LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - February 2019 (previous months)
Little Bluff cabin cam February 27 - Wilson gettin' ready for a run on a cloudy morning
Journal updated February 26th - quickie update
02/01/19 We left the cabin at 3:50 this morning and spent much of the day at the One Day surgery center in Springfield (getting boob lumps removed). Patient is happily back at home and doing well. We hope to know some results on Tuesday. I got the pups out for a brief romp in beautiful evening light just below the cabin - they were happy too! It's been a long week - think I'll stay home tonight and sleep... HAPPY FEBRUARY! (photo below)Wilson on the "little" bluff below the cabin this evenig.
02/05/19 Pam's test results came back today and all is well - none of the material they removed during surgery on Friday had cancer. Yippie COYOTE! One of her boobs now appears to be winking at me, but I think it's just the sutures. We ended up being at the surgery center on Friday for seven hours, mostly for pre and post operation - the medical folks took very good care of her. Neither of us can handle narcotics (so we never have any on hand - less money too!), and Pam was comfortable and fine with only Tylenol during the first night, then she backed off to almost none on day two, and has not had any pain nor medication since. She was back at work yesterday morning.
THANKS to all who wrote, called, or sent a CARE PACKAGE! Oh my goodness, she got a cooler filled with bacon and ham, AND the world's BEST coffee-cake! Thank goodness my bride has gone on a special healthy lifestyle and eating program designed for her to learn a much healthier way to cook and eat - which meant I got to eat all the coffee cake myself! (not really - Pam got two thin sices and I got two normal slices!) THANKS SO VERY MUCH to the special person who sent it - we appreciate you in so many ways...(and we saw you on TV/iphone news the other night)
We spent much of yesterday on the couch in the prow watching the day float and fly by. There was a constant parade of clouds marching from west to east - a lot more than we'd seen all year. And along with them came lots and LOTS of birds. We started a list, and had more than a dozen different species of birds in one day! We had everything from tiny finches to bald eagles that soared high over the cabin, but also swung down very close to wink at us (wait a minute - what that an eagle or a boob?). Tons of hawks too.
At one point Pam called for the binocs, and we both stared at the closest pine tree just beyond the deck rail to make sure we were seeing what we thought we were seeing. The wind was blowing in excess of 30mph, and a little nuthatch clung to the bark of the tree out of the wind. Don't know how the little fella held on, but he stayed there for a long time, and the tree swung back and forth - kinda like life...
02/07/19 HAPPY ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY CABIN! Today was the day they crew built the floor - first wood on the concrete foundation and crawl space. It was EXCITING as you may recall.
Mia nudged herself right up under the covers and my arm to my chin - TIME TO GET UP DADDY, a STORM IS COMING! That was about 30 minutes ago at 3:30am. A few minutes later I stood and watched as our weather station gulped up a full inch of heavy rainfall. We never saw the 60mph winds or hail that the phone predicted, but it was blowing pretty good. I'm hoping to take a waterfall picture this morning so the extra rainfall will help - as long as the muddy water clears up before the skies clear and harsh sunshine arrives. That makes 2.25" of rainfall in the past 24 hours.
We needed a dose of really hard rainfall to help firm up our yard that was tilled up and smoothed down by a bulldozer recently. Should be all ready for some grass to start up - well, maybe after a couple of nights in the lower teens tonight and tomorrow have come and gone.
Yesterday evening just after dinner we all sat on the couch in the dark and watched the 10-screen panovision as dark clouds blew by, and then a star or two appeared. And we saw a little moth flutter across the screen. Then another. Hum. Then a WHOOSH and the moth was gone - eaten by a passing bat. What, bats in the middle of the winter? Even though they mostly shut off their internal engines this time of year many of these bats live in trees and shallow depressions in the rocks and so can sense warm temps and know that if they are awake, there must be moths and other bugs awake too. Another moth appeared, then another, then two bats came through and there were no moths any more. Are we a weird family or what - being entertained by clouds and stars and bats and moths.
4:30 now and all that's left of the storm are the sounds of the wind in our pines - such wonderful, soothing music. Think I'll lay back and nap until the alarm goes off at 4:45...
02/08/19 Early morning now a couple of hours before daylight, and I'm sitting in front of the fireplace looking at 11 degrees on the weather station, and seeing Venue and Jupiter plus a zillion other stars looking in through the prow windows. I'm about to suit up and head into the woods and hopefully can locate one of my cameras that has been taking pictures since 7pm yesterday - trying to get a star circle above a waterfall.
I say "trying" because I have no idea if anything will turn out. When I left the camera and hiked out in the dark last night, it was snowing heavily and zero stars, with a temp about 16. I was warm and toasty in my Alaska suit, but not so sure about the camera. I had a giant chemical hand warmer on the big battery that powered the camera, and a dew heater on the lens, plus another hand warmer on the lens just in case the big battery went dead during the night. The camera was set up in the creek bed about 20 feet downstream from the waterfall, and the falls were producing a little bit of mist - heck, my camera may be totally covered with a thick layer of ice when I get to it this morning!
You never know what is going to happen during the night, especially with the weather like it is.
Yesterday morning I met up with good buddy Fireman Jason for what was supposed to be a printing session (I was going to make some canvas prints of his images), and a tripod-maintenance session (he was going to completely disassemble one of my main tripods and clean/lubricate/reassemble it and make it work like new again - I'm hard on tripods). Turns out the waterfalls were running so well after more than three inches of rain that we decided to put that old tripod to use and we spent the entire morning and into the afternoon exploring and shooting waterfalls - we had PERFECT conditions! Although it did get a wee bit chilly as the temp dropped from 60 degrees to 25 by the time we ended our shooting day. (The historic springhouse in Boxley is below - I love how the moss really POPPED yesterday!)
