Monday, April 30, 2012

The Blue Hole

After visiting Petit Jean on Friday, I headed north into the Ozark National Forest to meet up with a bunch of other photographers during the Arkansas Nature Photographer's Spring Gathering.  The past two years, we camped at the Fairview campground along Hwy. 7 for the gathering.  Which is a nice enough place to camp, when it's not pouring down rain and about 40 degrees outside (like the previous two years).  But this year, we upgraded and stayed in a spot that was luxurious by comparison.  One of the members of the group has a cabin, and she kindly agreed to let us stay there for the weekend.

The cabin is conveniently located in an area surrounded by waterfalls.  Unfortunately, it's been a bit dry this spring.  So most of the waterfalls were just barely running.  But not to be daunted, we decided to hit a nearby creek that is low enough in a valley that it should have at least a decent amount of water in it.  That spot was the Blue Hole...

So before dawn on Saturday, we loaded up and headed to the trail that leads down to the Blue Hole.  The hike is rated as a 4-mile difficult bushwhack.  Is it all that bad?  Well the first part is actually pretty easy.  You just have to walk along an old road, and then bushwhack into the woods.  But the road is on the top of a steep hill, and the Blue Hole is far below at the bottom.  Most of the hike is spent either sliding down the hill, or slowly slogging back up to the top.  It's not fun.

But the creek is scenic, so it makes up for the exercise.  This is the first waterfall that we hiked by that morning on Hurricane Creek:

There are a few nice waterfalls and cascades that are located all fairly close to each other.  A larger waterfall was just around the bend, along another stream that flows into Hurricane Creek. P4219970

It's a really neat waterfall - when there is more water the falls stretch across the entire width of the creek. P4210008x

The sun was about to rise, beginning to cast the forest with a yellowish tint. P4210015

And a close-up view of the falls:

There is another waterfall located further downstream on Hurricane Creek, so I hurried to get there before the sun came out. It was another nice waterfall that had a lot of personality. P4210041x

I got really interested in the way the rocks at the base of the falls had been sculpted by the water. P4210083x

But we were running out of time. The sun was just about to rise above the trees, and sunlight is not your friend when you're trying to do long exposures of waterfalls. But the light flooding through the trees in the background did look neat: P4210100x

And eventually, the sun did come up. So it was about time to head back to the car. Since that meant having to head up the side of Mt. Everest, I was eager to take my time heading out. So we went back by one of the other cascades, which just happened to be reflecting some awesome golden light from the sun.

But then it was time to head on up the hill, and slowly but surely we all made it to the top. With the sun out, any chances of getting waterfall pictures were dashed. But it did mean that I could go back to the cabin and take a nap.

The past two APN gatherings, I had managed to somehow catch a shoe on fire.  In 2010, it was from leaving my hiking shoes to dry by the campfire, where a log rolled over and attacked them.  The tops were melted and burned.  And last year, an ember from the fire drifted out and landed, kamikaze-like, on one of the shoes.  So there was a nice little hole caused by the burn.   But on Sunday, when I left the cabin, I was happy that I somehow managed to survive the weekend with all of my shoes intact.  It wasn't until I got on the freeway, about an hour later, when I had a sudden realization.  In a genius move on my part, I managed to drive off and leave the shoes behind.  Whoops.

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