LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - MAY 2019 (previous months)
Little Bluff cabin cam May 22 - I found this wild rose on the way home from work early this morning - the most vivid color I've ever seen on one - HAPPY WEDNESDAY!.
Journal updated on the 20th - long post about a day in the woods
PRINT OF THE WEEK SPECIAL (above) (I just made the first print of this one and it is quite lovely...)
05/01/19 MAYDAY, MAYDAY - it's MAY already - YIKES!!! 4:30am. We received nearly three inches of rain here overnight (and 3.29 the past 24 hours) with more to come. My rain dances are paying off, but perhaps a bit too much! We don't need flooding, and I hope everyone is safe. But the next week looks like waterfall hunter's heaven, coming at a good time for me since I still need to visit and document more than 100 waterfalls for a guidebook update (due out in November, maybe). I have a master list of waterfalls I need to photograph during - 1) really high water, or 2) high water, or 3) normal water in different parts of the state. Even though we had a ton of rain overnight, most of the "really high water" ones on the list are in parts of the state that did not get all that much rain, but hopefully will in the coming days (no flooding please, just really high water at the tops of mountains).
APRIL was going to be one of my finest months on record, and my goal was to be out in the woods shooting every single day. And while that did not happen quite as planned, I did manage to get out enough to at least take some pictures 26 of the 30 days, so that was really good month. I'm cramming and trying to get all three of our new/annual publications completed and set off to the printers by the end of May (new picture book and two Arkansas scenic calendars). YIKES, it is already MAY! PLUS get photos of all the needed waterfalls done while there is water (I'll do the written documentation on those later this summer). No sleep for me this month. Since I mostly did not post anything but a snapshot daily here in the Journal, I will try my best to make up for that and at least type something each day, even if it is just like this morning as I sit in the dark and wait for the rainfall maps to update on my phone. It's going to be a fun month I hope.....
05/02/19 It was late last night after I got home from a day on the road waterfalling and had my gear drying and photos uploaded to the computer and backed up. The day started at the local Balanced Rock waterfall - my third of fourth trip there - I wanted some nice flow and also a person in the photo for scale. I got myself in the picture and it turned out kind of funny where I had to stand - it is on the other computer and I'll post one of that here sometime later. The Upper Buffalo River area had received major flooding rainfall overnight and the river itself was a mess, and probably will be for several days.
My next stop was to Alum Cove Natural Bridge where I spent a couple of hours in magic land - something about the hardness of the huge sandstone bridge that towers above and the soft waterfall (s) at the far end (photo is below). I could have stayed there the entire day but knew there were other falls I needed to attempt, so after shooting a couple hundred photos of the natural bridge area (and a second waterfall on the opposite bluffline), I headed northeast to a couple of waterfalls along the Buffalo River Trail (new trail that has already had a major "opening" day hike last fall by the national park service - but wait, it isn't really, officially "open" yet according to the national park service. Hum. The waterfalls were running OK but not at really high levels, and by the time I had arrived the skies above were clear blue - gosh darn it, I need cloudy skies!
While I was waiting out the harsh sunshine at one of the falls I realized that I was standing in the largest patch of Ozark Columbine I'd ever seen - there were hundreds of them beneath the falls! These guys love to live where they get misted by waterfalls, and this is a great year for them. Only problem is all too often they live so close to the spray that the wind produced by the waterfall keeps them in constant motion - nearly impossible to get a photo of. And I didn't. Sometimes ya just got to sit and enjoy.
It was great to get out and enjoy these waterfalls anyway, and I got photos that might work in the guidebook, but I have a feeling I'll return when there is more water and clouds.
Kind of funny, but I could hear a Miley Syrus singing in my head all day - especially when I had to kick it into high gear to climb up several very steep slopes - the lyrics and message of her decade-old song The Climb really do resonate sometimes! And the steeper the climb at my feet got, the louder her song played in my head, and the easier it was to CLIMB! It's a great song that may apply to many parts of our lives...
More heavy rainfall today to a lot of my target waterfall areas - YIPPIE! But I don't have much time to get out and shoot since we'll be on the road to an event at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock (great friend, photo workshop assistant for decades, and expert photographer, Ray Scott, will have one of his amazing infrared photos in The Delta exhibit and tonight is the opening reception - get by to see this amazing image of his if you get the chance!). So I may not get my feet wet today, but TOMORROW should be great!
