Trip to Ponca, Triple Falls, Lost Valley…

  • October 22, 2014

There is something special about north Arkansas. The beautiful hills, streams, waterfalls, bluffs, rustic barns, and the Buffalo River. Oh, and how about the elk!? My friend Cody Simpson joined me on this adventure.

To make the most of our trip, we decided to camp near Jasper at Kyles Landing. Fortunately for me, that meant we were close to Twin Falls (aka Triple Falls). This one is a beauty!

So, you may be wondering right now, why would this be called Twin Falls!? There are clearly 3 waterfalls here! Well, not always. In high water, there are 3 falls. With lower flow, however, there are just 2. Our timing here was pretty good because we recently had a good amount of rain. A day earlier and the water was ugly and muddy. A day later, and the flow would have been less impressive.

The wind off of this waterfall was quite impressive. The falling water along with the change in temperature seems to make a nice gust of air which can certainly cool you off, but it also makes it nearly impossible to get a still, sharp photo of tree branches. FYI, driving to this spot can be a challenge. The road is STEEP and dirt… tricky if there was a recent rain. My brakes were literally smoking by the time we made it to the bottom!!!

After shooting the waterfall and exploring a bit, we crossed over to Kyles Landing where we were setting up camp. The rain brought about a cold front and it got pretty chilly that night. Call me a wuss if you want, but tent camping when it is 40 degrees is a tad bit uncomfortable! The skies were clear though, which meant I could play around with my night lens, the Rokinon 24mm f1.4.

This next photo is a composite of 4 different images. One for the Milky Way, another for light painting the road, a third to light the right side of the scene, and finally a shot of me running around with my iphone to create the streaks. The Milky Way shot was 24mm, f2.0, ISO 2000, for 20 seconds. Fun times! I’m pretty sure anyone in the campground who saw me thinks I’m crazy as I was running around with a flashlight and iphone waving in the air!

Next I decided to create a pano. This one is 4 shots stitched together in Photoshop. Actually, the rightmost image wouldn’t stitch together with the rest which meant I had to do a lot of manual stretching and blending which was a bit tedious. Still though, I like the end result.

I was explaining to Cody how to make star trail photos. I decided to show him exactly how it’s done. What you do is take multiple shots of the stars over a long period of time and combine them together using software. The stars slowly move through the night sky creating a pattern. I was focused in on the North Star which would create a cool circular pattern. Well, the best laid plans sometimes go to waste. Clouds suddenly moved in and ruined our chances. I still thought this shot looked pretty cool though. A car came through the campground during this photo and gave some nice “light painting” to the trees and road.

A nice hot breakfast after a cold night in the tent! Bacon, eggs, and toast! 😀

Since Cody had never been to Ponca, I knew he would be excited to see some elk. Many people in Arkansas don’t even realize we have these majestic beasts since they remain confined to a relatively small area. Little did I know we’d be greeted by this monster right as we came into town! If only he would have taken my advice to move away from the stop sign a bit…

We saw several more elk in this valley. I had never seen them this active before. You could hear their bugles echo throughout the valley.

Next, we went to Lost Valley to explore a bit. I’ve never found a way to successfully photograph Eden Falls so that you get a good sense of scale so I didn’t even try this time. We went through the natural bridge and I noticed something that slipped my attention in previous visits. Look, a natural cup holder!

We hiked past the natural bridge, to the waterfalls, and up to the cave. Afterwards, we had built up an appetite so I knew it was time for Cody to experience the awesomeness of the Ozark Cafe! Yes, folks, Cody ordered the Excalibur which consists of two grilled cheese sandwiches with a huge chunk of beef in the middle. As he was eating I decided to pull out the Tommy Boy quote, “Ugh, I can actually HEAR you getting fatter!”

My beautiful burger: a grilled slab of beef, two cheeses, fried onions, and spicy ranch sauce. Ohhh yeaaaah!

After this it was time to head back to Hot Springs. I decided to swing by Falling Water Falls along the way. The light was way to harsh to get any good photos, but I noticed something very unusual. On the other side of the creek there were 4 plates with assorted food items, drinks, flowers, and candles. How strange! It looked like some sort of memorial to me, but I wasn’t sure.

I decided to reach out to my friends in the “Waterfalls of Arkansas” Facebook page to see if any of them knew what this was about. Phuong Mueller and a bright young 15 year old named Ny Collett came to my rescue. They explained that this was likely a Buddhist ritual used to honor the spirits of ancestors. Ny is a Christian but has Buddhist relatives and was quite familiar with the shrines and culture. Sadly, there was also bickering by some people over the idea of leaving trash in this beautiful area. I agree that the trash should be dealt with, but it certainly isn’t worth getting all hostile about it. A big thanks to Phuong and Ny for sharing with us! Ny’s father even went as far as to visit Falling Water Falls days later to clean up any mess these people might have left. Wow! 😀


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