Monday, November 12, 2007

Blanchard Springs and Alum Cove, and some othter pictures I’ve been too lazy to post

Things have been a bit quiet here in terms of new pictures, but with the trees changing I've gotten a backlog of pictures that I need to post here. So here are a selection of some that have been taken in the past few weeks...

These were taken awhile ago, during a bored drive through downtown Little Rock with the camera. Here's the old arsenal building in MacArthur Park:

MacArthur Park

And this is the old Roundtop Gas Station, falling apart just off the side of Hwy. 67/167 in Sherwood:

Round Top Gas Station

And of course I did make it down to the Big Dam Bridge once...

Big Dam Bridge

A few weeks ago I drove up to Blanchard Springs, which is one of my favorite places to visit around here. It has some neat ruins of an old mill, and the springs themselves which flow year round.

This is a shot of the old mill:

Mitchell Mill

Here's a description of it stolen from the Internet:

Mitchell Mill was originally a two story structure built of oak and walnut. With the mill, Steve Mitchell provided ground corn and ginned cotton from 1900 until 1928. After Mr. Mitchell died, his family sold the property to the Forest Service.

The rock foundation and walls were added by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1942. Exquisite rock work is the hallmark of the CCC, a post Depression program to put young men to work. Their plan was to restore the mill to an operational condition, but the work was interrupted when the CCC was disbanded at the onset of World War II.

Thr mill sits along a creek and a dam, which forms a nice little lake. The dam has some neat spillways and waterfalls off of it, all of which just a few feet away from the mill building.

This is a view of a waterfall on the dam from one of the windows of the old mill...

View from Mitchell Mill

And a shot of the waterfall at the base of the dam. Since the creek here is fed by a spring, it always has water in it. It's one of the few places I've seen around here that has had any water flowing through it.

Blanchard Springs

This is a view of the mill, from ground level. The last time I was here this whole area was covered in poison ivy, but luckily there wasn't much there this time.

Mitchell Mill

And again, a close-up view of the mill...

Mitchell Mill

The springs empty out in a neat waterfall not too far from the mill. The trail to reach them is amazingly easy. It is level and paved, and follows beside the creek through a really pretty valley.

Trail to Blanchard Springs

I think its only .25 miles to reach the falls...

Blanchard Springs

The water is all from the springs, which looks really clean and clear when you first look at it. But it isn't as clean as it appears. As the water flows up underground, it passes through several caverns, several of which are home to several colonies of bats. And with the bats you also get bat poo, which makes its way into the water. There are signs at the falls saying not to drink or touch the water. Ahhh, nature!

Blanchard Springs

And a wider view of the falls...

Blanchard Springs

The falls create a really scenic stream, which tumbles over lots of moss-covered rocks. It is an amazing place to explore and photograph, but I was limited by the fact that it was getting dark and all my light was going away...

Blanchard Springs

Blanchard Springs

I was very excited about this one little leaf in the shot below. I didn't put it there to make the picture better, it was already there when I showed up. So it either blew in on its own and landed in such a helpful place for setting up pictures, or some other photographer came through earlier and put it there. Either way, thanks!

Blanchard Springs

I guess since so much water flows through here, just about everything gets covered in moss, including stuff on the bank next to the creek.

Blanchard Springs

After that it was almost too dark to shoot any more so it was back to the car and the long drive back. The next weekend I didn't take a long drive up into the hills, but managed to attempt a shot of the skyline at dusk. The streaks reflected in the river are from the Arkansas Queen riverboat paddling its way downstream.

Little Rock

The trees are slow to change around here this year (thanks, global warming). But I did take my camera to work one day and ended up going out to Pinnacle Mountain on my lunch break. The colors there had barely changed, more green than anything else still.

Pinnacle Mountain

Since the colors around here were slow, it was time to take another road trip up to the Ozarks. The trees up there always change a week or so faster than the trees here, and from what I heard they were nearing peak color. I decided to hit a place I hadn't been to since I was in high school, Alum Cove. The trail through Alum Cove is short, and visits several neat little areas - like a large natural bridge and several small caves in a bluffline.

Steep dropoffs

As I left the parking lot, I passed by an older couple sitting eating at a picnic table. They told me (as older people tend to do) that I should bring a jacket with me in case it got cold. So after I passed this sign I decided that it might indeed get cold if I stay out in the cove for awhile as it got late, so I headed back to the car. I also forgot my tripod, which would prove to be very useful out there. But as I went back to the car I noticed this one tree that had some nice color in it, which I must have passed right by earlier and not even noticed...

Finally...fall colors

As I passed by the older couple again they gave me an approving nod, noticing that I was carrying a jacket (which I never used, it was in the 70's out there). They probably told each other that back when they were my age they had to walk this trail barefoot in the snow...

But the trail goes downhill and runs up to the natural bridge...