05/06/19 I was blasted awake by a bold of lightning at 5 this morning - I'm a real slacker for sleeping in so late but I was pooped and needed a few winks (didn't get home from working in the woods until almost 11pm last night). My first thought was "how odd" there was thunder - just a tiny bit of light rain was forecast when I had gone to bed. When I pulled up the radar it showed one of those multi-colored monsters that covered half the state heading right for us from the west! At the same time the view to my left (east) showed the entire horizon over there glowing - first just with a white later of cloud, then the layer got yellow and ORANGE. It was of course the approach of dawn, now about 30 minutes away. But I think the giant storm is going to overcome the view to the east and there will be no sunrise today. No matter, the show from my seat is pretty nice.
The sky has been filling with those "crawler" types of lightning - they begin at one point and last for seconds, with the bolts extending far and wide. Thunder, deep and angry, follows a second or three later, but sometimes rumbles on and on for 15-20 seconds. And my phone lights up to report the strike. As the lightning glitters the color of the background sky can be just about any color but often is red or orange or purple or dark blue.
There are a few drops of rain hitting the prow windows now. Raindrops don't normally hit the windows unless they are being blown horizontally. Hum, that must be the other music I hear - our lovely pine trees swaying in the breezes - the storm is about to hit us big time - you should see the radar now - all sorts of pretty colors! And I'm just sitting here on the couch with the puppies and my 1/2 cup of java. Sometimes it is so nice to forget I'm a nature photographer and really should have three cameras set up out there pointed in different directions to capture all of this going on. Nope, today I'll remain in my robe and slippers for a while and just let it all happen. (But of course, with each flash of spectacular lightning that fills the sky, there's a note of regret inside me - GOSH DARNIT - I SHOULD BE TAKING PICTURES OF THIS!!!)
There were a few moments - I'd wager it was less than 30 seconds - as the storm began to overtake the dawn - and the eastern horizon began to glow and intense RED through the clouds - it was a magical moment, one seldom seen. I JUMPED up and ran out onto the deck and shielded my little phone camera as best I could from huge drops of rain - and took two pictures of the amazing sight. And then, poof, the color disappeared - the entire event lasted less then the time it took you to read this paragraph.
And here's three waterfall photos from a quick trip into the WET wilderness in the afternoon...
05/07/19 Here's the view of a big barn in the valley far below that I see while sipping java and waking up each morning -
05/09/19 Here's a couple of snapshots from a quick trip I made over to Fairfield Bay early this morning - nice waterfalls, one easy along a trail, the other one pretty difficult to reach.
05/11/19 Sorry for the lapse here - been out scrambling, climbing, clawing up and down steep hillsides in pursuit of waterfall photographs; often being wrangled to the ground by a wall of saw briers trying to rip through my britches and tear at my skin; often being thrown to the ground with a THUD after being totally wrapped up by grape vines. A time or two bones met with solid rock and a scream and/or moan and/or cuss word would echo across the canyon. 'Tis the height of waterfall season, and we've had both good water flows in some areas, and also low water due to all the vegetation sucking up the rainfall. But it's been all good, well mostly.
I was up at 3 yesterday morning trying to figure out where to go - I've still got hundreds of waterfalls to visit and photograph, but obviously that's not going to happen and I'll be short. So it's not where can I go to find a waterfall, but how can I maximize my day and not waste precious minutes of daylight. So I headed for a cascade that got a lot of social media attention this past year that was not too far of a hike and arrived at daylight after driving a couple of hours. Conditions seemed pretty good - the forest was wet and saturated and it would be an easy drop down into a small drainage with the cascade being the only real target.
After a few hundred yards of easy hiking I came upon a forest of big pine trees - on the ground. Natural logging I call it - a wind storm or small burst tornado did a number on this hillside, and it took me a while to climb/crawl over and through the mess. I ended up down on the creek below where the GPS said the famous cascade was located, and I found a few cascades, but nothing like the pictures I've seen online. Turns out this one was not nearly as amazing in person as it was online - usually the opposite is true - the waterfall is normally WAY better in person than photos can capture. Disappointed but at least I got a photo and documentation for the guidebook.
