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Feb. 22, 2004

Sophie was off somewhere in the middle of one of her sweeps through the woods, and I was making my way up the creek that runs through Heathcock Hollow. The creek's opposite bank here was thin-layered sedimentary stone, and back behind and paralleling the creek was a rise topped by broken bluff. When I spotted a break in the bluff-line and went over to investigate, I found an interesting little box canyon that is laid out something like a backward question mark, with the mouth of the canyon being where the dot would be, a 25-foot waterfall at the other end, and an overhanging bluff along the curve in between. The falls are just dribbling at the moment, but they show promise since they are located well down in the hollow rather than up on its edge, but the only way to know is to see what happens when we get some rain. Unlike many bluff shelters you see, which are often littered with large boulders that have separated from the overhanging bedrock, this one was mostly clear, which may mean that the rock comes off the bluff here in smaller pieces that are more easily washed away. And back at the creek, I saw that water from that canyon would flow along a little stream bed and pour off the creek's overhanging bank, making another waterfall there.

The lower half-mile or so of Heathcock Hollow reminds me of the ones along the Seven Hollows trail in Petit Jean State Park in that it is fairly narrow there and is flanked by bluffs on either side. Farther along, though, the hollow widens and you begin to lose sight of the bluffs if you continue along the creek bottom. But due to an earlier side trip up another ravine, about the time we made it that far up the hollow it was time to turn around and head back so we could get back to the car before nightfall.

So we returned the way we came earlier, along the old jeep road that flanks Hurricane Creek and crosses it at several points, past several remnants of rock wall dating from the time this valley was inhabited, including one section of wall two or three hundred feet long, and past what appeared to be the rock walls of an old root cellar, still in pretty good shape considering, although it no longer had a roof and all that was left were its three walls and the earth that was banked up outside of them. I probably wouldn't have noticed the root cellar if it hadn't been for the fact that there were daffodil shoots peeping out of the ground over near the old road where I was walking, and since they often mark the location of old homesteads, I looked over and saw the little rock structure built into the hillside.

I met an armadillo along the way, too, and as Sophie was again ranging far and wide, I was able to stop for a minute and just watch the little guy at work scooting along rooting through leaves with his head mostly buried in them. It's kind of easy to see why they often fall victim to automobiles, because I was able to walk right up to within about five feet of this one, and I don't know if she just didn't notice me or just didn't care, but it wasn't until I started walking down the road again that there was some reaction to my presence, and then not much of one. The armor plating must have something to do with that.

Farther along we came across some large bird tracks in a couple of mud holes, which I thought might be wild turkey tracks, though I had seen or heard no other sign of them on our hike that day. But the next morning as I was photographing at sunrise at the southwest overlook on White Rock Mountain, I was vaguely aware of turkey calls from somewhere off in the distance, but really didn't notice them until they stopped suddenly when a gunshot boomed across the hills, followed a few seconds later by another shot. It wasn't hard to imagine what had just happened, but I have to tell you I was rooting for the turkey and hoping it wasn't so.

The sky put on an interesting bit of razzle-dazzle shortly after sunrise that morning. As the sun went behind a cloud not far above the horizon, a delicate lace-like cloud layer formed overhead and persisted for a few minutes, and then seemed to melt away when it was no longer shielded from direct sunlight as the sun emerged from behind the cloud.

Afterward I got Junie out of the car and we went for a stroll along the bluff tops on the east side of the mountain. I hadn't been there in quite some time, and although it was sad to see the damage done by the red oak borer infestation, the view down into the Salt Fork drainage and beyond was spectacular as always.

Next week I'm hoping we can do some more exploring in Heathcock Hollow, maybe by finding access from the north somewhere along Bidville Road, although much of the flat land up on that hilltop is in private hands, and it may be hard to find a way down that is on public land. In that case, we can still come in from below via Hurricane Creek. Either way, it ought to be fun.