Under the bridge

The natural bridge here has been called "one of the largest and most impressive stone arches in this part of the country." And the National Forest Service has this to say about the bridge (which may not be that reliable, since they managed to forget the correct name of the National Forest that Alum Cove is in):

The Big Piney Ranger District - Jasper Office is located within the heart of the Ozarks. Visitors can view picturesque rock bluffs and hike wooded hillsides. Outstanding among the many natural features of the Ozark Natural Forest is the huge stone arch that forms a natural bridge at Alum Cove. The natural arch is all that remains of what was a quartz sandstone cave. The arch is 130 feet long and 20 feet wide. The weathering process of wind, rain and ice formed the opening between the arch and the rock overhang.

The area offers picnic facilities and the Alum Cove National Recreation Trail for your enjoyment. This looping trail wanders past the natural arch, across a small stream and to the
bluff line with overhangs. The entire trail is 1.1 miles long and take about 1 hour to walk. Visitors may also take a short 30-minute round trip hike for 0.4 miles to view the arch. Exercise caution while hiking along the bluff line. Early settlers reportedly used this arch to move their wagons and livestock across the streambed during wet weather. Water and wind also shaped other interesting rock formations along the bluff line across the cove, including the cave (or "rooms" as they are often called) or overhangs. Native Americans used these rock overhangs for shelter while on extended hunting trips. At one time, free-roaming goats inhabited the caves, giving the formations the local name, "goat houses."

The light was really giving me problems out there that day. The sky would end up being too bright, so that it would look washed out. There was too much contrast between the dark rock and the sky that most of the shots really didn't turn out. But when life gives you sun, you might as well try to work with it. Here is a shot of the sun peeking out from the natural bridge.


I had to do some photoshop work on this shot since I accidently managed to include my tripod and camera bag in there..

After the natural bridge, the trail continues over a stream (that was completely dry) and runs up to the opposite bluffside.

Alum Cove

Alum Cove

After I left the natural bridge, there weren't any other people on the trail. I heard lots of noises out in the woods though, which was a little creepy. The cove was filled with squirrels, running around and making lots of noise amongst the fallen leaves. Until I actually saw that it was squirrels, all I heard was some possibly sinister movements amongst the brush around me. I figured it was something a bit scarier than squirrels, and imagined hiking right in between a mama bear and her cubs. Luckily, nothing bigger that squirrels were out (that I saw).

But I got really creeped out here, for some reason. As I was set up here taking pictures, I could swear I saw something dark move at the bottom of the circular hole in the bluff. Paranoid thoughts rushed through my head....there must be someone standing right beneath there. I called out an uneasy "hello...." and got no answer, and then got up to investigate and, of course, saw no one there. Spooky.


And here is one of the places that the tripod came in handy, a view looking out from one of the caves in the bluffline:

Goat room

The trail eventually curves away from the bluffline and heads back towards the natural bridge. Along the way, it passed by this one tree that fell across the path.

So did it make any noise when it fell?

Wonder if it made any noise when it fell?

Along the trail back to the natural bridge...

Alum Cove rocks

The colors there were just about at their peak, maybe just a few days shy. They probably hit their peak about 4 or 5 days later, just in time for a killing frost to come through and knock all the leaves off. Oh well, the fall season wasn't as great this year as it had been the past few years.

Fall at Alum Cove

I got back to the car and had an idea...the sun was still awhile from setting....and the Buffalo River really isn't that far away from Alum Cove. If I were to hurry, I could maybe hit the river in time to see the light from the setting sun hit up the trees along the river. So I got back into the car and zoomed out onto Highway 7.

Hwy. 7 is one of the most scenic drives in the state. North from Russellville, it passes by some of the great scenic areas of Arkansas - Big Piney Creek, Pedestal Rocks, Alum Cove, Richland Creek, Buffalo River, and of course Booger Hollow.

The great downside to Hwy. 7 is that you tend to get stuck behind a few drivers who perhaps aren't used to roads with hills or curves. Or worse, stuck behind a truck that seems to have broken down (or the driver is scared), so that it isn't driving so much as coasting down the hill at a fast speed of 10 mph.

Scenic 7

Which is what happened here. The truck here went sloooow for awhile, eventually pulling off the road at a small turnoff. By the time I reached the Buffalo the sun had set and the colors at the river were dull and muted.

Buffalo National River

Buffalo River

I managed to get out last weekend and get some more shots. I left work early on Friday and visited one of the best areas in Arkansas that I've been too, and then on Saturday went to the Buffalo River again. The killing frost killed off most of the color there, but it was always great to be in that part of the state. I haven't finished uploading all those shots, so this concludes our entry for today. OK, wait, I will give you a quick preview of one of the places that I went to. I fell in love with it, the place was amazing:

Collins Creek

Stay tuned!

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