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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - February 2016

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Cloudland Cabin Cam, February 28 - cool and windy

Journal updated Sunday the 28th - the last post for February

Print Of The Week Special - Wildfire moonrise

02/01/16 ...The winds finally calmed down and the forest is taking a breather...

02/02/16 We had a nice shower early this morning but no thunder boomers. The front passed quickly, and high winds have returned. The landscape got a much-needed and refreshing drink. But we really need a LOT more RAIN! What began as a very nice wet winter has stalled, at least in our part of the Ozarks. We're still hoping for lots of rain to come. In the meantime:

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02/03/16 I left the cabin before daylight heading for a doc's appointment in Springdale, but the color of clouds at dawn stopped me as I was passing through Boxley Valley. This is certainly one of the "vortex" areas on the planet, where good vibes, great light, and sweet air come together. I had a few moments to admire it all at the historic church - this is where our weekly yoga class meets, so it was my second time there this week.

I spent much of the day in the doc's office and on the road (it's a three-four hour drive roundtrip to get most anywhere from our cabin). I'm starting to get more allergy treatments using NAET (Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques). They helped me a great deal my first go-around two years ago, but I've had additional issues this past few months so have started a second round. Turns out that I'm allergic to sugar, and was treated for that today. In order to complete each treatment, I must avoid the item for 25 hours after treatment. I found it amusing - and quite ironic - that our DENTIST was coming over to the gallery this evening (in fact she brought us dinner). She was overjoyed to hear that I had to avoid all sugar, ha, ha!

She is an amazing artist and we spent the evening photographing more than 40 of her paintings. Many were framed, and the ladies (our dentist and my lovely bride) spent a good bit of time un-framing and re-framing the pieces (I mostly just stood around and took pictures).

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02/04/16 It was very early this morning when I wandered outside to do something and noticed how INCREDIBLE the night sky was - of my goodness there were a ZILLION stars! With low humidity and the air being just scrubbed clean by the cold front that moved through, that air was crystilline-clear. I set up my camera up in the front yard just to record the moment. Note to self - GET OUT AND TAKE MORE STAR PICTURES!

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Pam's Christmas quilt for Amber:

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02/09/16 At 3:45am yesterday morning I was out hiking up a steep hill (no need to ask me why - I'm just nuts). No moon and only starlight. As I was slowly making my way up the hill - huffing and puffing some very frigid air - all of a sudden the forest floor all around began to light UP. I stopped and looked up in time to see a BRILLIANT SILVER "earth grazer" meteor streak across the northern sky just above the horizon (and right below the Big Dipper). Holy SMOKES it was BRIGHT! It was an amazing sight - so much explosive power, yet not a sound - it was so quiet I could hear my heart pounding from the climb - or was it from the spectacle before me? Don Kurz told me many moons ago that earth grazers are those meteors that enter the atmosphere and track close to your visual horizon, then burn up with so brightly.

I spent a good part of yesterday in the doctor's office getting more allergy treatments - this time for sensitivity to iron, grass, and YEAST! They handed me a list of things I could not eat nor come into contact with for 25 hours, and also a list of things I could eat - white rice, potatoes, chicken, and cauliflower. So for lunch and dinner yesterday and breakfast today I dined on white rice, chicken, and cauliflower. When the clock stuck 25 hours early this afternoon, I sat down with a giant salad, toasted tortilla, and a Skinny Cow chocolate bar that was the BEST dessert I think I've ever had! (must have been the SPAM factor). I return to the allergy doctor tomorrow - each trip brings me a step closer to getting off all allergy medicine (at least I'm hoping) - and some day perhaps I'll even be able to sit down and eat an entire load of hot french bread again (I've been highly allergic to yeast my entire life).

All the birds have disappeared from the landscape - poof, just like that. They've been gone for a couple of days. We've had dozens of different species all over the place for weeks now. I did see a flock of geese heading north the other day - I wonder if the other birds took notes and followed them?

Speaking of birds, my lovely bride and I spent some time exploring an area of the Buffalo River headwaters area near our cabin that neither of us had been to before. It was a beautiful warm afternoon - almost spring like. We followed along a creek that tumbled over smooth boulders into emerald pools. The banks on either side were level and filled with giant beech trees - in fact the forest was alive with golden beech trees, both small and tall ones. Beeches keep their leaves during the winter, and sunshine really lights them up. Anyway, we saw many old trees that had been ravished by large woodpecker - probably pileated ones. Some trees had piles of sawdust nearly a foot deep at their bases! Either the peckerwoods were really hungry, or those dead trees were filled with juicy bugs. For a while we were seeing the pileated woodpeckers several times a day no matter where we went. They seemed to have disappeared too.

