LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - August 2018
Little Bluff cabin cam August 31 - sea of clouds at dawn - HAPPY FRIDAY!
Journal updated 08/31/18
08/01/18 Beautiful sweet and cool morning at dawn. 2019 calendars are finally complete and files uploaded to the servers in California for processing (YIPPIE COYOTE!!!) .Now it is time to get back to projects that should have been done last February; and also attempt to get my bride's painting and quilting studio in order so she can move in and get to work!
The HVAC guy, Brad, completed all work on our system, including installing a whole-house humidifier that will come in handy during the winter. WAY TO GO BRAD! All the rock is complete, but the rock crew is here today to clean up three months worth of mess. They have done some beautiful work and I'll post photos of it as time goes on. We are still looking for someone to tile our walk-in shower - let us know if you know anyone that might be available NOW to get this job done. Also still waiting for sheet rock crew to come finish the garage (so we an get garage doors installed and cabinets and other things moved in); and another crew to come finish staining the outside porches, beams, and ceilings. In other words, we might be ready to move in by Christmas, ha, ha!
No additional info about Roy's death, but we will pass it along if we hear anything.
Here's couple of photos below to illustrate a recent incident on July 28...
The new outdoor shower and copperhead gathering place (above)
08/02/18 Our prow is done at last...
08/08/18 Pam's first pastel painting done in her new studio (below) - not complete yet (her studio or the pastel), but both are very nice...Also we now have a couch! A couch to sit on and art on the wall - it's looking more like home all the time.
From the NWA edition of the Arkansas Democratte Gazette today -
"It is with great sadness that the family of Roy Senyard, 73, of Fayetteville, AR, announces his death on July 28, 2018 while vacationing with his wife Norma and friends in Idaho.
Roy was a lifelong advocate and lover of the outdoors. He spent decades working to preserve the integrity and beauty of the Arkansas wilderness through his passion for caring for The Ozark Highlands Trail, a long-distance Arkansas hiking trail of over 200 miles. He was the longtime Maintenance Coordinator for the OHT, organizing the volunteers who keep the trail open by cutting back the side growth of trees and shrubs.
If there was meaningful trail work to be done, Roy was the first person on the scene. Had trees from a storm fallen and blocked the trail? Roy gathered a team together and off they headed to clear the trail passage. Is trail maintenance hard work? It certainly can be.
But Roy was so much fun to be with, and so friendly -- the crew members just wanted to be with him. He joked, he laughed, he taught newbies the ropes. He made the work fun, plus it was all for the great benefit of Arkansas’s beloved Ozark Highlands Trail.
Wow, could he run a chainsaw! And his attention to safety and technique was impeccable.
He made many lifelong friendships through the camaraderie and shared achievement of working to make mountains, moss-covered rocky streams, and deep, hidden valleys accessible to those who love to walk in the woods. If you've ever been hiking in Arkansas, there's a good chance you've been on a trail he either built or maintained.
Roy was born March 31, 1945, in Natchez, MS. He grew up in Pine Bluff, AR, and graduated from Pine Bluff High School in 1964. While a student at the University of Central Arkansas he joined the U.S. Navy and served in Vietnam as a recon medic.
He saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers. He was wounded and received two Purple Hearts.
After returning from service, he continued his education at UCA. He worked notably for Arco Oil Company. He and his former spouse, Sue Claypool Senyard, lived for a number of years in Pine Bluff, AR, Perryton, TX, and Fort Smith, AR.
It was while living in Fort Smith that Roy became passionate about hiking trails and the outdoors and became one of the early members of the Ozark Highlands Trail Association.
He met his wife Norma Sims Meadors Senyard, who is also an outdoor enthusiast, and they moved to Fayetteville, AR, in 1996. Roy and Norma both love paddling Arkansas’s glorious Buffalo River.
They love hiking and backpacking -- not just in Arkansas, but in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Roy worked many week-long trail maintenance crews in Colorado for The Colorado Trail.
