A Day At Osage Hills State Park

A Day At Osage Hills State Park

My father passed away on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, and the past few days have been hellish. Thursday was the viewing and my stress level was ridiculous. @scottf and I have found that when we are hit with extremely difficult times getting outside helps us keep our heads on straight and enables us to recharge and be able to focus on the important things. We decided to take our Grand George @akacarl with us and help him get away from the constant talk about my father’s passing.

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Heading out to Osage Hills State Park.

One of the things that Scott and I do at every state and national park is taking a photo of us in front of a park sign. We have been encouraging our Grand Georges to take the same type of sign photos so when they are older they will have a photo to remember this memory by. Sometimes this is a rather difficult thing, but not at Osage Hills State Park. The sign is on a natural sandstone platform and shows the type of geology you will find all over the park. The park is at the most southern end of the area called the Osage Hills, but are also called the Flint Hills in Kansas. The Osage/Flint Hills reaches from Oklahoma and into the middle of Kansas (you can find more information HERE).

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Enjoying the view.

We took Carl for a hike, hoping the sun and fresh air would do him some good. The Overlook Hiking Trail we started on is approximately three miles, but we only went a half mile in. Begging to go play in the river, we knew we had to get to the boy to the nature trail that runs along the river. So we turned and headed towards lower ground where the trail is much easier. That is a good thing for me!

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I guess he gets his love for cliff edges from me!

Sand Creek meanders through Osage Hills State Park showing the limestone and sandstone floor. Here you will find round river rocks that are perfect for throwing and skipping. Carl and I spent an hour throwing many rocks against the large limestone wall directly across from us. This was a very therapeutic activity for us both. I was feeling angry with myself for not being there more often to see my dad more often, while my little man was frustrated and angry as well. It was a moment we both needed and it helped us both, I do believe.

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@akacarl loves the water and is willing to share it with anyone in his way.

March is not always the best time to play in the water when you live in Oklahoma. But this boy loves to play in the water, this day was no different than any other. The wonder and surprise to find such a beautiful place could be seen in his face as he surveyed the small falls. His questions were mixed with laughter as he slid on the slick limestone. “Do you know how deep this place gets?” “Can I play on the rope swing over there?” “Where are all the snakes?” I just thought my ears were going to fall off.

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Taking time to get a photo of us three together.

By the time we made it to Carl’s home we were all exhausted, but we were feeling a little stronger and better to deal with the path we have the coming days. Grief does not heal quickly, but days like this help to heal the soul.

Early Morning at Lake Keystone

Early Morning at Lake Keystone

The view from my front porch.

One of the things I looked forward to when we moved out to the lake was the opportunity to do more photography. I’ve done a fair amount of landscape photography, but the weather has not been cooperating for night photography.

This last Saturday morning I got my chance. It wasn’t ideal, but it was good enough. The Moon was a few days shy of full, but was going to set a little after 4 AM. With the time change that gave me a bit over 2 hours before twilight. Being mid-March the core of the Milky Way would be rising about the time the Moon was setting.

I’ve talked before about the need for dark skies when doing astrophotography. How dark you need depends on what you are trying to do. We are only a few miles from Tulsa, and we certainly have plenty of light pollution, but there are still lots of possibilities in these conditions.

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The Moon Setting over Lake Keystone

I got up about 3 Am and bundled up. The temperature was about 31 degrees. The key to being comfortable in cold weather is to wear lots of layers. One tip I’ve learned when photographing in cold weather is to pick up some hand warmers from HotHands. I cannot work my camera with gloves on, and having frozen fingers seriously diminishes my enjoyment. Toss a pair in your shoes and they keep your toes warm as well.

The Moon was still up, so I headed a few miles down the road to a small Corps of Engineers park named Cowskin Bay to get a photo of the moon setting over the lake.

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Highway 412 Bridge and Keystone Dam

We live on a peninsula in between two branches of the lake where the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers enter the lake. A few miles east there is a bridge over the lake.

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Highway 412 Bridge and Keystone Dam

From the bridge, you can see across the lake to Keystone Dam. Just above the road is a tall ridge, and ever since we moved out here I knew I wanted to get a picture from that ridge of the bridge, lake, and dam. It was more difficult to get to than I expected, I was carrying a camera and tripod, and the grass was covered in frost, making it a little slippery, but I made it to the top without falling.

