Thursday, January 31, 2019

Old State House

The Old State House in downtown Little Rock does live up to its name. It is still the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River, having been constructed between 1836 and 1842. The building has played its part in several chapters of state history, and since Arkansas is often a wacky state the museum reflects that. In 1837, the Speaker of the House fatally stabbed a state Representative during a heated debate about the all-important subject of wolf pelt taxation. After the current Arkansas State Capitol was built in 1911, the Old State House went through a few different uses. It served as medical school for awhile, and as a veteran's memorial. The building was nearly torn a few times, but luckily it was spared the wrecking ball and would become a state museum in the 1950s. Bill Clinton said it was his favorite building in Little Rock, and used it as the backdrop when he announced his candidacy for President, and then for his Election Night victory parties in 1992 and 1996. The Old State House is now listed as a National Historic Landmark.


The Old State House grounds are also filled with little bits of history. The fountain in front of the building is a recast of the three-tier fountain that was installed in front of the Arkansas Building at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Nearby is an old canon, which has a deep history. The canon was originally forged in New Orleans in 1861 during the Civil War, and was placed on the CSS Pontchartrain gunboat. The boat sailed up the Mississippi River and the canon was taken off and used to defend Arkansas Post during the battle of Ford Hindman in 1863. The canon was damaged during the battle, and afterwards was repaired and then moved up the Arkansas River to Little Rock to help guard the city.

Before Union troops captured Little Rock a few months later, Confederate troops spiked the canon and then dumped it into the Arkansas River. There it sat for eleven years, until it was dragged out and returned to service during the Brooks-Baxter War. That conflict was between two candidates for governor, and it ended up becoming an armed conflict (with 200 casualties) that required intervention from President Grant. The canon was dragged up from the river and restored by Baxter's militia, who dubbed it "Lady Baxter," and positioned it towards the Brooks barricade. After the conflict ended, Baxter's supporters staged a parade through downtown Little Rock where the canon firing a single celebratory shot. Reportedly, the blast from the canon was so strong that it shattered windows for four blocks around it. The canon was then put on display on the lawn of the Old State House, where it still sits today.


The Old State House has undergone significant renovation and restoration in order to restore it to its original appearance. But one aspect of old capitol you won't find is the large statue of Justice that used to sit prominently on the roof of the building. In the early 20th century, the statue was considered somewhat risqué since Lady Justice showed off a little too much cleavage. Members of the Sisters of Temperance Society were offended and reportedly hired a gang to sneak into the building and tear down the statue, who then unceremoniously dumped it in the Arkansas River.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Bearcat Hollow

The other weekend, I met up with Matt and went to do some hiking around Bearcat Hollow, which was said to hold a few neat waterfalls. The hollow is located in the Ozark National Forest in the upper Richland Creek valley, and isn't the easiest to get to. We drove several hours, and then had to ford Richland Creek to reach the trailhead (luckily I wasn't driving since my car would have probably melted in the water). Along the way we passed by this old barn, which sat in a field along with some dedicated guardcows who did not look very pleased that people were stopping along their fence taking pictures.


The hollow is in a fairly remote area, and some parts of the hike were pretty steep and difficult (especially since I've gotten pretty out of shape). But we were a little surprised to find some faint trails through the hollow - apparently this is a popular little spot for rock climbers. We finally made it down the hill and to the creek, which ran past huge boulders and had a few neat waterfalls on it. The largest is Bearcat Hollow Falls, which has been estimated to be about 35 feet tall.


The waterfall splashes onto a few large rocks sitting in the turquoise pool below, which look like they must have fallen right off the bluff line sometime long ago. The falls were also surrounded by lots of trees, so this will definitely be an amazing waterfall to see in the Spring.


While we didn't see any bearcats there, the hollow did have a few more waterfalls.


This waterfall is about 25-30 feet tall, and it falls into a small pool that sat next to a large moss-covered rock. There was a nice collection of fallen leaves that were nestled in the moss like it was pillow.


