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Tea Table Rocks
December 16, 2007
Wintery weather was supposed to accompany my first visit to that classic Ozark rock formation, Tea Table Rocks. Snow and freezing rain had been forecast. I got up at 3 a.m. because I expected the drive to take much longer than usual. But the roads were fine and I got to the parking spot so early I kept driving along the highway to kill some time.
When I finally parked the truck, I was a bit concerned about how steeply the truck was facing downhill. I put it in reverse and sure enough, my tires started spinning. Oh well, I could figure that one out AFTER I'd had some fun.
It was a 20-minute downhill hike to the bluff. There was just a dusting of snow on the ground, and I was further disappointed that there was no fog in the valley below, despite recent rains and cool weather. I found a path and started following it to the west. I had to step over a neat fissure in the bluff. A small waterfall ran into this crack at the back, then ran through a mini slot canyon formed by the fissure. The top of the bluff was covered with mosses and lichens and interesting pockets filled with ice; all of this was dusted with snow.
In ten minutes I was at the Tea Table Rocks. They were smaller than I expected; the top of each table was about six feet square. While waiting for the sun to come up, I enjoyed the view of the surrounding hillsides and the pastoral landscape of the Limestone community way down in the valley below.
With only a few days until the winter solstice, I was hoping the sun would rise far enough south to be in view as it peaked above the distant mountaintops. But that didn't work out either. The hills to my right started bouncing back direct sunlight long before I ever spotted the sun. I took a few photos of the rock formation, and of the bluffline running to the west. I'd hoped to explore that bluffline this morning, but I couldn't take any decent pictures in the harsh sunlight. I started hiking back.
Now it was all uphill, and the layers of clothing to protect me from the cold were too much, and I was sweating heavily by the time I got to the truck. Getting the truck out was an ordeal; I never managed to get enough traction to back up and instead made the risky yet successful move of turning to the left and driving up the embankment next to the highway.
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It was still early so I decided to explore some of the roads in the region. I drove east to the Deer community a mere four miles away and encountered the icy winter wonderland I had hoped for at Home Valley Bluff. The trees were covered in frozen rain, glistening in the bright sunlight and deep blue sky. I turned by the school ("Home of the Antlers"!) onto Parker Ridge Road and made myself stop the truck, though I really wasn't in the mood (probably because I got up so early). I felt a responsibility to take some pictures of the uncommon scenery.
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After that I drove all the way to the Big Piney River. The road went above, around and below some wonderful sandstone bluffs about .4 miles above the river. I turned south onto Big Piney Creek Road, which runs alongside the river. About a mile north of Hurricane Creek I had to drive under a 20-foot waterfall pouring right onto the road. The water hit with as much volume, force, and noise as a high-pressure car wash. It was pretty cool.
I continued south all the way to the ford at Hurricane Creek, and with all the recent rain the creek was way too high to try to cross. From there I turned around a drove home along the same route.
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