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LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - AUGUST 2019 (previous months)

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Little Bluff cabin cam August 31 - COOL and foggy this morning - Buffalo River Art Gallery artist's reception today from 3-5pm

Journal updated August 31st

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*the new picture book is now in stock and SHIPPING!

 

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Here's the DVD of my brand new slide program (standard resolution) that features all 132 BRAND NEW photos from our newest ARKANSAS SPLENDOR picture book.

08/01/19 Here's part of the new Buffalo River Trail (along Bear Creek) that needs some foot traffic! Jeff and I hiked 17 miles of it yesterday working on a trail guidebook update. (below)

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AND this morning, August 1st - heap big storm clouds filling the airways this morning.

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08/03/19 Cool, wet, and colorful at dawn - 1.6" of wonderful rainfall overnight!

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08/03/19 We awoke to a fresh landscape soaking wet from almost two inches of rainfall that moved through during the night - YIPPIE! Everyone sure did need this drink. But it was a surprise to me since I slept right through it all. I don't pay much attention to the weather reports much anymore - was this forecast? Guess if I'd been sleeping out it would have been good to have a tarp or be under a bluff.

Today was the grand opening of an art gallery in Gilbert, a great community located along the middle part of the Buffalo River and noted as the coldest spot in Arkansas most winters. Gilbert has been better days, but it is in the middle of a comeback and when we arrived there were folks everywhere! As we had a picnic lunch most of the folks boarded busses and left to head to waiting canoes upstream. We later found a shady spot to park and hiked to the Buffalo River Art Gallery.

This old home had been turned into a really nice gallery space with lots and lots of wonderful art in each room. Lots of friendly folks milling about enjoying the art and the day.

Later I dropped my bride off back home and headed south to meet up with my doctor in Russellville - he has a canoe I've been lusting after for years and the timing was just right for me to go take it for a test float. We put in at Dardanelle State Park and paddled around for about 30 minutes - I knew the boat was amazing, but I needed to figure out if I would be able to paddle a canoe without my bad back putting me on my back in pain. It was kinda windy, and I struggled going into that stiff wind. But I was able to paddle the boat, something I didn't think I'd ever be able to do again. Doc's canoe was not for sale, but I wanted to find out my physical situation before the lust got too bad and I placed an order. It was great to get on the water with an expert (Doc had just done about 100 miles of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho with this boat - third time the little blue rubber boat had been down this famous whitewater river). I felt kinda inadequate. We'll see.

08/04/19 Sitting on the back deck at dawn this morning I could have pointed a camera in ten different directions and captured a stunning scene. There was a sea of clouds covering the canyon below that came all the way up below our cabin and disappeared out of sight to the right. The same sea went all the way down to the main Little Buffalo River canyon - to the right upsteam to Parthenon, and to the left downstream to Jasper. Everything above the horizon was pink and orange - and it all was just beautiful - 180 degrees wide.

We did a four-mile hike just after breakfast from our place on up the county road and part way down another road and back. One of the two guys who found and rescued Haley Zega more than 18 years ago rode past us on his four-wheeler (he lives about a mile away).

'Twas a typical hot August day after that, until this evening when we strolled up the lane to the gallery and back while cool breezes buzzed through the trees.

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08/07/19 It's gonna be a great night for sleeping tonight. Temp down into the 40's, perhaps even 30's. LAST night, not so much. I had headed west, driving right into the oven of western Oklahoma. By the time I stopped for the night at midnight (Wal Mart parking lot), the temp had gotten down to 90-something. Ugg. I took a pill and slept really well (i.e., I didn't wake up), but by 4:20am I was awake and ready to hit the road again so I got up and continued west this morning into a hotter oven than it had been yesterday. My plan was to hit cooler air before it got to 100 - I don't like driving when it is 100. The temp was already in the mid-90's by 8:30am, but then it began to slack off a bit, dropping down to 90.

I detoured from my normal route once I reached the mountains just across into Colorado, heading up into the Spanish Peaks area to a little campground Jeff had told me about. As I reached the pass at 10,000 feet, the temp had already gone down into the 60's, and by the time I reached the little campground it was in the 50's with light rain. My kind of August weather!

I hiked around a for a few miles on some official trails, unofficial paths, and game trails - the forest up here above 10,500' is just beautiful! I don't know what trees they are, but they're lush and green, and without much ground cover so it is easy to just wander on through without any trails when wanted. It rained some more, I napped a little bit in the photo/book/art-mobile, then had dinner and napped some more. No cell service here at the campground, but if I hike up the forest road about a half mile there is good service, which I did a couple of times.

I know, I know - you're out in the wilderness so why do you need a dang telephone? I'm actually ABLE to spend more time in the wilderness if I have cell signal, which enables me to continue some aspects of my day job as needed wherever I happen to be. Of course, it's my bride and a lot of times her dad that gets the actual work done.

You might laugh if you saw me in the woods this week - I got a nasty bruised hip from the 17-mile hike I took last week, and now I'm unable to wear a fanny pack, my preferred choice for short hikes. So here I am up at altitude in real mountains and it looks like this dude is carrying a purse through the woods - I still want the daypack with me, I just can't wear it, so I have to carry it by the top handle.

The next few paragraphs belong in July, but I'm was unable to get them written in July so I might as well post them here. Monday last week (July 30th) was a date we had circled for many months - the largest program of the year, and our program season would not normally begin until November! We were asked to give the closing program for an annual meeting of all the directors from the 17 Rural Electric Coops in Arkansas (about 300 folks). In case you had wondered why I finally got all of our new book, calenders, and slide program done early this year, it was all for this program last week.

