CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - April 2016
Cloudland remoteCabin Cam, April 30 - Arkansas columbine!
Journal updated Tuesday the 26th
Print of the Week special - Yellow Lady's-Slippers (above)
04/01/16 ...Sorry for the delay in posting details about the sale of Cloudland - I figured with all the april fools stuff going on it would not be a good time to make the official announcement. Once the realtor has the property listed I will post more info here.
In the meantime, a chilly wind blew in today, and it is supposed to dip into the low 30's tonight. HAPPY APRIL EVERYONE! 'Tis a great month to be in Arkansas for sure, even though you may need an extra layer for the first couple of days.
The Buffalo River far below has been singing a lively tune today, and even Whitaker Creek has chimed in too. Seems to be more and more birds everywhere - love is in the air! One very sad note about a bird though. I was sitting here at the computer today working when I heard a thud and feared that a bird had slammed into one of the tall windows in the great room. Turns out that is exactly what had happened, only the bird was INSIDE the cabin at the time! There is a lot of volume in the great room, and the poor guy thought he was flying through the forest and did not see the window. He landed on the couch and then onto the floor. Mia immediately ran over to him, and then she did something I never figured a bird dog would do - she laid down on all fours with her head down next to the bird - almost paying tribute to him, sensing the tragedy. She's a good pup.
On the other hand, there is this one spot in the yard that the dogs continue to play on - they have worn all the grass off and we can't get anything to grow there. We don't mind the bare spot so much, but when it rains and the puppies play there the floor of the cabin turns to muddy paw prints! Today my lovely bride sprinkled red pepper flakes on the bare ground - five minutes later a pair of lazy cats were napping there - I guess they like red peppers!
The creeks and rivers in the Ozarks right now are just an amazing color - clear and colorful at the same time. How do that do that? I hope you get the chance to enjoy some water activities this weekend - or at the least get to roam around in the forest and suck in some of that amazing air...
Here is a view off the lower deck in the back looking up into the Whitaker Creek drainage - individual trees are popping!
04/02/16 We are still a little behind with getting all of the Cloudland property sale information posted online, but I have set up a location in our online gallery web site with info, selling price, and photos of outside and inside the property. CLOUDLAND FOR SALE. I'll be adding more photos to this site in the days to come, but for now this should give you the basic info you need - or could pass along to someone who you think might be interested. We are listing the property with our great friend, Edd French, and his Buffalo River Real Estate company, and the listing will also be on Realtor.com eventually. But we are also able and happy to show the property personally by appointment - just give us a call or send an email. Obviously this is one of the premiere properties in all of Arkansas, a very special place and unlike anything else available. We are hoping to be able to pass it onto the next steward who will be able to get as much LIFE and enjoyment out of it as we have these past 19 years. I bought the Cloudland property in 1992, and never a day goes by that I don't' thank my lucky stars above for having been given the opportunity to live and grow here. There will never be another place like Cloudland for us...
FYI, this Cloudland Journal will go on as usual as long as you keep reading! Our address may move a few miles to the northeast in another year or two, but our boots will continue to move forward and explore new things and I'll keep on reporting from the wilderness...
Sunrise from the sewing/shipping room
04/03/16 The Ray Scott Memorial Outdoor Shower is now back open for business! Oh my goodness it is the best shower in the world! There is a special deck on the very east side of the cabin that looks straight on down through the woods to the Buffalo River 600 feet below. There is a dogwood tree growing up the side of the deck and leans over with the same graceful curves of the shower head. As I stand there and the water pours, I'm protected by the blooming dogwood blossoms. And while tonight there was no moon up, there were tons of stars up there watching down. And sometimes - like tonight - when I first turn on the shower, the water mixes with the air and smells just like an approaching thunderstorm - that aroma ranks right up there with witchhazel and wild plum - wilderness perfumes better than in any bottle.
