Happy Friday morning water fall hunting adventure - 04/19/13. I took a vacation day, gathered up my gear and headed up Highway 59 to capture my first waterfall - Natural Dam falls.
Directions - take exit #5 on I-40 at Van Buren, and then head North on AR Hwy 59. As soon as you cross a bridge and come into the community of Natural Dam, turn left at the sign for the falls and picnic area.
The falls are not that tall, the natural dam does span the entire creek almost 200 feet. From the recent heavy rains the water was really flowing and it made for a great camera adventure for me. I started taking pics on the west of the falls concentrating on some small sprays that were in an almost shaded area. These small sprays allowed me to take some fun shots while I took my time and practiced using different manual settings.
As I walked across the old concrete bridge in front of the falls it was a tremendous sight and sound to experience on this beautiful Spring day. I moved to the East end of the falls to capture some different angles and to attempt to avoid the direct bright sunlight. The sun this morning was definitely a challenge for my camera as I worked to get some effects from the high flow of water. After staying in this location for awhile I decided to up the creek past the falls to see what was waiting for my camera to shoot.
This was the first time I had walked the trail on the East side of the creek. It was wet in some places but that's the outdoor experience and why we wear hiking boots. You can see these mini falls from the larger falls as you look upstream. This is the first place I stopped along the trail. I love this pic of myself using my self timer on my camera as I take in the beautiful view. This made me happy on this morning to be here and to experience this area so close to my home. I again practiced with settings on my camera at this spot since there was both shadows and direct sunlight. I continued up the trail and found myself near the road - Hwy 59 which was a surprise to me. I later found out the trail around the creek makes a loop all the way around and back to the main falls from which I began. At this point I turned back because I had one more waterfall to capture on this day's agenda.
Crack in the Rock trail - Lee Creek Reservoir, Van Buren, AR. Now back on Hwy 59 traveling South heading towards Van Buren going to the next camera adventure of the day.
Directions - take exit #5 on I-40 at Van Buren, go North for 1 mile and turn Left onto Old Uniontown Road, stay on Old Uniontown Road for 1.5 miles, turn Left onto Pine Hollow Road and go 2 miles. turn left onto Gelly Road and go for 1 mile to the parking area.
This is my second trip to be here at Crack in the Rock. I came here the first time with my brother Ricky and his wife Kay, however on this trip we did not go to the waterfall. So I was excited for the discovery of the waterfall. Waterfalls are amazing to me no matter how small or large. I love the anticipation when I began to hear the roar of a waterfall and see the force of the water as it makes its way over the edge of the bluff, cliff or ledge. This particular trail follows the creek which is on the left side of the trail. There is a point on the trail where there is an upward ascent however it is not bad at all and it is good exercise for anyone. Continuing on the trail you will cross over a small stream and you will see Crack in the Rock on your left. You can walk through some of this crack however I would view it from the top of the crack first, as they say - "there's bears in them there woods". Always best to be safe, it makes for a happy and long life.
Ok - it's discovery time. Time to find the waterfall that I came to see. As I traveled past the Crack in the Rock there are some bluff areas and you can look down at the creek and the beautiful terrain below. The dogwoods were blooming and they were beautiful to see just past the edge of the bluff. Continuing on now I could hear the infamous roar of the waterfall, you know I am getting excited at this point. Come on Kirk - let's do this! Once I spotted the waterfall, the decision of which path to take to get down to it came into play. Because of the recent rains the steep slope going down was a little muddy so it was time to use extra caution and slow the excited pulse down. Safe at the base of the waterfall, it is a beautiful sight to see. It is a short waterfall in a small grotto. I just really like this waterfall. The pic listed above is the view downstream from the waterfall. The flow of the waterfall was really good and I was happy that I made the decision to be here.
Leaving the waterfall was tough for because it was so awesome, I continued to follow the trail up the creek to continue my adventure. The pic is where the creek takes a turn to the left and heads upstream. This creek is very pretty as it makes it way over small and larger rocks in its path. I followed the stream a half mile above the waterfall before crossing the creek and following the creek downstream. I had the idea of capturing the waterfall on the North side to have another view and angle. There is MUCH to see Outdoors.
Saturday - 04/06/13. Once again traveling with my brother Ricky & his wife Kay (my favorite sister-n-law that lives that drives a Black Ford Escape), three waterfalls on our waterfall hunting list for this day. First stop - Haw Creek Recreation Area located approximately 25 miles North of Clarksville.
Haw Creek Falls is located next to the camping area, easy access and very convenient. Also reachable from the campground via a short hike/bushwack is Pack Rat Falls. And while you are visiting - be sure to check out Pam's Grotto Falls, located just across Highway 123 from Haw Creek Falls. Three waterfalls within walking distance of each other is Bonus coverage.
