Seeing Life Through A New Lens

Trip Planning

Seeing Life Through A New Lens

After one miserable camping trip and decades of declaring herself a non-camper, ninth generation Arkansas resident and photographer, Linda Henderson, is shopping for a truck camper and planning her upcoming retirement trips. All it took was one night under the stars at the National Buffalo River to make up her mind.

Linda grew up on the grounds of the Arkansas Children’s Colony’s 400-acre campus for children with intellectual disabilities. Her father was one of their first employees and along with the children of the other employees, she and her younger brother had the run of the place. For Linda, who was the only girl in the mix of employees’ children, if she wanted friends to play with, it was going to be boys. She grew up climbing trees and riding dirt bikes. No dolls or playhouses for her. Her interest in photography started when she was very small, when she was first allowed to use her mother’s Brownie camera to shoot pictures. She still has the camera today. In the 9th grade she took a photography class, and her dark room partner was a boy named Jim Henderson. She did not know then that years later she would fall “madly in love with him” and that he would one day be her husband. In high school though, they were just friends and photographed school ballgames and activities together. Throughout high school and college Linda worked at the Children’s Colony, now known as the Human Development Center. She developed a deep love for the residents there and when she went off to college she chose nursing as a career.

Linda and Jim’s First Date

Linda and Jim (who is an Eagle Scout) married in their senior year of college. Linda did a short stint as a hospital nurse but missed her connection to the residents at the Development Center. She returned to work with the residents with severe health needs and has been there for 34 years. Shortly after they were married and before their son was born, Jim convinced Linda to go with him as a chaperone for a church-led youth group camping trip. She was skeptical but went. Everything that everyone dislikes about tent camping happened that weekend. The campers hiked to their destination and set up their tents at the Twin Falls in the Richland Creek Wilderness area.

During the first night there were torrential rains. Everything was soaking wet and the deluge continued for the next two days. They soldiered on trying to make the best of it, but by the time they hiked out two days later carrying sopping wet gear and navigating the creek at flood stage, Linda was done. The outdoor girl did not like camping. Her husband continued to camp but Linda and her family pooled their resources and bought an old homestead as a family retreat. The property includes a small foothill mountain that is part of the Ozarks Mountain Range, and is between a National Wilderness Area and the Ozark National Forest. It has a rustic cabin, ponds, natural springs and an old one-room schoolhouse from the early 1900s.

The property, called Snolic (Snow Lick on the map) is a great backdrop for Linda’s photography. It is where her extended family escapes the pressures of everyday life, and enjoys time together sitting by a roaring fire telling fish tales, hiking past the waterfalls and riding four wheelers around the property. It is Linda’s favorite place on earth and she really had no desire to join her husband on his tent camping adventures.

This is an old water tower that is on the property at Snolic. The circle in the background sky is the recording of the earth’s rotation. It is a long exposure camera shot. The star in the middle is the north star.

Linda’s hobby of photography is what led her to the conclusion that she was a camper after all. After tabling her interest in photo taking for many years Linda bought a digital camera in 2007. On weekends she and Jim explore the rich beauty of the Arkansas back roads and the Ozarks. They travel with knapsacks, walking sticks and camera equipment to capture the old barns, bridges and churches on the back roads of rural Arkansas and the Buffalo River National Park. Linda began to earnestly conquer the art of catching the night sky. Her husband Jim will get up with her in the middle of the night to drive her to a location where the Milky Way is just right to be photographed.

Milky Way not fair from Linda’s cabin in Jerusalem, Arkansas

He is her “equipment manager” who hikes down ravines with the equipment and hauls it all back up again. He has been the driver in her storm chasing photo sessions and his patience has paid off. Since Jim never gave up camping he was ready to go at any time. As Linda’s interest in night sky photography grew it was a natural extension to “camp” and wait for the stars to come out.

Old Iron Bridge and the Milky Way, near Shirley, Arkansas

Two years ago, with some friends who also photograph night skies, a trip to their favorite Buffalo National River in northwest Arkansas was planned. It would be Linda’s first time camping since the dreaded church campout many years earlier. They shot the sky until late in the evening and then headed up to the campground. It was so late when the couples all got there that they simply pulled out their chaise lounge chairs and sleeping bags without bothering to put up their tents. There Linda fell asleep under the umbrella of a billion twinkling stars and she was hooked. She liked camping after all and has been doing it ever since.

Jim and Linda at Snolic Mountain Retreat our property near Alread Arkansas

Jim and Linda on a Camp out near Ponca Arkansas not far from the Buffalo River

This discovery changed the way Jim and Linda began to approach their forthcoming retirement. The idea of a truck camper seized them and they began to think of the possibilities and freedom that it would give them. The places they could get to and the comfort they would have when they got there! Linda doesn’t mind the occasional tent trip in nice weather, but for retirement she’s planning on something a little more luxurious. Together they have been narrowing down the search and planning their truck purchase. Their only son and daughter-in-law live in California ten months out of the year and they hope to make big road trips out of their annual visits to them. They plan to do the entire west coast in their truck camper and every state on the way. Linda is eager to do the east coast in the fall and photograph the covered bridges and church steeples of New England against the fall backdrops. Now that she knows she can camp in comfort, the possibilities are endless. Her big dream is to expand her writing and photography to offset the travel costs. She is already a contributing writer and photographer to 501 Life Magazine, a regional magazine for those living in the 501 area code of Central Arkansas. Her photographs have been published in many Arkansas magazines and used in calendars, postcards and greeting cards. She is an artist in Residence at Art on the Green Art Studio in Conway, Arkansas. Ninety eight of Linda’s pictures decorate the rooms of the new CARTI Cancer Treatment Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Moon light and stars over an old church in Arkansas

This is taken at a waterfall called Falling Water. The waterfall is in the Richland Creek Wilderness area in Arkansas (Witt Springs Arkansas)

I think it is safe to say that she is well on her way to achieving her goal. Although Linda plans most of her camping with Jim, she says that girl camping is on her bucket list too and she is in search of groups in her area. Her friends are what she calls “life’s giggles” and she is looking forward to this new chapter in life.

woman posing

Girl Camper

Janine Pettit

Janine Pettit is a lifelong lover of camping who took a 25 year sabbatical when she married a “resort” type guy! She discovered that camping was still in the cards for her when she stumbled onto an article about a women’s outdoor adventure group that travels around the country in RVs, meeting new friends, checking off bucket list adventures and doing things she had only dreamed of. Janine has become an Ambassador for the Girl Camping movement and encourages women to go places and do things in her blog and podcast.