Monday, January 14, 2013

Hiking In The Rain

So the weather forecasters were predicting that some heavy rain was to pass through the area last weekend, which would even result in some flash flooding.  Since we've been suffering under a drought for months, it was glorious news.  Finally enough rain to get waterfalls flowing again!  So I made plans to head out to the Ozarks on Saturday morning to see if the rain would indeed get waterfalls going again.

My usual hiking buddies weren't able to go, so I decided to play it a bit safe (and they'll probably laugh at my choice of waterfall destinations when, or if, they ever read this).  Since I don't have a GPS (I really need to get one of those), I wanted to go to a place where I probably wouldn't get lost out in the woods.  So I looked at a spot that I knew would be flowing even if we didn't get as much rain as predicted.  And one with established trails where I didn't have to wander off alone into the woods.

I ended up heading to Falling Water Creek.  I have been there numerous times, but hadn't been to all of the waterfalls out there.  So I decided to drive up there and hit some of the un-explored falls, and if they weren't running there would be the larger falls on the main creek (Falling Water Falls and Six Finger Falls), that would probably be running well.  I needn't to have worried, since it poured down rain that day.

The trip didn't start out as I originally planned.  When I went to sleep on Friday night, I meant to set the alarm clock to go off at 8:30 in the morning.  Which I thought would let me sleep in some, and still give me enough time to visit some waterfalls.  But in a wacky twist, I ended up setting the alarm to go off at 6:30.  Which isn't that surprising, it was out of habit since that is when I have to wake up on weekdays for work.

So 6:30 rolled around and the alarm went off, and I grumpily got out of bed and started to get ready for work.  I took me a few confused moments to realize that it was indeed Saturday, and that I wasn't expected at the office that morning.  So I gleefully went back to bed.  Unfortunately, I never did set the alarm clock back to 8:30 and I slept through my expected departure time.  I woke up at 10:30, confused again, and then rushed out the door.

I headed north, and soon began driving up Hwy. 7 into the Ozark Mountains.  The drive took longer than normal, since it was pouring down rain and the most of the drive was cloaked in a thick fog.  Luckily there wasn't much traffic out, since most sane people had decided to stay indoors that day.  I stopped at the Rotary Ann overlook, which was completely covered with fog.  This is the view from the overlook parking lot:


After a bit more driving, I soon headed down the muddy dirt road towards Falling Water Creek. There wasn't any fog here, but Falling Water Falls was up and running again after all the rain. I stopped to get a few pictures, and watched a few kayakers go over the falls. I didn't stay there long, I've taken a ton of pictures here and wanted to visit some other waterfalls. And also, it started pouring down rain. Here is one shot from the brief visit:


So I headed down Falling Water Road, which was increasingly filling with deep mud puddles. I parked the car and headed out on a horse trail that would visit a few waterfalls that I had never been to before. The rain had momentarily slacked off, so I enjoyed the hike out into the woods. I had an umbrella with me, which I had hoped would help keep me dry.

The horse trail soon became just a muddy trench filled with water. I had hoped that squishy brown mess that I was stepping in was just mud, and not anything left behind by any horses. After about a half-mile of hiking, the trail went by a creek with a small waterfall on it. The creek led to the first waterfall I wanted to see - Horsetail Falls.

To reach the falls meant leaving the trail and heading up the creek to the falls (listed as a medium bushwhack in the waterfall guidebook). It was easy to get to the falls, in the sense that you just had to follow the creek. But the terrain was steep and rocky, and I spent a good amount of time scrambling around on mossy and wet rocks (A tip to anyone who wants to go here - don't bother following the creek, head up the hillside instead). Eventually I made it to the falls, which are 70 feet tall.


After catching my breath, I took a few pictures as it started to pour down rain again. It was here that I heard the first few claps of thunder overhead. As I slowly worked my way back to the trail, it started to rain harder.

The horse trail here is well maintained and very easy to follow. I wish I had known it existed earlier. I continued on, getting steadily more soaked. Even though I had an umbrella, I still managed to get drenched. I was thankful, yet again, that my camera bag is waterproof.

After about a mile of hiking, I eventually found the creek that is home to the next waterfall on the list - Fuzzybutt Falls. From the trail, the amusingly/disturbingly named Fuzzybutt Falls can be reached via a short hike through a very neat little canyon. It is a very short hike to the falls, which are 16 feet tall.


Fuzzybutt Falls gets its unique name thanks to Tim Ernst, the photographer and author of the Arkansas Waterfalls Guidebook. In nearly all of the photos in the guidebook, he provides a photo of himself next to the waterfall in order to provide a sense of scale. But for Fuzzybutt Falls, the photo shows the author in the nude, with certain parts blurred out. When I was at the falls, I considered recreating Mr. Ernst's photo. But considering it was quite cold out, and raining, I decided against it. And also, there isn't anyone out there who would want to see that picture.

But Fuzzybutt Falls would be an ideal spot for taking pictures that day. The steep walls of the canyon provided shelter, so it was actually the only place I went that day where I didn't need to shield the camera with an umbrella.


It is a neat little waterfall, and well worth the soaked hike to reach it. This is a view of the falls, and the roots of a tree that tried to grow above the canyon.


I noticed the exposure times on my pictures growing longer, which meant it was starting to get dark. That, and the fact that lightning and thunder were ominously growing closer, meant that I should head back to the trail. It was still pouring down rain, but I headed down the short side trail that leads to Six Finger Falls. Every other time I had been to this waterfall, it had been on the opposite side of Falling Water Creek. So it was interesting to see the falls from this angle. I tried to take a few pictures, but they didn't turn out (thanks to rain drops on the lens, mostly). The water was running high and muddy. It was the highest I think I've ever seen the creek at these falls.

I hurried back up the trail, as it continued to pour down rain and random flashes of lightning lit up the woods. I was happy to get back to the car, where I cranked up the heat and enjoyed being in a spot where I wasn't getting rained on. It was starting to get dark, so I clearly didn't have enough time to hit the other waterfall I wanted to visit out there (Keefe Falls). Oh well, next time!

I headed back down the muddy Falling Water Road, but made one more stop at Falling Water Falls. In the short time I had spent hiking on the horse trail, the rain had caused the creek to rise exponentially. A few hours earlier, I had gone down below the falls to take a few pictures. But the spot I stood was now under the waters of the flooded creek. I went out, and took a few pictures in the cold rain. It isn't the best of shots. There is water on the lens, and the light is off. But it's just amazing to see the falls running with this much water again.


To compare, here's a shot from the last time I took pictures here...

Falling Water

No comments: