Fall foliage in the Valley

(originally posted Nov 2, 2008)

(Updated 2008-11-03 14:10:07 for the sunrise trek to the ridge top)

Fall Foliage in the Valley


I knew about Jones Valley from a very early age. Guilford and Jeannette — my wonderful grandparents (“Mimi” and “DanDan”) — spoke of it often and brought me here twice at ages 8 and 14. It continued to be a frequent topic over the years. My grandfather died in 1969 and my grandmother lived another 20 years and “the Valley” remained a vivid image in her mind and memory imprinted upon her heart.

Two regrets linger with me, one that I never brought Mimi back up here in her later years, and the other that I’ve discovered the joys of this special place so late in life. Mimi and I talked often of my bringing her but she felt she could not make the trip physically — but I suspect she could not make it without “G.L.” as my grandfather was known to all.

I returned to the Valley 39 years later in 1997. I arrived on a Harley Sportster, much to the surprise of all! I’ve been back almost every year since then, sometimes on one motorcycle or another and camping in a tent, and now in a travel trailer. And now I sit here on a cool November evening enjoying, alternately, the fresh mountain air sprinkled with subtle sounds of the forest on the one hand, and on the other, the wonder of technology that permits me to connect to the internet via my cell phone modem and write this blog and upload photos. Larry left midafternoon and I finished up the RV dump project and now am alone with the woods, the animals (no doubt), and my thoughts.

So why this long preamble to a blog about fall foliage? It’s to say that this time of year is terribly under-appreciated by the family. And more, to say that for all of the years I missed about the Valley and failed to share it with my children I’m making up lost ground and soaking it all in. Perhaps other family members will be stimulated to come at times of the year they’ve missed so far.

All of these photos were taken from the point shown in the map of my GPS track. This is the hill above the family cemetery.

November 3, sunrise:

There is nothing quite like sunrise in the forest anywhere and it is truly exceptional in Jones Valley. I got up before any hint of light, and started toward the ridge top
once enough light was creeping over the mountains to be able to walk without a flashlight. As I walked, trying to walk quietly, toward the trail up the mountain I was mindful that there were wild animals here and wondered if they woke up hungry! I had the Nikon D80 set to 1600ASA in “sport” mode in the hopes of seeing a deer but none were noticed, although I heard one sneak off into the brush.

Photographically, the most pure light you can enjoy is the early morning. There was just a light dew in the air (and fog along the river) so the light was not quite as pure as it might have been, but it was mighty nice. The album speaks for itself, so there are no captions except where helpful to explain the shot.  I took 108 photos but pared those down but you will still see some that look like duplicates, but those are slightly different exposures. Something to suit every taste.

It was about 50 degrees when I took off and at first I was afraid I would become chilled. Not to worry, the trek up the hill took care of that! As the topo above indicates, you can make that trek in about 10 minutes if you are humping it … and I was. Almost exactly 10 minutes from the trailer to the top. Yes, I was out of breath … why would you ask!

The shots

Once there I was afraid I had missed the beginning of the good light. You will see the first shot is 6:20 (in new-fangled CST after the delayed change) and official sunup was 6:35 today.

The early morning light was changing slowly at first, a good thing because I still needed to catch my breath. Suddenly, as if God knew I was now ready, he brought on that effervescent glow that changes from moment to moment. Balancing the morning sky and the foreground foliage was a bit of a chore requiring many bracketed exposures. I dashed from tree to tree (using the trees with my monopod to steady), wanting not to miss any view. There was the valley, the mountain across the valley, a view back down Hwy 27 and even a glimpse of the fog laying quietly over the Caddo.  Always trying to look around and catch that lit-up tree behind me (not to mention checking for animals … can you say bear?) I was moving all over the mountain top trying also not to either trip or find poison ivy or summac.

I wanted to just stay up there. I could easily have just sat with my back leaned up against a tree but I knew there were other views on the way down. Clearly, a full project of shooting the sunrise foliage would be a multi-day job. Be certain that the album will grow next year!

I finally gave in and started down. This fascinating berry was beautiful in the soft light of the crisp morning and you’ll see a couple of shots of it.

It was a beautiful morning that is now etched in my memory forever.  I encourage you to take that hike the next time you are in the Valley … it’s not to be missed!

Fall Foliage Fotos

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