Tonight is another beautiful, crystal clear night with zillions of twinkling stars everywhere. I need to go work off that extra Skinny Cow chocolate bar I had for dinner tonight so I think Wilson and I will head back up the hillside - perhaps we'll see another shooting star or two...

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Pam has been fixing up the guestroom at Cloudland - the sunrise out that window is wonderful!

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Orion breaking through the clouds

02/13/16 We have high winds and frigid temps tonight, but the moon is still visible as it sets through the trees to the west so no icy rain coming down yet - but it really sounds bad out there.

My weekend began Thursday night when I spent much of it in a nearby meadow shooting a timelapse of the stars moving above a pair of great walnut trees. Not too cold and zero wind, and the air was once again clear as a bell. I find that I like shooting night photos in the winter more and more, and I suspect I'll be doing a lot of that in the coming weeks and months.

Speaking of that, my new picture book project for 2016 has shifted focus. I've got five different Arkansas picture books in the hopper, and thought this would be the year for the Arkansas State Parks project, but it turns out I've missed too many deadlines to make that one work out. So I have shifted my priority to a project I'm been wanting to do for years - in fact ever since I moved to Cloudland. Basically I've drawn a circle around Cloudland - twelve miles out (which I figure is about how far I could hike in a day over this terrain). All the pictures in the new book will be new and unpublished pictures taken within that circle. Arkansas - My Own Backyard is a working title. It is quite surprising how many different major drainages fall within that circle - including the Big and Little Buffalo of course, but also the Big and Little Mulberry Rivers, Big Piney, Kings River, the White River, and many more - basically most of the major rivers of the Ozarks. I will visit places I can see from Cloudland but have never been to before, and many other places I've never been to before and have no idea what I'll find there - there will be a lot of discoveries for me, and I bet personal growth as well. And I'm hoping to drag my lovely bride along with me as much as possible with her sketch book and/or pastel or painting supplies in hand so she can create her own magic (she LOVES to paint/pastel "en plein air." Anyway, this is kind of the opposite of my last book, which covered 40 years of my work in many states and several foreign countries - it will just be photos "from my own back yard." I'll post as many of them and the adventures I have along the way here in the Journal.

We met up with dear friends Ray and Susan from Little Rock for lunch at the Blue Mountain Bakery in Jasper yesterday - Friday is gumbo day, and it was mighty tasty! (Wednesday is Red Beans & Rice Day). We got to talk with the sheriff, and later the great ladies at the Elk Center in Jasper (restocking them with new guidebooks and maps) before heading back to Cloudland. Our guests not only brought some of the most amazing food for dinner, but they spent an hour or two cooking it! We were treated like king and queen again with homemade waffles for breakfast! Oh, and we also dined on the best cheesecake I believe I've ever had! I think this was the most socializing I've done in a long while. We also had folks drop by the gallery today to pick up prints and buy books. And last night Ray and I set up a quick camera equipment with my smallest camera and largest lens and took a couple of snapshots of the beautiful moon - simply AMAZING what can be done with a small digital camera these days!

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One funny story from a couple days ago, and is related to a trend I have noticed with National Public Radio (and other) interviews lately. It seems that so many of their guests when answering multiple questions during an interview have gotten into the habit of beginning almost all of their answers with "SO..." I have no idea if this is a new trend or something I'm just beginning to notice. To illustrate this, I relay the following story that my lovely bride told me happened to her while out hiking with the puppies recently. I'll play like an NPR interviewer asking her the question - "Pam, how much fun is it taking your puppies for a hike" "SO, Mia ran ahead and went onto point mode, and when I started to approach her she to see what was going on, she pounded on the ground and drove her muzzle deep into the soft earth. She grabbed something and flung it backwards over her shoulder. A VOLE smacked me right in the CHEST - it was a perfect shot by Mia! And the vole dropped to the ground, dead."

I tried to imagine this and just had to laugh out loud - but really, what are the chances of being smacked by a vole that was just snatched out of the ground by a puppy and flung over its shoulder? Pam was at first not amused, but she will come around...

