Grays and Greens in the Ozarks

This photo topic interested me, and I realized that several shots from this week’s hike were monochromatic views of nature. In the Ozarks, various tones and hues of a predominant color can be inviting. Having said that, the following photo was not inviting enough to make me want to wade into Sylamore Creek at this specific location.

Happy swimmer in the cool water of the Sylamore Creek on the Ozark Highlands Trail.

Happy swimmer in the cool water of the Sylamore Creek on the Ozark Highlands Trail.

The next scene was taken before sunrise. This view from the edge of a bluff communicated distance and size with little variation in color although the indirect light of the sun was beginning to play with the fog.

North Sylamore Creek Valley

North Sylamore Creek Valley

Blandard Springs

Blandard Springs

My apologies if this isn’t true to the monochromatic theme, but the predominance of grays and absence of color in the spilling spring seemed to fit. The only hint at another basic color is the green of moss at the mouth of this cold, year round spring. Notice the opening at the upper right-hand corner.  This is an earlier exit for spring water before years of erosion formed the scene we see today.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

Blanchard Springs eventually flows into Mirror Lake, a green on green scene.

This is the pedestal on which a waterwheel once turned. John Blanchard built this undershot grist mill in the 1880s. It sits downstream from Mirror Lake Dam as testimony to the hard working people who once made their lives in the Ozarks. The CCC restored the dam and part of the mill during the 1940s.

Grist mill

Grist mill

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Monochromatic.”

Sylamore Creek Trail: Getting Reacquainted

It had been too many years since my last hike on the Sylamore Creek Trail. An early backpacking memory is hiking about three miles out on the Sylamore Creek Trail from Blanchard Springs and spending the night next to the creek.

This time I wanted to cover more trail miles and see it all from both directions as a long day hike. A friend from the area recommended I visit Gunner Pool which is just over 5 miles from Blanchard so that was the plan.

I was on the trail by 6:30 a.m. to beat the heat that was scheduled to overtake the day. From my first steps on the trail, it felt like I was getting reacquainted with an old friend. The crosstie steps and gradual climb to the bluffs over Sylamore Creek were a great morning wake-me-up and my first views down into the valley made the climb worthwhile.

North Sylamore Creek Valley

North Sylamore Creek Valley

Arriving back down at creek level a few miles later provided a chance to walk on the limestone gravel shore and hear the china-like jingle as your feet sink a little into each step.  The stained overhanging bluffs reminded me of the Buffalo River.

North Sylamore Creek

North Sylamore Creek

I was surprised to see a little friend swimming the clear creek water. He looked like one very happy snake.

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I only encountered two groups of hikers between Blanchard Springs and Gunner Pool. I enjoyed visiting with a group of hikers from Memphis, who spent the night on the creek and were then hiking past Gunner Pool to Barkshed on down the trail. I was a little envious, but the heat kept me from feeling too bad about not following their itinerary.

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This pedestal rock was posted down in a drainage about 0.5 mile from Gunner Pool. I look forward to revisiting this area in winter and getting a better view of the beautiful rock formations all along this 5-mile section of trail.

pedestal

pedestal

Arriving at Gunner Pool was a surprise. I’d envisioned a wide spot in the creek, but this was a nice campground with pit toilets and several water stations. Gunner Pool was a haven for wildlife and plant life and sat above Sylamore Creek.

Gunner Pool

Gunner Pool

A small spillway encloses Gunner Pool and then flows on into Sylamore Creek below. This dam was built by the CCC Hedges Camp, active from 1933-42.

Gunner Pool spillway built by the CCC Hodge Camp

Gunner Pool spillway built by the CCC Camp Hedges 1933-42

After exploring Gunner Pool I headed back to Blanchard Springs, I took some time to explore the location where I remembered camping several years ago. On that particular night, I heard coyotes howl in the middle of the night. It was a musical treat. After that night, I’ve always looked forward to the possibility of coyote serenades whenever I camp in the Ozarks.

One puzzling sound from that night was a loud boom and splash in the creek. I thought to myself, “Boulders have to fall from those bluffs sometime, so how lucky that I got to hear one.” A few minutes later another boom and splash. I took my flashlight and explored upstream to learn more about the sound. Another boom and my light came to rest on a beaver swimming in the creek, occasionally flipping over and slapping the water with its tail. The falling rock mystery was solved.

The following morning I walked back into the woods and made my way to the point of the bluff pictured below. It was quite a view and a great place for morning coffee!

Bluff point on North Sylamore Creek

Bluff point on North Sylamore Creek

Memorial for Jimmie White, Arkansas State Trooper

Memorial for Jimmie White, Arkansas State Trooper

I was interested to see this monument along side of the trail. I later read that Trooper White was killed on his motorcycle while working a motorcade escorting the Blue Angels pilots as they prepared for an air show in 2002.  The stone said Trooper White especially loved this trail and thought it was the most scenic trail in Arkansas.

This out-and-back hike was about 11-miles in all. The sign says 4.5 miles from point to point, but I logged 5.4 miles one way. I was pleased to get reacquainted with this beautiful trail and look forward to a backpacking trip here in winter.