Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lost Valley

We began hiking the trail into Lost Valley as the sky ominously darkened. While the day had been sunny, a few storms were predicted to pass through the area that afternoon. But it was worth the risk of getting rained on, the hike into Lost Valley is one of the prettiest in the state.

The trail is short, but it is compact. It passes by several waterfalls and caves (and even a waterfall inside a cave). For the most part, the trail runs alongside Clark Creek as it passes through the collapsed remains of an old cave system. Lost Valley was once a cave, but the roof collapsed many eons ago. What remains is this small valley and one of the most popular trails in the Buffalo National River.

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A small waterfall drops out of the Natural Bridge, which was actually once the mouth of the collapsed cave. The falls drop into a small pool that is filled with turquoise water and surrounded by limestone boulders and bluffs.

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Thunder was echoing across the valley as we hiked uphill towards Eden Falls. When we reached the waterfall, it started pouring down rain. But we just started to take pictures while standing under the protected overhang of Cob Cave.

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The rain and thunder didn't last too long, and quickly moved past. A few minutes later, the sun even came out again.

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And one last shot from the trip, of a small waterfall along the trail. The water drops over a small bluff, before actually running back down under the bluff and then disappearing in to the rocks and going underground.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Boxley Valley

After moving into the new house, I decided to take a quick break from carrying and unloading boxes and try to find some free-time to take a few pictures.  The weather had been predicted to be rainy all weekend, which isn’t good for moving but great for pictures.  But instead of dumping inches of rain, it was mostly sunny all weekend.  I headed up to the hills anyways, as Spring was beginning to settle in over the Ozarks.

As I started heading north from Russellville, a strange greenish haze was floating over the hills. Was it some sort of fog that was weirdly reflecting the sun? Nope, it was pollen. Clouds and clouds of pollen. The trees were exploding with pollen, which was drifting around like smoke.

I met my Aunt in Boxley Valley, and we then set out to take a few pictures. Boxley Valley is one of the prettiest spots along the Buffalo River, with numerous old barns and churches located right along the river. Most of the buildings are historic and date back to the 1800s. This is the old Beechwoods Church, which was built in 1918. The church and cemetery occupy a small field, overlooking the distant fields and forests of the valley.

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Boxley Valley is filled with several old homes that once belonged to the original settlers of this area. The old Villines cabin, located at the far end of the valley, sits above the river. The cabin was probably built sometime in the 1850s and is part of a homestead that also has a corn-crib, a barn, a chicken coop and an outhouse. The inside of the cabin still contains a few old pieces of furniture from its last inhabitants.

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There is still some sheets of newspaper on the wall, which was used as insulation back in the olden days. The doors to the cabin were open, but a few posted signs were there warning against entry. So this was taken with the camera looking through the doorway.

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The inside is definitely leaning to one side, which may be why the Park Service doesn't want anyone going inside.

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And some of the collection of bottles and containers sitting on the back porch, which may have been sitting here rusting for the past few decades.

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Just down the road is this old barn, built in 1915. Sometimes you can see elk here, they will occasionally hang out in the field behind the barn.

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Perhaps the centerpiece of the valley is the old Boxley Baptist Church. The church was built in 1899, and is still used as a community center.

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Boxley Valley probably has the densest collection of old buildings in the state. This old barn was built sometime around 1920.

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Some storm clouds were beginning to move through, and would occasionally cast the hills in shadow. Here the sun poked through, shining onto this old barn and Cave Mountain in the background. Cave Mountain saw a few Civil War skirmishes, with Union troops attacking a small Confederate operation that was mining bat guano from Cave Mountain's namesake cave.

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And one last stop, at an old barn that sits near the Mill pond. I didn't notice this until tonight, but in this picture you can see on of the valley's newest residents. To the right of the old barn is one of the trumpeter swans that was introduced here a few years ago.

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After that we headed over to hike the trail into Lost Valley, as storm clouds ominously gathered in the distance....

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fall Creek Falls (Tennessee)

The next day, I woke up early and drove east out of Nashville. It was lightly raining, which was perfect conditions for waterfalls. Luckily I was heading towards a spot with a great collection of waterfalls – Fall Creek Falls State Park. The park is home to several waterfalls, including the namesake Fall Creek Falls. It’s a monster of a waterfall, and at 256 feet is the tallest free-flowing waterfall east of the Mississippi.