If you look closely you can just make out the Milky Way rising over the bridge, but it’s mostly lost in the light pollution.

The light trails from the traffic add a nice touch.

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The Milky Way Rising in my Front Yard

It was getting close to twilight, but there was one more photo I wanted. A few days before when I was heading out the door to go to work, I noticed that the Milky Way was rising right outside my door. I didn’t have time to do anything about it then, but I wanted to see if I could get a good photo that morning.

This was going to be a challenging shot. There is a lot of light outside our trailer, and it was going to be difficult to get enough light to image the Milky Way without overexposing the lights in the yard. Fortunaly there are tools to help with this.

I took a total of six photos exposed to avoid overexposing the landscape. Then I loaded them into some free Windows software called Sequator. If you are going to do astrophotography, then you want Sequator. I told it which parts were sky and which were land, then set it to align the stars in the sky, to reduce light pollution, and automatically adjust light levels. Essentially it stacked all six photos, giving me an effective exposure of about 2 minutes for the sky, but only added enough of the landscape to reach the proper exposure. It also reduced noise in the photos to produce a much sharper image. By stacking photos and aligning the stars, Sequator lets you do much longer exposures using an ordinary tripod than you could without it. And it’s Free.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. We really appreciate it.

Some Nighttime Photos

Some Nighttime Photos

ISO 2000, 147 mm,
F6.3 2.5 seconds

We’ve been rather busy lately with the move and the medical issues, so I haven’t been posting much. I have still been taking pictures though, and I was editing some of them this evening. Here is just a quick look at some of my recent night photography.

Last month we had a lunar eclipse. This was my first time to try and photograph a lunar eclipse, and it was touch and go if the clouds were going to clear out in time. Fortunately they did. I took this about half an hour north of Tulsa.

I recently purchased an IOptron StarTracker. This rotates the camera at the same speed as the stars rotate in the night sky and allows longer exposures and higher focal lengths without star trails.

We had a new moon, which is the best time to take night photos, but it was pretty cloudy in Oklahoma, so Ren and I headed back up to Salina KS where it was predicted to be clear that evening. The predictions proved accurate. I found a dark area NW of town and spent the evening learning how to align and use the tracker.

This was mostly about learning to use the new tool.

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The Andromeda Galaxy.
ISO 2000, 55mm
f/5.6 165 seconds

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The Nebula in Orion

ISO 800 55 mm
f/5.6 225 seconds

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Since we have moved to the lake, I expect to spend a lot more time at the lake taking photos. This is sunset at Keystone Dam.

ISO 100 12 mm
13 seconds

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Also shot at Keystone Dam
ISO 100 12mm
1/120 seconds

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Let It Go

Let It Go

I like to think of myself as a good person. I try to do the right thing, to make good choices, and to help others when I can. Being a fallible human being, I don’t always succeed, but I do try. For the most part I am pleased with the person I have become, and I work to improve.

That has not always been the case. I have lived a long life and I have done, stupid, hurtful, shameful things. If we are being honest, I think all of us have done things that we look back on in shame. It is part of being human. I would hate to be judged today based on the worst things I have done in my life. I would hope that people would look at my life in context and recognize that I have learned from my bad decisions and have worked to become better. I would hope that people would judge me, not on who I was, but on who I have become. I am not asking that people excuse the bad choices, just recognize that that is not the person I am now.

If I want that consideration for myself then it is only just that I extend it to others. This idea seems very out of step with our culture today.

The newest obsession is to pour over the lives of public figures looking for stupid or hurtful things they have done, then try and use it to destroy their careers and their lives. It doesn’t matter how long ago the offence was, or how they have lived since. If ever in your life you have said something racist, sexist, or homophobic, there can be no forgiveness. In our zeal to show how open minded we are, we must not tolerate anyone who falls short, no matter how long ago.

I think it is a part of human nature to want to tear down those we perceive as being elevated in some way. If you put someone on a pedestal, someone will come along and try to knock them off of it. It’s not hard to do. Everyone has shameful things in their past. We all have feet of clay. Like jealousy, it is one of our baser instincts, and one we should fight to overcome.

This is not to excuse bad behavior. We can acknowledge that these things are and were wrong, but we can also allow that the person who did these may have grown and learned better. Assuming of course that they have in fact grown over the years and ceased the bad behavior. If the person in question is still doing these kinds of things, then by all means let’s make it clear that this is no longer acceptable. How someone reacts when old offences are brought up, is current behavior that tells us who they are now, and is fair game. To put it in religious terms, there can’t be forgiveness without repentance.

