Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Subiaco

Subiaco, which is near the town of Paris in western Arkansas, looks a little out of place when you first drive by it. The old buildings look like they were scooped up from Europe and then plopped down in the middle of a field in Logan County. The Abbey was founded in 1878 by Benedictine monks, and today it also houses a boarding school (which I know nothing about but I'm still just going to assume its like Hogwarts). The abbey is surrounded by pasture, which was covered with both cows and a blanket of wildflowers.

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Just a bit down the road is an old barn that I've taken a few pictures of over they last few years. It's slowly falling apart, and I was curious to see what kind of shape it was in now. This is my first shot of it, taken way back in 2011:

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And the barn now in 2017. Not sure how much longer it will be standing...

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bingham Hollow

I had to make a drive to western Arkansas the other weekend to help out with some family stuff, but I made sure to leave early enough to be able to visit at least one waterfall along the way. This was just after the massive storms that moved through the state, dumping record amounts of rain and causing some flooding. Creeks, streams and waterfalls were definitely up and running, and I needed to get some waterfall pictures in before the water all drained away.

I decided to visit Bingham Hollow Falls. The falls are just a fairly short drive up from the freeway, and the hike is short and easy. And also the waterfall is incredibly scenic. So after driving down some dirt roads, I eventually reached the parking area for the falls. There is a trail that heads off into the woods, following the creek that feeds into the waterfall. After all the rain, the creek was full of water.

The only problem is that after days and days of rain, the sun came out just as soon as I got there. Dang. I followed the trail as it ran to the edge of the bluff, and then around to a spot where you can safely scramble down the hill to the waterfall. A few passing clouds provided some good cover for a few pictures, but it would only last for a few seconds. I tried to get shots, but wasn’t really pleased with anything and was about to leave. Until finally, some thick clouds moved in and the light was perfect. I ended up spending a few hours here, luckily the family didn't mind me being a little late. This is a shot of the creek, just below the falls.

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And Bingham Hollow Falls, which is about fifty feet tall. The falls tumble over a large overhanging bluff into a pool surrounded by trees and moss-covered rocks.

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And the view from behind the falls…

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After the waterfall, the creek passes by this small waterfall and then rushes deep into the woods. It’s tempting to follow the creek to see where it goes, but I was already late in meeting the family so I had to head on out.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Clinton Library

It's not even summer yet, and the bugs outside have already gotten huge!

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The bugs are actually animatronic sculptures that are part of the Xtreme Bugs display that is currently at the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. Here is another shot taken just a few feet away, with the library building reflected in the waters of the fountain. Just off frame of this shot is the edge of one of the animatronic bugs, which would move and shake anytime someone walked by.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Haw Creek

From Pack Rat Falls, I made the short walk over and made a visit to Haw Creek Falls. Haw Creek Falls is only six feet tall, but it is an impressive waterfall. The falls stretch across the entire creek, tumbling off a rock shelf that sticks out above the creek.

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Just down the road is a small camping spot right along the creek, which provides a great spot to access a different spot along Haw Creek. The creek was definitely running high after all the recent rains.

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It was getting dark, and there wasn't much light left out there to take pictures. I got one last shot of this small creek that poured into Haw Creek with a small waterfall.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pack Rat Falls

We got a ton of rain a few days ago, enough to really get all the waterfalls up and running. I was able to get away for a few hours on Sunday afternoon, and decided to drive up to the Ozarks and do the hike to Pack Rat Falls. The waterfall is a scenic spot, but one that I haven't been to in eight years. I've been wanting to make a return visit, and the conditions were perfect over the weekend.

The trail to Pack Rat Falls starts out at the back of the Haw Creek Falls campground. From there, you just follow a small creek for about a half mile. The creek itself is very scenic, with lots of moss-covered rocks and several small waterfalls.

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After crossing the creek a few times, and scrambling around on wet rocks, you finally reach the falls. Pack Rat Falls rushes over the bluff and falls 24 feet into a pool that is surrounded by moss and ferns.

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The large tree that sits in the water below the falls looks about the same as it did when I last visited these falls in 2009. In fact, being mostly submerged in water has apparently helped preserve the log. It's actually been sitting there for a long time, there are pictures of it sitting in the same spot that were taken thirty years ago.

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After that I hiked back to the campground and made a quick visit to Haw Creek Falls - those pictures coming soon!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Downtown

While I was in downtown Little Rock last weekend, I had time to try to take a few pictures. It was right around sunset, and I stopped by a few spots along Markham Street. The first was the Old State House, which was built between 1833 and 1842 and is the oldest surviving state capitol building west of the Mississippi. It was replaced by the current state capitol building in 1912, and in the years since served as a medical school and as a museum. The building has seen its fair share of excitement over the years. In 1837, when the state of Arkansas was just one year old, the Speaker of the House of Representatives killed a state representative in a knife fight on the house floor. In less extreme news, the Old State House served as the backdrop when Bill Clinton announced he was running for President, and then was the site of his election night victory parties in 1992 and 1996.

