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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - APRIL 2010, PART A (1-15th) Journal Archives

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Cloudland Cabin Cam, April 15, 7:21am - lovely morning in the wilderness - some clouds creeping in - yippie!

Updated Wednesday night the 14th - tired dogs

04/01/10 It is very quiet outside early this morning - no wind, birds, or frogs, just the melodic rhythm of the Buffalo River rolling on downstream that is floating up from far below the cabin. The sky is quiet too, hushed tones of pinks and blues all around. And the moon hangs in the southwestern sky looking down on it all. In fact that old moon is way far in the south this morning, and it looks as if it might set behind the Buffalo fire tower, although I'm sure it will be to the north of it when it finally reaches the horizon. I don't recall ever seeing the moon set directly behind the fire tower.

Yesterday was POP day up here on Cave Mountain - wildflowers and popcorn trees burst out of their winter hiding places and added a level of brightness to the landscape that was only matched by snow this past few months. I think that is one of the reasons why we all love the coming of springtime so much - vivid colors really liven up the monotone landscape, even if those colors are mostly just white.

During a short hike I took yesterday while crossing a wide level bench I looked up and was stopped in my tracks - the forest floor was covered with wildflowers as far as I could see in all directions - there was not a single square foot of the forest that did not have toothwort flowers growing and in full bloom. Never seen it covered like this before!

And for the first time I can confirm which tree is the state champion popcorn tree - it was not the one I had pointed out during the winter when I first learned of this, but rather the tree three doors down. It is a tall specimen, although was damaged by the ice storm last year, and the base is larger than I can put my hands around - serviceberry/popcorn trees are fairly small trees and no one would ever mistake this tree to be a champion until they learned the species. Actually the popcorn tree that lives just outside the window a few feet from here is nearly as big around at the base, but I don't think it is as tall as the champion tree. I can see at least eight popcorn trees around the cabin this morning that are in full bloom.

Speaking of trees, the forest around the cabin is beginning to take on the pink hues of the horizon skyline now, and the greys and browns of the trees are turning pink as the sun just begins to peek over the ridgeline in the east. Looks like a classic early spring day in the Ozarks is upon us - too bad we only have 30 days in April, the greatest season on earth!

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April 2010 Print of the Month This is an image that I took last week while out chasing waterfalls. The intense green color of the moss-covered boulders and the dancing waters led me on up the steep hillside - and to a beautiful waterfall at the top!

After the sun rose above the eastern ridgetop and lit up the big popcorn tree that grows along the top of the bluffline directly to the east of the cabin (and DOWNHILL about a thousand feet - it is only about 75 feet below, but it seems like a lot more!), I went down to take a photo of the popcorn tree. This hillside is just about as steep as you can get without it being bluff, and it is one of those places where you have to go from tree to tree since you can't stand up on your own. Aspen only made it down to the first little depression, while Lucy followed me almost all the way down, but she also stopped and sat in the morning sunshine and let me continue the rest of the way. It was not until I had reached the top of the bluffline and started taking pictures that I looked around and realized that the Trail Cat was sitting on a rock right beside me! Good kitty.

There was a great deal of ice storm damage down near the bluffline. The popcorn tree was not damaged, but there was a giant tree that had fallen right next to it - creating a big hole in the earth - and one of the limbs landed on the main trunk of the popcorn tree. I guess we'll continue to see ice storm damage in the Ozarks for many years to come.

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04/02/10 My lovely bride and I were forced to take off work yesterday afternoon and try out our sea legs, and also to see if my wounded wing would be able to handle a canoe. It was warm (81!), and WINDY, and the waters of the Buffalo River were as beautiful as I'd ever seen them. It is easy to understand why so many people love to come float this river - there is nothing like getting right on the water to soak it all in (literally), and I don't know of anyplace else where you can drift at the base of such lovely towering painted limestone bluffs.

We only floated a short distance (had a softball game to get to in town, and could not leave until all the work was done at the cabin), but it was a great time spent on the river - as all time is. Aspen did not act as he normally does - always hanging over the side of the boat and wanting to jump in and chase fish - instead he was quite happy to just sit in the bow and enjoy the scenery. Lucy on the other hand, was just like her old self - she does NOT like the water, and spent most of her time looking for a way to shore! She did abandon ship right at the beginning of a long rapid, but I think she got wetter than if she had just stayed in the boat!

I realized that these neat canoe/kayaks that we bought last year are really not all that good for river travel - every little rapid will splash water into the boat since they sit so low in the water. These double-hull boats are very stable, but flat water is where they need to be used, and there I can see none better. But not for whitewater.

