Monday, May 20, 2024

Northern Lights

Last week some science-stuff happened with the sun, which allowed the Northern Lights to be seen in places that its never usually seen. Places like....Arkansas. But that night I was deep in the chaos of getting two kids to bed, and somehow managed to miss the best of the light show. But I did hurry to try to get a few pictures while the lights lasted. I ended up at Lake Maumelle, which offered a view of a soft pinkish light mixing in with the stars above the lake.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Pinnacle Mountain

I remember making the drive out to Pinnacle Mountain way back when I was a kid. Back then, it seemed like it took forever to get there. Of course in the years since then, the suburban sprawl of west Little Rock has steadily crept up towards the park. But thankfully the park still feels like a refuge, despite the close proximity of a Wal-Mart supercenter, fast food restaurants and gas stations.

I headed out there on a cool and cloudy day to try to get a few pictures. The Little Maumelle River, which flows near the base of Pinnacle Mountain, was running high after all the recent rains.

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I did the Kingfisher Trail, which is a short and pleasant little hike along the Little Maumelle River.

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The trail runs beneath several massive bald cypress trees. The trees are over 500 years old, and it's amazing that they somehow escaped being chopped down for lumber. The park sign along the trail says that they would have been saplings when Hernando de Soto was exploring this part of the country.

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Across the parking lot from the trail was a picnic area, which sat by this small creek.

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From there I headed over to the old location of the park visitor center (which has since moved to a larger and fancier new building). There is a small lake, which was once a rock quarry. There was a little bit of fog drifting along the trees.

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This was taken from the little boat dock that sits atop the water.

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I stood out there for a few pictures, careful to not drop the camera or fall in. I got one last shot with the infrared camera and then headed back home.

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Monday, May 13, 2024

The Old Mill

Last week, Jonah and I visited the Old Mill in North Little Rock. I actually grew up in NLR, so I've made many trips to the mill over the years. My grandparents used to live a few blocks away, and we would always walk over there when we would visit. It's nice to see that the Old Mill still hasn't changed all that much - it's like an old reliable friend.

Whenever I visit the mill, I can't help but remember one of my teachers in high school. Way back in the olden days of the 20th century, I was a student at North Little Rock High School. There was a school literary magazine, which even had a photography contest. So I submitted a few pictures, including one of the Old Mill. As a true native of Dogtown, it's impossible to resist the lure of the Old Mill when you have a camera.

So my senior year, I actually joined the staff of the literary magazine as one of my electives. I soon learned that the Creative Writing teacher in charge of the literary magazine had some pretty strict policies on what could be accepted into publication. There were certain things that were instantly declined when they were submitted, like lovey-dovey or "dark night of the soul" poems, which did certainly help in keeping out some of the more angsty teenage poetry. But one of the teacher's biggest pet peeves was in photography, specifically Old Mill photos. She was so tired of seeing so many Old Mill pictures that she forbade any Old Mill picture from being published. Over the years, the magazine had received so many Old Mill photos that they even set up massive boards that displayed all of the collected images as a massive collage. So as a new member of the staff, I went over and saw the boards and soon found the Old Mill picture I had submitted from the year before. It was there, along with all the other rejects.

The Old Mill has been attracting photographers since it first opened (in fact my grandfather took pictures of it back in 1934). And with my most sincere apologies to Mrs. Ward, here is one more Old Mill photo to add to the mix:

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Saturday, May 11, 2024

Lurton

On the way home, I went through the small community of Lurton. I always try to go through here to visit this old abandoned building, since there's no telling how much longer it will be with us.

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This was once a hotel, built back in the 1930s. Hwy. 7 used to run through Lurton, and this was a popular spot for travelers.

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It was considered to be quite fancy for its time, and it even provided home-cooked meals. But it closed long ago, and has been left empty and decaying ever since. Part of the walls have caved in, and what is still standing has a pretty precarious lean. It unfortunately looks like it could completely collapse at any moment.

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Just down the road is a small abandoned church.

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It's hard to read now, thanks to the overgrown plants. But the sign above the front door reads "Everyone Welcome."

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Thursday, May 9, 2024

Rock Creek

After surviving the trip to Lichen Falls, we headed to Oark for lunch at the Oark Cafe (not to be confused with the Ozark Cafe in Jasper). After that we decided to take the scenic way back, which meant a dirt road that went deep into the forests of the Ozark Mountains. And since it was still foggy, we made lots of stops along the way.

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We took a slight detour and ended up visiting the aptly-named Rock Creek, which flows into Big Piney Creek. It started raining again as I took this picture of the creek (which really is filled with rocks).

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On our way out we made one last stop at this overlook. Bits of fog clung to the mountains, and Big Piney Creek runs through the valley below.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Lichen Falls

The Ozarks were still covered in a thick fog when we drove off to our next waterfall.

