Christmas in the Mountains
Welcome to the newest park in the Arkansas Park System—Mt. Magazine State Park near Paris, Arkansas.
Mt. Magazine is a flat-topped plateau with a sandstone cap rimmed by precipitous rock cliffs. Two peaks are situated atop the plateau, Signal Hill, which is often identified as the tallest point in Arkansas, and Mossback Ridge, which reaches 2,700 feet.
The Mountain sits in the midst of the Ozark National Forest in the Petit Jean River Valley approximately 17 miles south of Paris, Logan County, Arkansas, on Scenic Highway 309 (also known as the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway). The most scenic route to the top is a beautiful 10-mile drive north from Havana, Arkansas. Spectacular views of Blue Mountain Lake will be enjoyed throughout the journey as you ascend through the forests on the slopes of Mt. Magazine. Park roads lead to overlooks with expansive views of Blue Mountain Lake and the Ouachita Mountains to the south and of the Petit Jean River Valley and the Ozark Mountains to the north. A park trail provides access to the state’s high point.
From Mt. Magazine, the byway descends more than 2,300 feet to the town of Paris, passing the picturesque Cove Lake on the way. The byway leads through downtown Paris, which played a key role in Arkansas’s former coal mining region. North of Paris, the byway travels through rolling pastureland and hayfields, dotted with hardwood shade trees and occasional natural gas wells.
The mountain gets its name from when French explorers were travelling through the area and a landslide occurred on the mountain. The noise from the landslide was so great that one explorer described it as the sound of an ammunition magazine exploding. The explorers then named the mountain Magazine. (Internet)
Who could resist such a tranquil, serene setting?
Officially opening in the spring of 2002, Mt. Magazine was the culmination of many years of hard work by Arkansas State and County officials, as well as many private, concerned individuals and groups. Because of these individuals, my husband and I have enjoyed our last two Christmases at this mountaintop retreat.
The magnificent, 60-room Lodge is a work of art on the south bluff of Mt. Magazine, definitely a picture-perfect setting for all occasions. Each room’s balcony offers spectacular views from the bluff, in particular sunrises and sunsets over the Ozark Mountain range. The construction of this beautiful five-story lodge took over 30 years to rebuild; the first arson-set building burned in the 1970’s. Educational panels lining the Lodge’s downstairs hallway focused on pioneering stories and the natural history of the area. Massive, rustic-style pinewood columns and chair railings lined the hallways; forest-oriented images hung on the walls throughout the facility; soothing, mellow colored walls graced individual rooms and open areas; and the floor-to-ceiling windows provided spectacular views overlooking the Petit Jean River valley. Also, thirteen cabins carry forward the lodging tradition that has been part of the recreational legacy of Mt. Magazine since 1900.
Whether spending time in this special mountainous get-away is experienced indoors or outdoors, an extended visit to the Mt. Magazine State Park a must addition to any travel itinerary.
In addition to the beautiful facility and the spectacular views was the helpful and friendly staff. Each employee conveyed their assistance and kindness in so many ways, from meticulously dressing the Christmas dessert tables to friendly conversations over a cup of tea in the Skycrest Restaurant. We definitely felt welcomed during both of our Christmas visits, wrapped in the warmth of Southern Hospitality, towering above the mostly fog-covered river valley below.
Our two stays at Mt. Magazine may have been of equal meaningfulness, but the weather conditions opposite. Ascending the winding, almost completely ice-covered, ten-mile entrance road on December 23, 2010 required a bit of skill. Rain had begun around Little Rock with temperatures dramatically falling as we approached Mt. Magazine two hours later. Nearing the over 2,700-foot mountain peak last year, we eventually emerged through the dense cloud cover a bit frazzled but thankful for the safe icy experience. A crystal winter wonderland—glistening ice cycles dangling from treeless branches—awaited our arrival at the Lodge. Two days later we walked through a forest of hoarfrost while hiking to Signal Point, yet another white fantasy experience. I will never forget the crackling of ice as we tromped through the woods on December 25, 2010.
The brisk but mild weather conditions less dramatic this year, but the one sunrise and two sunsets more than made up for Christmas 2010’s dramatic, photographic ice formations and hoarfrost creations.
“Look at that!” my husband exclaimed as he flung open the draperies in room #219 at 7:20 a.m. on December 24, 2011.
Have you ever seen two excited but totally unprepared photographers scrambling through camera bags in a dimly lit room—in their pajamas—jostling lenses, lens caps, and other camera equipment? It was a sight considering I wasn’t really quite sure what I had heard when jolted from a deep sleep or what I was supposed to be doing. Although, I do remember not long before my husband’s frantic morning wake-up call asking the Lord to reveal to me exactly what He wanted me to photograph this time while at Mt. Magazine. In 2010 hoarfrost and ice creations dominated our outdoor photography sessions..this year, what?
The Lord’s answer came just seconds after darting through the opened sliding glass door and peaking from the balcony and over the white shrouded valley, black mountain tips jutting upward along the horizon. The spectacular sunrise over cloud-shrouded valley and mountains was enough incentive to endure 30 minutes of chilly sunrise photography. Inadequately clad: no shoes, gloves, coat, headgear, robe—only pajamas and socks. It was a bit of a chilling photography experience as I squatted on the cold concrete slab and shot image after image between metal rungs, leaned heavily on banister posts for both camera and personal stability, or even at one point as I lay nearly prostrated and photographed the valley view from below the bottom banister rail—all in an attempt to capture the luring sunrise scene just above the cloud-covered Ozark Mountains. The three balcony posts were also used as tripods while panning the ever-changing, endless horizon or valley below, and when tilting the camera lens for a better angle. Since we were above the layered cloud cover, there were times when I felt I was photographing from an airplane window.
Time is of the essence when photographing any twilight scene, but a little common sense would have gone a long ways for a more comfortable photography shoot and less exposure to the elements.
Finally, with red-tipped nose and ears and toes that refused to bend, I reluctantly retreated from my balcony perch, unclenched my frozen fingers from the camera, and slowly crawled beneath the warm covers for a thawing. My husband photographed a few twilight images every now and then over the 30-minute span, occasionally jutting onto the balcony. However, by the end of my obsessive photo shoot, an additional 400 sunrise images had been added to my ever growing twilight photography collection. Granted, only a few will withstand the inevitable click of delete, but no one can erase any of these images from the recesses of my mind. What a phenomenal moment with the Lord and His creation on Christmas Eve Day 2011.
Two subsequent sunsets gained my undivided attention also before departing the rustic retreat above the clouds on December 26. I have a dream—a fantasy if you will—of living out my life in such a serene, peaceful setting like Mt. Magazine State Park. Photographing nature’s best, writing matching stories, and living peacefully with Creator and creation—my dream.
For anyone who is an historical buff, you might be interested in reading more about Mt. Magazine at the following website: http://www.mountmagazinestatepark.com/lodge-cabins-restaurant/lodge-at-mount-magazine.aspx
Additional images from either of these two Christmas mountain visits to the Natural State can be found at www.corinthrose.com under Feature or Travel. Better yet, you can click on the above tab, Cheryl’s Digital Photography, and be there immediately.
However you get my website, stay awhile and be at peace. Thanks for allowing me to share a bit of me with you.