CLOUDLAND JOURNAL, AUGUST 1998
8/1/98 It was in the upper 60's when I awoke at daylight, and cool breeze was blowing in from the east. There was a crispness in the air like a fall day. Was I still asleep and dreaming - was this really August in Arkansas? You bet. It was an absolutely gorgeous day in the Ozarks, one of those days that calls out for you to get up, get out, and be a part of it. It seemed like every muscle in my body was sore from all of the climbing up and down through the steep hillsides yesterday, so I spent the first hour of this day on the back deck, soaking up the early fall weather.
Down below in the meadow, I saw a butterfly going from flower stalk to stalk. Then I saw another, and another. Soon I realized that I had been watching them for 30 minutes or more. There were three different types of butterflies out. One kind was mostly yellow with some black, like a Monarch. These guys were really getting after it, whipping about wildly, fluttering up and down, flapping their wings with great abandon, not spending much time on any flower. Going in crazy directions. It was almost tiring to watch a single one, trying to keep up with it. Another group was mostly dark, with a few light spots. These guys were much slower and more deliberate with their flight, and would spend several minutes on each flower. They spent a lot of time sailing through the air, coasting, getting a great deal of flight out of each wing flap. Then there was a blue butterfly, only one. He seemed to visit the flowers that the others missed. He was kind of in between the other two speeds, covering a lot of ground, yet getting a lot accomplished. He is the one that I most related to. I have known many yellow butterfly people in my life, the ones that are very hyper, always busy and needing to be somewhere else. That's it, the yellow butterfly people are always looking for greener pastures in life, or sweeter flowers, and are never happy where they are. The dark butterfly people that I have known are quite the opposite, not willing to move from their spot, in physical or philosophical terms. They really aren't all that happy where they are either, but aren't willing to change. And then there are the few blue butterfly types. I consider myself one of those. We are the types that are very happy in life, and like to sit back and enjoy things as they are, yet are also interested in getting out and exploring some of the rest of the world around us. If it rains, we are joyful to sit there and let it rain on us. If the sun comes out, we want to soak up every ray. If the wind blows, we'll go where it takes us, or let it cool our skin.
As I was deep in meditation about these butterflies, up higher in the meadow air, at about my eye level, a streak of bright yellow flashed by. It was a goldfinch. My attention turned to him for a while. Most birds that fly through the meadow do so pretty much in a straight pattern, flapping their wings as needed to maintain their course. But the goldfinch's flight is more like a roller coaster. He flaps his winds a few times to get him going, which sends him up in the air, in a graceful arch, slowly peaking and heading back down to earth. Then he flaps several more times and is propelled back up into the arch again, and repeats as necessary to make it across the meadow. I wonder which way takes more energy?
The soaring birds came out and played on the wind currents. Several of them landed in the dead snag, and I spent some time studying them with the telescope. These guys really are ugly, their heads completely bare of any feathers, and made up of red, wrinkled skin, with two gaping nostril holes and yellow beaks. If they only had some feathers! I wonder, it this what I am going to look like in a few years?
It was still very hazy, which I didn't mind, because it separated the ridges and valleys way out in the distance, and gave the scene more personality, as if it needed it. Mid morning and still no sun. Still fall-like temps and feeling in the air. I just couldn't believe how great it was outside. I stretched my sore muscles a little, put on my summer hiking gear (the long pants had dried out some overnight from being soaked the day before), and headed down the ladder trail for a walk to the river.
The forest seemed to appreciate the cool temps and breezes as much as I did, for it seemed to be singing a quiet lullaby. The air was sweet, the ground soft. I didn't follow the ladder trail all the way down, but rather just sort of wandered across the benches and down the steep slopes until I had landed at Whitaker Creek, now almost dry. In each little pool there were many water strider bugs (those spiders with long legs that "stride" or skim across the top of the water), and dozens of tiny fish of all colors. I followed the creek downstream, past the old homesite chimney, to the river.
The water level in the Buffalo had been steadily dropping all summer, and now was just barely moving. Although it was still moving, so all the pools were constantly being refreshed with new water. The shallows were teaming with schools of fish. It was still very cool, in the low 70's, and instead of jumping in for a swim, I opted to sit or actually lay out on the rock gravel bar and observed a little while. I laid there for probably an hour, watching the fishes going about their daily routines, and listening to the gurgling of the water and the sounds of the forest. All was at peace on the Buffalo.
For some reason, I got an urge to read, and so I left the water world behind and climbed the steep hill, this time following the ladder trail as far up at the ladder at the base of the bluff. Here I turned and followed the base of the bluff towards Hawksbill Crag. The next place to get up through the bluffline was beyond the Crag. I had been this way many times, and it is a pleasant and interesting hike. You really get a wonderful view of the towering bluff overhead. I got a little taste of it the day before as I had followed the bluff from the other direction. You don't really notice when you are below the Crag - there aren't piles of beer cans and trash like there is below other bluffs, like White Rock (another favorite spot of mine) - you really have to be on the lookout for the Crag. Someone told me last year that the "throat" of the Crag had collapsed and fallen, their proof being one of Neil Compton's pictures from the 70's and one of my more recent ones. No way. It must have just been different lighting. There doesn't appear to be any recent breakdown of any significance when you are standing at the base of the Crag, which is where any breakdown would have ended up. The Crag has evolved into a half-arch form, and an arch is the most stable of all geological shapes. This is why caves don't "cave in" all the time - they have already done so, and have achieved this very stable arched ceiling. If given the choice of spending a major earthquake inside an arched-ceiling cave or in downtown New York, I would take the cave every time.
A little ways beyond the Crag I found the break in the bluffline and climbed out up to the trail, which I followed on out to the trailhead on the main road. I collected Bob's newspapers (the objects of my hike), and headed back to the cabin, stopping at the garden to pick up a few tomatoes and onions for lunch. It was early afternoon when I got to Cloudland, and it was still in the low 70's. Man, I just love summers in the Ozarks!
I made a big bowl of salad, and sat out on the back porch and munched and read an entire week's worth of papers. One of the papers was the Newton County Times, and on the front page was a picture of a dead bear with the caption "Nuisance Bear." The bear had surprised a resident of the community of Deer (the bear was feasting on her apple trees), and when it made a charge, the resident's husband shot the bear.
I must stop here for a moment and confess something. Up until I built this cabin, I had WRITTEN more books that I had read. No kidding. I have always been a terrible reader, guess I just never had the patience or something. I could literally count the number of complete books that I had read on my two hands. Reading just simply didn't interest me. I've always been told that there is no way that one can be an interesting person without being a reader, so I guess that explains a lot about me. Anyway, the John Muir books have grabbed me and pulled me out of the dark and into the light of reading. I have now read all of his stuff that has been published in book form, including all eight of his wilderness discovery book, plus over 900 pages of his letters and various essays. Most all of this material is contained in two huge volumes. I had just finished the second of these books and returned it to Bob's the night before. The other one belongs here at Cloudland. I HAVE a lot of interesting books, as you can see from the titles on my new bookshelves here at the cabin (always looking for more, hint, hint), I just don't know what is inside them.
After I finished the papers, I fell back in the swing and took a long nap, the gentle breezes keeping this baby asleep (you can see how tough life really is here at Cloudland). I awoke to the sound of a hummingbird floating near my head. I really must get that hummingbird feeder put up! Feeling quite lazy, I did manage to get out of the swing, cut off the ends of a log rail spindle that I had an extra of laying around, and mounted it to the last log post on the west end of the back porch. The Amish had installed a similar spindle at the opposite end of the porch, which is where I have the butterfly windsock hanging from. I mixed up the suggested sugar and water combination, boiled it, placed it into the feeder, and hung the feeder from the end of the spindle. Yea, I finally did it! Now the hummers will have more to do here than just look at sleeping bodies. It will take a little while for them to find this little oasis, and none came by the rest of the day.
With that little task completed, a strange desire came over me - I wanted to read some more! I couldn't believe it. Walking over to the bookshelf, Neil Compton's "The Battle For The Buffalo River" jumped out at me. I have known Neil for a long time - he is sort of a god to me (and, of course, to many thousands of others), and was just out at Cloudland back in April. He had given me an autographed copy of this huge book back in 1992 when it first came out, but me not being a reader, I had never sat down to read it. While being about as thick as each of Muir's two books, the pages must be a lot thicker, because this one was less than 500 pages - a giant nonetheless to me! So I thought that I would sit out on the back deck on this cool August afternoon and see what Neil had to say. Any one of my past girlfriends would have fainted to see me with a book of this size in my hands, especially when there were trails to hike, rivers to fish and mountains to climb all within my reach.
It was about 4pm when I started the book, and I was sitting in one of the high swivel bar stools that I had on the deck, my feet propped up on the railing, with all of the Buffalo Wilderness spread out before me. Wow, this was some interesting stuff! I relished his words, devoured every page, and anxiously awaited the outcome of each new section. I knew many of the characters in the book, and was surprised to learn of some of the goings on that they were involved in back in the 1960's. I didn't know about the shootings on the river, how stupid the State of Arkansas was, plus dozens of other major events that happened during the struggle.
I really wish that I had been "of age" while all of this was going on - it must have been a grand battle, and I would have loved to have been in the middle of it. I was in the single digits agewise back then, and had never even heard of the Buffalo or the fight to save it. Towards the end of the war, I was in high school, and did float the river during spring breaks. But I never know enough to get involved. Don't know if I would have back then anyway - I was just another teenager who hadn't discovered the real outside world yet. The dates did take me bock to some fine times on the Buffalo, and during the long sweet summers that followed.
The hours passed and the pages kept turning, slowly. I moved into one of the log rockers (the one with the thick pad!). Then into the swing. I strained to read each word as the light faded. I got up and turned on the porch light, then quickly returned to the saga. More hours passed. My only nourishment during all this time was a single beer and a handful of pretzels and peanuts.
8/2/98 The no-see-um bugs eventually came out and drove me into the cabin, where I took up residence inside on the couch without missing a beat. More hours passed. Finally, the Buffalo National River became a reality, and I had come to the end of the book. Wow, what a struggle, what incredible people had been involved, what a great feat of courage and honor Neil and all the others had done! I was impressed, and more than ever proud to know them. It was 3am. I'd been reading for 11 straight hours (I'm a slow reader).
Neil Compton wrote the foreword to my new Buffalo Wilderness Picture Book. He is one wonderful writer, and the Ozarks have never had anyone write about them with such passion. After finally reading his work of art, and now having the complete picture of the struggle to save the river, I must write Neil a letter, a thank you note from one of the multitudes of regular folks who will be enjoying the fruits of his labor for many decades to come.
When I tried to get up, my legs were stiff as boards, and I hobbled up to the loft and fell into bed. My body was exhausted, but my mind was racing. Images of the history to save the Buffalo kept running through my mind. While I think that I did fall asleep in a hurry, those images continued all night. Many of the scenes were from the book, others were made up by my brain. I saw Neil Compton, Orval Faubus, John Heuston, The Hedges, Chief Justice Douglas, the bad guys Trimble and Tudor and the local rednecks who fought the Park and played nasty tricks in favor of the dams, and I saw Ken Smith. I knew that I must have been dreaming because Ken spoke to me - he hasn't said a word to me in over 15 years, even though I always extend a hand to him with words of praise every time that I see him - he just ignores me and walks away - I've never figured out why.
When daylight came, and I rolled over, closed the blinds, and continued with the saga. Finally, at 9am, I had enough, and got up to a still glorious morning. The birds were singing, the butterflies were making their rounds, and the air was pretty clean - not hardly any haze at all. And it was still cool! After breakfast on the deck, I fired up the computer to do some writing. I felt like music, so I turned on the radio and immediately heard some wonderful sounds. It was an Ozarks At Large program on the local NPR station (University of Arkansas in Fayetteville), but it was this incredible music. My little wire FM antenna is always acting up, and this morning it was playing with my mind. I could not find a location to put it where the signal would be clear - the only way that I could get a good signal was if I stood next to the receiver, holding the wire straight up in the air. I was fascinated with this music, so I stood there, holding the wire up, and listened with eyes closed. Anyone walking in on this scene would doubt my sanity, as if they don't already. Finally I figured out that I could hang the wire from the log coat rack, so I drug over. If you ever come to Cloudland and see the coat rack over next to the stereo, you will know why.
The radio segment was with Mike Shirkey, who does the Pickin' Post with folk music on Saturday nights. The guest artist played several songs, and I soaked them all up, then finally, at the end of the set, they gave his name - Steve Fisher. I must go out and try to find his CD!
