April one-day photo workshops

2012 Arkansas calendars now on SALE!

January 2012 Print Of The Month: The FIRST photo of the new year!

UPDATED on Thursday the 26th - a few waterfall photos added

01/01/12 It was a warm and beautiful beginning to the new year. I spent a little time wandering the banks of the Buffalo at dawn, and took a few pictures as the bluffs and river lit up. It was a great way to wake up to a year that will be filled with LOTS of new adventures and pictures!

01/02/12 A cold front moved in during the night and dropped the temp into the upper 20's. It is crispy and clear and still outside early this morning way before daylight. Yesterday it was in the 50's or 60's - pretty mild for this time of year but also pretty typical here - we have lots of warm sunny winter days in the Ozarks!

Our New Year's Eve celebration went on a little later than normal the other night - Pam worked on year-end book accounting and I was over in the print room trying to get printers to work and making a print or two. We worked until about 10pm and then crawled into bed. Our daughter has turned into quite a party animal too - she was home by 8pm - didn't want to risk driving home from her boyfriend's house (on the other side of the county) during peak drunk driving time.

I was up early to greet the New Year, and decided to go wander around along the river at Steele Creek. It was still pitch black when I arrived - that was a good thing since I was in the middle of a "Yours Truly Johnny Dollar" five-part episode and wanted to hear the entire program (this old-time radio series used to run 15-minute episodes over five nights in the 1950s, and are now all run together on satellite radio - we have been hooked for several years). Just about the time our hero wrapped up the case I could see the break of day approaching.

It was pretty warm for January 1st on the river, and besides my normal photo vest I only added a thin down jacket as my outdoor layer. The giant Roark Bluff towered above me as it slowly began to glow and take shape in the darkness. There were still a few stars out, but only the brightest ones, as the black sky turned to dark blue and then brighter and brighter blue - soon all stars had gone to bed for the day.

The river was flowing and making lots of music - it seemed to get louder as more and more daylight flooded the valley. I could tell the water was clean and clear and was loving being able to run and play after the many long months of very low water levels.

I frequently come to this area for reflections, but this morning I wanted to try and capture some of the movement of the playful water, and also catch the different colors that can happen early, before the water is hit with harsh sunshine. I set up the camera at several different locations along the river, each one showing off the flowing water.


The light was soft and muted and pretty blue at first. Then as the first rays of golden sunshine began hitting the hilltops far above me and worked their way down towards the river, the color of the dancing waters changed as they reflected the warmer light. I moved farther downstream and pointed my camera back upstream and found the perfect composition that I was looking for. Using a special technique that I've been developing this past year I spent the next ten minutes working with the same scene until I got what I considered the very best image I could. While I was shooting, the surface of the water turned brilliant shades of blue and gold - reflecting the "Ozark Glow" of the early sunshine hitting the trees above, and also the clear blue sky. These tones mixed and mingled in the rushing waters and I never knew exactly what the camera was going to record until each exposure had been completed (I LOVE digital captures because you can SEE what you just took a picture of while you are still there!). I ended up with several nice photographs from the shoot, and this one looking upstream with the blue and gold tones was selected as the January Print Of The Month - it is available at a special low price this month only (hint - it looks REALLY good with a black mat!).

Once the magical light show had ended I packed up and wandered on downstream some, then explored the big meadow along the river and made my way back to my car. There were a few campers in the campsites, and I could smell the aroma of brewing coffee and sizzling bacon - what a treat it was for all those folks to wake up in this most beautiful spot, AND get a great breakfast too! Both are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

01/03/12 As usual, my lovely bride was right. A few minutes after she left the cabin early this morning she sent me a two-word text - FROST FLOWERS! I knew that was not just a note of information, but rather to let me know that I should get out of the warm cabin, bundle up in my Jellystone winter snowmobile suit, and go TAKE PICTURES of the frost flowers! And so I did.