02/15/16 Well heck, I've been BANNED FROM CLOUDLAND! Well at least from the cabin. After my allergy treatment this morning I have to stay away from the puppies - or anyplace they've been lately - until tomorrow afternoon. I'm allergic to dogs. Kind of lonely out here in the van, in the dark. But my girlfriend has been out to visit, and she brought me CHOCOLATE for a treat. Oops, I hope I'm not allergic to chocolate!

There are some interesting allergy connections. The doctor said I was allergic to corn pollen, and wondered if I had grown up around corn? Nope. But my mom grew up on the largest sweet corn farm in Minnesota! "Ah, ha!" she said - I had actually inherited sensitivity to corn pollen from mom!

You may have noticed that on the days I go into the allergy doctor in Springdale that there is no new Deck Cam posted here on the Journal - that's because it is dark when I leave the cabin and so I don't get to take a picture to post. There is no actual "cam" on the back deck - what I post are pictures that I take of whatever I happen to point the camera at. So when I leave before daybreak, no picture. Sometimes I will stop and take a snapshot along the way, and if I get the chance to process and upload the Journal remotely, then there will be a "remote" Cabin Cam photo. Seems like a lot of the time I get to spend in the woods these days is either before or after daylight, and often I'm not taking pictures. I'll try to do better...

A bit of wildlife news. The birds have returned - at least the BIG birds have. The other day I saw crows everywhere I went - sometimes dozens of them. Then I saw at least 30 buzzards circling over the wilderness. And three different times I heard a barred owl calling out - one was in the middle of the day during heavy fog; the other two in the evening. I also saw a couple of smaller birds - woodcocks (or perhaps they were snipes - I can't tell them apart, but they don't look like ANYthing else so they had to be one or the other).

And yesterday as I was sitting at the computer typing, I looked up and there was a bald eagle floating by right outside the window! He was looking in straight at me, balancing himself on the wind currents. And today I found a feather that sure did look like an eagle feather - not from his wing or body, but rather it looked like it had come from his neck or head - it was pure white! Since white boys like me are not supposed to possess an eagle feather, I left it where I found it, clinging to a wild blueberry bush.

Speaking of huckleberries, when our friend, Ray Scott, laid out his hot homemade waffles on my plate here Saturday morning, I used the last drops of the wild huckleberry syrup on them that we got on Mt. Hood in Oregon in July. Not sure if it was the syrup or Ray's cooking, but those were the BEST waffles I'd ever et! Guess we need to go back to Oregon for more syrup...

02/18/16 A frigid wind is howling early this morning, but bright sunshine floods the landscape with the promise of warm temps later today. Even though it is quite cold right now, the days "feel" like spring is about to bust out any time now. In fact, if the warm temps and sunshine continue as promised, I would be we'll see our first wildflower of the season by the weekend - holy moly, what ever happened to WINTER? We got a ton of rain in December, but so far not much of anything else - rain or snow. Since we often get deep, wet snows in March, I'm now pinning my hopes on a snowy March.

Speaking of flowers, I've had a couple of Cloudland Moments recently, and one of them ended with a flower - or actually both of them did. Last week I spent some time exploring a beautiful little mountain stream near our cabin - it was lined with witch hazel trees on both sides. There was bright sunshine and what seemed like warm temps. Some of the witch hazel trees had yellow flowers, while others were red - in fact they were often growing next to each other. I know there are two different species, and I don't know if that was the case this time, or if they were male/female, or just had different flowers*. The little valley was filled with their sweet aroma, and it was quite delightful.

* Note from the guy who knows more about this than anyone, Don Kurz - "On the subject of witch hazel in Arkansas, Ozark witch-hazel has yellow to dark red flowers that bloom in Jan./Feb. in and along rocky streams in the Ozarks and Ouachitas. American or Eastern witch-hazel has yellow flowers and blooms in November. It grows on slopes and ridges but not in or along rocky streams. It is a bit more widespread and is found just about in every Arkansas county except for those counties in the Delta or Mississippi Lowlands. Ozark witch-hazel is Hamamelis vernalis (vernalis for spring, referring to the time in which it flowers but actually from mid/late winter to early spring is more accurate) and American witch-hazel is Hamamelis virginiana (virginiana for the state in which it was first described: Virginia)."