Anyway, the day came and I felt kinda odd because I had to turn over my slide program file to a stranger who would run it via all of his equipment and I had no control. IF it all worked correctly, it would save me a ton of work. IF it didn't work, oops, I would be in trouble! The other issue was that it normally takes about an hour and a half for me to introduce, show, and do questions and discussion afterward. The slide program itself is usually about 20-24 minutes (22 this year). My total allotted time for everything last week, for the biggest show of the year, was 30 minutes. And the speaker before me ran over into my time so I had even less!

I held my breath and the slide show went off just fine. GREAT folks. And we really like being able to get all of the new products done this early, so I hope we do it all again next year! Oh yes, while we did have the new 2020 Arkansas scenic wall calendar AND the new slide program available on DVD (that Pam picked up at UPS in Harrison that morning on her way to Rogers), but the new picture book is on a ship in the pacific and would not arrive in time. Bummer. We did end up with 40 copies of the new book that were overnighted from the printing company - and we sold every copy. I wonder how much the shipping bill is going to be?

So we are already out of stock of the new book, but the rest of them are supposed to arrive by the end of August - I'll keep ya posted!

That was Monday. On Tuesday I left the house about dark and drove down to the lower end of the Buffalo River and met up with Fireman Jeff - who was about to get a new name. I've been waiting for several years to do an official mileage measurement of the newest Buffalo River Trail section, and Wednesday was to be that day. Parts of the trail have been built for years, and pretty much all of it is done now - 'cept for one 1/4 mile reroute that is supposed to be built this fall. But there have been several reroutes this past year and the trail was never - and still isn't - officially open, or something like that.

Anyway, the LAST reroute had been flagged and Jeff and I needed to do the entire 17-something section in one day. It was going to be hot, humid, and miserable, so we needed an early start. We got up at 4:30am Wednesday, and after shuttling cars we hit the trail at dawn.

Most folks these days use a GPS or cell phone while hiking, but if your unit ever skips signal, or you stop - even for a few seconds - the distance will be inaccurate. That's all there is to it. GPS is great until you stop or a tree branch gets in the way. So while we were using not one or two, but three different GPS units on our hike, the master mileages were calculated using a large wheel that measures in feet - I've measured hundreds of miles of trails this way - pushing this big wheel in front of me - and it remains still the most accurate.

Some of this trail was the best hiking trail ever built. Some had already seen better days. A lot of the trail was overgrown and in places nearly lost to the weeds. One place there actually was no trail - it simply followed the dry creekbed for about 100'. I measured it.

The temp reached into the 90's with humidity to match. There was no wind. But luckily it was also cloudy much of the day, which kept us from baking completely. Neither Jeff or I stop when we hike - we keep going until we get there. Jeff wore shorts and I don't know how he made it. He quickly turned into a human spider web - he was covered from head to toe with spider webs, and they piled up all day. So did the ticks. Oh my goodness he collected HUNDREDS of them! I was covered with something from head to toe, including my special knee-high snake boots that had been soaked in bug dope. Long pants and long-sleeve shirt soaked and dripping in sweat - Jeff was a lot cooler than I, but he had spiders and ticks. Total tick count for me at the end of the day was - 2.

At one point I did stop, had to stop, nearly passed out from the heat and physical stress of it all - while climbing, clawing up one of the steepest sections of trail anywhere in Arkansas. We shut everything down and I laid on the ground for about five minutes. I could have kept going - probably - but I wanted to hit the ground on my terms while I still had a breath or two left - before I collapsed from heat stroke. Spiderman Jeff just stood and smiled a little, and dug out a salty-peanut bar for me. Then it was back up to full speed ahead.

We probably drank a gallon or more of water each - refilling our bottles whenever we needed to from side creeks along the way (we both had small water filters and didn't want to carry the weight of a gallon or more of water). And then a mile or two from the end of the trek, I found myself without water and none in sight and really needing a few gulps. Jeff reached into his pack and handed me his last bottle of water that he was saving for just such a moment. But then I heard a tiny trickle, looked up and could see moving water in the distance. I ran to it and found a tiny spring gurgling cold, clear water. OH MY GOODNESS that was the BEST water I'd ever drank! We each filtered and consumed a bottle or two or three, and I splashed my face and head and neck over and over. It was the kick in the pants I needed to make it to the end. Then it was on to McDonalds for ice cream!

I kept tightening the waist strap on my fanny pack since my waist got thinner the more I hiked, and my sweat-soaked cloths were kinda slippery too. Turns out I pulled too tight and wound up with a deep bruise on my waist, and now I can only carry that fanny pack by its top handle, like a purse.

And so now we are up to date, well more than before. GO HIKING, but take lots of water! (and someone like Spiderweb Jeff to hike in front)

08/08/19 Here's the view of Bear Lake in Colorado near my campsite in the Spanish Peaks area south of LeVita this morning -

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08/10/19 I finally got the first item on my Colorado todo list done, and it has taken me almost a month! And I'm hitting the hard stuff tonight to celebrate - milk, straight up and whole. I've always loved milk, ever since grade school when I rushed to be first in line at the milk machine to put my two cents in for a COLD tiny glass bottle of the real stuff - oh so good! I still prefer it cold, and especially in the small container. And for some reason the small dairies out here in Colorado produce milk in those small containers that is a lot richer-tasting than back home. So I chugged a full bottle tonight after dinner of steamed veggies and rice.