I plugged in a CD and went back to the computer, where I wrote for several hours. It was so cool outside, I opened all of the windows in my office. From the computer station I can look out one of my windows that faces East, another one that looks out over the main Buffalo Valley, and I can see all the way to Curtis Cemetery, and the third window that has a view all the way up Whitaker Valley, and I can just see the Buffalo Fire Tower five and a half miles away. It's a pretty fair view, and is a wonder that I ever get anything done. Actually, because of the glare from the bright days, I normally have at least two of the windows shut off with blinds - this helps a great deal.
It is noon now, still cool and cloudy bright outside, though beginning to heat up. It's time for me to get off of my fanny and go downstairs and put a second coat of waterproofer on the basement wall. Then I plan to build a long and narrow deck along the east end of the cabin - this will be my wood stacking area, and will keep the firewood out of most of the weather. That fall weather yesterday and this morning has got me thinking about the wonderful cool and crisp days ahead (well, they are two or three months ahead, but what the heck), and the need to better organize my wood chopping and storing area.
It got hot this afternoon, at least for a fat boy doing some manual labor. I put the second coat of paint on the basement wall, then spent a couple of hours building that long, narrow deck, and stacking some split wood up on it. At one point during the afternoon, my break on the upper deck was interrupted by some sort of grey matter down in the meadow that flashed across the corner of my vision. I didn't get to see what it was, or if I had ever actually even seen anything. I went back to work.
I was making all kinds of racket outside, sawing boards and screwing them in with the power drill, and bouncing lumber off of the deck. During my next break, right after I had sat down with my Diet Dr. Pepper, I looked down and saw a grey fox rolling in the ashes of the brush pile burn area down in the meadow. When I creeped over to get the binocs, I must have made a noise, because the fox jumped up to attention, staring my way. I froze, and we gazed at each other for several minutes. He was sitting upright, with his tail wrapped around his feet - as fine a little fox as I have ever seen! And about the longest view that I ever had of one in the wild. They are usually moving pretty fast when I see them.
Before long he turned away and moved slowly into the thick underbrush. I could see his fur through the weeds every now and then. I went back to work. Twenty minutes later, I looked up and there the fox was again, back in the same bare spot of dirt and ash. He wasn't rolling this time, but had his nose to the ground (in between looks my direction), and seemed to be looking for something. Satisfied, he wandered off, checking me over his shoulder several times before he went out of sign down the hill.
My work done for the day, I put on a pot of rice and cooled myself down in the shower. Neil's book was still tugging at me, and I once again drifted back to the young and carefree days of my youth in the early 70's. Gosh, there was so much discovery then, many fond memories of friends and situations. (It was kind of like the summer of '98.) I put on an old Bread album (CD) on the stereo, sat down with my veggies and rice, my memories, and the golden rays of sunlight creeping up the mountains outside. Absolutely satisfactory!
After dinner I fired up the computer and worked on my accumulating e-mail, and wrote in the journal. It's a good thing that I was alone, because every other song it seems pulled me away from the computer, out into the middle of the great room, where a sing-a-long ensued - it was not a pretty sound I assure you, but it felt great. I hadn't heard this music in a long time. Make It With You. If. Guitar Man. Good stuff Maynard.
Once all of the computer stuff was done, I shut down the music, and wandered around preparing the cabin for sleep. Something took me outside for a moment, where I discovered a wonderful sight that seems to happen a lot out here at Cloudland. It was a half moon, maybe just over half, and it was lighting up all of the wilderness just enough to see all of the ridges and valleys. The moon was in the southern sky, making a low arch, just like the sun does in the wintertime. I must study this moon path stuff, because you would think that it would be right overhead in the summer. But it isn't.
Anyway, it was splendid outside, in the mid-70's with the wind blowing, and quite delightful. I sat out on the lower deck for some time, gazing into the moonlit hollows, and listening to the night sounds. While Bread was mighty fine music, this music was every bit as good.
While the night sky was rather bright because of the moon, and the stars weren't out too much, I knew that next week would be the peak of some great meteor showers, so I tried to figure out what and where would be the best time to view them. After the full moon on Friday this coming week, the moon would rise later and later each day, so by the following weekend, it wouldn't come up until well after midnight - this would keep the night sky plenty black for several hours, and make for great meteor watching. There will be a day-after-full-moon party out here this coming weekend, and I guess I need to have a meteor shower watch party the following weekend. I've heard that the best viewing will be in the northeast sky, but my view is mostly southern, from east to west. So I thought about another place nearby to go watch. No problem - the east meadow has a terrific view to the north. I needed to make sure of this, so I got a wild hare and decided to hike up there this moonlit night and see what I could see.
While not nearly as bright as during a full moon, it was still pretty bright along the path to the east meadow. Of course, the shadows in the deep woods were VERY black, but I didn't want to use a flashlight because it would ruin my night vision. I reached the east meadow without any big monsters jumping out and getting me, and I walked into another world up there. Oh, man, it was just so, so cool in the meadow. The moonlight gave everything soft edges, and I could see forever across the meadow. There were a few flashes on the horizon, and it looked like a thunderhead was out there somewhere, teasing us. I strained to see if there were any animals out there feeding or moondipping, but the grass was so tall, waist deep on me, that any deer out there would be almost completely hidden. And any bears prowling about would be below that level too, unless they were standing up on their hind legs like the one was the last time that I was in this meadow.
No question, this meadow would be the perfect vantage point to view the meteor showers. In fact, I don't think that any of my soon-to-be-invited guests had ever been to this meadow, especially at night, so it would be a nice trip for them. I tromped down some of the grass and weeds, and made a place to lie down. The ground was warm, the breezes were cool, and I lay there for an hour gazing at the Big Dipper and North Star in the bright sky. I think I even fell asleep for a few minutes - it was one comfortable spot, and I could see why deer and other animals choose meadows like this one to nap. Wouldn't it be funny if someone drove into this meadow, expecting to find deer out feeding, only to see a human jump up from the weeds and bound off into the woods?
The trip back down to the cabin was rather uneventful, just another glorious walk in the summertime night woods. The thunderhead flashed every now and then, showing more of the forest than the moonlight did. I wasn't ready to test the waterproofed basement wall, but would be thankful if it rained. The wind was blowing so hard that I didn't need to turn of the ceiling fan above my head. It felt great.
8/3/98 Another fall morning in August! You know, it was only 71 degrees this morning when I got up, but it just "felt" like a fall day. There must be something in the chemical makeup of the air in the fall, and this morning, that makes one feel this way. I look forward to the real thing come October. The wind was blowing, and I never saw a single bird while having my breakfast on the deck. It rained some, and was heavy overcast, but it didn't last long. It felt like rain though, and I suspect that it will rain some on and off all day. The radio says that it is going to be between 95 and 100 in town today, and tomorrow, and the next day...
A light rain began to fall just as I was leaving for town. Stopped by and gathered a few tomatoes for mom - it was great to stand out in the open and soak up the cool moisture.
8/5/98 The rain on Monday must have been a good one - we got nearly an inch! Winds to 23mph.
I escaped from town and arrived back at Cloudland in the late evening. It felt so terrific out here that I put off unloading the van and immediately headed out for a walk. It seemed that just about everywhere that I went, whether it be forest or meadow, I saw wildlife. Lots of squirrels and birds in the woods, and deer after deer after deer in the meadows. The younger deer, now void of all spots, were romping and playing and really having a grand time. Moms were always more deliberate, but I could tell that they were enjoying being out in the cool evening air as well. It was quiet, and peaceful out.
As I walked through the east meadow (this has become my favorite meadow), I begin to feel a little strange, like I was being watched. There were still some deer lingering at the edges, but it wasn't them. I stopped and searched all over, but couldn't locate anyone. Then, all of sudden, there it was. Huge, silent, looming right over my shoulder - the moon had just broken through some clouds and was shining bright in the evening sky. Two days from full, yet still an impressive sight. A friend, out to keep an eye on this city slicker rediscovering the wilderness.
At Bob's cabin, Benny and Mildred had arrived for a short stay. They have done a considerable amount of the restoration work to the old Woods cabin for and with Bob, and still do most of the work around the place. Although they don't get out here often enough. It seems then the time they spend here is all spent working. I need to soak up a little of their habits!
After a short visit, I strolled into the dark, taking a detour back through the east meadow once more. It was a little overcast now, very thin, which only spread out the moon beams, making the light softer. A meadow in very soft moonlight is a wonderful place indeed, and it took me nearly an hour just to cross it (this is one of many places that called for a lovely young lady to be holding hands and sharing the moonlight with). The nighttime bugs came out and began singing, and kept me company the rest of the way to the cabin. I unloaded the van and spent another hour out on the back deck, my feet propped up and my hands around a glass of wine. There was enough moonlight to illuminate the valleys below, and I could see a cloud bank forming in the bottom. It was good to be home again.
8/6/98 In the middle of the night, around 2am I think, my outside alarm went off. It does that every now and then, mostly because of deer moving through, so I didn't pay too much attention to it. A few minutes later, I heard a thud on the front deck - damn, somebody, or something, was out there. I got up, stumbled down the staircase, and peered out the front door window. I could see the front yard, driveway and woods, all illuminated by the hazy moonlight, but the porch was in shadow, and dark. I turned the porch light on. Nothing. I must have imagined the noise. Or perhaps a bird had flown into the window.
I shut off the light to save my night vision. As long as I was up, I thought that I might as well go out and water the wildflowers, saving my precious well water. I unlocked the big front door, and stepped out. Thump, thump, thud, thud - my heart stopped and I almost lost my wildflower fluid - there was a bear on the porch with me! He must have been off to one side and out of sight when I had turned the light on. He dashed across the porch and down the steps, then across the driveway and into the woods. It happened that fast, and then was over. I was now fully awake. The porch swing was swaying back and forth - he must have been over in that corner of the deck and hit the swing as he went past. Either that or he was sitting in the swing enjoying the view when I had disturbed him. Holy smokes. Can't a guy go out and pee in the middle of the night without being scared to death anymore?
It took me quite a while to go back to sleep, in fact I'm not sure if I ever did. Visions of teeth and claws kept going through my head. I gave up the sleep part and got up early, before sunrise, ate a quick breakfast and decided to get some work done. By the time the sun came up I had already put together a storage shed that I brought in town. This will be the home to my chain saws and outdoor tools.
It was in the 60's, and felt great to wear a pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt. There were broken clouds in the sky, and no breeze. I found fresh bear tracks at the base of the front porch steps, right next to the track that had been made a couple of weeks ago (I had covered the old track up with a pan to show people) - these new tracks were much larger than the old one. In all of the excitement during the bear incident, I never really got a feel for how big the bear was, but looking at the tracks, I realized that I should have fainted when he came across the porch - this was one big bear. I retreated to the other side of the cabin to enjoy the view.
The new hummingbird feeder was already seeing a great deal of use - the little critters had drained about half of it in less than a week. It didn't take them long to find it this morning, and I spent some time watching and listening to all of the fuss. When Jim and Susie gave the feeder to me, they warned that the little hummers might get a little aggressive - boy, were they right! These little guys have trouble getting along! They hiss and snarl, and spend most of their time chasing each other away from the feeder (I may have to put up another feeder). As I am now inside writing this, one of them has come over to the window next to the computer three different times, as if to be trying to figure out what the heck I am doing. Perhaps he wants me to come out and play!
The butterflies are going nuts this morning too. I decided to spend some time trying to identify some of them. I went down to the lower deck with the binocs and the ID book. Good grief, there were over a hundred of them out this morning. They were everywhere, feeding on the wild yellow sunflowers (woodland or hairy, I haven't figured out which yet) that have now crowded into the meadow below. Come to think of it, the sunflowers are everywhere. They stand about 4-6 feet tall.
With ID book and note pad in hand, and binocs around my neck, I walked down and spent about 30 minutes wandering through my little meadow wonderland. The butterflies have no sense of fear, and never even batted an eyelid (do they have these?) when I was next to them. It was peaceful and exciting at the same time.
The bright yellow butterflies are Eastern tiger swallowtails, and these are the largest of the bunch, many as big as my hand. They were more sedate today, spending most of their time munching on the flowers. Next line in both number and size are the Spicebush swallowtails, black and blue in color. Often there were both kinds feeding on the same stalk of wildflowers, and they didn't seem to even notice each other. There appeared to be a lot of pairs out too - they stuck together as they went from flower to flower.
The other main butterfly was an orange and rust colored one, pretty large, but I couldn't ID it. These were the friendliest ones, and one even sat on my outreached hand for a few seconds. Then there were several others, smaller, that I can't ID either. Guess I will have to get Lori, the pro butterfly guru, back out here to help. Later, back inside the cabin, I found the name of the larger orange butterflies in an unusual place. I was looking through a National Geographic book for some reason (America's Wild Woodlands), in the chapter that included some of the Ozarks, and son of a gun, right there was a close up picture of this very butterfly. Great spangled fritillary butterfly. I looked it up in the ID book, but it didn't look the same. Right below the picture in the Nat'l. Geo book is a picture taken by Tim Ernst. Hum.
