Camping, Hiking and the Legend of Petit Jean

I’ve always been an avid camper and backpacker.  I’ve backpacked a number of stretches of the Appalachian Trail and backpacked for nearly a month in the Wind River Range in Wyoming.  Hubby and I hiked quite a bit in the Outback in central Australia, did the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair overland trek in Tasmania, Australia and even had the opportunity to hike along the Annapurna Trail in Nepal.  All that’s great, but since we moved back here life has been burning along at such a fast pace that the kids have done very little camping. I had it on my list of “Things to Do with the Kids” and  was determined to do some camping and hiking while we were away.

We chose to stay at the Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas for a couple of nights because it had such rave reviews.

One morning we got up fairly early to beat the heat. We went to check out Cedar Falls which are apparently quite beautiful, but because of the drought the falls were only a trickle. Instead, we took a hike along the stream. Boy, was it pretty!

At one point, LD called out, “Mom, you’ve got to come see this! It’s a stalactite!”  I was dubious since we were hiking in an open area near a stream. But sure enough… there were these stalactites growing off the cliff. The mineral deposits were forming right out in the open. Isn’t that really neat?!!

The Legend of Petit Jean: This state park has a fascinating tale behind its name.  Back in the 1700s there was a French nobleman who had a grant from the king to explore part of the Louisiana Territory. He was engaged to a beautiful girl from Paris. She wanted to marry him and escort him to the New World, but he felt it was too dangerous and promised to marry upon his return. Unwilling to wait, the girl disguised herself as a boy and crossed over the seas with her fiance working as a cabin boy. She called herself Jean.  The sailors called her “Petit” Jean, which means Little Jean. Her disguise was so good that not even her fiance recognized her on the long voyage across the Atlantic, up the Mississippi and to the Arkansas River. The Indians of the area greeted the ship and invited them up the mountain. The sailors, Petit Jean and her fiance spent the summer on the mountain. In the fall, they started making arrangements to return to France. On the evening before their departure Petit Jean became ill with fever, convulsions, delirium, and finally coma.  Her disguise was finally discovered. Petit Jean requested that if she died, she wanted to be returned to the mountain and buried at the spot overlooking the river. The Indians made a stretcher of deerskin and carried her up the mountain. At sundown she died.


Here’s the summer list we’re working through. We have this on the fridge and the kids are constantly looking through it. The kids are hounding me to sleep out in the backyard under the stars. I told them not tonight, but perhaps one night soon!

You can download this list of Things to do This Summer here if you’re interested.

Hope you’re having a great summer (if that’s the season you’re in, that is!).

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