I was reminded every inch of the way that my wounded wing had not completely healed, and I think it was more loading and unloading the boats that caused the grief than paddling. I'll give it another long rest before trying that again.

REDBUDS are just now beginning to appear - about a month late, but better late than never! And yesterday evening as I was putting the Ray Scott Memorial Outdoor Shower back into service for the season, I noticed that the beautiful dogwood tree that guards my shower had tiny white petals on it - dogwoods blooming early this year perhaps? Another week of sunshine and I suspect this tree will be blooming. While it is late in coming, I think springtime will be just incredible, as it always is!

Our lovely daughter is going to her first prom tomorrow, and then her second next weekend (her boyfriend goes to another school, hence two different proms). Oh my goodness, you should see her in her prom dress!!! I am not at liberty to show photographs of her online so you will just have to imagine, but I've never seen such a spectacular blue dress on anyone - she looks just like her momma! This is a classic case of the person making the outfit - it is a simple blue dress with classic lines and nothing fancy, yet the young lady wearing it has created a stunning look, oh my....

We continue to have HOWLING WIND, all night, all day. Looks like it might bring a little bit of rain tonight, but then nothing for another week - that will make the wildflowers and blooming trees really pop. But then, please, could we have a foot of rain? You know the routine - rain dances please?

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04/03/10 It is late tonight and I'm running on fumes already so this will be a short post. When the alarm went off at 5 this morning I was a little shocked to see how BRIGHT it was outside! The moon was standing high in the southern sky and its beams were being reflected back up at me from a sea of pure white clouds below that blanketed the wilderness. Above this blanket rose many black ridgetops, all reaching for a star-studded sky.

I quickly downed a cup of java and ran out the door, then drove an hour or two and parked my car down in the bottom of that big blanket. My plan for the day was to bushwhack along the base of a really neat bluffline in hopes of finding several new waterfalls that I had marked on a topo map - solid bluffline plus a side could only mean one thing - a waterfall! And just for fun I took along my little movie camera - in fact that was the only camera I had in my pack since the batteries in my normal waterfall-hunting camera were dead, and I left my big camera in the car.

Well, I got to spend plenty of time exploring a new-to-me bluffline, and I discovered a whole host of neat geological features including stone arches, pillars, a SLOT CANYON, and just spectacular bluffs - but no great waterfalls! So I crossed the creek and headed up the other side to the matching bluffline up there, and I immediately had better luck with waterfalls, but also found an incredible playground of house-sized boulders all scattered about. I also discovered that everything underfoot for the rest of my bushwhack would be BLACK - they set a large forest fire and burned the entire area - although as it turned out, since the inch of rain we had overnight washed a lot of the smoke and fire away, it was not too bad. I started finding more waterfalls - some I had planned to find and some that were total surprises.

The last waterfall of the hike was a spectacular 67 foot tall one - and it was within 100 yards of the road! But by that time I was physically exhausted and pretty dehydrated - I just can't carry enough water to suit me while on one of these extreme bushwhacks. Add to that the fact that while the road back to my car was only 100 yards away, there was also a tall bluff in the way - I hiked a couple of miles looking for a way down before finding one.

Oh yes, and just before the end of my bushwhack, I discovered a large and beautiful waterfall - a mile away on the other side of the big river I was near, with no way to get over to it! But I vowed I WOULD find this new waterfall, although it would have to wait for another day (tomorrow).

I swallowed a handful of pills and drank two liters of water when I finally got back to the truck, stripped off my wet clothes, and motored on to find another waterfall - this one just off of Hwy. 7 near the little community of Cowell. It turned out to be a piece of cake - only about 1/4 mile from the parking spot and not too bad of a bushwhack, and the waterfall was actually TALLER than I had been told - almost never the case! This one came out to nearly 50 feet tall! (Thanks for the tip Randy!)

OK, I was done for the day, then sped onto Jasper to visit briefly with our daughter and her man - who had gathered at Granny's house before heading out to their first prom. Then my lovely bride and her parents spent the next hour at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper celebrating Pam's dad's birthday - it was the first food I had eaten all day! We really wanted to say for the live entertainment that they have each Saturday night there (Friday night too), but I just had to get home and recycle.

My plans are to head out of here early in the morning with hopes to go find that new waterfall that I spotted from a mile away - I have a plan.

