Monday, August 24, 2009

Buffalo River

I managed to somehow hurt my back last week, which left me hobbling and limping around like an old man. So what’s the best thing to do when your back is hurt? I don’t know, but going camping probably isn’t the best idea. The whole “sleeping on the ground” aspect didn’t help things out with the back, and the fact that I accidentally left my pillow at home just made things worse.

But it was worth it, since we were making another camping trip up to the Buffalo National River. It would be like the camping trip we took in June, except this time we would camp at Tyler Bend on Friday night, and then float the river on Saturday. I was camping again with Zack Andrews and two other friends, both of whom are in college at UCA. College students? I already felt old, and my hurt back didn’t help matters. I figured I’d spend most of the weekend sitting in front of the tent yelling at those kids to keep off my lawn.

When we went camping in June, we reached Steele Creek to find the campground full. On Friday we wanted to quickly make our way up to the Buffalo River in order to secure a camping spot. There was no need to rush, the campground was nearly deserted. We would be the only people camping in the walk-in campsites, and we would have the whole area to ourselves (except at night, more about that later).

After dinner, it started to get dark and a neat sunset began to develop across the sky. I ran out to a nearby field that had a nice collection of hay bales, sitting below the low hills that were beginning to be put in shadow from the setting sun.
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From there we drove down to the river, as the clouds above us lit up.

And that cloud reflected in the waters of the Buffalo River.

It was a perfect night, it felt like autumn. A cold front had just passed through, clearing out the haze and opening up the sky to millions of stars. I have lived in the city for so long that I am still amazed to see a lot of stars in the sky, especially without having to compete with any light pollution. The skies over Tyler Bend were clear, and filled with stars.

So we decided to head back out to the same field as before, and attempted some light painting with those hay bales. This was a 60 second exposure, and I walked around the hay bales with a flashlight casting some light on them. The moon must have been lurking behind the hill because of the light hitting the clouds.
A fair warning, there are about to be a ton of hay pictures. I guess I had hay-fever out there.

I moved the camera around towards a part of the sky with no clouds and therefore many more stars. This was another 60 second exposure, with a flashlight pointed at the hay bales and then randomly shining along the ground. I’m sure it would have looked pretty bizarre to anyone driving past.
If you look closely, there is faint trail from a shooting star (on the lower left of the sky).

After that it was time to try to get some sleep, which I didn’t get much of. I could never get comfortable, and my make-shift pillow (two t-shirts) wasn’t helping much. And then our little campground was besieged by raccoons. For most of the night, you could hear them trotting by the tents, fighting and trying their hardest to steal every scrap of our food. Even after being scared off a few times, they would relentlessly return. The eventually made off with about half of our food, even though we followed all the directions of proper food storage. We hung the food on a pole, a good seven feet off the ground. But somehow the raccoons managed to tear into the bag and make off with what should have been Saturday’s lunch. I have no clue how they managed to get into something that far off the ground. My theory is that they know acrobatics.

The damage could have been much worse; they actually tried to get into the cooler. There were muddy raccoon paw prints along the top, as if they were trying to open it up to steal the beer inside. Makes sense though, after you steal the food, you need to wash it down with something.

At dawn, our campsite was covered in a thick layer of fog. I got out of the tent and inspected some of the raccoon damage, and then drove back to the same field we were at the night before. It was a cold morning, especially considering that it’s August in Arkansas. The thermometer in the car said it was a chilly 59 degrees outside.

Fog had engulfed most of the field, and the hay bales stood out like lonely sentries.


We got into the car and drove to the river, which wasn’t as foggy as I had hoped. I wasn’t too impressed with this picture, but I’m going to post it because it almost looks like the Loch Ness Monster was spotted in the waters of the Buffalo. Or maybe the Buffalo River has its own sort of fabled water creature lurking in the deep fathoms below the surface….

And it was also a good spot to get some shots of the new Vibe out in the elements. I need to get more pictures of it before it's all dinted and dinged up.

While it wasn’t as foggy as I hoped, there was still some fog rising off the still waters of the river…

We got back in the car and drove down a dirt road that went through a field surrounded by hay bales (of course). The road cut through the field before finally ending back at the river. By now the sun had risen high enough that it was beginning to shine through the fog, casting the area in a nice soft glow.

Tall flowers grew alongside the road, and I stopped to get a few shots. I was a bit surprised to see this grasshopper just hanging out on one of the flowers.

Turning around, this was the view looking back down the road. The sun was brilliantly lighting up the fog.

And one more shot of flower and grasshopper, with some foggy hay bales in the background.
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About this time I realized that I was standing near one of the most scenic rivers in the country, and here I was taking a ton of pictures of hay bales. So we hurried down to the river, which already had some canoes out and waiting to be used that day. Actually when we started our canoe trip later that day, we’d put-in at this very same spot.

The sun was nearly up, and it was quickly burning off the fog.

Walking back towards the car, I stopped and got this shot looking down at the ground. These rocks line the river banks, placed here by the river and eroded over time. It’s crazy how they are perfectly placed, like the pieces of a puzzle.

And one last shot, looking back down the dirt road heading down to the river.

Just a few hours later we’d be floating the river, while the raccoons were no doubt plotting their revenge for not getting to drink our beer.


WindyBug said...

LOL. Store is good even the second time. I love the close-up of the yellow flowers best. Great one! You seriously have the worst luck (that leads to the best stories) sometimes.

I'm not laugh at you. I'm laughing with you. Promise.

Zack Andrews said...

Wow Brian,

You make yourself seem so old, when in fact you're not much older than any of us!

Just for the record, my ankle was killing me after the canoe trip, I'm not sure the cause, but I get pain as well; it's not just you!

I hope you had a good time regardless of the back pain and stuff. More exercise should help relieve the tension of a long week of work.

Hopefully, you'll be interested in more camping trips in the future =)

By the way, the photos turned out great, as usual! I especially like the grasshopper shot.

I was wondering if you captured that shooting star in your photo or not. I saw it coming down as you were taking the picture. It turned out nice as well.

Great series Brian, even if you're back hurt, you still took some awesome photos!

Matthew Kennedy said...

love the shot looking up the road back at the sun. Thanks for the invite you jerk, just kidding I couldn't have made it anyway.