Steel Creek at Sunrise

Up Before Dawn

I've always wanted to get up before sunrise, drive to a river and take pictures of the sun rising up over the water and the beauty of the early morning, but have always been too lazy to do so. My intentions were good, but staying buried underneath the covers seemed even better.

Especially in the winter time.

However, Tuesday morning, I got up at 4:00, brewed some stout coffee, loaded up my car and drove down to the Buffalo River Valley to finally make my sunrise come true. It was 13 degrees F., but with three coats, long johns layered underneath my jeans, a hat and gloves, I didn't notice the cold. The only time it even crossed my mind was when I noticed the hem of my jeans were frozen solid from slipping on the rocks near the water's edge as I was photographing the bluffs across from me.

Elk Sighting

I arrived at Steel Creek Campground twenty minutes before the sun was to make her debut. It was still dusky, but as I passed the horse camp and the two horses that were grazing behind the fence, off to the left of my car, I saw there was an elk grazing near the water's edge. The elk that call the Buffalo River Valley home were introduced to the Valley after the Eastern Elk that had lived there had been hunted into extinction. These larger Rocky Mountain elk have free range all up and down the 150-mile corridor that make up the Buffalo River Valley and when there's a herd in the pastures that line Highway 43, you can see cars stopped alongside the road and people standing taking pictures with professional cameras with long lenses attached or with their smart phones.


When you have an entire campground and a section of a national river all to yourself, you can slow down and take your time discovering the little details: the way lichen creeps up the side of a fallen tree, the way the sunlight cascades down the side of the bluff face across from you or highlights a single pine tree down river. Icicles hanging from the edge of a cliff come showering down as the early morning warmth of the sun melts their grip and the remnants come crashing down with deadly force into the water below. The way the cold water at your feet forms frozen jeweled "ear rings" from the twigs caught up against the rocky bank.

The Deer

When you have an entire campground and a section of a national river all to yourself you get to have your breath taken away at the sight of a deer plunging through the freezing cold water as she fords the river to get to the other side.

A New Beginning 

I used to take adventures like this, maybe not early, early morning adventures because I had to get our kids to school, but I used to take a day off during the middle of the week and go hiking and exploring the beautiful national and state parks that we have here in Northwest Arkansas. I'm not sure why I stopped - - - maybe raising kids and sending them off to college and their own life got in the way, maybe I just got lazy - - - but yesterday I realized how much I miss having my "Momma Days" out in the wild. I miss the slowing down and the noticing of the world around me, the sounds of birds calling to each other, the roar of the rapids over the smooth rocks in the river before me, the overall quiet that seeps inside me. I miss the playing that I do, the throwing of rocks I do for each of my kids and the way the rocks splash (I find the prettiest one for our daughter, the biggest ones that can make the biggest splash for our sons).

I get to just be me for a few hours one day a week.

And that's so worth getting up at 4:00 in the morning on a cold winter's day.

Disclaimer: I thought I’d post a few stories I’d written on another site here. I want them to live all in one place. This one I wrote back on January 30, 2019.)