And one last shot of the falls, taken before starting the hike back up the steep hill towards the car. It was a neat area, definitely one worth visiting again.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Petit Jean In The Fog

It had been a quiet little Saturday morning, we got up and took Jonah to get donuts for breakfast. Then we took him to the library for a bit. It had been cloudy, but when we left the library a thick fog had descended over the city. It was perfect picture taking weather! So I hurried home and grabbed the camera and then quickly drove over to Petit Jean Mountain to try to get a few pictures.

I followed the twisty road that switchbacks up the mountain and stopped first at the overlook at Stout's Point. Of course there wasn't much of a view at the overlook, everything was shrouded in fog. And while you couldn't see them, you could still hear cows mooing from the fields far below the mountain.

Petit Jean

Petit Jean



Luckily there weren't that many people out, so traffic wasn't that bad up there.



After that I headed into the park and then followed a trail that ran alongside Cedar Creek. The creek was running well after some recent rains, and the woods were hidden by the thick fog.





At one point the trail runs underneath a boulder that is somehow propped up against the bluff, and then runs beneath these jagged shards of moss-covered rock sticking straight out.


This was a very scenic stretch of the creek, where it tumbled and rushed past several huge boulders.


The State Parks people were actually kind enough to construct a bridge right in this spot, which provides some great views of the creek.



From there I turned around and started walking back to the car, but I passed by a few more neat spots along Cedar Creek.


I followed the creek to where it passes under the old Davies Bridge, which was built by the CCC in 1934. The old stone bridge sits by a small waterfall created by a dam on the creek.


The fog was steadily getting thicker and thicker.


Just upstream is another old stone dam, which also has a few neat waterfalls on it. There were a few people fishing in the waters of the lake nearby, but otherwise this area of the park was fairly quiet.


The nearby playground was empty, and with the fog had a bit of a melancholy feel to it.




I then drove over to the Cedar Falls Overlook, and was shocked to see that the falls were just barely visible to through the thick fog. I wish that I had more time, so I could have done the hike into the canyon to see the falls (but it was about 30 minutes before sunset, so daylight was running short). I hurried to get a few more pictures, stopping at the old water tower that sits near the lodge. The tower was built by the CCC in the 1930s, and looks like a castle tower.


And I did make sure to look both ways before quickly stepping to the road for this shot.


I had just enough time to make one more stop before it got dark, and drove over to the Bear Cave trail. The short little trail passes underneath massive sandstone stones and boulders. It's a neat little area, especially with a nice coating of fog. I grabbed a few pictures and then headed back home as night fell and the fog began to dissipate.



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Big Dam New Year

I got a new tripod for Christmas, so on New Year's Day I took it on its maiden voyage to the Big Dam Bridge to try it out. I was there around dusk on a cloudy day, and the lights on the bridge competed with the glow in the darkening sky from the Little Rock city lights.

Big Dam New Years

The river was high and the water below the dam was churning and thrashing.


The new tripod did well out there, it managed to stay upright and not drop the camera into the river (always a success when that happens!). Here's one last shot from that night, looking down the river towards the city.


Friday, January 4, 2019


So 2018 is well and gone. Now that’s it’s in the past, how do we go about measuring the year? I mean I know it’s 525,600 minutes and all that. But our little toddler has continued to grow and mature, and we spent time in 2018 doing exciting things like potty training and watching lots of Paw Patrol. We were also lucky enough to do a bit of traveling, and I was able to get out a few times to take some pictures. So here’s a look back at some of my favorite pictures from a busy and hectic 2018:

Cedar Falls
October 14: Cedar Falls, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas.
Usually the summers here are hot and dry, which results in all the waterfalls drying up. But 2018 turned out to be unusually rainy, which meant that waterfalls managed to run almost year-round in some places. It was a treat to hike to a waterfall in October, especially when the water was running like it would in the Spring.

July 15: Albert Pike Hotel, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Lightning filling the sky above the historic Albert Pike Hotel, taken from a parking deck across the street. It takes a ton of luck to capture lightning, you have to have the camera set up in the right place and then actually have the camera going during the second or so that the lightning flashes. It’s challenging, but also fun. And a great way to worry your spouse while you stand next a metal tripod in a storm.