When we got here to our campsite last month the first day - in fact the first hour - we had a major break in the waterline that come from our deep well. Turns out the water tubing they used back in 2002 was discontinued a decade or more ago and parts are scarce. I was able to find a temp fix in the form of an epoxy band aid so we were able to have water during our last trip. Since then I was able to find some very expensive brass fittings and some PEX pipe that would fit, and was ready to get it repaired when I arrived back at our campsite a couple of days ago. One thing led to another, and another, and it ended up I didn't get the job done until late today. YIPPIE, I can take a shower now!

When I spent the night at the Blue Lake Campground the other night I got up early (it WAS great sleeping weather!) and make a quick drive back up to the Bear Lake Campground where I was hoping to get really nice light on the mountain peaks at dawn. It was cloudy at first and so I hiked around in silence enjoying the refreshing air. Then as a little bit of brilliant sunshine began to break through the clouds, I scampered on down to Bear Lake not far away, around to the far side, where there was a good view of the reflecting light show happening. I took a few pictures before the clouds moved in, and then it was time to hike back and motor on.

If you've never driven the Highway Of Legends between Trinidad and La Veta, I highly recommend it. Stunning landscapes and views, especially early or late in the day. The more I know about as see adobe structures the more I love them! (as a result of our visit last month to Ghost Ranch and learning about Georgia O'Keeffe's two houses in New Mexico - the book my bride got was filled with interesting facts and lore about adobe)

Soon I had arrived at our mountside campsite near South Fork and was greeted by a colorful display of aster wildflowers - they were everywhere! The landscape all over southern Colorado was still lush and green, with cool temps and rain about every afternoon/evening - my kind of weather!

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I immediately began work to repair the broken water line - got the critical first cut done and big brass fitting installed. Then I messed up. Oops. I would need a special little tool to fix my mistake, but the local hardware had already closed for the day.

The next day I waited until noon to run into town and was luck to find the special took I needed - and it was only $2 - how was that possible?! I sat in the RV much of the afternoon working on some other stuff as it rained a bit, and just about the time I got around to using that special $2 tool to fix my mistake, I discovered it did not QUITE fit - and the hardware store had just closed for the day!

That was yesterday. Guess who was at the front door to the hardware store when they opened this morning? But no joy - they didn't have the little tool I needed in the right size - I would have to drive an hour to Alamosa and back and maybe find the correct one. Instead I got stubborn and decided to figure out a way to get the job done without the little tool. After two hours of many dead ends, I gave up. I had even used a saw to alter the $2 tool I had to make it work. No good. So I finally gave up and as I threw the PEX pipe with big brass fitting on it down to the ground, somehow the impact took care of everything! (actually it was the modified $2 tool that finally worked, I just hadn't realized it)

So I got everything hooked up and turned the water on - and shucks - the garden hose connection was leaking big time! After another hour or two (included a nap or two), I managed to find a spare hose washer and that fixed the spraying leak - SUCCESS! I made a beeline for that cold bottle of high-octane milk - YUM!

Another item on my todo list for this trip is to see if my body was able to do an overnight backpack trip - to carry an actual backpack at all, even one with little weight. I bought a special one many years ago from a company in New Zealand that is the most comfortable backpack I've ever had on my back - only problem was that I had begun to have shoulder issues - and now two shoulder surgeries and six bad disks in my spine later - I've still never taken the pack on an overnight hike. I figured I had better give it a go now or I may never be able to again (in fact I'd already given up the thought of ever backpacking again).

So yesterday I loaded the backpack with just a few items - less than ten pounds worth total weight - and headed out early just after dawn up the steep road that leads uphill from our campsite. I tried to keep to an easy pace for starters, but my legs don't know how to go that pace. Fifteen minutes later I was standing at the top of the hill and the end of the road - just over a mile of UPhill at full speed. No problem. Felt great!

This morning I did a repeat of that hike, loading up a bit more gear and hiking the same mile up and back down at full speed. The backpack was doing great with no issues. But since I spent a good part of yesterday and today bending over working on "stuff" at the campsite, my back is not happy - but I'm hopeful I'll be able to load the pack with a little more gear and eventually be able to hike a couple of miles into someplace and spend the night. I don't plan to start backpacking again - my disks would not allow much of that and I don't want to make them an worse. But I really kinda want to know I could do it if needed.

Funny, but there is this really nice hike that goes up above treeline over the Continental Divide and down to a beautiful alpine lake that was going to be my target for this pipe dream of mine to backpack again. Wilson and I hiked to it a couple of years ago and it was great. But then I open a tourist guide for the local region for this summer and right there is a six-page write up of this exact hike! I was planning to curl up against a log near the lake somewhere to spend the night, but now I bet all the good logs will be taken for the summer.

Last night I found myself drawn into the moonlight and hiked for 45 minutes along the road, across meadows, and through an aspen forest. There was plenty of light from the moon to see wildflowers - kinda odd to go wildflower hiking in the moonlight! So nice to be able to wander around like this and not worry about snakes, chigger, ticks, or poison ivy. I used to do the same thing back home on warm summer nights - back before I got bit by a copperhead (although that was on the back deck of the cabin, it made me realize they were active at night). Now I'm much more selective during Arkansas hikes in the summer, always wearing protective snake gear, and also a bit of bug spray for the creepy crawlies.

We had about an hour or two of soaking rainfall this evening, but now the skies are clearing and the 1/2+ moon is beaming and lightning up the landscape. Think I'll make another amble around the mountain. It is SO QUIET here.