In the meantime, it appears that I filmed more than an hour of movie clips during my long bushwhack today - which covered 10.4 miles and took nearly eight hours - no wonder I was exhausted, starving, and dehydrated. I don't know if any of this movie footage will ever see the light of day, but if it does you will be the first to know!

Hope ALL of you have been able to get out and enjoy this amazing spring that is taking place in Arkansas right now. Quite literally, the forest up here turned green while I stood there and watched. The mountains have taken on a fuzzy, soft appearance in just a single day of bright sunshine - seems like all the trees have begun to leaf out, which is EARLY for most of them! More rain please.....

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Lonesome Hollow Falls

04/04/10 Best laid plans of mice and men, again....I had a great plan early this morning for getting into an area where I could locate a great waterfall that I had seen a mile away yesterday from high atop a bluff. Of course, I knew a short cut. But when I arrived at the "ford" of a big river, I discovered it to be quite flooded, and dangerous looking, so I chickened out. I turned around and headed for a second short cut and ran smack into a major landslide that had taken out part of the 4WD road I was one. Foiled again! The sun was rising by this time and it was obvious I was not going to be able to discover this new waterfall before bright sunshine ruined the scene, so I went to plan C, which was to hike to a couple of big waterfalls that I had found yesterday but had not photographed - I could get to them before the sun hit them.

That all went off as planned with one little hitch - water levels had fallen to about HALF of what they were yesterday, mostly due to the forest all around coming to LIFE and sucking up all that water runoff! Oh well, these are mostly "moon landing" photos - I can use them in the guidebook update next year if I can't get anything better!

I returned to the flooded river crossing, just in case, but chickened out once again, and ended up driving about 30 miles around just to make it a couple of miles away. Oh well.

I parked the car at a point on the map that I had selected very late last night as being a good point to start my search for this new big waterfall, and within ten minutes I was standing at the top of a really nice waterfall that was about 40 feet tall - that was a good sign. Even though the bright sunshine was horrible, being in "moon landing" mode I took some photos just in case. A few minutes later I came to the top of the BIG waterfall that I had spotted yesterday - yes indeed, it was impressive at nearly 70 feet tall!

It took me a while to find a way down through the massive sandstone bluff - the largest I had seen in the area - but as luck would have it there was yet another great waterfall right next to this "go down" spot, and so I took more photos. Then I worked my way along the base of the giant bluff back to the base of the big waterfall. It was quite lovely with an emerald pool that had been formed by several giant chunks of the bluff that had broken off and come to rest, forming a bowl at the base of the waterfall. I spent about an hour at this spot, taking pictures, resting up, and just enjoying the amazing beauty of the place. This is one of the most scenic waterfalls I'd seen this year - a photo on a bright sunny day does not do much for it, but at least I got a moon landing shot, just in case (the one on the left with me in yellow).

I spent the next hour playing around at the base of the same big bluff, working my way towards what I hoped might be more waterfalls. The bluffline was taller then the long one yesterday, but it did not have nearly the geological stuff of interest - just very tall sheer rock. By the time I had reached the farthest I wanted to go on the bluff, there was a nice GREEN waterfall there, but it was not too tall. My plan was to hike on up through the bluff at that point and follow that drainage all the way back up on top to my car - AND luck was on my side and I was able to get up on top of the bluff there with no problem. But I was EXHAUSTED by this time, dehydrated, and also baked a little bit by the hot sun. I'm a shade worshiper and don't like these sunny days much!

The hillside above me was little more than a bluff with a dirt floor - nearly STRAIGHT UP!!! The hillside was also covered with a forest of tiny beech trees - what seemed like millions of them. All had just lost their leaves in the past day or two, and so there was a pile of fresh and very SLICK beech leaves covering the hillside. The tread on my boots was of little use, and I spent most of my time pulling myself from small tree to small tree since I had about zero traction in all those fresh leaves. I laid down more than once to huff and puff, and to see if I could wake myself up from this nightmare!

*Beech trees keep their leaves in the fall, and a forest of glowing bronze beech leaves on a chilly winter day is a welcome sight! In the sprintime as new leaves are being born, they push the old leaves off, so we kind of have a second "leaf off" period in the spring to go with the rest of the forest in the fall.

There were several smaller waterfalls and lots of nice cascades, tumbling over moss-covered rocks. But I was just too tired to enjoy them, and in fact I eventually moved away from the creek to seek easier terrain - I did not find much! There as one larger waterfall that I just got a glimpse of, but was not in the mood. Another hour later I finally hit easier hiking, and made it back to my car. I could have ran down to the big waterfall and back up within an hour for sure, but the way I went today it took me about six hours to complete a loop.

