Monday, May 4, 2009

Let It Rain

It began raining Friday night before I went to bed and I had already made plans to go to Mt Nebo Saturday morning to hike the Rim Trail to get some much needed exercise. My son called at midnight to tell me he was going to be late getting home because it was raining so hard he pulled into a car wash to wait for the rain to slack off. It was then that I began thinking that instead of hiking at Nebo I needed to be out chasing waterfalls before sunrise on Saturday while it was still raining. I just got some good shots of the waterfall on Nebo a couple of weeks ago so I decided to go to Long Pool instead.

I set my alarm for 5 am and tried to sleep but kept waking up about every hour either because of the sounds of thunder or the heavy rain on the roof. Or maybe it was just the excitement of getting to see Long Pool Falls at what some would call flood stage. I had never been there when it was much more than a trickle so I felt I was in for a real show. I got up when the alarm went off and quicly dressed and loaded up my gear. When I left the house around 5:45 it was just barely raining but when I got half way between Russellville and Dover the bottom fell out. It was raining so hard I had to drive about 40 just so I could see to stay on the road. As I entered into Dover the rain was beginning to let up a little. I stopped just north of town to see what the Illinois Bayou looked like and it was higher than I had ever seen it which told me that Piney Creek and all it's tributaries would also be flooding. As I began the climb up the first hill on Highway 7 the rain began to become heavy again and I had to drive carefully because of all the spots where the flooding water had left rocks and gravel strewn across the road. The hillsides along the road were now just one rolling cascade of rushing water after another. All of the ditches on both sides of the road were flooded. When I came to the turn off on Hwy 164 I decided to drive on down and see what the Big Piney looked like at the bridge. It was almost to bottom of the bridge. I actually saw this part of the creek all the way to the top of the bridge a few years ago during a freak rainstorm. By this time the rain had let up again and the morning light was just beginning to appear through the heavy cloud cover. I made may way on out to the Long Pool campground and took some photos of the creek down by the bath house.

After shooting a few photos of the creek I decide it was time to make the short hike to the falls. When I parked the trailblazer at the back of the campground the rain began to get heavy again and I could hear thunder in the distance. The trail looked almost like a creek itself and my feet were soaked within the first hundred yards. I stopped several times to get shots of smaller cascades rolling down the hills along the trail and of the lush green ferns growing in the area. As I crested the top of the hill I began to hear the roar from the lower portion of Long Pool Falls and my heart rate increased with the thoughts of what lay ahead. Arriving at the creek I was just astonished at the amount of water flowing down from the falls and when I looked up to the right I was greeted with and awesome view of the Lower Falls bigger and better than I had ever seen it. I quickly scanned the area and found the best location to shoot from and began to set up the tripod and camera while trying to keep everything dry. I took several dozen photos from several different viewpoints before deciding to head on up to the Upper falls.
At this point I usually cross the creek and approach the Upper Falls from the other side but with this amount of water there was no crossing the creek today so I began the scramble up the slick hillside to the right of the Lower Falls. About half way up I noticed another good vantage point of the Lower Falls so I carefully made my way over to the edge and set up again. I took several dozen more photos from that vantage point also. There is this one large rock that I love to take pictures of when I am here. It is a large rock about three feet wide at he top and four feet wide at the bottom and stands about seven to eight feet tall leaning at an angle back to ward the falls. It is covered in thick green moss and is just one of those objects in nature that I just find to be very photogenic. Today this rock was standing its ground taking lots of punishment from the raging water of the falls.

The photo on the left shows the rock back in September of '08 when the water was barely a trickle. I just love all of the color on the rock.

The photo on the right shows the rock right in the middle of the raging torrent. One of these days there may be enough water come down this creek to move this large rock but until that day comes I will continue to visit and see what kind of photos I can come up with.

