Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Exploring the Ouachitas

The Ouachita Mountains stretch from just outside of Little Rock all the way into Oklahoma. But for some reason, it doesn't seem like the Ouachitas see as many visitors as the Ozarks do. I guess because there aren't as many waterfalls there. Or perhaps because the Ouachitas lack a landmark restaurant like the Ozark Cafe...

But last weekend we headed out to explore the Ouachitas, and even saw a few waterfalls. The trip started out with meeting Zack in Conway, where we stopped along Donnell Ridge for a few shots of what turned out to be a pretty cool sunset:

From there we drove down into some low-lands called Lollie Bottoms. My shots from here didn't turn out at all, but I'm mentioning it because saying "Bottoms" makes me giggle.

From there we drove south and into the Ouachita National Forest. We drove into the Flatside Wilderness and found a spot to camp along the Winona Scenic Drive. It was a perfect night for camping, and also for sitting by a campfire drinking a few beers.

Early the next morning, we broke camp and headed out to find a good spot to take pictures of the sunrise. I usually despise being awake before Noon on Saturdays, but it worked out this time because the sunrise was quite nice. But alas, none of my pictures really turned out.

We met Matt in Perryville and then drove further west on Hwy. 10. This is a great drive to take - it passes by tons of old barns and runs in the shadow of Mount Magazine. We stopped at this old house, which was surrounded by a phalanx of yellow flowers, for a few shots. It had since clouded up, and was starting to rain...

After driving for a bit, we finally made it to our first waterfall of the day - Mitchell Branch Falls. This 39 foot tall waterfall is reached by a short hike (rated as a moderate bushwhack) along a creek. The waterfall itself was pretty, although it could have used a bit more water in it. But the clouds were breaking up, so we had to rush to get a few shots before the sun came out.

This is small cascade below Mitchell Branch Falls. I liked how the rocks above the creek were covered with moss:

And another waterfall along Mitchell Branch:

There were a ton of butterflies fluttering around, so we all pointed the cameras at them for a few minutes. These guys aren't easy to take pictures of since they never stand still...

We got back in the car and continued our drive through the woods. And soon enough, we found another waterfall. This one was easy to get to, since you could actually see it from the road. It wasn't very tall, but a nice little place to spend some time.


But the few clouds in the sky were drifting away now, and the woods were bathed in sunlight. Which is nice, except if you're trying to take pictures of waterfalls. But we continued on, and went to visit a few other waterfalls. These falls were also very easy to reach, only requiring a short hike along an old road. Since the sun was out, we sat by the falls and waited for any clouds to show up.

After waiting for a bit, a few small clouds started to drift above us. Finally! And eventually, the clouds drifted in front of the sun, creating some nice even light for pictures. The nice light lasted for maybe 10 seconds, before the clouds drifted past and the full sun was bearing down on the falls. But I got at least one decent shot of this waterfall (Middle Kirkwood Falls):

We went to another waterfall along the creek, which you can actually drive right up to. But no one bothered taking pictures in the bright sunlight. So we headed back to the car and drove up to the top of a nearby mountain. The view from here overlooked a lake and Mount Magazine.

And then we headed back home. Which worked out, since I was back in Little Rock with just enough time to watch the FC Dallas game that night...

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