Funny, but I spent two days this past week seeking out another waterfall that I'd seen recent photos of online that was indeed quite an incredible location - one I'd been to 20 years ago. But MY pictures of it didn't live up to the hype, nor even come close to the amazing photos I'd seen on line - so that one was on me. As I enter my 45th year as a professional nature photographer you would think I could compete with an iphone snapshot ey?! Not always - today's technology is pretty astounding.
My second target yesterday was a small waterfall very close to the road that many folks had talked about in passing, but I was not prepared for how incredibly BEAUTIFUL it was - Fiddlehead Falls. Short hike down a steep social trail, and it was a magical paradise. Oh so wonderful, and perfect water levels and light too. I spent nearly an hour there in bliss.
The next target for the day was in a little drainage of the much larger complex Cow Creek near Pam's Grotto. I've seen pics of this Little Cow Creek area for years - Firemen Jeff and Jason had explored the main branch many years ago and were the first to report big waterfalls there - Jeff took me in several years for a quick tour - one falls up to 94'. I was met at the parking spot yesterday by a forest of MONSTER pine trees all laid down by yet another tornado - oh my goodness, I felt like being at the Kennedy Space Center walking next to the Saturn V moon rocket - these pine trees were GIANTS!!! I bet at least 50-100 of them laid right on down like toothpicks. So it was a struggle to manage getting through them and down into a side drainage, but then the forest turned magical.
My first stop was at a small (14') unnamed and really un-noted waterfall that was nice - until I started to leave it. Then I happened to see a view of the falls through a jumble of rock layers that had been stacked on end next to each other with a small slit between them. I fought and struggled to set up my big camera rig inside these rock layers to capture the tight feel and lush green of the moss, with the beautiful waterfall at the end of the line. Sometimes moments like these are just as important to me as the giant waterfalls - both have a lot of power inside my heart.
I spent the next couple of hours down along the main Little Cow Creek at two main spots - waterfalls all named after famous cows, which is the theme of this entire multi-prong drainage, names made up by waterfall hunters over the years. Kinda a neat idea. But these waterfalls were much larger, more impressive, and more magical than I had expected. And then the sun came out and my day was over. Over except for the climb out and then scramble through the downed giant pine trees.
I'm headed out this morning for another part of the above cow complex with Fireman Jeff, the one who first took me into this area many moons ago. It is going to be wet and soggy - just the way I like it! So many waterfall areas are at peak flow right now - high water but not muddy. I hope you are able to get out and enjoy.
I am a Beatles song today, at last...
05/12/19 We had a very wet hike yesterday into a soaked lush landscape and photographed three tall waterfalls - the tallest being 94'. I've taken pictures of these before, but not with so much water. Nor as LUSH! It was like Momma Nature was trying to squeeze as much water out of the spongy earth as possible. And for some reason I was cold - even after a 30-minute sprint up a very steep hillside.
Today was going to be very short day with clear skies forecast. But I wanted to at least poke my head into a new drainage for me and see what the waterfalls looked like there. They were near the top of the hill so not running full blast, but by the time the clouds cleared and harsh sunshine appeared, I'd been able to photograph three nice waterfalls. Once again it was a very wet and lush landscape and I was soaked, but not nearly as cold as the day before.
12 out of the past 13 days I've trudged through the woods in search of waterfalls, but the bright sun brought me home early today. That was a good thing since my bride has been gone for the past nine days and the pups and I needed to get the cabin in order before she got home this evening! More sun for tomorrow/Monday - I think perhaps I'll sleep in to at least 5am.
Here's my favorite photo from today - Waterfall #31, Middle Cow Creek, Lower Upper Center Prong.
05/17/19 We awoke to the sound of honking geese and buzz of mosquitoes. I slept in WAY past my getting-up-time and the lake out the window was already glowing crimson and orange and BEAUTIFUL! We're camped at the edge of Lake Millwood (or is it Millwood Lake?) in southwest Arkansas. As I just sat down to type this, my bride called me over to look at an alligator she just spotted about 100' away in the calm waters of the lake. I think it is our very first wild alligator together - required a kiss, which I always appreciate!