These delicate crystal jewels usually appear on the first handful of really cold nights of the season - October or November. It is odd for them to form so late - especially because each host plant can only form a frost flower once since the stem of the plan is destroyed. But for some reason they formed this morning when the temp was in the low 20's - there were hundreds of them lining our lane between here and the mailbox out on Cave Mountain Road. Each one beautiful and unique.

The only problem was that they seem to pick a spot to grow that gets the very first rays of sunshine, and once the sun hits them, they begin to melt and loose detail and shape. By the time I arrived on the scene many of the frost flowers were already beginning to melt. Actually this was a good thing - it narrowed down my potential photo choices to just a handful that were still in shade - otherwise it would have been difficult for me to pick just one to photograph! I spent about ten minutes walking up and down the road looking at all of them, until I found the one I was looking for. Then I spent the next 30 minutes taking its picture. Luckily this guy was growing right next to a large hickory tree that was blocking the sun so it never did begin to melt.


Speaking of frost flowers, I found some yesterday - in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY - that were growing right out in the middle of a large flat bench - in the middle of a forest! The sun had been shining for many hours already and most of the little flowers had shrunk, but the temp and winds were so cold that many of them seemed almost new. It was kind of odd to find them in that location in the middle of the day.

I was on a long ramble with the dogs when I found the flowers, and it was indeed a wee bit chilly. But the sun was bright and the sky deep blue, which made things feel warmer, at least at first. For some reason I left the cabin without a hat, and it didn't take long for my brains to begin to freeze up. It was that darn howling WIND that cut right through me - you know, the kind that even when you cover your ears with your hands the cold pain keeps on penetrating.

I only saw that one patch of frost flowers in about three miles of bushwhacking.

Come to think of it, I did not even see the flowers at first. Aspen and Lucy drew me over to the spot - there was a critter den of some sort - freshly used - looked about right for a fox den. And the frost flowers were growing all around the den for about 20 feet in all directions - then no flowers at all after that. I wondered if the flowers picked the location because of the fox, or the fox picked the location because of the frost flowers? These are the sorts of questions I ponder sometimes while out wandering the wilderness.

There were a handful of bright GREEN plants scattered throughout the forest - small plants only a couple inches tall, with large leaves that just barely broke through the leaf blanket on the forest floor. I probably should install a camera at one sometime and let it take pictures for a few weeks just to see what happens.

Bright sunny winter days are PERFECT for hiking in the Ozarks - we had a delightful hike and only returned to the cabin reluctantly since we had to get back to work (well actually I was only one who had work to do - the pups took a good long nap).

I had the alarm set to go off at 3am this morning, but I beat it to the punch and rolled out of bed around 2:30. I wanted to go find a good spot to take pictures of a flurry of shooting stars that is supposed to happen after midnight tomorrow morning. So I spent about an hour up in Aspens meadow trying to figure out exactly where the shooting stars were going to be, and then took some test photos of the starry sky to try and figure out the best way to record them tomorrow. AMAZING how bright and beautiful the stars were! I don't have the best camera for this sort of thing right now, but I'll give it a shot and see what happens. I won't be able to see any results until later in the day since I have to leave here around 4:30am to get my car in to the dealer for service, then I'll be on the road much of the day. But if I get a good image I will post it here - if you don't ever see one then you will know I failed!

01/07/12 It is cold and gloomy outside early this morning. I just stepped out to check on the sunrise situation and found gray clouds moving slowly across the sky and it looked to be a solid cloud cover - no stars at all. We'll all gotten just a little bit spoiled by the warm temps around here as late, but I've found that we typically have a few nice warm spells during the winter so I consider it normal for this time of year. Then we'll be in the deep freeze for a while, then more warm - although when you come out of cold weather the actual temperature that rates a "warm" seems to go down.

I was up and out at 1:30am the other day to photograph the much-hyped meteor shower. I knew it was going to be a dud, these things are always a dud, and I have no idea why I bit on the hype this time. I guess so many folks were sending me the announcement by NASA about it that I figured it was my duty to Journal readers to go give it a try. I even got up and shot the morning before just to make sure my camera equipment and techniques were up to snuff.

