Tag Archive | autumn

The Falls

It goes to show that change is good, every cloud has a silver lining, etc. I may have had to alter my travel plans, but they wound up leading me instead to the tallest waterfall in the eastern United States!

Fall Creek Falls, at 256 feet, the tallest waterfall in the eastern United States.

Fall Creek Falls, at 256 feet, the tallest waterfall in the eastern United States.

Fall Creek Falls is striking not only because of its proportions, but also as a result of its beauty. I’m glad that I got to see it in the fall of the year, with low water levels. I find that it brings out the facets of falling water best, when there isn’t too much rushing over at once. I loved seeing the different shapes of the rocks, the cracks and troughs that the water had formed and flowed through.

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Very of surrounding bluffs from the Fall Creek Falls overlook.  The trail back to the visitor's center offers a "challenging" variant, that will allow you to walk out to the edge of the bluff near the middle of this photo!

Very of surrounding bluffs from the Fall Creek Falls overlook. The trail back to the visitor’s center offers a “challenging” variant, that will allow you to walk out to the edge of the bluff near the middle of this photo!

The falls, along with several others, are located within Fall Creek Falls State Park, which offers a ride range of recreational amenities and lodging options.  If you just want to see the water and move on, you can park in a parking lot which is approximately 300 paved feet from the falls overlook. I recommend the somewhat rough 1-mile walk from the interpretive center, though. A waterfall as impressive as this one can be appreciated even better if you work for it a little bit! Though, I admit the hike would be easier if I hadn’t done 12 boulder-strewn miles the day before!

Holly bedecked with berries helps to make the Tennessee woods a beautiful place in autumn!

Holly bedecked with berries helps to make the Tennessee woods a beautiful place in autumn!

Rock doves seemed to enjoy flying around and perching behind the cascading water - fun to sit and watch at the mid-way point in the hike!

Rock doves seemed to enjoy flying around and perching behind the cascading water – fun to sit and watch at the mid-way point in the hike!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are even more adventurous, or a glutton for punishment like myself, you can take the half-mile hike/staircase down to the bottom of the falls. It was lovely, and a great workout! Perfect preparation for the trip home – fourteen hours of sitting in a car, eating gas station food. I earned every bite!

View from the bottom of the trail down to Fall Creek Falls; I chose to rest rather than clamber closer on the rocks.

View from the bottom of the trail down to Fall Creek Falls; I chose to rest rather than clamber closer on the rocks.

The park contains several more waterfalls, including this one, which fell as a mist and was only visible as it hit the pool below

The park contains several more waterfalls, including this one, which fell as a mist and was only visible as it hit the pool below

 

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Last Day on the Road

November 5-6, 2010   

Miles 9133 – 9836

Mountain View, AR – Chicago, IL

After leaving the awesome Blanchard Springs Caverns, I headed over to nearby Mountain View, Arkansas for some culture.  The Ozarks are known for three things, at least in my mind: beautiful scenery (check), hillbillies (er, check), and music.  The first two are shared pretty closely with lots of places, among them southwestern Wisconsin.  The last makes the area unique, and in a lot of different ways.  Most people have heard of Branson, MO, and a lot have been there.  That’s one example of the excellent country music available in the Ozarks, but Mountain View shows off another side of things.

In warm weather, visitors to historic downtown Mountain View, “The folk music capitol of the world,” can listen to accomplished musicians picking guitars, banjos, mandolins, and bass on porch stoops all over town, and even join in if they had the foresight to bring an instrument along.  Nightly concerts at multiple locations around town bring in sell-out crowds, and several museums of mountain music and crafts round out the experience.

In November, though, most of those places are shuttered up tight, along with the ice cream shops, fudge factories, and t-shirt dealers.  In late fall, I was left with a few die-hard music stores, a luthier’s studio, and a small post office from which to mail the last of my postcards.  I nearly bought a mandolin in town, just to say that I had, but settled on just a few picks, instead (after all, I’d barely played the mandolin I’d just dragged over 9,000 miles around the country with me).  I walked around town in the chill, and drank a hot tea in lieu of the ice cream before heading over to the Ozark Folk Center.  Of course, even that closes early in the off-season, and I got there just as the doors were shutting.  Instead of displays of heirloom crafts and musical artistry, all I got was the gift shop… but even that was full of high-quality, handmade items.  Plus, it gave me the opportunity to look for some last-minute gifts from my long travel – and even a couple Christmas presents!

