The Rest of the Story
March 19, 2005

I’ve got a few leftover photos and untold stories from this winter that I’d like to share. I’ve continued to go on brief excursions close to home for sunrise and sunset shots, where I’d be lucky to get one decent picture. And I’ve gone on several bushwhacks in the wilderness where I only snapped a few bad pictures under terrible lighting with the point-and-shoot camera.
I wasted no time in getting out on the mountain bike Stacey and the boys got me for my birthday. On Saturday, January 15, Joey and I put in a full day around the headwaters of Herrods Creek in the northeast corner of Franklin County. There’s a neat little canyon there I found last year that I wanted to take another look at. First we hiked down the mountain on the west side of the creek until we found the upper end of the canyon, then backtracked to the truck. There were several nice waterfalls along the way. It was only one mile round-trip, but the mountain is steep and rugged. Next we drove over to the ridge on the east side of the creek and rode our mountain bikes down a jeep road, searching for an easier route to my canyon. This trek was three miles round-trip, and we actually pushed the bikes more than we rode them. The jeep road was steep and rocky the entire way. We were wore out for days after that!
I returned to Herrods Creek canyon the following Saturday. On our previous outing, Joey and I got within 400 yards of the creek before the jeep road made an unexpected turn (my topo map said the road should go all the way to the creek). I wanted to evaluate those last 400 yards to the creek, and I was hoping to explore inside the canyon this time. The last 400 yards was an easy bushwhack through beautiful Beech tree woods, and the canyon - all 400 yards of it - was lined with big icicles. I didn’t even bring the little camera with me though, so no pictures.
Something interesting happened on the drive in that I got a few bad pictures of. On East Fly Gap road there’d been some big-time shifting of the earth. Next to the road an enormous boulder bigger than a house had slid about 10 feet down the hill. There was a fresh gap between the boulder and another above it. The road below the boulder had some big cracks in it. One crack went completely across the road, but somebody had already filled it in with dirt and limbs (looks like somebody got stuck). The powers that be had already blocked the road on either side of all this. I had to make a big detour.
I still drive down to Lee Creek park and the riverfront park alot. Sunset on Valentine’s Day was gorgeous. Every time I’ve stopped at the riverfront park, there’s been a huge flock of water turkeys (Anhingas) roosting in a group of Sycamores growing out of a jetty. Usually there’s always a few taking flight and circling around the roost, and the whole flock is always making a bunch of racket. For some reason they give me the creeps!
On weekends that I had to work and couldn’t go explore, as a consolation Grant and I made a couple of road trips to get acquainted with the mountains south of the river valley. On the afternoon of February 26 we drove south of Poteau and got on the Talimena Scenic Drive at the western end of Rich Mountain, and followed the mountaintop drive to its eastern end at Mena. I had heard of Rich Mountain through the years, but somehow had no idea exactly where it was or how big it was. Its tallest peak is only 72 feet shorter than Mount Magazine, which is the tallest peak in the midwest. I guess Mount Magazine and the Talimena Drive keep the name Rich Mountain out of the spotlight. Anyway, Grant and I took in some thrilling scenery and I look forward to returning many times to Rich Mountain.
The evening of March 5 we drove down Highway 71 and just north of Waldron turned west and headed up Poteau Mountain. The drive, which basically runs along the top of the mountain westward to the Oklahoma line, was a big letdown. There were a couple of roadside picnic areas at the lower elevations, but the views from there were either blocked by trees or just weren’t very exciting. The tallest peak on Poteau Mountain is only 12 feet lower in elevation than Rich Mountain, but there wasn’t a single spot along the road to enjoy what must be some fantastic views. The road has got to be the roughest one I’ve driven in years. We did see some great, rugged country filled with huge boulders and majestic pines along the road. The drive was educational - I learned that a great deal of the forest on the north side of the road is in a wilderness area; and we came down off the mountain just south of the Sugarloaf Mountains around Hartford and Midland - giving me a much better sense of how these mountains of the river valley and Ouachitas lie in relation to each other.

Here are a few more shots from that morning at Clear Creek Park:
Charles, Barb and I went to Mount Magazine the morning of Sunday, March 6 and made it to the bluffs overlooking Bear Hollow before sunrise. The clouds were too thick  for a nice sunrise, but the view was still awesome. We could see clear to Mount Nebo 20 miles away. We also drove a few miles down the mountain to Hardy Falls. Charles was hoping to find the site near there where a military plane crashed in the 40s, but we had no luck. We discovered a nice waterfall down below Hardy Falls.
And finally, Friday afternoon Marh 11 I drove up to White Rock to catch the sunset and maybe see an unusual astronomical event - for only a few days a year the planet Mercury is visible. This year it was supposed to be positioned close to the new moon. There was a great sunset (pictured at the top of this page) but when it got dark enough that the new moon was visible against the sky, I couldn’t find Mercury anywhere. Probably it was hidden by the haze. I finally saw it on the drive home, but it wasn’t all that exciting.