Roy is survived by his wife, Norma Senyard of Fayetteville, AR; his daughter, Anne-Marie Lisko of Tulsa, OK, and her husband, Ian Lisko; his son Roy Senyard, Jr. of Tulsa, OK; his sister, Suzanne Reynolds of El Dorado, AR, and her husband, Morris Reynolds; his sister-in-law, Gay Senyard Hansen of Fayetteville, AR; his stepdaughter, Wen Audrey Tate of Hickory, NC, and her husband, Jim Tate; his stepson, Brian Meadors of Wilmington, NC, and his wife, Mandy Meadors; his nine grandchildren: Vivian Lisko; Gus, Tabitha, and Mason Meadors; James, Donovan, and Carlton Tate; and Gabe and Londyn Senyard. He had eleven nieces and six nephews.
He had many other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents Ann Ellen and Frederick Senyard and his beloved brother, Rick Senyard.
A memorial Celebration of Life for Roy will be held on Sunday, August 12, 2018, at 2:00 pm at Lake Fort Smith State Park Black Bear Dining Hall. Lake Fort Smith State Park is located a short distance south of Fayetteville, at Mountainburg, AR.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in his honor to The Ozark Highlands Trail Association Roberts Tract Fund or The Ozark Society Buffalo River Legal Protection Fund.
Roy had wisdom and humility. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy to the natural world will live on."
08/08/18 - evening update. We had some amazing cloud formations this afternoon as storm after storm rolled through.
And here's a photo below my brother sent of me in Washington D.. C. in May, 1981 - we were getting ready to hike down Pennslyvania Avenue to the steps of the Capital, and then onto the Washoington Monument after backpacking across the country. A photo that was taken later the day of me wearing this shirt being hugged by one of our other hikers, was published in many newspapers all over the country (that photo from one of the newspapers is shown below and was taken by an Associated Press photographer).
From Seattle paper (above)
08/10/18 The colors of dawn are creeping across the landscape spread out before me. Below the horizon, mostly dark blues and greens. The horizon itself is a very dark gray. But just above the horizon, there are pinks and oranges and reds blending into a pure-blue open and cloudless sky above. The hues and color mix and change constantly with the approaching sunrise, which we can't quite see yet from our perch on the hillside overlooking miles of wonderful countryside.
The sky is blank at the moment, but OH MY GOODNESS what a week of CLOUDS and thunderheads and rain and lightening we've had! At Cloudland, we had an incredible view into the wilderness below, and the scene was in constant motion many days. But we had shades on some of the windows and it was easy to block out the view so we could get work done (our office computers were right there against the south wall, looking out over the wilderness. But with the shades down, it was just an office wall. Here at our new cabin, we have a giant 17' tall by 24' wide pro wall of 14 glass panels - it's more like the IMAX screen at Branson, only the view is a lot better and the sound is normal (can't stand how LOUD they have the volume in Branson, and aren't able to see any shows there - earplugs don't help).
The horizon line here right now is no long gray - it is a brilliant red/orange/pink now, about to burst open wide with the sunrise.
So we've had many, MANY storms and giant thunderstorms roll through this week, day and night. Only a couple inches of rain total so far, but much of that came in short, heavy downpours. We don't have any gutters on yet (waiting on the stain guy to come finish staining the wood posts before we can get gutters installed). So when it rains and pours we have some pretty amazing waterfalls pouring off the rood onto the deck!
The daytime air show has been pretty nice even without storms - mountains of clouds have been drifting by almost constantly - the kind that move and change shape and grow and shrink and sometimes overtake one another. One day while headed up to the gallery office to work I happened to see some weird light coming from around the back of the cabin. I stepped around the corner and spent ten minutes in the middle of the wildflower-filled meadow out back in awe of what the clouds were doing. Part of the time is was out of a horror movie - looking like Dracula spread across the sky. There seemed to be dozens of mini twisters all in a row - a curtain of them handing down into the canyon before me. Off to one side a swirl of clouds forms in kind of a reverse tornado coming up from below. Most of the clouds were black, or dark gray. It was all just WEIRD.