Waterfall #2 - Falling Water Falls located in Pelsor, Newton County on Forest Road 1205/County Road 68. This waterfall is just off the road on the right. This is one of the popular waterfalls because of the easy access. Another family friendly beautiful location to visit. If you don't mind getting your feet wet, you can easily cross the creek that feeds this waterfall. Cross the creek and explore and see this waterfall from different angles.
Waterfall #3 - Six Fingers Falls is also located on Forest Road 1205/County Road 68. This waterfall is also just off the road on the left and also easy accessible. The falls are only about six feet high. The falls get their name because the creek has carved six channels into the rock which from above looks like a hand with six fingers.
There are so many waterfalls on this road. Just driving on this road is such an incredible experience. There is an upward climb and you will see the creek below and later you meet up with the creek once again. You will also see various types of wildlife. On this particular day we saw wild turkeys on two separate occasions, our last sighting included 11 turkeys. Add these waterfalls to your bucket list. When Spring becomes blooming and more rain comes, these waterfalls will be even more beautiful.
Dismal creek that feeds The Glory Hole.
Wednesday, 4/03/13. Return trip to the most unique waterfall in the state of Arkansas, The Glory Hole. This camera adventure included my brother Ricky, his wife Kay and a friend/fellow outdoor photographer Greg Grim joined us at the waterfall. It was in the low 40's when we arrived and parked. It is a one mile hike down to The Glory Hole waterfall. You follow a well worn trail as hundreds and hundreds have hiked in to see this unique waterfall. The recent rains had delivered a fair amount of water flow as the small stream that runs across the trail was a good indication. There were several neat mini runoffs along the trail. Once we were close to our destination you could hear the small roar of Dismal creek, the source of water flow for the waterfall. Our good friend Greg Grim had arrived before us and was capturing great pics below at the waterfall while we were on top of the waterfall taking pics.
On the way down to The Glory Hole you cross over a short drainage area with rocks partially covered with moss that flows into Dismal creek below. Use caution here and you will be fine. Once down the short descent there are several large boulders in this area and you cross over Dismal creek to reach the shelter area where you will see this magnificent waterfall.
Our friend Greg was finishing his waterfall camera art while we were setting up our tripods to begin our first camera shoot of the day. This is one of the waterfalls you "have to see" and experience. Numerous words of expression cannot do it justice until you see the large shelter area and the flow of water coming through this perfectly round 4' hole created over thousands of years and crafted by our God. It was a good morning of cloud cover to capture this waterfall. After about 10 minutes it was probably 30 minutes I noticed everyone else was ready to go to the next waterfall. What! - I need another hour and a half people of positioning my tripod around the waterfall, setting up for different shots, the list goes on and I have a big list.
Ricky - Greg - Kay
Time to go to the next waterfall, one mile down and then one mile back up the trail. It's not a real steep climb, just a constant thigh burner as you make the ascent. I jumped into Greg's Jeep as Ricky and Kay followed us to Triple Falls aka Twin Falls about 30 miles away give or take a hill and a valley or as the old timers would say - it's just a hoop and a holler over yonder. My next vehicle is and will be a Jeep. It's what a hiking and outdoor photography guy like me needs and just has to have to get where I need to be at times. Top of Faith list - Jeep, write it down - claim it - believe God for it - that's what we do. I had a great Jeep ride with my good friend Greg Grim. Did I just say Jeep ride? - love it. Greg is an accomplished outdoor photographer and has been to most of the waterfalls you read about and see in books and on the internet located in the Northwest - Northeast Arkansas area. Greg was pointing out roads to me that lead to waterfalls that I have read about and of course he has visited. From Ponca, AR travel Highway 7 East towards Jasper, you will a sign that says Kyle's Landing and Camp Orr Boy Scout Camp. Turn left here and go down this dirt road down the mountain for 3 miles. You will see a parking area marked Twin Falls parking - 30 minutes only. I made up the parking time limit - Gosh that is funny. This road is somewhat rugged and not advisable during rain unless you have a 4WD vehicle and a lot of faith.
Across the parking area you will see the sign Twin Falls (really should read Triple Falls) pointing towards the trail to the waterfalls. It's only about 200 yards to these beautiful waterfalls. The access is very easy for everyone.
I will never grow tired of the hearing the roar of the water of a waterfall. It gets me excited and going - makes me very happy. Talking Bonus coverage here - three water falls at one time. When the water is flowing well there are three falls, during drier times there is only two falls hence the name Twin Falls. The height of these waterfalls is approximately 48'. Our previous cloud cover left and the sun was rapidly overcoming this area. I need to invest in a lens filter to help me overcome direct sunlight. I am ready to visit these waterfalls in full Spring bloom. It's going to be a beautiful Spring season in the Ozarks.
Saturday morning, 3/23/13 - This morning's camera adventure included locating two waterfalls near Cass, AR in Franklin County. The first waterfall on my list was Sentinel Rock Falls. These waterfalls are in the same general area so once I arrived I could hike to both - Bonus coverage.