This morning I dropped off a load of guidebooks to the store in Compton and stopped along the highway on the way back to hike a trail I'd never been on before. It is mostly a horse trail, but I needed to stretch my legs and see if I could make it all the way down to the Buffalo River in 20 minutes or less. The trail is really just an old road that leads to an old farmstead along the banks of the river, so the hiking was pretty easy. What was not easy was making much progress - there were TONS of wildflowers in bloom, and I had to stop and spend time on the ground with many of them. 'Tis another world down there on your hands and knees, and your perception of the larger world takes on a whole new meaning. The colors of the little guys were so vibrant - not only the purple and blue and white flowers, but also the brilliant green leaves - backlit by the rising sun.
As I got near the bottom of the hill there was a disturbance in the woods below. Then the entire scene exploded with hair, black hair, and lots of it! I had disturbed a band of wild hogs, and they weren't eager to stop and chat. Normally one or two hogs in a band like this (8-10 pigs) will be black, but they ALL looked black to me today. And most of them were on the smallish side. I motored on after they passed.
The trail passed by several small buildings, a large concrete foundation, and then a large mound of earth - earth that had dammed up the little stream that had tumbled down from the steep hillside above. I guess back in the day this had been a pond, but it was just a mound of earth with a little stream running beneath it.
And then there was a classic Buffalo River gravel bar reaching far upstream around the bend. "Mornin'!" someone said from across the water. Two guys were in canoes slowly easing downstream. It was chilly - still in the 30's - and sunshine had not reached this part of the river yet. The guys said the water was pretty cold - one of them had already dumped over for a walk-up swim. I do love to travel by foot, but oh how wonderful it is to be floating along wherever the current takes you.
OK, I made the river easily in 20 minutes, now I wanted to make it back up to the van in 15 or less. It was only a mile, but it was pretty steep. I enjoyed leaning into the hill and working my legs as hard as they would go. This old geezer did OK on the way up, and it felt really good to get some "hiking reps" in.
This afternoon my lovely bride and I made a great discovery while cleaning up a little bit in the book warehouse. The original Cloudland Journal. It began as literally a blank sheet of paper - or a stack of them - in a three-ring binder. May 16, 1998 was my first entry. Everything was written by hand - some of it I just sat down and wrote. Other parts I copied from notes that had been left at the cabin. Still other parts were written in the Journal pages by cabin guests. I must take a picture and show you. That was back before digital cameras, and the only pictures were a few snapshots that would eventually find their way into the notebook - I had to take the film to Fayetteville to bet processed and printed first. FYI, the first year of the Cloudland Journal is still available as a cloth-bound book.
Another early artifact I want to show you a picture of was the original cabin guest register. Being the odd duck that I am, a simple lined notebook paper. And I issued sharpies to anyone who visited Cloudland so they could sign the lamp shade. Word spread around a little bit and sometimes folks would stop by just to say they had been to Cloudland and sign the lamp shade - and sit in the swing and enjoy the view a while too. (I ended up making four lamps for guest registration - they kept getting filled up!)
The very first person to sign the lamp shade was none other than Dr. Neil Compton, the man who is credited with leading the fight to save the Buffalo River. I remember the day he first stepped inside the front door of the cabin. He looked up, spread out his arms wide above him and said "This is not a log cabin, this is a magnificent wilderness lodge!" Neil spent the night at Cloudland a time or two before his untimely death. I remember one time while sitting out on the back deck with him we heard a noise, turned on a flashlight, and spotted a flying squirrel in the big red oak tree that grows up through the deck below - the little squirrel with GIANT eyes was only about five feet away from us! Neil was a great story teller, and when he talked, you tended to get close so you heard everything.
With each hour that passes more and more of the landscape around us begins to green up. It is turning into one fine spring here in Arkansas, and I believe we are in for a lot more amazing days and nights. I think I'll go take another shower...