And we've had a sky filled with feathered critters of all colors, shapes and sizes. It has been a great week for buzzards - they seem to pick our back yard for a lazy retreat in the air when the breezes are just right, and they will sometimes spend minutes slowly moving across our view, often not moving at all, keeping in place in the wind. Then all of a sudden one will bend a wing and off he'll go - either soaring up higher and higher, or dashing almost straight down towards something that caught his attention.
One wildlife moment involved these giant buzzards. There was a group of them playing in the wind currents just above our meadow when a flock of the smallest birds in the air surrounded them -- those little swifts that dart two and fro all over the place. They seemed intent to either bother or being playing a game with the giant buzzards. Obviously all of them were involved and it was a treat to watch.
As I'm typing this the sun had just broken above the horizon and one of the pines right off our deck has begun to glow with the new light of the day. We can't quite figure out how this tree wrapped itself around itself, but it appears to have some human qualities and always brings a smile.
Speaking of trees, there are some interesting tree shapes in the first pastel she did this past week in her new studio above the garage, and we got to talking about how most trees you see in the forest are not straight at all, but rather do have bent trunks, sometimes they are bent quite a bit. We started to look at several of the big trees right in front of us here, and you could see exactly where the bend was and why it got there. Turns out if a large limb begins to grow on a tree trunk, the tree will start to grow in the opposite direction to compensate for the weight of this new limb. The larger the limb, gets bigger the bend. Then another limb can form on the opposite side years later, and the tree starts to grow the other direction to compensate, and another bend is added to the tree. I highly recommend spending some time studying trees and see if you can spot the bends and associated limbs that may have caused them.
A last note and then I have to run up to the office to work. One reason I've always told people why we left Cloudland and moved closer to town was so that I could be NEAR ICE CREAM! That is quite true. However we've lived here now for 11 months and not once did we go to town to get ice cream. Well that all ended last night when at the very same time we looked at each other and yelled out ICE CREAM!!! Fifteen minutes later we were sitting in the van on the Jasper square sucking on the world's best homemade chocolate milkshake from the Ozark Cafe. OH MY it was delicious!
Oops, did I mention that I spent two hours last night on the back deck photographing one of those monster thunderheads and the Milky Way? WOW!!!
Mia on the deck for sunrise (above), dawn from the deck (below)
08/14/18 We did buy a couch, but we didn't realize it was just for the dogs! Lots of rain this past few days - an inch and a half overnight, the most ever recorded at our new cabin! (we just started keeping track last week so I suspect the record won't last too long) The high was in the low 70's today - this is August in Arkansas, right? Seems like I was asking the same question last year.
The celebration for Roy on Sunday at Lake Ft. Smith State Park was epic - just like the man. Standing room only - in fact the crowd could not be contained inside and overflowed onto the decks. No matter how well I knew Roy and how much time I'd spent with him over the past 30 years, I had only scratched the surface. It was great to hear so many stories from friends and family, and from a fellow hero who had also served and been wounded in Vietnam. One of Roy's Purple Hearts was on display. One night many moons ago Roy told me about getting one of those - not the metal, but the event. If everyone knew the horrors that our service men and women go through we just might not need war. I could never have done what they did and do. Thank you all for your service and sacrifice!
I have been working for the last many months on a rewrite of the very first book I ever wrote (in 1988) - the Ozark Highlands Trail guide. Deadlines have come and past and come and past again and again - I'm so far behind in life! (When I miss a deadline nothing happens though - same as when I finish - we only lose sales because I don't have my work done - everything we do is like that - we don't have a boss, nor get a paycheck for doing any of our work, no matter how many hours we put in on a project. We only get paid when a sale is made, and for a guidebook like this we have to sell a couple thousand to pay the cost to get the book printed, then we can make some cash for chocolate!) Late last night I finally completed the rewrite and turned the files over to my bride to proofread. Once we get all of her corrections made and the digital files uploaded to the printer's server in Michigan, I'll be able to kick back and know I finally am up to about January on my list of immediate to-dos. I wonder if I'll ever get caught up?
