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Bear Hollow
December 31, 2006
I'm still chasing after a picture-perfect sunrise from Bear Hollow at Mount Magazine. I caught a really nice one New Year's Eve, but the pictures didn't turn out the way I wanted. The weather forecast called for fog, I had a new Christmas present to try out (a 10 megapixel Canon Digital Rebel XTi), and I felt the need to do some exploring. Bear Hollow was the perfect place.
The plan was to be at Bear Head Bluff before the sun came up. That shouldn't have been too big a deal considering the sunrise wasn't until 7:25, but I've fallen into this schedule where I don't go to bed until 2 a.m. and usually don't get up before 7. So basically I got a late start and arrived at the trailhead a little later than intended.
As  I strapped on my backpack I looked up at the sky and thought to myself - "No need to hurry".  The sky was mainly overcast, drab and unremarkable and I doubted there would be much color at sunrise. I hiked on down the trail to the bluff, about half a mile away. My back was facing the hollow to the east as I unpacked my camera and tripod and fiddled with a filter that didn't want to go on to a lens. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a sudden change in the color of my surroundings. I looked up and was amazed to see the bare trees all around me bathed in an eerie, soft orange light.
When I turned around I couldn't see the sun directly. It was so far south that it was behind the side of the hollow to my right. But the clouds overhead and mist and fog in the river valley below me were being hit by an orange sun that had found a hole in all the cloud cover, and that orange light was bouncing its way up the hollow.
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I put on a wide-angle lens to capture a shot of the entire scene before me, then quickly switched to a telephoto lens so that I could zoom in closer to things in the hollow below, including a buzzard enjoying the show (or more likely looking for breakfast).
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Within a few minutes the sun rose above the cloud layer and the orange light was gone. Apparently way off to the east was a sudden end to the cloud cover, since the sky and fog were brightly lit. The underside of the solid cloud cover above me was catching that bright yellow light, and I had another scene that needed to be captured with the wide-angle lens.
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Ten minutes later the entire sky was dull gray, with no hints remaining of the spectacle that had just occurred. As I was packing away the camera I reviewed my shots on the camera’s LCD screen and was horrified to discover I had my new camera on a wrong setting, which resulted in all the shots being very “noisy” with the shadows too dark. The pictures look o.k. on a web page, but would never make it as prints.

I bushwhacked the short distance up to the trail then hung a right toward the middle of the hollow. I’d gone only a couple of hundred yards when I checked my GPS and noted that the waterfall I’d found back in November was just down the hill. Since my plan was to explore the stream anyway, I turned and made a beeline for the falls.
The hillside on my side of the stream (the upper reaches of Big Shoal Creek) was quite steep so I headed down the hollow parallel to the stream, which was downhill from me.
My progress was about as slow as I think it’s ever been on a hike, due to how rough the terrain was. The “ground” was a maze of leaf-covered loose rocks full of cracks and crevices, with a higher layer of thickly tangled grape vines and sticker bushes.
A few hundred feet below the first waterfall I came upon another one, about six feet high. I slowly made my way down to the stream and hopped across it to take some pictures from the northern side and from directly below.
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I continued downstream for another hour, to a location where I recognized Bear Head Bluff and the bluff beside Fringe Falls directly uphill to the south. I’d always viewed these landmarks from the same elevation, so it was interesting to see them from my new downhill perspective. I’d had my fill of the treacherous terrain for the day, so I headed uphill toward the bluffs.
Soon I had a clear view that included, left to right, a bluff I’m calling Fringe Point, then Fringe Falls, then a tall cascading waterfall I’m calling Bear Head Falls, followed by Bear Head Bluff. Regretfully I didn’t take any pictures of this scene. The overcast sky was a bright solid gray, and it would have just killed any pictures, so I left the camera in the bag. Proceeding straight uphill, I came to a field of rock directly below Fringe Point. I’d seen such “rock glaciers” many times at Mount Magazine from way up above. This was the first time for me to walk on part of one. I found a safe route up directly beside Fringe Falls, and was soon back on the trail.
There seemed to be a lot more water running on the mountain than I’d ever seen, so instead of driving straight home I did some sightseeing. First I headed south on Hwy 309 around 4.5 miles to check out Hardy Falls, which is right  beside the road. The falls were running well, but I’m holding out for photographs when things are green. At the first available spot, I turned around and headed north back  up and over the mountain.
Down at the bottom of the mountain on the north side, I turned left onto Green Bench road to see how much water was flowing in the streams coming off the mountain. Along a straightaway about 2 miles in I suddenly hit the brakes, because of the view out in front of me. A portion of the north face of the western end of the mountain was visible, and in between some of the bluffs an enormous waterfall cascaded down the steep mountain face. I put my big telephoto zoom lens on the camera and took a couple of shots. There was a lot of haze in the air that made the pictures look washed out, but they show just how tall the waterfall is.
Of course I’ll be returning some day for a closer look!
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