Yesterday was a prairie day - I needed to photograph a few wildflowers for the new picture book and/or calendar. My day began before sunrise at Baker Prairie, a "local" Arkansas Natural Area within the city limits of Harrison. There were/are quite a few flowers blooming, including many different species across both sections of the prairie, with a lawn-mown trail winding through it all. Individual species are scattered, and while I didn't find any overall scenes that I wanted, I did get down on my hands and knees in the tall grass to photograph a couple of different flowers - one was an Indian paintbrush, a very VIVID red!
Within 30 minutes of sunrise the sun was already so harsh that I had to pack up and leave, swinging by the cabin to pick up lovely bride, two puppies, and the official photomobile - our small camper van/RV. We headed south - way south and west, to a large prairie. There were some serious issues along I-30 that delayed us a couple of hours - in fact it seemed like they had basically shut down the west-bound lanes due to MOWING. Really? Since I was on a time schedule we decided to listen to our nav system and take an alternate route. That worked out pretty good and it was great to get off that awful mess on the big highway. When we were within about a mile of the entrance to the prairie (as the crow flies), the road had a slight gap in it - a gap of about eight feet wide that extended across the entire roadway, about 6-8' deep - YIKES! We had to retrace our route almost all the way back to the freeway, and work our way around until we finally did make it to the prairie - a six hour drive.
There was one species in particular that I wanted to photograph, but needed to see how the entire prairie looked - so we scrambled and drove around all the main road, scanning both sides and far into the prairie as best we could, while making mental notes of where individual flowers were located. Overall there were/are TONS of flowers in bloom and it was all just lovely, although again I could not locate any overall scenes of a field of wildflowers extending to the horizon like I had wanted. Well, there were many thousands of what I now call "ghost" coneflowers everywhere - these are pale purple coneflowers that for some reason this year have absolutely no color at all - they were WHITE, kinda ghostly.
Anyway, with the light fading extremely fast I decided to go for the money shot and drove back to the best group of my target flower. I spent the next 30 minutes extremely frustrated and overjoyed at the same time. There were so many of these beautiful flowers and the light was great but like a kid in a candy store I did not know where to stand, what direction to point the camera, and which flowers to photograph - there were TOO MANY of them! This happened last fall too - way too much color, which makes it difficult to isolate a subject to focus on.
And then the sun disappeared and an eerie calm spread across the prairie. The afterglow of sunset was just beautiful.
But it wasn't until we were approaching our campsite at Millwood when the real color began - the western horizon and reflection on the lake was just SPECTACULAR! Oh my goodness. But you're not allowed to stop along the top of the roadway there, and I probably would not have had time to set up and take a picture anyway, so we simply slowed and enjoyed the show as we crossed.
Odd thing about this campground - one loop was mostly for big campers/RVs - it was about half full. Our loop was for smaller campers/tents and no one was there, only us. But the odd thing was the only bathroom in the entire campground complex was - in the big RV loop. Hum, most all RVers use their own bathrooms (like we do), and of course no tent campers have one, so they put the bathroom where no one would use it, and had no bathroom where EVERY camper needed one. I don't see the logic in this - sorry. Walking around this morning I found another campground loop for mostly tents only - but it was closed and appeared to be abandoned - not on the park map either. Again, no bathroom building on that loop either. Hum - not sure if this campground will go in our "favorite" campground guidebook or not, but that is certainly one thing we will keep in mind - are there bathrooms in the tent camping area - seems like a MUST.
05/19/19 Wheels up at 4:02am this morning, and it took me nearly two hours to drive an hour through heavy fog and some rain most of the way. We got less than 3/4 inch of rain out of the big storms (although they were quite noisy at times!). I wanted to catch four waterfalls that live at the top of a couple drainages and new this might be one of my last chances to get them with any water. Sunshine was on the way, so I had to get there early and work fast.
First thing I ran into was tornado damage from some months ago - some of them had been cut out, but eventually I had to park the van and hike. No problem, it was still dark and foggy! I slipped and slid down a steep slope and made it to the first waterfall just as a bit of sunshine broke through the fog. Oops! Not much water, but it would be enough, I hoped. Then I trudged on up to the next waterfall (I went to the lowest waterfall of two first), took some pictures, then headed out of the first little drainage with half of my intended waterfalls done!