Directions to the waterfalls. From Ft. Smith, AR - travel East on I-40, take the Ozark exit #35, turn left onto State Highway 23 North (the infamous Pig Trail); you will see come neat rustic barns and often wildlife on this beautiful scenic road. On this particular morning I had to slow down considerably as I waited for 8 whitetail deer to completely cross the road. Once you arrive at Cass, begin looking for State Highway 215 North. Turn right onto Hwy 215 North, begin looking for Redding Campground; once you see the sign travel exactly 1.5 miles and turn right onto Forest road 1504. This road was not marked so you will know it when you turn off Hwy North 215 and you see a Truck limit sign (white with black letters/numbers). Almost immediately you will go over an old concrete low water bridge as you cross the Mulberry River. The Mulberry was really moving this day and the roar of the water was a pleasant sound to any outdoor loving person. From the bridge it is 2.4 miles to the where you park to hike to the waterfalls. Just pass the bridge you will see there is private property on both sides of the road marked with No Trespassing signs. This was a bit confusing to me as I kept driving on this road. I could see ahead the road was taking a turn to the left and going up the hill. This was a good sign for me. On this short distance of road there was an old homestead. Old homesteads are really intriguing to me as I think of the families that used to live there and the life that happened within the walls. This was a first for me as I stopped my vehicle to take some pics, in the trees and on the roof were a large number of turkey vultures.
Right at the 2.4 mile mark you will come up on a short turn to the right. Immediately to the left you will see an old jeep trail, this is the trail to Sentinel Rock Falls. The parking on this curve is scarce and I did not want may vehicle partially in the road so I drive forward about 40 yards to where the road took a turn to the left. There is a road/trail on the right that goes into the woods. Not sure where it goes however I would like to see one day. Ok - after parking and securing my vehicle I went back to the old jeep road to find Sentinel Rock Falls. You will walk .9 of an mile on this jeep road. Then you will come up on a small creek that crosses the jeep road. Follow the creek downstream (for all you Yuppies out there) turn left at the creek. You will hike approximately another quarter mile following the creek until you reach the top of the waterfall. You will see a very large boulder to the left of the top of the waterfall.
A simple iPhone pic showing the top of the waterfall, a short cascading waterfall and runoff in the lower right.
The top of the waterfall.
Time to hike down a steep slope to capture shots of the waterfalls. And steep it was as I slowly made my way down to the lower section of the falls. The terrain was wet and slick because of the recent heavy rains. Suddenly I find myself on my back wondering how did that happen. I told myself let's not do that again. Now time to setup my camera to capture this beautiful setting. There are many numerous moss covered rocks around the waterfalls. The view of these waterfalls is spectacular, not a large waterfall but very beautiful. I spent around 1.5 hours taking pics of the falls as I enjoyed myself. Ok - here we go, time to make the ascent to the top of the slippery slope. I carefully chose another path up the slope using a small tree as leverage to pull myself up and over the top. Once back on somewhat level ground, I looked downstream from the waterfalls and contemplated about adventuring farther to see where this stream was going. Later that evening I found out I should of kept up the adventure downstream. Hiking back upstream I was ready and anxious to see my next waterfall - Bingham Hollow Falls.
The creek that feeds Bingham Hollow Falls.
Bingham Hollow Falls is just across the Forest Road where I parked. When running well the creek will be running onto the road as it was the day I was there. Follow the creek downstream (for all you Yuppies out there) go the opposite way of the old jeep trail and head West. Hiking next to the creek as you go through the woods within 200 yards you will arrive at the top of the falls. The water was flowing well as it spilled over a ledge descending some 40' into a box canyon. Hiking to the right along the bluff area there are some great vantage points to view the falls and capture some great pics. After about a short photo session, I was eager to hike down to the base of the falls into the canyon area. Continuing to the right I finally reached a point where I felt it was safe to make the hike downward. Remembering and knowing the terrain was wet and slick, I took my time and carefully chose my path. What! - how did that happen? As I as about to cross to another area, there I go looking up and on my backside. After some moments of gathering my thoughts I kept on downward towards the creek and the large boulders around this box canyon area. This is such a beautiful area and incredible setting for everyone to experience. Beautiful place for a picnic, for moments of solitude and prayer and great camera adventure action.
The flow over the ledge.
The view from the top of the falls looking downstream.
