers sweeping intermittent mist from the windshield as we cruised and chatted about times past, current events, and wonders yet to come.
One of which proved to be the dining room , which is extraordinary. Stately, spacious and accommodating; extensively remodeled just two years ago to showcase the character of its elegantly rustic hewn-log and stone original 1930s-era Adirondack-style architecture.
The centerpiece of Petit Jean State Park, the beauty of Mather Lodge and its mountaintop surroundings dazzled our senses. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration, the modern resort-style accoutrements perch on the edge of a grandiose cliff, bestowing a view through the towering windows of a deep craggy gorge, massive rock faces, and evergreens in abundance.
Our lunch conversation turned to wondering what this vista might have looked like 10,000 years ago, when (in terms of geologic age) the Holocene topography of today was emerging from the Pleistocene ice-age.
Now well equipped for small group (50 people) meetings, private banquets and retreats, with 24 cozy get-away guest rooms and a newly-added swimming pool, luncheon service in the main dining room (which seats only 104) was excellent. The salad bar was fresh and tasty, and my Chicken Fried Steak, accompanied with house-specialty mashed potatoes, white cream gravy, green beans simmered with bacon and a perky half-pumpernickel-half-white yeast roll with real butter, was scrumptious.
We chatted about the origins of the term pumpernickel, each of us having a different understanding about how the name of this bread came to be. As it turns out, the version he told of the word’s etymology was true . However, my erroneous version was funnier .
After some decadent dessert (fried cheesecake drizzled with dark chocolate) and commensurate with a growing awareness that the misty precipitation — which draped the landscape in magical pastel hues and rippling clouds — was starting to freeze, we eased down the mountain amidst towering pines glistening with ice-frosted needles and sloshed along slushy roads to make it safely to our respective haciendas with amazing aplomb.
And although the calendar date was coincidental with my birthday, what made this a fabulously warm-fuzzy day was that this was not a ‘special birthday luncheon’… but just something we sometimes do because we enjoy it.
Really, in terms of having a wonderful life, who could ask for anything more…???