I left Mountain View with a determination to head back on some warm summer day in the future, and headed north.  I crossed into Missouri just before sunset, drove straight east, and a few hours later crossed into the southern tip of Illinois.  I meandered around, generally northward, for a few hours before finally finding a spot to spend the night in the Shawnee National Forest.

I woke up in the morning to a towering cliff topped with brilliant fall leaves  – I couldn’t have picked a better campsite if I had tried! 

I headed up from Cairo towards Carbondale, with a short detour to go through Anna, IL, which I had always wanted to see.  Around mid-morning I got to a park near Carbondale that had been recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Jared!) for one last hike.  The Little Grand Canyon is a favorite among college students and families alike, and on this beautiful fall day I could see why.  Not only was the scenery itself beautiful, but I had the chance to look out on the flat Mississippi River floodplain and realize that these were the last hills for many, many miles.

My drive north confirmed that fact, as I got on the interstate and zoomed my way north through cornfields and concrete for another 6 hours until I hit the urban sprawl of the Chicagoland area.  I threaded my way through it until I could smell Lake Michigan, see familiar store fronts, and make second-nature turns through narrow city streets.   I rang a familiar bell, and my mom opened the door and welcomed me in to the fragrant meal they had been keeping warm all evening.  Home at last!  And ready for the next adventure…

Looking westward towards the Mississippi River from the peaks of the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois.

Arkansas Ozarks

Nov 2 – 3, 2010

Jessieville, AR to Snowball, AR

Miles 8890-9051

I spent a few days in Arkansas’s Ozark Mountains, which made me homesick for the autumn I had already missed in southwest Wisconsin, and eager to get back to what remained.  The nights were cool, even sub-freezing on at least one occasion, and I was glad to be able to get my new warm, down sleeping bag out from the depths of my trunk, where it had spent most of the last two temperate months.  Strange to think that I had been swimming in the ocean only a week before… a long week before!  Since then I had revolutionized my thinking about waterfowl, passed through the nation’s ecological confluence, had a fleeting but passionate moment of patriotism… and traveled 1,000 miles.

 

The Ozarks were beautiful, as they’re supposed to be.  It didn’t hurt that a few brilliant maples were left among the brown oaks, that the air was dry and crisp, and that I had remote campgrounds all to myself.  I chose a lot of small roads, and went on a few short hikes, but didn’t spend too much time exploring beyond that in my journey from Hot Springs north through the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests.

A glowing maple tree nearly obscures a hanging rock formation in the background, Ozark National Forest

All alone at Fairview campground in the Ozark NF. The night before, at a campground along the Fourche River, I was disturbed by some noises in the night and realized that a beaver had just felled a tree just a few yards downhill of my campsite.

Ozarks woods look a lot like southern Wisconsin's, right down to the rustling brown oak leaves in the fall.

A "natural bridge" of stone in the Pedestal Rocks area.

At the egde of King's Bluff, in the Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area, Ozark NF

Layers of sediments were layed down millions of years ago, and they have been graually eroded away to form the topography of the Ozark Mountains. The top layer is very hard, so here at King's Bluff it has worn into an almost perfectly smooth surface, except where the Illinois Bayou River has, over millenia, worn away the striking cliff face (left).

Sycamore seed balls

Pines and Oaks share the stage in the Ozark National Forest

 

A "hoodoo" (here at Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area in the Ozark NF) forms when softer sediments erode from around harder ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas wasn’t really on my list of destinations for this trip… it just happened to lay between Texas and home.  So after my day of historical sites, I had chosen the route that looked the most scenic, based on the areas shaded green on my map, and heading towards a long purple splotch at the northern end of the state.  It turned out to be my last adventure of the trip, and I extended my stay in “The Natural State” a few days longer than I had originally planned…