LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - APRIL 2018
LITTLE BLUFF cabin cam April 28 - sunny and warm - HAPPY SATURDAY!
Prunt Of The Week special (above)
Journal updated April 22
04/01/18 Last night my lovely bride and I took a stroll down the lane, hand in hand, in the moonlight - or what was left of moonlight after it filtered through a layer of clouds. The aroma of wild plums was heavy in the air, stopped us in our tracks for some heavy breathing - that fragrance was so SWEET! I took her down to the cabin to see a switch for the ceiling fan over her swing in the screened-in-porch that Shane had just installed. As we headed back towards the gallery there was a flash, then a big crash, and then soft raindrops began to fall - and we walked right into another wave to wonderful air - the smell of ozone that comes with a springtime shower.
This morning I ran across another sign of spring while out roaming just after first light - a branch frog (that was really a tree frog) who was so well camouflaged I almost didn't see him, even when I looked close!
We had Easter dinner at the best restaurant in town - Judy Ferguson's house! (Pam's mom) Roast beef and smashed 'taters and pineapple upside down cake. Then we went on a date to Home Depot and Menards and Lowes - we'll be frequent shoppers for the next several months. Sometimes it takes several rounds before we buy anything, but I think we always enjoy the ride and time together.
This evening it was only I that was out in the night trying to get my daily goal of fitbit steps (I'm averaging almost 20,000 steps now, but still spend at least half or more of my day sitting, so I can go much higher). It was more than 35 degrees colder than last night - in fact hovered right around the freezing mark. And it was really foggy - so thick in fact that my headlamp barely reached the ground in front of me, and a time or two I wandered off the lane and into the woods - once stepped right into a mud puddle - YIKES that was cold! Then I turned off my headlamp and it was like I had turned on a much larger lamp - the landscape all around me lit up and I could see instantly. Sometimes you really do need to turn off the lights in order to see clearly. My pace quickened, and I hiked more than 4,000 steps before bedtime, to the "Raindrops" song tune... It's APRIL in Arkansas - YIPPIE COYOTE!!!
04/02/18 So I just got back from a nighttime stroll around the property. Not nearly as foggy as last night, but my headlamp wasn't working too well still. So after a half mile or so, I switched the light off again expecting that I'd be able see better without (it was cloudy). But all I saw was DARKNESS, and I stepped right into a mud hole, which then propelled me into a tree trunk! After a few minutes to collect myself and let my eyes get dark-adapted, I was able to continue the rest of the hike without light. The air continued to be filled with the lovely aroma of wild plum.
04/07/18 We were delighted when the first redbud tree appeared last week that we could see from the back deck. Another one sprang to life the following day. Then another. I got a wild hare to mark all the redbud trees within view of the cabin. It is so easy to spot them right now, yet once the blooms fall off and the summer greens take over it takes closer inspection to figure them out. So I started flagging them and found quite a few as I moved deeper into the woods along the future path of our hiking trail. When I got close to our "boulder jumble" area the redbuds were replaced with a group of wild plum trees, still in bloom and they made the air SO SWEET!
And then I saw a glimpse of yellow - not much is yellow in the forest right now. In fact, nothing else is yellow in the forest right now. Turns out a flat-topped boulder was nearly covered with bright yellow wildflowers, which really stood out above the carpet of green moss they seemed to be growing out of. I got down on my hands and knees for a closer look, and I snapped a picture. There were also blue violets growing on top of the same boulder. And a white flowers too. Also the limb of a nearby redbud tree hang over the boulder. It was a VERY colorful boulder top for sure!
The hiking trail we built a couple of weeks ago here begins on the west side of the cabin and loops around near the front entrance gate, then swings back to the east and down alongside the pasture and creek below, where the trail ends at a pair of small waterfalls but before it gets to the large waterfall. The landscape in between that ending point and the boulder jumble is very steep, rugged, and covered with giant trees that were uprooted by the 2009 ice storm, along with a lot of other debris from that storm. This week I finally found a route through the mess that I think will work. The trail will loop above and below the boulder jumble area, then run down the hillside towards the big waterfall to a short spur trail that will take us right up to the front of the waterfall - a spot I've never been able to reach before - YIPPIE COYOTE!!! (there is a redbud tree and a giant grapevine there) This will negate us having to cross the creek to view the waterfall.
Then the trail will continue upstream and meet up with where the trail ends now. It will be a difficult trail section to build - and in fact we'll probably be doing well to just get the trail corridor open and the ground cleared of leaves.
A little black and white warbler landed on a tree within a few feet of me yesterday while I was down in the deeper, darker part of the forest yesterday. It's a very striking bird, and he just sat there looking at me as if to say "welcome to my forest!). Later my lovely bride and I saw a BRILLIANT red scarlet tanager - you can see these guys from a long way off. Both of these species seem like summer birds to me - arriving a little early? The temp right now at 6am today is 24 degrees and dropping - I hope they brought their winter coats!