When I arrived in Aspen's meadow the nighttime sky was beautiful, and the 3/4 moon was low in the western sky, just beginning to sink into a thin layer of clouds there - it was sending a few moonbeams out through the trees. Time spent watching the moonset is always time well spent. But the shooting star show was in another direction, and so that is where I pointed my cameras. I had two cameras set up on two different tripods. One of the rigs was using a special gadget that actually moved the camera during long exposures to equal the movement of the earth so that stars could remain as pinpoints during the entire exposure. The other camera was used to do both pinpoint photos but also some star trail photos. Both cameras were pointed towards the reported area of most shooting-star activity.

After more than three hours of shooting, I came away with nothing. The hype held up to be nothing at all. In fact I do believe I saw fewer shooting stars than I normally would see just about ANY clear night. If you just take the time to look around there are almost always shooting stars to witness and marvel at and enjoy - you don't need these hyped events to see great shooting stars. I suppose if you were in an observatory and/or had a large telescope and new how to use it and where to point it you might be able to see more shooting stars, but for the rest of us I say just get out when the night sky is really clear and the moon has gone to sleep and ENJOY!


I have many fond memories of star-gazing, beginning with the very first camping trip my dad ever took us on. We made a trip over the rough dirt highway 71 to the old Lake Shepherd Springs Lake campground in our dad's little Crosley car. I remember distinctly that he put me and my brother into the very back of the car and covered us up with a blanket since his brakes were not working too well and he was worried about crashing into a tree or something - not sure what the blanket was for - perhaps so we could not see any oncoming trees!

Anyway, this was probably around 1960 and probably in August. We didn't have a tent back then, but after a day of fishing and messing around in the wild, dad laid us on the ground and covered us with an old canvas tarp both top and bottom - with our heads sticking out so we could see the brilliant sky above us. We spent what seemed like hours watching one shooting star after another - probably the first I'd ever seen. That made a life-time impression on me and is probably one reason why you often find me up in the middle of the night even now, gazing up at shooting stars and whatever else can be sighted up there.

The other really memorable event happened in about 1994 when I was camped above 10,000 in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming - my summer office back then. On the last night of a 10-day trail-construction trip I was leading for the forest service, several of us hiked up to a large open meadow and crawled into a sleeping-bag setup a little bit like the one old dad made for us with the tarps - we were all sandwiched inside with only our heads sticking out. It was really cold, with temps well below freezing. It was actually spitting a little bit of "snail" (mixture of snow and hail), and there were no clouds to be seen since it was total overcast. But it was the last night of the trip and we were determined to see shooting star! So we waited, half asleep, for hours. Eventually there was a hole in the clouds and we were witness to one of the most amazing natural events I've ever seen in my life - it was almost like a sparkler going off - there seemed like hundreds of shooting stars! Wow, that few minutes was worth all the misery of the hours leading up to it. If ONLY I'd had a CAMERA with me!!! 'Twas one of those events in life that was only recorded on my internal memory card...

I took my lovely bride on a date the other day - something we RARELY get to do with so much work to do and no one to run things while we are gone. (Some folks think we just sit around here most of the time now, but we continue to work 10-12 hour days, seven days a week, all year- and love it!) There is a NEW restaurant in the area - Low Gap Cafe - that is located along Hwy. 74 between Ponca and Jasper - you can't miss - it is the only non-church business on the highway, and it is indeed right at LOW GAP, in the old store there. The menu is not what you would expect for good old Newton County, but I'm happy to report it is WONDERFUL and you will LOVE eating at this little place! The atmosphere is quite unlike any other, and did I mention the FOOD was great! They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (closed on Monday and Tuesday) - and their dinner menu gets a little bit fancy, but it is really, really good! Don't be surprised if there is a bit pot of chicken 'n dumplings or something else delicious sitting on the wood stove next to your table cooking. This is one of those places that I almost hesitate to tell folks about - only because I want to be able to find a SEAT! But yet they need enough business this time of the year to keep the doors open, so I can only give it my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION possible - stop and eat there whenever you are in the area - you'll be glad you did!

