Friday, September 21, 2018

Downtown

I headed across the river to a spot along Riverfront Park in North Little Rock, which provides one of the best views of downtown Little Rock. It had been cloudy and rainy all day, but the clouds began to break up right after sunset. The sky that was barely visible through the clouds turned a darker shade of blue as the dusk settled in, and the remaining clouds began to reflect back the golden hue of the city lights below.

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I headed back across the river and went to the other side of downtown, along a hill overlooking I-630. It was a few hours past rush hour, but there was still some traffic cruising by along the freeway.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Clinton Library

One of the most popular parts of the parkland surrounding the Clinton Presidential Library is the old rail bridge that was built in 1899 and then converted into a pedestrian bridge in 2011. That bridge has some company now - a newer (but much smaller) bridge was recently built in the shadow of the Clinton Library and the Clinton Park Bridge. The bridge connects to an island in the Arkansas River, which will soon be fully converted into more park space. From the bridge you do get a pretty good view looking up a the Presidential Library.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cave's On Main

There has been a lot of change on Main Street in Little Rock over the years. It used to be the premier shopping destination in the state, but the rise of suburban malls and the slow death of downtown soon left Main an empty strip of abandoned buildings. Thankfully things have changed for the better, with new restaurants and the Technology Park setting up shop along Main.

One little detail along Main Street that has been witness to the slow demise and regrowth of Main Street is an old clock, which has sat at the intersection of Main and Capitol for decades. The clock was installed by Cave's Jewelry Store, which opened in the 1930s. The clock was refurbished by the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, and it operates yet again. At night, the neon lights shine just like it did in the olden days (it was a few minutes slow when this was taken one night just before sunset).

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Plymouth Rock

While driving home from the Buffalo River, I saw this old Plymouth car parked along the side of Hwy. 65. I can't really tell how old the car is, but I'm guessing it's probably from the 30s or 40s. Old cars like this are fascinating to me. Where did it come from? Who once owned it? Why was it left in this place? Was it abandoned here because the driver was too scared to drive through the speed traps in the nearby town of Damascus?

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Rush

You would never guess now, but there used to be a sprawling town of 5,000 people located right along the Buffalo River. The town of Rush was established after zinc was discovered here in the 1880s, leading to the establishment of several mines. The town was the most prosperous during World War I, when the mines were running full-tilt to produce zinc for the war effort. At that time, Rush was recognized as the most prosperous city per capita in Arkansas.

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After the war ended, so did the demand for zinc. Most of the mines began to close, and the population of Rush slowly dwindled away. The post office closed in 1960, and the town was officially deserted when the land became part of the National Park Service in 1972.

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All that remains are the mines (which are blocked off for safety) and a few buildings. Most of the buildings are old and fragile, and have been fenced off to keep people from going inside. Unfortunately one of the buildings has gotten some recent damage, when an apparent drunk-driver crashed into it while heading down the road.

Rush is now one of the last places to put in or out of the river, before it heads in to a designated wilderness area. It's popular spot, although the activity and population has changed dramatically in the last century.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Buffalo River

Usually an alarm clock is the last thing I would want to hear at 5:30 AM on a Saturday, but at least this time it was for a good reason. We headed out in the dark and drove towards a nearby overlook that was perched on a bluff along the Buffalo River. We made a short hike through the dark woods as the predawn light grew brighter, and we soon reached the overlook. But there wasn't much of a view. From there we could definitely hear the river below, but couldn't see anything. The river was hidden under a thick shroud of fog.

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Just before sunrise, the sky lit up orange as the fog moved across the valley like waves.

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Finally the sun rose high enough to clear the mountains, and golden light shined down on the fog.

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The fog acted like it had a mind of its own, and would grow thicker and then diminish. Sometimes the bluff we were standing on would be completely encased by fog, and then sometimes we'd get a little window through the mist and could see more of the surrounding hillsides. This is the view looking upstream, when some of the fog cleared enough where we could actually see out.

Buffalo River

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The fog was so thick that we ended up having to wait three hours before it cleared enough where we could actually see the river (I wished I had my sleeping bag so I could have napped for part of that wait). But soon enough, the fog dissipated and the river finally made an appearance.

