Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ladderbucket Falls

There have been several nice rain storms have passed by the past few weeks, dumping enough rain for the waterfalls to be running again. Hooray! So early Sunday morning, I managed to be awake long enough to make the drive to Conway to meet up with Zack. We headed north to visit a few waterfalls...

We headed to the Ozark National Forest, north of Morrilton. There is a nice collection of waterfalls in this area, which is great since it's a relatively short drive away. From Conway, it only took an hour to reach the parking area for the waterfall. Which is a bit better than the usual three hours it takes to drive up to the Buffalo River.

The waterfall we were to visit that day was Ladderbucket Falls. It's a 36 foot-tall waterfall set back in a cool grotto. The hike is about 4 miles, and some of the hike was along either a 4-wheeler trail or a logging road. But the hike does turn into a very steep bushwhack when you have to descend from the top of the hill down to the creek. It wasn't easy, and I wasn't looking forward to having to climb back up that hill later on.

We eventually made it to Ladderbucket Falls, which unfortunately had neither a ladder nor a bucket there.


It is a really neat waterfall, and it's a place that very few people have visited or photographed...


Before climbing back up the big hill, we stopped and visited another waterfall along the way - the 84 foot-tall John Mountain Falls. But my pictures didn't turn out, so I won't bother posting them. We slowly made our way up the very steep hill, and eventually made it to the top (just as my legs were letting me know that they didn't appreciate this and would be sore for the next few days). On the way back to the car, we stopped at a smaller waterfall and went to explore it. While navigating down the muddy and leaf-covered hill, I slid and crashed down to the ground. I'm sure this amused Zack and any animals that may have been watching.

Back at the car it was time to head home, with two waterfalls visited and a few miles of hiking completed. Not too bad, even if it meant waking up at 7:00 am.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Old Mill

Well I hope all of the people who look at this site (all three of you!) had a good Thanksgiving! I had a good Turkey Day, even if most of it was spent driving back and forth across the state. But I guess it was good that I had to go into work on Friday, which probably saved me from getting stabbed and/or pepper sprayed during some unruly Black Friday sale/riot.

But I did manage to get out and take a few pictures over the weekend. On Saturday, I decided to head out into the rain to take a few pictures. I drove around some, and ended up at the Old Mill in North Little Rock. The Old Mill is probably one of the most photographed places in Arkansas. But it's easy to see why, because it is a neat spot.

The Old Mill is also one of my favorite places to visit. My grandparents used to live a few blocks away from the Old Mill, (and my Papaw got some good shots of it). But it was starting to get dark, so I took a few more pictures and decided to head home. This is one of the last ones:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Flatside Pinnacle

On Saturday afternoon I tried to get a few more pictures of the fall colors. This has really turned out to be a good year for fall foliage, and I was eager to make another trip before the leaves fall off the trees. I drove over to Flatside Pinnacle, which is one of the most scenic vistas in the state. And luckily for me, it's only about an hour away from Little Rock.

And it's a nice drive out west - once you get passed the suburbs of west Little Rock. The road runs by Lake Maumelle, and into the Ouachita National Forest. You turn onto the Winona Scenic Drive, a dirt road that passes by a some nice views. The fall colors were spectacular along the way:

Along the scenic drive, I passed by several trucks parked alongside the road. This is hunting season, and there were people out there trying to shoot things other than pictures. When I got to the parking area for the short trail that leads up to Flatside Pinnacle, I was greeted by a guy decked out in full camo who told me there were people hunting around there, and I better have on some orange unless I wanted to get shot. Well, now I didn't really want to be shot and have my head displayed on someone's wall next to a few deer. So it seemed like a good idea to follow his advice...

I don't have very many pieces of orange clothing, but I was a bit prepared. The rain jacket I have has orange lining. So I made my hike while stylishly wearing a jacket inside-out. I didn't hear any bullets whiz by while I made the short and steep hike up to the top of the mountain, so I guess I didn't look like a deer to anyone. But when I got to the top of Flatside, stray bullets weren't the most dangerous thing up there. It was the wind.

On the unprotected summit of Flatside, I was greeted by a huge gust of wind. It was strong enough that it seemed like it could easily tug you over the side of the overlook. I inched as close to the edge as I dared, and set up the camera and tripod. The fall colors were great, but the wind was making the trees move and shake like they were being tazed.


And the view looking towards the west, with Forked Mountain in the distance:

It is a great view from here. Flatside Pinnacle sits amidst the 11,299 acre Flatside Wilderness of the Ouachita National Forest. There is a nearly uninterrupted view of rolling mountains laid out below you.
Just wear orange in hunting season so you don't get shot...

