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Mount Magazine Sunsets
May 27 & June 1, 2005
Last spring and summer I spent enough afternoons in the mountains to realize that fast-moving thunderstorms oftentimes result in terrific scenery. Two evenings this spring I took advantage of that knowledge by heading up to our state's tallest mountain just after stormy weather.
Friday afternoon May 27 was almost an exact repeat of last year's Memorial Day weekend start, when Cliff and I enjoyed an evening atop Magazine, except this time around Cliff chose to stay home instead of coming with me. I arrived a couple hours before sunset and while driving around Cameron Bluff Loop I spotted a sign for the new North Rim hiking trail. I drove on to the state park visitor's center and got a map showing the new trail, and then walked into the big room containing the scale model of the mountain. Looking at the map and figuring out where the trail was on the model sparked my curiosity, and I headed out to the truck to drive back to the trailhead.
I was disappointed in the path of the trail - it seemed to stay far up in the woods away from any of the bluffs jutting out from the north face of the mountain - but still, any walk in the woods is a good one! I kept an eye on my watch and after 30 minutes on the trail turned around and headed back in order to have plenty of time to catch the sunset from Cameron Bluff.
There were only a few low-hanging clouds down below, but the sun put on a good show for a few minutes before sinking behind some thick clouds on the horizon. I thought the excitement was over for the evening until, as I was driving north off the mountain, I rounded a corner and saw below a thick cloud bank illuminated by the pink dusky sky. At the time I wasn’t sure if the city lights beyond the clouds were Paris or Ozark, but later when I got the picture on the computer screen and zoomed way in I recognized the unique arch pattern of the Ozark bridge.
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Five days later we had another big storm pass through; the system just hovered over us at home and Mount Magazine 40 miles away. May was a big disappointment regarding rainfall and waterfalls, so that afternoon I first drove through the state park and down the southern side of the mountain to check out Hardy Falls. Those falls were still dry, but the big waterfall downstream on the other side of the road had a decent amount of water pouring over - though not enough for me to want to go all the way to the bottom. Man it’s steep!
I had a little bit of excitement as I was changing clothes beside the truck. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a big black dog on the side of the road next to the guardrail; only when I looked up it was a half-grown bear! It was walking south beside the road, pausing every couple of seconds to look up at me. In no time at all it disappeared around the bend in the road, leaving me to wonder if that had been real or just my imagination.
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After braving a small section of the hillside above the falls for a quick photo, I drove back up the twisting highway to the top of the mountain, then over to Cameron Bluff.  I was met with an unforgettable view: a slowly moving sea of puffy clouds spread out for miles around the mountain. At first the clouds were white with blueish shadows, but as the sun sank lower and lower in the sky the haze turned the sunlight and clouds gold then peach. After the sun set, the clouds overhead turned to pinks and purples, and the sea of clouds below caught some of that color.
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