 

And then all of a sudden it began to SNOW! Big flakes coming down really hard, and with the wind blowing it was kind of like a miniature blizzard. But it was still sunny and warm! While this was pretty strange - to have the flowering witch hazel and a blizzard at the same time, it also was quite wonderful just being in that dreamland. And the best part of all - I was walking hand-in-hand with my lovely bride! YIPPIE!

Just a couple of days ago I was out exploring another new area, a ridgetop that included a forest of tall pine trees. The forest floor was stacked inches deep with pine needles, and so each step was onto a soft and luxurious earth. And then all of a sudden I looked up and saw the faint lines of a road - and old pioneer road it turned out, just barely visible. I began to follow this faint trace as it curved around the hillside, in and out of a small drainage, and then around a small point of the ridgetop. The lane just seemed to stop, or rather disappear into the landscape. Looking up, I realized that it had stopped at a very small root cellar - an old homestead!!! And there were a hundred or more daffodils up and out of the ground, so the forest floor was GREEN! This was a really small root cellar - very narrow and not very deep. The roof had rotted away long ago. But, there was a large tree root spanning the top of the little cellar - which made it a genuine ROOT cellar! It was just a beautiful spot in the forest, and I sat down to soak it all in. And then I realized right next to me were three of those flowers just beginning to bud out - tight yellow shoots that would soon burst forth into full flower mode. It was a little slice of heaven right there on the edge of that ridgetop.

One other quick note before I must run along. I made a quick trip to restock the Hastings bookstore in Russellville yesterday (they now have a full stock of all our books). Along the way I listened to another long interview on NPR. The college professor was obviously quite intelligent and well spoken, but as I noted a couple of posts ago, EVERY one of her answers began with "SO" - I'm a little baffled by this - it is a new way for the really smart people to always begin to answer a question, or has it always been that way and I've just not been listening?

Enjoy the sunshine and warm weather upon us, but please make a little time for some RAIN DANCING - we really do need some moisture, a lot of it!

And here's a bit of color at sunset looking to the west from our Cloudland cabin:

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02/21/16 Soft raindrops on the metal roof early this morning when I went out to water the flowers. The drops were running off the upper roof - it wasn't raining. But the landscape was saturated with moisture, and it did rain a little bit during the night - first drops of any sort here in a very long time.

As I sat on the back deck munching on a bow of raisin bran, something out there in the forest didn't look quite right. There was a large black spot up high in one of the hickory trees that wasn't supposed to be there. It didn't look quite large enough to be a bear cub, but when I looked closer with binocs I did not see any telltale sings of it being a raccoon. So I sent my special bloodhound to sniff out the situation, and soon a masked bandit turned and looked around right at me. The raccoon stayed in that tree for another hour, then finally moved on out into the forest. He must have been what woke me up in the middle of the night and turned on the motion-sensor spotlights. I have them tuned to not trigger when our cats run around, but I guess the raccoon was large enough to do so.

Later on I took the pups out for a four-mile ramble. The air was sweet and cool, and the earth beneath each step was soft and silent. Our first stop was to inspect a large tree that has been blown down over our little trail by the heavy winds last week - my lovely bride found it yesterday evening while on her ramble with the pups (the dogs are getting a lot of exercise lately!). So sad to see such a large tree blown over, but I know it will provide food and shelter for all sorts of critters in the coming years as it slowly decays and melts into the earth.

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Speaking of that wind, we drove to Oklahoma City during the worst of it, with very heavy cross winds that jerked the steering wheel right out of my hands dozens of times - it was pretty tough trying to keep the Bookmobile on the road. By the time we reached our inner-city RV camp site - complete with a small waterfall next to the Ninth Green - the muscles in my shoulders and arms were shredded and sore. After a few hours of meetings the next day, we turned around and headed back to Cloudland - no wind made for a MUCH easier drive!

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OK, back to my hike this morning. Just beyond the downed tree I found a smaller tree that had landed a year or two before, and it was covered with smaller "shelf" lichens (I'm using the name "shelf" as a generic name - I don't have a clue what they are really called). These little guys were feeding on the downed tree and passing along that circle of life.

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As we headed down a steep hillside in the wildness, I looked up and noticed a wall of small beech trees - they are easy to spot this time of year since they keep their golden leaves all winter. There were a few mature beeches on this hillside, but as you can see most of them were young ones. I always LOVE beech leaves in the winter!

