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Upper Buffalo Wilderness:
Hawk Hollow to Bowers Hollow
October 25-26, 2010
Just below Hawk Hollow, seven car-sized boulders lined a shallow pool. The infant Buffalo River, which frequently changes directions as it travels a path of least resistance around ridges and bluffs,  was now running in a northeast direction. Beyond the pool, the water ran through a typical area where the river bed consisted of rounded rocks with Water Willow sticking up between them. Often the water was only a couple of inches deep.
At the next pool, another 100-yard-long one, a gust of wind sent hundreds of colorful leaves fluttering through the air to land on top of the water. It was an incredible moment. I waded straight down the middle of the shallow pool, though by this time shallow pool meant the water was up to my knees, and it was much deeper next to the right-hand bank. This pool ended around mile 11.6.
At the end of another shallow, rocky run, the river turned right at a unique rock formation the whitewater crowd has named The Room of Doom. Huge rocks obstructed the river bed above a dropoff to a shallow pool lined with more big rocks and boulders on river right.  A short bluff ran along the left side of the pool. About a third of the way up its height, the bluff has been eroded by the water to form a deep recession. At the downstream end of the bluff, the water has actually drilled a passage at the back of the recession that goes all the way through the bluff.
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Past the Room of Doom, the stream ran through a long, shallow, narrow area where trees grew close to both banks. Then the river bed spread out and passed by four or five car-sized boulders.
Another new landmark came within view -  a long line of distinctive chert bluffs lined the right bank. From my untrained perspective, this was the first occurrence of chert on the river. The river has undercut the bottom of the bluffs, resulting in the tops jutting out above the stream. The whole scene was gorgeous.. I stood in a shallow pool lined with rocks and stones of all sizes; colorful leaves floating on the pool's surface. Beyond was the line of dark gray, chert bluffs, their layers forming horizontal lines. The hillside above the bluffs was covered in orange and yellow foliage, and in the distance a steep mountainside filled the sky. I passed the downstream end of the chert bluffs, at mile 11.9, around 4 o'clock.
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I came to perhaps the widest hole yet - a good 100 feet. The water didn't look all that deep, but when I waded through the hole at the most shallow area, the water came all the way up to my pants pockets. Beyond that the river ran through a slow, flat area with a bed of small rocks. This ended at the mouth of Terrapin Branch at mile 12.0.
If not for GPS technology, I might have missed the tiny, dry stream bed coming in from the southeast. I'm glad I stopped to take a documentary photo; although the picture isn't all that pretty, I think it accurately portrays one personality of the upper Buffalo River in the fall. The "river" itself was only 8 feet wide and a few inches deep. The left bank was a dry bed of small rocks, and the higher right bank was a dry bed of larger rocks. Yellow Witch-hazel bushes bordered the forest beyond.
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I only had one more mile to hike for the day, but I was 30 minutes behind schedule. I didn't get a break though... I quickly came to another long, deep hole that I had to wade through. Again the water came up to my pants pockets. Thank goodness for the water-resistant, quick-dry properties of my hiking pants. Past the deep hole the river made a noticeable downhill run through a shallow bed of big rocks. Then as the river made a slight left turn, just before mile 12.2,  it ran around several small boulders.
Lucky for me, the river valley had flattened out quite a bit and I found myself walking beside the river on a flat bed of rocks a lot more of the time. At mile 12.2 there were big bluffs beyond the right side of the river. Tall trees grew in front of them, partially hiding them from view. Several big boulders sat at the water's edge, and several fallen trees lay partially in the water, leaning against the boulders. The water ran in a narrow channel, below a higher, rocky left bank. Past there I had to wade again, but this time the water in the long, shallow pool with a rocky bottom, was only ankle-deep. This pool ended around mile 12.3, where I turned around to look upstream and could see the distinctive ridge northwest of Hawk Hollow, where pine trees grew on a prominent point.
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For the next 150 yards, the river ran down a rocky drop followed by a rocky flat area with a narrow channel of water on the right, then the water just disappeared for 100 yards.  Around mile 12.4 the water emerged at a small hole on the left at the base of a steep hillside with colorful foliage. A massive boulder sat at the water's edge. It seems the most scenic spots are usually where the river runs up against steep terrain.
The river ran alongside the hillside for the next 500 feet. Trees on the left bank often hung over the river, and their fallen leaves made a colorful line along the right edge. Near the end of this I stopped to take a photo looking back upstream.
The river made a right turn and ran through flat terrain for a long stretch. The river bed was narrow and rocky, and the water ran through a small channel on the right.
At mile 12.7, the river made a left turn as it ran alongside a steep, hillside on the right. The pool at the base of the colorful hillside was just amazing. The rocky stream bottom, covered by crystal clear water, sloped downward creating deep holes. Several massive boulders sat in the middle of the long pool.
Around 6 o'clock, I reached the left turn above mile 12.9. A trailer-sized boulder on river right sat in the deepest water I'd seen yet. I had to detour up into the woods on the left to go around the hole. The Beech woods were flat and open, so I decided to camp there, just a little bit short of the day's goal of reaching mile 13.
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The first thing I did was unfold the tent and rain fly, and hang them up to dry; it was 72 degrees and fairly windy. They were damp when I packed them, and it was bugging me. Next, I walked back down to the river to filter water. Since I was surrounded by dry fuel, I set out to build a tiny fire to boil water. Mostly, I was worried I'd used too much stove alcohol Sunday night and Monday morning. I found a depression in the ground surrounded by rocks and gathered twigs and dry leaves, only I discovered the recently-fallen Beech leaves had too much moisture in them to burn. Thanks to the storm-proof matches I packed, I finally got a fire going, and burned enough twigs to bring the water in my mug to a boil. It only took me 45 minutes!
I pitched the tent while the lasagna rehydrated and cooled. The cheese in the lasagna stuck to my plastic spoon.. the only one I brought for the entire trip, and it took a lot of work to get it off. I didn't hang my food bag...I just wasn't up for how long it would take. I crawled into the sleeping bag at 8:40, and jotted down a few thoughts in my notebook. I was a bit frustrated...I was sore from the backpack, maybe because my back hadn't recovered from the bowling incident; and in order to stay on schedule I was hiking faster than I wanted to.
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