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Oct. 19, 2003

It may not have been Bigfoot, but it surely was someone with very big feet who stomped through a section of the OHT near White Rock Mountain sometime during the last few weeks.

Since fall apparently isn't ready to make her grand appearance quite yet, despite last week's false alarm, I decided to leave the camera at home Sunday and take Sophie and let her go for a run on the OHT (that's Ozark Highlands Trail for the uninitiated) on a section near White Rock Mountain where we lost the trail recently, only this time the plan was to come in from the other side so that we would know how the trail runs on both sides of the overgrown area that got us flummoxed before. As we were hiking in, here and there I noticed that plants and vegetation in the trail had been beaten back or stomped down, and farther along we discovered that the overgrown hell's half-acre now had not one but two lanes whacked through it. One must be a passing lane in case traffic gets heavy. Anyway, thanks are due the intrepid trail maintainers who have been out whacking and stomping lately. Thanks, volunteers, your hard work is appreciated.

It turned out to be a pretty hot day for mid October, and Sophie was jumping up for the water I poured for her the couple of times we stopped for a break, and she lapped every last drop as if it were the best stuff she had ever had. She had her usual good time whooping through the woods, ranging far and wide and always on the move. Definitely a scout, Sophie is. Junie, on the other hand, stays pretty close to me during hikes, and when she decides that I've stopped for awhile will scout a perimeter and, if the terrain is suitable, will take up a position on high ground and keep watch. Definitely a sentry, is Junie. Often though, if the sentry duty is long enough, she suffers the fate of all lonely sentries everywhere: the spirit may be willing, but the too, too solid flesh gets sleepy after a while, and my little guard dog will sometimes doze off on the job.

Saturday we got a late start because an old high school buddy called and we talked for a couple of hours. So instead of a hike I thought I might hot foot it down to that spot on the Talimena Scenic Byway in the Ouachitas to see if I could take another shot at a sunset picture from there, even though the weather conditions weren't right for a really good sunset. On the way I took a quick detour through the national forest to see how the colors were doing and what I saw was that they weren't doing, for the most part. But the forecast for the coming week calls for sunny days and cool nights, and that should get things back on track pretty soon.

The Ouachitas are an impressive sight as you top a rise on 71 somewhere south of Waldron and see out ahead of you a couple of ridge lines one after the other running east and west. As you follow the highway south, it bends eastward to climb through a gap in the first, then back west to follow the valley between the two and then goes around the western terminus of the second, then bends east again to make it around the easternmost heights of a third ridge line. And then soon you see the eastern ramparts of the mountain that the Talimena Scenic Byway follows westward into Oklahoma.

As I was standing on top of that mountain taking pictures of the peaks and valleys farther along the spine of the mountain to the west, I had the car radio on, not loud enough to hear much of what was going on, but loud enough to be able to tell that our 'Backers were stinking up the joint for the longest time, and then finally almost pulled off an impossible comeback. As the sun was setting, the game ended, and after stowing the camera gear I let Junie out of the car for a bit. I'm sure she was disappointed that the day's journey didn't include a hike, but she enjoys riding, too, and no doubt had a good time.

I think some of the pictures turned out fine, but they do confirm that you never get a second chance at a sunset. Once it's gone, it's gone, and you'll never see the same one again.