Friday, November 5, 2010

An Autumn weekend in the Ozarks

I had plenty of vacation time saved up at work, so I decided to take a few days off in order to make an attempt at getting some decent pictures of the fall colors this year. I had to put in my vacation request about a month in advance, which meant having to make a guess at when the colors might be at their peak. I ended up taking off during the last week of October, and hoped the trees would cooperate with me. This had me taking off right before Halloween, which would mean that I would miss out on my office's "Dress Like A Witch" contest, but one must make certain sacrifices for pictures...

There was decent color up in the Ozarks when I headed back up there, but it wasn't quite at peak (or in some places, it was past the peak). The weather didn't quite help things - it was bright and sunny every day that I took off - which isn't the best condition for photography. Oh well, any trip to the Buffalo River beats sitting at a cubicle, so I tried to make the best of it.

I got up to the Buffalo River and made a quick visit to Erbie. I wanted to see what the fall colors were like at the old homestead there. But my timing was wrong, and I got there right around Noon. The light was crummy, and I didn't take many pictures of the old barns or home there. But I did take a bunch of pictures of two random chickens that just happened to be wandering around the parking area at Erbie. They didn't seem to mind a person being around, and in fact came up to me like I was going to feed them. They scratched at the dirt and did what chickens must do. I wondered where they came from and why they were there...
I didn't tell them that I ate at Chick-Fil-A a few days before...

I drove over towards Boxley Valley, which is one of the neater spots along the Buffalo River. But the sunny day was causing problems for any pictures, and I struggled to get anything good out of it. This is a view of one of the barns, near the Boxley Church.

There were a lot of other photographers out, all set up along the side of the road trying to get pictures of the elk that were grazing in a nearby field. Dozens of cars were parked alongside the road, and the elkarazzi were out in force. The elk were just too far back for me to get a decent shot of with my zoom lens (and the light still wasn't great). I stopped a bit further down the road to get a shot of this old building. There are a few elk in the distance, and some swans were frolicking in a pond not too far away.

I made another circuit of the valley, and made a stop to get a picture of this old barn reflected in the waters of the Mill Pond. I was there for just a few minutes taking pictures, and about three other cars pulled up behind me to see what I was taking pictures of. The inhabitants of the cars must have seen that there were no elk nearby, and quickly drove off.

I got back in the car and headed back over to Steele Creek. I wanted to get some shots of it at dusk, and it was starting to get late in the day. I walked along the river, amazed at how low it had gotten. I got a few pictures of the famous bluffs there, even if the light wasn't the greatest.

I went over to a another stretch of the river, and waited for the evening light to hit the bluffs. This shot was taken just before the sun set behind the hills...

And this is the same view at dusk. It was getting to be dark by the time I got back to my dust-covered car.

The next day I tried to get a few more pictures, but was still fighting against the harsh sunny light. I ended up spending most of the day just relaxing along the river, driving to a few different spots just to see what the view was. This was taken in the late afternoon, and is where Hwy. 7 crosses the river.

From there I drove up to visit my Aunt that lives in Berryville. The next day, we drove over to Fayetteville and met my favorite brother for lunch, and then made a trip down to Devil's Den State Park. Along the way, we stopped at this old barn that sits alongside the road. It was really sunny (typical), but here is a shot of it:

And for a comparison, this is a view of the same barn taken back in May:
The Ozarks

We drove down into the park and met up with my Aunt's friend Sheila. First we made a visit to the park visitor center, which had an interesting exhibit about the CCC. The CCC built the dam in the park, most of the trails, and many of the overlooks and structures. The funniest thing I saw was that the Devil's Den CCC camp newsletter back in the 1930s was actually called "The Voice of Satan." Being back at Devil's Den also let me recycle my joke that perhaps the Devil would also be out on the trail, perhaps offering to partake in a fiddle contest.

We wanted to hike one of the trails there, and decided to hit the Devil's Den trail. This trail takes you past the caves and crevices that gave the park its name. All the caves are still closed, in order to protect the bats from white-nose syndrome. But the light was still crappy anyways. Towards the end of the hike, the trail drops down and follows along Lee Creek. It had gotten late enough in the day that the creek was (finally!) reflecting some nice light hitting the trees.

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