LATE NIGHT UPDATE. I just discovered that I'm a couple hundred feet short of my 20,000 steps for the day are noted on the little band on my wrist. So instead of taking a second outdoor shower I'm headed out into the night to hike around a bit and see if any new spring critters are awake yet - it is a LOVELY night to be outside. Speaking of my steps-per-day - I'm holding my weight down pretty well staying close to 161. My winter target is 165. Only problem is that my lovely bride brought home another tub of Blue Bunny Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream - oh no, it must be eaten!
And speaking of my wife - she has lost so much weight this past couple of months (she looked might fine to me before!) that she could not get the lawn mower to start yesterday. Hun, what does one have to do with the other? You have to be sitting in the driver's seat in order to start her mower, and we could not get it to turn over when she went out to mow the front yard. I tried jumper cables, but no juice. Then I sat down in the seat and it started right on up! But when Pam tried to start it, nothing. We have this theory that she had lost so much weight that she was not heavy enough to trigger the starter, ha, ha! Perhaps I need to share my ice cream with her...
The Milky Way rising as seen from inside the sun room early this morning, April 4th.
04/05/16 At the request of a long-time Journal reader from Colorado, I've dug up the old text from the first year of the Cloudland Journal. I have added links to some of the first months below, and will eventually add all the months from the first year that you'll be able to access through links here. The early years were wiped off the servers of the web host several years ago, and I've never replaced them - but I still have the original text - so, enjoy!
Our cabin in the wee hours of April 8th - this photo was featured as the facebook cover photo of the KY3 TV station in Springfield, Mo
04/09/16 I was taking a shower outside the other night and saw a yellow light out in the woods. Then I saw another. And another. Son of a gun - they were LIGHTNING BUGS! Was that possible? It is early April. Then I saw about a hundred of them in the meadow below the cabin and I was convinced. I've photographed a lot of lightning bugs over the years, and most of the time they fly while their lights are on, creating little streaks of light across the photo. But it did not appear that any of these were moving while their lights were on - so they would have just been tiny yellow dots in a photo. Maybe they are just waking up from their winter nap and were not moving around much.
I was up at 2:20am the next day and headed out to take some Milky Way photos. While standing out in the middle of a large meadow on top of the ridge I noticed there were not any lightning bugs around - the temp was in the upper 30's so they probably all went back to their warm bunks.
It was a good morning to photograph the Milky Way, and I ended up spending time at a favorite rustic barn on our neighbor's land a few miles away. The old gal has been leaning quite a bit lately (the barn, not the land owner), and seems like it could topple over any day. The Milky Way was rising right behind it at a pretty good clip. I especially like the big old oak trees that live next to this barn.
At one point I found myself wandering around in the dark and ended up inside the barn. It was pretty dark in there, but I moved across the soft floor slowly and didn't bump into anything. I was drawn towards the opposite end of the barn by the stars that I could see through an opening there. The closer I got to the openings, the more stars I could see. I returned a few minutes later with my camera and tripod and framed the scene with parts of the Milky Way visible through many openings in the end of the barn. Kind of like being in the belly of the beast looking out through its teeth!
While I was in there and thinking about being in the belly, the wind started to pick up. With each gust or change in wind direction the timbers of the old barn creaked and moaned a little bit. Then I thought about the fact that one of those gusts just might be enough to bring the barn crumbling down on top of me, and I got kind of anxious. But I was not satisfied that I had a good-enough picture yet, so I continued to work the scene until I was figured I had a good photo. Then I quietly backed out of the barn, and just stood there, admiring the view of this grand old lady in the starlight, and thanked her for so many years of viewing pleasure. This is the same barn I was photographing late one night a couple of years ago when a pair of very large black bulls emerged from and came towards me - they just wanted to say Hi. Friendly bulls, but I left right after they greeted me.
I had wanted to return home and grab a nap or two, but we had to get things organized and pack up for the trip to Branson at the Owen Theater, so there was no room for nap time. Later on in Branson while my lovely bride was getting groceries at Wal Mart, I fell sound asleep right there in the front seat of the van in the parking lot. Only about ten minutes, but that was all I needed, and I snapped wide awake and ready to go.