Just as I began to drive away from my parking spot to head home, clouds moved in. I've heard a new forecast is calling for rain tonight - that would be GREAT, except for the fact that I have an appointment for someone to come bay mid-morning to look at the gallery. Too late to cancel now. I'm hoping we end up with several days of rain today - I still have DOZENS of new waterfalls to go discover and explore!

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04/06/10 One of the very best things about my outdoor shower is the fact that when I first turn it on it always smells like RAIN! I don't know why. But it is great. And, of course, right now there is a blooming dogwood tree draped over the entire setup, plus a bright redbud tree just a few feet away that has come on strong in the past couple of days. In fact we have a great REDBUD display going on right now, along with popcorn trees and wild plum trees - all at their peak in the Ozarks right now. There are a few dogwoods just starting to bloom, but like the one above my shower, they are starting off green as usual. The only problem with the dogwoods opening up so early is the fact that the rest of the forest is beginning to green up a bit early too - I prefer to have the dogwoods in bloom BEFORE the forest gets their new spring dresses on.

It is HOWLING out here late tonight, just like it has for the past several days and nights. Not a drop of rain though in a while. Rain dances please....

The dogs and I headed out this afternoon to explore a brand new area that was supposed to have a nice waterfall in it. Just a short hike in and out. Only the hike in was DOWN a very steep hillside that was covered with ice storm debris - I know I sound like a broken record but it was some of the worst. I think even the dogs were surprised at how difficult it was for them to get through. But as soon as we hit the first bluffline the landscape turned into magic. No downed trees, a beautiful bluff to follow, and WATER! There was not a lot of water, but we found one, two, and three waterfalls quickly that were running OK - one of them was pouring over a giant bluff overhang that went far back into the hillside. Since the sun was out I did not bother to take anything but a snapshot camera with me.

I wanted to explore more, and so we followed the bluffline across the creek and along the opposite hillside, and were rewarded with finding a brand new TWIN FALLS where another small drainage poured over the bluff. Below this was a jumble of giant boulders, but it appeared that the creek was having a great time jumping from one boulder to the next. Aspen was a bit confused about where to go, but Lucy helped show both of us the way.CLOUDLAND

We returned down to the main creek and followed it downstream a bit and found more giant boulders, small cascades of whitewater, and emerald pools - Aspen especially liked the pools. Lucy and I sat down on the creek and watched him swim, and soaked up all the great beauty. You know, this area was not the most splendid spot in the country, but it was all quite beautiful and I could have stayed there all day - especially if clouds moved in and I had my big camera! That is one of the great things about Arkansas - we have a ton of "intimate beauty" that is just about everywhere - and no crowds to share it with. I bet less than a dozen people had been though this little valley in 20 years. I would certainly come back when there was more water and a cloudy day.

BUT FIRST, we had more exploring to do! Looking at the map I noticed a couple of other side drainages that I wanted to explore - one on the opposite side and one that would actually be along a good route back to the car, making a nice loop hike. So onward we went, following the main creek downstream past more giant moss-covered boulders, singing cascades, and emerald pools.

Eventually we got to where we could no longer follow the creek and were forced up onto a very steep hillside - in fact another bluffline had formed that we had to climb on top of. It was very easy hiking up there - mostly level - but as I normally do I had to hike along the outer edge of this level bench where I could see down into the creek just to see what was going on down there. At one point I could see a dark area - in fact the creek seemed to disappear into the black hole - I HAD to get down there and see what was going on!

Lucy showed me the way down through the craggy bluffline, and soon I was standing on top of a giant boulder right in the middle of the creek - it was one of the most beautiful little spots I'd seen in a very long time - oh my goodness! There were two small waterfalls upstream as the creek led into a twisting canyon that was blocked by a house-sized boulder on one side. On the opposite side there was a GIANT sycamore tree that arched out over the creek and was leaning on the very top of the giant boulder. Just downstream were more boulders, and I was standing on top of one of those. Directly in front of me - and in between the sycamore and giant boulder - was a great waterfall - a "fan" waterfall where the creek spreads out as it goes over the boulder. The falls was only 10-12 feet tall, but the fan was really wide, and it all poured into one of those emerald pools that was so deep I could not see the bottom of.

The dogs realized the magnitude of this little spot and just sat down on top of a nearby boulder and looked around - somehow they realized I was not going anywhere for at least a couple of minutes.