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There was a small stream at the bottom of that hillside, and while it was not flowing much, there were small pools, which the puppies went swimming in. Wilson kind of just chugs along, Lucy prances most of the way, but Mia RUNS full speed all the time, ranging way out and often beyond sight, then come running back in a full speed. She works up quite a thirst and was a happy dog when we stopped at the creek.

I noticed a lone sweet gum ball that was resting on top of a moss-covered rock. I wanted to get down close to take its picture - and when I stepped over to do that, my foot disappeared into a pile of leaves and didn't stop until it hit the bottom of the pool! My new boot quickly filled with chilly water - its first such dunking. I've had five pairs of these same model Lowa hiking boots that I love so much - they fit my feet well and feel great. But I've had issues with ALL five pairs - mostly due to the stitches coming apart long before the soles wear out. I've swore never to buy another pair of Lowas, but each time a pair comes apart and I head to the Pack Rat Outdoor Center to find a new and different pair of boots, I walk out with another pair of Lowas. But at least this time I discovered that Lowa FINALLY acknowledged their defective design and produced almost the exact same boot, but with a solid leather all around with no seams - YIPPIE! I've been wearing them for several weeks now and I think they are going to hold up much better - at least there are no seams to come apart in the toe area. They are still the most comfortable boots I could find.

Oh yes, I got my picture as you can see.

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SPRING CLEANING has begun at Cloudland. We plan to do a total clean out of everything in all five of our buildings here, plus all of the sheds, porches, covered porches, and carports. It's time to DOWNSIZE! We just have way too much STUFF. We will store some items for future use, other things we will collect and put into a garage sale later this spring or summer. A few items I may list here for sale to just give Journal readers first crack. And still a few other items will be sold elsewhere. Once everything is cleaned out we will power wash the cabin and decks, re-stain decks and railings as needed, and generally get the place back to its showcase condition.

Speaking of showcase, we will probably have a gallery open house in early April (the 9th I think). AND we might even have a couple of slide programs this spring and early summer - in fact one will be in BRANSON - we will finally make it to a Branson theater! We'll be doing a program at the public library in Springfield on June 17th - this one will probably be an encore presentation of our popular ARKANSAS NIGHTSCAPES show - perhaps for the last time. I'll post details here when everything is finalized.

OK, the sun is just now beginning pop out through the clouds and I've got a carport to empty!

02/23/16 This is a remote report from my temporary housing in the greater metroplex of Mt. Sherman, which is located just outside of Jasper (I've dubbed it Cloudland east). I got banned from Cloudland for 25 hours and had to seek alternate shelter. Just one of many reasons to have friendly in-laws living nearby! I had several more allergy treatments yesterday morning - with the main one being OUR DOGS. I took in hair clippings from all three of our pups and I failed bigtime. So I could not come in contact with them, or anything they've been around. I also failed maple trees, which it turns out are blooming right now - and Cloudland is located right in the middle of one of the largest stands of maple trees in Arkansas that I know of, which is one reason it is so COLORFUL around there in the fall.

Anyway, as I was leaving the cabin early yesterday headed to the doc's in Springdale I noticed a hillside on fire in the upper Boxley Valley area. It looked very much like a controlled burn, but they normally don't light those so early in the morning, and there wasn't one there the night before. Hum. Later in the day as I came back through Boxley I could see the smoke on the hillside. And again when I retrieved with a stash of supplies that my lovely bride left in her car while she was a yoga class. Several of the yoga ladies have dogs and I figured they would have dogs all over them, so I elected to skip yoga just to be safe. Turns out that someone brought a new PUPPY to the class (caged in their car, but still was fresh dog hair), so that was a good move! The hillside in the upper valley was still doing its smoking thing, but I headed to Mt. Sherman for the night.

I stopped along the way and photographed a quite beautiful full "Snow" moon rising over the Henson Creek drainage, then began to settle into Pam's parents house for the evening (they are out of town at the moment, but headed back home today). The phone rang and it was my lovely bride telling me that she just saw the most amazing view - of the hillside on fire in Boxley with the full moon rising behind it! OH MY GOSH, I never thought about what a terrific scene that would have made, and I was just down there!