Once I reached the base of the falls and was enjoying this remarkable place, I realized I did not have my camera tripod. I have a tripod that fits into a carrying case and I carry it over my right shoulder over my backpack. A backpack is a necessity when hiking. Items like a first aid kit, water, snacks, whistle, knife and a bible. I take my bible in my backpack wherever I adventure to, it's a great source of protection and strength. So now after taking some pics, it's time to hike back to where I left my tripod. You will never be bored hiking with me that's for sure. Time to make the ascent upstream to the creek. After reviewing the right side of the falls from down below, I find a path that is easier to traverse on the way up. While going up I notice a large narrow crevice that I was crossing, really - really neat. Have I told you this is a beautiful place to see and experience? Now for the next challenge to find an area to cross the creek to go back to where my tripod was waiting for me. After studying carefully I find a place to cross the creek safely - Yea me. Once I reach the location where I had thought I had left my tripod, well you guessed it my tripod was not there. Ok - after going through my mind as to where now, I realize my tripod is where I had fallen when I was going down to the base of the falls. I hike back around the top of the bluff area and see the black case with my tripod inside. The tripod had slipped off my shoulder when I had found myself on my back from the fall.
Natural shelter located in the canyon area.
The cavern area that wraps around the base of the falls.
The base of the falls and the pool below.
A view from behind the falls.
A view of the cavern and the flow of water.
A view from the south side of the falls.
These waterfalls and this area should be added to your list of waterfalls visits and hiking adventures. Funny story - I posted a few pics on the Facebook page - Waterfalls of Arkansas. The guy that actually discovered both of these waterfalls I had set out to see on this adventure commented on my post. He wrote - actually Kirk that is not Sentinel Rock Falls it is Orphan Bluff Falls. Are you serious? - Yes, he was serious. He went on to say I was half way there to Sentinel Rock Falls. If I adventured farther downstream I would have also seen these beautiful falls. Still makes me laugh, at least I know how to get to Sentinel Rock Falls when I return when Spring is in full bloom.
I rose early (5:00am) on Saturday morning to travel to my next camera hunting adventure - Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Vian, Ok. approximately 50 miles from Ft. Smith, Ar. I wanted to capture the sunrise and hope for some beautiful and bright colors.
I drove up to one of the boat launch areas to view the water and the shoreline and I was surprised by what I saw walking around the shoreline. Are you ready for this ? Walking around the shoreline was a bobcat. A bobcat? Yep - that's what I said. I was completely surprised by seeing this beautiful animal. I watched "Bob" - let's call him Bob for this story line, walk along the shoreline and disappear in some thick brush. At this point I was standing on a bench for a better angle for a camera shot and protection for me. A little fear had come over me and I imagined something like a sabertooth tiger that was going to come out of the thick brush after me. I saw there was a opening in the thick brush and I should see Bob reappear continuing down the shoreline so I waited. Just as I guessed Bob reappeared from the thick brush around the shoreline and was walking towards me. I quickly captured a pic of Bob before he entered the thick brush once again. Look closely at the pic listed below and you will see Bob in the thick brush in front of the large rock along the shoreline.
While this Bob adventure was going on, the sun was rising behind me. Decision, what to do - what to do. Keep waiting on Bob to reappear from the thick brush or capture the beautiful sunrise over my right shoulder. There are even decisions to make in outdoor photography. Since I had purposed to capture the sunrise I kept to my early morning mission and walked away from Bob to watch what God had in store for the sunrise on this beautiful day.
As you drive around the 6 mile tour loop there are a few roads that are available for access to explore and see the beautiful scenery and wildlife. The pic listed to the left shows a red-winged blackbird flying low trying to dodge my camera lens.
I then came across these ducks in this pond. Would that make this a duck pond? The light was exceptional this morning as you can see with the golden and blue color of the water. Have you ever tried to sneak up on a duck? It does not work. They have a keen sense of Hey! somebody is trying to sneak up on me with a camera.
You have heard of a field of dreams - here is a field of ducks.
Check out these clouds as they are reflected in the water. I call it - cloud water.
Lastly a row of seagulls line up and a hawk that was camera shy.
Another early start as we traveled to the small town of Paris, AR in Logan County. In the vehicle on this trip was Kay, Ricky & myself. Kellie had a cheerleading commitment with our daughter Kortni in Benton. Located within the boundaries of Paris are two lakes, Cove Lake and City Lake. Cove Lake is well known for its swimming areas and is on the highway to Mt. Magazine. City Lake is the main water reservoir for the city, local fishing and a great attraction for eagles to fish for shad.
Many people are being drawn to City Lake to watch the eagles fly above the water looking for food that generally consists of shad swimming near the top of the water. It is quite a show to see as you watch an eagle that is roosted on a limb of a tree fly above the water and then begin to make small circles as they prepare themselves to descend to gather food for their next meal. This beautiful Saturday morning started off with chilly temps in the low 40's with a light wind blowing. Ricky and I were layered with warm clothing as Kay stayed in the vehicle to monitor the mobile headquarters for - www.HobbsOutdoors.com. The eagle action was slow on this particular morning with not a lot of frequency as we have previously seen. There is a small platform area with bench seating on the water's edge to enhance the eagle viewing experience.
