Just Add Ice! McWater Falls

McWater Falls on a warm afternoon (24-degrees)

Hiker-dog and I were excited to return to McWater Falls today, but I was not prepared for the difference just two days made in the scene. Ice formations had grown, and it was a pleasure to snap a few shots. It was noticeably warmer than it was on Monday when it was 12-degrees. On Tuesday morning, the temperature dropped to 4-degrees below zero, a record for our twenty years in Alma. On Tuesday afternoon, it warmed into the low 20s, and we got another couple of inches of snow.

I enjoyed finding different perspectives around the ice formations. Hiker-dog was calm and posed with a former student who was hiking with his family.

A Rare River Valley Snow

Alma, and the surrounding area, received a rare snow on February 14, with more expected around the 16th. On the morning of February 16, we broke our personal low temperature record at four below zero. It had been several years since our last pretty snow, and Hiker-dog was eager to play outside, so we walked down Hwy 71 to where we knew a small path led to the Lake Alma Trail. For most of our hike it was around 12-degrees. I never broke a sweat but felt comfortable while moving.

We were the first to walk the trail coming from the west side of the loop going clockwise. Hiker-dog pranced across the snow pausing often to sniff. I remembered our first snow walk, shortly after she joined my family during a thru-hike on the Ozark Highlands Trail. I anticipated more health problems since she was starving and sick when we found her, but she’s done well over these last seven years. She has acquired a little hitch in her step, but that hasn’t slowed her down.

I was surprised to see a glaze of ice well out over the surface of the lake. I’ve only seen small sections of ice on the lake in the past, and the snow on top of the ice added another dimension.

What locals call “Leaning Rock” is a familiar landmark on the trail. Not far beyond is the little rock field where I did a not-so-graceful tumble into the snow. Foot placement involved some guess work in the dusty 3-4 inches of snow. We passed a small stream that flows into Little Frog Bayou where Hiker-dog never fails to stop for a drink.

We enjoyed seeing the rock walls and historic structures along the trail, their forms accented with snow.

Rock wall along the trail west of Little Frog Bayou
Hexagon House east of Little Frog Bayou next to the trail

We walked out on rocks across Little Frog Bayou and looked downstream, admiring the way water weaves shapes through the snow.

Little Frog Bayou looking downstream

When we arrived at the spur trail to McWater Falls, we saw our first footprints in the snow. Jeff was busy taking photos of the frozen falls. Hiker-dog greeted him before I arrived, but he noticed her name tag and continued exploring the falls as she explored. My camera battery was low, so I only took a couple of photos, pleased with the size and beauty of the icicles.

Frozen McWater Falls
This view of broken icicles gave me new respect for the hazards of their weight.

Jeff joined Hiker-dog and me for the walk to the park. We came across Richard, another regular hiker at Lake Alma. I hadn’t been standing still long before I felt the chill of 12-degrees. I’m always meeting great folks on the trail. With COVID-19 limiting our gatherings, trails are a great place to get a little positive social interaction.

After leaving Jeff at the park, Hiker-dog and I rushed across the dam against a cold crosswind and then kept a warming stride back into the woods and out of the wind. She became interested in sniffing everything we passed, and I was keeping her leashed since we’d be heading up and out to Hwy 71 soon. I tried to match her pace by pausing and looking around every time she felt the urge to nose into the snow for a sniff. Once we were back on the highway, we pushed fast and furious to get home. I only stopped for a quick photo of the little church where we access the trail. I remembered how pretty it was in the last snow a few years ago.

Church on Hwy 71 close to where we enter and exit the woods

Soon we were back inside a warm house with a dog biscuit for Hiker and hot tea for me, thankful for the snowy images floating around in our heads.

Hiker-dog happy with her icy chin

Repeated Walks

IMG_4084rrWe should hike some trails over and over again, especially when they’re in our backyards. This little 4-mile trail is a 3-minute drive from my home. On this recent morning, I had the trail to myself.

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When you walk the same trail many times, you begin to notice the smaller things. Repeated walks on the same trail are never boring. They’re new every time!