I finally made my way up to the Upper Falls and was just astonished by the amount of water coming over the edge of the bluff. The heavy rain had returned again and I was glad to be under the shelter of the overhanging bluff. I took some photos from the dry shelter but could not get the shot I wanted from there so I waited until the rain let up again before venturing down toward the creek for a better shot.

I spent some time trying different angles and exposures before the rain started coming down again and I had to retreat back to the shelter of the bluff. the hardest thing about photographing waterfalls on days such as this is keeping the camera dry and the lens clear. I packed everything back in my backpack and put it on under my rain jacket to make the walk behind the falls in order to get to the spot that I thought would make the best pictures. The spray from the falls soaked me good but it felt really refreshing as I made my way behind the raging water. The sound was deafening, although I just wanted to stand there forever letting the spray hit me in the face and listen to the roar. After a few slippery minutes I made it to the spot I wanted to be in and set up and took lots of photos. I only hoped I would get at least one good one. I packed everything away,said goodbye to Long Pool Falls and the rock, and made my way back toward the truck to head for home. It was 9 am when I got back in the truck and I was surprised that I had spent over two hours out in the rain but after processing the photos I think it was all worth it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Scenic Hwy 7

Last Friday I had a meeting scheduled with the park interpreter at Lake Ouachita State park. I decided to leave the house early and pick up a few caches along the way, do some cache maintenance on a couple of mine, and take some photos. After all of the ice issues up in the Ozarks I was wondering how the higher elevations in the Ouachitas had fared during this time. All of the ice around town had already disappeared a couple of days before.
Just south of Ola at about 1000 foot elevation I came around a curve and the whole north facing slope of Ola Mountain was covered in ice and sparkled like millions of diamonds in the early morning sun. I tried to get a few photos but it was hard with the full sun staring down on me.

I stopped off at Lake Nimrod to do some cache maintenance and find another one. I spent a little time down by the river looking for scenes but just didn't see the right things.

After a few more miles of driving and looking for something to photograph I rounded a curve and spotted a great opportunity so I turned around and found the right spot to set up. I had to wait out some traffic but was finally able to get a really good shot of the curves in the highway with Forked Mountain in the background. This is one of the best views of Forked Mountain and clearly shows how it gets its name from it's unique shape.

As I was driving on down Hwy 7 I noticed the architecture on one of the old bridges and decided to stop and see if it had a benchmark on it. It took a little looking but I finally found it.
The architecture on these old bridges always amazes me. Most of these old bridges like this one were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. One of the bridges I stopped at had recently been damaged and half of one side had been destroyed and was replaced with just the plain ugly steel railing. It's a shame that we can't have the kind of quality that went into things years ago.

While thinking about these bridges and all of the other things that the CCC did back then I decided to make a stop at the location of the old Hollis CCC Camp. I had stopped here once before but never took the time to look around at the entire site and read all of the markers here. If you are unfamiliar with what the CCC was check out This Site to learn more about the program. The Hollis Camp was one of 16 in the Ouachita National Forest and enrollees began arriving in May of 1933. Hollis looked a lot like other camps around the country and was constructed following standard plans with locally available materials. The camp was disbanded in 1935 but was reopened in 1936 when the decision was made to close the Jessieville camp. Hollis then remained open until 1941, at the beginning of World War II, when the CCC program was no longer needed to help relieve the nations unemployment problems. The camp buildings were dismantled in March 1942.

Like most other camps in the area the young men came from nearby farms and most had less than an eighth grade education. During The Depression education was not something most of these young men could afford. An education adviser was assigned to each camp so that the enrollees could take classes in the evenings. Coming from farms most had not ever held a job and did not possess any skills other than what they had learned growing up there. With the CCC many were able to complete their high school education and then take other classes such as radio operating, auto mechanics, clerical skills, and many others. When World War II began many of the former CCC men were already trained for the armed forces. The next time you are in the area I encourage you to stop and take a look at this interesting site. It is located between Hollis and Jessieville just north of Hot Springs right on Hwy 7.