There were a few close passes of eagles flying near the platform however not enough to get you excited. I decided I would take a quick adventure and do a little exploring on a short hike along the west end of the lake. Walking a narrow trail above the shore line I noticed this hike was becoming adventurous. I was carrying my camera in my right hand and keeping my balance as I navigated the steepness of this trail. Soon the trail became slick from mud then excitement came over me, I had a real adventure going on. I was now going down towards the spillway area of the lake. You could tell this area is probably beautiful in the Spring time. I took advantage of the view and captured some pics of the lake below the spillway. Below the spillway were some more pic opportunities so I continued to hike. As I was coming down a short steep hill, I was easing down ever so slowly when my hiking boots lost their grip. In a split second I am sliding on my left slide holding up my camera in my right hand. When I stopped I did a spot check - no pain, no blood, no rips in my clothing. Survival is always a great thing. It's the little surprises that makes an adventure exciting. Well now I have to explain to Ricky and Kay why I have mud all over the left side of my jacket. "Hey - did you guys see that bobcat? Well I did! - I am fine but Wow that sure was an adventure for me." Sounds good to me.
Ricky suggests we venture around the north side of the lake to look for eagles around the cove area. We load up the vehicle and head towards this nearby destination. Kay parked the vehicle and we walk down a steep hill down to the cove area. Look closely at the pic on the left and you will see two eagles sitting in the pine tree. This is the area where the point is located that you view from the eagle viewing platform. As we were walking two eagles flew above us, it was a beautiful sight. I began to explore the highest area of the point and walk around the top perimeter. Walking slowly I looked at the top of each tree to try to catch a close glimpse of one of these majestic birds. Suddenly a huge eagle leaves the roost and flies away towards the lake. I tell myself I have to get a shot so I keep my camera on the eagle. Then he makes a sharp curve and flies back toward me. My moment has arrived, I capture the shot that I have included below. I was happy that I had accomplished this small goal.
Continuing around the point towards the cove area I saw an immature eagle in one of the pine trees. Please stay there, will you please stay there so I can capture your beauty with my lens. Well he did not stay very long however I did get a quick shot when he was leaving the tree. The pic turned out to be unique and I like it so I thought I would share.
Next the agenda for the rest of this camera adventure day was to discover and locate old and rustic barns. Arkansas has an abundance of old and rustic barns to see as you travel the highways and and country roads of this beautiful state. I have included several of the barns for your viewing pleasure we came across in our travels.
Eagle adventure (1/26/13) with the HobbsOutdoors.com Team which includes my brother Ricky and sister-n-law Kay. Traveling to NWA to our first destination Gentry, AR. Kay was at the wheel and navigating us through the land of the eagles. We drove all around Gentry including the Flint Creek Power Plant and many other surrounding communities.
We began to see eagles one by one in trees and flying overhead. Then we would see three, four or five white headed bald eagles. Kay then drove us to the Cherokee community area. Here we go and there they were. I counted 28 of them in five to six trees. Ricky and Kay had made friends with a local farmer/rancher and large land owner. This most generous farmer/rancher allowed us access to his property. Wow! - ain't God good. Our God that we serve and love so MUCH had given favor to his faithful followers. Now Kay is driving through a field to gain us a closer camera advantage to take pics of the eagles in the trees.
Next we moved on in search again for the subject of the day - eagles. Kay drove around the small communities in the area that draw eagles and allows for great camera art. It is majestic at times to see the eagles as they roost in the trees and see them fly and soar high into the sky. As Ricky and I were snapping pics of eagles along a side of a road, a person stopped and told us he was also also out looking at eagles. He then told us he knew of an eagle's nest with an eagle in it and asked us if we wanted to follow him to see the nest. Wow! - God was flooding us with favor on this Saturday morning. As our new friend drove off we followed close eager for this new adventure to view the eagle in the nest. As we continued to drive a sign with the words - Welcome to Missouri - appeared as we crossed the state line. Gosh - now we are crossing state lines in search of the beautiful bird named eagle. Our new friend in the red truck pulled off the road, of the white line and partially into the ditch. We walked across the road and he pointed out the huge nest in the tree in the middle of the woods. We were approximately 50' away from the nest along the roadside. This was a rare sight to be as close as we were to an eagle's nest. As we looked at the nest we saw a large eagle sitting looking around and appearing to be glancing back towards us. What a almost breathtaking moment for all of us. Talking Double Wow here (Wow-Wow).
"Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day"
These words are from an old classic children's song. They really seem to hold true for the - Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari
- located in Gentry. This is a great attraction for families and everyone to see. As you drive around the property you see various species of animals including deer and antelope, baboons and monkeys, goats and prairie dogs, ostriches and camels and my favorite buffalo. Buffalo to me are just amazing. Why? - Hey thanks for asking. Buffaloes take you back to the Wild West days where cowboy rode their horses around their ranches checking their cattle and mending fences. Indians would use the hides of the buffalo for protection from the elements of weather.
