Single Photos
March 18, 2011
Even though I worked a lot of weekends this winter, I managed to squeeze in a several outings into my busy schedule. Sunday night, November 28, Grant and I took a long road trip in search of Christmas light displays. We went to Muskogee and drove through the Honor Heights Park to take in the Garden of Lights display. We had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. Then we headed to Broken Arrow to find the Rhema Bible College. The walk-through display of Christmas lights was fantastic, but we weren't used to the cold air of late fall, especially when it was driven my a moderate wind. We hurried through the display to get back to the Tahoe for some relief.
By the next Sunday, December 5, I was feeling stir crazy again and went on a long, long drive through the Ozarks to satisfy my curiosity about some back road routes for future trips. Pretty boring stuff but worth documenting. I found a route from the Haw Creek Falls area to the west side of the concrete bridge over Big Piney Creek; this route bypasses the ford of Hurricane Creek, and is much shorter than the long detour route through the Deer community. Then I drove back west to Rosetta and found a road going north to Limestone. I headed up to Highway 16, went west several miles then headed south down a dirt road to the Walnut community. I was interested in a road that, according to one of my maps, goes west near Dismal Creek then runs northwest to Highway 16. You never know how good, or bad, a road might be by looking at a map or GPS device. I started driving up the road because I could tell it was used a lot. But after a mile and a half, it had deteriorated to a rough, single-lane path. I chickened out and went back to Walnut and took a road following Big Piney Creek west then head up the mountains to Highway 21 at the Salus community. I took dirt roads east back toward Rosetta; some of the views south into the Little Piney Creek drainage were just amazing... the rugged terrain steeply falls away from the ridge tops. I can't imagine trying to walk up or down some of these hillsides. From Rosetta I headed south until I hit the Little Piney, which I followed southeast to Highway 123 at Mount Levi, where I was back in familiar territory.
Monday night, December 13, I drove up to Steele Creek recreation area on the Buffalo River to watch the Geminid meteor shower, which turned out to be one of the best I've ever seen. Temperatures were below 20 degrees, and I wore so many layers of clothing that I was comfortable lying right on top of the dry river rocks beside the Buffalo. I stayed plenty warm as long as I didn't lie motionless for too long; occasionally I had to get up and walk around.
From 11 o'clock to 12:40, I took a series of photos beneath Roark Bluff for the purpose of making a time-lapse movie. Each exposure lasted 16 seconds, and I captured 375 separate images. The moon was still up when I started, and set behind the hills to the southwest at some point while the camera continued to click away. In the resulting movie, It's interesting how the shadows of the hills creep up the face of the bluff.
I didn't capture any bright meteors, but I saw a lot. As I drove through Boxley valley on the way home, there were elk everywhere, right beside the road. It was really tough staying awake on the drive home... I didn't get home until after 3.
The morning of New Year's, Johnny and I drove up to Gentry hoping to see Bald Eagles at the nearby SWEPCO (Southwestern Electric Power Company) Lake. The drive took us past the Cincinnati community, where a rare tornado New Year's Eve tornado had killed three people and destroyed many homes and farms. I was surprised how narrow the path of destruction was: only around a hundred yards. Although we could have stopped and taken pictures, it just didn't seem right.
At SWEPCO Lake, first we drove to the Eagle Watch Nature Trail on Highway 12, north of the lake. We walked 500 yards to a pavilion on the lake's edge. We saw five eagles perched above the bank in the distance, but they were too far away to photograph. We returned to the vehicle and drove on backroads looking for a spot closer to the lake. We parked next to a big open field near the entrance to the power plant, where we saw over 50 eagles  concentrated along a distant line of trees. We grabbed our cameras and slowly eased along the edge of a fence perpendicular to the tree line, trying to get closer to the eagles. You could tell the eagles were shy, and one by one they took flight as we got close. It was still thrilling to see so many Bald Eagles. I managed to get a couple of clear photos of them circling way overhead; the best one captured 11 eagles.
The next morning I drove to the subdivision in town near Eagles Nest hoping to get a picture of the sun rising behind Mount Magazine, 45 miles to the southeast. In the last year, not a single new house had been built, and my viewing spot was still open.
We had some good snow this winter, but I wasn't able to go out and enjoy it or take any pictures. The afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday, February 6, I went to Lee Creek Reservoir for a three-mile fitness hike. Thick snow that had fallen earlier in the week covered the trail and the surrounding woods. It really wasn't all that pretty anyway, and the sky was gray and overcast. When snow was forecast for the following Tuesday, I made preparations to drive up to Natural Dam at lunch. I hadn't been at work very long when Lance called to say he couldn't make it down the hill to work, so I decided to go get him. I tried going up Log Town Hill but only made it to Poplar street before I lost all forward momentum. I made a backwards left turn into the other lane and wound up sitting sideways in the downhill lane, facing the inside of the road. When I first put the Tahoe in drive and tried to turn, my back wheels spun and I thought I was stuck. Just then a car came down the hill straight for me. The driver finally realized I wasn't moving out of his way and started slowing down. As he came within inches of hitting the Tahoe, I was already imagining how difficult the next few hours would be! But thank God the car came to a stop, and I realized all I needed to do was straighten the wheel and I could move forward.
I drove to the Butterfield Junior High parking lot and put the chains on my back tires, then drove up 10th street to get to the top of the hill. The snow was so deep I still barely made it. Once Lance and I got to work I of course cancelled my plans to go to Natural Dam. That afternoon, the sun came out and the temperature rose, and every bit of that snow melted off the roads.
I didn't get out again until Friday morning, February 25, when I drove up to the Mulberry River drainage looking for some waterfall scenery. My plan was to visit a little waterfall on Spirits Creek named First Drop. As I approached from the west I came to barricades across the road. I drove back to "Highway" (it's dirt) 215 and headed east, then turned north on a forest service road with the intentions of reaching Spirits Creek from the east. That route was blocked too, so all I could do was go to work. I was getting low on gas, so I drove to Turner Bend store to fill up. That route took me by Grays Spring ( a neat CCC picnic area), Bee Rock, and the infamous "Son, you need to slow that vehicle down" turn.
That Sunday, Johnny and I went to the Blue Hole. On the way we detoured to Spadra Park outside Clarksville hoping to photograph the sunrise. The were too many clouds to the east, but I still enjoyed the view of the Arkansas River from a rock ledge jutting out over the water.
Five days before the official start of Spring, I made a Wednesday morning drive to the Arkansas Grand Canyon to watch the sunrise. At first it seemed like the only interesting sight would be some wavy blue clouds overhead, but then as sunrise approached, the sky above the sun turned some amazing shades of pink, scarlet, and purple. I put a telephoto lens on the camera, which magnified the scene and zoomed in on the prettiest parts of the view.