I then stopped off to make a short hike to check on one of my caches hidden on the Hunts Loop Trail. I made the quick trip to the cache and all was well so I headed on back to the truck and down to Iron Springs to take a few photos. This trail is a 4.3 mile loop with parking areas at the Iron Springs Campground and the Ouachita Trail about a mile north of the campground. The first 1/2 mile of trail from Iron Springs rises over 400 feet to the top of Short Mountain at an elevation of 1372 feet. The view from up there is awesome especially during the winter when the leaves are gone. There is also another cache hidden there. This was the toughest part of the trail since the rest of the way is pretty much all downhill. The trail then follows the ridge top for a while with some really nice views on both sides during the winter. At just about the half way point the trail intersects with the Ouachita Trail and then winds its way down hill to the parking area at the trail head. There the trail turns south and soon the Ouachita Trail splits off to the left going under Hwy 7 to continue on toward Pinnacle Mountain near Little Rock. Hunts Loop trail closely follows Hwy 7 back down to Iron Springs where there is plenty of evidence of the CCC's work.

After my meeting at Lake Ouachita I grabbed a few caches in the state park and then headed over to the circle of caches recently hidden by QuartzCachers. Bruce has really been busy lately and has many more planned to put out before the big event in June. I had to hurry on the last few caches in order to make it up to Ouachita Pinnacle before sunset. The roads leading to the pinnacle are pretty decent but can get really confusing on which way to go. QuartzCachers solved this problem for us geocachers by placing a series of caches along the way to guide us to it. Finally arriving at the top, the highest point in Garland County, I still had about thirty minutes till sunset so I made the quick trip down the trail to find the cache hidden there. After finding it and signing the log I began scouting for a location to take pictures of the sunset but there were some trees in the way. So I backed my trailblazer down against the rock wall and set up the tripod on the roof to keep the treetops out of the shot. I spent the next thirty minutes up on the roof shooting lots of pictures but never quite getting that perfect sunset photo. I did however manage to get a good shot of Lake Ouachita from up there.

I always enjoy driving through these areas because it is one, if not the most scenic in the state. If you have not traveled Hwy 7 between Russellville and Hot Springs I highly recommend it. There is plenty to see and explore to keep you busy all day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Long Day in Johnson County

I headed out Thursday morning to get caught up on some of the new caches in Johnson County. We have a great bunch of cachers over in this part of the state who have been very busy lately putting out caches like crazy and from what I hear they are just getting started. I stopped in Clarksville and grabbed a couple in town and then made my way toward the Harmony area where I was able to get at least one FTF on a new puzzle cache hidden by the King and Queen of Arkansas geocachers RKLMBL.

While I was at one cache location the sounds of the nearby creek just kept calling to me so I spent a bit of time along the banks of this small creek taking photos. It was still a little foggy upstream but this spot was just clear enough to get a few good shots. We have not had much rain lately so there was not a lot of water in the creek but I found this one spot that had some nice rocks in the middle of the creek creating a tiny set of waterfalls. After leaving there I cleared the Harmony area of all but one cache that I had not completed the puzzle on it yet.

I then headed over toward Horsehead Lake and down to Hunt where I found a few more and DNF'd one that I should not have if I had read the previous logs. Sometimes that helps. Many miles and many caches later I ended up stopping along the road at the Sacred Heart Church and cemetery to take a few photos.

After spending quite a bit of time shooting photos of the large cross in the cemetery I headed on down to Hartman to find a few caches there. I especially enjoyed the Hartman Veterans Cache. It was a great setup on this multi in a wonderfully kept cemetery. After finishing up in Hartman I grabbed three more on the way back to Clarksville. I really enjoyed my tour of Johnson County and look forward to returning again for more geocaching and photo opportunities.