Wildlife update. One of the things I love about our new cabin is that we don't have much furniture (just the dog's couch and two chairs for us), so when I get up early before first light like this morning I'm able to move ab- out the cabin freely without lights or worry of running into anything. I'm able to open the cereal box (a very healthy grain cereal organic blueberry clusters), grab a bowl from the drawer, pour the milk, and pickup a spoon all without lights. Then I get the rare chance to sit back in our new couch while the pups are still snoozing in the bedroom. I LOVE the morning before dawn! Anyway, it wasn't until later this morning that I discovered we have ants. Not just any ants, but sugar ants (very small ants). At first I saw just one on the floor of the pantry. Then a couple that were headed up one of the boards. And several walking across one of the shelves. Finally I picked up the cereal box (a very healthy grain cereal remember), and a hundred tiny sugar ants are inside! And I happened to think a moment - hum, that is what I had for breakfast in the dark - PROTEIN! Note to self - turn on a light and inspect food before eating in the dark...
No progress on the cabin construction yet - in fact we're going backwards. Today we discovered a small leak in a shower faucet that has not even installed yet! And the water pressure that seems really great for my outdoor shower turns out to be 121 psi - a little much. The plumber installed a pressure reducer but we think maybe it might be defective. We also found (thanks to Fireman Jeff!) that someone forgot to replace temporary posts under the beams in the crawl space. And a couple of doors that need to be trimmed out. Little things like that. All in all it remains a tough place to walk away from, even for a few minutes. Even when buzzards soaring 30' away from the pup's couch is the only thing that is on our IMAX screen, it is a nice view...
08/18/18 We saw one of these today - a near space baloon - watched it for three hours above us in the mountains of Colorado. At first when my lovely bride started taking about a strange object in the sky near the moon I thought she was suffering the effects of a brownie I got her from the BBQ place where our cheeseburger came from (just a normal brownie I'm sure, even though it is Colorado). When I put a pair of binocs and then took some pictures with an extreme telephoto, we knew it was some sort of balloon, but didn't realize what it was until the link above was shared with us (THANKS Allen).
Here's a snapshot I took today with the equivalent of a 5,000mm lens (and then still enlarged it even more so you could see it) -
We left the cabin at 7pm the other night and made a mad dash across the Oklahoma and New Mexico plains to reach our little campsite at 9,200 feet in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado last night. Before we could park our camper van, we had to cut out a giant aspen tree that had fallen across the entrance this past winter. I no longer get along with normal chain saws - they contributed to one or both of my shoulder surgeries. But the battery-powered chain saw Pam has been using to clear small trees and limb other trees was too small. So we stopped at "Big R" in "Monte" and got a larger and more power Stihl battery saw. I was a little skeptical when I stated in on the big tree, but son of a gun, the little saw ran right on through it and we were clear and into our little camping spot in just a few minutes. Since our dear friend, Roy, was a major chainsaw guy, we decided to name our new best friend saw ROY. Here's to ya bud - THANKS for helping get this big tree out of our way! "near space baloons today for three hours in the sky above us.
08/19/19 When I stepped out of our camper van about 4am this morning I was nearly knocked over by the GIANT constellation Orion looming low just above our aspen trees - it seemed to cover more than half the sky with its bright and brilliant stars beaming. It was like the "moon illusion" where the moon looks so much larger when on the horizon (the moon is exactly the same size as when high in the sky and looks tiny). The clarity of the stars at this altitude and very low humidity, and also the fact this is one of the darkest sky areas in the country, make it especially great for star watching and photographing.
Yesterday evening as we were sitting outside enjoying the cool breezes of twilight, my bride noted that we had not seen a single large critter in our little meadow below on this trip. Of course, right on cue, about five minutes later a pair of mule deer does stepped out and began feeding. This morning at dawn, we looked up and those same two does were peering into our bedroom windows of the van - and they were as huge as ELK! I bet the moon illusion was at work on the elk too...
