Saturday, June 22, 2019

New Orleans - Jackson Square

The last time we went to New Orleans, back in 2017, we travelled with Jonah. While there were some great family-friendly things to see and do there, New Orleans isn't really the city you want to visit with a toddler. So last weekend we made another visit, but this time left Jonah in the care of his Grandparents in Searcy. And while we missed having him with us, it was nice to get to explore the city without having to cater to the whims of a toddler or have to watch Paw Patrol for any reason.

We stayed in a hotel in the French Quarter that was right by Jackson Square, so we ended up passing by there several times during our trip. Jackson Square is the historic heart of the city. Shortly after the city was founded in 1718, the square was established as the Place d'Armes. It quickly rose in prominence as the center of the young city, and some of the most historic buildings in the city are situated around the square. The most prominent and famous of those buildings is the St. Louis Cathedral.

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The first church here was built in 1718, which was replaced with a nicer building in 1727. But that building, along with most of New Orleans, was destroyed by a massive fire in 1788. The church was rebuilt by 1794, but after a few decades the church decided it needed to do a renovation and expansion. So most of the old church was torn down and replaced with the current cathedral in 1850.

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And the view looking inside the cathedral, which was crowded with a bunch of people taking pictures (and probably enjoying the air conditioning).

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Jackson Square is named after Andrew Jackson, who successfully defended the city during the War of 1812. The square is dominated by a large of statue of Jackson, although that statue is now a little controversial because of some of the awful things Jackson did while he was President (like the Trail of Tears). There's no telling if the pigeons have any opinions on Jackson or his legacy, but it seems like they do enjoy pooping on his statue's hat.

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Among the other historic buildings overlooking Jackson Square is the Cabildo, which was the New Orleans' old City Hall and is the place where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803. There is also the old Pontalba Buildings, which were built in the 1840s and contain some of the oldest continuously-rented apartments in the US. We did a cocktail tour, and our guide walked us by here. He said the rents here were only about $1,500 a month. Which seems like a steal until you realize the buildings have old plumbing, no insulation and no parking. Plus you get to hear all the music and commotion from all the drunk tourists and bachelorette parties going on all day. But I don't know, $1,500 sounds like a good deal. I used to pay $700 for a one bedroom apartment in North Little Rock that also had unreliable plumbing, weird neighbors and awful parking. This is the view of the balconies on one of the Pontalba Buildings.

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This was taken from the balcony of Muriel's, a restaurant that had this view overlooking the Pontalba Building and Jackson Square. This was a great spot, and it's one that we visited several times during our visit to New Orleans. The only problem is that they didn't offer any service to the balcony, so you had to go down the stairs any time you wanted a new drink (a small price to pay in order to have that view). But the stairs go by a small table that always had some wine and bread sitting out, which turns out to be the table reserved for the ghost that haunts the building.

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Another shot of St. Louis Cathedral, when it was bright and sunny out.

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I went by the Square one night after dark, and tried to get a few shots. I didn't bring a tripod with me on this trip, so I had to awkwardly place the camera atop an electrical box along the fence to get this picture. The street in front of the Square was busy with traffic and tourists roaming about.

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And one more shot of the cathedral at night, but this time showing the back of the cathedral under the full moon.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Boxley Valley

From Triple Falls, I headed down the road (and down the mountain) into Boxley Valley. It was nearly dark, so I only made one stop that night at the old Boxley Baptist Church. There was just a hint of light in the sky, and a tiny bit of fog beginning to form off in the distance.

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I spent the night at the Steele Creek campground, and then woke up at sunrise and headed back into Boxley. That little bit of fog that had formed the night before and expanded. The entire valley was now shrouded under a vast foggy blanket that was so thick it would take the sun a few hours to break through.

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Boxley Valley is one of my favorite places to take pictures, since it's like a photographer's playground. The road through the valley is only seven miles long and it seems like there is something to see along every turn. The valley is a historic district, and is filled with all sorts of old homes, barns and churches. This old schoolhouse sits near the Lost Valley trailhead.

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Nearby is the old Beechwoods Church, which was built in 1918.

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The church sits by the Beechwoods Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Boxley. The oldest grave here dates back to 1848.

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This is the road by the cemetery, which disappeared behind the trees and into the fog.

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I headed down the road but stopped again at this old barn, which was surrounded by a sea of tall grass.

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Near the barn is an old house, and a few small one-room tourist cabins. They are closed now (although the National Park Service occasionally opens one up for tours). This plant was growing tall beside one of the cabins, which featured some not-so-realistic fake brick siding.

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I headed back to the old Boxley Baptist Church, which sits in the heart of Boxley Valley. The church was built in 1899, and is still used as a community center.

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Near the church was this dirt road, which meandered by a field and then was lost in the fog. I wish I knew where it went, but from here it was marked as private property.

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At the far end of the valley sits this old barn, which has this smaller building along the fence in front of it. I'm not sure what its purpose used to be. Maybe it was used to move animals in and out of the pasture back in the olden days, perhaps?

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The barn was built sometime in the 1920s and sits by a spring that still provides drinking water.

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Nearby is this little structure, which I think was once used as a root cellar?