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Just down Markham Street is the Pulaski County Courthouse. Unfortunately, I’ve had to make too many visits here in the past year or so while waiting for a case to make its way through the system. But it is an impressive building. It was built in 1914 by the same architect that designed the current state capitol building. The four story limestone building was designed in the Beaux Arts-style, and has Classical features like tall Ionic columns and Roman arches. The interior features a large stained glass dome, and below a rotunda with twelve statues that represent art, agriculture, machinery and justice.

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Across the street is the Robinson Center Music Hall, the municipal auditorium that was built in 1939 by the Public Works Administration. The building is named after Joe T. Robinson, who served as a U.S. Senator and who also ran for Vice President in 1928 (he ran with Al Smith, the governor of New York. They lost to Herbert Hoover). Since it opened, Robinson Center has hosted all sorts of concerts and plays, including performances from Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald (I think my first concert there was Third Eye Blind in 1997). The building just recently reopened after a massive $70.5 million renovation.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Burgess Falls (Tennessee)

Caroline needed to travel to Nashville earlier this month, so I took a few days off so that Jonah and I could tag along. So while she was busy with work, I had the day free to see some sights in Tennessee with the baby. I decided to make another attempt at taking pictures at Burgess Falls, the impressive 136-foot waterfall that is an hour or so away from Nashville. I've made a few trips here in the past, but haven't ever been able to get a good picture. The first few times the sun was out and the light was too harsh for pictures. I tried again last year, but the trail was closed due to flood damage.

But this time, things were looking promising. It was predicted to be cloudy and rainy all day, and most of the trail had reopened. So we got back in the car and made the drive east, eventually arriving at the park. I loaded up Jonah in the stroller and started walking towards the overlook to the waterfall.

In hindsight, it probably wasn't my brightest moment in parenting. It was a chilly and rainy, and holding an umbrella while pushing the stroller uphill in the mud wasn't all that easy. And while I went on a fairly easy trail, it clearly wasn't designed with strollers in mind. By the time we arrived at the overlook, I hurried to get a few pictures while an unhappy baby let me know that he wasn't too pleased with the trip and with our being out in the rain. But I did at least get the picture, and Jonah fell asleep in the car on the way back to Nashville.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Union School

After leaving Sally Ann Hollow, we decided to try to hit one more spot before heading home. The old Union School sits in the Ozark National Forest, but not many people visit it. It's actually pretty difficult to find the school, since you have to ford the Little Piney Creek to get there. The creek was actually pretty high when we crossed it, and I was glad we were in Matt's Xterra. My poor car would have probably been washed downstream if we tried to cross in it.

The Union School was built in 1929. It replaced the first Union School, which was built in 1886 but burned down in 1928. The current Union School is a "1-1/2 story wood frame structure, with a gabled roof, weatherboard siding, and a stone foundation." It's in amazing shape considering its age.

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And one last shot of the interior of the school. The school was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and was also used as a church, Masonic lodge and a community center.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sally Ann Hollow

The other weekend, I met up with Matt Kennedy and checked out a promising looking area in the Ozarks, with the hopes that we would find some neat waterfalls. So we met in Conway on Sunday morning and drove up to the hills, heading towards Sally Ann Hollow. This hollow is a scenic but rarely visited area that is just filled with waterfalls.

The hollow is in the Ozark National Forest (in Johnson County), and we arrived to see some bright clear skies and the sun shining down. Which makes for pleasant hiking but not the best conditions for waterfall photography. Clouds and storms were predicted to move in later on that afternoon, so we started the hike into the hollow. I was happy to see there was plenty of water in the creek, and we passed by several small waterfalls. Since the sun was out, we didn't stop to get any pictures yet.

After some walking we eventually reached a waterfall that is about ten feet tall. When we went to get a closer look, some clouds moved through and I hurried to get a quick picture. After just a few minutes the clouds moved on and the sun came back out.

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I don't think very many people have been back in this hollow, but unfortunately we still saw some faded beer cans sitting on the ground. Probably the main reason why this area isn't visited more often is that there are tons of downed trees in the hollow. It actually looks like a tornado may have passed through here. At one point the entire hollow was covered with fallen trees, which blocked our way like a barricade. After scrambling up the steep hillside we finally made it through, and were treated to some more waterfalls. Luckily the sky had finally clouded up and we started taking a bunch of pictures.

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This waterfall dropped down through three different levels, and this is the top and middle tier of the falls. All together the falls were probably about 20-30 feet tall.

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Along the creek there were numerous wildflowers and ferns growing. This patch of fiddlehead ferns were growing right by the creek, just below the top level of the waterfall.

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There were some really neat waterfalls in the hollow, including this waterfall where the creek drops about 15 feet and then cascades down the steep hill for maybe 70 feet or more. It was hard to find a good angle that managed to capture how scenic the falls were.

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The cascade ends here, in a small grotto where the walls are covered in thick moss.

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We had started to run out of time, so we started to head back to the car. Along the way, I stopped at a few small waterfalls that we passed by earlier when the light was too harsh for pictures.