I sat up there and enjoyed the view. It was cloudy, so I wasn't sure if there was going to be a good sunset or not. I deduced, in my expert opinion, that it was going to be too cloudy for sun to poke through. So I packed up everything and made the short hike back to the car. So of course, as I was driving home, I noticed a nice sunset developing in the rear view mirror. Of course!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Collins Creek

Last weekend I decided to make another trip up to the Ozarks for another look at the fall colors. This has really turned out to be a great year for fall foliage, and there were still a lot of colorful leaves hanging on to the trees.

I decided to pay another visit to Collins Creek. This is a popular place to visit, thanks to the steady stream of water that runs over a few small waterfalls. It was warm and sunny when I left home and drove north towards Heber Springs. The creek is located in the JFK Memorial Park, next to Greers Ferry Lake.

I got there in the late afternoon, and wasn't surprised to see the parking lot packed with cars. I walked the short trail to the creek, and then waited a bit for the sun to sink low enough to put the creek in the shadow.


I walked back up to the series of waterfalls on the creek, and was a little annoyed to see it was still a bit crowded. I sat back and waited for the crowds to clear out - there were a bunch of people posing on the rocks getting portraits taken right where I wanted to be taking pictures. It finally began to clear out just before it got dark. I hurried to get a few pictures while there was still some light...

These were taken while standing in the creek. The water is cold...

And a tree caught in a reflection, taken while standing in the creek just above the tallest waterfall...

It was nearly dark now, with just barely enough light to see out of the camera. But I tried to get in a few last shots before it was time to drive back home. This is the view looking down on the tallest waterfall on Collins Creek (which isn't saying much, it's maybe like 5 feet tall). Notice the swirl of autumn leaves caught in the current in the pool...

The fall colors are right at peak right now in central Arkansas. It makes me wish I could take more time off from work. I just might have to call in "sick" tomorrow....

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall at the Buffalo River - Part 2

When I woke up just before dawn on Friday morning at the Erbie campground, it was a cold 42 degrees outside. The rain that had fallen so consistently the day before had slacked off overnight, and the skies above were clear. I had hoped that the new day would be cloudy, with perhaps a bunch of fog (the better for photography). But alas, it looked like the sun would soon be up...

So after getting everything loaded up from the campsite, we made the short drive down to the Parker-Hickman Farmstead, which sits by the Buffalo River. This is a great place to explore. There are a collection of neat old buildings here, including the oldest standing log structure within the Buffalo National River. There was some fog lingering around the farmstead, but it was quickly being burned off as the sun rose higher. I tried to rush around and get pictures before the sun fully rose.

This is the view of the home at the Parker-Hickman Farmstead, which was built in the 1840s:

After taking quite a few pictures, we crossed over the Buffalo River via the low-water bridge at Erbie. We drove north, but quickly stopped at this field that was lined with fog-covered hills. The field had just recently been cleared for hay. Most of the work appeared to have been done with this old-timey looking tractor:

The field was dotted with numerous hay bales, and the distant mountains had just a bit of fog (or low clouds) drifting by:

The field was guarded by a rather large barn. This was the fence by the barn, which opened up onto the field...

And the barn:

Near the barn was this old house. Which I presume this is where whoever used to work this land back a hundred years ago used to live. The house is empty now. I walked onto the front porch and the only residents now appear to be wasps. There were numerous nests there, which were thankfully empty of stinging insects...

We got back into Zack's Jeep and followed the road past the Cecil Cove trailhead. We drove north, following a few different dirt roads. I was glad that Zack had a GPS, because I would have quickly gotten lost. We made a few turns, and passed this neat old church. I made Zack stop so that I could take a picture:

It was a nice drive, and we soon found ourselves meeting up with Hwy. 7 again. We turned south, heading back towards the Buffalo River. Highway 7 crosses the Buffalo River at Pruitt, and we stopped there a for a few pictures. The sun was out, so the light was a bit harsh. But this is the view of the bluffs along the Buffalo River, at Pruitt:

The Hwy. 7 bridge over the Buffalo is a neat old truss bridge, built way back in 1931. I've been wanting to get a good picture of it for a few years now, so when there was a brief lapse in traffic I stood in the middle of the road and tried to get a shot:

Zack found a small trail that went off into the woods, which ended up providing a nice overlook of the bridge. I took a few more pictures, but was annoyed with myself because I managed to leave my tripod back in the car. Luckily, the photos weren't blurry:

We drove back into Jasper, just around lunch time. It would have been a perfect time to pay another visit to the Ozark Cafe. But we weren't the only ones out there who had that idea. The road was packed with cars outside of the Ozark Cafe, and the place looked to be full of people. We reluctantly turned around, and decided to head on back home.

But we did take the scenic route back home, heading back towards Steele Creek and Boxley Valley. We again headed down the newly paved road towards Steele Creek, and drove down to the campground. I was surprised that there weren't more people there, but we enjoyed the solitude as we headed down to the river. This is the view of the fall colors along Roark Bluff:

We drove back through Boxley Valley and then headed south through the Ozarks. Since we missed getting lunch at the Ozark Cafe, we instead stopped at the Burger Barn in the small town of Ozone. I order the bacon-wrapped steak burger (which was as delicious as it was unhealthy). From there we made the long drive back home.