Just downstream of our position the creek poured off of another boulder and my passage was blocked - I knew there had to be a waterfall down there but I could not see it. When the time came to leave this little paradise we had to climb back up the steep hillside through the bluff and hike along up above for several hundred yards before Lucy found another way back down to the creek. Then we splashed back upstream to the base of the hidden waterfall - gorgeous, of course!

Without warning I found another waterfall - a pretty nice 30 foot tall or more one that was within 100 yards of the main creek. And then I spotted one of the side drainages that I wanted to go explore.

But first we had to climb up to and through an odd rock formation. The bluffline had become a narrow ridge in between two drainages, and the bluff had broken down into many giant blocks of sandstone, with smaller blocks in between - this was all right at the top of the ridgeline, kind of like a Mohawk haircut. There was actually some space in the middle of it all - in fact I realized after looking around that humans had piled up flat rocks in many areas in there - trying to keep livestock in perhaps? Aspen had trouble getting into the center and I had to help him find his way in. And just as soon as we were all inside, we exited and headed down into the next side drainage.

We worked out way up into the next steep area - lots of whitewater cascades over bright green rocks. But I never did find a big waterfall, and so turned around and headed back down to the main creek. It was really flat on this part of the creek, and there had been a homestead there at one time - as evidenced by a nice rock wall that bordered the creek. Lots of great camping spots too!

The creek was large enough that I had trouble getting across with dry feet, but I did manage to do so, only to step in a mud hole a little while later and soaked one of my boots inside and out. Then we began the long and steep climb back up and out of this beautiful valley, only to come to one final waterfall - I just KNEW there had to be one up there, and it was one of the best of the day! I could not find a good way up through the bluffline above the waterfall, but did find one spot where I could lift the dogs up part way, then climb up myself and lift the dogs up to the next section - we all made it to the top just fine. Then it was a matter of FIGHTING the thick ice storm debris all the way back to the car. We were all very tired puppies and glad to be on the way home, although the memories of this beautiful place will remain for a while - at least until I return with my camera to make new memories!

ONLINE STORE NOTE: The server that runs out secure online store has been down all day today but is back up again tonight. We heard there are more than 23,000 storefronts on that server that went down. If you ever have trouble when trying to place an order online with us, you can always give us a call at 800-838-HIKE (4453). We recently switched to a new secure shopping cart system that is working out much better than ever, all thanks to my lovely bride!

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Are you tired of waterfalls yet? Sorry, I hope there will be LOTS more to come!

04/07/10 Another trip out today to find new waterfalls - a couple of snapshots below. I continue to be surprised how much water continue to flow, but this flow gets less every day - we REALLY need a good bit of rain - 3-5 inches would be about right. We have LOTS of redbuds, serviceberry, and wild plums blooming up in the Ozarks now, and most of the trees are on their way to leafing out. Dogwoods are coming along - soon the entire forest will be GREEN!

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04/09/10 I almost had to laugh, but I wanted to cry. I hit the ground running at 5am this morning, headed to a special place I've been exploring for the past couple of weeks (and also a couple of years ago). We were going to have simply TERRIBLE bright sunny skies all day, so my only hope to get any good photos was going to be if I shot the first hour of the day - this area is on the western side of a mountain and so would be in shadow the first hour or so. In case you have not been reading the Journal for years and years, bright sunshine is not good for my kind of photos.

After driving for an hour and a half I got all rigged up - which included putting on some special felt-soled wading shoes - and hiked towards what I had hoped would be one of the most amazing hours of shooting I'd ever experienced. The creek was filled with boulders of all sizes - from softball to car and on up to nearly apartment-sized boulders, all sitting right in the middle of the creek with thrashing whitewater all around. And since we had not had any rain in a few days, I knew the waters would be clean and pristine and beautiful, and EMERALD! And best of all, this really great area was very close to the car, yippie!

My heart sank to my knees when I stepped into a DRY creekbed - really, not a freaking drop of water anywhere in sight! In fact it looked like the middle of summer instead of the height of springtime. I hiked around a bit, started upstream in search of water, and went through empty pool to empty pool to empty pool. The boulders were just incredible, and it was almost fun trying to climb up and around and through all of them - but there was NO WATER!!!!! I was actually in a bit of stunned disbelief. The water was just here a WEEK ago!

I got to one place that showed a normal water line across several boulders, and then I set up my camera on a timer and ran and got into the photo - I'm six feet all, and you can see that normal water line FOUR FEET ABOVE my head! That meant the water had dropped at least ten feet in a week! It was like someone pulled the plug in a bathtub. I had been dreaming of this day, this hour, this moment, for several weeks, and just knew there were some terrific photos to be taken. Water was REQUIRED. I hiked on.

