Twenty years from now…
“…you want me to tell you that story that happened that night at Falling Spring? You sure? Alright, it’ll be your sleepless night.
Me and my cuz were giggin’ frogs down in that beaver pond one spring night when out of the blue we saw a fella wearin’ a strange hat walkin’ alone. We asked him what he was doing out here all alone and where he came from. He answered he came from a place with tall buildin’s and he was searching for answers that nobody had.
He stood there, the palest, most pathetic creature you’d ever seen. Paler than the moon standin’ above us, when all of a sudden eery red lights started comin’ from inside that old mill shack! Now, we had been standin’ outside there fer hours and hadn’t seen a soul inside or out. Before we could think, a sound that was louder and more fierce than a 10′ tall hoot-owl started and the trees began moving back and forth, even though there tweren’t a bit a breeze on the air to be had!
My cuz and I had grabbed our poles and slowly backed ourselves out to the road and the safety of the truck. We looked over to where the stranger had been and noticed he was walkin’ towards the old shack! We shouted something to the effect of what the Sam Hill are you doing? He replied that he was going to see if the agnostics were right. I couldn’t get at what he was sayin’, and we couldn’t get him to stop movin’ towards that obvious poltergeist.
The last question I asked was what his name was. He said something like Beelzebub, Bufford, Ozark Bill, or somethin’ like that. The last time I saw him he was walkin’ inside and stripping down to the suit he was born in. The lights got brighter and hotter. So hot and bright I had to turn away. We heard a screech worse than a Tom cat trying to mate with a pot belly stove and all of a sudden everything went back to normal.
As we were making dust away from that place I heard a really sweet, low and soft voice singing…
‘Way down in Missouri where I heard this melody
When I was a little feller on my mommie’s knee
The old folks were humming the banjos were strumming so sweet and low‘
The forecast suggested the day in which I had been waiting for years might finally be here. Finally, the combination of snow in the big-spring country of south-eastern Missouri Ozark region, a vehicle that can move through these hilly, un-plowed roads and a day off to enjoy myself in them. I was also fortunate to have a friend who was just as excited about it as I was! I told Steve I’d pick him up from his place and we would visit Big Spring and whatever other places we desired and had the daylight to enjoy. This is the second winter season I have owned my current 4WD vehicle, but considering our winter last year, this was really the first time I’ve gotten to drive it under snow and icy conditions. It definitely lived up to my expectations. Remembering one must still drive slow and anticipate braking (as the three 4WD vehicles in the ditch that I passed demonstrated) we took our time and arrived at Big Spring State Park with a minimum of butt-clenching. It was definitely worth the drive! My photos do not begin to capture the beauty and peacefulness of our surroundings.
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 19mm, ISO 100, f/13, 1/10 sec
Nothing can beat a day spent during or after a snow at a place such as this. Although definitely slower and quieter during this “blue season”, life was still obvious in surrounding us. Mosses and lichen were wet and vibrant, and the bright green watercress contrasted nicely with the deep blues and sharp turquoise of the spring effluent. A first for my eyes was the conspicuous in-this-season mistletoe bunches that are evergreen and apparently still robbing their Sycamore hosts even during the “dead of winter”. I imagine I have observed these plants in the past, but assumed they were dead leaves potentially put together by a squirrel. And the birds! The birds were very abundant immediately surrounding the spring. Nothing beats being able to observe a Bald Eagle and a Belted Kingfisher simultaneously without having to turn your head. The photo below shows the geology that is not as visible in the green months.
“Big Spring, Winter 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 36mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/60 sec
Every slight change in viewing angle resulted in noticeable changes in color of different sections of the spring’s effluent. I don’t believe I have ever seen so many shades of blue in one place at one time. I converted the image below to black and white, then toned as a “duotone” by bringing a selenium tone to the shadows. I hoped to focus attention on the textures in the water and the heights these waves reached.
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 17mm, ISO 100, f/14, 1/8 sec
After getting a satisfactory but still much too short experience at Big Spring, we left what unmarred snow was remaining and headed to the next spot I was eager to see with a cap of snow, Falling Spring.
“Falling Spring Mill-house, Winter 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 40mm, ISO 100, f/11, 0.4 sec
It always brightens my spirit to see that this delicate structure still stands and in relatively little disabuse. The spring’s discharge was light on this day, but the noise of the water falling the ~20 feet to the pool below was enough to drown almost every other sound. A nice point of visiting in the winter was being able to trek around the beaver pond a bit. Steve discovered the beaver den with obvious “trails” moving outward from it in the water. The picture below was taken facing away from the spring and shows the fiery warmth of the late-day sun that was cut by the height of the hill. I love the contrasts provided by the bare Sycamore branches and the reflections from the beaver pond. A stunning view indeed!
“Holding the Sun″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 85mm, ISO 100, f/14, 0.6 sec
Seeing what can be found on a day like this and how few people were out to make these experiences ensures that I will definitely be down here to capture more scenes like these.
During the first day of our short vacation this fall, Sarah and I took the winding, yet scenic Hwy 19 south. Always a nice drive, it is particularly attractive in autumn. About halfway through the drive the sky opened up on us, but I did use this opportunity to find a few new places and at least get them on the ol’ GPS. This stretch of highway contains many potential destinations and we have only begun making real visits or hikes into most of these. Later, we went back to a place I’ve had on my radar for quite some time, the “Virgin Pine Forest”. This amounts to a strip of apparently virgin shortleaf pine, many of which are over 200 years old, on both sides of the road. The wind was very strong here so I let the pines tell their story…
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 27mm, ISO 100, f/13, 2 sec
Just a short drive from the town of Steelville lies the aptly-named “Red Bluff Recreation Area”. I have seen photographs of this place and it was as beautiful in person. Carved over time by Huzzah Creek, these bluffs get their color from the high amounts of iron oxide in the limestone. This spot was almost indescribable. Incredibly peaceful and full of singing birds, the first thing I did was take off my shoes and pants and wade into the river to make this picture. At times like these my city-slicker feet never fail to disappoint me. Each step was painful and it was then that I realized my mitochondria training regimen was getting me nowhere. Anyway, this place has lots that would make a return trip worth the drive, including a natural arch and the ruins of an old grist mill site. Definitely a place on my “return to” list.
“Red Bluff – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 28mm, ISO 100, f/14, 1/5 sec
Continuing on Hwy 19, south of Winona is another of our favorite visited spots – Falling Spring. This spot is out of the way and if the spring is flowing, will never disappoint. My mind’s eye pictured better autumn colors than were actually found, but it is always a treat to find that vandals have not completely taken the old structure down.
“Falling Spring – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 45mm, ISO 100, f/11, 2.5 sec
Further west in south-central Missouri Sarah and I visited the Hodgson Water Mill located on Bryant Creek. This picturesque mill is still in business as a museum/store. The spring discharges from a cave just behind the building and its 24 million gallons per day powered two underwater turbines for milling operations.
“Hodgson Water Mill – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USMEF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 24mm, ISO 100, f/14, 1/6 sec
So that’s a little more from our splendid autumn Ozark trip from 2012. I still have a few images to share and will hopefully post some in the near future. I’m quite thankful that there are so many nicely written books available with descriptions of these locations. I use these books quite often and one of these days I will list them in a post.
The Mark Twain National Forest contains near 1.5 million acres across the Missouri Ozarks. Make some time to pay a visit, as it belongs to us all, except the areas that are logged… ;=)
“Mark Twain National Forest – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 37mm, ISO 160, f/9, 1/5 sec