There was more tornado damage as I bushwhacked along a mostly level but very thick forest, then dropped down and follow a small drainage to one, two, and then a third beautiful waterfall - though still pretty low flow, but good enough! (5 total) And the way these waterfalls were pointing they were all in the shade so I had beat the sun, even though the skies above were already almost totally clear and blue. I sat beneath the last falls enjoying a few moments of bliss and munching on a protein bar. (my 32 oz. breakfast smoothie I had at 3:30 had run out of energy) Note that I almost NEVER sit down and take a break while doing these waterfall hunts/shoots (just ask Jeff - heck we don't even stop for lunch or a snack - we pull something out of our pocket and eat while we're climbing - NO REST for us!
Anyway, all of a sudden I heard a very strange noise coming from below/downstream. When first approaching this last waterfall I though I heard something, but it kinda sounded like a person's whistle, and I figured it must have just been the wind and water since the chances of another human being down in that hole on a Sunday morning were slim. Then I saw a squirrel run across a log and dismissed it all. But this much-closer and louder noise I heard was most certainly something. I froze and strained to hear, and listened for a couple of minutes as the sound changed pitch, volume, and location.
After a few minutes I decided I had no clue, and didn't want to spend the time to investigate, I packed up and headed out. As best I could tell there was a momma fox that had young around somewhere, and she was trying to draw me away - which WORKED! She cried out a while, and I left. On my way out I came upon a beautiful little multi-tiered waterfall that was between me and Momma fox. If you ever seen a waterfall in the new guidebook called Fox Crying Falls, you will know where the name came from!
It was a beautiful, WET AND LUSH day in the woods, and by the time I'd fought my way back through the tornado damage and found my car key, it was only 9am and I was headed home.
05/20/19 (un-edited, sorry) As I sit here an hour before dawn, the eastern horizon has already began to glow pink and red and orange and blue. There's a sea of clouds far below covering the Little Buffalo River. Many stars and a couple of planets remain in the dark blue sky. It is quiet, no breeze at all, no birds awake yet, and all I hear are the ticking of the kitchen clock and the ringing in my ears. Temp is 57.
A couple of weeks ago my bride drove 20 hours to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend a week of art instruction by a pair of really good/great painters. She is adding oil as a medium to her palet - she has mostly been doing pastels. One of her early oil paintings (her first maybe) from several years ago of an aspen forest that we camped in hangs above the fireplace - I LOVE it!
Anyway, the pups and I were left to fend for ourselves for nine days. Eight of those nine days were premium waterfall days and so I was gone most of the time. In fact I did a stretch of 12 out of 13 days in a row chasing waterfalls. That kinda stretched my aging bones to the limit. Each trip was pretty amazing in many ways - sometimes for the sheer beauty of it all; other times it was due to the extreme physical endurance required. Sometimes both. I was too worn out (lazy) to write up most of these trips, but I want to take you through two days while Pam was gone just to get an idea.
There were a pair of canyons in the greater Batson area northwest of Clarksville that I've wanted to visit for years, with waterfalls found by Brian Emfinger, one of a new breed of waterfall hunters that my first waterfall guidebook spawned many years ago. (Brian is now a talented and famous TV photographer and drone pilot, and still does live storm chasing, one of his original passions).
Day one. The alarm was to go off a 4, but I was already up by that time making breakfast. Soon I had the van headed towards Batson, and I arrived at the turnoff at about sunrise - but there would be no sunrise on this day - it was one of those perfect waterfall days where we had recent rainfall and the air was wet and the landscape was dripping. The little access road into the forest looked OK, but just 1/4 mile in the road had been washed out and no way for me to go forward, nor was there a place to turn around. I had to back up my spinning van that quarter mile uphill and around one very sharp curve (my van is a commercial cargo van that's low to the ground with street tires only, rear wheel drive, and not made for dirt roads, much less jeep roads like this one!). I held my breath and somehow made it back out to the top without getting stuck. A minor miracle to begin the day, but it also set me back a while since I then had to hike about a mile that I'd planned on being able to drive. No problem.