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I cursed at myself, dropped the phone, sprinted to the van, and headed briskly back down into Boxley. By the time I reached the upper valley area it had gotten mostly dark, but the full moon was still "rising" right above the hillside of fire. I sized up the situation, made a few test shots, and wound up out in the middle of a large hay meadow. Luckily I had two different cameras with me, but only one tripod. One of the cameras was a experimental camera I'd never used before, and this would be the perfect time to test it out.

The next several hours were quite epic for me as a photographer. How often do you get front row seats to such an amazing event, and with a camera and tripod at your fingertips!? The moon was bright enough to light everything up so I didn't even need a flashlight as I dashed from one side of the meadow to another, changing compositions and angles - some with the full moon and some without. I used everything from a 24mm wide angles lens right on out to a 600mm lens. Pam told me that the national park service had issued a warning about the fire for folks hiking the Buffalo River Trail, and that it was a wildfire out of control, but that they had lit their own "backburn" fires along the highway that would burn up the hillside and keep the wildfire from spreading too much - turned out to be a good idea from what I could see.

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While I was in the meadow shooting, I would often hear great crashes coming from the blazing mountain above. And sometimes I would see fireballs flare up, come crashing down, then roll on down the hillside - larger trees that were on fire and had burned through enough to bring down the entire tree. It was quite surreal, especially with the full moon and stars all around. And the smoke from the fires created many patterns in the heavens above, and I varied my exposure times to capture different movements of those smoke plumes as they drifted and spread with the winds into the heavens.

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It was near midnight when I finally felt like I had enough photos to be able to pick one for the new picture book I'm working on, so I headed back to Cloudland east. But before I could go to bed, I tried to sort through the hundreds of pictures I had taken of the fire, moon and stars, to get something posted on the Journal and on facebook. Trying to evaluate images on a tiny laptop screen is risky, but I did the best I could and made a post then crashed in the guest room that has not seen any puppy activity in a good long while (so I felt safe from my allergy treatment).

One other note from yesterday morning. As I left Boxley Valley and drove up and over the top towards Kingston, I counted a heard of 19 bull elk in a large hay meadow along the highway. There were some nice bulls in that bunch that is called the "bachelor herd" - they are the mid-level bulls just waiting their turn to grow up and compete for their own herd of cows in the years to come. Normally this group of middle-aged bulls is less than ten in number, with four "herd bulls" that rule the valley staying in their own group elsewhere. So we have at least twice the number of bachelor bulls that will begin fighting the herd bulls next fall for the right to court the cows. Those largest herd bulls typically spend the spring and summer months up on Cave Mountain getting all fat for the fall rutting season to come. It is going to be a very interesting next few years in the fields of Boxley Valley in the fall.

02/25/16 When I awoke at 4:30 yesterday morning and wandered out onto the back deck I thought I was still dreaming. It was pretty dark, but I could see enough to know that the entire landscape spread out before me was a winter wonderland - everything was covered with heavy snow! Yet the temp was well above freezing and all this white stuff was supposed to have melted off as it hit the ground. SURPRISE! As my eyes adjusted it was clear we'd received a great deal of snowfall - perhaps more than we'd had here in a good many years. And most surprising of all was the fact that the tree limbs had several inches of wet snow clinging to them - that makes for the most beautiful landscapes!

So I quickly adjusted my mental schedule to include a quick trip down to Hawksbill Crag before dawn to try and get a picture to post here. My first steps into the snow confirmed that there was even more snow than I thought - in fact I slugged snow almost a foot deep! The forest was like one solid wall of snow with the trees being totally clogged and overloaded with the wet stuff, and most of the smaller trees looked like they'd been on an all-night bender and were "hung" over. Each tree I passed and nudged dumped lots of snow down the back of my neck! At one point the wall of show was so thick that I literally had to get down on my hands and knees and crawl - and still I got buried with snow.

As daylight began to creep into the landscape there was heavy snow as far as I could see. But with each step I took down the hill towards the Crag, the snow got less and less. As I set up my tripod to take pictures of the Crag, I realized that the snow line was less than 200 feet below the Crag - in fact Whitaker Creek below had no snow at all, and all of the landscape below that mark was bare, no snow! I hung around and took pictures for an hour or so until daylight had fully arrived, then headed back up the hillside - this time the snow depth increased with each step - and once again I was back down on my hands and knees crawling through the thickest part.

