Sunday, November 16, 2014

All good things...

Thursday morning we were DETERMINED we were going to make it to Hawksbill crag!  We got up early again and made the drive.  We had gotten a book Buffalo River Hiking Trails by Tim Ernst that told us how to get to the trailhead - but again, you don't really know what the roads are like until you are on them...once again more of a 2 track than a road and VERY rough.  We arrived at the trailhead with one car already there and another pulled in right behind us.  We headed out on the 1 and 1/2 mile hike to the site as quick as we could walk because we arrived a little later than we thought we would and the sky was already getting that early morning "lighting up" look that let you know the sun is quickly on it's way over the horizon.  We still had a way to go when we were passed on the trail by a young couple that mentioned it looked like we would be a little late, but also knew we were very close because they had been there multiple times.  We kept walking.  

We rounded a curve and saw the sun peeking over the horizon and saw Hawksbill crag - it was BEAUTIFUL!  Yes, we were too late for the best light, and I know this picture I got could have been better had we been the first there because we could have gotten the prime spot - the only really good spot - to take the pictures of the sun rising and the hikers standing out on the rocks...but it was not meant to be this trip... here is what I was able to get.

So you can see the sun was a little high, and right into the lens of the camera, and not quite the right angle to see the "Hawks Bill", but oh it was soooo pretty!!!

I took a few pictures and then scrambled a little higher up the trail and walked out on the "hawks bill" to get a picture of the valley below filled with morning mist.

I then walked back up the trail looking for a shot I had seen on the way up, but the light had changed and the shot was long gone - again, meant for a future trip I'm sure!

We stayed and watched the magical play of light and shadow as we slowly made our way the mile and a half back to the car, enjoying the peace and quiet of the walk and the quiet serenity of the mountains around us.

Once back in the car (and after a wonderful breakfast) we decided we would tackle the Mill Creek Trail.  This is a fairly easy mile and a half trail that doesn't make you feel like you are climbing a mountain!

As we were walking along a dark shape dropped from the trees on the right ahead of us, flew right in front of us and shot up to a tree on the left!  We searched the trees and saw this owl peering down at us - I wasn't sure any picture I took could be blown up so that we could see it but thought I'd try anyway and here it is!

We walked the trail and saw the remains of the Shaddox cabin that I'll put in another post later - then, because it was nearing dusk we headed over toward Ponca to see if the Elk would come out to the fields.  

There was one Elk out in this field, but do you see those very small green "bushes" just below the trees?  He was next to those and wouldn't get any closer.  We simply didn't have enough lens to get any good pictures so I started taking pictures of the setting sun hitting the trees on the surrounding hills.

Friday would be our day to pack up and head back to Texas and home.  We got up really early though and headed back to Steel Creek one last time.  The fog over the river was beautiful.

I actually pulled out the tripod so I could get some shots of the river speeding over the rocks.

Then, as the light changed and began to spread over the valley floor we walked over to look at the horses in the field close to the river.

I think this one was used to people - kept coming up and looking in the camera lens!

 I walked on up the road hoping to possibly get a shot of some Elk we had seen earlier and on my way back saw the fog lifting over the bluffs.

Although it was still very thick and a deep blue color nearer the valley where the light hadn't touched it yet!

We walked into the field to get some pictures of the bluff above the river, then

back to the road and saw the light flowing across the fields and touching the grove of trees next to the river - just seemed to light them up!

And you could just stand and watch the fog lifting and burning off as the sun climbed higher and higher.

It was a beautiful last morning in Arkansas, and I can't wait to go back and see it again!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


During the planning of this trip we saw that the forecast for Tuesday was rain all day - it never wavered so we knew what to expect.  Branson, MO is only a short 30 minute drive from where we were staying so we planned on going to check it out.  We got up early, as is our norm, and headed across the state line.  The first thing we noticed was the further north we drove the more color we saw in the trees!  

I didn't really know what to expect in Branson - I must have seen something a long time ago that showed a "strip" ... that is what I had in my head anyway - I thought it would be like Vegas!  With a strip that you could walk along and touristy things to do.  It isn't like that.  We got there at about 8:00 AM and nothing opens until 10:00!  Not being what I had expected, and not wanting to wait around 2 hours to try to find something to do we decided to go on out to Table Rock Lake.  

I had been to Table Rock several times when I was MUCH younger and wanted to see if it was like I remembered.  We went to the state park entrance and drove through.  It is a beautiful place and we put it on our bucket list of places to stay at later!

We continued on down the road and saw a sign for Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.  We didn't have anything else to do so we decided to go check it out.  Boy were we ever glad we did!

It was still raining while we were there, but we checked out the visitor center and looked around a little and decided we would certainly come back again.

That is just what we did!  Wednesday we slept in, but headed toward Dogwood Canyon about 8:00 AM.  This is a GREAT area for hiking.  There is a paved trail, it is fairly flat.  This park has a TON of activities available - horseback riding, bicycles, fishing as well as hiking through the canyon.  Right around the first bend we saw our first waterfall.

We continued down the trail and came to this beautiful handmade covered bridge.

I loved the way the look changed as I got closer...

and closer!

 Finally a view of the inside.

One of the main attractions in Dogwood Canyon is the Hope Wilderness Chapel.  They do weddings here and I told Pepaw we need to renew our vows here for our 50th wedding anniversary!