The forest was THICK but not too bad hiking, until I left the ridgetop and headed straight DOWN into a very steep and deep canyon. Down, down, and down I went, just sort of feeling my way since there was no trail nor real direction - I just new there were waterfalls down in there. Actually I did have some idea - I had four points marked on a map that Brian marked ten or fifteen years ago. Before hitting bottom I was drawn to a brilliant orange glow - which turned out to be some of the BRIGHTEST shelf mushrooms/lichens I'd ever seen - it was like they were lighting up the entire forest, oh my goodness! I managed to take a couple of iphone photos of them, then decided to set up my real camera and take a few pictures. On this trip - and from this point on for a while - I carried not only my new and very expensive "little" Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera to take photos for the guidebook, but also my older and very expensive "big" Fuji GFX mirror less camera in case I found something that was really worthy of a premium camera system. But due to weight, I only had one lens for each camera.
Speaking of weight, since I had left/lost my special lightweight tripod a couple of weeks before, I had my big tripod with me - great while shooting - but it added a pound or two on my back.
After a bit of stumbling around in the bottom of this tight canyon, and after passing up quite a few beautiful scenes because I really needed to find and photograph the big four waterfalls before the sky clear around noon, I came to waterfall #1 quite unexpectedly. I say that because it was not exactly where I thought it would be - it was about 100 feet away and off to the side of the main drainage I'd been exploring.
This first waterfall was only 6-8 feet tall and I almost wasn't going to bother with it. But when I slid down the slope and landed at the feet of this guy, what I found would turn out to be one of the most beautiful and amazing waterfalls in Arkansas. Really? To me, yes. In fact in the face of needing to hurry up and document it and get on with the program before blue skies arrived, I went right to the "big" camera and spent TWO HOURS taking pictures of this little jewel. It was quite unique, and it cast a magical spell on me. Basically it's just a small waterfall that tumbles over a little shelf, but then it lands in a shallow pool that pool is guarded by a natural sandstone "bridge" that spans the entire creek from left to right. The bridge is perhaps only eight or ten feet wide, and only 6-8 inches thick, and maybe 4-5 feet from front to back. It is nearly flat across in both directions. Kind of like a table of granite.
One of the things I was drawn to was the tiny pool of water on top of this bridge - perhaps only 1/2" deep - that reflected the waterfall. That reflection is what I spent most of my time taking pictures of. I was totally sucked in. Oh yes, duh, I also had to shoot this with my "little" camera for the guidebook, but I only took a couple of snapshots and then HAD to move on - I was so late already! But I could have stayed there all day and never taken another step. It's one of those waterfalls filled with mystery and magic.
When I packed up and started to move on, I realized the next waterfall was only 50 feet away - I'd been standing right on top of a thundering pair of 30'+ twin falls and didn't even realize it! But it took me quite a while to find a way down to the base of these beauties - the big bluffline wrapped around and went down stream on both sides. When I found a break in the bluff and made my way down and back upstream, again I was faced with an amazing sight of the twin falls that I'd not expected - they were flowing really well and filled the canyon with power and glory - oh my! I took pictures from a couple different vantage points, but wanted to stay and take pictures all day.
The next waterfall was a ways downstream, and while sky conditions remained perfect for waterfall pictures, I knew it wouldn't last and I was in a hurry. I slipped and slid and landed face-down in the mud a time or two but kept going. When I came to a side drainage I decided to leave the main creek and see what was up that direction - nice water flow and I bet there was a bluff. I almost immediately came to a really nice two-tiered waterfall and stopped to take a quick picture, although my mission on this day was really to just document the four main falls. Click, click. And I moved on and UP.
After a bit of clawing my way up the hillside I came to the base of a giant bluffline - and a really amazing, tall, beautiful, and majestic waterfall pouring over the bluff. WOW! I hurriedly found the best visual spot for me and set up my BIG tripod - to heck with that little camera! With all the lush vegetation it looked kinda tropical. It also appeared to have a shelf about half way up that possible a person could climb up to and walk behind the falls. So I packed up and made my way up, UP, and around.