I made a mad dash mid-week to Moix RV dealer in Conway to have our ailing Roadtrek RV looked at. Very nice folks there and they were able to get me in and out quickly - the large inverter in our RV that was toasted will have to be replaced, but it will take a few weeks to get a new one from the manufacturer in Canada. A special treat on this trip for me was to get together for lunch with longtime dear friends Stan and Marilyn Ott - we were cave guides together back in 1973 (and beyond) at Blanchard Springs Caverns. In fact Marilyn led the very first official public tour of the caverns, an honor she won by being able to name all 32 of us original guides after only having just met everyone. (hey Stan, it's a bit of irony that I got the young ladies name wrong I was telling you about - as you could probably tell - her name was Paige)
Flowers from the boulder jumble area...
Woolly blue violet
Woolly blue vilet between boulders
04/08/18 Eden Falls and redbud tree along the trail in Lost Valley at first light this morning...
04/10/18 Pine tree after sunset this evening taken during our ongoing photo workshop this week...
04/17/18 I did something yesterday that I don't recall ever doing before. I slowed down, stopped frequently, and sat down and did absolutely nothing while hiking! This is a brand new way of travel for me, and it was quite pleasing. Last week was brutal, with six days and night of photo workshops - some beginning as early at 4:15am and running late into the night. But we had great students and beautiful scenery to photograph - despite that face that SPRING had been beat back by the elements.
My bride left me yesterday. She's in New Mexico attending an outdoor painting conference "aka plein air" painting (which she LOVES and is very good at). Her schedule this week will be brutal as well - beginning with a long drive across Oklahoma and Texas an on to Santa Fe. The guy who organizes this big event each year (Eric Rhoads) runs things about like my workshops - classes begin at 6:30am each day and run long into the night - past my lovely bride's bedtime. There is a little bit of room in the schedule for sleep - Pam says they get about six minutes on Thursday! Then the group will spend the entire day on Friday painting at Ghost Ranch just outside of Taos - the famous home of George O'Keeffe, one of America's greatest painters of all time. You GO girl!
So the pups and I are holding down the fort here, and yesterday afternoon we took off for a couple of "laps" around the newly-opened up hiking trail here. Last Thursday - when I was right at my physical and mental end of the line after the brutal week, Fireman Jeff showed up at noon to do trail work. I drug my self along with him, going ahead and clearing out the path using the heavy backpack blower. The terrain was so steep and rugged and THICK with a zillion young saplings and lots of large downed trees (ice storm of 2009), that at times not only could I just barely make it through the brush, but I was knocked to the ground and even went tumbling down the hill a time or two, backpack and all.
Jeff worked until almost complete darkness - I know that because I was sitting on the side of the hill with him - not able to help a bit, but only there as an observer to call 911 if he killed over - he never did, but admitted it kicked his behind and he was ready for some SLEEP! Unfortunately, he didn't get much of that - he tried to sleep on the back deck of our cabin, but after several times of being literally rolled over by the heavy winds (estimated to be 60-70mph) he gave up and went around to the other side of the cabin deck to get an hour or two of sleep. We fired everything up again at daylight and by the time Jeff left, the entire trail corridor of the loop trail was open up and ready for hiking - YIPPIE COYOTE!
Part of this new work included a short spur trail that led directly to the face of the largest waterfall, a route I discovered last week. The entire loop is about 1.25 miles long, with several pretty good uphill sections. Doing this loop twice will be at least as good of physical exercise as our old three-mile out-and-back hike at Cloudland. It's not a state park trail, but it one of the best private hiking trails that I've seen and I think we're going to enjoy the heck out of it.
Yesterday was one of those times - to simply take my time and ENJOY the hike. There was wonderful beautiful all around me as spring began to burst out. Wildflowers, dogwoods and redbuds and other blooming trees. And almost a total SILENCE in the air. And with the hillside so steep that the trail crossed, it was easy and natural to simply stop, sit down, and lay back and soak it all in. Yup, that's a new way to travel for me, but I'm hopeful to be able to do a lot more of it in the years to come.
Our construction crew arrives tomorrow, along with a full semi-truck load of supplies. The next week will see a lot of progress and things will begin to take shape inside and much of the outside of the structure will get finished. As much as I know Pam is LOVING her time spent with 1,100 of her painting buddies in Santa Fe, I know she will put the petal to the metal to get home as soon as the convention is done to see more of her new home.....
04/18/18 It was very busy at our new cabin site today. The sheet rock hangers arrived at 6:20am and worked all day getting about 1/3 of all the sheetrock hung. One thing I did not expect - each room they completed seems larger now, especially the garage (this is half of it, with the lowest ceiling).
