Lost Valley

IMG_4323.JPGThis is a post about big things and how tiny humans are compared to the world around them. The Lost Valley Trail down by the Buffalo River is full of bigness: big trees, big rocks, big caves. There are also plenty of small things. But it’s the behemoths that define this place.

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The trail follows Clark Creek through a forest of tall, narrow trees that are abruptly interrupted by cliffs several hundred feet tall. The bluffs curve toward the pinnacle of the hike, Eden Falls, which are fed by a cave high above the valley floor. I thought our last rain would be recent enough for a healthy waterfall, but the creek was already so low that it seemed to disappear about halfway down the mile-long trail. The valley still has plenty to see.

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IMG_4291.JPGOn the way back I opted for the riverbed instead of the trail. This stream was likely once an underground cave; now the collapsed cave roof and stray pieces of the bluffs have left it choked with chaotic, car-sized boulders that otherwise would have no business being in such a small creek.

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IMG_4371.JPGYosemite — along with its even larger cliffs and trees — comes in less than two weeks. But the big places of Arkansas aren’t too bad in the meantime. Thanks for looking!

Dan

Breaking Habits

_C1_5148.JPGFayetteville’s Dickson Street SpringFest kicked off on a chilly Saturday morning with a 5k-run and pancakes, but what really brought out the crowds was the dog parade. Around a hundred owners trailed four-legged parade participants ranging in size from Great-Dane-level behemoths to a literal handful – lots of “awwwwww”s from the crowd for this little guy named Toad. You can’t beat puppies.

_C1_5054.JPGThings were a bit livelier after that. Local bands featuring a ukulele, a mandolin, a clarinet and several guitars filled the block with alternately high-tempo and saucy folk music. Hundreds of people milled between a beer garden and booths selling crafts and kettle corn and clothing. Dogs and kids scampered around their parents’ feet.

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_C1_5099.JPGBut one booth was quiet. The banner above it declared the Breaking Habits Crew brings true hip-hop culture to northwest Arkansas. Half a dozen guys did some sporadic breakdancing (or just “breaking,” in the official lingo) on a roll-out dance mat, enough activity to draw a crowd every now and then, but they put their real performance on hold during a string of back luck.

At first, they seemed hesitant to sonically compete with the folk music a couple hundred feet away. Then the car battery they brought wasn’t powering their speakers for some reason. Then another band started. Then the new gasoline generator a member left to buy wouldn’t work no matter where its many switches were set. Then there were the bed races. The rest of the festival wasn’t stopping. One of the guys joked God just wasn’t in the mood for them.

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_C1_5839.JPGAfter four hours or so, a break finally came: an old boombox connected to a phone. Work with what you have. The guys made up for the wait with gusto, launching into flips and twists and quick, segmented moves that traveled through their bodies one joint at a time. The display was definitely worth the wait.

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_C1_5445.JPGThanks for looking,

Dan

Outdoor Reporting

IMG_4116.JPGI’ve driven hours and hours for some good hiking, and all of this time I’ve neglected a great spot right down the road. A few hundred acres of woods and bluffs and streams cover Fayetteville’s Kessler Mountain, a 500-foot plateau that stands just inside the city’s southwest limits. It’s essentially a piece of Ozark forest about 5 miles from the university campus and downtown district. The city’s considering a plan to double the length of volunteer-built trails there, like the one above, while maintaining the place’s natural beauty and character, as my story today explains. So I went out there last week to get a good look. I won’t say no to hiking for work.

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IMG_4172.JPGSome of you were around the first time I went to Kessler and posted some mediocre photos of it — my hiking partner wasn’t feeling good that day, if  I remember rightly, so we turned around early. I’m glad I could give trails with names like “Egg Beater” and “Crazy Mary” another try. Most of the time I was alone and it was quiet, with the late afternoon sun slanting between the trees and their new leaves. For any city residents who like this place or hope to visit at some point, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is holding a public meeting tomorrow to see the trail plan and get comments from the audience. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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IMG_4219.JPGThanks for looking,

Dan

Class of 2016

_C1_4721.JPGGraduation approaches, which means college campuses everywhere are full of people smiling and posing for cameras. Photographers and soon-to-be-grads and family members crisscrossed the University of Arkansas yesterday in such numbers that they had to queue up at the most popular spots. For the first time, I was one of those photogs. A lovely pair of acquaintances, Ashley and Emily, asked me to take their graduation photos. I tried to warn them I’d never done this kind of thing, surely someone with more equipment could do more, but they just wouldn’t listen.

We had a great time.

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We moved to Wilson Park as the afternoon turned into evening. My master plan, timing the shoot so we’d get beautiful, golden sunset light there (like in these shots for another pair of friends), fell apart as the sunny forecast gave way to an overcast sky. So much for that. Still, cloudy skies give their own soft, cool light to work with.

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_C1_4824.JPGNot too bad, I hope — this is just a sample of the final product. We’ll see if anyone ever asks me to do grad photos again.

Congratulations to everyone graduating! Good luck out there.

Dan