Thursday, November 30, 2023


To paraphrase Neil Gaiman: Many phenomena - wars, plagues, sudden audits - have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the stretch of I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for exhibit A.

Especially in the rain.

The trucks were either going  30 or 90 mph, and were kicking up so much spray it was like driving through clouds. But despite some tense moments on the freeway, we finally made it to our destination - the Dagmar Wildlife Management Area near Brinkley. It's a neat spot, and one that not very many people visit. There is a road that follows a bayou, which then ends at Hickson Lake. The rainy weather seemed to saturate the fall colors on the trees.




As we were leaving, I made a quick stop to get a shot of the dirt road heading through some trees. As I stood in the rain, a few deer walked across the road. One stopped and stood still long enough for a picture, like it was posing.


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Around Keo

After leaving the Plum Bayou Mounds, we stopped by this small oxbow lake near the town of Keo. The lake was once a channel of the Arkansas River, and is now filled with thousands of cypress and tupelo trees.


The fall colors here were close to peak, and seemed too look more saturated thanks to the rain that started falling.


A little but further down the road, I pulled over in the rain and hurried to get a shot of this abandoned church:


We headed north towards another abandoned church, which sits along a lonely stretch of gravel road. It looks like someone has been using the church as a place to dump some of their old furniture.


On top of the church there was one of those roof turbines, those metal spinning things that look like a chefs hat. The door of the church was open, so I took a quick peek inside. While I was there, the turbine started to spin. In doing so it let out a metallic screech, which sounded like a ghost or banshee screaming. Needless to say, it was a little bit creepy and unnerving. Especially if you don't know what the sound is until you rush out of the church in a hurry....

The inside of the church was trashed. But the old piano still remained, sitting next to the broken windows along the wall.



A marker on the side of the church said it was the New Zion Chapel Baptist Church, and that it was "rebuilt" August 4, 1962. Wonder how long it's been abandoned?


The roof turbine let out another wail as I took one last picture with the infrared camera:


Saturday, November 25, 2023

Plum Bayou Mounds

Rising above the otherwise flat lands of the Arkansas Delta are the Plum Bayou Mounds, which were constructed by Native Americans well over a thousand years ago. Originally there were 18 mounds, which were built between the years 650 and 1150. They were built by the people of the Plum Bayou culture, and were used for religious and ceremonial purposes.

The Plum Bayou people built mounds in other areas, but the ones contained in what is now the Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park were the largest. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, "Eighteen mounds were arranged around two rectangular open spaces that were used for ceremonies. Today, one mound is forty-nine feet high, another is thirty-nine feet high, while a third is thirteen and one-half feet high; the original heights are unknown. All others are less than four feet high. Only one mound has been identified as a burial mound. Some were used as platforms for ceremonies, while others had residences of religious leaders on them. Excavations in five mounds have uncovered evidence that they were originally low flat-topped platforms constructed with soil. Several mounds were positioned to line up with the sun on the horizon at sunrise and sunset on the equinoxes and solstices. The position of the sun on the solstices established times that were important in the annual cycle of activities, both for farming and for rituals. A standardized unit of measurement, 155.8 feet, was also important in the placement of mounds, so that the site layout was planned."

It's not known why the site was abandoned after the 12th century. A few hundred years later, the mounds would be discovered and they were studied. But they weren't preserved, the lands were privately owned and farmed. Many of the mounds were plowed under and destroyed. The state of Arkansas bought the land in 1975, and it was later named a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

This is a view of Mound A, which is the largest in the park (and the largest prehistoric Native American mound in the state). It stands at 49 feet tall, and it's believed that a building used to sit on top of the mound that served as either a place to live or for conducting ceremonies.


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Petit Jean

The heavy rains we had at the end of October actually produced enough water to get some waterfalls up and running. Which also coincided with some great fall color in the Ozarks. I decided to take a day off from work so I could make a trip up to Petit Jean, because surely the waterfall there would be running full-tilt after all the storms. And the weather prediction was for it to be cloudy all morning, meaning ideal conditions for waterfall pictures.

But as I headed to the park, the sun started to break through the clouds. I didn't think I'd have enough time to hike to the waterfall before the sun came out, but I thought I'd instead do a different hike along the creek. But all that didn't matter. I was saddened to see that there was hardly any water in the creek. In fact it didn't even seem like they had gotten much rain there at all.

But then I made a heartbreaking discovery.

One of the most photogenic trees in Arkansas was at Petit Jean. It grew at the base of the stone dam that sits below Lake Bailey. It was perfectly placed next to a waterfall, and it was a location that I returned to many times over the years. Here are a few shots of it over the years:

Petit Jean

Petit Jean

Petit Jean

Petit Jean

But it's gone. The stone dam now seems so naked and empty. Where did the tree go???


I decided to still do a short hike, even if there wasn't much water in the creek. The fall colors, which were peaking up in the Ozarks, were subdued. Most of the trees here were still green.



I then headed over and did the short walk through the Bear Cave area, as the sun finally broke through the clouds.


And then I drove home. I still had the day off from work, which meant that I could squeeze in a nice little nap before picking up the kids from school that afternoon!

Monday, November 20, 2023

Mount Holly

It was a rainy weekend afternoon, so I hurried out to try to find some fall color pictures close to home. The only problem was that most of the trees weren't close to peak color yet, so it was a bit of a bust. I hit a few places and didn't like the pictures from there. I was about to give up and head home, but made one last stop at the historic Mount Holly Cemetery in downtown Little Rock. The old cemetery was established way back in 1843, and is filled with interesting statues and markers.