After lunch we motored on over to the old general store location in Osage (seemed to be a trend for us - visiting old general stores). This neat old building has been the home of Osage Clayworks for many years, and it is a real treat to stop and have a look at their beautiful and functional artwork. We've always loved pottery, and this place is indeed filled with the best! The reason for our visit was that I wanted to give my lovely bride - FINALLY - a set of wedding "china." We've mostly been using dishes that I bought for the cabin before I ever met Pam, and also special "Cloudland" dishes given to us by our good friend Nancy - and also some really neat plates and bowls from Keiko - but we've never had dishes of "our own" since we've been married. Also many of our everyday dishes (EVERYTHING at Cloudland is "everyday" - and that often includes paper plates!) have been broken so we use mostly mix-and-max stuff. Anyway, we both fell in love with different patterns of the beautiful pottery at Osage, but we knew we wanted the very same type of dishes - in fact we brought samples of our own in hopes they would be able to custom make them for us. Not only did we find the right glazings, but the owner/artist made up two exact dishes for us to look at WHILE WE WERE IN THE STORE! (we have a very specific shape that we wanted) And they were the same price as if we bought off the shelf. I cannot say enough great things about this amazing place - and it gets another HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Stop by any time you are in the area - even if you just want to look around and enjoy the pottery like we have done many times before.

TWO BUSINESS NOTES. First, we've had some really nice folks out to visit the print gallery since our last open house in December. Seems like more and more folks are getting out towards the Buffalo area this time of year to hike or just enjoy the great scenery - and why not, it is BEAUTIFUL! While we don't keep office hours, we are open by appointment for anyone who wants to stop by and visit the gallery - all the prints and books are always on sale for folks who make the trip out to visit us! You just need to give us a call or send an e-mail to see if we will be here when you want to come.

And we just put the 2012 Arkansas scenic calendar ON SALE yesterday - it is now available through our online store at the same special program price of only $9.95! Last year we ran out completely in early December so we ordered extra calendars this year and have a few of them left over.

01/10/12 While on my way down into Boxley yesterday to see if I could find a picture or two to take, I stopped at the Hedges Pouroff viewpoint up here on Cave Mountain Road. The little creek was running, but I knew there would not be a big waterfall - I just wanted to have a look at the grand view from the top of the bluff, a short hike from the road. As I was approaching the viewpoint I was startled by movement over in the little creek. A GIANT dark object began moving towards me and it took me a moment or two to figure out what the heck it was. It was BALD EAGLE! The woods are very thick in this area and so he could not simply lift up and take off - he had to kind of run through the woods towards the top of the bluff and free air. By the time he passed me he was probably 3-4 feet in the air and those giant wings were causing quite a stir in the air. Once he hit the edge of the bluff he dropped down just a bit, then swooped up and began to make a wide circle out over the wilderness and then back to near where I was standing. Oh my goodness what a magnificent creature! I know turkey tastes just terrific, but this great bird is perfect as our n national symbol. I never did see any sort of critter in his talons or next to the creek, so I could only assume that he was getting a drink when I happened along. My lovely bride has seen several eagles soaring near the cabin already, but this is the first one I've seen out here in the wilds this year.

It was nearly dark when I finally found something to take pictures off down in Boxley. The sunset really wasn't, and the gray clouds above remained mostly gray. But I found a spot on the river with a neat pool and reflection, and so I set up my gear and started making a few text exposures and waited for some nice after-sunset color to appear. While I waited the exposure times got longer and longer, until finally I was shooting 30-second exposures - it was pretty dark out there. And some color finally did arrive in the clouds, and since that color was changing quickly, the colors mingled and mixed together during the long exposures and created some hues that were not visible when looking at the scene - I find this happens frequently with really long exposures and changing colors.


Once all the color left the sky I packed up my gear and started to make my way back towards the car. It was pretty dark, but I could still see where to put my feet, although I could not make out small limbs in front of me so I was mostly walking with my hand in front of my face to keep from poking my eyes out. I had to cross a narrow strip of thick forest, and things got even darker in there so my pace slowed and at time I had to kind of feel my way through with each step.

