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Spring Snapshots
June 17, 2008
I postponed a good home-cooked meal the evening of Saturday, March 22 so that I could just get "out"... away from work (I'd only had two days off since New Year's) and out of the house. The signs of Spring were everywhere outside, and I wanted to fulfill a wish to find a field carpeted with Spring Beauty flowers and photograph them. I drove south through the river bottoms, crossed the Arkansas River at Barling, then headed to Fort Chaffee and the adjacent Ben Geren Park. I never found that perfect patch of Spring Beauties, but a bright cluster of lavender Rose Vervain in an old field caught my eye.

I had the next day off and headed out just after sunrise to Mount Magazine. I explored several streams in Ross Hollow on the north side of the mountain. Over the years I'd looked down on those stream valleys from above many times, and just had to know what was down there. I didn't find any waterfalls but I saw some nice scenes in a few places... straight stretches with some nice cascades and a few large boulders. I should have taken some shots while the lighting was good, but I planned on doing that on the return hike. Then the sun came out and ruined everything. I never took the camera out of the bag.

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Two weeks later, Saturday April 5, the boys and I drove down into the Ouachita Mountains south of Russellville for a day of sightseeing and a little bit of surface digging for quartz crystals. We took the scenic route, Driving Hwy 10 from Greenwood to Ola, then Hwy 7 to the Winona Scenic Drive.
I detoured off the Winona Drive just west of Crystal Mountain and headed south a couple of miles to investigate a little-known plot of land designated the Lake Winona Research Natural Area. It's part of the National Natural Landmark program and, according to the national park service web site "contains a large virgin shortleaf pine forest reminiscent of those that once covered large areas of Arkansas." But to be honest, we didn't see anything special about the area... just a bunch of pine trees that didn't appear any different or larger than any other stand of Arkansas pine tree's I'd seen. The detour was worth it though because the uphill drive back to the Winona Scenic Drive revealed some really nice views of the bluffs up on Crystal Mountain.
We were able to drive the small, rough road up to the Crystal Mountain vista. The view was fantastic and as an added bonus there were many clumps of Rose Vervain at the base of the sandstone boulders. I was too concerned with keeping the boys out of trouble and didn't get my camera out of the bag. Now that scene is on my lists of things to capture some day.
Next we drove to Flatside Pinnacle to catch the sunset. We had a nice view of Forked Mountain to the west.
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Saturday, April 19 we returned to the Ouachitas to try our luck searching for quartz at the Coleman crystal mine north of Hot Springs. I really enjoyed the drive. It was a gorgeous spring day with blue skies and sunshine. The views were filled with vibrant green new foliage, lit up spectacularly by the sun. At the mine, the public is allowed to search through piles of dirt brought up to an open area above the mine. We didn't get any really good crystals  - but brought home lots with imperfections - and had a good time together.
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Friday evening, May 2, I paid another visit to the Ozark Highlands Trail west of Herrods Creek. I wanted to get a good look at that little four-drop waterfall I'd seen from a distance back on March 30. The foliage along the trail - especially in moist, shaded areas along steep hillsides - seemed to be at peak "lushness". It made a big impression on me. I had no trouble finding a way down into the narrow canyon, but the falls could have used a lot more water. Now that I know how to quickly get to it, I'm sure to make a return trip some spring afternoon after work.
Saturday evening, May 10, the air was crisp and clean and fill of scattered clouds.. seemingly good conditions for a quick run down to Lee Creek Park with the camera.
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I kept the tradition alive of driving down to Mount Magazine with the boys the Friday evening before Memorial Day. The skies had been partly cloudy and I was hoping we'd catch a good sunset. But the top of the mountain was shrouded in heavy fog and though we drove out to the Cameron Bluff overlook, visibility was down to about 100 feet.
Sunday, June 1 the McBrides joined us on an impromptu float down the Buffalo River from Steele Creek to Kyles Landing. We ignored the weather forecast and paid for it big-time, as we endured 4 hours of cold rain. Cliff got his own kayak, while the rest of us paddled canoes: James with Melinda, Cait with Stacey (and Grant in the middle) and Callie with me. We stopped for snacks below Big Bluff, and Grant accompanied me on a quest to find the historic metal-roofed structure I'd seen from up above along the Goat Trail back in November. We stopped for lunch at the downstream end of Horseshoe Bend, where I snapped a shot of Cliff with the point-and-shoot camera. Moments later when I jumped down a couple of feet from a rock ledge to the gravel bank, I pulled something in my lower back, and I spent the rest of the float and the 2-hour drive home in a lot of pain. The sun came out for the last hour of our float and overall we had a good time. This was the first trip I've made on the Buffalo since getting into photography, and now all I can say is that some day some how I've just got to make that trip and take pictures as I go.
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Sunday, June 15 I got up crazy-early so that I could drive to Mount Magazine and be at Solstice Point before the 6:02 sunrise. The mountain must have gotten a lot of rain the day before, because there was a cascade with a couple of waterfalls right beside the point making all kinds of sweet music. There weren't any clouds in the sky but the predawn was colorful along the horizon and the sun was bright orange when it first emerged. Several bats whizzed around me, and I was shocked to see one land on nearby rock, walk a few steps (seeming to use its wings), then take off again. That was so cool! A lot of huckleberry bushes grow at the point, and I grazed on ripe berries before hiking back to the car. Just down the road I stopped the car (I'd taken Stacey's Civic) and walked down to the stream above Mt Magazine Falls, and it was running very well. There was too much of a breeze and the sun would be hitting it at any moment, so I didn't go back up to get the camera. I drove around the mountain, making the Cameron Bluff loop and noticed the Arkansas River and adjacent lands to the north were covered in fog. And there was thick fog in the Petit Jean River valley just below the mountain to the south.
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