Nov. 30, 2003

It's not that I'm tired of fall and winter already and can't wait for spring, but I thought a green treat would be a nice way to finish up November. This is a photo of a creek in the Buffalo National River that I took in spring of 2002.

On the map there is only one place along the heights that bound Falling Rock hollow where the lines of elevation do not scrunch together, making it a likely place to try to find a shortcut down into the upper reaches of the hollow, which was the main objective after all, since that would be where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, that being where there should be the greatest promise of dramatic scenery.

Monday was cloudless and brisk, with winter for the moment taking the upper hand over fall, and when Junie and I came to the neck of land that forms the upper edge of the draw that I hoped would be our shortcut down, we discovered an old jeep road that at first went down the draw, then followed alongside it, and finally came down to and ran along a bluff line situated about halfway down into the hollow. So on a whim I decided we would explore along the road instead of the draw, and I was not disappointed by what we found.

The old road leads right up to a spot on the bluff that has a grand view of the upper reaches of the hollow, and I in my future I see mornings and evenings there with camera in hand. We didn't spend much time there this time because I get worried about Junie around places that high, but she is calm and careful enough that I think I may eventually be able to trust her in these situations, unlike certain of my other dogs.

Farther along the bluff we approached the point of a cove, where naturally there should be a waterfall, and sure enough I could soon hear what sounded like one, although at this point we were high enough above the bluffline that I couldn't see one for sure. But it was easy enough to see the great grand-daddy sycamore that was growing near the apex of the cove. It is truly a magnificent specimen, and though it's hard to judge without something to provide scale, the tree seemed to be well over 100 feet tall, perhaps 150 feet or even more, and with a massive trunk. I look forward to getting down to the base of that tree and seeing it up close.

Since hard-luck Sophie suffered a gash in her leg on our last hike and won't be hiking again until she heals up some, Junie and I headed back down the same draw on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, determined this time to make it to the bottom of the hollow and explore down there. But about the time we made it to the level of the bluff line we were caught by a thunderstorm and took shelter under the bluff in a place where there were three room-sized gouges side by side in the rock. Junie lay down in the first on a patch of dry leaves, in the middle one was a chair-shaped niche that I sat in, and then by and by we both moved to the third one where I used my pack as a pillow and stretched out and almost dozed off. We weren't accomplishing much there, but don't you just love to watch a rainstorm from a dry vantage point? The lightning was pretty close sometimes, and often I couldn't quite make it to one thousand three between the flash and the boom, but the bluff was well down the hillside and well under the forest canopy, so we were about as safe as you could hope to be.

The hike out was windy and cold and often wet, overhead were low clouds speeding south overtopped by higher clouds moving slowly northward, and now and then as we made our way up along the forest road I could see the distinctive bluffs of White Rock Mountain off to the right a few miles away. A grand feast worthy of Thanksgiving, dear reader, and may yours have been as grand.