From Hwy. 123 Falls, I got back in the car and drove further up Highway 123. I think this might be one of the prettier drives in the state, especially when you can catch it after a rain. The creeks along the road were overflowing after the recent rains, and water tumbled down the hillsides. I stopped the car and followed a bumpy and rocky dirt road that ran parallel to a small creek. It was a typical Ozark stream, with cascades full of rain water. I stopped to get a few pictures of the roots of this tree, clinging on for dear life.
I got back on the highway and drove past the Haw Creek Falls campground, which was closed (for the season?). But I went just down the road and parked, and went out to see Haw Creek. The water was up, I don't think I've ever seen the creek with this much water.
For a comparison, here is this same spot taken during the Spring:
There is an old tree growing along the creek, with some weathered old roots that stretch out over the water.
The rock in the creek, which is just barely peeking up from the water, is usually a bit more prominent. Here's another shot taken in the spring when you can see it a bit better...
Conveniently, I was right next to the trail to one of the neater waterfalls in the state. Pam's Grotto Falls can be reached by a short (but steep) trail that starts across the road from the creek. This is the view of the creek that the waterfall is on, taken at the beginning of the hike. This area has a lot of beech trees, which add a bit of color to the drab winter landscape.
The trail to Pam's Grotto starts off with a steep climb up a hillside. I slowly made it to the top and then had a bizarre encounter along the trail. I hesitated telling this story, since the other person involved is a photographer. But I won't use any names, just in case the person involved reads this (and if you are, hi!). I won't get into the full details of the story, but I'll just say that if you need to go to the bathroom when out hiking you should probably be sure and go away from the trail where people are hiking. Especially if you're going a #2. It's incredibly awkward for the person who is walking along the trail while you are trying to finish your business.....
So anyways, the trail to the waterfall is short. After the steep climb up the hill, the trail runs along a bluff line. After a steep scramble down the hillside, you then make it to the falls.
The falls are only 37 feet tall, but they drop into a spectacular grotto. Huge boulders have fallen from the roof of the grotto and now guard the falls like sentinels.
This was taken along the creek, downstream from the waterfall. The rocks and boulders along the creek were covered with moss.
I made sure to watch my step as I headed back down the trail towards my car. I drove just a bit further down Hwy. 123 and passed by the very small town of Fort Douglas. It probably doesn't even qualify as a town anymore, since it's really just a cemetery and an old abandoned school.
I tried to look online to see some more info about this building, but didn't have much luck. And although it's empty, the building is still in pretty good shape considering it's exposed to the elements.
I headed further east and crossed over the old bridge over Big Piney Creek. The bridge was built in 1931, and is still in use despite the fact that it's only one lane.
I made one last stop before heading home - this is the road that follows along Big Piney Creek and also into the Hurricane Wilderness.