This was our first program in Branson, and we really didn't know what to expect of the theater or the audience. The folks at this historic theater were very nice and offered whatever help we needed. While we had not signed up for this sort of thing, the event turned out to be a fund-raising event for the Branson Art Council, who had asked us to come give the program. It was the first time I'd seen the Arkansas Nightscapes show in a while - I LOVE the drama of the music and the timelapses in this show, and I hope folks who came to see it did too.
There were more seats filled than we expected, and it was great to see so many smiling faces! There seemed to be more Cloudland Journal readers than at other shows, and it was especially nice to get to see and converse with you - THANKS for taking time out of your day to attend, and we really did appreciate your well wishes!
I hope no one heard my stomach grumbling through. Seems that food is a trigger for my allergic attacks, so I decided not to eat anything before the show - I had a small salad for lunch about 9:30am and had not eaten since (well, maybe two french fries that I would not allow Pam to eat - she's not had a fry in 2016 and I wanted to make sure she kept to her diet!). I did OK with no allergy issues, but after the show I headed directly for a drive through to get some junk food! But nothing seemed to fit, so we motored on towards home. I did get a granola bar at the gas station, and that would be it for the day. It was midnight before we got home and unpacked a bit, and into the wee hours of today before I got to crash - 22 hours in the saddle, but I did get that 10-minute Wal Mart parking lot nap, and that helped a lot!
Today we spent time with family and got to explore our new property a little bit - the ground is covered with huckleberry plants over there - AKA wild blueberries! Many of them were already starting to bloom, and we're hoping for a nice crop in a couple of months. Homemade wild blueberry ice cream sure would taste good on a hot summer afternoon!
HOWLING winds tonight are making some fine music. There is a fast-moving front on the way and we hope to see a little bit of wet stuff tomorrow and again on Monday. Now that trees of the landscape are beginning to wake up and leaf out, we need a lot of rain to keep up with their thirst, and keep those creeks and waterfalls flowing...
04/10/16 Sunrise found me on top of a high bluff several miles from Cloudland, sitting on my rump with my tripod and camera between my legs. The wind from last night was still swirling around, and I could never get the branches on this neat ancient cedar tree that I was trying to photograph to hold still. The sun waits for no one, so when the first rays of it broke above the distant horizon, I was ready and spent the next 20 minutes capturing the golden light that hit this twisted old tree and flooded the landscape. Then the sun disappeared behind a cloud bank and my work was done.
This is kind of off subject, but 'tis the nature of how my mind bounces around. Early this afternoon while my lovely bride and I were setting up for visitors later today, I happened to come across a song on my computer that was the basis for the most romantic moment ever at Cloudland - indeed of my entire life. I had listened to this song over and over and over again for more than a month before it happened - and then when Pam finally appeared out of my dreams, we wrapped arms around each other and danced to this tune. It more than made up for the fantisy of all my rehurels. It was Pam's first visit to Cloudland, and our first date. We had met on a hike six weeks before but had not seen each other since. Anyway, I could not pass up the opportunity today to click on Mary Chapin Carpenter's Not Too Much To Ask (utube version here) just to see what would happen. Some Cloudland Moments are a lot better than others!
I once had a ten-speaker stereo system in the great room of our cabin (now headed to a garage sale), but as CDs have faded and online music and computer storage have gotten so good, we simply quit using the stereo in the cabin. Today I set up a pair of small Bose computer speakers on a table in the great room and turned the volume up. The sound quality fills the room pretty well - well enough to dance with your bride to!
Spekaing of speakers, we have a five-speaker set of very nice Klipsh speakers from the TV system in the basement that will head to the garage sale too. But if someone here is interested in these big speakers, let me know and I'll get some info to you and make ya a great deal on them - it would be nice to pass the music onto a Cloudland reader.