08/12/19 I've got one of those things on my watch - makes ya feel lazy if you don't close the circle each day. Sometimes it acts kind of like a moonrise/sunrise or sunset/moonset, only in reverse. When trying to take a picture of the setting moon with a long telephoto lens, that thing can move pretty fast. But look at it high in the sky and it's just sitting there. The circle on my watch moves along pretty good throughout the day, but when it gets close to the end of completing the circle, it slows to a CRAWL! No matter how fast I hike The circle seems to never complete. I guess on the other hand it has scorned me into hiking extra mileage in the evening many times, which was its intended purpose.

Friends Larry and Marilyn from Springfield met me at the great pizza place in Del Norte yesterday, then spent the night at our campsite and we all dined on a five star-salmon dinner that Marilyn prepared in their RV. They've been on the road most of this year, and have the cooking and camping lifestyle perfected. Larry is responsible for us getting into this sort of small RV camping in the first place - he showed me their new 4WD Roadtrek camper van one evening in Boxley while they were down to photograph the elk. (I should have never stepped inside - we've had three Roadtrek RVs and love them.)

08/13/19 It was late in the day, and after an hour or so of the daily rain shower, I shouldered my backpack and turned into the hillside and hiked up, up, and away from our campsite - straight back and up into the national forest property that joins ours (or at least what used to be a forest - mostly standing burned trees and rocks).

It was pretty steep at first, and no trail - probably the last person to walk this terrain was me a couple of years ago. I had given up on making a 36-mile round trip on a rough gravel and dirt road to hike to the lake I noted before, opting instead to simply backpack right out of our property, climb the ridge to the top, then hike around until I found a suitable spot to camp.

I rather enjoyed the UP part of this hike. Especially because of the birds and berries. The ground was covered with lush green bushes and flowers of all sorts, including a ground-hugging holly bush thingy with bright blue berries, GIANT red rose hips, and wild raspberries. I kinda got into a routine of every other step I would simply reach out and grab a raspberry or two - I didn't even have to bend over - the hillside was so steep the berries were within easy reach!

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And then I came upon a quail - not a bobwhite, but a western quail of sorts I assume. He was pretty chunky, but didn't stick around long. A few raspberries later another quail flushed and scared the juice out of me. As I began to study the short bushes around me, I discovered six or seven little bundles of feathers - then they all SCATTERED! A covey of about half-grown quail. They quickly disappeared into the bushes and I moved on.

Several times I stopped and just looked around - mostly thinking to myself what a LUSH place this burned-off mountain was! Along with the berry bushes were six or eight species of wildflowers in bloom. Lots of other green vegetation too. Soon I had topped out on the ridge and decided that was a good spot to camp, and within minutes I had my tent set up among the wildflowers and berries. I took a picture and as I was looking at it I noticed a big tree leaning right over the tent - oops, can't do that! The more I looked around (like you always should do when selecting a tent site in a forest), the more leaning dead trees I saw. It took me about ten minutes to find a suitable place for the tent nearby, then I just had to pick up the tent still fully erected and move through a forest of short aspen trees to an opening on the other side.

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Then oh my goodness, my view to the west began to light up with BRILLIANT light and color. That scene was looking through the burned trees to the distant Continental Divide in the distance, but oh the LIGHT was just amazing! The light show spread to the north, and then all across the sky above and behind me. The only camera I had was my phone, and it was probably best for this scene anyway - I hope you can see the burned trees, the lushness of the landscape, and the beautiful sky. The color went on for 25-30 minutes before fading. It was a remarkable sight.

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As the sunset light began to fade the full moon broke free of a layer of clouds behind me to the southeast and took over the landscape. Such a wonderful transformation of light, space, and time.

So the backpack up went just fine, and the New Zealand pack proved to be right on. All my body parts worked and were not sore. And I didn't forget the tent poles. Since I'd already eaten dinner before I left, the only thing left for me to do was lay down and go to sleep. OUCH, that HURT!

This was the first time since my trip to Iceland many moons ago that I'd slept on the ground, and the skinny foam pad I'd brought was no match for my bony body upon that bumpy, rock-hard ground! Then I realized I must be getting older. Gosh darn it. I also did not have any sort of chair, and my bad disks were not good at just sitting on the ground. So I laid down for a little while, then would pop up and look around - the top panel of my tent is netting all around so you can kinda see out. I used to do this back in Wyoming when in bear country - would pop up every now and then and look around for bears.

I did get up and out of the tent once and wandered around in the moonlight - it was a delight! And eventually I made it fast asleep and didn't wake again until about 5am (the temp got down to 43, my lightweight Blue Kazoo sleeping bag that I've had since 1980 kept me warm, mostly - I think I got my money's worth). Thinking back, the last time I used that now Classic Moss tent was in August 1999 when the Wildman and I backpacked into the Popo Agie Wilderness in Wyoming. Last time in a tent was in Iceland.

08/14/19 I was awake, all packed up, and headed back down the mountain before the sun had even brushed its teeth. The hike had not been really much of a hike at all, but it did show me if I could backpack or not - yes I can, but with a thicker sleeping pad!

After milling around much of the day - including a 5.5-mile hike down to the ranch trout pond (took a small canoe out to paddle) and back up - I realized there was a large, dead, aspen tree that was leaning over our driveway and it needed to be cut down. That was a tough decision since it is I believe the largest and oldest aspen tree we have left on the property. But it died and had started cracking. The chainsaw I had with me was a battery type, but I was confident (well maybe hopeful) it would be enough to cut the tree down, and then also to cut up the trunk that would land in the middle of our driveway. It took a while to prep the site (remove the electric fence, me drink a big glass of full-strength milk to help me build up courage, etc.), then I moved the RV out and down the road to get it out of the flight path of the big tree, and finally I was reach to cut.

