The forest sounds different without its leaves. Rather than rustling millions of leaves, Sunday’s gusts roared like a distant waterfall between the trees’ bare bones. A good strong wind always seems to accompany hikes along the heights of the Ozark National Forest.
Area hiking enthusiasts probably recognize the outcropping above instantly: Hawksbill Crag at Whitaker Point, near the Buffalo River. It’s one of the best known spots in the state, but in all of my time here, I hadn’t seen it. I tried almost three years ago and was foiled by a steep and wet dirt road. A good friend just bought a Jeep, so this time we were golden. (It turns out there’s also at least one easier route a little further down the road. Good one, Google.)
The overlook at the end is obviously the primary draw of this trail, but the scenery on the way deserves its own attention. The trail runs along the top of a bluff line peppered with boulders and crowned by trees growing right out of the rock. The Boston Mountains swell and fall all around like immense ocean waves. These bluffs, like many around the Buffalo, can be deadly for those who go too close to the edge. Be careful if you visit.
And here’s a view from on the crag itself. An unseasonably warm December afternoon wound up being a terrific time to get acquainted with this landmark. Someday I’ll come back to see its greener self.
Thanks for lookin’,
Fayetteville on Friday put on its holiday season getup, switching on hundreds of thousands of lights around the downtown square. The event’s been plenty cold in past years, but this evening it was warm enough for T-shirts and shorts. Arkansas is part of the South, obviously, but it’s not so Southern that seeing a parade with Santa Claus with temperatures in the 60s is normal.
The temperature mismatch has corrected itself since Friday evening, but in my mind it does help show how we’re in a liminal, transitional time at the moment. It’s not quite winter, but more and more of the trees are bare. Some people have Christmas trees up while others won’t tolerate holiday music until after Thanksgiving, thank you very much. I’m still having a hard time believing it’s already the week of Thanksgiving at all.
We’ll snap out of it soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll take some advice from this lady: If you’re selling kettle corn, make sure you save some for yourself.
Thanks for looking.
The zenith of fall’s colors lasts only a few days, and for some reason or another, I think I’ve missed it every year I’ve been here in Arkansas. But this year’s peak fell on a weekend with beautiful weather and plenty of time for a hike — this weekend. I took advantage at the old standby, the Ozark National Forest around Devil’s Den State Park.
What continually amazes me about the annual color explosion is that plants have a lot of the pigments that make it happen year-round, part of a chromatic net to catch as much sunlight as possible. They’re just overwhelmed by the familiar green of chlorophyll. Plants usually have to keep remaking the stuff and stop doing so around this time of year. So the oranges and yellows of carotenoids burst forth, sometimes in a way that looks almost pointillist, as with the oak leaf above. The same class of compounds gives carrots their color. The red is my favorite, though, and comes from a combo of sunlight and sugar.
If you want to see it all, hurry. And thanks for looking.