Baring Cross
October 22: Baring Cross Bridge, Little Rock, Arkansas.
There were three rail bridges built across the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock, but the Baring Cross Bridge is the only one that still handles trains. This shot is of a train crossing the bridge, but since they aren’t bullet trains it actually took a few minutes for it to cross. This is actually a few long exposures that were combined in editing to get the long streak of light from the train.

May 16: Tractor in a field near Keo, Arkansas.
I was driving around Keo and found this rusty old tractor sitting in a field, just as the sunset mingled with some low storm clouds.

On Track
December 16: On the trolley in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.
A long-exposure shot from inside the Metro streetcar as it slowly rumbled down Markham Street. This was taken on a Sunday night, just before the streetcar ceased running for the day. There wasn't anyone else in the car, so no one minded me setting up the tripod for a few pictures.

October 24: Boxley Valley, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
This was taken on a weekday right after sunrise, but there was already a good crowd of people parked on the side of the road taking pictures of the elk. The elk were actually pretty close to the road, so I joined the crowd for a bit and got a few pictures too.

February 15: Flatiron Building, New York, New York.
In February we took a quick trip to New York City. This was my second visit to NYC. The weather was much better than my first visit, when a blizzard moved through and dumped about three feet of snow overnight. Many of the big attractions were closed or partially open, and the roads were covered with snow. Luckily the weather was much more cooperative this time, we were able to do a lot of sightseeing (but didn't see everything, would have needed to take off weeks to do that).

March 27: Boxley Valley, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
Boxley Valley is probably one of the most scenic places in the state, and I've taken lots and lots of pictures there over the years. But I've never before have seen the small creek by this old barn flowing before, and it must only do so after heavy rains (it had rained so much that day that the Buffalo River rose eleven feet at Ponca).

Mill Creek Falls
April 22: Mill Creek Falls, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
This pretty little waterfall was reached by a two mile bushwhack, which quickly and humbly reminded me of how out of shape I was. And it is now serving as a reminder that I need to get in somewhat better shape before hiking again (I say as I eat junk food and continue to be lazy).

July 8: Downtown Dallas, Texas.
We headed down to Texas for a family reunion, which was strange to be there and to not be going to a FC Dallas game. This was taken at dusk, as traffic streamed into downtown on a busy freeway. Luckily by the evening it had cooled off some, it had been so hot that day that a can of Coke that had been left in the car exploded and sent soda everywhere (which just added to the accumulated mess that comes with having a toddler in a car during a 5 hour road trip).

Rock Creek Falls
April 21: Rock Creek Falls, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.
This neat waterfall was reached by a two mile bushwhack, which wasn't all that bad but I felt woefully out-of-shape while hiking. Just as we finally reached the falls, a random bunch of guys rumbled in on 4-wheelers, and proceeded to park in the middle of the creek above the falls and drink beer. We sat and waited for them to leave (which took about 30 minutes) so we could get some pictures without them in the background. It was really annoying, but I wouldn't have complained if one of them had offered to give me a ride back to the trailhead.

June 17: Toronto Islands, Ontario, Canada.
In the summer we flew up to Canada to spend a few days exploring Toronto with some good friends. One of the coolest places we visited was the Toronto Islands, which sit in Lake Ontario near downtown. And I mean it literally was the coolest, there was a nice little temperature drop when you aren't sitting amongst the concrete of the city. The islands also provide a great view of the skyline, especially at sunset.

August 18: Near Cozahome, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
Woke up at 5:30 AM in order to do the short hike to this overlook at sunrise, but the fog was so thick we could hardly see anything. The Buffalo River was right below, but we could only hear it through the thick fog. It actually took about three hours for the fog to clear enough where we could actually see the entire view below.

November 4: Oxbow lake near Keo, Arkansas.
2018 ended up being one of the best recent years for fall color in Arkansas. It looked pretty good at this small lake in the Delta, which was reflecting back the deep colors of the cypress and tupelo trees.