As Kay was driving around the borders of the safari property we passed by the buffalo in a large field. From the backseat I said - "Hey! - wait we have to go back there to see the buffalo plus I saw some eagles". Kay turned around the vehicle and drive to the side road next to the large field. These large wooly animals are just massive in their physique. In the first picture listed below you will see two buffalo. The buffalo on the left was scratching his head on a limb. Notice closely and you will see the horn around his head. In the distant background you will see a white headed bald eagle on his roost in the tree. I pretty much love this shot - Yep. The next picture shows a buffalo walking in front of a tree. I watched as this buffalo walked across the field until he was in front of this tree. The last picture I captured just before... Oh well I will leave it to your imagination. Gosh - this is funny.
We slept in this Saturday morning (1/19/13) for some much well deserved rest from a busy stressful week from work and life. We left around 8:30a.m. for our next hiking and waterfall adventure. We stopped for our morning food fuel at McDonald's for a fun breakfast to help us make it on the trail. One more stop for vehicle fuel then onto the open highway to our adventure destination. With my camera ready in my hands to take pics riding in the shotgun seat, Kellie exits I-540 East turning left at the Ozark off ramp to head onto State Hwy 23 known as the Pig Trail. This highway is popular among motorcyclists because of the many sweeping curves and the beautiful countryside area. You will see some great old rustic barns still standing and others soon to collapse back to their original structural foundation.
Next Kellie turns onto State Hwy 16/21 heading North. This highway is rich in beautiful picturesque scenery. Old rustic barns are plentiful with large pastures and fences to be viewed by the sightseer or avid camera adventurist.
As we pass by the small town community of Fallsville there is now a little over 6 miles to our primary destination - Glory Hole waterfall. You will pass a red barn on the left that has a large 'E" on the side of it. Go 1/2 mile pass the barn and on the left you will see an old house/shack with a fenced gate that displays, No Trespassing. Directly across the highway you will see a dirt road. Pull into this area just off the road. The path to the waterfall begins here. This hike is a two mile round trip and is rated moderate. You will find yourself on an old jeep trail. The trail begins to go downhill and crosses a narrow water crossing. Soon on the left of the trail with ample rainfall you will see a nice waterfall that you can walk behind. Back on the trail with a slight downward slope you will across a larger water crossing that is easy to cross with the natural path of the rocks. This a nice stream that runs into Dismal creek. Dismal creek is the source of the water flow for Glory Hole waterfall. At this point the trail takes a turn to the left and you will see Dismal creek that runs to the left of the trail. You will come up to a large unique rock formation that looks like a turtle's back. Look over the edge to the left and you will Glory Hole. It is a 4' almost perfectly round hole that has over the course of thousands of years been drilled by the flow of water from Dismal creek. It is rated by many one of the most unique waterfalls in the country.
You can see that this is a unique sight to see. The creek was not flowing well on this day. There had been some recent storm action in Newton County however not in this particular area. I was hoping for more water, however it was a beautiful day and I wanted Kellie to see it for the first time. The turtle back rock formation and the rock ledge area are actually the top of a 25' cavern where you see the waterfall. Next you follow the trail to the left and cross over a water runoff area stepping on the rocks and pickup the trail again descending downward. Before turning back briefly to the left you encounter large boulders. These boulders are perfect for resting or a picnic lunch. Although the water was not flowing in abundance, to look upward through the waterfall and see the sky is an incredible sight to see. After Kellie forcing me to leave (not really but almost), I am always trying to take that perfect pic never taken before wherever we might be.
The trail going back to the vehicle is an almost constant incline not steep but definitely a thigh burner at times. Funny story - we are getting close to the end of the trail and coming up on a large water hole on the trail. I told Kellie you might want to walk around it over here with me because that is narrow and you might slip. Well you guessed it, as I was walking around the water hole Kellie was maneuvering herself along a narrow path next to the water hole. Kellie decided to grab hold of a small tree to balance herself and she slipped and her knee and hiking boot met the waterhole. She laughed first and then I laughed. For Kellie, it was a partly muddy leg and hiking boot. For Kirk, I got a "told you so" on Kellie. This was turning out to be a great day - ha. We counted 33 people from the beginning of the trail to the end of the trail. It's a popular destination to visit in Newton County.
Once in the vehicle Kellie says let's go to Boxley Valley since we are so close. I love when she says that. We travel North on State Hwy 16/21 which becomes State Hwy 21 North. Boxely is only 20 miles away from Glory Hole waterfall. Of course we know what you can see at Boxley Valley, elk and more beautiful scenery. We saw numerous elk stragglers, a couple of small elk herds and a large herd of approximately 40 elk. The drive through Boxley Valley is always a breath of fresh natural air. The beauty of Boxley Valley is always a great time for anyone that loves the outdoors and wants to view the creation of our God that we serve and love so MUCH.
