Monday, October 31, 2011

Sam's Throne

I asked for a few days off from work last week, in the hopes that my time off would coincide with the fall colors up in the Ozarks. It's always a crap-shoot when asking for time-off during the autumn season. There's no telling when the trees will decide to show off their best color. You just have to hope that luck is on your side and the trees are at their peak.

But Zack Andrews got the same time-off from his work, and we made plans to head up to the mountains. Hopefully, the trees up there would cooperate with our schedules. It has been really dry around here, and people were questioning if we would even have decent fall colors, after the long drought of the summer.

So on Wednesday morning, I met up with Zack in Conway and we headed up to the Ozarks. As we drove up in the mountains, the fall colors got more and more spectacular. This is a view of a hillside near Lurton:

We had planned to camp at Sam's Throne, an awesome overlook in the Ozark National Forest. We got to the campground there and quickly got everything set up. Then we headed down to the overlook and ended up taking a ton of pictures. The view is great, as were the fall colors...


We headed over to the main overlook, which provides views of the "Sam's Throne" mountain. According to local legend, it was actually named after someone named Sam. Sam Davis, to be exact. Back in the 1820's, he apparently went out onto the mountain here and gave some fiery sermons. He also is said to have buried gold out there somewhere, but people haven't been able to find it in the decades since.

But the views looking out towards Sam's Throne were awesome, especially with some nice fall color in the trees...


Sam's Throne has become known as a good spot for rock-climbing. But I think I'm more happy with enjoying the view from the edge of the bluff.

After taking a bunch of pictures of the view at Sam's Throne, we decided to head back to the car. We went and drove around Mount Judea, stopping at a few different places. This was a barn that we drove by...

We headed back to our campsite at Sam's Throne, and enjoyed a nice campfire. I was a bit annoyed that the campsite here had amazing scenery, but no good phone or internet connection. My favorite soccer team, FC Dallas, was set take part in a playoff game that night against New York. But since we were deep in the woods of the Ozarks, there was no way to follow the game. I would later find out that my favorite team lost the game 2-0, so it sounds like I didn't miss much.

But early Thursday morning, we woke up early and headed back out to the overlook to Sam's Throne. Our hope was that there would be some cool fog drifting along the mountains at the overlook. There wasn't - in fact there was a storm cloud moving closer to us. We sat and watched as a huge cloud formed and gathered in the valley below us. It quickly moved up to Sam's Throne, dropping a few bolts of lightning. One of those lightning bolts hit Sam's Throne, which made both of us jump. Zack turned to look at me and ask, "are we still alive?"

The lightning was a little close for comfort, so we both agreed it was probably wise to head back to the car. Along the way, the storm cloud moved over us and it started pouring down rain. The rain would last for nearly the entire day, but we ended up getting some good fall color pictures in the drenching conditions.

Up next, pictures from a few stops along the Buffalo River....

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pedestal Rocks & Falling Water Falls

Last Saturday, I drove up to the Ozarks to see how the fall colors were looking. My destination was the Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area, located north of Russellville in the Ozark National Forest. There are two trails here - one runs out to Pedestal Rock, and the other runs along Kings Bluff. Both are loop trails, and to do both is a four mile hike.

When I got there, the parking lot was packed with cars. I managed to find a spot for my car, and headed off into the woods. I decided to do the Kings Bluff trail first, and pretty much had the entire trail to myself. The Kings Bluff trail isn't all that popular, for some reason. There are some neat rock formations, and a very tall bluff to see. But for the nearly two miles of hiking, I only saw one other person the whole time.

The Kings Bluff trail goes into the woods, which saw some significant damage during the 2009 ice storm. But the trail ends up on the top of Kings Bluff, which is over 100 feet tall. There is even a waterfall here, and when it's running is one of the tallest in the state (at 114 feet). But of course, after the lack of rain here, there wasn't much of any water going over the falls.

The trail runs along the bluff, offering up views of some neat rock formations.

The fall colors weren't as colorful as I had hoped, the trees here were still mostly green. But a few trees had some nice color...

After finishing the Kings Bluff trail, I went over and started the Pedestal Rocks trail. After more hiking in the woods, I eventually found the trail's namesake: Pedestal Rock...

The views from here are great, with sweeping views of the rolling Ozark Mountains. The trail then goes by several other neat rock formations, like this smaller pedestal:

After finishing the hike, I got in the car and made the short drive to Falling Water Creek. This is usually a great creek to visit, since there are some great waterfalls to see along the road. But since there hasn't been much rain here lately, I assumed the waterfalls would be completely dry. But when I drove by Falling Water Falls, I was surprised to see that there was still a small waterfall flowing.

While it wasn't much, I went to take a few photos of the falls. As I was walking toward the falls, I noticed this bright green caterpillar inching its way across a rock...
As I was trying to get a few pictures, the poor caterpillar seemed to have lost it's footing. It suddenly rolled off of the rock, and dropped down into the bed of leaves on the ground. I decided to let the poor caterpillar be, and went off to take a few pictures of Falling Water Falls. This is the view from behind the falls:

And one last shot of the falls:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pizza Hut Park

Last weekend I made my third trip to Texas this year to catch a soccer game. The MLS season is winding to a close, and this was the last regular season home game for my beloved FC Dallas. They were playing the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are one of the new teams in the league this year.