And then an event happened that made my heart skip a beat, and then sent me into uncontrollable laughter! All of a sudden the "darkness" right next to me EXPLODED with movement and sound - I had walked up and almost touched a big ELK! Only cow these things can make a LOT of noise when they are startled! I figured I was safe for the rest of the trek through the woods since that elk has alerted every living thing for miles around that I was coming. Whew!

The full moon was rising late, which was a good thing since I would never have seen it down in the bottom of the canyon like I was. My timing is normally not very good with things like this, but just as I approached the one and only opening along the road home, the clouds parted and a deep-red/orange moon began to appear on the horizon, I pulled over and grabbed my camera gear and bolted everything down and started to take pictures with a very long telephoto lens. There were bands of broken clouds moving across in front of the moon, and the moon itself was also moving, so every single frame I took was completely different than the one before. Shooting good moon photos with a long lens and moving clouds is not easy, and most of the ones I shot did not turn out, but I got one or two that looked OK. Even if none of them worked, there are few things in life that are as worth while as standing there watching a full moon rise - brings good luck to you!


01/16/12 There is a strong wind howling directly out of the west early this morning - it has been blowing all night. The temp is rather warm so the wind is not bad, although it sure has been making a lot of noise! There are a lot of low clouds flying around being pushed by that wind. The cloud layer is broken, and I can see the moon and a few stars for a moment or two as the clouds race by. I'm hoping there will be a spot or two in the east for some color to come though and light up those clouds - that sometimes happens 30-60 minutes before sunrise. Unfortunately when I see that great color I am often sitting right here at the keyboard working - which means I MISSED any opportunity to take a picture.

I drove and hiked and stood/sat for nearly an hour and never saw a hint of color this morning - the wind continued, and still does - I guess it blew all the color away before it ever got the chance to appear! This is typical - I spend a LOT of time making false runs, looking for and waiting for great light. It only happens once in a great while, but you increase your odds of capturing it the more time you spend searching and waiting.

I did get some great light yesterday afternoon, and made another trip down into Boxley Valley hoping some nice light would appear. I did not arrive at the river until after sunset, but already there was some good color in the sky but it was going FAST. I had to look around and decide where to put my tripod and where to point the camera in a hurry. I spent the next 30 minutes or so doing just that - looking and setting up and shooting - the scene kept changing and I shot over 100 pictures.

One of the things that got my attention was the mix of color and light and shapes and movement at the point where the river exited this neat pool where I was standing. There were many different compositions to look at, but with light changing so fast it was tough to compare one to another and find the "best" one, so I just had to set up one shot and photograph it as best I could and then change angle/lens/exposure quickly and work on a different composition. The light was pretty dim, and many of my shots were 20-30 seconds long and even longer.


I worked my way from the pool to the head of the pool to downstream a little bit and then back up to the pool. With the long exposures it was frustrating having to wait before the little picture appeared on the back of the camera - the light and colors and shapes look so different after a long exposure so I never really know what I'm going to get. And then I also have to curb my joy when I do see something really great on the screen - most images that look good on that little camera LCD screen do not look good large, and my stuff has to look great LARGE - so I never know for sure what I have until I get back and download to my computer. And even then it may be days or weeks or months before I put the files through the required scrutiny in order to make it into a picture book. (I usually do that in May)


Changing the subject a bit, it seems to us that Lucy and Aspen are switching roles. Aspen has always been the dog that jumps up in bed and snuggles in tight and soaks it up for all he can get. Lucy has always been quite the opposite, shunning too much attention - and she sleeps under the bed and almost never gets up in bed and has never liked up close and personal time. Recently Lucy has come out of her cave and is spending more and more time with her momma. Aspen's hips are giving him problems so he spends his time on the floor now. Lucy also has become more of a "water" dog (she has always hated the water while we can't keep Aspen out of it). Just yesterday while the dogs and I were out on a long hike, Lucy was the one who jumped right in and stayed in the water while Aspen mostly sat on the side of the hill looking on. We are trying to exercise Aspen more and more, but with that comes more hip issues, but he continues to wag his tail and enjoy the hikes so we will keep it up.

