Devil's Den State Park

A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON

Devils's Den State Park is located in West Fork, Arkansas. According to the site's homepage, the park was built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps. during the Great Depression. The park is full of hiking trails, horse trails and has camp sites all up and down Lee Creek that runs through the park:

It now stands as one of the most intact CCC sites in the U.S., with a legacy you can see in its trails and buildings like its original cabins. Some of the park’s unique characteristics are rock formations and caverns. An impressive rock dam spans Lee Creek forming Lake Devil, an 8-acre lake for fishing and boating with canoes and pedal boats for rent. The park’s hiking, backpacking, mountain bike, and horseback riding trails lead to the surrounding Ozark National Forest.

After spending an inordinate amount of time at the DMV last week, I decided to blow off the rest of my errands and head down to Devil's Den for a bit of relaxation and to escape civilization for a while. I used to visit the park quite a bit, but then Life got in the way and I slowly forgot about the park and how refreshed I felt after spending a day hiking and exploring the different trails and getting down to the water to wade about on a hot summer's day.

I always have a camera with me whenever I'm out and about in the car, so I just pointed my small but mighty Subaru Crosstrek south and drove the few miles from Fayetteville to Devil's Den, driving through fog and thick overcast skies. I passed farms and cow pastures, shrouded in mists, looking mysterious and isolated. I actually love foggy, overcast days. The weather adds to the photos I take, adding moodiness and textures, something that's hard to get "just right" in post production.

I didn't see much in the way of wildlife, but a herd of deer very nonchalantly crossed the road in front of me as I neared the park's entrance, stopping to look back at me curiously.

I had a beautiful time hiking around in the damp, chilly woods. I had the place to myself, it was quiet, peaceful and got my creative juices flowing once more, something which I'd been needing to happen.

As I left the park and headed north back home, I made a promise to myself to get back to Devil's Den sooner than later and as much as I can. There are far too many trails left to explore, photos to take and water to play in.

And moments to savor.


Written on January 19, 2019

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.

Details

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.)


Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Last week, Meghan accompanied me to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Our weather lately has been anything but sunny days and blue skies (even as I write this it’s pouring down rain outside) so I thought having an indoor adventure would be the best way to spend a non-errand running, non-housework day.

First, a little bit of information about the museum, which was founded by the Walton Family Foundation in 2005, if you’re not already familiar with the facility:

“The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature.

Crystal Bridges takes its name from a nearby natural spring and the bridge construction incorporated in the building, designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A series of pavilions nestled around two spring-fed ponds house galleries, meeting and classroom spaces, and a large, glass-enclosed gathering hall. Guest amenities include a restaurant on a glass-enclosed bridge overlooking the ponds, a Museum Store designed by architect Marlon Blackwell, and a library featuring more than 50,000 volumes of art reference material. Sculpture and walking trails link the Museum's 120-acre park to downtown Bentonville, Arkansas.

Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. Included within the collection are iconic images such as Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, Norman Rockwell’s  Rosie the Riveter, and Andy Warhol’s Coca-Cola [3]— each reflecting a distinct moment in American artistic evolution—as well as major works by modern and contemporary American artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, John Baldessari, and James Turrell. The permanent collection, which continues to grow through a strategic acquisition plan, is on view year-round and is enhanced by an array of temporary exhibitions.” - - - - from the Crystal Bridges website

The exhibit that caught my eye right off the bat was a series of wet-collodion photos made by the Navajo photographer, Will Wilson. The subjects are modern, but the faces are of that of another era.

We dutifully looked at all the traditional artwork . . .

. . . but spent the majority of our time in the modern art gallery. I’m not a big fan of modern art (not enough shadow play), but seeing so much color on such a gloomy day was refreshing, if not a little dizzying

My little storm trooper even got a little culture.

Self-portrait in chain mail.

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After spending an hour wandering aroud the various hallways and galleries, Meghan and I ventured outside to tour the vast geometric dome that’s part of the art museum. I didn’t have a wide enough lens with me, but I managed the best I could with the one I had. Meghan was smart: she just used her phone.

This past weekend, the museum opened up a new exhibit, “Men of Steel, Women of Wonder”.

You can bet that I’ll go back for that!


Beginning a brand new blog is a little like beginning a brand new journal. There is so much newness to conquer, so much white space that I get to fill with words and  pictures, that it can feel  a little intimidating. I want to fill this blog with stories of my excursions, my adventures and the mounatin races that David and I cover.  And maybe throw in a few photography tidbits along the way.  Here we go . . . .