Benny and Mildred came by, and told me of their bear problems. A large bear had been into two of the three gardens overnight. In the Faddis garden, he ate EVERY single ear of special corn that Bob was growing (he dries this corn out and has it ground up into cornmeal). The bear had broken down most of the stalks too. Funny thing though, he left the sweet corn alone. And the tomatoes. They must not like tomatoes. Too bad, since EVERYONE who has tomato plants has too many, that would be the perfect job for these problem bears - to eat all the extra tomatoes! The bear also tore down a large Martin house at the Faddis cabin. This is the first time that a bear has been to the Faddis cabin area (since Bob has owned it). Not a good sign.
I took them out to the front porch to show them the fresh bear tracks of my own - and we agreed that it must have been the same bear. Not a good sign either.
After they left I hiked on up to see the bear damage firsthand. The East meadow garden, the place where I had just had my little wonderful stroll the night before, was torn up pretty bad. The bear had gotten into the tall corn and actually got down on the ground and rolled - knocked down three rows of corn - and then ate all of the ears (well, at least it looked like he had rolled them over). There were still lots of ears left, but this guy was on a terror. The tracks were big, very big. I'll bet this was the cinnamon bear that Billy had seen in the North meadow last month. And the same bear that was on my front porch.
The cinnamon bear is the only bear that had been seen at Bob's place before this summer. He had been there off and on over the last three years, tearing down bird houses, getting into the birdseed, and messing up the front porch of Bob's cabin. And last summer he ate all of the canteloupe. (I had wondered about this before, but now realize that it must have been him.) For some reason, this bear has laid low this summer, perhaps because the big black bear that I had been seeing had run him off or something.
After being in the garden for about ten minutes, I noticed some movement up the hill when I started to leave - it was a turkey hen! She made a lot of noise as she flew off. As I approached the spot where she had been, an entire flock of them jarred me with their flapping wings and loud commotion. There were eight more of them, although these were smaller than the first one. All of them had been right there in the middle of the meadow the whole time that I was in the garden. The grass and weeds were so tall that I never saw them.
As I wandered through the woods towards the Faddis garden, the black clouds overhead opened up and it began to pour. No thunder, just lots of wonderful rain! I stood under a big oak for a few minutes to stay dry, then went on out into the woods, where I got soaked in a flash - didn't seem to mind - it was quite refreshing! I started singing that B.J. Thomas song. The shower soon ended. The Faddis garden was just as torn up as the other one had been, only nearly every stalk was down on the ground. And that poor Martin house. I don't know if there were any birds in it this year, but there were last year.
Martins are funny. Bob has always said that they would only build nests in a house if there were people around. He has had this house at the Faddis cabin for several years, but only once had any birds in it. That was last summer, when the woods boys were restoring the Faddis cabin - they were there every day! Plus all of my Amish crew was coming and going. And now this summer, there is no one at the Faddis cabin, and the birds did not come. Bob needs more guests at the Faddis cabin, especially during Martin nesting time.
On the way back to my cabin, I found several places where the bear had walked right down my dirt road - they were the same large tracks as the ones in the gardens, and in my front yard.
After a nap and a pile of junk food, I decided to go back up to the East meadow and hang out a while and see if the bear came back for more corn. I can hardly believe this myself, but I took two books with me! Wow, this place has really gotten to me - I'm reading books in the middle of the day. I spread myself out in the upper end of the meadow, propped my feet up and started reading, stopping every page to scan the meadow for any movement. It was overcast, and threatening rain at any moment. I could hear rumblings off in the distance.
I got through the first book pretty quickly - "Selected Poems by Edgar A. Guest." I have no idea where this book came from (printed in 1940), but it was on my bookshelf, and was short, so I brought it along. It was OK, but nothing that I would quote. The second book was "Epic Trips Of The West" by Tom Stienstra. I'm going to write a book kind of like this one some day, and wanted to see what his was like. The first story was about his search for a Bigfoot creature in northern California during a hike that he took with forest service officials. He said that the Hupa Indians call Bigfoot "Ohmahah," which means "Wild Man of the Woods." Seemed timely for me to be reading this story because it will be the "real" Wildman's 77th birthday tomorrow, and I was sitting there in the weeds waiting for my own type of bigfoot. Once I finished that story (he never found the large fellow, but did see some evidence of one), I began to read another one in his book about a hike along the John Muir trail in California.
About halfway through this short story, I looked up to scan the meadow for the 100th time, and saw some movement at the far end. I got out the binocs, and right there at the edge of the meadow, stood the largest black bear that I had ever seen. Holy cow, this guy was huge!!! And sure enough, just like everyone had said, he was cinnamon color - most likely the same bear that I had seen on my front porch only a few hours before. That color happens in about 30% of black bears. Damn, his ears sure were small. He was very hesitant to come into the meadow - perhaps he smelled me, or where I had been walking. Or maybe it was just his natural caution, which was why he had brown to be so big.
He disappeared back into the thick woods, then emerged again about a hundred feet away. Then he disappeared again, but soon came out at the original point, and headed straight over to the garden. He walked right into the corn and began munching. I saw one stalk do down, then another, then another. You know, I knew that I had wanted to see this bear in the daylight, but now that I was watching him, I had no idea what to do next. I felt kind of funny just letting him tear up the garden, but did I really want to go out across the open meadow and charge this bear, screaming like an idiot? Sure I did. And that is exactly what happened.
I got up and walked towards him. At first he didn't see me. I got pretty close, and he still didn't see me. So I started yelling - he immediately stopped what he was doing, stood up on his hind legs, and looked right at me. Holy smokes, what was I doing? Was I insane? I screamed louder and moved toward him. Just then I remembered that I had brought the shotgun with the rubber bullets that the Game and Fish had issued us, which I had carried down the hill. He dropped back down on all fours and turned away. I popped him in the rear with a rubber slug. He didn't stick around for a second one, and tore across the meadow and into the woods. Whew. I took a deep breath and put another rubber bullet into the shotgun, hoping that I would not need it. I wondered what that rubber bullet would do to an angry, charging bear? Duh, perhaps it would be better if I didn't find out. I walked back up the hill, gathered up my stuff, and high-tailed it back to the cabin. It was beginning to get dusky dark when I arrived. I felt good that I was able to hit him with some rubber, and hoped that it got his attention (like it apparently had done for the other big bear that was bothering Bob's cabin - he has not been back since I shot him with rubber bullets in June).
It was exciting seeing a bear that big, especially so close. As I was sitting out on the back deck telling my story to someone on the phone, I looked down and saw not one, but two grey foxes. I guess the one that was there the other day liked the place, and brought the Mrs. back for a visit. They snuck into a certain clump of weeds and never came out. I should go down there and check to see if they are making a den or something. I need to find out more about foxes. It is nice to be talking to someone on the phone and just casually interrupt the conversation and say "oh yea, two foxes just came by for a visit, and they are sitting right here in front of me..." I never saw them again this night. Boy, this day sure has been full of wildlife! Butterflies and foxes and bears, oh my.
As I was stepping out of the shower later, a barred owl stuck up a conversation right out in front of the cabin. I sat out on my loft deck and listened, but I never saw anything. I don't know if there were two or three of them, or just one, but there was a lot of hooting and hollering going on, and it all seemed to be coming from just one tree. Man, they sure can make some funny noises!
I just remembered - when I was out looking for bear tracks around the cabin, I found a set of deer prints that came right up next to the cabin - like the deer was looking into the window. I wonder if they do that? If I ever turned around in my easy chair and saw a deer staring at me I would probably pass out.
It's late now, after ten, and the sky has cleared and the moon is shining bright. Tomorrow is the full moon, so it is big. There aren't any fog banks down in the valleys, but there is one about halfway up the mountainside across the way, hovering over the Buffalo River. The moon has it so lit up that it is bright white, and looks really strange and out of place in the middle of all the dark mountains. I'm heading to bed now, and hope that the alarm doesn't go off! It has been another spectacular day at Cloudland. Simply "satisfactory."
8/7/98 No alarms, no bears on the front porch. I awoke to the soft cooing of mourning doves in the meadow. While I was having my Mocha on the back deck, the doves seemed to be working in pairs. One would call out, while its mate would fly about here and there doing something, then they would reunite on the same limb. There were two pairs working the meadow.
The hummers were out in full force too. Five of them were at the feeder at one time, or were trying to get to the feeder anyway. At one point, there was this one hummer who would sit on a tree branch nearby. Every time that another hummer came close to the feeder, he would fly over and chase it off. Come on buddy, there is plenty for everyone! They have been using the protected corridor of the back porch as a fighting alley.
Try as I might, I never saw any foxes this morning. But I now spend a great deal of time looking down in the meadow for them when I am out on the deck. There weren't many butterflies out this morning either. But there was one big, bright yellow one that was flying about twenty feet up in a tree - its brilliant yellow really contrasted against the dull green of the tree. Don't know why it was up so high.
The morning began very cool, in the upper 60's, with hazy skies and a low cloud cover. But now, at 10am, the clouds are breaking up, the sun is out, and it is warming up in a hurry. Think I'm going to go for a hike.
I did hike up to check out the gardens, just to see if Mr. Bear had been back, and everything looked OK. The spider webs were out in full force today, and I was covered from head to toe with them in just a few minutes. I ended up getting a dead branch and holding it out in front of me as I walked. I only had to eat two or three spiders.
When I went out on the back deck to eat my rice and veggie lunch, there was no wind, so I turned on one of the ceiling fans out there to help keep me cool. A large butterfly came up and flew near the rotating blades of the fan - I thought for sure they would cut him up, but he avoided them. He landed on the ceiling near the fan, and just sat there for a moment, looking everything over. Then he swooped down below the fan, and made a number of attempts to fly right through the blades, stopping and dropping back just before hitting them. This was really strange behavior. After about a dozen tries, he made a final charge and flew RIGHT THROUGH the fan blades without getting hit! I couldn't believe it! Satisfied with his feat, the butterfly went merrily on his way.
There were a couple of soaring birds out, but no sign of the bickering hummers. I spent some time at the computer, cleaned the cabin up a little, then headed to town (stopping to raid the garden for tomatoes for my mom on the way out). The Wildman is having a 77th birthday dinner at his house tonight that I am going in for. I will be back out soon though, as I have guests coming out for the full-moon party this weekend.
The full moon was beaming when I arrived back at the cabin, where I found Roy and Norma soaking it all up. At one point Roy asked me to turn off the spotlight outside, and I told him that the only spotlight on was the moon - it was very bright.
8/8/98 It was cool at dawn, with a light breeze. A few small clouds were chasing each other around in the valley below, and the hummers were chasing each other around up on the back deck at Cloudland. Norma read in an ID book that the first hummer that finds a feeding station becomes its guardian, often waiting on a nearby branch, and running off any other hummers that come to get a drink. This was easy to see. We never could figure out which type of hummers we had here, although one species fit our description exactly, but the book only showed them living along the west coast. Perhaps we have become a "California" type of place here.
Bob and Dawna Robinson rolled in from Ft. Smith, and we all went on a hike to visit the bear damage at the gardens, then down to Bob's place, and on to the Woods Cabin, where Billy Woods and his family were slaving away, trying to get the place finished in time for hunting season in November. Their cabin is looking very nice indeed. We found a good-sized pile of bear scat, which was mostly undigested wheat hulls, confirming Billy's notion that the bear was spending a lot of time in the North field, which is planted with wheat. The bear must be watching those TV commercials about eating whole wheat to help prevent cancer.
Spider webs were in great quantity all along our route, but I was glad to have Norma leading the way and eating most of the spiders that I normally get to catch. Near Bob's cabin, we discovered that the pawpaw trees there had some green fruit on them - this was the first time that I had ever seen fruit on these young trees. As they ripen, they will get rather fragrant, adding to the pleasure along my hiking route past them. On the way back to the cabin, we found more bear tracks in the road, although they were not fresh. In fact, there wasn't any fresh bear sign, so I hoped that the rubber bullet worked on this latest monster marauding bear.
Black clouds were building up in the afternoon, and we decided to stick around the cabin and do a little work. We spent a couple of hours wiping every square inch of the logs inside with damp cloths - getting rid of a great deal of dust and soot from a winter of fireplace fires. The logs began to glow once again. It was a little like a beehive in the cabin, with everyone running around or climbing up and down ladders, working like crazy. Roy noticed that the fireplace mantle was not entirely level, and I told him that was the way that I had designed it. Who could argue?
