The Narrows & The Bat House
October 28, 2011
I left Steele Creek toward my second destination for the day, 45 river miles downstream, though only 25 miles as the crow files. But before I drove to the Nars and the Bat House near Woolum, I stopped at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper for a real meal. Afterward I took Highway 74 east, detouring to check out the Hasty recreation area, before continuing to Piercetown. I drove Highway 123 north to the actual community of Hasty then continued to Western Grove, where I turned south onto U.S. 65. At Saint Joe I took county roads southwest to the ford at Woolum, where the Buffalo River was so shallow I was able to cross it in the Tahoe.
It was cloudy, and I wasn't feeling very enthusiastic, so I pulled over to take a short nap. It was only 1:30 after all. I slept for about 30 minutes until a strange sound woke me up. I laid there a minute and realized a dog was outside crying. I raised up and looked outside to see a beagle curled up half asleep on the ground outside the window. I had two small pieces of fried chicken in the ice chest, and I tore off the meat and tossed it to her. She seemed to be pretty hungry and was up on her hind legs outside the window in no time. I fed her an entire power bar too, and she pretty much swallowed every piece whole, though that doesn't necessarily mean she was starving.
I got up front and drove a little over half a mile south to the Nars, a landmark wall of rock between the Buffalo River and the Richland Creek valley. I scrambled to the top of the 65-foot bluff, then set up the camera and tripod to take some photos. Downstream I could see the distinctive form of the Bat House, which has two round holes that have earned it the nickname Skull Bluff. I heard another vehicle park on the road down below and in no time two couples were up there with me, with that beagle right behind them. They asked me if the dog was mine, so I knew it wasn't theirs. I walked back to the spot just above the Tahoe to take a picture looking down at the road, and the beagle scurried back down the steep bluff to stand in front of the Tahoe and look back up at me.
I made my way back down and drove north to the edge of a beautiful hay field on the west side of the road. Matthew Kennedy had given me some great tips on how to reach the Bat House.
I opened the Tahoe door to see that beagle looking up at me. I grabbed my camera bag and started walking west along a jeep road at the edge of the field, the dog following about 30 feet behind. I passed by a small cemetery surrounded by a wooden park service fence with a sign reading Hamilton Cemetery. As the road circled to the left around the base of a wooded knob, the field on my right expanded to an enormous expanse 300 yards wide and 500 yards long, with little rolling hills covered in knee-high grass that swayed in the light breeze. A hawk slowly glided a couple of feet over the top of the grass, hunting for its next meal. I could have stayed there hours taking pictures, but had to settle for a shot of an enormous tree with gold leaves standing in the middle of the grass.
The road led right to the Buffalo River, just downstream of the Bat House. I walked downstream along the bank to a shallow crossing named Roughedge Ford, and waded across. That silly dog swam across too. Then I walked back upstream to a spot directly across from the Bat House and shot a few photos. Next I took a shortcut upstream across a wide swath of river gravel to the river side of the Nars. While the section I had stood on earlier was 65 feet above the river, I could see that the taller portion was double that height. I can't believe people climb up on that!
I followed the river downstream, back to the Bat House, and waited for the sun to fall behind he distant mountains. The beagle curled up in a ball beside my camera bag and took a nap.
On the hike back I realized I couldn't leave her to probably sleep overnight in the damp cold. To make a long story short, I drove her to the convenience store in Saint Joe and got in contact with the owner's parents (the dog had a collar with his name and number), who offered to let me leave her with them. If that hadn't happened, Emmy and Bella would have had a new playmate.