04/11/16 We had a cabin full of 18 dinner guests yesterday that were blown away by the cabin! Actually they were nearly blown away by the WIND! This was perhaps the longest sustained really heavy winds we'd ever had here, and the first time we were unable to eat outside during a dinner party like this. We had to move all the tables and chairs from the back deck out to the front of the cabin on the piazza, and had to set up our dutch oven cooking area in one of the carports. The view from the front of the cabin is not nearly as nice as from the back deck, but I think everyone went home with their bellies pretty full.
My lovely bride cooked eight pounds of Kalua Pork that filled the cabin with heavenly aroma for 20 hours. Then I finished off the pig in a large dutch oven. Pam filled another Dutch oven with veggies, another one with cherry cobbler, and Luke filled one of his ovens with some marvelous chicken. Other folks brought dishes of all sorts, including a number of wonderful desserts! Breads, several tubs of ICE CREAM, veggies, salads, bourbon pups in the crock pot, and other goodies too.
This was a modern version of our classic Cloudland Bushwhacker Parties, although there were no Bushwhackers - much to the chagrin of some of the guests. While I still LOVE Bushwhackers - which are coffee liqueur, chocolate milk, ice cream, something else, and booze, all blended together like a chocolate milkshake on steroids - these days I could only handle maybe half glass before I'd be out of commission. (I do believe most everyone remained sober for the duration of the dinner party - perhaps a first for here!)
Despite the heavy and constant winds, I think everyone was able to mill around enough to speak to each other and hopefully enjoy a few hours at Cloudland without the crush of the rest of the world around.
Today we had homemade waffles by Ray Scott - as in the Ray Scott Memorial Shower, and they were quite delicious. Then we had leftovers for lunch and dinner. It was quite a weekend full of FOOD!!! (baby clouds being born this morning - Click to see short video)
Pam and I took a quick trip around the mountain to exercise the puppies and try to work off a few of the zillions of calories, and got to see quite a few dogwoods at their peak. It was amazing how well they were able to hold on tight as the powerful winds continued on into midday.
Then I spent some time on the tractor removing our beloved outhouse/chicken coop (we were advised to remove anything HILLBILLY from the property if we wanted to sell our cabin, and that historic outhouse with a crescent moon on the door was at the top so of the list). I also smoothed down the road a bit. Lucy came out and skipped along next to the tractor - Wilson and Mia remained back to protect the cabin, and sniff for any leftovers in the front yard.
It seems the mountain is getting covered up with turkeys - nearly everyone who visited the cabin this weekend saw turkeys along the road, and Pam saw several on multiple trips. Spring turkey season is in April - gobble GOBBLE!
04/13/16 It was after 10pm last night when I shouldered my camera backpack and headed out into the dark wilderness. Well, actually it really wasn't all that dark - an almost 1/2 full moon was shining down from directly overhead and putting out quite a bit of light - so much so that I didn't need a flashlight to see to hike. The forest was quiet and still, yet the landscape was alive since the moon shadows moved and danced all over the place with the motion of my footsteps. I did try my red headlamp once, but it focused my attention on just one narrow beam in front of me, and the rest of the forest seemed to go blank. When I turned off the light the entire forest lit up again! I prefer to move through the night with the moon as my guide.
Soon I had arrived at Hawksbill Crag, which was really lit up by the moon. I was careful to sit on my rump and slide the big tripod and camera close to the edge, where I tethered them to a nearby tree. It was easy to see to move the camera controls with so much moonlight, and in just a minute or two I had the scene composed, the camera leveled, test exposures made, and I hit the START button on the camera remote control. It began a series of 20-second exposures one after another after another, all night long.
Those first exposures with the landscape lit up by the bright moon appeared just like they were taken in daylight - until you looked at the sky above the horizon - it was full of STARS! The moon would set in a couple of hours, and the overall scene would grow very dark - but the stars would remain bright, and my hope was for the camera to capture their movement across the sky.
I was happy and content, and sat down to soak in all the great natural beauty of the night for a few moments, then I wrapped myself in a comforter, laid back and gazed at the stars and moonlight as sleep overtook me.