Finally I heard a trickle, and then a little rush. And I rushed on upstream, still wearing my special felt-soled wading shoes. There was water alright - it was coming from a tiny spring off to one side, and after the flow entered the creekbed, the water disappeared at my feet.

FINALLY, after I had hiked about a half mile upstream in the dry creekbed, some real water appeared. And it was clean and pristine and beautiful, and EMERALD (and blue in the shadows reflecting from the sky above)! I felt like I had gone from summer back into spring - the water was refreshing, and everything around me was lush and just the way I had wanted it to be. The only issue was that the big boulder fields were downstream. Oh well, it was an incredible sight anyway, and I would make the most of it, so I splashed on.

But by this time the sun had appeared and kind of messed things up. I don't like to shoot when the sun is alive, especially when moving water is involved. After having spent so much time getting ready and driving to this spot, I vowed to make something work visually, and so I went into creative mode and started to search for a good composition.

The stream was really nice, and the vegetation all around was brand new and fresh and backlit by the rising sun - that electric green color that I love so. But while scenes like this delight the eye and senses, it does not photograph too well, on film or with a digital camera. And then I got to thinking - one time many moons ago I stopped for a break while hiking, and almost as an afterthought I dug out my camera and took a snapshot of a scene that looked a lot like I was faced with today. That photograph was later selected by National Geographic and ran as a full page image in one of their publications. Hum, perhaps I need to rethink this terrible light thing! And so I did.

I spent the next couple of hours hiking upstream and taking pictures. The light was bad, but I decided I was just going to try to learn how to take a good picture anyway. I did find several suitable scenes and used some special techniques that I've been developing and saving for just such situations. Everything seemed to be working, so I was a happy camper!

And just when I was getting ready to turn around and head back home I realized that I was close to a very nice waterfall on one of the main side drainages, so I splashed my way on over to it - much to my surprise it was flowing quite nicely - about ten feet tall and at least that wide, with a lot of volume. But the harsh sunshine made it impossible to take a good photo from the front. So what the heck, I'll crawl back in behind this thundering waterfall and see what I could find. It was tight in there, but I managed to take a couple of photos, including one of the water crashing down on a moss-covered rock deck below. OK, I was happy, and it was time to head home.

While I still prefer cloudy skies for this type of work, there will be some days now when the light is bad that I'll still be able to take a few photographs - or at least have some fun trying!

With ZERO rain in the forecast for at least the next ten days, I probably won't be out chasing too many waterfalls - or at least with a camera. I may try to get a few more located and measured and get everything done, and then return sometime when we get good high water. In the meantime, SPRING has sprung in the Ozarks and it is simply GLORIOUS out there right now! Wear polarized sunglasses, and hike/drive TOWARDS the sun (early morning or late evening is best) and you will have many visual treats...

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underfalls

04/10/10 I had the great honor today to join members of the David Hadlock family for a trip into the Boen Gulf area of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. We followed the route that David took on the day that he died, marveled at the sights he had seen and photographed, and paused to soak in the beauty where he stood to take his last photographs. Then we went to the very edge of the steep hillside that took his life so that everyone could see and feel and understand why he had gone there and what he had done. And then we made our way down to the bottom of the canyon to the waterfall that now bears his name. Even though the creeks in the area were lower than normal right now, this waterfall was flowing well and cooling the warm afternoon air with splashes of holy water. While there was understandably a great deal of tears and grief, oh what a wonderful sight it was to see David's young niece embrace the wilderness with such joy - the torch had been passed to a new generation.

There was great beauty all around us as springtime brought the wilderness to life. And David was indeed there with us as well - his presence was felt in every breath. And just to make sure that everyone knew it, while the group had gathered at the base of Hadlock Cascade to take a group photo, the waterfall itself began to glow and light up as the sun moved into position to shine directly on the flowing water behind us - it was one of those moments when you know there is a connection between this world and the next. David wanted to be in the picture too! And so he was. And so he will always be.

Finally, we all stood at the very spot in the creek where David came to rest - who could have asked for a more spectacular place. David's lovely bride, Rebecca, wanted to see the exact spot where his camera bag was found - the last of his belongings to be recovered. As we stood there looking into the pristine waters of the pool where the bag ended up, I think the long journey of her grief began to see a little daylight - the circle of circumstances surrounding his death had finally come to a close.