08/27/18 We are still in Colorado and I'm farther behind than ever! Every time I remember that I need to write in the Journal I realize there is so much to write about that I get overwhelmed and end up going off into the woods and taking a nap instead. So I'll just tap a few words today and worry about the rest later.
Ever since we bought this little camping spot high on the hill I've wanted to hike from the highway up to our campsite - about three miles and almost 1,000 elevation gain, ending at 9,000 feet. Our campsite is located at the back and upper end of a 1,500 acre "ranch" of homes and mostly acreage, and there are several access roads branching out to all sections of the ranch. We try to hike some of those roads every day, often in loops of a mile or more. This morning I got up early and had a cup of java, then headed down to the gate at the highway, vowing to not only hike UP from the gate, but down to it as well. And so I did. Six miles later I made it back to camp for breakfast. It was a LOVELY hike, beginning at dawn and ending just after sunrise. I hiked the road most of the way, but also through meadows and even climbed a rock hill or two for a better view. So there, FINALLY, I got #1 off my to-do list!
Later we drove about 30 minutes down to Monte Vista and had lunch at this tiny Mexican restaurant that is attached to a laundromat. We'd heard about their great tacos but never stopped. We were the only ones in the joint, and the tacos were WONDERFUL! And cheap too. Two taco meals with drinks and a pair of frozen tamales to go - $20.10. (as we were leaving the place filled up and it was standing room only)
Next we toured a local National Wildlife Refuge nearby - which was nearly parched dry from the drought here, but still found a few birds and lots of colorful vegetation like cattails to enjoy. My bride had done a couple of nice pastels here in the past. Then we stopped by the BIG R store in search of bluebird houses. They didn't have any, but we did get an automatic waterer dish for the puppies (we have a special faucet inside our cabin for them). Then it was back to the campsite for an afternoon of reading and computer work.
The biggest event going on at our ranch right now is the fact there has been a bear working a patch of chokecherries down by the lake. I didn't even know we had chokecherries here, or knew what they looked like. Yesterday while hiking one of the loops I found the chokecherries, where several of the tall bushes had been knocked down, and also found five HUGE piles of bear scat, FILLED with "processed" chokecherries! These are the same kind of bears as we have in Arkansas, but my goodness their piles of scat are so much bigger!
During my hike this morning I detoured over to check on the processed chokecherries and found that several of them had been beaten down by strong storms overnight, leaving only a pile of chokecherry pits on the dirt road. Hiking on another 100 yards I found two more giant piles of fresh bear scat - one was processed chokecherries and the other was just plain bear scat. So that meant there were two bears working the area, both of them giants, and both had been there since our last storm during the night. The ranch has a facebook page, but with the most popular posts reaching maybe 30 views and only one or two comments I don't think anything will go viral, even if it is about bear poop.
Since I'm about to run out of space here for August anyway, I'll just run through some of our activities this past week or so. I vowed to eat something DELICIOUS each day, and so we've been trying to eat food from different little restaurants - one a day - and so far we've been successful. We had breakfast burritos at Rachael's Food Truck twice and lunch once - all three were BEST IN CLASS! Then breakfast one day at what we used to call the Breakfast Nazi place (a la Seinfield) - but discovered it had changed hands (now called Fat Carl's) and while it still only had six tables and was already "almost" out of potatoes by 9am, the food was pretty tasty and the waitress quite pleasant (they only do breakfast, and are open from 7:30-10:30).
One day we drove over the continental divide and down to the little town of Lake City just to visit the bakery there - we do that each time we visit Colorado. It was worth the drive. Pam setup her painting equipment next to a creek on the Alpine Loop jeep trail and did a beautiful pastel of the scene.