The black clouds did open up and pour down for a short time, and we all got to see a good lightening show as well. Many of the bolts were hitting in sight, within five miles. The back deck is a great place to watch the progress of an approaching storm. Just as the raindrops dried up, Hete showed up. He had spent the last couple of days showing property to a couple from California who flew in to buy some Ozark property. Like an increasing number of others, they want to escape the rat race and relocate to the backwoods. We went on another hike to show Hete the bear damage. It was funny how the bear had taken the corn cobs, and instead of just chomping them whole, had eaten the corn off of the cob, just like most people do.
We had an early Dawna-made lasagna dinner (early for us - the usual Saturday night dinner is around 8 or 9pm, but we finished up by 7), then packed up and headed on over to the Crag along the blufftop trail (our goal was to witness the moonrise from the Crag). It was a wonderful little stroll, and we found the Crag deserted when we arrived. The sun had already gone down, and darkness was advancing. There was a thunderhead over in the eastern sky, lighting up orange every few minutes with a giant thunderbolt. We passed the time discussing our favorite movies, and trying to get the attention of some barred owls there were talking across the way - none of our party was very good at owl talk. As it got cooler, the warmth that the Crag had soaked up during the day felt good.
Someone looked up and noticed a glow in the eastern sky - "what is that!" Right on cue, a brilliant fiery ball appeared behind the trees at the top of the ridge, and the full moon began its rapid rise into the summer sky. The forest around us that had been brimming with the conversations of birds and bugs, immediately grew silent. So did we. We all sat there on the sandstone outcropping in awe at the moon, its color, its size, and its speed of advance. Wow, this was an incredible moonrise! And to make things ever better, the moon soon disappeared into a cloudbank, then emerged again, giving us a second moonrise. We couldn't have asked for a better sight.
As the moon climbed higher into the night sky, a few stars popped out here and there, and we began to see satellites and jets passing overhead. The major topic was trying to figure out the exact departure and arrival cities of the jets. And we found a couple of shooting stars, one streaking across half of the sky. The stars were giving us a preview of the meteor showers that we all would gather next weekend to watch. The moon eventually lit up the sky so much that we could hardly see many stars, so we packed up and hiked back to Cloudland.
8/9/98 It was a bright, but red/orange sun that greeted the day. We all slept in a little, except for Bob and Dawna, who slept out on the back deck (Hete slept in the front porch swing, guarding against any bear attacks). This back deck area has really become the main gathering place at the cabin, no matter what time of day. I wonder if it will continue to be the main place once it gets colder? It was a little cool this morning, and felt great.
After a lazy morning, we all packed up and headed down the ladder trail towards the river. Along the way we discovered another grove of young pawpaw trees, growing right next to the trail. No fruit on these guys yet, but it is only a matter of time. We did a little trail maintenance, removing some dead falls and branches that blocked the trail, as well as rocks that were in the way. With all of the use this summer, this trail has turned into a pretty nice corridor through the woods, although the original trail route is still VERY steep, but it is the best way to get up and down the hillside.
The river had gone down some, but the main swimming hole was still intact and a wonderful place to lounge away the day. The water was cooler than normal. Much of the river is spring fed, and as the water levels drop, the cold spring water contributes a larger percentage of the water, with the warmer runoff being less, so the overall water temperature drops. Sounds kind of strange, that the water gets colder as the level decreases, but that's the way it is. Dawna and Hete had not been to the swimming hole before. Unlike our last trip here, Norma forgot her Nero Wolfe book and so didn't read to everyone. The fish were kind of looking forward to it.
The hike back up was a little warm, but everyone arrived in good shape. After cool showers and clean clothes, we all settled in on the back deck, and after a beer or two, things got pretty quiet. Almost everyone was napping at the same time, and it looked rather strange to see all of these bodies in chairs lined up along the railing. The afternoon was cool, as it had been all weekend, with just a little breeze, and a few hummers darting around. We watched the brilliantly colored goldfinches and butterflies working the meadow, but never saw the foxes.
The subject of hummingbird feeders came up again. It seems that the liquid with the red dye in it is very bad for the little hummers, and you should always make up your own solution of sugar water. Hete said that he had read somewhere that you had to boil the sugar and water together, or the hummers would get the runs. We all agreed that someone very low on the totem pole must have had the job of figuring that one out.
And speaking of testing, I did a water quality test of the Cloudland water. All of the tests for Nitrites, Nitrates AND bacteria were NEGATIVE!!! That means that the water is clean and pure, and safe to drink (I've been drinking it for a year now anyway).
The only other business that was discussed in the afternoon was the design and makeup of the official Cloudland T-shirts that would soon be produced. The front would feature the Cloudland logo, and the back would contain the dictionary definition of "Cloudland" (from the American Heritage computer dictionary - Webster's doesn't list it at all - I'm not going to buy any more Webster dictionaries).
Bob and Dawna left to go back to the rat race, and the rest of us lounged away the afternoon (Norma took a short hike). Before long it was time for Cloudland Pizza! We sat out on the back deck, gathered around my Wal-Mart table, and made four pizzas disappear in a flash. After cleanup, Roy, Norma and Hete headed back to town too.
Near dark, I laced up my walking shoes and went for a stroll. The plant smells in the night air were just wonderful. And for some reason, there were no spider webs out. It was cloudy, so no stars were visible. I returned to the cabin well after dark, and crawled into bed. It had been another satisfactory weekend of conversation, food and wilderness.
8/10/98 Sometime during the night, the breezes quit, and the sky opened up and it poured for about five minutes. Then the water stopped, and the wind picked up again. My dreams were hardly even interrupted. The breezes continued for the rest of the night and into the new day. Laying in that wonderful bed in the loft as daylight filters in to light up the logs and aspen boards, and as the breezes gently flow through, it is difficult to get up. So I didn't, at least for awhile. It took a flannel shirt to brave the morning on the back deck, a textbook morning of cool breezes, soft sunshine and singing birds all around.
8/12/98 I returned from town to a freshly washed forest - it didn't rain too much, but just enough to scrub everything clean. The sky was clear, and after I unloaded the van, I hiked up the hill and around to the east meadow to see what the stars were up to. It was very dark out, and the moon wasn't due up for another couple of hours. So I laid down in the tall grass and searched for shooting stars.
Barred owls seemed to be out in full force, calling from several different directions. They were the only sound. Well, I guess the nighttime summer bugs were out too, but I sort of ignored them. The sky was black, and the stars were twinkling like crazy. The east meadow is so open, the sky seemed to just wrap around me, and I felt like I was right up in it. I read somewhere that for every shooting star you witness, you will be blessed with a spot of good luck. Since I have spent many nights in my life doing nothing but looking for shooting stars, I guess that would explain all of the great fortune that I have had. There were only three stars that streaked across the black sky, and satisfied that would be enough to carry me through the night and next day, I got up and made my way back through the darkness.
The starlight had just enough power to show me the way through the meadows, but in the woods it was black, coal black, and I had to use a small flashlight to find my way. I heard a sound in the leaves up ahead, and pointed the light in that direction - a raccoon! No, it was too slender, and only had a short tail - hey, it was a bobcat! He turned back to look at me with those big eyes, then sauntered off through the woods, not really too interested in worrying about me. They look so funny with that bobbed tail. I guess one of the shooting stars already paid off - seeing a bobcat is a wonderful thing indeed!
Back at the cabin the night sky drew me out once again, and I spent an hour or so down on the back deck, laying in the hammock, sipping a glass or two of red wine, and gazing up at the stars. The owls were busy on this side of the hill too, although they were all far off, and their hoots echoed through the canyons. I never saw another shooting star, but did enjoy the owls, and the Milky Way.
8/13/98 As it got light, I rolled over to find myself engulfed in clouds. I couldn't tell if they were really clouds hanging low, or fog banks rising up. I had to get up and go out on the back deck to investigate. It was dead still outside, no breeze, no sounds at all. This fog was different from most - it seemed to be a lot finer. At first, all I could see was white. Soon, Beagle Point across the way showed up, then the next ridge, and the next. One by one a ghostly image would appear, then gradually get darker and more defined. The fog wasn't rising, or sinking - it was just disappearing. Every now and then the silence would be broken by the drumming of a woodpecker far away. The sound would come across the fog bank, then roll past and up into the next valley.
After a couple of hours, the fog banks were still hanging around some, and the sky was overcast. A soft rain began to fall. I couldn't tell if it was really rain, or just moisture from the fog. A very tiny bird landed in the top of the snag at the edge of the bluff. I got out the telescope, cranked it all the way up to 45x, and the bird was still tiny. There are usually giant turkey vultures resting on this snag, and this bird was about as big as one of their feet. He kept looking nervously in all directions, singing every now and then - and was answered by another one off in the woods.
He flew on over and perched in a dogwood nearby, and would fly up and grab a bug, then land again in the same spot. While I could count the feathers on his chest with the tele, I couldn't figure out what bird he was - a very nondescript brown and grey sort of fellow. Actually, he was probably a she, but I call everything "he" until the gender is known.
The hummers were out too, although they were mad, and kept flying past my nose. I finally realized that they had nothing to eat - I took down their feeder last night to clean it, and hadn't put it back up yet. So I cooked up a little sugar water for them. It only took three minutes for the hummers to begin to feed after I hung it up.
I usually listen to NPR news in the morning, and after the news the KUAF radio station plays classical music the rest of the morning. I have never liked classical music, probably because I have never really been exposed to it. I keep it on as more background music than anything else. Although I am beginning to notice that this stuff really does GO with the atmosphere out here at Cloudland. And while I do like some of it now, I still can't name any of it. I have a lot to learn in life. Good thing that I am just a young whippersnapper, with plenty of time and desire to learn.
It stayed cloudy most of the day, with one heavy downpour and several other periods of light rain. Nice and cool. And still, very still all day. I heard on the radio that it was 90 in Fayetteville. I got up and looked, and it was 69 here at the time.
A bright burst of yellow streaked across the meadow and broke the visual silence. It was one of those "flying sunflowers" as I have come to call them, a goldfinch. He went down into the wildflowers, then flew back up into a branch. I put the scope on him, and he was almost entirely yellow, only a few patches of black on his head and wings.
A lawyer from Little Rock called and wanted to know if I would testify in a civil suit against a company that built a golf course and messed up a pristine mountain stream. I would be an expert witness as to the value of that clear, wild water, and what it meant for it to be destroyed. Hum.
Later in the day, I was awakened from a nap on the couch by an eerie feeling. Couldn't quite place it. When I looked over my shoulder, I knew what the deal was. Holy smokes! I felt like I had just walked into a grand cathedral! The clouds that had the mountain socked in all day were parting, and golden sunlight was filling the valley below. Rising steam clouds were everywhere, many backlit with rays punching holes through them. In the main valley, the clouds cast a shadow on the hillside they were floating next to. And up in the sky, oh my goodness, pure white thunderheads were stacked a mile high, and were crowded together in the back of that grand cathedral, listening to the sermon. I sat out on the deck with my jaw dropped for 30 minutes. And they say that you have to go to a fancy church and give money to a preacher in order to worship. They don't really know what The Almighty is.
After the incredible show out back, I munched on a salad for dinner, then laced up my shoes and went for a hike. The stillness of the day continued in the woods. Not much was going on anywhere. Not even any bugs out. Well, there was this one pesky horse fly, but I liquefied him before he could do any damage. I wandered around a bit, and ended up heading towards the east meadow just as the sun dipped below the trees. Things always seem to happen there. Like I always do, I slowed down and creeped to the edge of the meadow, trying to see if anyone was home. Son of a gun, there he was - black and cinnamon fur, and walking right down the path towards me! It was an old coon dog, thin as a dime. I just love those old hound dogs - they are always so friendly and happy to see ya. He seemed to be enjoying his walk too, and the cool day. We conversed a little, then he continued on his way.
Looked like the deer had been back in the garden, as there were several more melons eaten. No bear sign though. Lots of bats flying around, seemed like more than normal. I hoped they were getting fat.
As I was about to leave the meadow, a coyote down off in Dug Hollow started yipping. Yip, yip, yip. It echoed through the hollow. These guys really have a high pitch voice. Yip, yip. He was a long way off. Yip. Then one answered that was very close, just off in the woods a few hundreds yards probably. The same high-pitched yip, yip. I hadn't heard a coyote out here in some time, since last February I think. I love to hear them howling, or whatever that is they do after the yip. Yip, yip. Howl.
On the way back, I stopped and picked some of the purple iron weed and wild sunflowers for the kitchen table that were growing in the power line right of way. They add a little color to the inside of the cabin, and make the place a tad more homey. I never know when a wonderful young lady will step out of the woods and knock on the front door, so I always want to be prepared with a handful of wildflowers nearby to hand her. Yippieeeeeee.