A couple of days ago my lovely bride and I headed down into Smith Creek for a hike with the dogs in the warm afternoon sunshine. It is just over a mile hike to get to the creek, and then we spent an hour or so exploring upstream. The water was crisp and clear and beautiful! I did not bother to pack my big camera in since the light was so harsh, although once we got down into the bottom of this deep valley the light seemed to change and there were several really nice scenes. Pam was taking pictures for possible art subjects - she NEEDS lots of shadows, while I generally try to avoid them. I had my point-and-shoot camera along just in case, and was really glad that I did since I was able to take a few pictures that I liked also.

For some reason the GREENS were really bright and lush, and there were some giant boulders literally covered with GREEN moss. It had rained the day before and I guess the moss soaked it all up and was still moist - generally moist things have richer color than dry things. I find that to be the case - whenever I come back from a photo trip where I have been splashing around in some creek and am filthy and wet, I just tell Pam that I am much more COLORFUL that way!



On the hike out it seemed like Lucy was not getting enough exercise and so she kept flying up steep hillsides - climbing until she was completely out of sight way above - and then she would just appear on the trail back down in front of us like nothing had happened. A minute later she was gone again, and we would see her black fur flash across the scene far above. Lucy is a shelter dog (photo of her below), we think about 13-14 years old (Pam has had her for 12 years), yet she seems to be getting younger every year - must be the fresh air.


Back to real time this morning. The wind continues to HOWL and is now swirling and tossing deck furniture around. Dark clouds are hanging around and I'm hopeful we will get some moisture out of this system - the roads are getting pretty dusty. Speaking of dusty roads, once last note on this Monday morning. While on my drive back from trying to take pictures this morning I saw hundreds - probably THOUSANDS of "ground" sparrows in the road. They were EVERYWHERE! At first I thought they were leaves that were being stirred up by the winds. But they were indeed little sparrows, flying up and getting out of the way as I passed. It was odd that there were so many of them - in fact they lined the road almost all the way back home - but also odd that I did not see them an hour before! I have a feeling some of them will be up in the air and riding the strong wind currents today and having a blast - I hope you do too!

01/20/12 After a long work day Tuesday we headed south to spend a day or two beginning work on a revision of the Ouachita Trail Guidebook. There have been a number of changes in the trail over the past few years (YIPPIE!), plus I want to include GPS coordinates for all the major points along the trail, which means we'll get to hike most of the OT in the next month or so. The updated guidebook will be printed and available later this spring.

I did not mean for this trip to be a photo trip, but I guess when a nature photographer is at the wheel the entire landscape is a potential photograph! As it turned out we came upon a beautiful scene along the highway just as we were getting down into the Arkansas River Valley so I had to pull over at Lake Ludwig just north of Clarksville. The sun had already set, but the glowing horizon reflected off the water and I spent about 20 minutes taking pictures. A flock of geese arrived and were honking and playing the entire time.


I was standing at Petit Jean's Gravesite early the next morning - once again with my camera and tripod - about an hour before sunrise. The temp was in the low 20's, and the wind was HOWLING, with a wind chill down near zero! I have yet to find any pair of gloves that will keep my fingers warm in these conditions and still allow me to work the controls on the camera (I have poor circulation sometimes). My fingers got numb almost immediately, and by the time the sun had appeared I was wondering how sane I really was for being there. Another photographer who was there when I arrived didn't have any gloves at all - OUCH! He must have been one tough cookie.




An hour later we were standing on the Ouachita Trail and begun the long process of gathering all the data we needed. It will be GREAT to have my lovely bride along during this process - for many reasons of course - one reason being that she'll be able to run shuttles for me and collect info on one part of the trail while I'm working on another part. We'll be skipping around a lot and not doing this in one big chunk (the entire trail is 223 miles long) - we can't be gone from our normal business chores more than a day or two at a time. That will give us maximum freedom and avoid really bad weather, although will increase the miles we have to drive back and forth.

