Sunday, January 3, 2010
The woods are full of ‘em — and sometimes you are lucky enough to happen across these small and picturesque falls. This one is east of Winslow, Arkansas, on Bidville Road, which winds perilously close to the precipice that makes the falls. What you see in the picture is the bottom half of the falls, which rise a good twenty feet tall, perhaps more. The top half consists a number of rocky stair steps, over which the water gurgles and builds up a head of steam as it races for the final plunge. The top half is every bit as tall as the bottom half . . . perhaps more.
I first spotted the falls from a hard curve in the road, catching a glimpse of the top half during a reconnoitering trip the morning of New Years Eve, 2009. I stopped, cut the engine, and heard the falls. I walked to the edge of a significant drop off and saw the stair steps, but not fully. The falls are difficult, if not impossible to shoot from the top unless you have mastered some sort of levitation. Not being so imbued, I found a place I believed would be a good entry point for a walk to the bottom of the falls. Happenstance confirmed my find.
Prior to arriving at the falls, I came across a one-lane bridge from the west and noticed a fully loaded 18-wheeler lumber truck approaching the bridge from the east. Mind you, this is a gravel road. Something had to give and it was me. I stopped, backed up a bit, and maneuvered off the road as far as I believed my 4wd would rescue me if rescue became necessary. The big fellow took the hint and negotiated the bridge handily with not a lot of space to spare on either side of the truck and trailer.
He stopped beside me and rolled his window down after he saw that I had rolled mine down. The driver, Eugene Provence, a life-long resident of the area, and I had a pleasant conversation and parted company. It was after that, when I first happened across the falls.
After surveying the falls, I proceeded up Bidville Road, which was icy and dicey in a few places, requiring judicious use of 4wd. After a mile or so, I turned around to return to my wife and dogs, waiting for me at the cabin we had rented. The descent down Bidville Road was going be potentially problematic since I was going downhill on gravel encrusted in ice. Before I reached the icy patches, I saw a gentleman approaching me on a four-wheeler. We stopped to converse. Turns out, the man is Eugene Provence’s father. Small world. As we talked, he cautioned me about using my brakes going downhill on ice. I didn’t need to be reminded but kept it to myself.
I made it past the ice slicks, returned to the cabin, had a bite of lunch, and — satisfied the sun had moved in the direction I wanted — set out, retracing my path to find the walk-in access to the falls. A couple of miles in, I came up behind an empty 18-wheeler. You guessed it. It was Eugene Provence again. At a convenient spot, he pulled the big truck over to let me pass. Of course, we could not pass up an additional opportunity to exchange words. I asked him about the place I wanted to use as an entry point to the falls and he confirmed that was the best way.
Sinister Eyes: These falls have, over a millennium or so, carved out a deep, canyon-like hole. The west wall of this hole has what appears to be sinister, slit-like eyes — and, on this cold day in January, they were topped by wintery, icicle brows. The eyes look at you as if to say, “Why are you disturbing my solitude little man?” Because I can, I suppose.
I made the walk, probably a bit over a quarter of a mile, and arrived at the base of the falls.
Once you arrive at the base of any falls, you hate to leave the hypnotic environment. After all, the show has been thousands of years in the making. Somehow it seems almost disrespectful to leave after thirty or forty minutes of clicking away. I wasn’t the first to be there and I won’t be the last, so perhaps the falls understand.
N O T E S:
See more of the falls
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.