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And one last shot from the overlook, before we hiked through the woods (and the countless spider webs and ticks) towards the car.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Loonbeam Hollow

Earlier this month, I was able to leave work early one Friday and head up into the Ozarks to visit Zack. He recently moved onto a piece of land located just outside the boundary of the Buffalo National River, which makes it the perfect basecamp for going out on a few excursions up in the hills. After dinner we headed out to an overlook that sits in the Ozark National Forest, with sweeping views over the mountains. We had to drive a bit to get there, heading down a few miles of bumpy dirt roads.

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To get to the overlook we did a short hike along an old road trace, which didn't seem like it had much traffic lately since there were dozens of spider webs strung across the path. Eventually we made it to the overlook, which was situated on a long stretch of bluff that curved like a C above the dense woods below. Along the bluff was a thick carpet of moss and lichen.

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It's a pretty spectacular view - showing miles and miles of forest and hills. There is hardly any signs of people or civilization - just a small cell phone tower on one of the distant mountains.

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Unfortunately there were some traces of people along the bluff. There were two distinct spots along the bluff where the moss and lichen were burned away, evidence that people had recently had campfires there. Which seems so sadly careless and selfish. You couldn't sit a few feet back to set up your fire? Why would you want to set a fire right on the edge of the bluff anyways?

Oh well, at least the views are still pristine. Some clouds drifted in front of the sun and obscured most of the sunset, but the clouds were still pretty neat.

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After sunset there were some splashes of color in the sky, along with the moon rising above the horizon. We stayed out there on the bluff shooting pictures and then hiked back the gloaming, but we did manage to get to the car before it got too dark to see.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Leslie

Along Hwy. 65 in the Ozark Mountains is the small town of Leslie, which was settled sometime in the 1850s. The town became prosperous in the early 1900s thanks to the railroad and timber industry, and Leslie still has a good number of old historic buildings that were built in that time period. This is a shot of one of those buildings, which looks like it's been closed for awhile. This was taken while driving up north into the Ozarks a few weeks ago.

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The town was originally called Wiley's Cove, but the name was changed to Leslie in 1887. It is believed that the town was named after a prominent merchant, and sadly not named after the most prominent Leslie of all time - Leslie Nielsen (or Leslie Knope).

Friday, August 24, 2018

Thanks Little Rock Garden Club

In a small park that is squeezed in between Broadway and the Pulaski County Courthouse is this fountain, which was installed in 1956 by the Little Rock Garden Club. This is a neat old fountain, although not as cool as the dog fountain in Toronto that I saw a few months ago.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

MacArthur Park

In the middle of MacArthur Park is one of the oldest buildings in Little Rock - the old Arsenal Building, which was built way back in 1840. The building was part of a military installation that was placed at what was then the outskirts of the city. The Arsenal Building was actually constructed to store ammunition, and it has exterior walls that are three feet thick.

The military ceased using the building in 1892, and it was taken over by the city of Little Rock. In 1942, the building became a museum which would end up showcasing a random and eclectic mix of exhibits. I remember the museum being one of the most popular destinations for school field trips during the 1980s (back in the olden days when I was wee young lad). Probably the most popular artifacts there were a motley collection of shrunken heads, which all the school kids thought was really cool.

In 1997, the museum moved to the River Market and became the Museum of Discovery. The old Arsenal Building then switched gears and became a museum of Arkansas military history. Unfortunately there's no telling where the shrunken heads are now.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Downtown

The tallest building in Little Rock is the 40 story Simmons Tower, which does dominate the skyline. Here's the view from the street, looking up at the building and the skybridge that connects to the nearby parking deck. It was well after rush hour so there wasn't much traffic around the building.

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Just a few blocks away is the Old State House, which is one of the oldest buildings in the city and the oldest state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. The Old State House was built between 1836-1842, and was used until the new and current capitol building was constructed in 1915. The building has been witness to several historic moments, from the Civil War to the election night victory parties for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. The craziest thing to ever happen there was probably in 1837, when the Speaker of the House stabbed and killed a Representative during a heated debate about taxing wolf pelt.

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It had recently rained, and a large puddle in the sidewalk in front of the Old State House revealed a reflection of the Stephens Building across the street.