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There are more waterfalls in this hollow that we missed on this trip, so it definitely needs a return visit. Hopefully that will come soon!

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Old Mill

Last weekend I made the obligatory visit to the Old Mill in North Little Rock. It's a popular spot, and is probably even a cliche place to take pictures now. But I grew up in North Little Rock (in fact my grandparents used to live just a few blocks away from the Mill), and I'm fond of the place. The park around the Mill always looks great in the Spring, and I was eager to go check it out again. The azaleas were blooming, along with the dogwood trees.

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Of course, the Mill was absolutely packed with people. I think the vast majority of people were getting portraits taken (with at least two engagement photo sessions going on). It took awhile, but I did manage to finally get a shot of the Mill without any people wandering through the frame.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Downtown Lightning

Some big storms were predicted to pass through last Friday night, so like any normal and logical person I decided to go stand in the rain next to a metal tripod and attempt getting some pictures of lightning. So I drove to downtown Little Rock and went to the top of a parking deck, where I hoped I'd get a pretty good view of the storm as it came in from the west. While I waited, I passed the time getting a few pictures. This is the view of the Simmons Tower, the 40-story skyscraper that is the tallest building in the state. I like this building in the foreground with a strange segment of a brick wall attached, which looks like it was ripped like a sheet of paper.

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Eventually, the storms finally hit. I had to hide the camera as strong winds and rain blew through, soaking everything in the parking deck (and removing a bunch of pollen in the process). Once things calmed down a bit, I set the camera back up and actually managed to get a shot of a lightning bolt cutting through the sky. This is one of about 70 pictures taken during the storm, and the only one that managed to capture any lightning.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

River Market

The Central Arkansas Library just built a new parking deck, which provides them with more parking for their main building and also the Cox Center and the Arkansas Studies Institute. It also, conveniently, provides a great view of President Clinton Avenue and the River Market. So one night last week I drove downtown and headed to the top of the parking deck. I set up the camera and got a few pictures as it started to get dark.

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I got a few more pictures while being tempted to go visit the Flying Saucer, which was just a few feet away. Here's one last view, with the trolley passing through the bottom of the photo:

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

St. Mary's Catholic Church (Plum Bayou)

From Tucker, I made the short drive over to St. Mary's Catholic Church near Plum Bayou. The church is old, and sits alone along a quiet country road. You can tell that it is old, but it's hard to guess from looking at it how historic the little church is. The church was actually founded way back in 1789 on a barge in Arkansas Post. The barge moved upriver to Jefferson County in 1832, and then settled in this spot in 1869. In 1927 the brick exterior was added. The cross on the church is thought to be original, and was covered in copper to protect it from woodpeckers.

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I wanted to try to get a picture of star trails above the church, so I waited until it started to get dark and set up the camera. I was a tiny bit annoyed to see that there is a street light all the way out here in the middle of the country, so I had to move the tripod around to avoid the light being in the shot. But after it got dark enough, I set the camera up to start taking pictures. After about two hours I had about 230 or so shots, which I later stacked together to create this picture. The bright streak in the sky isn't a star, it's actually Venus.

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tucker

Last weekend, I made another trip to the Delta to take a few pictures. Right around sunset, I stopped at the small town of Tucker, in Jefferson County. Tucker is known as the home of a maximum security prison now, but it used to be home to large plantation. The Tucker Plantation was established in 1871, and mostly grew cotton. The plantation grew large enough that it supported its own store and post office. The store still stands, although the only thing remaining are the walls. But standing next to the store is the old "Big House" of the plantation. It's now abandoned and empty, nearly hidden by thick overgrown plants.

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I couldn't find any information on when the house was built, but it does look like it probably dates to the turn of the 20th century. Here are a few shots taken while looking around the inside:

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And the view looking out the old house's back door:

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And one last shot, of some daffodils in the backyard that were already blooming.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Louisiana Purchase State Park

After leaving Helena, I had just enough time to swing by the Louisiana Purchase State Park before it got dark. Why is there a park about the Louisiana Purchase sitting in east Arkansas? Well in 1815, President James Madison ordered that the lands of the Louisiana Purchase be properly surveyed. So two surveyors headed out that year to begin the task of surveying the wilderness. They decided to begin in Arkansas, but probably regretted that decision when they began to slog through the swampy terrain of the Delta.

One of the surveyors headed out from the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers, the other one from the confluence of the Arkansas and the St. Francis Rivers. Where those two lines met became the initial point, and it was from this point that all surveys of the lands of the Louisiana Purchase would originate. The spot where they met was in the middle of a headwater swamp, a spot which has somehow managed to never have been drained or developed in the hundreds of years since. The swamp is now a State Park, and there is a boardwalk that conveniently takes you out over the murky waters.

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And the sun setting over the swamp. It was February but there were already mosquitoes out.

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In 1926, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a commemorative stone at the Initial Point. The swamp is on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a National Historic Landmark.

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And one last shot looking up at the canopy of trees. The swamp contains several different types of trees, including tupelo, bald cypress, buttonbush and black willow.

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