At 4am the ALARM rang out - time to get up and go have a look at the camera! It didn't take me long to realize that clouds had moved in during the night, and while there were stars visible, it was not the crystal clear night I had hoped for. But I let the camera run for another hour to capture whatever it could - clouds moving across the sky in front of rotating stars can be pretty interesting sometimes.
More clouds rolled in and I ended the timelapse video, packed up my gear, and headed back UP and out, making my way back home just before 6am. I spent the next couple of hours downloading and processing the more than 1,200 photos taken during the night. Not sure if I'll eve ruse the timelapse or star-trail photo for anything, but it was interesting and fun to be out shooting at night once again - a favorite activity of mine.
A I was getting back to the cabin the eastern horizon began to glow, then light up, then sparkle with some amazing colors of dawn. I ran into the cabin and grabbed my snapsho camera to try and capture some of that wild color - it was fleeting and gone in a flash. HEre is my attempt...
A quick check of a patch of wild yellow lady's slipper orchids nearby found them to be just now coming up out of the ground - they normally bloom around mother's day, and will no doubt be early this year - probably in another week or two in our area. They are already blooming in other parts of the state. I know this place - some call it the "Valley Of 10,000 Orchids" that is just a few miles away from our Cloudland Cabin - I hope to go visit sometime soon and see how my orchid friends are getting along this year.
04/15/16 I was up at 3-something this morning wandering around inside the cabin when I happened to look up and out a window and saw the Milky Way shining down brightly. Hum, I haven't taken a picture of the stars in at least two days so I should go grab a camera and go outside!
It was one of those starry skies that went on forever, with the Milky Way arching from the southeast all the way back to the northeast. After taking a few test pictures, I decided that no single picture could capture it all, so I decided to take a series of pictures and piece them together later in software. Shooting was pretty easy and fun, but it got a little weird later when I was huddled around my computer monitor (turned all the way down to almost black) trying to process the photos - I was in the office at the cabin, directly below what I hoped was my still-sleeping lovely bride.
I was unable to get everything to work with my normal processing software (Photoshop), but was able to use special panoramic software to get everything "stitched" together OK.
As I was driving off to a meeting in another part of the county, my lovely bride was gently BLASTED awake by the first whippoorwill - he was sitting on a branch right outside her window. GOOD MORNING CLOUDLAND! Actually we love them here, always a sure sign of summer, and often a gentle reminder that it's time to drift off to sleep...
Turkeys, there seem to be turkeys everywhere right now! And turkey hunters too. Seems like I've already said this here recently, but it bears repeating. While standing around waiting on construction folks to arrive over at the new property this morning, we heard at least two different gobblers, and perhaps a third. One came up and over a nearby ridge and probably hiked right on past us just out of sight. There was a turkey hunter from Louisiana on our property over there - not exactly sure what he was doing on private property. A turkey camp was setting up at the little Cave Mountain Church as I was getting home. Turkey hunting is one of the most exciting of all hunts I believe, although I've never tried it - but I LOVE tame turkey breast! I wonder if turkeys gobble in their sleep? They need to be careful about who they answer to in the morning.
Pam had hummers at the feeder today for the first time this year - another sign of summer on the way. They sure can stir the air around.
Tomorrow begins spring workshop season with six workshop days in eight days, then two more workshops after that this month. We still have a spot or two left next week if you now someone who might be interested - I think we'll be getting into some terrific shooting situations with all this fresh GEEN all around.
We finally took the plunge today - and announced the sale of Cloudland on Face book. I continue to add a few photos to the web page, and soon will post a slides how/video of them where you can just sit back and enjoy a moving show complete with background music. We plan to continue to make our home here as usual for a while on into the future, and so the Coudland Journal will go on as normal...THANKS for all of your support so far!
We going though several names for the same property - some have been made fun of - we may end up with another very unique name like Cloudland - as in Cloudland, Too - Cloudland is not so much a physical place, but rather a state of mind. We hope all of you reach into Cloudland as often as possible...
