Fiery Sky Over Lake Alma

Eric Scowden and I hiked to The Point well before dark and determined where to place our tripods. In the water was the best spot. As we prepared our cameras I asked, “Would this be a bad time to tell Tim Ernst’s cottonmouth story?”

Eric had been at Tim’s slideshow so we were both remembering it at the same time as we stood in grassy water close to shore. We were not waist-deep in water as Tim had been and there were no boulders for cottonmouths to get eye-to-eye with us.
The show began at 9 p.m. with color still in the sky but the brightness and sounds were still startling and beautiful.


Plant growth at the bottom of the frame where we stood in the water.

Delayed percussive booms traveled across Lake Alma with jarring impact. On the hike out, we heard continued fireworks provided by local residents, mixed with distant thunder provided by Mother Nature. I was glad that Hiker-dog was hunkered down at home since she doesn’t care for loud noises, though she may have been fascinated by the fiery skies over Lake Alma.

With lightning showing thorough the foliage in the distance, we spent some time experimenting with light painting and long exposures. Eric took a photo of me swinging my headlamp around to illuminate the scene.


Thanks to Eric for the photo coaching. His advice helped me capture some pleasing photos of our small town fireworks show.

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Follow this link to download a pdf of the Alma Park Map 2017.

Be sure to check out Tim Ernst’s website and journal for wilderness stories and photography.

Water, Sky, Clouds, and Land – Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge

Sunset on the Lake Alma Trail - Water converging with the land and sky.

Sunset on the Lake Alma Trail – Water converging with the land and sky.

Continuing to view the "convergence," the clouds moved into a symmetrical form on an axis formed by the land on the far side of the lake.

Continuing to view the “convergence,” the clouds moved into a symmetrical form on an axis formed by the land on the far side of the lake.

The show continued.

The show continued.

I liked this view of the clouds as the sky "converged" with the grassy shore and turned my view of the lake upside-down.

I liked this view of the clouds as the sky “converged” with the grassy shore and turned my view of the lake upside-down.

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

McWater Falls – Lake Alma Waterfall

Lake Alma Waterfall as viewed from the trail.

McWater Falls as viewed from the trail.

Every little lake should have its own little waterfall and so it is that we have Lake Alma Waterfall, a short distance from the trailhead of Lake Alma Trail.  We’ve been longing for some rain, not only because water levels are low, but because the creeks around Lake Alma and the Ozarks have been pretty dry. With recent rain, we’re finally able to see the Lake Alma Waterfall (Update as of April, 2013: The Alma City Council designated McWater Falls in recognition of Harry McWater who was instrumental in the construction of the Lake Alma Trail).

At approximately 12-feet tall this is definitely worth checking out. The shape, location, and pretty little drainage make this a great place to spend some time.  Give yourself an hour or more so you can sit and enjoy the sight and sound.

Read my blog about the Lake Alma Trail for directions on how to get there.  The spur trail to this waterfall is only a 25-minute walk from the trailhead.  The spur is about one tenth of a mile long.

Get out and enjoy!

Lake Alma Waterfall as viewed from underneath its bluff.

McWater Falls as viewed from underneath its bluff.

Lake Alma Waterfall located in a beautiful drainage .1 of a mile off the main trail.

McWater Falls is located in a beautiful drainage .1 of a mile off the main trail.

This next picture is of poor quality but it gives a perspective on the size of the waterfall.

LAT Waterfall with person

Lake Alma Trail Waterfall

Lake Alma Trail Waterfall, McWater Falls

Trash on the Trail

Recently I encountered a dad, mom, and their three children, younger than 7 years old, hiking the Lake Alma Trail.  It was a warm afternoon and we were close to mile 2 on the 3.6-mile trail.   The dad asked how much farther it was around the loop.  Seeing no evidence that they were carrying water I offered an extra bottle I carry just for such occasions along with a banana I had in my pack.

I later saw them wearily crossing the dam and was relieved that they would make it back to their car.  As we passed I thought it strange that I didn’t see the water bottle but figured it was in the dad’s pocket. After they passed I wished I’d asked for it so I could use it again.

Most of my walks around the lake are early mornings with a flashlight but later during that same week I was hiking during the daylight hours while picking up trash.  Most of the trash had obviously been there for years.  No “new” trash was to be found along the trail, showing that our hikers are being considerate of this area.

Then I saw it.  The same water bottle I’d given that dad earlier in the week.  I was sure it was the same bottle because of the unusual shape and the location being just a little farther down the trail from where I’d met them the week before.  I wondered what my reaction might have been if I’d asked for the bottle and he’d told me he dropped it on the trail.  As it was I had the luxury of making a few comments to myself as I picked up the bottle.

This experience reminded me of “Leave No Trace” principles, one of which is that preparation is an essential part of protecting nature.  Hikers who are unprepared end up in bad situations (like having a thirsty family).  They make mistakes and demonstrate poor judgment.  Still, I wonder what the thought process is when a person takes a bottle of water given by a fellow hiker and then tosses it on the trail after using the much-needed water.

