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Single Photos
March 12, 2012
I only made three hikes the entire winter, but that doesn't mean I'm slowing down. Grant, Fisher and I started the year off on a good note by driving up to the Richland Creek Wilderness to check out an oddity on the ridge southwest of Long Devils Fork. A couple years ago, Randy Wilson was viewing satellite images of the area and noticed a big bald area on the forested mountain. He shared the location with me, and we puzzled over what might be there.
The boys and I hiked the six tenths of a mile in no time, and discovered an exposed sandstone glade covered with dried moss and lichens. The spot seems to be a good place for rare flowers and plants, but I don't even know the names of half the common ones.
With the mystery solved we headed back up the ridge toward the Tahoe, but detoured to the right to investigate some short bluffs above a small drainage. On the steep hike out of there, the young boys were pleading with this old man to slow down so they could catch their breath. Like I said, I'm not slowing down!
We drove to another location, where I had planned for us to make a second hike in search of an overlook of Richland Creek downstream of the campground. But the woods there had the worst ice storm damage I've seen, and there was no way I was leading the boys through that mess. So we just drove down to the closed campground, where the boys disappeared down the hill to throw rocks in Falling Water Creek. I stayed in the Tahoe and enjoyed the peaceful view of the bare woods.
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One week later I made another big hike, this time by myself. I drove up to the Haw Creek area, and parked the Tahoe along Highway 123 and walked down to the creek in search of a big hole of water I'd spotted in a satellite photo. I'd somehow managed to put the wrong coordinates into my GPS receiver, and couldn't find the big pool I envisioned. So it was back to the vehicle to drive toward the real destination for the day, the Ozark Highlands Trail.
I parked at the forest road crossing east of Cedar Creek, grabbed my camera bag, and headed down the trail. I just had to see an area known as "the Cedar Creek pool", where the stream runs through a mini-canyon of layered sandstone before dropping into a huge pool of emerald water. Downstream from there, the trail crossed the creek and passed near a scenic canyon with two waterfalls named Hobo Falls. I think I'll have to take Stacey and the boys on a backpacking trip there when the waterfalls are running.
The hike was a good 3 miles round trip, and by the time I got back to the Tahoe there was barely enough light to see. It was only 5:40, but the sky was completely overcast. I didn't know it at the time, but this would be my last trip to the outdoors in the Tahoe. I had a lot of great times in that vehicle and I'm going to miss it.
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I worked every Saturday from the middle of January through the end of March, and I only had a few Sundays off.  I spent those catching up on chores or researching a new vehicle purchase, which I always obsess over. I've tried to stay in shape by going on early-morning walks in town with my backpack, and I went to Lee Creek Reservoir on Sunday afternoons and hiked the Homestead Trail to keep my feet and ankles conditioned for uneven terrain. I started seeing White Dogtooth Trout Lilies on February 5, which is a lot earlier than they usual bloom.
On Valentine's Day I traded in the Tahoe for a new Toyota FJ Cruiser. My first day off after that was on March 11, and lucky for me a big rain system moved through that morning. I left the house after 2 o'clock, and before I reached Ozark it dawned on me that a great photo opportunity waited up Highway 23. I was able to pull off the highway and park the FJ right in front of Pig Trail Falls for a picture of my new ride.
I continued north then turned east onto Highway 215 and followed the Mulberry River upstream. Wow. I saw six or seven big waterfalls just above the road before I reached Oark. At the Catalpa community I hung a left to take some unfamiliar dirt roads up into the mountains. I came out on Highway 21 just past Moonhull Mountain and headed toward Boxley.
At the sign for Smith Creek Nature Preserve, I parked the FJ beside the highway and walked a short distance down the hill to a waterfall Tim Ernst had posted on his Cloudland Journal several years ago. He named it in honor of the late Marty Roenigk, who along with his wife Elise purchased the land for the preserve and donated it to The Nature Conservancy.
I felt like I was running out daylight hours so I hurriedly took a few pictures then hiked back to the vehicle and headed about a mile down the highway to the old road going to the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. This was the same road we hiked on our backpacking trip last May.
I hiked about a mile and a half down the road to the old Hedges home site. A tall waterfall named after them, Hedges Pouroff, is located six tenths from the home site on a bluff on the other side of the Buffalo River. I wanted to see what the waterfall looked like from the distant perspective at the home site. With the sky overcast and full of mist, it was tough finding the waterfall, but once I did I could tell it was running full tilt. Yet to be honest it wasn't the awesome sight I'd imagined.. nothing like seeing Hemmed In Hollow Falls from the overlook near California Point. I think the trees below the waterfall probably blocked the view of the lower half.
I spent a while walking around the foundation of the house, which burned to the ground in 1991. There were a few charred or melted remains of household items like mason jars or a lamp shade to make it more real that the site use to be somebody's home. The dim light and moist air seemed to darken the mood. Although I saw many visually interesting scenes, it just didn't seem right to take pictures of them. I kept thinking, "What an amazing place to live". The speckled leaves of trout lilly plants covered the forest floor between the corner of the foundation and a pond nearby. I could hear the Buffalo River rushing down the hill below.
I had just enough daylight left to reach the FJ without the use of a headlamp. On the way I passed a couple of small streams running down the mountainside, and remarked that I would have to make another trip there some day to explore them.
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