Yellow rocket flowers near the base of Roark Bluff this morning; tripods at sunrise during workshop (below)
04/23/16 Today was the sixth day of photo workshops for me in the past eight days - only one more to go this spring. I was up at 3-something getting ready, then drove through darkness to our shooting location. I arrived early, and realized the big limestone bluffline nearby was lit up by an almost-full moon, so I dug out my camera gear and soon was standing in the middle of the river taking pictures. Why do I feel so at home while out in the middle of a river taking pictures at night? Don't know. Must do more.
We've had a great week of workshops, with many wonderful folks and terrific scenery (and a lot of good FOOD along the way too - thanks to Pam and Ray!). My days have been from about 4am to 10 or 11pm, with no time for naps! When I got home on Thursday from the first five days of workshops, I fell onto the couch exhausted, mentally drained, and slept for 10 hours - what a LAZY BUM! I got up and wandered outside into nearly total darkness. I stood out in the middle of the circle drive in front of the cabin, and had a Cloudland Moment. Two things happened - first was a long wailing howl that at first sounded just like a wolf; then the distant woods seemed to be on fire as an ORANGE moon rose slowly behind the trees. The wolf was of course a coyote, and then several of his coyote buddies, but wolf or coyote, their music combined with the rising full moon were just AMAZING!
I spent most of Friday on the road - which included restocking the Hastings bookstore in Conway. They were out of almost everything - but now are fully restocked, so if you need a guidebook or picture book and are in the Conway area, stop by Hastings on your way to the woods.
Rainfall that was predicted all last week never arrived, but they are forecasting "rain all this coming week," and I'll be keeping my fingers and toes crosses it comes true. We sure could use some moisture. How about a rain dance?
I'm sitting here at the cabin computer listening to The Pickin' Post on KUAF radio - the cabin is mostly dark except for the glow of my computer monitor and a small lamp on the other side of the room. Wilson is laid out on the floor next to me, and Mia too. We have several meetings here at the cabin beginning tomorrow about books and other things, later in the week a trip to the dentist and one to Kansas, then our final photo workshop of the spring on Saturday.
I just stepped outside for a few minutes to run over to the gallery building to get something, and my oh my the STARS and night sky were just beautiful! The moon was not up yet - soon that sky will be flooded with bright moonlight and many of those stars will disappear until tomorrow night, same time, same station.
Two random thoughts -
#1) I wonder who invented POCKETS? (pants, jacket, vest, etc.) I for one owe them a great big THANK YOU! I have no idea how I could survive without pockets!
#2) I got to thinking about some of the books I'd (actually WE'd) written and/or published while sitting here at the cabin computer/desk over the years. Are you ready - here goes: Arkansas Spring, Arkansas Wilderness, Arkansas Portfolio II, Arkansas Landscapes, Arkansas Autumn, Arkansas Waterfalls (picture book), Arkansas Wildlife, Buffalo River Dreams, Arkansas Landscapes II, Buffalo River Beauty, Arkansas Nightscapes, and A Rare Quality Of Light picture books; Arkansas Waterfalls Guide, Arkansas Nature Lover's Guide, Arkansas Dayhikes For Kids and Families Guide, and The Search For Haley. We also put together and published: Illinois Wildflowers, Arkansas Wildflowers, Natural Wonders of Missouri (all three by Don Kurz), and Swimming Holes of the Ozarks (Glenn Wheeler) guidebooks, plus Ray Scott's Natural Inspirations picture book. Oh yes, and the CLOUDLAND JOURNAL - BOOK ONE - A Year In The Wilderness. Plus there have also been almost 18 years of the online Cloudland Journal - mostly all written from this very spot where I'm working tonight.
None of the above would mean much without someone like you making the effort to sit down and read - THANKS SO MUCH for doing that - we really do appreciate you!