When someone’s life demonstrates real change and growth, it is hurtful and counterproductive to continue treating them as if they are still same person they were before the change. Condemn bad behavior, but when the person ceases the bad behavior, acknowledge and encourage the good behavior.

You have a kid who will not clean her room. You lecture, punish, and complain and it’s still a mess. One day she cleans the room without you telling her to. You can thank her for cleaning the room, make sure she knows you appreciate it and her, and maybe you get a clean room more often, or you can snap at her, “Why didn’t you do this the last 10 times I told you to?” and entirely undermine all the work you did to try and get her to change.

Encourage the change you want to see. Stop attacking people for bad behavior after they have outgrown it. Quit dredging up crap from decades ago, quit rewarding those who do. Stop granting them the outrage they seek.

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Chasing Arkansas Waterfalls

Chasing Arkansas Waterfalls

Scott and I are collectors. We love to collect things, but because we are trying to live travel-ready, we do not want to collect things. When we decided to move into an RV to start Park Hosting, we thoughtfully decided to start collecting experiences instead of objects. So, now instead of object collecting dust in our home, the back of our SUV collects road dust from all the places we have been. Our collections range from collecting counties to state and national parks to specific special places. One of these are waterfalls in the state of Arkansas. With over 200 waterfalls in Arkansas, this gives us plenty of time to explore and see what amazing places there are in this natural state.

Scott and I downstream from Natural Dam

One of the places we love to visit in Arkansas is the Ouachita National Forest where you will find the Ouachita Mountains. Granted these are not the type of mountains you find in the Rocky Mountain, Great Pyrenees, or the Andies, but they are mountains to us and one of our favorite places. We have often found ourselves thinking about living within the area, but there is still so much more to visit so we must not stop here! On this trip, we decided to specifically find as many waterfalls as we could. We found four of the named waterfalls and plenty of little cascades that are found all throughout the area.

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There are so many beautiful places in Arkansas.

Crooked Creek Waterfall is one of the first waterfalls we came across in our travel into the Ouachita National Forest. At first, we were not sure if we would find it flowing strong, but as we drove through a stream just above the falls, we were pleasantly surprised. It seemed to be an area that many people loved to camp and visit. Because I am not always very sturdy on my feet, I stayed up above the falls with Cordie. Because there had been recent rain, the river stone was slippery.

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Crooked Creek Falls in Ouachita National Forest.

The colors of the trees were just breathtaking. I was afraid we had missed the fall foliage, but it seems we were just in time. There were not as many reds as I would l have liked, but we still saw red here and there. Scott had wanted to travel into to the Sand Gap area in Arkansas, but we would have had to camp and I was still a bit nervous about the weather. Fortunately, he is rather forgiving and never put it in my face that they were having record colors if that is even a thing. As we drove through the forest from waterfall to waterfall we had all but forgotten Sand Gap. It was well worth it, I would say.

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The Little Missouri Falls that is located at a trailhead within the Ouachita National Forest.

The Little Missouri Falls was more of a cascade than a waterfall, however, it was well worth the stop. This is the location of a 7,000-year-old campsite where archeologists found many artifacts. This is also the area where you will find mainly shortleaf pine and plenty of black bears. The CCC build up this area with a viewing area and steps leading down to the rivers edge.

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Blaylock Falls sits at the crook of the river and provides wonderful views of history.

Blaylock Falls was, in my opinion, the best fall of them all. Here you were able to see the way the rock was folded under great pressure when the area now known as Texas was pushed up against the area. This forced the mountains all around the Ouachita area to rise. When I first learned about this process, I was stunned and could not imagine what it would look like, but here you can actually see what happened! If you would like to learn more about this process, you can view our video HERE for more information.

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Taking early morning photos of Rich Mountain on the Talimena Drive.

The trip to the capture many of the Arkansas waterfalls was fun, but definitely not long enough. We visited one other “waterfall” but it was most definitely more of a cascade. The park was beautiful and it will be one we visite again, but when the days are not quite so cold. I found this river to more like Perdanelas Falls in Texas with the giant smooth river rocks that created the rolling river. This is a spot that kayakers love to ride and it is a place I would love to experience again soon.

Thanks so much joining us on another adventure.

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