The entire crew hiked Pinnacle Mountain, just outside of Little Rock. Pictured here are Claire Perrault, Edwin Perrault, Jenny & Billy Ridge, Jay Meador, David Perrault and Michael Perrault.

Travel journal: Little Rock and the Ozarks

Seen through the eyes of: Julie and Michael Perrault

Who went: Our family and three other families: Corrie and Paxton Hester, Jenny and Billy Ridge, and Laurie and Brad Bourg, plus our 12 kids.

We went because: Our family likes to keep a running total of how many states we have each visited. The kids wanted to get a new state to try to catch up with Mom and Dad (current standings are 31-17), so Arkansas it was!

The Ridges’ dog Kevin was invited along for the vacation.

How our plans changed because of COVID: We planned to visit Maui in July, but by early June we knew we had to make a change. We postponed Hawaii until 2021 and decided on a road trip instead.

Special items we took in order to stay safe or isolated: We packed the car (and a U-Haul!) with everything we needed, including masks, hand sanitizer, Lysol and lots of snacks so we didn’t have stop often.

Where we stayed: After a brief stay in downtown Little Rock, we headed to Bull Shoals Lake in the Ozarks and rented houseboats. Bull Shoals is an 80-mile reservoir on the Arkansas/Missouri border. Each family had their own 50- to 60-foot boat, and each night our “Cajun Flotilla” would tie up together on the remote banks. This was more like camping than a hotel, so we had to bring most everything: bedding, towels, floats, YOLO boards, fishing poles, kitchen supplies, food, drinks and several Yeti coolers to keep everything iced down.

The group nicknamed their houseboat fleet the “Cajun Flotilla.”

Where we ate: Each night on the lake, one family would cook something prepared ahead or grill. We dined outside on the top deck of one of the boats. Thankfully, we had lots of great cooks on the trip.

Favorite dish on the menu: Fajita night was probably the favorite, served along with freshly squeezed frozen margaritasa delight after a long day on the lake.

Favorite historic landmark: Little Rock was a little sleepy due to COVID restrictions. We were disappointed that the Clinton Presidential Library was closed. However, we loved our visit to Little Rock Central High School, where the Little Rock Nine enrolled after Brown v. Board of Education.

The adventurous of the group braved a jump from a cliff on Bull Shoals Lake.

Attraction worth a drive-by: On the way up, we drove through Winnsboro and Bastrop. On the way home, we drove along the northeast border of Louisiana through Lake Providence and other towns. It was great to drive through and see all of these small towns. Louisiana is very scenic!

Fun experience off the beaten path: In Little Rock, our crew hiked to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain. At the lake, cliff jumping was a crowd favorite. The kids along with a few dads braved 50-foot cliffs to jump into the deep (50- to 100-foot) water.

Worth the splurge: Renting a ski boat and jet ski.

Jet skis and floaties were central to the low-key fun on the lake.

How this vacation differed from others pre-coronavirus: No dinner reservations, no event tickets, no toursjust lots of floating, boating, clear water and beautiful sunsets.

Something surprising we learned on the trip: How many shooting stars you can see when there’s no light pollution!

Advice for traveling during a pandemic: While it may not feel like it now, the pandemic won’t last forever and we will one day return to our usual, crowded vacations. In the meantime, travel somewhere you wouldn’t normally go. Get outside, away from the crowds, pack lots of snacks and hit the road.

We would suggest this trip to others because: This trip is not for everyone. If your idea of roughing it is a four-star hotel, you may be a bit out of your element here. If you would love the idea of camping but wish you could have air conditioning, running water and a bathroom, you just might love this.