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Nov. 21, 2004

Well, it took me 14 hours of driving over two days, but I finally made it to Crooked Creek, albeit with just an hour and a half of daylight left. The fall colors and the creeks were so pretty that I wanted days to shoot, not hours, but sometimes an hour and a half is all you're going to get.

So how did I did I get into such a predicament? Gentle reader, I was just waiting for you to ask.

When Tim Ernst mentioned in his Web journal that the fall colors in the Ouachitas were as pretty as he had ever seen them, I immediately thought of some places on a tributary of the Little Missouri called Crooked Creek that I had last visited in 1997 and had failed to do a good job of photographing despite having great material to work with. So Sunday I headed out with Junie with the aim of doing a good job this time, but on the way we took a couple of side trips to check out the colors elswhere, and so it was already getting a little late by the time we got to Mena and headed southeast along a forest road towards our destination. The colors were wonderful, and I was tempted to stop several times to shoot, but pressed on instead. When we got to the Little Missouri Falls, though, I decided to stop for a minute to see how things looked there.

It didn't take long to see that there wasn't much fall color left there, but what we did find put an end to my photography plans for the day. There was a lost hunting dog hanging around the parking area, pretty much starved, and rightly so as I found out later from his owner that he had been lost for over a week. Anyway, I couldn't tempt him to jump into the car, but he was gentle enough that he let me pick him up and put him in, after we had gotten acquainted over a can or two of vienna sausages. As we were driving off he put his front paws on top of the back seat and looked back at that parking lot as if I were driving him away from his only friend in the world. Beats me why.

I met his owner at Black Springs, which is pretty much a crossroads with a convenience store. He roared up in his little red pickup, took the dog and loaded him into a cage, and roared off. Even though he may not be the kind to get sentimental over his animals, or at least not to let on, from what I've seen at least a hunter will value his dogs for what they can do, if nothing else.

That pretty much finished off the daylight for that day; so the plan for the next day, which was a Monday, was to go to the office long enough to see if there was anything hot to take care of and then hot foot it back down to the Ouachitas. As it turned out I didn't get away from work until 10 and didn't make it out of town until 10:30, and then as I was east of Mena just minutes from being outside cell phone range I got a call from the office and spent the next hour on the phone.

But finally about 3:30 we made it to one of the places on Crooked Creek that I remembered, and although the colors weren't great there, we jumped out and scrambled down into the ravine at what looked like a likely spot. And then just as I got the first shot lined up and the tripod set up, it started raining, not hard, but hard enough I had to use the umbrella, and it continued to rain for the rest of the shoot. But we made the best use we could of the daylight we had left, slogging upstream and setting up and shooting as we went, and ended up at a pretty little falls, where we ran out of light.

I'm calling the falls Creighton Falls for my eleventh grade English teacher, who was born and raised in Mt. Ida and remembers visiting Crooked Creek when she was a child, and who just turned 80 a month or so ago.