I brought my camera to the game but didn't really try to take many pictures. Most of the game was spent trying to drink out of the "Brek Shea for MVP" mug that I got from the beer garden, and answering a few occasional questions about the rules of the game (like what an offsides call means). But this is a shot taken after Dallas scored a goal, showing a few nearby fans using their vuvezelas.
Stupid vuvezelas!

FC Dallas are currently tied for 3rd place in the league, with only one regular season game left. They have already clinched a spot in the playoffs, which means that I face an unfortunate dilemma in the next few weeks. The playoffs just happen to occur at the exact same time that the fall colors in the Ozarks and Ouachitas are at their peak conditions. So I'm going to be torn between watching the playoffs, or going out to the woods and trying to get a few decent pictures. It really makes me wish that the campgrounds around the Buffalo National River had satellite tv with Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dagmar Wildlife Management Area

The Dagmar Wildlife Management Area preserves nearly 8,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forests, streams, ponds, lakes and bayous. It's also a great place to go to take pictures. The highlight of the WMA is Hickson Lake, which is easily accessible by a dirt road (that is very well-maintained, except that it will definitely get your car dirty). The entire Dagmar WMA is also extremely easy to reach, located just off I-40 near Brinkley. It's one of my favorite places to visit in the Delta, especially since it isn't that far of a drive from Little Rock.

Last week, Barry Hamilton suggested making a trip there over the weekend. He wanted to get there at sunrise, and I was immediately skeptical. I'm not a very big fan of being awake that early in the morning. But I agreed to meet up with Barry and his friend Lee at 5:30 on Sunday morning.

Now regular readers of this site will be shocked to hear that I managed to accidentally oversleep, so I was a few minutes late in meeting up with them. But we were soon quickly making our way east, just as the distant sky began to lighten with the upcoming sunrise.

We made it to the WMA with plenty of time to spare, and followed the dirt road that runs alongside Robe Bayou. The road ends at Hickson Lake, which is lined on all sides with hundreds upon hundreds of tall trees. This is a view of the lake, taken just before sunrise:
Hickson Lake

And another view...
Hickson Lake

The banks of the lake are crowded with both cypress trees and their knees. I was standing along the edge of the lake when I took this shot, and I soon noticed a large snake skin laying among the leaves and mud. It looked like it was left by a fairly big snake, and I sincerely hoped that the snake wasn't around anymore....

And another view of one of the large trees along the lake. This tree certainly looked old, and actually some of the cypress trees around here are believed to be around 1200 years old.


Hickson Lake is a very popular spot for fishing, and there were two boats out in the lake while we were taking pictures. After sunrise, the light on the trees and lake began to get harsh, but I managed to get one last shot of this fishing boat along the shore...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Clinton Park Bridge Again

Last week, the camera and I made another visit to the recently opened Clinton Park Bridge. On this trip, I started out on the Little Rock side of the river and parked by the Clinton Library. There is a new wetlands park, which sits just below the bridge and the library. It provides a nice view of the bridge, reflected in the still waters of a small pond.

It has a great view, but you do have to contend with vast swarms of tiny insects, which hover along the wooden boardwalks. There was a small crowd of people walking along the boardwalks, and everyone was frantically waving their arms around in a feeble attempt to disburse the bugs.

I waded through the sea of bugs and headed towards the bridge. This is a view from under the 112 year old Clinton Park Bridge...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Two Rivers Bridge again

Last week, I went over to the Two Rivers Bridge and met up with my friends Matt, Zack and John in order to take some pictures. We met up in the parking lot, which was surprisingly packed on a weeknight. There were a lot of people out there walking the bridge, or riding their bikes across.

We unloaded our various camera gear and set off across the bridge. Zack and I ended up crossing over the bridge and ended up at Two Rivers Park, which sits on a peninsula between the Arkansas River and the Little Maumelle River. We chose a spot that had a nice view of the bridge, with the lingering colors of the sunset. It was also a prime spot for mosquitoes, who set upon us like they were enjoying some sort of buffet.
Two Rivers Bridge

Some new lights were recently installed on the bridge, and so now the entire span of the bridge is bathed in light. This night, the lights were some sort of purple-pink, but the lights will probably change colors like the nearby Big Dam Bridge. Here is a closer view of the bridge:
The new lights form a long band of color that traverse the bridge - it kinda reminded me of the video boards showing ads that line the sidelines of soccer stadiums.

Here is a view from the other side of the bridge, looking towards Two Rivers Park:

The new lights do make quite a change. Here is a picture of the bridge, back before the lights were installed:
Two Rivers Bridge

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Clinton Park Bridge

Little Rock seems to love pedestrian bridges. Last weekend, the fourth pedestrian bridge in the city opened up - the Clinton Park Bridge. Before being coverted into a pedestrian bridge and officially re-named, it was the Rock Island Bridge. The Rock Island was built way back in 1899, but went out of service in 1980.

The bridge's new name comes from the fact that it sits right by the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. The bridge officially opened on Sunday, and I paid a visit to the bridge that evening with my Dad. It was a quick tour, and I did have my camera. But I neglected to bring the tripod, so I didn't take too many pictures. This is the view from the North Little Rock side, with the bridge, library and moon in view:

My first reaction is that the views of the skyline are ok - not as good as the Junction Bridge. But it's nice to have something new around to take pictures of...