This trip was in the making for an entire month. Brian Cormack and I had taken off the last three business days of October and we were ready to go (thank you, Carla!). Little did we know, that upon driving north of Russellville, we would be greeted with some of the best fall colors that we have seen in Arkansas in years.
We left Wednesday morning around 11AM and headed for the Ozarks. Upon reaching Russellville and starting the journey up highway 7 we couldn’t believe the color. It was beyond what we’ve seen the past couple of years. All of the trees were in their full autumn dress and they put off quite a show. We weren’t really sure exactly where we were headed and basically played this trip by ear. However, we did have a first night camp site in mind, Sam’s Throne.
We stopped numerous places along the way, including Moccasin Gap, to get photos of the color.
…as well as a photo of the Jeep!
We finally arrived at Sam’s Throne around 1PM or so and got our camp set up. Afterwards, we dropped down to the overlook and shot the beautiful colors until we couldn’t stand it anymore. We decided to drive around a bit and found ourselves driving down dirt roads near Mount Judea with a few Buffalo River stops along the way.
After exhausting the evening light we headed back to Sam’s Throne to prepare a camp fire and prepare for the stormy night ahead.
Day 2 – Thursday
I was awaken by thunder rolling in the distance on Thursday morning. I knew that we were supposed to get rain, but I didn’t realize that it would rain all night and continue for the rest of the day.
I woke Brian up around 7:15 or so and we drove down to the Sam’s Throne overlook. We got there just in time to see a massive cloud forming in the valley and hear a few lightning strikes. We even saw a lightning strike hit the throne and it was so loud and close that Brian and I jumped. I looked at Brian and asked, “Are we still alive?!” Needless to say, we got out of there as soon as possible. We walked back to the Jeep in the pouring down rain and headed for the best place to hide from the rain near Jasper, the Ozark Cafe.
It’s hard to beat breakfast at the Ozark Cafe. $3 for their special which includes eggs, hashbrowns, biscuit and gravy, and bacon. A plate full of homecooked food cheaper than McDonalds. What more could you ask for? We hid out there for an hour and a half or so. While listening to the older gentlemen which frequent the Ozark Cafe on a daily basis, I overheard them saying this was the best fall color they had seen in years. I couldn’t have agreed with them more. While I didn’t go out last year, 2009 was a good year for Matt Kennedy and I. It was the year we hiked into Twin Falls when it was flowing full tilt and had beautiful fall colors on display. We couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity and I couldn’t have asked for a better photograph. I captured this one in 2009 during a perfect fall, beautiful fall colors with enough rain to get the waterfalls flowing:
Anyways, it was Thursday and, although it was raining, Brian and I weren’t going to sit around in the Ozark Cafe all day. Instead, we headed for Triple Falls, just to gauge the water levels so far. Unfortunately, the waterfall wasn’t running well at all, but we did end up getting some good shots of the road with falls colors on the way down to Camp Orr.
Kyles Landing was our next stop, since we were in the vicinity. The only thing I thought to photograph here was a tree with it’s amazing root system displayed above the ground. Unfortunately, the photos I took of it were all mis-focused and incredibly blurry. I really wish my XSi’s screen was better so that I could notice these things before leaving the location. I did capture one other photograph. While not incredibly amazing, I thought the leaves looked neat caught in the rocks in this scene:
After leaving Kyle’s Landing we drove to Steele Creek, another Buffalo Access not too far the previous and one which has one of the tallest bluffs on the Buffalo National River, Roark Bluff.
On the descent into Steele Creek, Brian and I couldn’t help but notice the newly paved road. It’s a nice addition to an already amazing spot to camp on the Buffalo National River. Not only that, it also was decked out in beautiful fall colors.
Boxley Valley was the next destination and I knew exactly what I wanted to photograph, an old barn that has been a favorite of mine for a while now. Fortunately, my lens which had been foggy most of the day, decided it would clear up and I was able to capture this image. One of my favorite barns with fall color surrounding it.
We drove through Boxley and photographed numerous things before deciding to take a really neat road back to highway 74, Walker Mountain Road. It leads you way up into the mountains over Boxley Valley and around the mountain tops all the way back down to Low Gap. It was a beautiful drive with the falls colors. Our destination was, yet again, the best place to hide out from the ongoing rain… the Ozark Cafe!
After enjoying yet another amazing meal we headed to a couple of Buffalo River access points, Hasty and Carver, to check out the views. Afterwards, we found a spot to camp at the Erbie Campground. We were the sole campers Thursday evening and enjoyed a really nice camp site, which Brian said may be the best one we’ve ever had. I couldn’t agree more, there were two beautiful trees at the campground which provided much needed protection from the ongoing rain that last well into the evening.
Day 3 – Friday
Sleeping in the hammock on Thursday evening was a blast. I was lulled to sleep by the tapping of rain on the fly, the sounds of thunder in the distance and the slow rocking of the hammock in the wind. If you’ve never tried sleeping in a hammock, you should definitely give it a shot. It hands down beats laying on the ground.
Since the Parker Hickman Farmstead is so close in proximity to Erbie Campground that was the first stop of the day. The color in the morning light was beautiful, but since the clouds had moved out in the early morning it was a harsh light. Luckily, there was a little fog left hanging around to help soften the scene.
While Brian shot the homestead I sneaked off and got my typical shot from this location. I typically photograph a small road which leads off to an incredibly old cemetary and I have done this for three seasons now. Winter, Summer, and now Fall. Here are those three shots, which luckily resemble each other pretty well.
I did something this trip which I haven’t done before, I ventured off down the Buffalo River Trail. Much to my surprise, it meets up with another old road just around a bend and there was a beautiful morning scene waiting for me there! The small road wandered off and disappeared into a beautiful light filled fog. I desperately tried to capture the same scene with my camera and was fairly surprised with the outcome. These may be my favorite two shots from this trip.
Leaving Erbie, we headed towards the other side of the Buffalo National River towards the Cecil Cove Trailhead. We noticed a small barn and field on the way there and stopped for a few photos. After spending a little while in that field we decided to take a different route back to highway 7 which involved driving down, yet another, dirt road which we hadn’t explored before. It was definitely worth it as there were many more things to see.
After making it back out onto highway 7, we were greeted with thousands of tourists driving up and down the road. It was amazing how many more people were in the area on Friday. I’m actually really glad that we decided to leave earlier in the week, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there with the huge amount of tourists driving 20mph on the 55mph highway 7.
We, slowly, made our way to Pruitt where Brian photographed the old bridge there. That was the last stop for the day before we decided to make the drive home. We had seen the best of the best and decided that the full on sun wasn’t going to be the best light for photos anyways. So we made the long trip home with full camera memory cards in tow.
It was a week to remember, that’s for sure.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos that I captured on this short vacation.
Until next time, take care!