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And then the view looking up at the Stephens Building, which is 25 stories and is the fourth tallest building in the city. The glass panels on the building do a pretty good job reflecting back the colors of the sunset.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Little Rock National Cemetery

The Little Rock National Cemetery is a sprawling cemetery that sits just southeast of downtown. The cemetery was established in 1866 by the federal government for the burial of Union troops. Since then it has grown to cover 30 acres and is now the final resting place of over 25,000 people.

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I always feel a bit nervous taking pictures in cemeteries, since it seems a little disrespectful to take pictures of someone's grave (I hope the people buried there don't mind). These shots were taken just before sunset, on a quiet evening - even though the cemetery is surrounded by the city, there was hardly any noise there.

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Just beyond the edge of the cemetery were a few buildings that look to be empty and abandoned.

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And a closer view of the building, where the paint has chipped and faded into this mix of orange and white.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Little Miss Kroger

On the side of an old Kroger in Little Rock is this very retro tile mosaic, showing the visage of the store mascot "Little Miss Kroger." Both the building and the mascot all probably date back to the 1950s.

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I attempted to so some research on the old mascot but wasn't able to find much information. Most of the searches just showed stories about the Kroger corporation, or revealed Kroger coupons for Swiss Miss hot chocolate. But seeing the old Kroger mascot reminded me of their ad campaign from the 1980s, which I must have watched hundreds of times as it ran in the commercial breaks between The A*Team or Alf. The ads featured women wearing costumes that looked like scissors, and they danced across the screen and occasionally used their scissor legs to cut prices (I can only imagine the amount of drugs consumed in the Mad Men-stlye ad agency that dreamed up these ads). The combo of music and costumes in the ads are so 1980s that I'm amazed one of the scissor ladies didn't make a cameo in Ready Player One.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Winging It

From Perryville, I headed west along Hwy. 60 deeper into the Ouachita Mountains. It was a warm and muggy summer day, and I had to be careful to not let the camera sit directly in the blast of cold air from the car's air conditioner so that it wouldn't fog up as soon as I got out of the car. I made a few stops, including one at this neat old house near the amusingly-named town of Nimrod.

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I wasn't able to find any information about this house online, and I'd love the chance to be able to see what the inside looks like.

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Further down the road is the small town of Plainview (with a population around 700 or so). There were a few old buildings there, including one with this mural painted on the side.

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South of Plainview is the old Ward's Crossing Bridge over the Fourche LaFave River, which was built in 1905.

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I headed further west, towards the small community of Wing. There is a neat old church here - the Wing Community Church. This church was actually the main thing I had wanted to get pictures of out here. The old church is great, but I can't really find much information on it. It was originally built sometime in the late 1800s as a Methodist church.

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I wanted to get pictures of star trails over the old church, but I had some time to kill before sunset so I continued driving further west. I went through the small town of Bluffton, which had a good number of old buildings. One of the most prominent is the old Masonic Lodge, which is boarded up and covered with faded and peeling paint.

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Nearby is what I'm guessing was an old gas station, which doesn't look like it's served customers in awhile. But there was a sign there advertising that high speed internet is available.

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And the old gas pumps at the station, which were nearly hidden behind overgrown vegetation.

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Across the street was another abandoned building, which looked like it was once a store. This is the view of the back, with the windows reflecting the golden evening light.

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The light was perfect, and I hurried to try to find some more old buildings to try to get some pictures of. I pulled over and stood in tall grass (luckily no ticks or chiggers were lurking there) and got a few shots of this old barn.

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I drove by this old house and pulled over for a few pictures. It actually looks like a new house is being built just behind it, which means that the old house will probably be torn down soon.

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There was actually a good number of old abandoned homes in this area, and I tried to stop at as many of them as I could.

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And one more, with the broken front window of the house reflecting the last light from the sunset.

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I hurried back to Wing and went to set up the camera in front of the old Community Church. I realized that star trail pictures might be a bit tricky, thanks to the combination of lights that were shining on the old church and causing some funky shadows. Also some of the lights were sodium vapor lights, which cast a bit of an odd yellow-orange tint on the trees around the church. So I did some light-painting with a flashlight on the church in the hopes it would help mask some of the harsh light and shadows hitting the church.

The camera took over 200 :30 second exposures out there. I sat in the car during that two hours, thankful that I could at least listen to the FC Dallas gave over the satellite radio (the game ended in a 1-1 tie). This is the combination of all of those shots, which revealed these star trails stretching across the sky above the old church.

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