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I was proud of the little saw that could, and I made all three cuts to get the tree on the ground (two cuts for the notch, and the third cut to create the top of a hinge and then send the tree on over). But the tree remained defiant and still standing. It must have been perfectly balanced, even in the wind. Eventually I had to end the standoff by cutting my final cut a little deeper, and then slowly, ever so gently, the giant white tower leaned over and headed for the ground. It hit with a THUD - split down the middle of a small ground of aspen trees.

Literally, right down the middle of them - it didn't harm a single tree in the grove, but it did squeeze right between several of them. After 20 minutes of chainsaw work and a half hour of hauling branches away and placing trunk sections to line the driveway, I only had one piece of the tree left - the giant trunk that spanned the driveway. I attached a tow rope around one end and drug it to the side with the RV.

With everything shut down and in place at camp I pulled away and headed east, out of the cool mountain air and into the oven that is the plains across Oklahoma. But first, I was treated to another just simply AMAZING display of light as the setting sun lit up the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Sand Dunes - it was tough to drive with so much great light all around, AND a gigantic moon was rising in the opposite direction.

08/15/19 Surprisingly cool when I stepped out of the camper van at dawn this morning to find a very LUSH New Mexico landscape spread out before me, with temps in the 50's. That would be short-lived, as the temp began to rise and it was already in the 90's not far into Oklahoma. I LOVE Hwy. 412 going through New Mexico and western Oklahoma - mostly straight, good highway, almost no traffic day or night. I decided to keep my speed down to 60mph so the engine would not get overheated, and as the temps reached 100, and then on up to 103 for a couple of hours, I was glad to be happily motoring along - and getting 22mpg with the AC blasting in my big, 10,000 pound camper van. In New Mexico, below.

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Took me a lot longer to cross the great plains going so slow, but I really didn't want to arrive in Arkansas until later at night since I would be "camping" in the parking lot at Bass Pro in Rogers, and needed the temps to have cooled down a bit. That all worked out as planned, with the added bonus of a SPECTACULAR moonrise - all the heat and humidity makes for a HUGE, colorful moon. Many of these big outdoor stores allow you to "boondock" in a self-contained camper, as long as you have a zero footprint and don't look like you are "camping" - just parking for the night. Unfortunately some folks set up camp in the parking lot with lawn chairs, sliders out, and take up a lot of space - that equals BAD NEW for the rest of us and many of these stores have had to shut down the practice. But I was happy as a clam, and had a level parking spot far up on the hill. Thanks Bass Pro/Cabalas!

08/16/19 I was up early, had my cup of Iceland coffee and giant 32 oz. wonderful smoothie, and was parked at the front door to the service bay and the local van dealer by 6:30. They opened the big door at 7 sharp and collected my van for its once-a-year maintenance. "Did I need a loaner car?" Nope, my feet would show me around. There's a great bike trail that runs from Fayetteville to Rogers and Bentonville and beyond, and that's where I spent the next couple of hours, including an hour or so of rain. I was fully decked out in non-cotton attire so getting wet would not bother me a bit. And the temp remained near 70 degrees - WHAT? This was Arkansas in AUGUST! I checked back into the dealership after about 5.-something miles, and they were almost done. It had been a great hike that my bones needed after being in the cockpit all day yesterday.

Then it was back HOME to my lovely bride - not enough room here to tell about all the wonderful things that come with being home again with her...

08/17/19 The pups and I were out roaming around before first light - well, actually there was moonlight all night so it felt and looked like dawn even because of the moonlight even though dawn was still yet to come. Pretty nice breezes this morning that were not only cool, but stiff enough to get the pine tree swaying to and fro (how do you actually spell this?), and if you closed your eyes you'd swear they were palm trees and there were gentle ocean waves coming in - Hawaii 101. DELIGHTFUL to be back home in Arkansas!

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And now it is dawn off to the left, with skies of pink and orange and red and purple, but also a few scattered blue clouds in front, stretched out across the eastern horizon. The color is growing more intense and is now moving across the south and even towards the west, where the 3/4 moon is still high and glowing.

The pups have been busy running all around the yard and edges of our meadow below, chasing scents of whatever critters passed through during the night. 'Tis neither cold nor hot, and they love it as much as I.

I had planned to remain out west for another week, but there were too many things I needed to do at home. Today will be filled with getting that process started, which will include getting the gallery and my print area organized and up and running. Even though our main selling season remains a couple of months distant, I'm hopeful that this year I'll get a better handle on it all and lower the stress levels.

Several folks have been asking about specific dates for a slide shows in December, which reminded me we don't have our schedule full yet. Some of those programs are almost automatic each year, but others require a fair amount of work to get into place. One thing is for sure, I have a feeling this will be one of the very best slide programs we've ever done, and I CAN'T WAIT to show you!

Note - the eastern horizon and all those colors are growing even more intense - tough to watch and type and watch and type...

Last night late I packed up and set out for pickup two special prints going to the Paige Slape Scholarship fund-raising event happening today in Harrison. She was the young lady who was tragically killed in a car accident near her home while on the way to her first day of work on summer vacation in high school oh so many years ago. Our (former) sheriff's daughter, and our daughter's best friend. Paige Falls is named after her, and the scholarship her family began will continue to keep her memory alive and help advance many more young people long into the future. If anything we must be about our young people.

