Kings River Falls
December 30, 2009
An Arkansas waterfall surrounded by snow is a rare sight, so I was really excited when the weathermen said the Ozarks would be seeing lots of the white stuff. Luckily the workload at my job was light enough for me to take an unscheduled midweek morning off to visit Kings River Falls.
I did as much preparation as I could the night before; I got the camera gear in order and put it by the door, I put my winter hiking clothes on the kitchen table, and I set the timer on the coffee pot.
I'm a slow mover in the morning, especially when I get up earlier than I'm used to. So even though I got up at 4 and had made all those preparations, by the time I took a shower and got dressed it was 4:45.
I had to take the long route through Fayetteville because Highway 23 was closed somewhere north of Highway 215. Most of the snow had fallen during the night, but I drove through some light snow north of the tunnel on I-540. The farther north I travelled toward Fayetteville, the more slush I had to drive through. I passed three different highway department trucks in the southbound lane spraying sand; one of them was following a plow truck that was throwing up a lot of sparks. When I came up behind a sand truck in my lane, I decided to pass it. I learned that wasn't the smartest thing in the world to do when the Tahoe got hit with flying sand.
As I drove east of Fayetteville on Highway 16, the snow on the road became thicker and more slick. When I turned north off of the Highway at Boston, which has an elevation of over 2,300 feet, the dirt road was all white with snow. Along the long downhill stretch ending at the Kings River, I was a bit nervous about whether or not the Tahoe would slide on its own, but everything went OK.
I pulled in to the new parking area for the Kings River Natural Area, which is on the county road (the old one was on a private drive) just as it got light enough to see. Everything, including the trees, were covered with about an inch of snow. The scene was gorgeous. It took me about 20 minutes to hike to the falls, which were running perfectly. And the pool of water below the falls was the ideal shade of blue-green. As I set up the camera to take photos, the overcast sky gradually grew lighter. The temperature was just a few degrees below freezing, and I had a feeling the snow was already melting.
I wish I could have stayed all morning, but I needed to get in to work, so I stayed below the falls for only an hour. On the hike back I had to stop and photograph a scene where the trail went through a white tunnel formed by the overhanging branches of the bushes and shrubs on either side of the trail. And near the beginning of the new section of the trail at the new parking area, I stopped to photograph a scene across a pasture that included the huge old barn at the old parking area. The top of the mountainside behind the barn disappeared into the low-hanging clouds.
The iffiest part of the day's drive was ahead of me though. Beginning at the turn south, the road goes seriously uphill for about 500 feet.  I made it, but only because I got some momentum early on. If it had been colder or there'd been more snow, I probably would have stalled midway and slid off into the ditch.
Near the top of the mountain at Boston, I stopped to take one last photo of the snow-covered road in the foggy low clouds. At the highway, the road crews were doing a great job. They'd already plowed and sanded the area. At slightly lower elevations west, the highway was all clear... just wet. I made good time and was at work at 11:20.