Winter Snapshots
March 19, 2008
I love to hop in the truck and go exploring new areas along state highways and county roads. Nowadays I've usually already viewed the area on topo maps or Google Earth and I'm curious to see it in person. Such was the case on Saturday, December 8. According to the calendar, Winter was still two weeks away, but the trees and clouds said otherwise.
I headed down I-40 to Clarksville, then headed north up Highway 21. As I ascended from the river valley I found the Boston Mountains socked in under heavy fog. I got on dirt roads at Salus and drove down the mountain to the Walnut community. I'd taken some wrong turns and wasn't even on the correct road, which turned out to be a blessing because I crossed the Big Piney at a point that I was most curious about. According to the topo maps it was a possible access point for a hike downstream, though in actuality I'm not so sure because there were some no trespassing signs in the area. There was a neat footbridge across the creek.
I headed north up the mountain toward Highway 16, and once there turned down the road to find the parking area for Dismal Hollow. Then I went by the parking area for Home Valley Bluff, though it was so foggy I could hardly make out anything.
Next I took the dirt road down the mountain toward Limestone. There were some interesting bluffs and overhangs right next to the road, and in the same area there were two hairpin turns with streams to the east that looked promising for waterfalls. Down in the valley near Limestone I passed by the Big Piney again at a pretty spot with a small bluff structure.
Then I (unwisely I might add!) took a forest service road that follows the Big Piney south toward Highway 123. There was a 3.5 mile stretch that was in terrible condition and I was quite nervous. But thankfully that road merged with a much better road and I and my truck survived. The entire stretch of road along the Big Piney though was a scenic wonder. Just gorgeous... what little I could make out through the fog and fading light. Huge boulders and Beech trees everywhere.. the creek was full of emerald pools.
We added a new member to the family Christmas Eve, a Australian Shepherd and Border Collie mix named Emmy.  We were able to hide her in a gift-wrapped box and surprise the boys. It had taken some serious pestering from Stacey for me to give in; after we lost Cricket earlier in the year I swore we wouldn't have another dog. After Christmas dinner we set Emmy up on the bar with a backdrop of black cloth and I took her portrait.
It wasn’t long before I was calling her Daddy’s little girl!
I managed to catch a really nice sunset (pictured at the top of this page) on Saturday afternoon, January 12. Northwest Arkansas was covered in rain clouds all afternoon. For some reason I checked the weather satellite image online before leaving work, and noticed the edge of the cloud cover was coming our way. Hoping the setting sun might shine through an opening and light up the undersides of the clouds, I rushed home to grab my camera then headed to Lee Creek Park.

I started work early Sunday, February 2 and finished in time to go for an afternoon drive. By the time it got dark I really thought I'd wind up being stuck in my truck overnight somewhere along Fly Gap road. My drive was from Van Buren to Locke to Dockery's Gap then through Bidville. I was hoping to take in some views of the mountains in the late afternoon sun. Temperatures were very warm for this time of year, and the air was uncommonly hazy. I thought it was smoke... thought the forest service must be doing some burning.
Just past Bidville was a view of a neat bluff jutting out from the side of the mountain. I parked along the hairpin curve on Parker Mountain and walked south along the mountaintop looking for possible overlooks, but found nothing really outstanding. I was back in the truck driving east when the sun went down, and there was a long period where it was hard to see because it wasn't dark enough for the headlights to do any good, yet it was too dark to see clearly.  And the haze wasn't helping matters
But the real danger was that the roads were muddier than I've ever seen them. I think the area had gotten a lot of snow recently, and the snow just sat there on the roads and softened them up. The truck was sliding all over the road, and in addition to the mud, the road was really rough. Once it got completely dark a heavy fog rolled in. I thought it surely had to be smoke, so I rolled down the window and took a big sniff, but nope, it was fog. Luckily there never was much of a ditch on the left side, and I just kept my left wheels on the outside of the road where it was dryer and managed to keep going.
Not only was I nervous that I'd get stuck, I wasn't totally sure I was even on the correct road. I'd never come in to that area from the west, I didn't have any spots marked with my GPS,  and the road was much narrower than I remembered. Finally a came to a spot I had marked on my GPS and knew I was on Fly Gap Road. But the anxiety wasn't over. Up on the ridge northwest of Cove Creek, the fog was so thick I could only see about 10 feet in front of me. The natural direction of the road caused me to begin leaving Fly Gap road and go right onto the forest service road that runs along Whiting Mountain. I've never been down that road and didn't know what kind of shape it was in, so I managed to back up and continue along Fly Gap road. But that little episode was harder than it sounds. There were no road signs anywhere, and visibility was so bad that I wasn't totally sure of anything. I was so very relieved when I finally got to Highway 23!
Once again Mount Magazine proved to be a good destination for snowy landscapes. The day after the March 7 snowfall event, I was able to go into work later than usual since it was a Saturday. I got up at 4 a.m. with intentions of catching the sunrise from Bear Head Bluff, but it seems nothing went right. It was supposed to be an easy half-mille hike in, yet after trudging through 15 inches of snow (more than I'd ever seen) for 100 yards I was stopping to catch my breath and realizing I'd never make it.
Plan B was for nearby Sunrise Rock. Once the trail left an old road and headed through the woods, the drifts were over my knees. Ironically Sunrise Rock was void of the snow I was counting on for the picture I had in mind. The sunrise was a dud too.
But when the sun cleared the clouds near the horizon, it lit up the tops of the trees on the other side of the hollow. I grabbed my tripod to set up a shot, but water in two of the legs had frozen solid in the 12 degree air and would not extend. I managed to find a spot with a clear view and space for me to sit, and I got a few photos.
I had quite the little adventure the morning of Wednesday, March 19, though I didn't get a single photo. As far as rainfall events go, the region had been hit by The Big One the day and evening before. Rainfall totals were at least 6 to 8 inches everywhere, with some places seeing up to 15 inches.
I decided to make a run up to Mount Magazine, to see how Drippings Springs Cascade looked from a nearby bluff. I'd vowed to make that trip ever since I saw the amazing cascade from below last winter.  The hike in was 1.2 miles in the dark, through howling winds and light rain stinging me in the face. The terrain is very flat up top, there was standing water everywhere, and it was foggy.
When I got to the edge of the bluff, the fog was so thick I couldn't see the cascade at all. So I turned around and headed back for the truck ( I had to be at work at 10 for a conference call). On the hike back, the rain got a little heavier and was mixed with heavy clumps of snow. My pants and boots were soaked by the time I got to the truck.