If you missed the news, I’m now living way up north in the Twin Cities. It’s the biggest move I’ve ever made to the biggest place I’ve ever lived, as I keep telling all my new coworkers and acquaintances. I miss some of Arkansas’ people and places and weather; it’s been gray and chilly for most of my time here so far. Between the storms, I’ve started exploring this place, meeting some of its ducks and lakes, some of its people, its downtown and its Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, for a start.
The FairShare Farm community garden sits a few steps from my fourplex door, so that was one of my first stops. The growing season is obviously winding down, but some of the garden’s regulars tell me I should join the neighborhood clearings and plantings there over the next several months. I can’t turn that down.
This is a nice little corner of Minneapolis, a piece of a metropolitan area with more people than all of Arkansas. There’s a lot of life here, good and bad. Many of the people at the nearby farmers markets and shops originally hailed from the Caribbean, Latin America, Somalia, Russia and southeast Asia. Just south of here, scores of tents line one particular highway exit, and a grocery store keeps its supplies of baby formula and vanilla secure behind the customer service desk with the cigarettes. International flights roar over the wildlife refuge down near the Mall of America.
I’m looking forward to learning about the Twin Cities’ mixtures and contradictions.
Thanks for looking and following along with the journey.
Labor Day weekend brought out the shindigs in Benton County, first with the Frisco Fest in Rogers, then Light Night at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.
The old Frisco Railroad at its height ran from Missouri to Texas to Alabama, and its arrival more than 130 years ago literally put Rogers on the map as an agricultural and passenger hub. Rogers these days is a bit different, not quite the agricultural hub of yore but much bigger and more diverse. The Latino folk dancers were my priority Friday night, but fire dancers and LED hula-hoopers from North Little Rock’s Arkansas Circus Arts and other performers held their own.
Low light and long exposures give the chance to capture something kind of remarkable: a person or thing in its four dimensions, not to get too Slaughterhouse-Five about it. In other words, it’s a nifty way to see movement through space and time. Some things, like that LED hoop making the boxy pattern, can only be seen properly that way. Maybe that’s true of most things, really.
Anyway, I kept thinking about it the next evening at Crystal Bridges, where the annual Light Night seems to be an excuse to play music and make as many kinds of light and color as possible. More fire dancers did their thing in a red-light ring, and traffic filled the road to the event most of the evening. Mars put on its own light show as well, if you can spot it.
Thanks for looking!
This is one of my favorite spots in Arkansas. It is a pain in the butt to reach.
These falls and their hollow are part of a creek that runs alongside Mulberry Mountain, former home of the old Wakarusa music festival. I never came for the music, but some friends and I hiked to the nearby Mountain Creek a little more than four years ago (I posted about it here). I’ve wanted to go back since. It’s no 100-foot Cedar Falls, but it is a lovely, peaceful little swimming hole in the middle of Ozark National Forest.
The hike there, on the other hand, was not peaceful. The path is unusually steep and difficult, mostly straight down the mountain and therefore deeply eroded and rocky. But worse were the gnats and flies. I don’t know whether one group of them followed me or if I was just the baton in a relay down the mountain, but the dots darting around in front of my eyes and the whining buzz in my ears were literally, maddeningly constant. One big specimen pursued my camera lens no matter how much I swatted at it. Every now and then a metallic blue, sinister-looking wasp would fly in a straight line over the path, ignoring me. If only the rest followed that example.
There would be no relaxing until I got to the valley floor. And that’s too bad, because on both sides was a smorgasbord of fungi like I haven’t seen in years, if ever.
Some toadstools glistened wetly, while others looked soft as velvet. All were just the most visible part of a network of fungal filaments busy decomposing things beneath the surface.
I couldn’t spend much time with many of these beauties because of the gnats, but the bug issue surprisingly died down a bit when I reached the creek, where that sort of thing can be at its worst. I guess the spiders are more effective down there, since there were plenty of those, too. It seemed like I was the first visitor in a good while. The rest of you are missing a genuinely idyllic place, once you get past the rude, buzzing neighbors.
Thanks for looking.
I’ve heard the name Petit Jean, a state park that’s pronounced “petty jeen” in these parts, for years. After a good dousing of rain hit the state, it was high time for the park and I to meet. It sits about two hours southwest of Fayetteville and seems small as natural areas in Arkansas go, stretching about four miles from end to end. But Petit Jean still has plenty to its name, including one of the most impressive waterfalls in the state.
The approach to the park is fairly flat, but the park isn’t, generally following a deep valley carved into a mountain by Cedar Creek. Rocky outcroppings called the palisades mark the entrance from the west.
In my eyes, rocks like this show a place’s personality. Much of the Badlands is jagged and crumbly, for example, while the Black Hills and Yosemite Valley are rounded and strong. The rock at Petit Jean reminded me of home in northwest Arkansas, with smoothed, wrinkled sandstone boulders and bluffs splashed with moss and lichen.
This particular trail took me to the valley floor accompanied by a small stream with stair-step falls, then Cedar Creek itself. All of the recent rain had turned part of the trail into its own little waterway. But yesterday’s weather was beautiful, and I shared the path with dozens of people and tiny mushrooms.
Even with the creek’s gushing at full strength, I could hear Cedar Falls before I could see it. The water tumbles about 100 feet, more than the Twin Falls at Devil’s Den and Eden Falls in Lost Valley. A constant, light rain dripped from the bluffs above.
I didn’t have time to do everything I wanted at Petit Jean — there’s a whole other trail to the south that’s much longer than this one and includes hollows and formations called turtle rocks. But this trail by itself left me sweating and breathing hard, especially on the climb back up. Definitely a worthwhile first meeting.
Thanks for looking!