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I drove back across the Valley and made one last stop at this old building that sits near the Buffalo River. This old building was constructed in 1850 by one of the first pioneer families to settle in the area. It served as a house for several decades, but was converted into a barn in the early 20th century. After this stop I headed towards home, driving up out of the valley and the thick fog and into the bright sunshine.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Triple Falls

Triple Falls might be one of the most popular waterfalls in the state. It's easy to see why - they are incredible scenic, and relatively easy to reach (the trail is very very short, but the drive down the mountain is steep and bumpy and could require a 4-wheel drive vehicle). The falls are almost 50 feet tall, and can be quite beautiful if you catch them with a lot of water.

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I've not had the best of luck at this waterfall over the years. I've made several visits here, but had only been here once before when there was any water in the falls. All the other times, the falls were just barely running. They could rename it Trickle Falls since that is what it usually looked like. But last week a heavy storm dumped a lot of rain in the area, and it got the falls (and the nearby Buffalo River) up and running again. I managed to get there in time to catch the falls while they were still running and managed to get a few shots....

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It was starting to get dark so I made the short hike back to the car and made the steep ascent up the mountain. The road was a bit muddy in parts after the rains, but my little car made it up successfully. I did stop along the way, and got one last shot from the road:

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Arkansas River Flooding

Heavy rains struck Oklahoma last month, which overwhelmed the lakes there. In order to avoid damage to the dams, they began releasing significant amounts of water into the Arkansas River, which has since made its way downriver to us here in Arkansas. This has resulted in some extreme flooding, which has set records across the state. But it has been a slow moving disaster, with the water slowly moving from Fort Smith to Ozark to Dardanelle to Morrilton to Conway to Little Rock and now on towards Pine Bluff and Pindleton and then eventually the Mississippi River (which is also flooded).

This is a shot of the swollen Arkansas River, at the base of the Clinton Presidential Library in downtown Little Rock. The small bridge here usually connects to a small island, which was completely underwater. This was taken before most of the flood waters made it to Central Arkansas. When the river crested yesterday in Little Rock, that bridge was fully submerged.

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Flooding didn't just occur along the Arkansas River, other streams and rivers that flow into the Arkansas were flooded with back-flow. The Little Maumelle River was flooded, and completely inundated Pinnacle Mountain State Park. This calm lake is actually usually a field, along with a parking lot and playground. Everything was under several feet of water.

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The Little Maumelle River also flooded a few other places in west Little Rock, including the football field at the Arkansas Baptist Preparatory School.

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And the baseball fields, also completely flooded:

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The flooding was strange, in that it is a statewide disaster but one so closely and narrowly confined. Last weekend I took Jonah to visit the Funland Amusement Park at Burns Park in North Little Rock, which was open despite over half of Burns Park being closed due to the flooding. It's weird to see a disaster, but then once you get to higher ground there doesn't seem to be anything wrong.

In downtown North Little Rock, the river was taking over Riverfront Park (which wasn't really riverfront anymore, I guess it should be River-under Park).

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Not really Riverfront anymore...

This is the view looking towards the Little Rock skyline by the Broadway Bridge.

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And for a comparison, here's a shot taken from about the same spot a few years back, when the river wasn't as high:

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And a closer view of the muddy waters passing under the bridge:

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There was a pretty nice sunset, as the sun dropped below a large thunderstorm off in the distance (but unfortunately, the storm was actually over the Dardanelle area, where a levee along the river had breached a few days before).

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The sunset lit up the sky above the downtown skyline, with a soft pink that was reflected in the muddy floodwater.

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The Junction Bridge remained open during the flooding, which provided a great and up-close view of the flood waters. It was a little unnerving having the river be that high and that close to the bridge. You could definitely hear a dull roar coming from the swiftly flowing water.

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For another comparison, here's a shot taken in April from the bridge. The river was much calmer back then.

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The high waters rushed by the USS Razorback submarine, which looks slightly blurry in this shot since it moved so much during the long exposure.

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The submarine is part of the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, which was obviously closed as it was slowly engulfed by the river. The foreground of this shot is the parking lot, which was under several feet of water. It was reassuring to see that the seawall in North Little Rock was keeping the floodwater from stretching further into Argenta.

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A few nights later, I headed back downtown to get a few shots right before the river crested. I drove behind Little Rock City Hall and went by the Broadway Bridge again.

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And for another comparison, a view of the Broadway Bridge back at normal river levels:

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And a wider shot, as the flood waters swamped the trees that grow along the riverbank.

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And then a view of the floodwaters at the Junction Bridge, taken just after sunset.

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And for comparison, a shot taken from nearly the same spot last year. The barge bumpers by the bridge are completely submerged, with the red lights on the far bumpers still shining even though they are nearly underwater now.

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And another view of the bridge, which was not showing a light display during the flooding.

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And another comparison view, of a shot taken a few years ago. You can see the barge bumpers here which are still underwater.

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And one last shot - of the trees along the riverbank. They are usually rooted in solid ground, but were being immersed in floodwater. I got a few pictures while being attacked by mosquitoes, which unfortunately were not carried away by the floodwaters.

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