The starlight out back was just enough to illuminate Beagle Point. The rest of the canyon was engulfed in a fog bank that had settled in. Starlight is so soft, almost not there. Out in the open, you can see, but just barely. In the woods, forget it - dark as dark can be. I remember once trying to hike three miles back to my car at night with nothing but starlight to guide me. This was back in 1975 when I worked as a tour guide at Blanchard Cave. I had just delivered a church group to a wilderness campsite on the Sylamore Creek (I was the official Forest Service leader, and was even in uniform). It took a lot longer to get the group to camp because one of them was crippled, and the going was slow. Anyway, it was dark when I left their camp. Of course, I was not at all prepared for night travel, and didn't have a flashlight (nor a pack or any sleeping gear). I set off in the darkness confident that I could "smell" my way back to the car. Yea, right.
It was tough going, but I was able to feel my way along an old logging road for about half a mile, running into many trees in the process. When you hike in the dark through the woods, it is always a good idea to put your hands out in front of your face to keep any branches from poking you in the eyes. I soon realized that I would never make it up the mountain to my car, so I decided to lay down on the ground, curl up, and spend the night right were I was (I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and long pants - I had nothing more). It typically got down into the low 50's at night, sometimes even lower, so I was not too comfortable. In the middle of the night, I managed to gather up some small sticks and started a fire, then curled up next to it. I managed to sleep an hour or so, then would wake up, shivering, and would feel around and gather up enough sticks to get a small fire going again. Then I could curl up and sleep a little more, until the fire went out. It was a very long night, but I survived, and hiked out and made it into work at Blanchard Cave on time. Love that starlight!
8/14/98 Very hazy at daylight, 67 degrees, no wind. Only a few butterflies and that flying sunflower were stirring. The thick haze continued all morning. Another wonderful, cool August day in the Ozarks!
Bob and Dawna arrived at the cabin in the early evening, followed by Hete, Roy and Norma, and Mary and The Wildman. We all hung out on the back deck, sipping the nectar of the Gods, and waiting for the stars to come out. About ten o'clock, we packed up and headed for the east meadow. It was fabulous out, and the stars spread out across the wide open sky, gently illuminating the meadow with soft starlight. As soon as we got there, a brilliant shooting star streaked across the sky. To celebrate, we popped open a bottle of champagne and passed it around.
As the hours passed, we saw many more shooting stars, drained several bottles of champagne, and generally enjoyed a delightful night under the blanket of shimmering lights. We were not showered with hundreds of shooting stars per hour as some of us had seen in previous years, but there was enough of the amazing streaks to keep us happy. Even the owls enjoyed the show, hooting their approval off in the distance. All too soon, folks began to cool down, and we packed up and returned to the cabin. We should have all brought sleeping bags and slept out in the meadow, enjoying the stars all night. Mark that down for next year.
8/15/98 By sunrise the back deck was a buzz with conversation and sleepy guests enjoying the morning. The hummers were up too, providing a great deal of entertainment for all. There were many goldfinches down in the meadow, darting back and forth. The butterflies were out too, awing us all with their size and brilliant colors. One butterfly was entirely lime-green in color, looking a bit out of place. And Roy surprised everyone with a plate piled high with fresh baked blueberry biscuits, which disappeared in a hurry.
At first light, everything was engulfed in fog. Gradually the scene before us changed, the fog moved around and lifted and retreated, and all of the ridges and valleys appeared, one by one. Another textbook morning at Cloudland.
Before noon, everyone left except Roy, Norma and I (the only one with a valid excuse for leaving was Bob - he had to fly to Hawaii the next morning). The three of us left out for a short hike that lasted several hours. We hiked up the power line right-of-way, and discovered a GIANT mint plant, actually three of them. These plants were about five feet tall, and full of pale blooms. "These can't be mints" we said. But the square stems and very minty scent from the crushed leaves proved them to be just that. Wow, what a cup of tea you could make from these!
We dropped by the Woods Cabin to check on their progress, then hiked on over to Eddy Silcott's land. He has really done a wonderful job of cleaning up this plot of hillside that had been carved out of the deep woods long ago. All of it was neatly mowed, and while he hasn't built anything to live in there yet, the cabin site is placed at the top of the bare benchland with a nice view out over Dug Hollow. There were several huge cowcumber trees there, each heavy with colorful fruit.
On the way back we admired a wonderful umbrella magnolia tree near the Woods Cabin. This tree was growing right next to an old spring. Some of the branches hung right down next to the ground, and we were able to get a close up look at the magnificent leaves. We also found a perfect black-eyed Susan wildflower in the north meadow (well, I guess they are ALL perfect, but this one was especially so). After a visit with Bob at his cabin, we headed back to Cloudland.
All along our route we found pairs of butterflies chasing each other. It was difficult to tell if it was love, or aggression, or both. This was evident in the meadow below the back deck too. All day the butterflies were chasing each other, sometimes swirling round and round, up and up, often getting as high as the tree tops before either disappearing into the trees, or breaking away from each other and floating back down to the ground. It was always butterflies of the same species that were chasing each other, lending weight to the love theory. Once in a while there would be three of them chasing each other at the same time - hum.
It was a lazy afternoon. Roy decided to try out the new futon that I had installed in the office - he wasn't available for comment for a couple of hours, so it must have been OK. Norma read out on the back deck. It was a cool afternoon, with a light breeze.
Before long the second round of weekend guests began to arrive. Dean and Bonnie LaGrone, Hete, Beth Motherwell, Larry and Kerry (?), and Bob Chester. The cabin was alive with chatter again. We marinated chicken, baked brownies, shucked sweet corn, and had a drink or two. It would prove to be another classic Cloudland feast, with everyone filling plate after plate (grilled chicken, sweet corn, Cloudland rice, fresh bread, Ceasar salad). When it was all said and done, the biggest pile of corn cobs was on Norma's plate. Then it was time for dessert! Hete prepared banana splits (which we continued to consume the next day for breakfast and lunch and late afternoon snacks). Nuts, whipped cream, cherries, chocolate bits, French Vanilla ice cream, and oh yes, bananas.
Then someone put on a little dance music. The more the dancers danced and laughed and sweated, the more music they wanted. And the louder it got. I must say that from my seat in the office, it looked like we had some pretty darn good dancers out on the floor. And, shock of all shocks, I couldn't believe my eyes when BOB CHESTER got out on the dance floor! Now I have seen everything here (Was it Beth or Kerry's hooters that got him out there?). I was eventually dragged out there myself, although I looked a little out of place because I had already put on my meteor watching clothes. Finally, the music died down, and all of us but Roy and Norma headed out for the meteor fields again (they stayed behind to create their own sparks).
The sky was even darker than the night before, and therefore the stars brighter. It didn't take long for the stars to give us a grand show, and we saw more shooting stars in a given time period as well. No champagne though. It was another fine night in the meadow.
8/16/98 Larry and Kerry got up at sunrise, making some great coffee, and soon the back deck once again filled with conversation and hummers. It was a carbon copy of the morning before, with the fog doing its thing and providing breathtaking scenery. Beth, the resident bird expert, helped ID many birds, including the hummers, which she determined to be immature and female Ruby-throated ones. In fact, it is possible that most of them are from the same brood. We saw many more goldfinches, and one hawk that we think is a sharp-shinned hawk. Hete had heard screech owls and yellow-billed cuckoos the night before.
Breakfast was made up of odds and ends, including fresh baked muffins by Roy, and pastries from Kerry. Then Beth brought in a cold watermelon. As she was preparing to cut it open in front of the waiting mouths, she told how it had been specially selected the day before at the Farmer's Market in Fayetteville by the very farmer who grew it. There were a few groans as it rolled in half - overripe and inedible. Darn! It would later become bait in the wild hog trap at Williams Woods Nature Preserve.
Clinton bashing seems to have become a national pastime, and has tried to creep up a time or two at Cloudland. I consider it nothing more than a waste of time by idle minds. In fact, I try to remove myself from all political discussions, since most everyone's information is taken from tabloid accounts, and there is seldom any real information dispersed. I was a little surprised at my guests, all much smarter than me, who refused to discuss any relevant political topics, in favor of the Clinton trash - I guess sometimes all that IQ doesn't really mean anything.
We did get into a lively discussion about how stupid the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is (our only state-wide newspaper). First off, they can't even spell the possessive of "Arkansas" correctly - the misspelling is on the front page of every issue, showing their ignorance statewide. We also noticed that their much-touted "Northwest Arkansas Edition" of the paper, even the Northwest Arkansas SECTION of that edition was full of stories from other parts of the state and not Northwest Arkansas. Such a waste of good trees. Most newspapers these days are nothing more than tabloids.
Norma and Beth worked on a crossword puzzle. Norma and Roy were going to go home early just so that she could get the Sunday paper and work the puzzle, but Bob Chester had acquired said paper from Danny Woods who drove to Harrison to get it, and so Norma was able to stay at Cloudland for most of the day. It took them awhile, but finally they got the last word, and the puzzle was complete! I could not believe some of the words these folks knew.
The rest of the day was full of reluctant good-byes, and visits from other friends and neighbors. Oh yea, we had several rounds of banana splits too! The highlight of the afternoon was when a visitor messed up the telescope, causing it to later crash down onto the lower deck - a $500 telescope ruined. Also, I discovered that the screen on the deck door had been pushed in. All of this being normal wear and tear by guests - I guess that you just have to expect such things when folks visit. I must say, though, that my water conservation program and especially the "men pee outside" policy has been working, as the well has not run dry since a big party back in February. The conservation policies will continue.
There were a total of 31 guests and visitors to the cabin over the weekend. At times you could hardly make it across the front porch because there were so many coolers and pairs of shoes (no shoes allowed in the cabin).
A few comments from the weekend guests:
"Cloudland is a paradise made even more beautiful and complete kin the company of good people, congenial enough to get crazy on the dance floor and lay out together under the stars." --- Beth Motherwell
"Another great weekend at the "Party Place." The hummingbird chowder was a great hit, as were the bear kabobs! What the blazes were the eight-legged things on the tick-tock banana splits?" --- Hete
"Here, beneath the bough, with a loaf of bread, a flask of wine, a book of verse, and thou, beside me singing in the wilderness, and wilderness is PARADISE enow." --- Omar Khayyam (via Beth)
The following poem, printed on cloud paper, was left at the cabin:
MORNING IN CLOUDLAND
I cannot see beyond my cabin door.
The river far below is an a shroud of ghostly fog,
wet fingers touch, explore the pines and rocks;
my home is in a cloud.
A bluebird in dripping pines awakes to shake her feathers,
to greet another dawn with carols;
here's the sun, and morning breaks,
and with the warmth, the heavy mist is gone.
A graceful blue-gray crane flies slowly t
o her treetop nest against a rocky ledge.
And I, like her, am perched high,
with a view of peaceful hills and trees,
at heaven's edge.
After everyone had left, it was nice to walk into a clean kitchen - thanks to Beth and Norma. I had a dinner of left over rice and cheese, and a fresh ear of corn. I had bought a gadget that cut the kernels off of the cob, and it worked flawlessly. Now I could enjoy corn the way my Grandpa had taught me without having to work too hard at it.
After dinner, everything was quiet and still outside, and having been cooped up in the cabin all day, I decided to go for a hike. With no particular agenda in mind, I put on my long pants and boots just in case I got into some heavy brush. I left the cabin and just sort of rambled through the woods, going wherever my interest took me. Before long I found myself in the middle of a big flat area in the Dug Hollow drainage. I've been to this area many times before, and have always been amazed at how large and flat it is - what a perfect campsite, and I wondered if entire tribes of Indians had ever camped there before. It was in the Wilderness, and heavily forested, but there wasn't much underbrush and you could see along ways in all directions.
Out in the middle of the flat was a giant red oak tree, leaning at about a twenty degree angle. It really stuck out against all of the other trees. And it was really big - my arms around it barely made it half way around the trunk. I decided that this tree was a lot like me - a bit abnormal and skewed just a little in the mainstream of life. I had become the butt of many jokes by my guests over the weekend, and so I was feeling a little out of place. But, just like this tree, I would struggle to remain firmly rooted in my landscape, and continue to grow and enjoy life.
The sun had gone down below the trees, and the light in the forest was even with no shadows. This is the best light to be able to see the most detail, and I enjoyed wandering around looking at all there was to see. I had not been to this part of the Wilderness in quite a while. The serene beauty of it all kept drawing me further and further into the Wilderness. I dropped down through the bluffline at the only point for over a mile in either direction that a horse or mule could go down - this was actually part of a historical trail that connected the communities of Ryker and Mossburg. The trail was no longer visible, but it was obvious that animals of all kinds were still using the break in the bluff (like humans, bears and deer).
