Last Friday was my birthday, and I was not looking forward to it (it was the big 30). So to make myself feel better about it, I tried to organize a little camping trip. What better way to start being a 30-something than to be out in the woods in one of the most scenic places in the country?
So on Friday I took off early from work and met up again with Zack Andrews in Conway. We drove up Hwy. 7 towards the campground at Steele Creek, along the Buffalo National River. But as we turned onto the dirt road that leads to Steele Creek, we were met with a sign announcing "Campground Full." Apparently we weren't the only ones who thought that camping at the Buffalo River would be a good idea that weekend.
We drove down to the campground anyways. There were a few huge church groups there, occupying several campsites. But there were also some campsites with only one tent. I thought we could nicely ask one of those campers if we could perhaps share their campsite for the night, if we set up our tents away from their tents. We asked the first campers we met, and while they seemed reluctant at first, they agreed to share their site with us. Those campers would soon turn out to be among the craziest people I've ever met while out taking pictures.
We brought out our tents, sleeping bags and ice chest and began to set up our little camp. Soon the campers we were sharing the site with came by to talk with us. They were clearly drunk, and said that the campsite was packed with church groups, which seemed to annoy them. They kept the radio on high, apparently just to annoy the other campers. Then they turned the conversation towards topics that are just a little too offensive and politically incorrect to mention here. They did mention they were from Missouri, so I was glad they weren't from Arkansas too.
We politely excused ourselves to make a quick trip down to the Buffalo River before it got too dark. At Steele Creek, the Buffalo River runs under a huge bluff, called Roark Bluff. It's one of the tallest bluffs along the river.
We had been up to Steele Creek a few weeks before, and the River was a lot lower now. In the dying light of the day, I tried to get a few shots of the bluffs reflected in the still waters along the river. I saw this view and sat and waited while a family was in the distance, throwing rocks into the water. They seemed to be taking their time, so I took some pictures anyways while there was still light. The family got photoshopped out of the view.
There was hardly any light left, but I tried to get one last shot. The family was still off in the distance, right in the shot. So I sat and waited again, it looked like they were finally heading back to their campsite. They were nearly out of frame when one small kid began to have problems. He was walking along the river when apparently his pants managed to fall down. He yelled out, "MY PANTS!" for everyone to hear. His Dad turned around and yelled back, "What happened to your pants!" Then slowly walked over to help his kid out with the pants situation. When they got that sorted out, they finally strolled out of the frame. I hurried to get this shot before it got too dark.
I tried to get a few more shots, but it was getting too dark for anything to turn out, so we headed back to our makeshift campsite. We didn't see our trashy campsite neighbors after that, but I envied the campfire they had. Since we weren't in an official campsite really, we didn't have a campfire. It turned a bit chilly that night, cold enough for us to see our breath while we talked. Here are our tents, with the ice chest (and beer) in the middle.
My cheap Wal-Mart tent is the one on the right.
We sat out and had some drinks in the dark. Well actually it wasn't that dark. There was a full moon that put out enough light that we didn't need flashlights to move around. The full moon hung over the sky right above the campground, so we decided to attempt some long exposure photography to capture it. My pictures weren't turning out, so I volunteered to do some light-painting for Zack while he was taking pictures. He set the camera to do a long exposure (well over a minute or so), while I walked around the campsite with a flashlight pointed at the ground (with the hope that the light from the flashlight would create a neat trail through the shot). I'm sure it probably looked a little crazy to some of the other campers to see someone with a beer and flashlight randomly roaming through the campsite. Soon we moved over and tried to get some shots of Roark Bluff, which was being bathed in the moonlight. We tried some more lightpainting with the flashlight and then called it a night.
I woke up early the next morning and saw that a low fog was hugging the top of the bluffs over the river. Zack was already awake and out taking pictures, so I hurried out to get some pictures too. It was awesome, the views of the Buffalo River here are great any time of the day, but much better with some fog thrown in.
Enjoying this view was a great way to start out the day,
We went back to the campsite and took down our tents, and got everything packed up. Before the fog burned off with the rising sun, we tried to get a few more quick pictures. Next to the campsite is a large field, with Roark Bluff looming overhead.
We drove over to a different spot along the River, near the spot where Steele Creek flows into the Buffalo. It was almost 8am, and there were already canoes getting dropped off for float trips.
This is the view of the spot where Steele Creek flows into the Buffalo River. Someone had set up a campsite along Steele Creek not that far away. I guess they saw that the campground was full and just made their own little spot to camp. They did pick a pretty spot.
The sun was finally breaking through the fog, lighting up the fields and trees around us.
From there we drove out to Boxley Valley...