The heavy gray sky above Hobbs State Park threatened rain – gusts of wind through the forest’s bare canopy crescendoed as they approached, just like an incoming wall of rain – but that wouldn’t come until later. Instead the weather stayed dry and near 70 degrees Saturday, breaking records all over the state, the National Weather Service reports. I wore shorts 13 days before Christmas. It’s just not right. But I won’t turn down such a perfect hiking day in the middle of December.
I headed up for the first time to Beaver Lake, the seadragon-shaped reservoir that provides northwest Arkansas with most of its drinking water and a few dozen megawatts of hydropower. Forests and hiking trails surround it, including in Hobbs.
It’s been about a year since I’ve done much in black and white, but I’m in the mood for it after getting an early Christmas present, a book of work by photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams, who for decades captured the fantastic beauty of natural parks and other western places in grayscale. (Coincidentally, the National Park Service these days is looking for someone to take up the job, if you’re interested.)
I’m no Ansel Adams, though he and I share a love of the texture of wood, and Beaver Lake, though it’s nice enough, is no Yosemite. But black and white can be a fun little challenge. It strips away the contrast of color, leaving texture, shape and the contrast of light to work with. I couldn’t always give up color, but let me know how well it worked when I did.
The spikes of dead trees that poke up like bones from Beaver Lake’s many branches give away its human-made nature — half a century ago, this lake was forest. The rocky brim showed it was a few feet low, despite being so full earlier this year that the floodgates had to be opened. As of this posting it has risen about 5 inches from today’s rain, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports.
A lone fisherman drifted silently up Van Winkle Hollow as I hiked by Saturday. Up on land, a sea of fallen oak leaves covered the ground and made some stretches of trail practically invisible. Green splashes of conifer saplings poked through every few feet. It was mostly quiet except for crickets, the occasional gust and the gentle gurgle of tiny waves against gravel shores.
I’ve gone through a lot of Ozark forest in this blog, from Devil’s Den and other segments of the larger Ozark National Forest to Hot Springs and now Beaver Lake. I hope I’ve been able to show a bit of each one’s personality, whether it’s rugged and dense to the south or lighter and more open to the east and north, including the lake. Hobbs’ woods were so open the path might easily have gone in any direction. I’ll have to go back sometime and see where else it goes.
Have a good week!