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An Arkansas Adventurer

Local Hiker and Photographer Shares His Story and Hiking Tips

David Dedman, 54, who can be found on Instagram at arkansas.wanderlust, has lived in the Natural State his entire life, but continues to explore and capture new parts of it for himself and his online community.

His most recent adventure was a week-long solo trip where he floated down the entire Buffalo River, a roughly 151-mile journey. As he was getting ready to go to sleep one night on the trip, he was surprised to see the night sky fill with purple and blue light. Then he realized what it was he was seeing — the Northern Lights. 

Due to a geomagnetic storm, the strongest recorded since 2003, many states in the U.S. were able to see this natural phenomena that is normally only seen in places like Northern Alaska and Iceland. 

“I don’t know that I’ve seen many cooler things or had many cooler experiences in nature than that one,” he says. 

He didn’t even know it was coming, but once David noticed the lights, he set up his camera and captured some of his favorite photos to date. 

David grew up in Arkansas going on hiking and camping trips with his parents and went on similar trips with his wife and sons as they grew up. However, around 2012, he felt his life had become too sedentary as he spent all day doing IT work and he decided to make a change.

He began by mountain biking, but when his wife also wanted to join in, they began to do more hiking and boating on nearby rivers. 

Since then, they have been traveling throughout Arkansas and beyond. They even own a cabin along the Buffalo River and a spot on Lake Ouachita where they escape as often as possible.

Around the same time David started hiking, he also began taking pictures as a way to better commemorate his travels.

“I just got completely sucked into it, and it is definitely my number one hobby today,” he says.

His social media showcases the two passions simultaneously and he has garnered a large community. 

“I’ve made a lot of really good friends through that Instagram account,” David says. “Photography friends. Lifelong friends. And I have just really gotten to know people all over the state.”

He says he has been using his Facebook more often recently, and there he fields a lot of questions from people wanting to get started exploring the natural state for themselves.

What are some of his suggestions to these interested newcomers? 

“Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet,” he advises. David says there are many great trails, such as the Little Missouri River Trail and the Old River Trail on the Buffalo River, where newcomers will come across areas they need to cross into water, and they shouldn’t be afraid of that. 

Second, he suggests that new hikers start off small. They should not try to go for a long or difficult trail on their first one. Along with that, beginners should not have to plan to travel far to start exploring the state. David says there are many great trails in Little Rock and the surrounding areas. is a great resource for finding trails and planning a hike near you.

“You can just get out and test yourself and see if it’s what you want to do,” he says.

Lastly, he suggests people join hiking Facebook groups to find more information, tips and even friends to hike with if they’re worried about going solo. 

There are 52 state parks and seven national parks in Arkansas, but David is quick to list three “crown jewels” he suggests whenever anyone asks him where to visits: Petit Jean State Park, the Buffalo River and Blanchard Spring. 

At Petit Jean State Park, he says hikers should look to the Seven Hollows Trail if they want a hike that is not as steep as the one to Cedar Falls but still gives great waterfall views. 

Along the Buffalo River, he says travelers can follow the Lost Valley Trail, which he says “feels like another world," but is also not a difficult hike.

At Blanchard Springs, David suggests checking out the tours to learn the history behind the area.  

His outdoor exploring has afforded him countless unforgettable experiences and he encourages everyone to try hiking for themselves, no matter their age or experience. 

“It’s made a really incredible difference in my life," he says. 

"I’ve made a lot of really good friends through that Instagram account. Photography friends. Lifelong friends." 

“It’s made a really incredible difference in my life."