When I got back to my apartment, I gathered up the various memory cards from the trip and downloaded a total of 14 gigs worth of pictures. I hope that y'all enjoyed the pictures from the trip!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fall at the Buffalo River - Part 1

So it was pouring down rain by the time we reached Zack's Jeep. We decided to head out from Sam's Throne, and began driving down the very steep and curvy road heading north towards Jasper. We had all of the Ozarks spread out before us, with peak fall colors and cool light. The only thing was to decide where to go next.

So it shouldn't come as a complete shock that our next stop was, of course, the Ozark Cafe in Jasper. After a cheap and filling breakfast (I had pancakes, in case you were wondering), we headed back out onto the road towards the Buffalo National River. We soon turned off of the paved road and headed down the bumpy dirt road that heads down to Kyle's Landing and Camp Orr. And it was awesome. The fall colors were great, with their colors saturated by the steady rain. And occasionally, some fog would drift through the scene:

We made slow progress on the road, because there seemed to be something great around every turn...


We finally made it down to the parking area at Kyle's Landing, and got out for a few pictures. I took some but none turned out, thanks to there being countless drops of water on the lens. But here is another shot of the road, heading out of Kyle's Landing:

We reached paved road and then headed down to Steele Creek. We were both surprised to see that the road to Steele Creek has been paved recently. The last time I was here, in July, it was just a dusty dirt road. So of course, we stopped and got some more shots of a road heading off into the foggy fall colors...

The Steele Creek area along the Buffalo River is one of the prettiest places in the state. And the fall colors there looked awesome...

And here's the view from along the river. This was awkwardly taken while trying to shield the camera with an umbrella...

By now soaked through, we got back into the car and headed back onto Hwy. 74. We dropped down into Boxley Valley. Our first stop was the low-water bridge on the Buffalo. But as I went out to take pictures, I found the camera lens was completely fogged up. From there we got back into the car and drove to a nearby barn, and I impatiently waited for the lens to defog. I got tired of waiting and changed lenses and got this shot instead...

The next stop was the Beechwoods Church and Cemetery, which is near Lost Valley. By now, luckily, the lens had sufficiently defogged. This is a shot of the cemetery, which is the oldest in Boxley Valley.

And the dirt road that leads to the church:

And then it was back again to the Jeep. We drove across the valley, and then turned and drove up Cave Mountain Road. We eventually found the parking area that leads to Hedge's Pouroff, which provides a spectacular view of Boxley Valley and the rolling Ozark Mountains. I just couldn't believe how good the fall colors were:

It was still pouring down rain, and the camera would quickly fog up everytime we got in or out of the car. But the fall colors were so great that I wanted to stop at every barn that we passed...



From there we decided to head off somewhere a little bit different, a small dirt road that seemed to head straight up the side of the hill. It was Walker Mountain Road, which steeply went up and then ran along the top of the mountain. Occasionally, you could see bits of Boxley Valley below. The fall colors were just brilliant along the road, and we got out for a few more pictures:

We followed the dirt road as it snaked through the woods, and eventually hit paved road again at Low Gap. By then we had spent several hours standing in the rain, and were thoroughly soaked. As much fun as being out in the rain had been, it seemed like it might be a good time to find somewhere warm and dry. So where to go? Back to the Ozark Cafe for a late lunch! They didn't seem to mind serving people covered in mud with dripping wet clothes, luckily.

After a good burger, we had seemed to dry out some. While eating, we overheard some of the old locals there saying that the fall color this year was the best they had seen in years. We couldn't help but agree.

So it was back to the car and the rain. We weren't really sure where to go next, but eventually drove to a few other places along the Buffalo River. This was at the put-in at Hasty:
And yes, we made many "don't be hasty" comments here.

It was starting to get late in the day, so we decided to drive over to the Erbie campground along the Buffalo. This is the barn located along the long dirt road heading to the campground:

We were planning on camping at Erbie that night, and when we headed down to the campground, there wasn't a single other person there. Erbie has a very large campground, and it was a bit odd to not see anyone else there. Which I guess shouldn't be too surprising, since it was a rainy Thursday night. But at Steel Creek the night before, there were two other people in the camping area, a couple from Texas. We managed to bump into them a few times during the course of the day. It was so often that we assumed they thought we were stalking them.

But since we had a plethora of options at Erbie, we settled on this campsite. I think it might be one of the better campsites I've stayed at, with this great tree growing in the center of it. The tree would come in handy, since it provided a bit of shelter while we tried to get a stubborn fire going in the rain...

Before it got dark, I walked along a trail that led from the campground to the Buffalo River. In the dying twilight, I got this shot of an old tree growing on the river bank: