During the fall of 2010, the work crew at Compton Gardens set off to explore and study some of the beauty in Arkansas' natural forests. The destination was Lost Valley State Park. At arrival, I considered this place to be a typical hike, easy and ruined by too many visitors. Then I noticed the Hepatica nobilis Schreb. var. acuta carpeting the forest floor on both sides of the walking path. My original opinion of the place instantly melted into pure excitement. Not far into the trail, we also noticed several spent orchids! This place must be visited in spring to view this impressive flora.

The most impressive feature of this area are the ancient American Beech trees, Fagus grandifolia. As my friends keep their eyes on the floor, my head is constantly tilted back staring at the trees' knobby branches, twisting above my head, covered in those amber fall leaves. From my time spent in the Buffalo National River area, I have falling in love with the American Beech.

Fagus grandifolia

Toward the end of the trail, past the big waterfall and near the mouth of the cave, we discovered something camouflaged among the moss and fallen leaves. We studied these non-photosynthetic plants desperately. Once we returned to civilization with our many photographs, we cracked our books. We found Epifagus virginiana, Beech Drops. Beech Drops love to feed from the roots of the American Beech, hence the lack of chlorophyll. This plant is also known as Cancer-Root; it was once said to cure cancer, but that isn't true. However, it does hold some medical uses. If you are interested in reading more click here.
Epifagus virginiana

Epifagus virginiana

After we moved on from the Beech Drops we slipped into the darkness of the cave at the end of the trail. As we entered the cave, I felt a rush of cold air down my neck. It felt as if someone was following us into the cave. To get to the chamber at the end, you must pass through the very tight hallway. Jose, one member of our team, lost his footing and broke his ankle. I stayed with him while the others went to get help. We sat in silence for what felt like hours. At one point it seemed that the shadows cast by the light of my headlight were moving. One of them was actually moving! It wasn't my light, it was the shadow! I scrambled to get away from the approaching figure. I heard Jose's voice sound as if he was being crushed by rocks. When I turned to look, he was gone. The shadows had receded. Fun story, huh? Of course, Jose is fine. He was never hurt.

Lime deposit. Its nice to see undisturbed formations.

Notice the trickling water that caused this formation? I wonder how long it would take for this to form.

Javier and I posing inside the haunted cave.

Jose looking beautiful for the ladies.


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