There was some decent fall color behind this statue, which seemed to be growing some lichen or algae that seemed to match the colors in the tree behind it...


Friday, November 17, 2023

Finding Nebo

It was still pouring down rain as I drove towards home, but I did have enough time to make one last stop. So I exited off the freeway and made the curvy drive up to Mount Nebo State Park near Dardanelle. Mount Nebo sits at an elevation of 1,750 feet, which isn't that much compared to the mountains out West but it does rise dramatically above the Arkansas River Valley. I reached the top and, like White Rock Mountain, it too was covered by a thick blanket of fog. This was the view from the playground/picnic area:





Mount Nebo has been a state park since 1927, but before that it was a popular resort location. In the 1890s, two large hotels were on the mountain, each with over 100 rooms. Visitors would ride steamboats up the Arkansas River, since it was always a little bit cooler on top of the mountain. Plus there are a few springs which people thought may have had medicinal powers. The hotels are gone now, but you can still find a few old buildings scattered across the park. This building here was once a maintenance shed that was built in by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The area that is surrounded by the low rock wall used to house a well and pumping equipment.


Nearby was this small creek, which ran through a carpet of pine needles.


It was time to head back down the mountain towards home, but I couldn't help but stop a few more times to get pictures in the fog.



And the view looking back towards the mountain...


And then one last stop from the trip, before heading off to home. I drove by this old church in Dardanelle and quickly pulled over for a few shots...




Wednesday, November 15, 2023

White Rock Mountain

From Shores Lake, it’s usually just a few miles up to White Rock Mountain. So I drove up, with the hope that I would get up there in time for sunset. But whoops, it turns out the road has been closed (thanks to two landslides). Luckily I had just enough of a cellphone signal so I could power up the GPS and get a new route to the mountain. It was supposed to be the “fastest” route, but alas, it would not be fast at all.

The alternative route to the mountain went along some narrow and bumpy dirt roads, which curved along through some thick forest. It got dark quickly, and then really foggy. So foggy that it was extremely hard to see anything out of the windshield. At one point the visibility was only about a foot or so. I gripped the steering wheel and went a glacial pace, sure that I was about to drive off the mountain or hit a deer or some meth-crazed hill person.

But eventually I made it to the top of White Rock Mountain, which is a scenic little spot with some cabins and great overlooks. The original plan was to wake up at sunrise and get photos of the fall colors from the overlook and mountain rim trail. But the fog had other ideas. The thick fog was still hanging around in the morning, meaning there was no view from the overlook. The fog and mist were so thick that it would make Stephen King proud.


For a comparison, this is what the view usually looks like....

White Rock Mountain

Despite the lack of views, it was still amazingly scenic thanks to the mixture of fog and fall colors.




I slowly drove through the campgrounds looking for things to take pictures of, while the people camping were starting to wake up. The fog was joined with the smell of breakfast cooking and campfire smoke.









Since the fog didn’t seem like it would clear out anytime soon, I decided it was time to head out. My plan was to head down the mountain towards Cass, and then make my way towards Clarksville. There were a few places I intended to check out in that area.

My cellphone is a few years old and needs replacing. In its old age, it has decided to be frustrating and not like any of the charger cords I brought with me. So the battery level was low, and I decided to find my way out without the assistance of Google Maps in order to save what little battery life I had left. I drove by plenty of signs on the way up, so I assumed I would be able to make it down just fine. I mean I used to navigate just fine without cell phones in the past, what could go wrong?

You can probably see where this is going….

There was still thick fog on the muddy dirt roads, and it was also starting to rain. I stopped several times to take pictures:


I eventually passed by a sign saying I was only a few miles from Mountainburg. Which was surprising, since Mountainburg is in the complete wrong direction from where I thought I was going. Somewhere back in the rain and the fog I must have missed a turn. I was way off course. Whoops.

At Mountainburg (which sits below Fayetteville), I got on the freeway in the pouring rain and headed back east. I’d have to adjust my plans, but I’d still be able to hit at least one more place before going home to Little Rock….

Monday, November 13, 2023

Shores Lake

After eating some burgers from the Oark Cafe, Zack and I tried to decide where to go next for more call color photos. We decided to visit a place called Fern Gully, which is a neat area that is popular with rock climbers (and sadly not the magical rainforest from the movie FernGully). So we drove off, but never did make it to Fern Gully. We got distracted along the way...

We made a quick stop at Turner Bend, along the Mulberry River. The bridge here is a "Parker pony truss bridge, with three spans and a total structure length of 446 feet." The bridge was built in 1935 and is one of the few remaining bridges of its type remaining in the state.


We left the pavement and went along the dirt road the points in the direction of Shores Lake and White Rock Mountain. But we soon pulled to a stop to get pictures of these pine trees. It was pouring rain while we were there, which looks like fog in the photo.


And then we made it to a small overlook of Shores Lake, and it was breathtaking. It had stopped raining, and thick fog was drifting along the lake and the mountains.




We spent a few hours here, watching the fog drift and move along the mountains.


We never made it to Fern Gully, so we'll have to save that for another trip.



I was going to camp at White Rock Mountain that night, so I headed out and drove down the road to Shores Lake. The 82-acre lake is popular with campers and for fishing. I had to stop to get a picture from the shore of Shores Lake, as fog drifted amongst the trees and was reflected in the still waters.


It was almost sunset, so I hurried to get up to White Rock Mountain before it got dark. Of course some closed roads and heavy fog would make for an interesting drive. More on that story on the next post....