A short time later a GIGANTIC RED semi-truck pulled into the driveway. The driver had just been stuck for 48 hours in the heavy winter snowstorms in Wisconsin before she picked up our load. How funny it was to see this tiny young lady crawl out of the cab of that giant rig. Even funnier, she grew up in Arkansas, yet was terrified of the roads here (it was her second trip) - I would be terrified to drive that thing across the street! It took an hour or so for our builder Rick to unload cargo that consisted mostly of interior stuff for the cabin like the ceiling boards, trim, three large Douglas fir timber trusses, and beautiful pine doors - we got the most basic interior doors the company provided (i.e., cheapest), yet we LOVE them!
In the middle of the unloading, the foam insulation guys arrived and spent several hours foaming under the cabin. Our backhoe guy dug a few more piers around the front and side decks. And someone else was working down there too - I mostly stayed up at the gallery while Rick moved each pallet of stuff (including about a dozen pallets of stone). It was so nice to finally get to see many of the items in person that we had only seen drawings of.
The pups and I made several laps around the property on the trail - it got pretty warm in the afternoon, and they spent a bit of time laying in the pool below the waterfall. I swear the trees that finally seemed to be leafing out a bit were making noises - like when you wake up and stretch out your arms and legs - your limbs of life, just like the trees. AHHHHH, it is great to be alive again! Supposed to be near freezing by tomorrow morning. Oops...
My lovely bride is still in New Mexico - says she had the "best taco ever!" from a food truck today. All residents of Little Bluff will be thrilled to have her home again, as always.
04/20/18 The edges of daylight are often wonderful in the woods, especially on sunny days because the quality of light changes rapidly and can be so magical! I was on the loop trail morning and evening today, soaking up the views through the early-spring forest (trees are still not leafed out here yet). Walking towards the rising or setting sun, what little new leaf growth there was simply glowed with that vibrant new GREEN. Before long the new green will become normal green and then summer green and the forest will become monotone. But now the landscape beckons me to be IN it, and I shall obey...
My lovely bride painted at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico yesterday - at least for a little while until a howling blizzard hit! I've always wanted to visit the ranch because the great Ansel Adams spent a lot of time there visiting his fellow artist Georgia O'Keeffe. 'tis on my bucket list to be there myself one day, and now I'll have Pam to lead the way!
The sheetrock hanging crew completed work today (except for a couple small walls that are waiting for a shower unit to be installed - the one shipped from the Golden Eagle package would not fit). HOLY MOLY the inside of the cabin looks even bigger now (white walls and ceilings). And the crew built a small deck off of Pam's studio above the garage - it has the best views of all, and I think she will like it up there - I only hope she'll come down to visit me now and then - I'll be on the back porch...
My bride's anniversary present is almost complete - my idea an d location, Jeff Davis built the trail to it, Jay/Judy McDonald gave us the swing, and Ron Ferguson (Pam's dad) built the A-frame support- 'tis a work of art! (the A-frame looks like it is leaning because of the wide-angle lens distortion, but Wilson and I tried it out and it is PERFECT!.)
04/22/18 HAPPY EARTH DAY! I had my doubts as our photo workshop group gathered at 6am - which was about the same time the rain began to pick up. The forecast was for it to rain all morning (I try not to shoot while it is raining, but we had no choice but to press on and hope for the rain to stop). Several students had older digital cameras and a couple had point-and-shoot cameras mostly suited for taking snapshots. No fancy camera equipment in the bunch.
We spent a little while under cover at the pavilion next to the parking lot, then loaded up our camera gear and struck off in the rain, headed for Eden Falls in Lost Valley, which was flowing really well in all its glory from the heavy rainfall. Not long into our hike the rain let up and then stopped - we wouldn't see another drop for the rest of the day - YIPPIE! High water, a wet and lush spring landscape, and overcast skies all morning - it was a PERFECT day for a photo workshop!
We spent four hours wandering around taking pictures along the Lost Valley Trail, and were treated to a thundering Eden Falls and several other waterfalls pouring over the bluffs of the canyon walls. Everyone shook off the early rainfall, and I worked with each student to refine their shooting techniques to allow them to capture the very best image quality that their camera was capable of. There were many WOW moments as students saw the magic they were able to capture. We only saw one hiker at the falls, and met several folks met on the way back out to the trailhead later on, but otherwise we were all alone in this beautiful scenic area on a prime spring weekend, imagine that.
After lunch in Jasper, we spent several hours at our gallery classroom here at Little Bluff looking through and selecting one image from each student to make a print from. Every student took home a world-class color print suitable for hanging on any wall or gallery - the prints were TERRIFIC! Long gone are the days where camera equipment really matters - it has MUCH MORE to do with the person behind the camera knowing proper techniques that allow them to capture the beauty before them. And that is what we do in our workshops - give each student the skill and confidence to make the camera gear perform at a very high level - and they all did a great job today. There were smiles all around. (Hint, hint, there are no skills or fancy camera equipment required to attend and love a Tim Ernst workshop! Our last spring workshop will be next Sunday and we still have a couple spaces available - here).
04/25/18 Sunrise from Pam's swing...