Lake Alma Trail: A Trail for All Reasons

By Jim Warnock – Published in the @Urban Magazine (now Do South Magazine) of Fort Smith in October, 2012

Lake Alma Trail at sunset.

Lake Alma Trail at sunset.

Whether you’re a parent looking for an easy day hike to introduce your children to the gentle pleasures of nature or a trail runner looking for a heart-throbbing, rock-hopping, scrambling good time, Lake Alma Trail is for you!

Chuck Dovish, of Exploring Arkansas with AETN, said, “It’s amazing that so much variety and diversity of scenery is found right inside the town of Alma.”

Step onto this little 4-mile trail and your eyes are in for a treat. You’ll see bluff lines and moss-covered boulder fields up close.  You’ll walk beside clear streams, rocky cascades and small waterfalls.   Situated within a diverse mixed hardwood forest, you may spot deer, rabbit, fox, great blue heron, and a variety of songbirds.  Watch your step and give right-of-way to the many terrapin turtles that call Lake Alma home.

On any given day you’ll find families out for a stroll or a nature walk and picnic lunch at McWater Falls, just twenty-minutes into the trail.  Said one father, “I want my kids to know how beautiful and fragile our environment is.  When they see Little Frog Bayou and realize this is the source of our drinking water, they’ll become caretakers and protectors of places like this.”  History buffs will enjoy exploring rock structures located just past mile one.  Mystery surrounds the “when” and “why” of these structures which include a small hexagon rock house with fireplace.

Old homesite hexagon house

Continue down the trail and you’re likely to encounter trail runners soaring up “little bluff scramble” and churning around the whole loop in preparation for competition.  “I love this trail!  It allows for an intense workout in a short amount of time and the scenery makes even the hills enjoyable!” said Tommy Griffin, a local runner.  Hike early and you’ll see locals trotting slowly and carefully along the rockier paths preparing for future marathons or just enjoying a morning workout and quick dose of nature.

Trail runners

Trail runners

Harry visiting with Chuck Dovish at Lake Alma as trail volunteer,Laura Seal, looks on.

Harry visiting with Chuck Dovish at Lake Alma as trail volunteer,Laura Seal, looks on.

The beginnings of Lake Alma Trail can be traced to longtime resident, Harry McWater.  The idea of a trail around the lake occurred to him during the late 1990s as a member of the Alma City Council.  He mentioned the possibility several times only to be told that money for such a project wasn’t available.

Then, about a year ago during a conversation with the mayor he asked, “What if I find volunteers to get that hiking trail built?”  Mayor John Ballentine said, “Go for it!”  With that, Harry sought expertise and labor from the Arkansas Master Naturalists, Ozark Highlands Trail Association and local volunteers, including Alma School District student organizations and scout troops.  Students were enthusiastic about the project.  Nathanael Mickelson, then a senior Student Council member said, “I can’t believe I have a hiking trail three minutes from my house!”

McWater Falls (approx. 12-feet)

The actual work began in March of 2012 and the forward momentum that followed was undeniable.  Since that time well over one-hundred pairs of helping hands have spent time making this trail a reality.   Volunteers blazed and cleared the route.  There was side-hilling, raking, and general cleanup to be done.  With each workday, a deeper beauty was revealed.  As the route became established, hikers’ feet helped firm up the tread and keep it open.  One volunteer said, “It’s like remodeling your kitchen.  You use it before it’s finished.  Maybe it’s never really finished.”  The work continues as constant improvements are made.

The best trail maintenance is use!  Give your concrete-weary feet a break or drop the cumbersome baggage of civilization for a few hours.  Relax beside a clear, cool stream or let your mind wonder about the early inhabitants of the “hexagon house.”  Whatever your reason, Lake Alma Trail is ready to greet you in all its beauty and variety.

Logo design, Ashley Campbell

Getting There Take Alma Exit 13 off I-40, then drive north on Hwy 71 to the first light. Turn right onto Collum Lane East then left onto Mountain Grove Road.  Go north past the Alma water tanks on the left then a quick left into a picnic area.  The trail begins at the fishing dock.  Walk the paved Nature Trail north with the lake to your left.  The Lake Alma Trailhead is at the north end of the paved trail where it turns sharply back toward the picnic area.  Read the information sign built and installed by volunteers with some help from the City of Alma.  If you hike the whole 4-mile trail, you’ll come back to the fishing dock from across the dam.   A shorter family-friendly hike is the forty-minute walk to the waterfall and back.  To get more information about Lake Alma Trail and volunteer opportunities, follow updates from the Lake Alma Trail Facebook page.



Springtime reflections on Little Frog Bayou

Bridge over west creek built by volunteers, Joe and Laura

Lake Alma fishing dock

Lake Alma fishing dock