My first stop was Hillary Hollow and the Nancy Mountain Shelter (Lucy was with me while Aspen and Pam hiked another part of the trail). The sun was bright and the weather beautiful - except for that darn wind! And then I came upon a sight I've never seen before - there were frost flowers along the trail (VERY LATE in the year for them), and right across the trail was a wild violet IN BLOOM!!! Wildflowers AND frost flowers at the same time in the same spot? I was stunned and amazed, and sat down right on the trail and spent a little bit of time with the little wildflower. I'm not sure this was a sign of an early spring to come, but I'm certain this little guy had spring up just to say hi and brighten my day - and he did! NOTE that the Lake Sylvia Campground was closed - in fact a lot of government campgrounds are closed for the winter this year due to lack of funding, so if you are counting on a particular campground being open you might want to contact the agency and see if it is open.


Our next stop was North Fork Pinnacle and several spots along the trail there. The wind had died down and the temps were rising and it was a BEAUTIFUL day all around! Soon we reached Flatside Pinnacle and were pleased to find a brand new section of trail had just been built by the forest service from the parking area up towards the viewpoint - bypassing a very steep part of the trail leading right from the trailhead - THANKS to the folks who built this! The view from on top of Flatside was spectacular as always (one of the BEST in this part of the United States for sure). I remarked to Pam that it looked like we were in for a really colorful sunset (it was 3pm).

Later I bushwhacked on up to another rock outcrop in the area to check for a possible sunrise viewing location, and found areas of the forest floor that were covered with literally THOUSANDS of giant acorns - man there will be some FAT squirrels and deer this winter!

Our last trail stop of the day was at the Brown Creek Shelter. These three-sided log shelters make great camping spots for weary backpackers. This particular one had been stocked with all sorts of goodies like paper towels, toilet paper, water, bug dope, and other thoughtful items left by caring volunteers that maintain these shelters. Shelters are a way of life along some long-distance trails like the Appalachian Trail (and they can be VERY crowded!), but the OT is the only trail in Arkansas with a system of shelters and you will almost always have them to yourself.

We didn't find any more wildflowers, but did see several nice witchhazel bushes in bloom - some bright yellow and others brilliant RED!

It had been a great day in the woods but we already had some pressing business come up so had to turn north and head back towards home - BUT I wanted to have another go at shooting sunrise up on top of Petit Jean Mountain so we decided to spend the night there and return home the next morning.

NOTE - we discovered that not only does the Sonic in Perryville no longer have salads (most everything else at Sonic is fried), but it appears Sonic does not have salads at all! (none listed on their web site) What a pity. Luckily there was a Subway across the street and we were able to grab a healthy meal on the go - remember my comment about a colorful sunset?

As we continued towards Petit Jean, the western horizon lit up with incredible brilliant and rich colors that were almost too bright to look at - an iconic scene was in the making. Unfortunately, even though I drove like a madman in search of a suitable foreground for a picture, I never found one, and we were forced to witness this amazing light show from the front seat of our van - the color lasted all the way up to Petit Jean, but had faded too much for me to get a single picture. It was one of those scenes that will live forever in my mind, but not on paper!

I was up early the next morning with camera and tripod in hand and wandered the banks of the lake next to our campsite in search of predawn color - and I found some! I had driven to this very spot several times before looking for a great reflection with color but had always been disappointed. But this time I was able to capture a really nice scene - and in fact the color was great in BOTH directions, although the color changed rapidly from one minute to the next and so you would never guess these were shot at basically the same time and location.



It was a great road trip, and we'll be doing many more in the weeks and months to come.

TODAY we are socked in with heavy fog and can hardly see to the end of the back deck - the wind is blowing and it is a bit chilly too - yesterday we were 60 degrees and bright sunshine - must be winter in the Ozarks! It is always tough to try and predict the weather around here, so my advice is to prepare for anything and get out and enjoy the great outdoors this weekend!

December 2011 Journal

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