Cinnamon ferns are the largest ferns in Arkansas that I know of, and there were dozens and dozens of them up there along that middle shelf behind the falls. Some were three and four feet tall, swaying in the breeze of the powerful waterfall. It was an easy hike around the ledge and an incredible view out through the falls to the jungle forest beyond. It was a little tight getting to the far end of the shelf but I was able to safely crawl out and found myself looking across to the middle of the falls from that far side, then stopped and took a picture. WOW, this was a beautiful waterfall!
There was something DIFFERENT about this one. I don't know what or how - it just had a feel to it. Hum. But I had to press on - that blue sky would arrive soon.
As I started to make my way around the bluffline I'd been up on I found an amazing RED ROCK formation part was up the bluff - I took a quick snapshot with my phone then took of my big camera backpack to maybe shoot a better picture of this when something stopped me dead. There was a pile of bear scat directly at my feet. No wait, that was not bear scat, it was too BIG. What, bear scat that was too big? Really? How is that possible. I poked it with a stick, and sure enough, bear scat. Then my eye caught another even bigger pile, then another double pile, and another. Oh my goodness, there were MANY GIANT piles of bear scat only ledge! What the ???
A big chill went down my spine when I realized there must be a giant bear living along this big bluff, and he probably would not appreciate a photographer invading him. I retreated, or rather moved down, down, and away from the bluff as fast as I could - yet it just happened to be the thickest of the thick jungle with vines reaching out and grabbing my legs with every step. And each time I picked myself up images of giant bears flashed through my mind - I could see a bear behind every rock, glancing back there was a bear next to each big tree - oh my I was being attacked by a dozen bears at the same time from all directions! Not really, it was all in my head of course.
Then a moment of real terror hit me. That scat was far larger than any black bear could have made. Heck it was far larger than any grizzly bear could have made (no grizzly bears in Arkansas). Come to think of it, bears don't hang out in one location and make piles of scat over and over like that. But what ELSE would make a pile of scat that large, and in the same place, kind of like a bathroom spot? And then it hit me - the only answer was BIGFOOT!!!!! Are you kidding me? Not only was I in the middle of a dense jungle all alone with my bride away and Fireman Jeff away and my Find-Me-Spot probably not working, but there was most likely a bigfoot creature upset that I'd discovered his hideaway and was coming to get me!
So, you see the sort of things that happen to your mind when you are all alone in the woods! I gotta tell ya that I got a little spooked though. Of course there wasn't a bigfoot after me, but there was SOMETHING up there in the bluffs that had made those giant piles of scat. Hum.
And so I continued on down through a lovely - yet spooky - forest to the main creek and hoped, wished that the final waterfall was not far downstream. And it wasn't, and soon I was standing at the foot of yet another beautiful waterfall - this one the full width of the creek - actually wider than the creek somehow. And just as I unpacked my camera the sun came out. I got the picture I needed though, completing my round of the four main waterfalls in this canyon.
The next hour totally consumed me mentally and physically. Even though this was one spectacular canyon, did didn't want to remain there for another minute, so instead of carefully plotting a route back to the top - or perhaps even finding a better route on the other side of the canyon - I decided to just get UP and OUT as quick as I could - which meant straight up. It was literally hand over fist, and I was down on all fours much of the time literally clawing my way up. A couple of times I began to doubt my physical ability (I am after all, a geezer ya know). And also my mental state of mind - those visions of bigfoot were still flashing through my head. And every time I wondered if my route UP was the right choice, I looked back over towards the other side - to bigfoot bluff - and decided I was good.
At one point I found a narrow deer trail that led up into this open area on the side of the hill - hey, if a deer can do this so could I! A few minutes later I was in the middle of that open area that was really solid poison ivy about three feet tall - I could not see below my knees, and when I had to go down on all fours to claw my way up my face was in the ivy and I could not see a thing but poison ivy! More doubt, and once I just sat down and laid back on the slope. What was I doing there? I'm NOT a deer! It was a tough spot. But then I remembered bigfoot again and continued my clawing up the hillside and eventually I did make it out - YIPPIE! In fact I found that little deer trail way up there - so I guess the deer had helped me along the entire time. 30 minutes later I was back at the van where I found my lunch. It was about 4pm...
OK, so that little day of waterfalling took up way too much room in this Journal and it's time for me to get to work at my day job so the next day of waterfall hunting will have to wait - so hold this spot...
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