December 20, 2006
It was a warm and sunny afternoon on October 12 when I drove to Steele Creek campground to try and locate two bluff overlooks on my “must be seen” list. I started out hiking south along the Buffalo River Trail, which climbed steeply up a beautifully unique area where both giant Beeches and pine trees towered above big boulders, with very little undergrowth. I failed to initially locate the faint trail leading to Bee Bluff, about a half mile into the hike, and continued along the trail for at least another 30 minutes. It was a fortunate mistake, since I got to see many interesting natural features. But maybe I should save the description of those for another journal page. I must have been pretty close to Ponca before I turned around and headed back toward Steele Creek. This time I found my way to Bee Bluff and was able to take some shots from the one safe perch large enough for a guy to sit and enjoy the fantastic view.
Three weeks later, I left work early the afternoon of Friday, November 3 to head for the river bottoms outside Mulberry and scout locations to photograph the upcoming full moon rise. I caught a real winner of a sunset.
The boys had kept asking me when I was going to take them on another crystal hunt, and they finally got the answer they wanted on November 12th. The previous week I’d finally figured out how to get to Crystal Mountain during a trip along the Winona Scenic Drive, so that would be our destination. We stopped by the hardware store on the way to make sure Grant had the same garden fork that Cliff did, then off we went on the long drive. Of course we stopped at a convenience store along Highway 7 for candy and drinks.
It was late in the afternoon before we finally made it to the Crystal Mountain area. After a short but steep walk up a jeep road we took a few minutes to enjoy the extraordinary panoramic view of the mountains to the south. Cliff spotted a tiny corn snake and didn’t hesitate to pick it up. He wanted to put it in his pocket and bring it home but I said no.
We really didn’t know how to begin looking for quartz. There wasn’t much in the way of disturbed soil or any signs that anybody had been in the area collecting crystals. I took the lead and went down hill off the road and started scraping the soil near a couple of boulders. Soon Cliff got the idea, then Grant took over for me. We found a few small crystal points, but the boys quickly got discouraged and started complaining and saying they were ready to leave. On the walk back toward the truck I spotted a newly-fallen tree and went over to it and started looking in the dirt clinging to the roots at the base of the tree. Soon the boys were all over it, and we wound up with several dozen small but pristine crystal pieces. Dad had saved the day at the last moment.
I didn’t take a single picture that day, but I wanted to include it on this page anyway.
I got up way, way early on Saturday, November 18 to be at the Bear Hollow overlook at Mount Magazine by sunrise. Problem was, I got there TOO early and had to take a nap in the truck while waiting more than half an hour for sunrise. Then I overslept and woke up to see sunlight hitting the sides of the trees behind me. I almost started the engine and drove home, but instead went ahead and got out.
The plan was to hike the Bear Hollow trail to it’s northern end at Highway 309, then to backtrack to the truck. When the trail crossed the creek at the middle of the hollow, I couldn’t help but follow the water down for a while to explore. It's a pretty little stream.. lots of wide, flat sections and small drops. After a couple hundred yards I came to a cascade followed by a sudden 9-foot fall.  There were some nice small bluffs on both sides of the hollow there as well.
After taking some pictures, I hauled myself up the steep north side of the hollow, picked up the hiking trail and managed to complete the day’s goal of hiking the entire trail.
The next outing of fall was also to Mount Magazine. The Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving, Joey and I rode our mountain bikes along the road going to the western end of the mountain. Though I had my camera backpack and all my gear, I wasn’t in a picture-taking mood and never got out the camera.... which probably explains why I’ve forgotten too many details about that afternoon. For example, we found ourselves at a nice rocky overlook on the southwest side of the mountain. Colorful, dark red huckleberry leaves were low to the ground everywhere. But I can’t remember exactly where that spot was, and that just doesn’t happen to me. I know if I’d taken some pictures, I’d remember how to get back to that spot. It was probably the same place I visited in February, 2005.
We found several nice overlooks north of the radio towers, a couple of which had state park signs identifying their names. One was named Signal Point, another Grandview something or other. On the ride back we detoured at a sign pointing toward Dripping Springs. Once there, Joey followed a trail down the steep mountainside along the stream, while I tried to discover the source of the spring above. Most of the stops we made were places I knew I’d have to come back to some day, so that I could explore them in much more detail.
The day ended on a hilarious note as we were swiftly coasting downhill near the truck. Joey was about a hundred feet ahead of me, and I caught the flash of deer tails to his left. Seven or eight deer took flight but headed toward Joey instead of away. I thought a collision was possible and kiddingly hollered “Don’t Hit The Deer!”.

The picture at the top of this page was taken some time after midnight Friday morning, December 15. I still monitor the conditions for aurora displays, and chances were high that night. Now, what my eyes saw that night was nothing... just stars and the hint of gray clouds. But the camera sees other stuff over the course of a long exposure. I don’t know if the oranges in the photo, taken at Shores Lake, are caused by far-off city lights reflecting off of high altitude clouds or are the result of some geomagnetic disturbance. There IS a slight touch of green in the clouds. Whatever; I like the picture so I’m sharing it.
Several times while I was taking pictures in the dark, the calm silence was shattered by a loud clap! on the surface of the water; each time I nearly jumped out of my skin! I imagined it was fish jumping out of the water then splashing back down. Then I made out the shape of a beaver moving silently across the smooth lake, with a wake extending behind it.
Cliff and I returned early Saturday night because of continued aurora forecasts, but there was no light show.
Once again, it seems there is at least one trip every season to Lee Creek park for sunset pictures. These shots were taken Saturday, December 15... a couple of hours before Cliff and I drove  up to Shores Lake.