As I was getting closer to Russellville on the way home I noticed in my rear view mirror that the sun was quickly going down and there was already quite a bit of color in the sky so I decided to head on over to Lake Dardanelle State Park to see if I could get some good sunset photos. Arriving just as the sun was beginning to drop below the ridges in the distance, I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and ran to the back deck of the visitors center. It's amazing how fast the sun, or the moon, goes down. You can actually see it disappearing before your eyes. The best color for a sunset is the few minutes after the sun finally disappears below the horizon and it helps a lot if there are a few clouds in the sky to help broadcast the light from the sun and create that wonderful color. I spent the next fifteen minutes trying different compositions trying to get that perfect picture. When the color began to fade I packed up and headed on home to rest after this very long and productive day.

So I will leave you with one my favorite photos of the sunset. Until next time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fall Colors

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Walk Along Indian Creek

I had not planned to go anywhere on Friday but after dropping Daphne off at school I just did not feel like going home. I headed up Hwy 7 to see how the fall colors were progressing up north of Russellville. I turned west onto Hwy 123 and was thinking of going to Pam's Grotto but decided instead to take Indian Creek Rd back toward the south. I stopped many times along the way to take photos of a few areas with some color.

I came to a spot in the road where something along the creek caught my eye. I parked the truck and grabbed my camera and tripod and headed down to the creek. What had caught my eye was a bend in the creek that had a nice little overhang that had been cut into the bank. I spent the next 45 minutes taking photos along that bend in the creek and some other spots just downstream that had some nice color.

Another couple of miles down the road I noticed an old rock fence leading away from the road and decided I needed to stretch my legs some more so off I went. The old stone wall went down by the edge of the creek and made a right turn and followed Indian Creek downstream. This is one of many stone walls left by the early pioneers who called these areas home way back in the 1800's. They built these walls with rocks they had cleared from their fields. When you look at the old walls it is amazing to think of how much work it took to build it placing stone on top of stone. And it was all done by hand with no modern machinery. The determination and work ethic of these early pioneers always amazes me. I followed this wall downstream at least a half mile and it was still going when I turned back. I plan to come back in a few weeks to use my gps to measure it and see just how far it goes.

It was a beautiful day to be out enjoying the forest. The pictures turned out great but just cannot even begin to show the true beauty of what you experience being there yourself. There is so much more than what the eyes see. God gave us all the other senses so we could enjoy his creation to the fullest extent. The sounds of the wind blowing through the trees or the water rushing over stones in the creek. The feel of the bark on the trees or the soft touch of the moss that grows in the shaded areas and on the damp rocks. The smell of fall in the air, an aroma like no other. The taste of the wild plums that I found still on a tree left untouched by the animals that inhabit this area. I only wish I would never have to leave places such as this. I feel more at home here than in any town or city I could ever visit.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm still here!!

In a previous post I said that I needed to post more here and again I neglected to do so. Well the last few months have been very busy with work and all the other great things that I love to do and it is just so hard to find the time to sit down and do this. But, also one of my favorite things is to share my photos with family and friends so here are few photos from the last few months.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Seven Hollows hike

Tuesday I hiked the Seven Hollows Trail at Petit Jean State Park with some geocaching friends.

This is a great trail with lots of nice rock formations along the trail. There is one really large natural bridge and there is a small one over on the other side. The trail is a 4 1/2 mile hike. So if you are going to do this one bring some snacks and plenty of water and allow yourself plenty of time. Possibly 4 hours if you take your time and check out everything along the way. At about the halfway point there is a trail that will take you back into an area called The Grotto where there is a nice large overhang and a small waterfall. This is a great spot to stop and eat lunch or take a break before finishing the last half of the trail. I have heard that there are some Indian drawings in this area but I have never been able to find them. In August of 2000 a wildfire swept through most of the trail area. The area has recovered really well although some areas are more overgrown with brush now than it was before. I have posted some pics below.

If you look closely at the natural bridge from this view it looks like some kind of animal. Daphne says it looks like a cat. What do you think??