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This was taken from an overlook at the park, which provides this view of the falls and of the slightly smaller (only a measly 250 feet) Coon Creek Falls. The park is one of the most popular state parks in Tennessee, and was even rated as one of the top ten state parks in the country. I can see why, besides the waterfalls there are miles or trails, tons of campsites and a few overlooks. There is an even a golf course if you’re in to that sort of thing. This was one of the overlooks, called Buzzard’s Roost, which stands above the Cane Creek Gorge.

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The next stop was at an overlook of Piney Creek Falls. Here, the 95 foot tall falls crash into a narrow ravine.

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This is a really nice park, with a lot of great places to stop and look around. This view of the creek, passing under a bluff, was taken right by the road.

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The actual Fall Creek Falls isn't really the waterfall epicenter of the park. A few miles away, near the park's nature center, sit several tall waterfalls along Cane Creek. It was raining fairly heavily when I went by the nature center towards the creek, cursing the fact that forgot to bring an umbrella.

After heading down some steps you reach Cane Creek Cascades, which have been listed as 45 feet tall.

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The creek then rushes under these bluffs, before curving over Cane Creek Falls.

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For the best view of Cane Creek Falls, you can cross the creek on a wobbly swinging bridge that is strung up above the Cane Creek Cascades. It's not the most stable crossing, but it does provide a nice overlook of the cascade and the creek below.

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From the bridge, you can follow a trail for about a mile or so to an overlook of the 85 foot Cane Creek Falls, and another bonus waterfall! For scale, you might be able to spot a few people standing on the top of the bluff in the middle of the picture.

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The other waterfall is the 125 foot Rockhouse Falls, which plunges into the same pool as Cane Creek Falls.

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I had gotten a bit spoiled at the park, with tons of waterfalls in just a few short hours. But my luck would quickly change. I left the park and headed towards Burgess Falls State Park, but the rain was gone and the sun was out. I tried to get a few pictures but they didn't really turn out. So I guess I'll just have to try there again on our next trip to Nashville.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Greeter Falls (Tennessee)

After buying a new house, we spent several nights trying to do some painting. I quickly realized that I was not a great painter – Picasso has nothing to worry about here. So luckily we were able to take a quick break and head out of town. My wife needed to travel to Nashville for work, so I took a few days off from work and went with her. So while she was working during the day, I headed out to try to find a few waterfalls in Tennessee.

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The first waterfall I went to is Greeter Falls, located about a two hour drive of Nashville. The falls are along a short trail, and is protected within the Savage Garden Gulf State Nature Area, part of the South Cumberland State Park. The trail loops around through the forest for a few miles, and is fairly easy (it does get steep in a few spots). Beyond the waterfalls, there is also this cool swinging bridge there.

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Along the way, the trail passes by Broadtree Falls, which has two drops. The upper falls are about 30 feet tall, and the lower is about 15. It’s a neat spot, and luckily some clouds helped with the pictures by blocking the sun.

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The trail then runs above the creek and heads towards Greeter Falls. The trail then drops steeply down the hill towards the creek, using a conveniently placed spiral staircase to get to the falls. Which is a nice touch, more hiking trails need spiral staircases on them. From there the trail runs steeply down to the falls. But it is a great waterfall, where Firescald Creek drops about 50 feet into a scenic pool.

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I was there on a Thursday afternoon, and there wasn't anyone else around. Apparently it can be a busy spot in the summer since this is a popular little swimming hole.

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It's a great waterfall, and is one that would definitely be worth visiting again.

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Upper Greeter Falls is just a short walk away. They are about 10 feet, I think. I tried to get a few pictures but the sun was coming out from behind the clouds.

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After that I needed to get back to Nashville, but would head out the next day to try to hit a few more waterfalls.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Stars over Pinnacle

Things have been a wee bit busy here in the past few weeks, as my wife and I have been going through the hectic and protracted process of buying a house.  But I've been trying to find some time to take pictures, in between inspections, signing papers and packing boxes.  One night I headed out to Pinnacle Mountain State Park to try to take a few star trail pictures of the old bridge over the Maumelle River. 

The bridge was built in the 1920s, and replaced by a newer span in the 80s.  But the old bridge was preserved as part of the park and is now the crossing for the Ouachita Trail.  It's also an easy place to get to for pictures at night.  I set the camera up and took pictures of the stars for about an hour and a half.  The skies managed to stay clear for the most part, except for some low clouds and a few planes (some I think from the Air Force base).

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