Grand Central
February 15: Grand Central Station, New York, New York.
We tried to squeeze in as many New York sites as we could during our visit - like Central Park, the Guggenheim, the World Trade Center and Greenwich Village. One memorable moment was when we managed to get into a long conversation with an older man and his son at a bagel shop near Penn Station. During our talk, the man proceeded to tell his life story, which involved overseeing construction jobs all over the city. He made a few outlandish claims about how big of a deal he was, so after we left we immediately Googled him to see if any of the stuff he said was true. Which actually, it was. We were also shocked to discover that he was a mobster, he had been in jail for extortion and his brother was even murdered by a rival mob. He also provided us with a few recommendations for some of the best pizza places in New York, and we went to one of his suggestions which turned out to have some amazing pizza (Rubirosa Ristorante).

Central High
March 8: Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas.
The reflecting pool in front of Central High isn't really all that big, especially considering the massive building that surrounds it. I had to use a fisheye lens to get all of the facade reflected in the pool.

May 16: Field near Keo, Arkansas.
One of the prettiest sunsets of the year was this one over a field near Keo, where the soft orange pastels of sunlight met the dark blue of some approaching storm clouds. It's one of those sunsets where the colors look unreal and photoshopped before you even take the picture.

March 27: Boxley Valley, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
I've been wanting to get this picture of a waterfall running by the old Boxley springhouse for years, but I've never had good timing since you have to catch it right after a heavy rain. But one day in March it poured down rain in the Ozarks, and I took off work and drove three hours to Boxley and finally managed to get the shot. It was worth the gas and miles and soaked hiking shoes to get it.

Hotel Pines
March 4: Hotel Pines, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
I was given another opportunity to see the inside of the old Hotel Pines, which was once one of the most luxurious hotels in the state. The hotel was built in 1910, but was closed in 1970. It sat abandoned for decades until last year, when a massive $25 million renovation began. It'll be interesting to pay the hotel another visit when the work is completed and it's returned to its former glory.

Brooklyn Bridge
February 18: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, New York.
It was actually a little difficult to get a good shot from here of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was rush hour, and the traffic was stop and go and wasn't moving enough to create really good looking streaks during long exposure photos. But standing on the bridge waiting for a shot did seem much better than sitting in the traffic below.

Dome Alone
January 10: Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock.
The beam of light hitting the dome is actually a spotlight used to help illuminate the capitol at night shining through thick fog. Or perhaps it's a beam from an alien ship transporting some of our weirder state representatives back to their home planets.

June 15: Niagara Falls, Onatario, Canada
Niagara Falls is an amazing place, and was the highlight of our trip to Canada. This was taken on one of those tourist boats that takes you right by the massive waterfalls, I had to hide the camera under my poncho after this to protect it from the curtain of mist that descended from the falls.

Roark Bluff
October 24: Roark Bluff, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
Caroline and I celebrated our fifth anniversary(!) by renting a cabin for a few days up by the Buffalo River. The timing was great, there's no better place to be than the Buffalo River in the fall. This was taken right after sunrise, during a cold and foggy morning along the river at Steele Creek.

New York New York
February 18: Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, New York.
I know this isn't the most original of pictures. In fact there were probably about 30 other photographs all lined up along the river who were all getting some version of this same picture. But it was still a cool experience to attempt capturing, especially with the flock of seagulls in the water that rivaled the flock of photographers along the shore.

February 15: Empire State Building, New York, New York.
The view from the Empire State Building observation deck is one of the best views in the city. We had managed to get there in time to to watch the sunset and then stayed as the millions of lights of the city switched on. We also shared this view with hundreds of people who crowded the small observation area, all of them pushing and squeezing in trying to grab a spot. It was frustrating, since people would literally shove you out of the way, but still better than my first visit to the Empire State Building in 2006. On that trip you could go to the top, but the actual observation area was closed because it was covered in three feet of snow.
So that's it, thank you for making it to the end of this long and admittedly self-indulgent post. And also thank you to anyone who actually visits this little blog. I know that photo blogs aren't cool anymore, so thanks for taking your time to visit my little spot on the Internet, I really do appreciate it.