08/19/19 More tropical breezes early this morning before dawn, although there is more heat in the wind, and BUGS. We've not had many bugs here this summer, and were kinda wondering if we really needed the screened-in porch that we spent so much time and effort making happen last year as they were building our cabin. Our main outdoor sitting area this summer has been at the southwest corner of the back deck, overlooking the big pine trees, blooming flower garden, and bird feeders. But just this past week, the no-see-ums have sprung to life and at times make it unbearable to sit outside on that or any other open deck here. Pam and her dad turned the screened-in porch into a tiny spa area by adding a swing (compliments from our friends Jay and Judy, who also gave us a swing for Pam's the sitting area at the far northwestern part of our land - the one that overlooks our neighbor's rolling pasture where the morning and evening views are so wonderful. So now whenever the bugs kick up in the wind we head to the screened-in porch, crank up the ceiling fan, and enjoy the ocean breezes bug-free. I always wanted a screened-in porch, now we've got one!

I spent much of yesterday up at the gallery - it was actually good to get back into the swing of making prints, big canvas prints, prints to fill the walls of our gallery, but also prints for a new order we received that I kinda have mixed emotions about. We've been tasked with filling the hallways and rooms of a hospice facility in Arkansas. On the one hand I LOVE being able to bring joy and smiles to folks by sharing the great outdoor beauty that we have here in Arkansas. But for so many who will see them, the views of these specific scenes will be their last. End of life is always so sad, and I can only hope that some of these scenes will bring back memories of good times and great people and places they've visited on their trips through life, and send them to the next one in peace...

08/21/19 Last night was amazing, spectacular, unbelievable, the best ever, ELECTRIFYING! At 7:10pm I got one of those alert messages on my phone saying it was going to start raining at 7:12. Been clear, hot, and humid all day, typical of August in Arkansas. Our office is about 1/4 mile away from our cabin (uphill), and we almost always hike back and forth, sometimes like yesterday we probably did at six or eight round trips each (including one after 10pm when I remembered I had left a light on!). When the heat index is 100+ you kinda notice it, but it is great exercise for us and it seems silly to drive such a short distance.

Anyway, there was no rain at 7:12, but oh my goodness did the dark gray, black, and green clouds move in! That would be it for the sunshine. It felt like a scene from that alien movie with Devil's Tower in it - that sort of music and ominous sky. We took up seats in front of the prow to watch the show as the clouds continued to move in, then sheets of rainfall began off in the distance. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued about the same time the first really LOUD crack of lightning hit. And then the sky opened up - not with heavy rainfall, but with ELECTRICITY.

For the next couple of hours we sat in awe at the light show spread out before us - we had a 175-degree view of what I believe might be the most spectacular and long-lasting electric storms I've ever seen, ever. And it wasn't just one or two big thunderheads - these were everywhere, creating all sorts of lightning - ground to sky, sky to ground, cloud to cloud. And at first every once in a while there would be an "anvil crawler" - the type of lightning that starts as a few bolts in the center of a cloud, then it continues to grow and spread in all directions, sometimes lasting for five or ten or more seconds. I've photographed a couple of those over the years, but nothing like we saw last night. The anvil crawlers came one after another after another after another - for an hour! In fact they were still crawling when we went to bed. We never even turned on lights inside the cabin - the light show outside produced so much constant light.

We ended up with about an inch of wonderful rain out of the storms, and hours of great entertainment! Oops, no pictures, sorry. I choose to sit and enjoy the show instead of getting outside and working the entire time. I bet others will post thousands of photos today since the storm seemed to be spread all over.

No cabin cam photo this morning either - I got up early and left about 5am for a quick trip into southern Missouri. I'll post a photo later this afternoon if I can remember...

MY BRIDE THE ARTIST!

Three of Pam's pastels were just accepted as finalists in a calendar contest that is being held at the new BUFFALO RIVER ART GALLERY in Gilbert (the only town actually located on the Buffalo River - their Facebook page).

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08/23/19 Left at 4:20 yesterday morning for more chassis service in Bentonville to our little camper van. It poured pretty good much of the drive, but by first light the rainfall had let up and pretty much quit - just as advertised. Ten minutes later as I headed out the door to hike (it kills my back to sit around and wait), the dark clouds gathered and lightning struck - nearby and often. I hiked 5.5 miles in pouring rain along the very nice NWA bike trail that winds through Bentonville, and back into Rogers. During some of the heaviest rainfall I stopped for a few minutes to send a note to my bride - and show her what has to be a perfect trail underpass! (perfect drainage even during this downpour, and right next to a Krispy Kreme donut shop)

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I've always loved hiking in the rain, even (and sometimes especially) the heavy stuff, and it was pure delight yesterday. Even though I was in the middle of town the rainfall was about all I heard, along with the steady litany of jabber inside my head. In nearly two hours of hiking, only one other critter passed me - a guy doing about 40mph on his bike. You don't see many other folks out during heavy rainfall. Some of my best hikes though.

Later on I ran out 10-15 miles ahead of Pam's dad as he hauled several tons of our new picture book from a receiving warehouse in Springdale to our gallery warehouse at Little Bluff. I was keeping a lookout for rainfall and would warn him if he needed to pull over and wrap everything up in tarps. Thankfully the clouds parted all the way and the books arrived in perfect condition. The reproduction in this book is the best we've ever had, and along with all new pictures using some of the very best photographic equipment on the planet (plus a few from my iphone), it is indeed the best picture book of all my 19 so far. For sale, of course, until we run out (we only ever do one printing of our picture books).

