NCIS Eureka

The other morning in town I stopped at the bakery next to Harts. Walking up to the counter I passed a tall gentleman wearing a blue ball cap that said, “NCIS Eureka.” While ordering one of those ham and cheese deals that tastes so good, I started wondering about the hat. While ordering stuffed muffins to hand out to the kids, I decided I would ask the tall man where he had acquired the cap and wondered if I might mention to him that my father had worked for the precursor organization to NCIS for several years. The man had been standing next to the tables where locals frequently gather for morning coffee and conversation, but he was gone when I turned around. Exiting the air conditioning into the humid warmth, I scanned the sidewalk and parking lot knowing that the overwhelming odds were that he was just a fan of the popular television franchise and not a retired special agent or whatever, but I wished I could have made sure.

Hiking Black Bass Lake

Black Bass Lake is the old city reservoir of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

These buildings and signs are reminders of this pretty little lake’s history.

The old crumbling rock dam is an interesting sight.

I followed the trail that hugs the lake for nearly a mile.

It is a pretty hike with several interesting features, including this spring.

I enjoyed looking at the trees during my jaunt. Notable were several majestic mature cedars of surprising height. I also spotted this crooked tree.

There were a couple of well maintained foot bridges across dry creeks that returned me to my point of beginning. I’ll have to return when the water is running.

Woolly Hollow State Park

woolly hollow sign

We recently had opportunity to enjoy a short visit to Woolly Hollow State Park near Greenbrier, Arkansas in the foothills of the Ozarks. The 440-acre park is spread across more of a valley than a hollow (to my eyes) but was picturesque country nonetheless. I assumed that the name Woolly had some connection to sheep, but I was wrong. Instead, it is the surname of a pioneering family that came to the area from Tennessee in the early 1850s.

woolly cabin

A highlight of the park is the rustic and historic Woolly Cabin.

woolly hollow state park mapSince the summer season was over, some activities at the state park were curtailed. For instance, the swimming beach on 40-acre Lake Bennett was closed and deserted, as was the snack bar. The lake also has a marina with boat rentals. We did spend a few minutes perusing the small gift shop in the park’s headquarters building shortly before it closed for the day. Had we more time we could have enjoyed the many miles of hiking trails available or spent the night in the campground.

Almost to Wemyss Castle via Google Earth

Rested up from my earlier jaunt to Gosford House, I return to Scotland for another look around. I start out in a village in Fife called the Coaltown of Wemyss looking for the road that would lead me to Wemyss Castle. Below is an aerial shot of the area. Isn’t it lovely? Click on it and it will enlarge.

The main road through the Coaltown of Wemyss is the A955. I follow it looking for a turnoff to the south that might lead to the home of the current Wemyss of Wemyss. This small road looks like a good candidate. As you see, it is a beautiful day. Perhaps I can stop and ask the person with the dog for some directions.

I make the mistake of trying to read the map and drive at the same time and come a bit too close to the black dog. I find myself wanting to drive on the right side of the road, like in the Ozarks, when I should be on the left. Embarrassed after swerving to miss the dog, I do not stop to ask directions from the gentleman out for a leisurely walk.

I was looking at the map because I wanted to know the name of this small road. I still am not sure what to call it, but it is a nice drive through the grounds of the Wemyss Estate with the sheep and pastures. I wonder if they get a good price for the wool.

I follow this for nearly half a mile when I reach a fork in the road. I take the one more traveled and come to a collection of stone buildings.

Or as seen from above.

Although I see some impressive stonework, I don’t think I have found the castle. Instead, I think it is the outbuildings involved in the estate’s farming operations.

I do notice the swans, a symbol of the Wemyss family.

My exploring triggers an uncomfortable sensation of trespassing and I think I should probably head back the way I have come. When I turn I see a quaint cottage and what may be as beautiful a tree as I have ever seen.

Maybe I am a bit disappointed that I haven’t found Wemyss Castle, but at the same time I realize it is a private residence and perhaps I have snooped around enough. I can always look at photographs of it on the internet. I follow the road back toward the Coaltown of Wemyss.

I pass a row of pretty cottages and wave at the man and his dog and turn back onto the A955 and continue my journey.