We have visited the little nearby former mining town of Creede several times - once to attend a play at their Creede Repertory Theatre - THE WIZARD OF OZ - which was TERRIFIC! And also to eat at a little pizza place on main street called Pizzeria 8852' (that's the elevation) - I'm happy to say that my bride made Meg Ryan noises while dining on her salad (we both had salads) - it was the best of the best she's ever had.! Speaking of OZ, I've seen the movie 100 times like most of you, but was puzzled at the beginning when the executive director of the theater made note of a special "jitterbug" scene that had been added. Turns out this was one of the most AMAZING things I've ever seen on stage - it was INCREDIBLE! I have no idea how all the actors were able to keep up such a sustained pace while doing some pretty tricky dance moves, all of it towards the end of an already exhausting play. Standing ovation of course.
It wasn't until later that Pam uncovered what the "jitterbug" scene was all about. We thought it was just something the director cooked up, which he said he had done for some of the play since it is really tough to do a play of a movie instead of the other way around. Well, turns out they did indeed film the "jitterbug" scene for the 1939 movie but it was cut at the last minute to do the movie already running too long. They also had to cut part of a scene where the wicked witch makes note of "special insects" she was sending to tire out Dorothy and the gang. No actual footage of that scene exits, only some sketchy footage of a rehearsal. We like Creede.
I've been on a couple of hikes - one through a forest of large spruce trees that all had already died twice - once killed by spruce beetles, then again by a horrific wildfire with flames 80-100 tall, which left the forest standing but 100% charred form top to bottom. Here's a snapshot of one of the spruce trees for reference - there is beauty even in this devastated forest.
My bride had done three pastel paintings - each seemingly better than the other. The last one she did while I was hiking through the burned-out beetle-killed forest. She was parked next to a highway, but had a beautiful stream just below and a cool breeze and awning of the RV to keep the sun off. Two hours later I arrived back at the RV and she was done! I wish I were so talented...
Most of our time has been spent at our campsite, sometimes doing nothing at all (me), or a lot of reading (Pam). We also tried to get some work done to the campsite each day - like beginning to thin out some of the thousands of little aspen trees on our hillside. Once cut we have to move them somewhere out of sight since things up here in the mountains stick around for decades vs. rotting away like happens in Arkansas. So instead of hauling them off, I decided that since we needed a retaining wall next to our little storage building, I would use some left-over fence posts and the aspens for the wall - and it worked, two birds...
Oops, back to the food trail for a moment. We made a quick trip to Three Barrel Brewing in Del Norte for lunch one day. We sat at the bar directly in front of the wood-fired oven and where they were making their pizzas and other stuff. Part of this was because we knew everything that came out of their giant wood oven was BEST IN CLASS, but also it was our first training to see how it is done - we will eventually have a small wood-fired pizza oven at our cabin. So yes, the pizza and calzone were terrific, but we also noticed the baker baking something that looked very simple and SWEET, so we ordered one. Oh my goodness, I hope I can figure this out, if so, we'll be serving "dessert sticks" (I'm going to call them "cinnamon sticks") after lunch or dinner at Little Bluff.
OK, quickly, we had some excitement here yesterday when two cowgirls on horseback were trying to move five cows from the ranch back to their own property. The cows got loose and were literally stampeding right across our meadow and towards us - yikes! The girls got three of them turned one way while two others veered off the opposite direction. I did my part by moseying down into the meadow and keeping them from trampling our little electric fence, while the ranch foreman herded them away with his jeep!
That's it for Colorado for now. We're headed home tomorrow...
08/29/18 After a mad dash across the plains, we made it home this evening (spent last night in a rest area in Guymon, OK). All is well here and it is GREAT to be back home!
08/31/18 We've had nice cool temps since we've been home, with plenty of thunder boomers and heavy downpours. August in Arkansas, really? The past couple of days have seen thousands of mushrooms pop up - I hear it's been that way for a couple of weeks. I tried this morning to get down on my belly and take some photographs of them, but after an hour or two my back was a wreck and I could hardly crawl along the forest floor much less stand up. I finally rolled over with my knees bent and managed to shimmy up a nearby tree and to my feet. UGG, I miss my good back.
The forests and pastures of the Ozarks are soft and lush as we enter the beginning of fall. More hot and humid days to come no doubt, but right now we can step outside and breathe in a great deal of wonderful cool fresh air. Bring on September...