Both my bride and I worked on into the night last night, throughout the day today, and again tonight to complete the large order for canvas prints we'd received last weekend. My goal is to get them all wrapped up (literally) late tomorrow and ready for pickup.

We made a quick run into Fayetteville early this morning to get the pups checked out and an official Health Certificate from the vet - we'll be heading up north across the border soon for a couple of weeks. [Hey Jeannette (one of the very first Journal readers in 1998, and is from across the border), if you are still reading, can we call you for bail money if needed?] They passed, we made it back home by 10:15.

More nice rainfall here today - about another inch or so. Cool temps all afternoon again. It occurred to me today that President Trump is responsible for all the rain - August is always dry and hot and humid and miserable in Arkansas, but we've had tons of rainfall and floods every August since he was elected.

Saturday morning update - after getting another 3.2" of rainfall overnight (and more on the way), our total for August so far this year is 12.4"!And we love it. Thanks Donald. Hum...

08/25/19 The cool, froggy days of summer continue - WE LOVE IT! Windows open all night with light rain - I slept in until 5:15 but think it is time for a nap...

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08/26/19 Oh my, you should hear the HOWLING winds this morning! It's been pretty calm the last couple of days since the rains stopped, and socked in with heavy fog day and night. It's an hour before dawn today and those winds blasted me when I stepped out onto the back deck. First time I've been on the deck in a few days. The temp is higher by a few clicks, but quite pleasant. And while it is dark in the west, there is much to see in the east, including a bright crescent moon that is already been up a while - its up there with the main constellation of the winter months, Orion, The Hunter. I kinda like seeing that guy. And a very bright star just below him is Sirius - that's the one that twinkles more than any other I think. And sometimes I will stare at this star and swear it is moving. Since I've been sitting here typing this, Sirius has moved visually a branch or two to the right, above the big oak tree out there.

One condition I put on myself to be able to buy my little blue rubber boat was that I had to install a set of heavy steel cabinets in the garage. Having completed the canvas prints project on Saturday that I'd been working on all week, I got up yesterday and started in on those cabinets. My blue boat remains in the garage just waiting for water, but I gotta get the cabinets done first. And I DID! Mostly, and with the help of my lovely bride. It was a great feeling to finally have them bolted securely to the wall, and the beginnings of getting organized. This is my first ever garage, and we have vowed it will always be usable as a garage instead of just a clogged storage building. So I was feeling pretty good about it all, until last night when my bride suggest one little tweak to make it even better - she was right of course, but now we'll need to add a couple of 8' 8x8 posts beneath the floor cabinets to raise the work counter top up a bit - simple job, except that I had already given away about a dozen of the very posts I need so I'll have to go find some more. I'll work on that today, but also have another project on my to-do list that I've needed to get done now for a while - about 25' of deck railing that I hadn't included in the original railing project from LAST YEAR. Ugg. But at least I'm beginning to inch my way along trying to catch up. Feels great!

We made several trips up to the gallery and back yesterday and each time we saw more and more mushroom popping up in the forest. Several days of rainfall and 100% humidity and constant dripping from the fog causes those mushrooms that have been in slumber for a while to wake up and see what's going on. First one were all white. Then we spotted a bright RED one. Then hundreds of the little brown coral-like mushrooms were scattered all over the place. I got down on my belly to inspect several mushrooms and they all seemed happy and grateful for the moisture. I've always loved being down on the forest floor - there is always so much to see once you're down at that level that is missed from our normal upright position in life. I highly recommend spending time on the ground! Only problem is that these days it is taking me longer and a larger area around me to be able to get back up again, haha.....

It will no doubt be anti-climatic when I'm finally able to load my rubber boat up and float for a few miles (it's been five years waiting), but I'm hopeful that will happen sometime this week. We will make a trip to deliver Pam's three pastel paintings to the Buffalo River Art Gallery in Gilbert (they are having a calendar contest, and three of hers are in the finals and will be on display beginning this coming Saturday - YIPPIE). I figure since the Buffalo River will be right there, we should toss my boat in and see if it floats. I'll let ya know.

Dawn is happening right now with some vibrant colors appearing along the eastern horizon. Several dark clouds racing over that direction too, which really stand out against a backdrop of beautiful dark blue sky. It's Monday, my most favorite day of the week! I hope yours is a good one - get down on the ground if you can and ENJOY!!!

08/28/19 Coolest it's been in a while here this morning - in the low 60's! Had to dig out a flannel shirt from the cabinet, and when I did I discovered a pair of old-style (2018) reading glasses I'd been missing! So far it's been a great morning. There's a sea of clouds below blanketing the Little Buffalo River and Henson Creek. We can see through the low point in the far ridge (Keys Gap) towards Parthenon and Murray and they are pretty socked in with that same blanket of fog. As the sun rises it lights up the sea and the warming rays get the clouds moving around, kind of like a foggy slow dance. Wet and lush landscape and clear air, very quiet and still. Not exactly a textbook hot August morning in Arkansas, but we'll take it!