I never met David, but I believe I know his spirit, and know that he will be with me and with everyone else who treks into the wilderness - in the trees and in the air and in the sky - and in the waterfalls that dance and play, he will live on...

hadlock

A new generation at Hadlock Cascade

04/13/10 Redbuds, dogwoods, wild plums, serviceberrys, wild peaches and apples, pawpaws, and soon to come - umbrella magnolias. It seems like every blooming tree that can bloom is blooming right now in the Ozarks - it is quite a show! Especially the redbuds - best year I've seen for them in, well, perhaps ever. I've just been sitting out on the back deck sipping a bit of bourbon and coke and soaking up the amazing brilliant color of early spring here as the setting sun cast longer and longer shadows across the wilderness that was spread out before. I don't know of a better time or a better place anywhere on the planet than right here, right now.

redbud

And wildflowers - OH MY! The first wave has come and gone, but the second wave is here in grand fashion and includes mayapples (just open today), little shiny yellow flowers, VIOLETS of all types and colors - in fact Benny and Mildred found a brand new species to this area in the Faddis meadow - Confederate violet. And scores of other little flowers that dance in the wind. Oh, and there is another plant that is showing up in great numbers along the forest floor too - poison ivy! I'm not allergic to it so don't pay much attention, but I think we'll have a good crop this year.

mayapple

A snake's view of a mayapple blossom just before sunset this evening

The trees are all leafing out now - most of them about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way along - and they produce a BRILLIANT neon-green color when backlit, mostly green but with lots of yellow in there too. The landscape is vibrant and healthy and alive - AND SOAKING UP a ton of water that I need for waterfalls! But the rains will come eventually. Actually, I've been quite surprised at how much flow we've had in waterfalls this past week, even though we've been without rain now for a good long while. But with each new day without rainfall the waterfalls grow a little bit smaller. Rain dances everyone, please!

The other day I left the cabin early and drove to what has now become a favorite stop of mine - at the little bakery in Pelsor (Blue Mountain Bakery inside Hankins general store). When you come through the door and the lady baker is pulling a fresh, hot, giant, cinnamon roll out of the oven right then and there, well, that is the sort of thing that keeps you coming back for more! I'm allergic to cinnamon rolls, but nothing stops me from inhaling the aroma, and then buying a fat and juicy fresh blueberry muffin, how out of the oven as well. I highly recommend a stop at this little store anytime you pass through the area - they make sandwiches too. And I bought a bunch of garlic.

It didn't take me long to consume the muffin, and by then I was parked and ready to head off into the woods in search of another waterfall. It was a clear-bright day - the kind I HATE for waterfall photography - so I only took my snapshot camera, measuring tape, and GPS unit. It took me a while to get down off the top of the hill - had to fight my way over, under, around, and through ice storm damage, but when I landed on the creek below I knew my prize was not far away - sometimes you can just feel and smell a waterfall. And sure enough, before long I came to the top of a magnificent thundering waterfall that disappeared into a deep canyon. Wow, a LOT more water flowing than I ever thought there would be!

I took the GPS reading and measured the height of the waterfall - a solid 41 feet all. It took me a while to find a way to get down through the bluffline so that I could inspect the base of the waterfall - and in fact while looking for the way down I also found two more waterfalls, with a narrow slot canyon connecting them - none were large, but all were quite interesting!

I explored farther downstream and went up into a side canyon where I found another waterfall - this one about 30 feet tall and pouring over a horseshoe bluffline. There was an umbrella magnolia tree laid out flat across the front of the base of the waterfall - in another week or two this would be a spectacular spot once the blooms had hatched!

The terrain around all of these waterfalls was extremely steep and rocky and rugged - while the waterfalls were within 1/4 mile of the highway it will be a difficult bushwhack to get down to them and back out again - but certainly worth the trip for anyone who is able.

Some drainages just look like waterfall country, and my next stop was to another area that I had never been into before but thought might have good waterfall potential. There is so much private property out there mixed in with national forest lands that I wanted to make sure to park and always hike on public property, so I keep an ownership map with me at all times. I found a good place to park with easy access into this hollow, and hiked out through an open forest that had no ice damage at all - quite a pleasure to find these days!

I almost immediately dropped down to a small creek and followed it on down to there the bluffline crossed it - but there was not much of a waterfall there at all. The bluff grew up immediately on the west side of the creek, so I decided to follow the bluffline and see where it led. HOLY COW! The sandstone bluff grew into a giant in short order! And I could see from the map that there would be a larger stream intersecting the bluffline about 1/4 mile on. With each step I took the bluff got taller and more interesting (including some sections that were beautifully painted with streaks of minerals), and my heart pounded more. I came to a forest of giant sandstone blocks that had split off from the big bluff, and had a time finding my way through the maze. Thumpedy, thump, thump!