We left the 'Ridge at 7:15a.m. on a Saturday morning stopping for breakfast @ McD's on the way to Eagle Watch Nature Trail in Gentry, AR. Eagles migrate each year during the winter to the Swepco Lake area which is located by the Swepco power plant. The power plant keeps the water in the lake around 70 degrees. A large number of eagles have migrated here for years to feed from the lake. There is a pavilion which allows you to watch the eagles and photographers to capture that perfect shot. My brother Ricky has been here numerous times to experience America's favorite bird.
Just as we were driving into the parking area I saw a photographer carrying his camera and tripod over his shoulder. You can always gain knowledge from an experienced veteran of outdoor photography. This experienced veteran turned out to be a friend of my brother Ricky, Mike Martin. You can go here to view Mike's Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/mike.martin.5201?ref=ts&fref=ts Mike lives in the Rogers, AR area and visits here quite often to capture the eagles and other birds and wildlife around the lake. Mike is very educated in the area of eagles and wildlife. This day Mike was the teacher and I was the student. Mike is one of the good guys in life and has a heart after God.
Mike had spotted 8 eagles when he arrived and setup his camera and tripod in the pavilion. Eagles in the wild are an incredible sight to experience. Kellie had her binoculars and was excited about seeing the eagles. Soon Kellie began spotting the eagles for Mike and myself. Kellie definitely has an "eagle eye" when it comes to spotting eagles flying and in the distant trees. My lens did not have enough zoom range to reach the eagles on this day so I enjoyed myself watching the eagles fly and looking for other wildlife.
I had some great conversation with Mike about outdoor photography and places to go and see. Mike is not only a great outdoor photographer but more than that a great person that loves God. Do want to experience God in a real natural way? Go hiking on a trail, ride a mountain bike through the woods or take your camera outside with you and watch as world around you comes alive. To see the beauty of an eagle sitting on its roost or the flight of an eagle is an incredible sight to experience. A mature eagle is recognized by its white head and white tail. And when you see several trees dotted with white heads you know you are in great company. The bald eagle is the symbol of our great nation America. When you see an eagle in its natural habitat your heart swells with pride as the majesty of these beautiful birds of the sky takes place.
Kellie and I stayed at Eagle Watch Nature Trail for 2.5 hours soaking in our first eagle watching experience. We thanked Mike Martin for his conversation and his stories and experience he shared with us. Next on this days camera adventure was another trip to Boxley Valley to capture images of the elk that make this valley their home.
As we were leaving Gentry I noticed on the left side of the highway a huge eagle sitting in a tree next to a house. I asked Kellie to pullover so I could capture this beautiful eagle. Kellie pulled in across the highway and parked in a parking lot. I grabbed my camera with excitement and started taking pics as I tried to stop from shaking. This was my eagle moment miracle I was looking for on this day. I told myself I had to get closer so I crossed the highway and now I was standing in a ditch 25' away from this beautiful eagle. As I began to capture this moment I knew soon this eagle was going to move from his roost and fly away. It was a great moment in time for me and I was very thankful for God for the favor He had shown to me.
Kellie once again is at the wheel as she drives down Highway 412 heading East to Boxley Valley. When we arrive in Boxley Valley we stop at the lookout area for a picnic lunch. Oh Yea - we came prepared with an ice chest filled with turkey, cheese, mustard, pickles, chips, etc. and don't forget the all important fig newtons. We began driving through the valley looking for elk. There are usually one or two stragglers in the fields. We were anticipating to see some herds gathered grazing which typically includes a bull elk or two. As we drove north toward the Ponca Access we saw our first herd. It just never gets old to see these magnificent animals. Kellie pulled over on the side of the road as is common so I could take pics of the elk. Sometime there are a few people pulled off the road side and when the elks are really in numbers there can be a large group of cars and people.
We saw three separate herd of elks and numerous stragglers on this late Saturday afternoon. Kellie has taught me or is still teaching me that I do not need to take 25 shots of the same elk. I know that is funny but I get caught up in the moment looking for that perfect capture to create that perfect camera art image. There were a few young large bulls out in the fields that posed for me as I took the liberty to photograph them. At least I like to think they were posing for me. It's part of the fun of the camera adventure experience.
Steele Creek is located just one mile east of Ponca on Hwy 74. Turn left and follow a nice winding road down to Steele Creek. At Steele Creek there are numerous tent camping areas and horse camping site areas. The bonus of Steel Creek are the huge massive bluffs that you see as enter the Steele Creek area.
On a Saturday morning, Kellie and I left the 'Ridge and picked up Kellie's sister Cindy (my sister-n-law) at 4:00a.m. to drive to Boxley Valley. It was dark when we arrived so I used my flashlight on my passenger side to search for the elk in the fields as Kellie drove us to our next camera adventure.