04/25/16 I'd hiked into the "Valley Of A Thousand Orchids" several years ago, and found a few dozen wild yellow lady's slipper orchids in bloom, but hadn't made it very far in; so today I decided to give it another try. The trail was easy (all downhill!) and with mostly cloudy skies the rich colors of early spring were everywhere. When the trail flattened out along the creek I began to see wildflowers. Lots of wildflowers - in fact in one spot I counted about 16 different species that I could identify. It was a LUSH valley for sure!
And then I spotted the first orchid - a brilliant drop of pure yellow shining through all the green of the landscape. Another yellow jewel was not far away. And another. At first, I had to really focus my attention and peer into the forest to look for them. But the brain has this little trick I can do with it - I can tune it to a particular color and then that color really pops out. I spotted more and more or the wild orchids, and even though many of them were far off the trail out into the woods, it was easy to spot that YELLOW.
I wandered off the trail to investigate a couple of orchids a hundred yards or so away and found there were even more of them spread out across the level valley floor. Mind you, some of this was very thick undergrowth, a tangled mess with greenbriars, thorn bushes, and other stubby plants. And lots of wildflowers of all colors. Whenever the sun broke through the clouds the entire landscape changed - from LUSH to just ordinary. Sunshine often does that with color and saturation. Hint - for the best saturated colors, take pictures when the sun is hiding!
I had come to a spot where there were no orchids visible, and since it was getting late, I needed to find one to sit down next to and take pictures of. But WHICH one? And it appeared that perhaps I had come to the end of the orchid-rich valley. And then the sunshine went away, and I looked around and found that I was standing right in the middle of more than two dozen beautiful wild orchids - YIPPIE! This would be like finding a hot dog at a ball park.
Shooting star wildflowers
A pair of them were directly in front of me and beaming my direction, so I took off my heavy camera backpack for the first time on this trip, and began to study these guys. I walked slowly all around them, then got down on my hands and knees and did the same. One angle seemed to be the best - you know, we all have a "best" side when someone is taking our picture (mine is from behind, and when I'm in silhouette!), and I think flowers do too.
So I began the process of setting up my tripod and camera being careful not to disturb any other plants in the process. I would spend the next hour in this spot with these two orchids as the sun played hide and seek with the clouds, and the color of the landscape was constantly changing. There was a slight breeze on and off, and you can't take good macro pictures when ANY breeze, so I spent a good deal of time just sitting there on the ground in the middle of all the beauty, waiting, watching, and soaking it all in. A wood thrush would call out from time to time to check on me (or whatever bird it is around here that reminds me of a wood thrush). It was quite pleasant just sitting there waiting.
Soon the light of day began to fade, and so did the wind. I got my photo, then packed up and made a strong hike back out and up to the van, leaning into the hill felt great.
04/26/16 I spent a bit of time early this morning chasing light back and forth in Boxley Valley. Funny, but I drive through there hundreds of times a year, and I still miss-time the light, only seeing the really great stuff when I'm passing through in a hurry. I did manage a couple of scenes I hope...
This afternoon I hiked into another section of the Buffalo River Headwaters area - found more lady's-slippers and tons of other wildflowers, but mostly just hiked around, climbing up one steep hillside after another, exploring unknown territory for me. One time I sat down in a heap of sweat and just looked around - I realized that I've only touched a tiny part of this wilderness in my almost-twenty years of living here - there is so much more to see!
As I was hiking back to the van I found an umbrella magnolia that was blooming on the bank of the river, with one flowering limb reaching out over the water - don't recall ever seeing that on the river before. I spent about 30 minutes trying to get into position for a picture. I kept noticing something that showed up in every picture, but at different locations. Then I realized there were bugs of some sort swarming the front of the lens, with one or more always landing on the front element while I took the picture! The only way to combat them was for me to wave my hand up and down in front of the lens to shew the bugs away, then take the picture quickly before they returned. All my attempts failed, and I ended up having to clone out two bugs from the photo. (Or where there three of them and I missed one - bottom center)