At one point I was forced to climb up and over a giant chunk of rock, and I came face to face with not one but two snakes - yikes! Oops, I mean, YIPPIE! I love snakes, especially these kind - one was a spotted king snake, and the other a green snake. And then it dawned on me that I had not seen another snake yet this year. Both were beautiful, and quite friendly. In fact I think I was the first person they ever saw.

And then up ahead - I saw BLACK! That is a good sign when waterfall hunting - it often means a large overhang or hole where a waterfall might live. But as I got closer and closer to the black hole I discovered that while the big bluff was indeed undercut, the creek had also eroded down the bluff and there was not thundering waterfall pouring over it. But instead I found a long cascade that poured endlessly over smooth water-worn solid rock. Not a great waterfall, but the entire area was very scenic and interesting - would love to return with high water and a big camera!

I followed the creek downstream and found more and more and more and more giant sandstone chunks that were clogging the stream - lots of cascades and smaller waterfalls. And the faces of the big rock chunks had lots of neat patterns and colors on them. It was a tough area to navigate, but every step brought new visual delights!

I eventually hit the main creek in the area and turned upstream - I wanted to get to the intersection of the main creek with the big bluffline. As it turned out, the government property ended right before I came to that intersection, and so I could not go on any farther. There were side drainages with nice waterfalls in them that poured over that bluffline, but I think the big bluff broke down before it encountered the main creek - at least that is what it looked like up ahead, and is what I kept telling myself since it was on private property.

So I turned around and started to head out for the long climb back to my car. But first, just one more little drainage - and son of a gun, a GREAT WATERFALL was there! It poured into a small emerald pool, and there were wildflowers all around. It was on public land, and a free shot all the way out to the highway - perhaps I will include this waterfall in the new guidebook next year, but I'm not sure. The big bluffline sure would make an interesting loop hike, especially if you could stop and say hi to my two snake friends!

Yesterday a documentary film crew stopped by and we made a trip down to Hawksbill Crag before spending some time doing an interview in the Buffalo River Gallery. It was late morning when we arrived at the Crag, and even though the face of the Crag was in shadow, the forest wilderness behind it was backlit and really looked nice. I've included a snapshot of their camera setup in the gallery - three cameras and three lights, a cameraman, producer, and sound man too! (the guy in the chair is the sound man and is helping with the white balance of the cameras)

crag

cameras

04/14/10 It was nearly dark when I stepped into the Ray Scott Memorial Outdoor Shower here at Cloudland. The "memorial" part is for Ray's shower, not for Ray, who is still very much alive (and is one of my workshop assistants). Ray has an outdoor shower at his beach house on the Gulf Coast, and it seems like every hurricane that blows through likes to take the shower with it - he keeps rebuilding - outdoor showers are a wonderful luxury!

Anyway, I was surrounded this evening by glowing white blooms from the dogwood tree that guards my shower. The dogwoods are just spectacular around here right now, along with the redbuds, and you can often see both species growing next to each other, many lining the edges of fields, roads, and other openings in the forest.

I took the dogs on a bushwhack this afternoon into a waterfall area that I had been to before, but wanted to explore more. It turned out to be a LOT more difficult than I had planned - so tough in fact that there were times that neither dog was able to move forward. Part of the trouble was the heavy ice storm damage, but the rest was just simple difficult terrain - there were many places where we were blocked from going upstream on a creek and had to climb out and around. It was a long, grueling afternoon for all three of us.

I found another great waterfall, but also a really, really nice stream, with cascades, lots of rock formations, quiet pools, and tons and tons of umbrella magnolia trees that are about to burst forth with spectacular blooms any day now. There was one spot on the creek where a side drainage joined the creek - both of them had small waterfalls and cascades where they entered the common pool; and off to one side of the pool was a third water source - a spring pouring out of the hillside and into the pool. And there were GIANT sweetgum and sycamore trees in a circle around the outside of the pool. I've never seen any place quite like it. These were not large waterfalls - more like tall cascades - but the big trees and the pool and everything just made it quire a remarkable place. I continue to be amazed at how many SSSs like this (Special Scenic Spots) I find where I had not really expected one. I guess that is kind of like life - we are tossed many great things as we make our way though the world.

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