I kept easing down the slope, exploring my back yard in the dim light. There was no breeze, no birds, no sound at all. And hardly any spider webs, which was nice. Before long I found myself at the bottom of the hill where Dug Hollow meets the Buffalo River. It was almost dry there, but a short walk upstream brought me to a big, deep pool. I knew this pool, and had been there many times. Bats played in the air above, and I lingered there until faint stars begin to show themselves. Stars? Oops.
Stars in the sky meant that the woods would be DARK. I didn't have a flashlight, and the moon wouldn't be up until 2 or 3am, and even then the 1/4 moon wouldn't provide any illumination in the deep woods. It was a tough, steep climb back out to the cabin, and doubt that I would have had an enjoyable trip in the dark. So I decided to make due where I was, and spend the night in the woods. In the back of my mind, while I was wandering further and further away and towards nighttime, I must have been thinking about that overnight stay on the ground in the woods back in the 1970's. I did want to move away from the river though, where it would be the coldest and buggiest. And I wanted to be next to my best friend.
I scrambled up the hillside to the level bench above, and into the dark woods. It was an easy, level walk to my destination, but it was very slow going, as I had to literally feel my way through the forest. The ground was soft at first, then got kind of rocky. That was good - I wanted to be in the rocks. It was tougher walking though, and I stumbled a time or two. The ground rose up some, then dipped down into a small ravine. Yes, that is what I wanted! In the bottom of this little ravine there was a bit of running water - water from a spring far up on the hillside. I got down on all fours, and sucked up the cold water from the gurgling liquid. I didn't bring a water bottle, so this was wonderful.
After I had my fill, I stayed down on all fours, and crept up the opposite creekbank, which was a little steeper, but not too high. Once back on level ground, I searched with my hands and feet. It has to be here, somewhere close by. I couldn't see a thing. Then I found it, a pile of moss-covered rocks. I burst into tears. I had found my best friend in life, the grave of my faithful dog Yukon. He and I had spent a thousand more times the amount of time in the woods together than anyone else I ever knew. I wanted to spend the night here, and converse with my old friend, knowing that I would be safe and warm and happy.
The night was a long one, and very noisy - lots of summer bugs and owls and whip-poor-wills screaming. I didn't have any matches to start a fire, but I did bring a headnet, which proved to be invaluable as the bugs got a little pesky. I never really slept for long periods of time, but I did manage a bit of sleep now and then, in between tossing and rolling and trying to get comfortable. The temperature couldn't have dropped below 60, but twice I did have to stand up and jog in place in order to warm up. But mostly I just laid there on the ground, curled up with my old friend.
I did use a bit of wisdom garnered from John Muir's writings of more than a hundred years ago to help keep warm. I stuffed my shirt with dried leaves. Yep, natural insulation. It felt kind of strange, and was a little noisy when I rolled over, which I did quite a bit, but it seemed to work. The only real problem was that along with the dead leaves came a number of bugs, and I spent some time digging and scratching as the night wore on.
Once during the night all of the bugs got really quiet. That's not a good sign. It is a sure sign that something is approaching. Within moments I heard a rustling in the leaves. It got closer and closer. Try as I might, I couldn't figure out what it was. But it was larger than a squirrel. Closer and closer. It was coming down the hillside on a line right toward us. Finally, not wanting to get stepped on by a deer or a fox or a coyote (the subject of bears never came up in my mind - yea, right), I stood up and screamed. Probably scared the poor thing to death, whatever it was. It left the area in a hurry, making all kinds of racket in the process.
All in all is wasn't a bad night, although I would have liked to have had a hooded sweatshirt and a bottle of water with me.
8/17/98 As daylight creeped into the forest, I got up, stretched a little, bid Yukon a fond farewell, and headed up the steep hillside. I was a little chilled at first, and stiff, but that soon left me as the work of climbing warmed everything up. There were lots of spider webs out this time, and I kept the headnet on. While I was a little hungry, I wasn't empty enough to want bugs for breakfast. Man, it only seemed like minutes, but there I was, standing on top of the bluff and walking on the level towards the cabin.
As I sat out on the back deck sipping my Starbucks Mocha, the orange ball rose above the opposite hillside and flooded the valleys with sunshine - no fog at all, but it was hazy. Birds of all colors and sizes and sounds played in the meadow below, in the sky above, and out in the forest. The hummers were out in full force. And a breeze was bouncing around. It was nice to be home. It was great to spend the night with my best friend.
8/18/98 It was hot and still when I returned to Cloudland late in the evening from a day or two of city work. The summer bugs were loud. I spent a couple of hours working on the final Cloudland t-shirt design on the computer that I had started on last week. I couldn't ever get a good feel from the weekend guests about the shirt design for the front - can't ever please everyone - but we did nail down the back, with Beth's help. So I probably will just go with my gut feeling and get a few printed and see what happens. Once I get everything worked out for sure, I'll post the designs and info on the web page somewhere.
By the way, I purchased a domain site for the official Cloudland web page. My first choice was taken, but I did get the second one. I have had trouble explaining the address to people when giving talks, because the address has been so long, but it is simple now: www.Cloudland.net. You can still reach the home page by using the old address, but it is better to type in the new one, then bookmark it. Right now I am still having a little trouble uploading some stuff to the new site, but am confident it will all be worked out soon.
By the way #2, I always welcome any comments about the web site - especially about the journal. There is even a spot on the web page for comments - just send me an e-mail and I'll post your stuff there.
8/19/98 The sky was full of hummers soon after sunrise. It was very still out, no fog, but lots of haze. There were at least a dozen hummers buzzing around the back deck feeder. Often, there would be three of them feeding, with several others in a holding pattern above - reminded me of the Denver airport.
Lots of goldfinches out too. You can always tell when one of them is on a wild sunflower - the bird is so heavy that the flower swings back and forth. They would fly from flower to flower, feeding and playing and getting some good exercise. Then, without warning, one would fly up and over the treeline at the edge of the meadow, and head out into the grand canyon, getting smaller and smaller visually, then disappear completely. I have no idea where they are going, or why. They kind of sneak up the hillside through the trees, so they never make a grand entrance, but their exit is always interesting.
8/20/98 An orange ball hung in the hazy evening sky as I made my way to Cloudland. Several deer played in the meadows. I found a pleasant surprise in my mailbox - my very own copy of the Newton County Times, with a label showing a years worth of them to come. Bob Chester got me the subscription.
The sky grew black and the stars came out - more stars than I had seen out here in a long time. The Milky Way shone brightly. The air was dead still. And so were the night bugs. It was really quiet. I sat in the log swing sipping wine and listening to the stereo, then moved to the hammock on the lower deck - much better view of the night sky from there. And the night bugs came out in full force - I no longer needed the stereo for my music.
The city was beginning to drive me nuts, especially now with all of the UofA students and faculty returning for the fall semester, so escaping to Cloudland was more important than ever. And it was so much COOLER!!! I could breathe easy once again.
8/21/98 One of the outside alarms went off at about 2:30. I got up and looked around a little, but never saw anything. I hoped that it was just a deer or something, and not another bear sniffing around. I went out onto the lower back deck, the one with the good view of the sky, and was nearly knocked down by the brightness of the dark sky (does that make sense?). What can you do but stand there and stare up into the heavens in awe.
I didn't pay too much attention to the sunrise, only rolling over to escape the light and going back to sleep. I didn't realize that right outside my window was one of the most incredible views ever! I happened to glance down into the valley, and saw a solid cloud bank hugging the river bottom, blue sky above, and no haze in the air at all. It hadn't been like this in a while. I jumped up and landed down on the back deck in a hurry. Wow, what a sight! These were real clouds down there, not just the fog or mist. And it all was still thick and tight, even an hour after sunrise. The ridges on the east side of the canyon were silhouetted and black, while the ones on the west side were lit by the full glory of the morning sun. It was a great contrast, with the sea of clouds between them. The temp was a cool 66 degrees.
Before long the clouds began to move as the rays warmed them. They were awake and dancing to the tune of the sun! This went on for about fifteen minutes. Then, all of a sudden, the clouds began to disappear. Within ten minutes they were all gone, and only a faint haze remained. I guess the temperature and/or humidity reached just the right spot. Or the clouds had urgent business, and were beamed elsewhere. Either way, it was an impressive sight.
The meadow below was filled with busy goldfinches, perhaps 25 or 30 of them, and it seemed like every bush and wild sunflower was moving, though there was no breeze at all. In contrast there were no butterflies to be seen, and only one pair of hummers. The hummers were probably all elsewhere looking for food - they had drained the feeder the day before, and I had just hung up a new batch. I guess they lost hope when it went dry and flew elsewhere. The pair that was there this morning seemed more interested in each other than in eating anyway.
I spent most of the morning working on the OHTA newsletter. At one point the silence was shattered when one of my outdoor alarms screamed. Someone was coming down the road. She looked really funny, waddling right down the middle of the road - a wild turkey hen! She was all by herself. I went out to join her for a short stroll, and was amazed at how much of the forest floor was turning colors. The poison ivy is just beautiful right now - red and orange and gold. Mostly bright red. It covers the ground and climbs the hillside, spreading brilliant color.
Lunch was had out on the back deck, in the porch swing. The hummingbird feeder is just three feet away from the swing. About half way through my rice and veggies, a tiny hummer landed on the feeder and began to feed. I just sat there, motionless. This little guy really sucked a lot of juice. When I raised my arm to load another fork full, he jumped up and flew away. But he came right back. And this time, he wasn't interested in the sugar water - he wanted to see what I was all about. At first, he was two or three feet away from me, hovering in the air staring me right in the face. He would jerk over about a foot, then hover and stare some more. He made a series of these moves, each time moving just a little to the right, and getting in a little closer. By the time he had made a complete revolution around me, he was only a foot from my face! It was really strange being watched so closely by such a noisy a wild creature. I was hoping that my ears didn't look like flowers. Wow, could you imagine what life would be like if hummers were blood suckers? Yikes! All of a sudden, an adult hummer came flying up and crashed into the little one that was watching me, and they both flew off. None returned for about ten minutes. Then the whole forest showed up - it was business as usual at the feeder, with a dozen or more of the little guys feeding and chasing and bouncing off of each other.
By mid afternoon it was hot outside, with a good breeze, and lots of speedy butterflies. They weren't really feeding, but rather flying frantically from one side of the meadow to another. I wonder if they had eaten all of their food in the flowers? Is that possible? I dunno. They looked like butterflies on a mission.
And the soaring birds were out in full force too, playing in the wind currents. Someone said that the sun warmed the air in the open space, and created updrafts, which is one reason why the soaring birds come in so close. Today they were swinging by so close and fast that you could actually hear them rushing by.
After a nap, more work at the computer, and some salad for dinner, I went on out for another ramble in the woods. This time I wouldn't be leaving the top of the mountain. I worked my way around through the woods and up to the east meadow. As I was walking through the upper end of it, I saw a flash of black. Oh no, another damn bear!!! Yep. When I first saw him, he was milling around at the edge of the garden. Then he disappeared below the brushline. I crept a little closer, and found him rolling in the dirt! The dirt was rather dry, and he was really kicking up a cloud of dust. I'll bet that this bear was at my cabin early this morning and was what had set off the alarm. This guy was coal black, and pretty big - he had small ears. I hadn't seen him before. His coat was shining brightly in the evening sun. A very deep black.
The wind was blowing from me towards the bear, so I knew that I would soon be discovered. I bent down and settled into the brush, trying to stay out of sight. Sure enough, before long he stopped his rolling, stuck his big nose into the air sniffing, then stood up on his hind legs, and looked straight at me. I was about a hundred feet away. Having a tiny hummingbird staring at me from close range was one thing, but having this giant mammal doing it from even a hundred feet away was something altogether different. The hair on my neck stood straight up, and a chill went down my spine. I hoped that he could see me well enough to realize that I was not a giant corn cob. In a flash he was down on all fours and bounded off across the meadow and into the woods. It only took him about three seconds to reach the woods! I breathed a big sigh of relief.
The bear had been in the garden for a while, and had knocked down and eaten most of the remaining corn. I wondered why they don't have a lot of bears in Iowa? It didn't appear that he had bothered any of the melons, a couple of which were getting rather large.
I continued my hike, and made it to Bob's cabin, just to check on things and to see if the bear had been there - he hadn't. I discovered a peach tree along the way - found fresh pits on the path, and looked up to find a tree full of them. They weren't quite ripe enough to eat yet, but you can bet that I will keep my eye on them. The paw paw fruit is beginning to get fragrant, and it is wonderful to walk past them.