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We went to Lichen Falls, which sits right alongside the Ozark Highlands Trail. There is some good news/bad news regarding this one. The good news is that it is ridiculously easy to reach the top of the falls. It's a short and level walk along the OHT, which runs through a delightful stretch of moss-covered woods. The bad news is that it is nearly impossible to safely reach the bottom of the falls if you want to get a better view or photo. It is a scramble down a steep and muddy hillside that is covered with poison ivy, sharp rocks and pointy exposed roots. We carefully tried to make our way down there, but I lost my footing and fell and then started sliding down the muddy hill. I slid right past an exposed root that stood out of the ground, narrowly missing my leg. If I had been sliding a few inches over it would have run right up between my legs. The collision with that root would most-assuredly not have been all that fun and pleasant.

The waterfall here is 28 feet tall, and tumbles over two ledges. It was hard to get both ledges together in a photo. The leaves on the trees blocked most of the view of the falls. And to get the best view would have meant trying to stand on the slick hillside, while water from the bluff was pouring over you. But we both made it down to the bottom of the falls safely and relatively unscathed and tried to take a few pictures.

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And then we carefully ascended the steep hillside, and somehow made it to the top in one piece. On the way back to the car I stopped to get this shot of the Ozark Highlands Trail, and right after this was taken a heavy thunderstorm passed overhead and started dumping rain. Which was a good sign that we probably needed to go find someplace warm and dry and get some lunch soon...

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Sunday, May 5, 2024

Stepp Creek

All the recent rains had left the Ozarks soaked, so it was no surprise that a thick fog had settled over the mountains that morning.

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And the thick fog lingered as we begun our first hike of the day, which went deep into the woods towards Stepp Creek.

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The trail starts out on an old road trace, which was nice and flat and easy hiking. But to get to the creek, you have to go downhill. There wasn't much of a trail here, so we made our way as best we could (you might say we got our steps in on this visit to Stepp Creek). Soon we made it to the creek, which was incredibly scenic.

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This beautiful waterfall tumbles 25 feet over several tiers.

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Water poured over the bluff, creating a few other smaller waterfalls.

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From there, the creek flowed on. It eventually flows into the Little Buffalo River, which then flows into the Buffalo National River.

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We made the short hike over to this 12 foot waterfall, which isn't very tall but was still very photogenic. We spent awhile here taking lots of pictures, and also just enjoying time in the woods.

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And then we decided to hike back to the car. Unfortunately, what hikes down must soon hike up. So we headed up and up the hill, and I was reminded yet again of just how out of shape I've gotten. But we finally made it, and then drove off to see another waterfall.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Fuzzybutt Falls

There is a song from the band Garbage called "I'm Only Happy When it Rains," which I should have played on my drive up to the Ozarks last weekend. It had indeed started raining as I got closer to the mountains, which made for perfect conditions for visiting and photographing waterfalls.

I met up with my good friend Zack at Falling Water Falls, a scenic little spot along Falling Water Creek. It's probably one of the most popular waterfalls in the state, and I was kinda shocked to see that there wasn't anyone else there. It's rare to drive by here and not see any cars parked along the road. I hurried to get a few pictures while the rain continued to fall.

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We then made the drive down the road to the trailhead to Fuzzybutt Falls. Which is a memorable waterfall, not just for its name but for its location. It was still raining as we started the hike, and the woods around us were already saturated. There was standing water on most of the trail, making a sort of creek through the forest. It was quiet out there, except for the raindrops hitting the leaves and the squishy sound of our hiking boots in the mud. The forest was so green and vibrant, like it was a rain forest. New Spring growth encroached on the narrow trail (including lots of poison ivy, always good to watch your step!).

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The trail runs by Falling Water Creek, and then turns and enters a box canyon. The canyon isn't that long, but the rock walls seem to tower above you. And at the end of the canyon is Fuzzybutt Falls.

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The falls are 16 feet, and empty into a shallow pool of turquoise water.

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A strong storm passed over us and heavy rain began to fall. But the high walls of the box canyon provided some great shelter from the rain. We took pictures from every conceivable angle, reluctant to leave. The light and the amount of rain was constantly changing. At one point it got really bright, like the sun was about to break through the clouds. Then it turned dark, almost like the eclipse a few weeks ago. Eventually we just stopped and watched the raindrops hit the water. It was a serene and magical time spent in the woods.

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Fuzzybutt Falls gets its wacky name thanks to Tim Ernst, who wrote the Arkansas Waterfalls Guidebook and is the best photographer in the state. In nearly all the photos in his waterfall guidebook, he includes a picture of himself standing by the waterfall to help give a sense of scale. But for Fuzzybutt Falls, the picture shows him standing by the falls without clothing. There is a blurry (or fuzzy) bit over his backside, which turned into the name for the waterfall. I refrained from recreating the shot while we were there, but did take out the infrared camera for this view of the box canyon.

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And then we headed back to the car. This was the view of the trail with the infrared camera:

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It continued to rain as we made it back to the car. It was time for dinner so we drove over to the small town of Witts Spring and got dinner at a place called Hillbilly Slims, which was pretty good. As we were about to leave, I hurried over to get a picture of this neat old tractor.

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The rain continued to fall overnight, making perfect conditions for more waterfalls in the Ozarks the next day...