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I LOVE this type of snowfall - that sticks to every twig and branch. And the snow blew so hard that most of the trees had one side covered with snow. Interestingly, once in a while there would be a large tree that had NO SNOW at all on it. I stopped and dug out my tripod and camera and took many photos of scenes with just one or two of the stark, naked, usually black-trunked trees that were completely surrounded by tons of snow. I wonder if those trees actually have a temperature higher than the rest and so no snow collected on them, or melted instantly? I do remember many years ago when I went around hugging trees and discovered that some species actually felt warmer than others.

Another thing I noticed was that as I climbed the hill back to the top, the snow changed direction - down at the Crag level the snow had been blowing from the south, while back on top it had come from the north. And further, once I got out to the main Cave Mountain road and started driving around, those trees got plastered from the WEST!

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I would spend the next five hour driving around on top in the deepest snow of recent memory - up to 14" in some places. In fact I got my 4wd van stuck twice, and eventually had to put a set of snow chains on. It was kind of like one of those classic autumn days when ALL trees are in peak fall color at the same time - there was so much beautiful snow on everything that I didn't know which direction to point my cameras at!

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At one point there was so much snow on the overhead power lines that one of the lines was hanging just FIVE FEET off the ground across the road - YIKES! But what was really weird was how the snow had clung to the wire - it wasn't the classic frozen drip line, but rather it looked as though the lines were encased in a thick layer of insulating foam. I could walk right up and touch the line if I wanted, but being the scarty cat that I am I only took pictures. And just to give you some scale of this, I was standing next to the line when taking the photo below, and part of the electric wire is BELOW me! I turned around.

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Not wanting to be selfish, I went back to the cabin and picked up my girlfriend so she could see how thick and beautiful the top of Cave Mountain was. We drove over towards the fire tower and snow got even thicker. I had wanted to photograph the little Roberts Gap one room school house, and it took us a couple of passes to locate it since the wall of snow was so massive - even the snow on the road was 13"+ deep and came up to the sideboard on the van. The little school house was nearly totally engulfed with the heavy snow. When I made my way inside I found there was even snow covering about half of the floor - blown in the glass-less windows.

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vansnow

We had seen one set of footprints along the road that led to the Hawksbill Crag trail - and we later passed the photographer who must have hiked miles in the snow to get down there and take pictures - I hope he got a great image since he had to work pretty hard to get it.

The entire time the temp was above freezing, and the snow beneath kept melting. By the end of the day the roads were pretty much cleared up, yet a lot of the landscape remained snow covered - it takes a LOT of melting to melt off a foot of snow. The parched landscape is loving the slow-soaking moisture, so it was a big YIPPIE COYOTE from the forest! Of course, with temps down in the 20's overnight, all those roads up here on the mountain are frozen solid right now before first light, but they should melt later in the day...

The only downside to the epic day I had in the snow yesterday was the fact that the snow was so deep I got stuck in my 4wd van while my girlfriend was with me - how embarrasing! In fact she had to get out and help me install the chains - that would have been a crushing below to a younger me, but I'm hopeful my girlfriend will overlook this incident and remember that in fact I am mostly just an old guy wanting to get out and play in the snow...

EVENING UPDATE. A couple of moments from tonight. First, while watching a video conversation between a well-known Photoshop educator and professional photographer, they got to talking about a photographic "style." They said that when you work long and hard enough at this you will develop your own personal style, and that your work will be associated with that style, or vice versa. That got me to thinking about my own work. I'm well into my 41st year as a pro nature photographer (whatever that means), and I don't have a clue what my style is - I'm not really sure that I even have one. Have I not worked long and hard enough yet? I've always felt like there was something lacking in my work, and perhaps that is it - I don't have any style, and I don't know how to get one, or if I even want one. Anyway, my work is a reflection of the things that I see that interest me, and the way that I capture them. And that is pretty much it - I wander around looking for things that I want to take pictures of, and when I find something, I dig out my camera gear and use whatever method I can to capture that scene.

Speaking of that brings me to thought #2. I'm sitting at my cabin office desk on the main floor here at Cloudland when my lovely bride calls down from the loft above - "LOOK AT THE MOON!" I looked up and saw an incredible yellow/orang moon about half way up, shining brightly through the forest of trees just outside the window. THAT scene was something that really interested me and I wanted to capture, so I jumped up and ran out the door to find my big telephoto lens. OK, so the lens was in a camera bag somewhere in the carport - stumbled around for a minute or two in the dark before I found it. I glanced up and saw that the moon had already progressed to almost completely risen. Then I ran back into the cabin and grabbed my camera body and installed the lens on the camera. Then I realized that there was no memory card in the camera, so I rummaged through a basket that had several cameras in it and found a memory card - then dropped the card back into the basket and lost it - I had to turn on a light and finally pulled the card out and slipped it into the camera with the telephoto lens on it.