A Quick Jaunt to Gosford House via Google Earth

As you know, travelling to Scotland from the Ozarks is quicker and cheaper via Google Earth than actually going there in person. Today I had the inclination to check in on the 13th Earl of Wemyss at his Scottish home of Gosford House. I’m told the new Earl actually lives in England, but I was more in the mood to see Scotland. Gosford House and the 5,000 acre estate are located about 20 miles east of Edinburgh. When I arrived at the closed gate, I realized I wasn’t getting in today.

Gosford House, Scotland

The Earl of Wemyss is not to be confused with the Wemyss of Wemyss located at Wemyss Castle. Wemyss Castle is located just across the Firth of Forth from the gate of Gosford House. Turning around, I can look out across the Firth of Forth (where the River Forth drains into the North Sea) and see the distant shore of the Kingdom of Fife. Look at that glowering sky. Click on the image below to see it larger. Go ahead, try it.

Firth of Forth from Gosford House


Pilot Knob Conservation Area

I had occasion to visit the 1,360 acre Pilot Knob Conservation Area near Carr Lane, Missouri. I hiked a portion of the winding 2.7-mile trail on a cold and blustery day (nearby Berryville, Arkansas recorded 47 mile per hour wind gusts.) What I saw was beautiful, but similar to the hillsides and hilltops here in and around the hollow, with big trees and rocky outcroppings. Under a crossing overhead power line I noticed a couple of fields of turnips and lots of signs (scat) of coyotes on the hiking trail. I wonder what species in particular the turnip food plots are for?

Ninety percent of the Pilot Knob Conservation Area is forested, while the remaining bits are Ozark glades or glade restoration projects. Ozark glades are naturally occurring savannah-like openings in the forest, where the specialized habitat allows certain species to flourish. The glades I am familiar with are very rocky and dry, almost like a desert, with species you might expect only in the desert, such as prickly-pear cactus, scorpions, tarantulas and lots of lizards and butterflies. I am sure there is more to it, but that is my impression from the local glades I have seen. Like other openings, Ozark glades are often overrun by that aromatic but invasive bully, the Eastern Red Cedar. Ozark glades in a natural state would burn off periodically, keeping the ambitious red cedar in check.

The glade restoration project I saw in the Pilot Knob Conservation Area seemed to be just passed the stage of opening up the forest with cutting, bulldozing and burning, leaving big oaks thinly spaced. I wonder if they’ll do much planting of glade grasses and wildflowers and such? Obviously, restoring an Ozark glade to its natural state will take awhile to get right. Interesting.

The Coaltown of Wemyss

I recently embarked on a tour of the Coaltown of Wemyss, a Scottish village in Fife. How did I do this, you ask, without even leaving the hollow I call home? Simple, I took advantage of the Street View function on Google Maps, a quick and easy (and cheap) way to cyber-travel. Long ago I crossed the Forth Rail Bridge going north out of Edinburgh and was not that many miles from the Coaltown of Wemyss, but did not then know of it’s existence.

Here is an aerial view of the Coaltown of Wemyss, courtesy of Google Maps. As you can see, it is quite neat and attractive…and not too large. The last estimate I saw put the population at 590.

If you come from Dysart or Kirkcaldy to the west on the A955, this is what greets you upon arrival. Watch your speed, the limit is 20 mph.

If you follow this route, you will see on your left in the center of the village the Primary School. Attendance at this school is approximately 70 students from both the Coaltown of Wemyss and the smaller West Wemyss.

There are several side streets to explore on both the left and right before reaching the eastern end of the village. The A955 continues on to the larger village of East Wemyss and then Buckhaven.

If instead of coming from Kirkcaldy you arrived on the eastern end of the Coaltown of Wemyss, this is what you would see.

Ahead on the right you see the Earl David Hotel. If you plan to stay the night in the Coaltown of Wemyss, this is where you would book your room.

The Earl David Hotel is named for an Earl of Wemyss who happened to have the name David. It has six guest rooms, serves breakfast and has a bar. Or is it a pub?

My understanding is that the Coaltown of Wemyss dates back to at least 1645, so this village has some history. As the name indicates, this place has long been associated with coal mining which was once the area’s main industry. Interesting for a place of this size, I read that there has never been a church in the Coaltown of Wemyss.

Time to return to the hollow. I hope you enjoyed this quick drive through the Coaltown of Wemyss.