I had been wanting to go out on another camping trip. But we are in the middle of the summer doldrums, where it's too hot to do anything outside (temperatures in the 100s will do that to you). On top of that, we are in the middle of a horrible drought. Sadly, all of the rivers and streams have just about all dried up.
But a big storm passed through the state, dumping a lot of much needed rain (up to 10 inches in places!). Would it be worth going out camping somewhere, even in the heat? Well Zack had an idea of going camping on Friday night, and I immediately took him up on the offer. I wanted to get out of the city for a bit, and the rain did bring some rivers in the state back up to a more normal level. We decided to visit the Cossatot River, which rose nearly two feet after the rain:
So after work on Friday, we met up in Little Rock and headed out west towards the Ouachita Mountains. After a quick stop for dinner in Hot Springs, we headed towards the mighty Cossatot. Along the way, we tried to find some sort of neat old barn to get a picture of before it got dark. But unfortunately, we saw more smelly chicken houses than barns. We did manage to find one along the way:
It was getting dark, so our focus turned to finding a place to get a good view of the sunset. But by the time we found a spot it was too late, the light was quickly fading away. So we headed on to Cossatot River State Park, and set up camp near Cossatot Falls. For being so hot during the day, it actually cooled off nicely at night (although still very humid). The only bad thing was that due to the burn ban, we couldn't have a campfire.
The alarm clock went off at the painfully early time of 5:45 am (on a Saturday, ugh I don't even get up that early to go to work). But we wanted as much time as possible at the falls before the sun came up and ruined the light. So I sleepily took down my tent, and made my way to the river.
The Cossatot River flows for about 26 miles through the Ouachita Mountains in the western part of the state. It is a popular spot for kayakers, and has been called the "most difficult whitewater stream in the state of Arkansas." The difficulty comes from the huge boulders in the river, which helped give the river it's name. The Cossatot was named by early Native Americans, and it means "skull crusher."
We headed out to Cossatot Falls, which isn't really a waterfall in the traditional sense. It's more of a series of cascades, where the river descends 33 feet in about a 1/3 mile. The river cuts through rock outcrops, creating Class IV and V rapids. Luckily we were taking pictures from the shore, so it wasn't all that dangerous...
Or was it? I didn't notice this when I was out there taking pictures, but while editing these shots I found a copperhead snake sleeping on a rock just a few feet from where I had been standing. It's here in this shot, on a rock in the lower part of the picture. Here is a zoomed in view of the snake:
The spooky thing is - I went down to that same spot a few minutes later. Luckily the snake had moved on, since I set up my tripod just a foot away from where the cottonmouth had been snoozing. There were no snakes bites, but nature did get it's vengeance later on that day...
I moved on further down the river, and set up the camera in a neat spot (no snakes, as far as I know).
This is the view looking downstream, at a rapid that is known as the "washing machine." Amazingly, people take their kayaks down this:
Here is a wider view of the Cossatot. It's amazing that people can take kayaks down this, since it's more rock than river. They are much braver than I am.
Another neat aspect of the Cossatot are the rocks that have been sculpted by the rushing waters of the river.
The sun was beginning to rise, slowly lighting up the hillsides above the river:
And then the sun was nearly up, and it was the end of taking pictures on the river. So we got into the Jeep and explored a bit more of the state park. We followed this road north, while the sun cut through the trees and summer haze.
Driving further down the road, we spotted the sun breaking through the pine trees in the forest that lined the road.
It was here that nature took it's revenge. As I strolled through the woods in search of pictures, I stumbled upon a nest of chiggers. So now I'm covered with a large amount of chigger bites, which are very itchy and annoying.
We explored the area a bit more, but the light wasn't favorable to pictures. So we headed home, stopping for some BBQ in Hot Springs for lunch. I enjoyed the time away in the woods, and would like to go back out again. But the forecast for the rest of the week: temperatures above 100. So we'll see if I just lurk in air conditioning instead...