IMG_4121rrHere’s a short video message I shared with students while Arkansas schools are closed due to the spread of COVID-19. I wanted to share a local trail and remind students that their vision for the future can have an impact on our community. Enjoy your trails, especially your home trails.

 

The Trail Never Disappoints

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Yesterday’s steady rain promised potential waterfalls this morning, so Hiker-dog and I set out early. I never tire of walking the Lake Alma Trail. It’s always slightly different, depending on the light, weather, and my frame of mind. This morning, it was exactly 50-degrees, so my sometimes weather-related mood was pretty optimistic.

As we approached the creek below McWater Falls, I heard a soft flow. When we arrived, the waterfall greeted us in beautiful morning light. After Hiker-dog had her bath and a drink, I placed my camera on a tree root for a half-second exposure.

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McWater Falls on the Lake Alma Trail

After picking up some trash, yes, trash right here at the waterfall, we began our walk back, picking up several other trash items on the way. I noted that some litterbugs were not adhering to the guidelines I wrote for these folks in another post. A couple of new pieces of trash had obviously been thrown off the trail, making them harder to retrieve.

As we walked back through the picnic area and across the dam, a bright morning sun beamed down its warmth, revealing hints of approaching fall colors on this trail that never disappoints.

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If you’d like a map of the Lake Alma Trail, open this pdf: Alma Park Map 2017

Advice for Littlerbugs

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View of Lake Alma from the dam

This cool rainy morning was perfect for picking up trash on the Lake Alma Trail. The sight of trash in the Ozarks sometimes interrupts my enjoyment of the walk. I try to contain my emotional response to seeing an abandoned cup because it confuses Hiker-dog. She’s always happy in the woods and worries if I’m not enjoying my time, too.

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I’ve wondered what folks are thinking when they toss trash on the trail, so I decided to Google it. Didn’t find any explanations of the litterbug’s inner thinking, but the Journal of Applied Social Psychology published a study that confirmed something I’ve long suspected: “The littering rate was…lowest in a clean environment.” I was surprised to learn that positive (“Pitch-In”), and negative (“Littering is Unlawful”) signs had the same minor effect on reducing litter. It’s sad to see anti-littering signs in natural areas.

Since they are not likely to stop, I decided to list a few pieces of advice for litterbugs. If you know anyone guilty of littering, please pass these along.

  1. Leave your trash on the trail rather than tossing it off of the path where it’s difficult for volunteers to retrieve in poison ivy and greenbriers.
  2. Leave the labels on your water bottles. When you tear off the label, volunteers then have two pieces of trash to pick up. This pisses off some volunteers, and we don’t want to see angry people on our hiking trails.
  3. If you are unable to resist the urge to take a dump right next to the trail, please pick up the book, How to Shit in the Woods and give it a read.
  4. Please leave contact information on your trash (or next to it in the case of human excrement), so we can fill your email inbox with words of thanks for practicing “courteous” littering and providing us with volunteer opportunities.

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Hiker-dog on top of the LAT Dam

We only saw a few pieces of trash on the trail this morning, but cooler temperatures reminded me that Arkansas’ hiking season is just around the corner. I’m looking forward to sharing Five Star Trails: The Ozarks at several fall events. I might even include a few Leave No Trace reminders just in case any litterbugs wander in by accident.

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Five pieces of trash were found on the trail with the remainder found in the picnic area.

Humidity, Blackberries, and Pierce Pettis

Ozarks heat, humidity, and a few fresh blackberries on the Lake Alma Trail helped heal my soul yesterday evening. While walking, I listened to several songs written by Pierce Pettis in the 1990s and was stuck that his lyrics are relevant today. “Everyday you see ’em / Live from the lap of luxury / It’s the lions of the colosseum / With politicians, millionaires / You won’t see Mother Teresa there.” 

