Thursday, December 11, 2014

Capitol Christmas

One of the best holiday traditions in Little Rock is the annual fireworks show after the Christmas lights are turned on at the State Capitol. After the Little Rock Christmas parade ends at the capitol there is a small ceremony, with speeches from a few politicians and some choirs singing (although this year it seemed a little bit more political than the previous years). The capitol is adorned with 90,000 lights, in a tradition started over 70 years ago. Apparently the Secretary of State in 1938 added some lights to the capitol dome in order to brighten up the view for the kids stuck in the nearby Arkansas Children's Hospital. The lighting has changed and evolved over the years, but hopefully all the kids were able to enjoy the fireworks show.

PC067047-3

After the fireworks show, everyone crowded into the capitol. The inside was decorated with a huge Christmas tree, and even had a place for Santa to sit. This is the view looking down onto the rotunda and Santa's workshop.

PC067099-5

The State Capitol was completed in 1915, so it's now almost a century old. This is the view looking towards the House of Representatives, where our elected officials will probably be getting into mischief when the state legislature starts back up next year.

PC067106-2

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hot Springs

I had to run another errand in Hot Springs (actually to pick up two pictures of mine that had been on display at the Fine Arts Center), so I took off early one day last week. It was foggy and rainy, which while not the best weather for driving, turned out to be pretty good for taking pictures.

After stopping at the Fine Arts Center, I still had about 45 minutes of light to take pictures before it got dark. The rain had stopped, but a thick fog hung over the tops of the mountains that surround the city. I headed up the road that leads to the Mountain Tower, which was shrouded in fog. There wasn't any other traffic on the road, so I stopped a few times to take pictures.

PC036902-3

The next stop was the Promenade, which runs behind the bath houses in the National Park. There is a spot along the walk that provides a great view of the Arlington Hotel, the old Medical Arts Building and Central Avenue. The lawn in front of the Arlington already had Christmas decorations out, featuring a few colorful Christmas trees. And while it is a great view, the location isn't the most ideal for pictures. It is right above the display spring, which meant that steam from the 143 degree water would billow up and envelop the camera. This would usually fog up the lens (until I realized I should probably shield the camera from the steam, duh).

PC036946-3

I was recently looking at a group discussion on Flickr where people were talking about their favorite National Park. Most said Yosemite and Yellowstone, but also added that their least favorite National Park was Hot Springs. Which I can kinda understand, since Hot Springs is small and commercialized and located right in the middle of a city of 30,000 people. But it's a little unfair to judge it against the massive parks of the West, and not give any consideration to the unique and slightly crazy history of the city and park. I always enjoy visiting Hot Springs, it's one of my favorite places to take pictures.

Hot Springs is technically the oldest national park in the US, since the federal government began protecting the springs in 1832 (before Arkansas was even a state). The park protects the 43 springs, where about a half million gallons of water flow out every day. The water from the springs was diverted to several elegant bathhouses, which still line Central Avenue and are the heart of the park. Hot Springs was at its peak of popularity in the 1920s through the 1940s, and was the premier spa resort in the country. But changing times, and the removal of illegal casinos, saw a drop in visitors to the bathhouses. They began closing, until only one was still open.

PC036975-2

A few years ago, the National Park Service began renovating the bathhouses and opening them back up for commercial use. Now nearly all the bathhouses are back open again, hosting art galleries, a fancy spa and even a brewery (my favorite). This is the Ozark Bathhouse, which was built in 1922 and reopened as a cultural center hosting galleries and events.

PC036978-2

Towering over the bathhouses is the old Army and Navy Hospital, built in 1933. The brightly lit building below it is the Buckstaff Bathhouse. It was built in 1912 and was the only bathhouse to remain open.

PC036995-3

I couldn't stay out too much longer, since I had to drive home. So I took a few more pictures and started driving back to Little Rock. Hot Springs is only about an hour away, and hopefully we will make a few more trips there soon.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Little Rock

On a foggy and rainy Sunday afternoon, Caroline and I went to downtown Little Rock to run a few errands. The fog was hanging low, obscuring the top of the skyline. Perhaps, I thought, there might be good conditions later on that night for picture taking. So a few hours later I drove back towards downtown, hoping the fog had stuck around.

It didn't. The fog was gone, replaced with swirling clouds. So not quite what I expected, but I headed out to try to find something to take pictures of. I ended up standing on this bridge over Interstate I-630, with this view of the dome of the state capitol. I was surprised there was this much traffic on the freeway on a Sunday night (must have been people heading to and from the mall for Christmas shopping).

PB236708-4

I drove across the river to North Little Rock, and into Riverfront Park. The low clouds were being illuminated by the city lights below, giving them a yellow tint. And oddly enough, the lights on the Junction Bridge seemed to match up with the sky.

PB236722-2

Monday, December 1, 2014

Flatside

The fall colors in the Ozarks weren't the best this year, but luckily they still put on a good show in the rest of the state. So before the wind knocked the leaves off the trees, Zack and I decided to take a quick trip out to Flatside Pinnacle. If you've never been, Flatside has one of the best views in the state. And it's only an hour drive from Little Rock.

Flatside Pinnacle is a 1,526 foot mountain that sits in the Flatside Wilderness. The wilderness area contains nearly 9,500 acres of pristine forests, right in the middle of the Ouachita National Forest. From the top of the mountain you have a grand view of the rolling Ouachita Mountains, which roll and stretch off into the distance. Below is miles and miles of uninterrupted forest.

The trail to the top of the mountain is short but steep. And while Flatside is getting more and more popular as people find out about it, there were only a few other people out there that evening. We set up the cameras and waited for the sunset, which finally dropped behind the hills.

PB086612-4

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Clinton Library

We were entertaining some out-of-state visitors a few weeks ago, showing them around Little Rock. Which of course meant a visit to the Clinton Presidential Library, which just celebrated its tenth anniversary. I had only been inside the library once since it opened, so it was interesting to see how things have aged over the last few years.

While a few people poked fun at the library's architecture when it opened, the inside still provides a great view of downtown and the Arkansas River.

PB026518-2

PB026535

It doesn't really seem like the library has been around for ten years. Which reminds me, I should probably do a little post here about getting inside the library dedication ceremony to see Bono and The Edge play. I'll try to get that up soon....