Next I ran back outside and into the front yard, grabbing a big tripod off the front porch on the way. I searched and searched and searched but could not find an opening in the trees where I had a clear view of the rising moon (which by this time had completely risen above the horizon but still quite colorful). So I ran back into the cabin, up into the loft, and out onto the little deck on the east side of the loft - there was a clear view of the moonrise from there - well, all except for the TREES in the way foiled again!

And what you just had to have been standing there to appreciate and laugh at, somehow I got my tripod (which I had fully extended by this time as I was running from place to place) STUCK in the sliding glass door as I was coming back into the loft! How do you get a tripod stuck in a sliding glass door? Pam just stood there baffled, as was I.

OK, got the tripod free of the door, so I ran back downstairs and out onto the back deck, then started down the flight of stairs that led down to the lowest deck, which had the best view to the east. And then OOPS - I hit a patch of ice and both me and my camera and tripod all went flying and all came down with a big THUD! It was dark back there and I just didn't see the ice. And now my "ice" was on the ground with my camera gear possibly smashed.

It was at that very moment that a profound thought came to me. I spend so much of my time just trying to TAKE pictures of beautiful things that sometimes I never get to ENJOY those beautiful things! I.E., I had completely MISSED the amazing sight of this colorful moonrise while running around trying to find a spot to take a picture of the colorful moonrise! So I gathered my photo gear up and brought it back into the cabin, then went out into the front yard and just sat down in the snow. WOW, look at the MOONRISE! Someone should take a picture of it...(I got a photo, but after all the color had been drained out.)

moon2

02/27/16 Last night I decided to be smart about trying to photograph the moonrise. I figured out where on the horizon the moon would first appear (there's an APP for that), then set up my big telephoto lens and camera on a tripod and pointed it to that spot on the distant ridgetop treeline. Turns out this particular spot where I could see the moonrise through the tree canopy around the cabin was inside our sunroom, so I opened up one of the big windows and removed the screen. Then I climbed into our little hot tub that lives in the sun room, turned on the bubbles, and waited. Kind of a lazy man's way to photograph a moonrise, but at least my method and results were MUCH better than my attempt the night before! I had almost fallen asleep when the first bit of the bright orange moon began to appear. I reached over and pressed the button on the remote control and PRESTO, picture taken!

moon

For some reason I find the "waning" moon less appealing than the "waxing" moon - something to do with the disappearing part being on top now instead of the underneath part. But I've decided to take a fresh look at all phases of the moon, so you will likely be seeing a lot more moon photos from me this spring...

It is going to be a spectacular weekend to be outdoors in the Ozarks with blue skies and warm sunshine! I hope each of you get to have some wonderful moments soaking it all in. We have two goals for our weekend - empty out the "sauna room" here at the cabin (which has become a storage room in recent years - we've simply not had time to enjoy the benefits of a sauna), AND get our TAXES done! While neither job is all that appealing, we will feel a little bit euphoric when those chores are done! HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE!

02/28/16 The wind picked up during the night and continues to HOWL early this morning. During the cooler months I will sip my cup of java while sitting back in a comfy chair in the middle of the great room with my feet up on our log stump "coffee table." (Hey, I just realized why they call them a "coffee" table!) The half moon is high in the sky this morning, and is shining in through some tall windows and lighting up the entire great room. SO NICE to be able to view the moon during the night from inside the cabin - we also can view the Milky Way during summer months from inside. That's one of the reasons why I designed the cabin and windows the way it is - to be able to be part of the outdoors while indoors when we wanted to.

We toiled away yesterday at our appointed chores (got the ones on our list done, yippie!), then took a long ramble over the hill and through the woods to the mailbox and back, with a few side trips along the way. No wildflowers yet - they seem to be a week or two behind, probably due to having such a dry winter. I'm expecting to find that first flower any hour now - hopefully later today. Most of our day will be spent with more spring cleaning - a couple more weeks of that and we'll be done.

This will be the last post for February...

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