Lions of the Colosseum

By Pierce Pettis

Upon this rock let us build our church
Said the lions of the colosseum
And as the Christians wander in
We can lock the doors and eat ’em
Drink the blood of the saints
Roll the poor for pocket change
Then on our knees we will give thanks
Said the lions of the colosseum

I saw Dorothy Day on the barricades
She was hanging with comrade Jesus
But the lions did not see a thing
They were rendering unto Caesar
Roman soldiers did their best
To silence those who would protest
They had a warrant out for Dorothy’s arrest
From the lions of the colosseum

In chains of ancient history
The church is a museum
Cobwebs hang like rosaries
Inside a mausoleum
Whose surfaces are clean and white
While inside rotting corpses lie
And so they like to keep the lid on tight
Those lions of the colosseum

Let us build a tower to the sky
And let it reach to heaven
We shall be as gods, we shall not die
And our reign shall be forever
So the lions built from age to age
Til they made a Babel of the faith
And tore the body in a thousand different ways
Like in the colosseum

Now on the satellite TV
Everyday you see ’em
Live from the lap of luxury
It’s the lions of the colosseum
With politicians, millionaires
You won’t see Mother Teresa there
Just the holy rollers with the manes of hair
Lions of the colosseum

But there’s rebel graffiti on the walls
Inside the colosseum
Down below in the catacombs
The defiant ones are meeting
Hiding in the underground
Blood brothers pass the cup around
And they pay no heed to the roaring sound
Of the lions of the colosseum

A little more Pierce Pettis along with his daughter, Grace, and Jonathan Kingham. I tend to like song writers who include coffee as a topic.

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View along the Lake Alma Trail

WordPress Photo Challenge: Favorites

WordPress Photo Challenge: All-Time Favorites 

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Fireworks at Lake Alma

Sometimes a “favorite” photo is associated with my pleasure at getting the shot or some technical aspect as with the fireworks above or the waterfall below. The waterfall photo has been on a magazine cover and is on the back cover of my Ozarks guidebook.

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Shepherd Spring Waterfall

More often, a “favorite” photo is more about the experience or emotion I felt when capturing the image. The photos that follow provide anchors to memories.

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Breakfast at Wanda Lake (John Muir Trail)

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Selfie from the top of Mount Whitney

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Reflections from sunset over Lake Alma

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Ouachita Trail thru-hike 2018

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Ozark Highlands Trail thru-hike 2014

Is it a coincidence that the only two heart-shaped frost flowers I’ve ever seen were alongside my two Arkansas long trail thru-hikes? Even with all of the expansive views on these two trails, the frost flowers are significant anchors to my memories of these long treks.

Photo Challenge: Ending of the Day

WordPress Photo Challenge: Rise/Set

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This sunset brings back memories of a recent evening on the Ouachita Trail. Love those moments of reflection while waiting for water to boil.

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Lake Alma Trail

This is a favorite place to view the end of the day on my evening walk. I enjoy the always varied painting of the sky.

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Lake Alma Trail close to the edge 

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Reflections from sunset over Lake Alma

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Lake Alma Trail at sunset.

More about the Ouachita Trail  Ouachita Trail: Just Add Ice

To read more about the Lake Alma Trail (including driving directions) A Trail for All Reasons 

Photo Challenge: Favorite Place With a Favorite Friend

WordPress Photo Challenge: Favorite Place

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Quenching thirst on this morning’s walk.

Daily walks with my friend are important to both of us physically and mentally. If I skip a day, my four-legged friend lets me hear about it.

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This morning we strayed from the main trail to have a look at this historic well. It was probably built in the early 1900s by the same folks who laid rock walls to mark their property lines.

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View into the well

When water’s flowing, we take a short spur and enjoy the sound of McWater Falls, named for the man who initiated the work to build a trail around Lake Alma.

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McWater Falls

I’m thankful for this favorite place and my little favorite trail friend.

For the Lake Alma Trail backstory and driving directions, read Lake Alma Trail: A Trail for All Reasons 

For more about Hiker-dog, check out her resume.

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A Painted Walk

LAT013018_3This evening’s walk brought the magic of color. I’d carried only my smartphone camera, but it captured the color I was seeing.

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Light show at the shore

I hurried to the water’s edge when I realized the potential light show I would find. Hiker-dog was excited for another reason and strode proudly into the water for her evening bath.

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The places closest to us often surprise and amaze if we’re paying attention. This evening’s painted walk was no exception.

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