I made my way back to the east meadow, and sat down against a young dogwood tree in the upper end. I could see most of the meadow from that spot, and wanted to see if the bear would come back for more corn, or more dirt. The sun had already gone down below the treeline, and it would soon be getting dark. There weren't any bugs out, which surprised me a little, and there was a light breeze blowing. Lots of bats were out though, dancing all over the sky, and would eat over a thousand insects each before going back to bed. I sat in the meadow until I could see the first star come out. Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I might, have the wish I wish tonight... My wish was that I wouldn't be eaten by the bear on the way back through the dark woods to the cabin. It was a very pleasant little "sit" in the meadow. The bear never came back, nor ate me on the way home.
Back at the cabin, it was time for me to begin a new book, so I sat down and opened another fat one, the 800+ page "Comanche Moon," a novel that set up the early years of "Lonesome Dove," which is my all-time favorite mini-series. The people in that series are so real, and the actors so perfect for their roles. The Wildman gave me the new book.
The novel quickly sucked me in, and before long it was midnight. Since much of the book is about Indians, and their customs and beliefs, I got to thinking, thinking about the bear in the east meadow. I decided that I wanted to soak up as much of the bear's spirit as I could, so I packed some stuff up and headed back to the east meadow to spend the night.
8/22/98 The sky and clouds were breathtaking, dark and bright at the same time. It was the dark of the moon, so the darkness would continue all night. The view was spectacular. I laid back on my pad in the tall grass and stared at the universe. Before long a number of meteors shot across the sky, followed by more, and more. It was a much better shower that we had either night last weekend, partly because there was no haze and the sky was clearer. Each one was awesome!
I didn't really expect to see the bear in the meadow this night, in fact it would be better if I DIDN'T see him in the dark, but being there, right in the middle of his feeding grounds, put me closer to his spirit (can a living thing have a spirit - sure it can, I've got lots of spirit, and I'll bet that you do too). The starlight lit up the meadow enough that I probably could have seen a big black bear, but I tried not to look.
The air was sweet, and cool, and the screech and barred owls and whip-poor-wills were out in full force. So were the night bugs, singing loudly. I laid on my back and tried to sleep, but it was tough, with all of the night music and the stars. Before I knew it, I woke up to bright sunshine in my eyes, and was covered with dew. Guess I did get to sleep after all, since it had been light for over an hour. No sign of Mr. Bear, although I did feel a little closer to him.
I spent most of the day back at the cabin, laying on the couch or out in the swing, reading about Gus and Woodrow and Clara and Maggie and Buffalo Hump. Love this stuff. My only break was to watch the hummers fighting at the feeder. There was one ten minute period - I actually timed it - where there were three hummers at the feeder, chasing each other off, and none of them ever got a single drink in all that time. And all three of them had their own feeding station. I don't understand them - why would they spend so much time bothering with each other and not eating a thing themselves? Most things in nature make sense, but these hummers sure don't to me.
It was sunny and hot outside, with a steady breeze. No one came by the cabin all day. Not even any wild turkeys. Lots of soaring birds out.
Long about suppertime, I downed a bowl of salad, then decided to head back up to the east meadow and do a little bear watching. I took the book, of course. Down in the tall grass on my pad, I would read a page, scan the meadow for movement, then read another page. An hour went by. Then two. Just me and the book and the meadow.
As the sun turned gold and began to dip below the treeline, the shadows grew and stretched across the meadow. The colors at first were brilliant reds and oranges, then softened gradually with the progress of the shadows. Once the sun was gone, the horizon glowed pink and orange and yellow. The meadow glowed with the same colors, though much more muted. I absolutely LOVE this time of day!
I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye, over at the far end of the meadow. It wasn't black. It was a deer. A very large buck stepped into the meadow, and was looking nervously in my direction - I'm sure he could smell me - the wind was swirling around. I got out the binocs and looked him over good. He had a very impressive rack, still in velvet. I counted ten points, and the tines were very tall. His rack was very tall too, sticking way up there. This was not the monster buck that I had seen a couple of times before, but a trophy none the less. Another buck stepped out behind him. This one was an eight pointer, but his antlers were bare, no velvet at all - a little early in the season for that to have happened. Both deer stomped and frooze and flicked their tails, then repeated, each time coming a step further into the meadow.
A third buck stepped out behind them, and this guy was the largest of all, another trophy rack, still in velvet. He too had ten points, but the rack was much taller than the first one, and the tines were more impressive too. Still not the big monster from before, but probably larger than any buck besides him that I had ever seen in the wild in Arkansas. Wow, three big bucks in the same meadow, right there in front of me, all nervous. They came a little closer, and were near the melon patch - I'll bet these guys were the ones doing all of the melon eating! But they were more interested in me this day than in melons. They came closer, and closer, each stomping, and freezing and flicking their tail. They were looking right at me, but since I was so hidden in the tall grass, they couldn't quite make me out clearly. They strained their necks to see. Who are you? What are you? And what are you doing in our meadow? My heart pounded - I think they could probably hear it. I began to sweat. There sure was a lot of wildlife looking at me this weekend.
The breeze must have blown directly from me to them, because all of a sudden all three of the deer jumped up and landed facing the opposite direction, and within seconds disappeared into the woods. A spooked deer can cover more ground in a second than another other wildlife that I have ever seen. It took me a while to recover and to get back into my book again. I had decided to spend a second night in the meadow, so I brought my sleeping stuff with me, and a bottle of water. The stars came out, and the hoot owls, and I lay back and began another night of star gazing, soaking up more bear spirits.
8/23/98 I must have been in deep sleep, because I couldn't figure out what had woke me up at first. Then I remembered - it was a wolf howl. What? We don't have any wolves in the Ozarks. I must have been dreaming and got the wolf howl from the book. Then a second howl nearly knocked me back against the pad - this was no dream, and the sound was close, probably right at the edge of the meadow. But was it a wolf, or just a coyote? It was a howl and not a yip, but coyotes howl too. I was still half asleep, and couldn't think and process the sound very clearly. Then there was a third howl - I was sitting up and looking right across the meadow towards the sound this time. A wolf? A coyote? My brain was still scrambled. It sounded exactly like a wolf howl, and they don't sound anything like a coyote. But then, it didn't, not exactly. I shivered at the possibility - not that I would be afraid of a wolf, because that wouldn't be any cause for concern - but because it would be an incredible happening! But I wasn't sure, and there were no more howls. Whatever it was just wanted to wake me up and let me know that it was out there, then it wandered off.
It took me a LONG time to get back to sleep - over a dozen shooting stars worth of time, whatever that was. The night sky was simply incredible.
I got up at first light this time, covered again with dew, and hiked back to the cabin. The wind was blowing pretty good, and I had to steady myself to keep the log swing from blowing around too hard. I was more than halfway through the book, and read on steadily, almost all day. There were lots of soaring birds out again, including several red tail hawks. And lots of hummers making all kinds of noise. I no longer consider them to be very smart birds - they waste so much energy fighting each other when there is plenty for all.
By late afternoon I finished the book - I've never read so much in my entire life as I have this summer - four giant books! I guess the air out here at Cloudland is having a positive effect on me. The wind continued to blow. I ate another salad, then returned to my meadow bear-spotting post. And I took another book along, a much smaller one this time, and read a few chapters as the evening shadows turned into darkness. No bear, no deer, only owls and whip-poor-wills. And a few mosquitoes.
Once the first stars came out, I packed up and headed back to the cabin. Heter was bringing by two folks from out of state to drink a beer on my back deck, so I felt obliged to join them. Hete has quickly become known as a crack real estate seller, and people from many states are flying in to have him show them property. He has been showing a lot of property. I guess these people have been finding out about him on the Internet.
This couple (actually brother and sister) was looking for the perfect spot for a get-a-way home for their family. They were high class and well groomed, and wanted Hete to introduce them to some writers. I was the only one that he could think of on short notice, and I'm not really much of a writer, but I had a good view and cold beer. Their family owned an island somewhere, and a house in Florida, and no telling how many others. They were typical of many folks these days wanting to get away from the rat race and relocate in the Ozarks. Very impressive people these two were, delightful company, and I hoped they found a good spot here. We all saw two shooting stars from the deck.
After a long weekend of reading and bear spirit gathering, I was worn out and retired early, this time to my own bed in the loft. I laid on the side of the bed next to one of the windows where I could see the night sky. The outside alarm went off three times - probably was the bear coming to see why I wasn't up in his meadow. I thought that I heard heavy footsteps on the deck a couple of times, but didn't bother to get up and investigate.
8/24/98 Daylight came early today - clear, no haze or fog, nice breeze blowing. I didn't have any more Starbucks Mocha at the cabin, and it is still too warm for hot chocolate, so I sat out on the back and sipped ice cold water for breakfast. The butterflies had returned, and were busy milking the wild sunflowers again - a great sight to see. In the past, there have been great numbers of three or four different varieties in the meadow below, but today there were probably a dozen different species, and they all were scattered all over the meadow, staying close to the ground because of the wind.
The wind may have kept the hummers grounded too, because there were hardly any of them out at all. But there were lots and lots of soaring birds riding the wind currents. I guess having a warm day with lots of wind is like the carnival coming to town for the soaring birds!
I spent the rest of the morning at the computer, writing the journal, working on the OHTA newsletter, answering e-mail. All too soon it was time to leave, and I reluctantly shut everything down and headed back to the hot, noisy and crowded place they call civilization.
8/28/98 There was a great deal of activity down in the meadow when I returned to the cabin. Mostly from flying sunflowers chasing each other. Man, they can really get up some speed as they scream through the tall flowers and low bushes! And I don't know if they were running to the plants, or it was from the wake of their passing air current, but the flowers and bushes were really swaying back and forth. The air was dead still - no breeze at all.
There were also other species of birds chasing each other (females perhaps?). And two squirrels that were making quite a ruckus. I've not seen too many squirrels out here around the cabin. I wonder if they were scared away from all of the construction commotion last summer? One of these two seemed to have romantic intentions on his mind. Later, I saw one of the squirrels dangling from the bottom of a large, horizontal tree limb, hanging on for dear life. I always laugh when walking through the woods and a squirrel hits the ground with a big thud in front of me, having missed a limb and fallen out of a tree above. They always look rather surprised and embarrassed as they scurry off in the leaves. How come it is when a wild animal or bug falls a great distance (relative to their body size) that they never get injured? Is it simply because their body weight is so light that the impact is less? Heck, when a human falls a few feet lots of things smash.
The day was cloudy, but the air was clear. There were a number of trees already turning fall colors down along the river - probably sweet gums. I saw a number of other trees on my drive in that were turning brilliant colors - lots of black gums and dogwoods. I'll bet that I heard twenty people say this week that we were going to have a horrible fall, and no color at all. I love to hear people say that, because they are almost always wrong. I think we are going to have a fantastic fall! And the trees that are turning now are already showing some great colors. I prefer to put my stock in the trees instead of people who don't know what they are talking about.
Just before sunset, the clouds began to break up. Bright sunshine flooded the valleys below, and lit up the hillsides. It was a wonderful sight to behold, and was the perfect welcome for the brand new official Cloudland t-shirts that I brought out. Come to think of it, the logo on the front of the shirt looked a lot like what was going on outside - a bright sun coming out from behind a group of clouds, silhouetting the cabin, and some of the trees and ridges. There are also three soaring birds on the t-shirt, but those guys were all hiding today. Several different tiny birds took turns perching on the old dead snag at the edge of the meadow where the soaring birds usually have their meetings.
There weren't any hummers out - they had drained the feeder and had gone off to seek other nourishment. I filled it immediately, and I'm sure they will return soon.
The blues show on KUAF is now bouncing off the cabin walls, and soft warm light is filtering in through the trees from the setting sun. And WOW!, there is one heck of a light show going on up in the sky outside - a ton of brightly-colored clouds against blue sky - first pink, then orange, then blood red. Just another typical Cloudland sunset.
After the show died down, a friend from Little Rock arrived - Janice Rogers. She claims to have read every word of this journal (How could any human endure such torture?), but this was her first visit to the cabin. I had been installing a new zip drive into my Mac when she arrived, and I met her at the front door with a small flashlight in my mouth, and told her that I would began my hosting duties as soon as I had put all of the computer guts back, and cleaned up my mess. After the proper spirits were poured, we conversed for a number of hours (way past my bedtime), and watched an absolute black sky sparkle with a million diamonds.
8/29/98 I rolled over to see an orange ball through the trees rise in the eastern sky. This ball looked just like the one on the Cloudland t-shirts. By the time I made it out onto the back deck, both the sun and Janice had been up for a while. A number of birds and butterflies were up too, making their rounds through the wildflowers and celebrating the morning.
We had toasted blueberry bagels and pasta salad and tea and all kinds of stuff all day long. The birds really put on a show, and we spent hours and hours studying their fun through the binocs. There were a lot of soaring birds out, including many hawks - as many as five overhead at the same time. Most of the hawks were red-tailed, but there were a couple of Cooper's Hawks out too. In fact, we would see these hawks off and on all weekend, both up at the cabin as well as down on the river.