At the far end of the chapel, behind where the bride and groom would stand you look through two HUGE glass doors and floor to ceiling windows and see this!

We walked around that area and we found this interesting leaf on a bench - couldn't resist the contrasting patterns.

About 1/2 mile further down the trail we came across Thunder Falls.  This is another highlight of the hike, I think you can see why!

We continued past the Chuck-wagon and Three Shoots Pine to the Glory Hole.  I loved this look at a small waterfall through the bridge.

As well as the intricacies of the metalwork on the fencing.

Look at the trout in the pool!

By this time we were worn out and still had to hike back.  There is a lot more trail, so we'll certainly have to go back again!

 Again, I have a lot more pictures to go through - but these were some of my favorites.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday - NOT what we planned!

We heard so much about Hawksbill Crag that it was certainly on our "go to" list.  We decided Sunday night that we would get up early on Monday and see if we could catch the sunrise there.  We were up at 4:00 A.M. and ready to go.  We got in the car and cranked it up and what do we see??? Low tire pressure light flashing!  NOOOOOOOO!  Pepaw checked the pressure and we were about as low as you can be and still drive safely.  We found Walmart's website and it said they opened for auto service at 7:00 so we headed that way.  Walmart's service department doesn't open until 8:00!  Oh well, no one else does either, and we were already there, so there we stayed!  Our tire was repaired and we were done by 8:45 and BONUS - they didn't charge us because we had to wait so long!!!  Not their fault, but it sure made us happy customers!  

Now we had to make a new plan!  We decided it was a good day to go caving.  We took off for Mystic Cave and Crystal Dome.

 We got to go into Mystic Cave first - and we were the only visitors so we got a private tour!

This is "The Bell" the biggest formation in this cave and the one you will see on most of their advertising.

Loved these "frozen waves".

A stalagmite and a column with many stalactites on the ceiling around them.

There were some beautiful draperies.

And at the end of the tour they show how it was done in the "old days"...very "theatrical" with colored lights...Loved the Red, White, and Blue together!

After this tour we went back in to the Crystal Dome cave.  Both are on the same property.  This is the older cave and one of the things we learned on our tour was that there was a time that folks just paid their money and went into the cave without a guide.  A lot of them broke some of the formations and took them down the road to a shop and sold them.  It really makes me sad to see this!

We were part of a group on this part of the tour, so it wasn't as easy to get pictures.  This is the view from the entrance.

And one of the rooms.

I did get some other pictures but I want to take some time going through those and find the best of the formations.

After we finished the tour the manager told us about The Cliffs.  It is a restaurant near the top of a mountain.  This would be their last week open until spring and they only serve breakfast and lunch so we decided today was the day we needed to go on up the mountain. This is the view from their porch!

After lunch we headed back to Harrison.  I had read in the book we got at the visitors center that there was a beautiful cemetery (open to tourists!) We went by the visitor's center and got directions and headed out to see what was so special.  The trees were amazing!

There are those beautiful burgundy/purple leaves again!

It really was beautiful and I'm grateful they allow photographers a chance to capture the beauty.  It was very calm, peaceful, and everyone there was very respectful.

We knew Tuesday was going to be rainy - so it was off to Branson, MO to see what we could see there.  It was quite interesting. More on that tomorrow!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Birthday Trip! Day 1

This year for my "Birthday Trip"  (in reality our quest for fall foliage) we picked the Buffalo River area of Arkansas.  We set out very early Saturday morning 11/1. We found the Shady Grove RV park and got all checked in and set up then drove to Harrison, AR to eat and get a few supplies.  We stopped by the visitor center but it wasn't open on Saturday...exhausted we decided to go back and try to get some rest and start looking for good spots on Sunday.

We were up early and chose Steel Creek for our first stop.  

We parked near the campground and walked on a short trail to the river.  I took a few shots, the one above is one of my favorites. Then we walked along the bank and I saw these beautiful purple leaves!

Purple leaves always tend to catch me by surprise!

I took another of the river - 

And then we walked back up to the campgrounds.  Just on the other side of the road we spotted a trail so we thought we would check it out!

It was a beautiful trail, a pretty even walk, shady and peaceful.  We did come across a little bit of color but it wasn't really what we were expecting from our reading and the pictures we'd seen on the internet.  

After walking the trail for a bit we decided to head on over to the Lost Valley Trail...ever hopeful for more color!  This is a pretty well known hike and is family friendly for the most part.

It has some really interesting features along the trail including Jig Saw Blocks that look as though they have fallen from the bluff above, Cob Cave with a natural pool area, and Eden Cave and Eden Falls.  The path is fairly level and smooth until you get ready to go up to the cave and falls.

Nice that they have steps to help you climb up there!

We made it as far as the falls, but chose to NOT climb on up to the cave - it was getting late and we decided to head on back to camp.  We knew there were more days and more hikes to come so we weren't going to rush anything!

We were in for a few unexpected turns during this trip, even without a set agenda.  We had talked about a few things we wanted to do or see and each evening we would set out a loose plan...we were almost ALWAYS surprised where we ended up! RARELY where we planned to be!

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This is about my life. My life as a wife. My life as a mother. My life as a Memaw. My life as a teacher. My life as a runner. My life such as it is.