Soon we stopped as I spotted a couple of bull elk in a field. They were laying down and when they spotted us they stood up and began fighting each other. It was a beautiful moment for us as the sun began to rise and the morning light brought out the beauty of the valley. The bulls turned out to be young with large racks of horns. They fought with each other for around 20 minutes. It was a great sight to see. In the field next to these young bulls there was a larger more mature bull standing next to the fence. He watched them for several minutes and then moved away as if he was saying "boys will be boys."
Around 9:00a.m. we made our way to the Steel Creek campground area to begin our hiking adventure. Cindy had been on this 4 mile round trip hike before so she was the trail master on this one. The first leg of the trail is the horse trail that follows the north part of the creek. As Kellie and Cindy were discussing how to cross an area of the creek, I took off to the right and circled around to find a "better" place to cross the creek. As I circled around to where they were I came across a small buck and a doe deer. That's always a neat sight to come across wildlife in their natural surroundings. Within a few minutes I met up with Kellie and Cindy and we traveled the trail closest to the bluffs along the creek.
The trail along the creek was beautiful with the massive bluffs and the water in the creek reflecting the beauty surrounding all around. As we ran out of the trail next to the creek we picked up again on the horse trail. While walking this trail we were met by a few horses and riders. The lead rider spoke to use and gave us some instructions so we would not spook the horses. She told us to "let the horses know we are human". She wanted us to talk to the horses so they would know we were friendly and no harm for them. The horses were beautiful and it was a fun thing to experience on the trail.
After another couple of creek crossings we reached the end of the the first part of the trail that comes out at the Ponca Access low water bridge area. The morning was very cool and along the trail we peeled off the unneeded layers of clothing. It was time again to take off another layer of warm clothing. We broke out nourishment from our backpacks in the form of snacks and fruit. Next we walked to the nearby James Villines Homestead place. This old place consists of a farmhouse, barn, root cellar and of course an outhouse. These buildings were constructed in the late 1800's and are in remarkable condition due to some restoration.
Ok - here we go on the trail back to the Steele Creek campground area. This last leg of the trail takes you to along the bluff line high above the creek. These are the same bluffs we saw as we hiked along the creek when we began this adventure. To view the creek far below was a beautiful site as we followed the trail ahead of us. There are so many photo opportunities on this trail with numerous rock formations and beautiful water runoffs that descend over the bluffs. Funny thing happened before me as we were on the trail. Kellie was leading followed by Cindy and then me. Cindy had stepped up on some natural rock steps while doing something with her backpack. She says she was "multitasking". Really? - who multitasks on a hiking trail. Anyways as Cindy was stepping up on the rocks she started falling ever so slowly and all I could do was watch. She immediately started laughing so I knew she was Ok. I offered to help her up but she got up yourself and dusted off her pride. Gosh - that was so funny to see since she was not injured. As you reach approximately the 2/3 mark of the trail the trek becomes steep and a definite muscle burn is felt in your legs. Soon you see the huge massive bluffs on the other side of the creek. This was a welcome sight since the goal of reaching the campground was rapidly approaching.
Once back to the campground we went to our reserved camp site. It's only $10 for a site which includes a picnic table and a fire pit. It was past 2:00pm and we were ready for our lunch feast. Oh wait a minute, Cindy brought the feast with a large assortment of hiking dining cuisine. Thanks for sharing Cindy. No wonder Cindy's stuff filled the back of our Suv. Then we decided to rest before we began our next adventure of looking for elk to capture with our cameras. Kellie was the first to take a nap followed closely by me. Of course Cindy would take pictures of us as we were in our nap world . Sister-n-laws do things like that from time to time, the pics are proof.
I took some more pics of Steele Creek and came across a unique animal that I did not recognize. Later in the evening I e-mailed by brother Ricky and he identified the animal to be a ground hog. They are interesting looking animals. They are similar looking to a beaver without the large flat tail. We helped Cindy pack up all her stuff (Gosh - that is funny) and drove back to the valley in pursuit of some incredible elk viewing. We did not see any large herds this time however I was able to capture some young bulls with large antlers. Kellie drove us south past the historic Boxley church and we stopped along with others to view a large bull alone in a nearby field. I had climbed a steep ditch and then back up to stand next to a fence that separated us from this beautiful bull elk. After a few minutes I turned around and saw Cindy starting to climb the steep ditch to where I was standing. I reached out my hand to help her up the ditch and pulled her up as a gentleman gesture of courtesy. Well you have heard the old phrase "I did not know my own strength", this was very true in this case. As I was pulling Cindy up the ditch I pulled too hard and all of a sudden I was dragging Cindy up the ditch. I looked at her and she looked at me and we busted out laughing. It was a good close of the end of another hiking adventure in Boxley Valley.