At some point during the day I managed to break away from the show and finish the zip disk installation in the computer - and surprise, the darn thing actually worked. Then it was back out to the back deck for more bird watching.
A nighthawk also danced up high in the sky, and looked a little out of place in the middle of the day. And a pair of pileated woodpeckers flew through the meadow, in formation. One of them veered off and landed on the snag, then quickly followed the other one up towards the Crag.
There were a number of yellow butterflies that came swooping down from high in the trees. Some of them would drop like a rock until just before they got down into the brush, then they would level off and began to explore the sunflowers. Others would come out of the treetops and zigzag in wide streaks on down to the flowers. They were quick, and not as large or brilliant as the tiger swallowtails that dominated the sunflower patches. But it was interesting to catch their fall. I looked them up in the ID book and discovered that they were Cloudless Sulphur butterflies (and an e-mail to my butterfly expert, Lori Spencer from the Ozark Natural Science Center confirmed this).
There were lots of butterflies of all kinds working the meadow all day. The tiger swallowtails seemed larger than usual - as big as my hand. I think they are really getting some good grub out of those wild sunflowers, and are growing to monster size.
The hummers did return, but only one or two at a time. And there were almost no fights at the feeder. I guess the rest of them found greener pastures. There was one pair of them that landed on a dead twig right out in front of our perch. Janice and I both had our binocs trained on them. The tiny birds scooted along the branch towards each other, then leaned forward and touched the tips of their long beaks, and held them there for a few seconds - a hummer kiss! It was a delightful moment at Cloudland.
We spent most of the day with the binocs in hand - more time looking through magnified glass than I had ever spent before. And while I know that my little armored Bushnell binocs aren't the greatest, they did a great job. We got to be included visually in many remarkable moments of acrobatics and glee up in the sky. Before we knew it, we looked up and it was four o'clock. Good grief, it felt like we had just sat down for morning coffee!
Four o'clock on a hot summer Saturday afternoon? Must be time to go swimming! We packed up and headed down the ladder trail. The river was the lowest that it has been all summer - not hardly even flowing at all. But the good old swimming hole was still deep, long, and the water was just about perfect. The sun had gone down enough so that the pool was completely shaded. I swam a little, then laid back in the water against a warm rock, while Janice explored the water world. The water temperature was the most perfect temperature - just delightful!!!
When we were up at the cabin we had noticed a number of trees down along the river that had begun to turn fall colors. The only ones that we could find were beeches - that's right, beeches turning to crimson and red and in August! That was a little strange. The root system of one of the beeches that was growing right in the stream bank didn't have much soil around its base - we thought that perhaps the trees weren't getting enough water, and were turning color as a cry for help. I'll bet they survive and continue to provide a great deal of pleasure in the wilderness for a long time to come.
The upper, shallow pool, felt more like a bathtub rather than a pristine mountain stream. And it felt great! While we were in that pool one of the smaller hawks flew down the stream towards us, then landed in a leaning tree just ahead. It sat there for about five minutes, and I was able to move over and get some binocs out of Janice's daypack and give him a good look-see. Nice bird. I hadn't seen too many hawks flying low along the river before.
There was a boulder out in the middle of the pool that had obviously been the resting spot for a great blue heron or some other large bird - there was a huge blob of white at the top of the boulder, and it had run all the way down the face of the large rock. He must have been using the rock as a fishing dock.
It was another splendid visit to the river, and all too soon we headed out of the valley and up the hill. Sometimes this steep old historical trail is a real tough climb, but other times it isn't too bad. Both of us noted later that we hadn't broke a sweat until we reached the bluffline. When I looked at the weather station, I saw that the humidity was only 40% Nice and dry, yea!
Janice is one of those people that carries herself like she knows what she is doing. She kept saying that she was a novice when it came to hiking, but she seemed as comfortable out in the woods as anyone, and I never bothered to worry about her. She is the vice-president of TAOWN - Todays Arkansas Outdoor Womens Network. This is one great group of women, mainly from the Central Arkansas area, buy they have members in other parts of the state as well, and I suspect their numbers will grow steadily. They do all kinds of outdoor recreation things, like hiking, canoeing, hunting, fishing, and on and on.
Norma and Roy arrived at the cabin later, and I made Cloudland pizza - a double batch. It took a long time to do the pizza, and we set a new record by eating very late. Good thing that no one else showed up for a visit - it was a funny sight seeing all four of us at the dinner table with the very same t-shirts on (the new Cloudland one, of course). In fact, Roy and Norma even had the same shorts on! We stayed up and enjoyed the night air for another hour or two. There was a screech owl making his weird noise out on the other side of the meadow below. And a few falling stars even lit up the sky.
"Come look at this!" I heard from the back deck. It was a great one. The nearly-half moon was setting, and if you stood down on the steps or out by the waving bear you could get a clear look at it. It was a huge moon, deep gold in color, moving rapidly down into the trees. Everything was dead still and quiet for a few seconds. We all held our breaths. Then it was gone. Whew, what a moonset! Someone said that the moon was the same color as the ball on the Cloudland t-shirt - hum, the rising sun AND the setting moon are on the t-shirt.
8/30/98 A coyote woke me up with a single long yip. The sun wasn't up yet, but it was light outside. Another long yip. Not quite a howl. The coyote was either down on the bench below the cabin and back to the north some, or across the valley somewhere - it was hard to tell exactly where. That's all there was - two long yips. Then silence. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Nice doggie.
Soon the cabin below came to life, and the back deck became active with conversation, laughter, hummers, and coffee. I heard Norma in the kitchen and wondered why she was up so early (she sleeps late when we let her). It was almost 9:30! I guess it is OK for the host to sleep in once in a while.
It was a little breezy and simply wonderful outside all morning. Soaring birds were out all over the place. Although sometimes they would disappear and the sky would be clear. Then a few minutes later there would be six buzzards flying out in front of us. And these guys were having a great time. They were riding the warming air currents like amusement rides. It was amazing how all they had to do was bend their wings down a little, sometimes just curling their wings inward, and they would change direction, or gain elevation. And they were doing a lot of dive-bombing, both down into the air, and at each other. If they were bald eagles, the movie footage of them would be on National Geographic Explorer.
Still no large numbers of hummers out. Those that were here seemed to spend most of their time sitting in the trees, instead of at the feeder. We noticed that they always perched on dead branches, sometimes very small ones. It had to be a dead branch or twig. I wonder why?
The afternoon temperature began to rise, the river called out, and soon we were on the trail down to the swimming hole. As we approached the river bank, a flock of ducks flew up right in front of us and disappeared into the woods. First time for seeing ducks down there. And the gravel bar (actually it is full of stones, larger than gravel, but I didn't know what to call it) was covered with small sycamore trees - a hundred of them or more. They were sprouting up everywhere! These little trees are funny looking - they are only a foot or two tall, but their leaves are as large as any in a mature tree.
The water wasn't as warm as it had been the day before, but it was a wonderful swim just the same. Norma and Janice explored downstream and Roy and I guarded the deep pool. Lots of minnow schools and small bass around.
Realizing that I had been growing a bit wide at the mid-section, I carried a regular backpack down to the river, loaded with a couple of tents and other stuff for weight. I have decided that I am going to make at least one trip down to the river every day with the loaded backpack - a couple of times when I am here all day - in hopes of shedding some of the built-up Cloudland pizza and desserts. It was hot. I nearly died. But at least the humidity was low, and I never even got soaked on the way up. The gauge said 28% humidity - man, that was low!
On the way up Norma and Janice grabbed a limb from one of the small trees above the bluff that was turning brilliant red. No one knew what kind of tree it was, and I was determined to figure it out using our tree ID book. Norma keyed it out in the book - it was a black gum tree. This is normally the very first tree to turn in the fall, usually in late September. I guess it is going to be an early fall in the Ozarks this year.
We spent another couple of hours out on the back deck, recovering from the hike up, keying the tree branch, and enjoying the evening light that was slowly creeping into the valleys below. Oh yea, the beer was VERY cold! Before long my weekend guests cleaned up the kitchen, loaded their trucks, and headed back to civilization in a cloud of dust.
The low sun was producing red streaks in the forest, so I put my walking shoes back on and went on my usual Sunday evening ramble. I worked my way up the hill to the edge of the east meadow, passing a dozen more of the black gum trees that were in full fall dress. The tall grass was glowing. I crept into the meadow, and found the three big bucks stomping around in the watermelon patch. They hadn't seen me, and the wind was still. I sat down in the grass, slowly, and watched them. These were obviously the same three bucks that I had seen here before. They were the watermelon raiders all right, and they were cleaning up the patch right in front of me. I didn't have a real good view, sitting down on the ground in the tall grass, but I could see those huge racks on two of them bobbing up and down, still in velvet. Then the wind picked up a little, and they scented me and immediately turned away and bounded off. I will never get used to watching whitetail deer in the wild. Especially ones with such impressive racks as these.
I examined the watermelon patch, or what was left of it. The only melons still there were a couple that were covered with fencing. There seemed to be fresh deer tracks on every other square inch of soil in the garden (although they didn't go into the corn patch area - the bear did leave a few stalks, even some with corn on them).
On the way over to the Faddis place I passed a section of paw paw trees - the fragrance was very sweet. I had shorts on, tennis shoes and no socks, and while I could see the trees off in the bushes, the underbrush was so thick that I didn't venture over to them to inspect the fruit. I was delighted to find this patch of paw paws on MY property - hadn't found any before. The patch was near the peach tree, which had no peaches left on it at all. I'd return for the paw paws another day.
I spent the rest of the evening at the computer working on the journal. Of course, every now and then I was forced out onto the back to gaze at the half-moon. It sure did light up the valley for only being half. The night bugs were out, but I couldn't hear any owls.
The new BUFFALO RIVER WILDERNESS art book of mine and William McNamara's work that has been overseas at the printer is finished. I made arrangements to drop off some copy transparencies and the book pages at Milancy McNamara's house tomorrow - it was strange having a LOCAL phone conversation tonight with someone out here (both Milancy and Bill live near Cloudland). That is sure one fine book, and I look forward to doing a little book promotion touring this fall and winter.
The hour is late. The night air is terrific. I'm going to go out and visit with the moon some, then shut down another fine weekend at Cloudland.
8/31/98 It was a very still and quiet morning when I rolled out of bed at sunrise. The little meadow below was filled with goldfinches, but they were mostly feeding on the wildflowers, and not flying around too much. There were a lot of them, perhaps the most that I have ever seen out here before. One hummer came over and hovered right in my face, then flew off. None at the feeder. I guess they are still mad at me. The woodpeckers were out in full force, and their drummings could be heard coming from every distant hillside. This is somehow a comforting sound.
Then I heard it. Oh my God, it was so clear, and loud, and there was no question where it came from or who made it. The sound echoed across the entire wilderness. A wolf. I don't care that the Game and Fish Commission says there are none in Arkansas - they have been very wrong in the past. This was a wolf. No question about it. I know what a wolf sounds like. He let out an incredible howl, and kept at it, changing pitch and adjusting volume. It was beautiful music. And he was right across the valley, over on Beagle Point. The sound was crystal clear. And loud! Wow, I was stunned and overjoyed and breathless. It was perhaps the most important moment at Cloudland so far. A wolf is the ultimate sign of true wilderness. A wolf is the heart and soul of wilderness. A wolf is something very, very special.
After what seemed like a full minute, a couple of coyotes up on a hill overlooking Whitaker Creek opened up with yips and yells and howls of their own, answering the wolf. It was like a baby crying during an opera. The wolf immediately stopped, and I never heard another word from him again. Damn coyotes.
The official line from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is that there are no wolves in Arkansas. They also deny that there are any cougars here. There ARE cougars here, that has been proven. The Commission for a time also denied that they ever brought in any bears to Arkansas - yea right, they had a very aggressive, and secret, bear stocking program back in the 1960's, all bears from Minnesota, all PROBLEM bears from Minnesota. That is why we have such a terrible bear problem here today. And they are obviously wrong about the wolves too. I'm not saying that they are stocking wolves here, but there certainly ARE wolves in the Ozarks, at least one of them. He was right here just a few minutes ago.
Wow, what an incredible start to the week (today is Monday). And a great end to a most wonderful August at Cloudland. In the past I have always shyed away from Arkansas during the summer, spending my time escaping the heat in the mountains in the West. But now I have not only survived the hot and humid summer here, but have really ENJOYED it. I will continue to visit the high mountains in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana during the summer, but I won't be running AWAY from Arkansas - I like it here, I LOVE it here, I will always call it my home, and now I genuinely look forward to next summer at Cloudland!
High temp, 93; low temp, 66; high wind 23mph; 1.32" rainfall