Yesterday I got my new rubber boat wet and managed to not flip or sink it, in fact even ran a bunch of rapids as I did a short stretch of the Buffalo River and it all felt great! I remember how to paddle a canoe after all. One thing I noticed that I don't recall, was that each time I would enter the V of a rapid, the air would cool and begin to suck me into the creek, speeding up - like the river was just waiting for me and wanted to bring my rubber boat along for a little ride. A few seconds of thrills and then we were spit out into the calm waters of a long pool of emerald water. Unfortunately that will be the first and last trip for me for a while, but I'm hopeful there will be many more to come.

boat1

08/30/19 The radar in the west shows a heap-big solid-red storm headed our way that stretches from up in Missouri halfway down across Oklahoma. My view right now and hour before sunrise shows the same red in real life - an AMAZING sky spread across the eastern horizon. (quick snap from the cell phone shows the color pretty well)

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The west looks like a sparkler up in the clouds - constant burst of lightning coming from within. But no sound of thunder.

Winds are howling and I just got a severe weather alert. At first they said we might get a little weather mid-morning. Then it was 8:30. Just now it said 7am. Hum. Maybe the next alert will say it happened while we were sleeping, haha. Ohhh, that eastern sky is getting more intense - now if I can only find my phone out here in the dark...(Hint for taking phone pics when the light is dim - turn the flash OFF, and then hold the phone firmly on top of a solid object while taking the picture - like deck railing. Most of the time you can't hold the phone without support when the light is very dim (pics will be blurry), but it is possible to get an OK photo if the camera does not move during the exposure.) Darn, the light changed again - gotta go take another picture.

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And another...

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My lovely bride made a batch of fresh Cloudland homemade chocolate chip oatmeal cookies a couple of days ago and set them out on the counter (my recipe, but she bakes them so much better than I). Within an hour a pair of 8', 8x8 pine posts arrived, and fit perfectly as the base of the new steel cabinets I'd been working on in the garage. The project was now complete (and the cookies were gone - bartered for the posts - THANKS KENNIE WOODS!). Pam's dad spent several hours completing install of base floor trim in the gallery - something I'm told by customers we've needed ever since we opened the doors. He only got three cookies for his effort, but they were GREAT cookies!

The eastern sky is getting lighter and the color fading a bit, but the western sky is growing BLACK and the winds intensifying. I think it's time I dash up the hill to the gallery and unplug all the computers! (Update - the storm broke up and only produced a few raindrops. Maybe more later...)

08/31/19 Quite dark and humid early this morning - so much humidity that there are no stars. But it's cool (61) and feels great outside and in! (we had the windows open all night)

A bit of engagement calendar saga took over our day yesterday. We discovered an error in the printing, and so have had to shut down sales of these and will have to get the reprinted, with delivery expected sometime in October. Sorry about that. Short history - we've never made a dime on this calendar and we've never sold enough to even pay the printing bill. Most folks use electronic personal calendars, but there are a select group of folks who still love the real ones (like us), filled with beautiful photos that you can hold in your hands (there are 54 Arkansas photos in ours). So we continue to get a batch printed each year, even though we lose money of them.

Several years ago when we started our engagement calendar series, the only place we could find to get the printed was in Hong Kong - they specialize in high-end (premium quality reproduction) products, and the three-month wait each year was worth it to us. Last year we got blind-sided literally at the border with a 10% Trump Tariff that was just put into place three days before the boat was unloaded - that didn't come out of our profits (since there is never any profit for us on these calendars), it came directly out of our pockets. Ouch.

This year we decided never to have anything printed in China again to the unstable situation with our government, and so we went looking and found a large printer in Chicago that would do the engagement calendar, but of course at a much higher price. We gulped and singed up. There were some issues with this printer from the beginning, and after a couple of months of working with them on the specifics of printing the engagement calendar, they printed the first set of proofs wrong and we had to completely re-format the entire calendar. They finally got the formatting correct, but in the process of doing the conversion there was a glitch, one that was not noticed until yesterday (after the calendars had been all printed and delivered to us). 12 pages of the calendar were printed incorrectly. I take full blame for being stupid, and so the reprint cost is on me and out of our pocket. So instead of us losing the normal amount of money on this calendar this year, even if we sell all of them at full price, we'll lose a whole lot more. Live and learn. Maybe.

There are piles of "stuff" scattered all over the cabin this weekend, as my bride works on each one trying to shrink each pile. We are headed to Canada on Tuesday for a couple of weeks in our camper van. The piles are items that we want to take with us, but should edit down to what we really need to take with us. We hope to complete the process later today or tomorrow and then will be ready to hit the road. Our caretaker, cousin Joseph, could not get here until Monday afternoon, so we'll wait until Tuesday to hit the road.

NOTE that Pam's dad will be filling all book and wall calendar orders - all book orders from individuals that order from our secure online store will get autographed copies as usual, but obviously I won't be able to personalize any until we return later in the month. He will package and ship all dealer orders as normal. So all books will be autographed and shipped within 48 hours as usual, just not personalized.

TODAY (Saturday August 31st) is the Artist Reception at the newly opened BUFFALO RIVER ART GALLERY in Gilbert - a group of artists will be there from 3-5pm along with their 25 works of art that were selected as finalists for special calendar project the art gallery is having. (Pam has three of her pastels in the show.) I've heard that besides the artists and their amazing paintings, there will also be a collection of custom and quite YUMMY CUPCAKES available for consumption! This is all open to the public of course, so if you happen to be in the Gilbert, Arkansas, USA area this afternoon (between Harrison and Marshall, off of Hwy. 65), please stop by the gallery and say hi, look at some great Buffalo River art (and vote for your favorites), and have a cupcake!

We're hoping the piles in our cabin will have disappeared before we leave for the show - the RV is all empty and cleaned up and ready to be packed!

HAPPY SATURDAY AND HOLIDAY WEEKEND TO YOU ALL!

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