It was one of those magical days in the woods with so many subjects we had trouble deciding what to shoot - and it remained cloudy all day, spitting snow, so the light was perfect. Only problem was that I left my backup camera battery for my main big camera back at the gallery (OOPS), and the battery in the camera was almost dead! Check that - it WAS dead after only an hour of shooting. I knew I was in trouble and took a backup camera with me so I got some pictures, but it just wasn't the same. Jason on the other hand went home with a camera bag full of wonderful photos! We visited some areas I probably would not have gone to if he had not been with me - not really difficult, but challenging due to the slick conditions for an old geezer like me to be doing alone.
There was only enough time for me to get home and grab a quick early dinner before I had to pack up and head back into the woods to set up my nighttime camera for that waterfall shot. And now I gotta head out again to see if my camera is frozen...
AFTERNOON UPDATE. My camera was fine and still running when I reached it about sunrise. Temp was 9, and the lens and camera were snow and frost free - yippie! It was kind of a hairy trip crossing the low water bridge at Ponca - yesterday it had been completely underwater in the morning and at dark, so I had parked my van up along the highway towards Jasper and bushwhacked down through the woods to reach the creek drainage where the waterfall was. This morning the Buffalo River had dropped enough that the concrete bridge was out of the water, but most of it was a solid sheet of ICE. I elected to inch my way across the bridge instead of parking back up on the highway and going in the long route.
After I picked up the camera and packed everything away, I stopped along Leatherwood Creek on my way out and spent a bit of time taking pictures of a small falls on the creek, then spent about an hour shooting some slow-motion movies of stuff along the creek. These days I've been hiking in my rubber "Angela" boots because of the cold and water, and they sure do make a photographer's life a lot easier when shooting around water. Thanks Angela, wherever you are!
Most of the photos I've been taking this winter I won't even look at until I get ready to put together my new picture book project about Arkansas (no name yet) - that production work will happen late spring/early summer for publication release in October. Many of the images that I post here will be included in the book if they make the cut, but many of the new book photos will be picked at the last minute and not seen by anyone. Someone asked how I know when I've shot enough - I don't - I just keep shooting as much as I can until the very last minute, like I do everything!
Here's a quick edit of the waterfall photo I took during the night - it's of Balanced Rock Falls, and includes about five or six hours of star trails - the North Star is not visible from this location - it is just out of view below the bluffline and trees. Turns out the sky cleared up about midnight and I was able to capture some nice colorful stars. FYI, that is a GIANT boulder that is balanced above the waterfall - bedroom sized.
02/09/19 Here's a snapshot of the bright part of the Milky Way making it's first appearance after being below the horizon since early fall - taken from the back deck this morning. The two bright stars are planets Venus and Neptune.
02/12/19 HOWLING winds since about 3am in the 30-40mph range, and they seem to have pushed out the rain. (2.25" rain total the last couple of days) Now just after sunrise the clouds are moving on out too - replaced with BRILLIANT sunshine, bt still high winds that cut into ya and sting just a little bit. Wind chills are in the teens.
With all the rainfall came zillions of WATERFALLS across the Ozarks and elsewhere, and I was forced to get out and take a few pictures. I headed into the Smith Creek Nature Preserve at the south end of Boxley Valley a couple of days ago, but didn't get there until nearly dark. Rains had just begun but the creek was flowing well and the water and especially the pools were BEAUTIFUL! It's about 1.3 miles hike to the main scenic spot - an area of giant boulders clogging the creekbed, with tumbling waters and lots of motion and noise.
Knowing I only had an hour or so to shoot before it got totally dark, I just kinda let the magic of the area draw me towards a spot in the middle, which is where I set up my camera gear - I shot for an hour and never left a ten-foot area. The rain came down pretty hard a time or two, then let up to just sprinkles, then got intense again. I prefer not to shoot in driving rain, but don't mind light rain at all - water seems to scare most photographers. I use the same umbrella setup I've used for decades - a simple umbrella that fits into a gooseneck attachment that is duck-tapped to my tripod. Works in all but really windy conditions.
I kept taking pictures until it was almost too dark to see, then packed up and pointed my nose back to the van. The 1.3 miles went by so fast - some of it was uphill, very UPhill, which I enjoy - it is great to feel your blood pumping at max volume.
We had good rain all night with more predicted all day yesterday, but relatives were thinking of making a visit to the cabin so I hung around a little while in the morning until I never heard back from them and could not stand it any more - I tossed my camera gear in the van and sped off, leaving word with them to let me know a time and I would gladly meet them (never heard back).
My first stop was to a section of old highway that had been long abandoned and I'd driven by and noticed hundreds of times - I thought it might be a great waterfall scene but never took the time to stop when there was water running. My bride called on her way to Springfield and said the water WAS RUNNING and it look beautiful, so I arrived there in 20 minutes. It was a beautiful, magical area where carefully placed and stacked stones from probably the 1930's were completely covered with rich green moss - made all the more intense with all the rain and saturation. Used to be a bridge at this site, but it was removed ions ago, so only the stones remained, and the cascading waterfall spilling over the layers of mossy stones. I shot for two hours, again in the rain, until I figured I had at least one good photo.
On days like this there were hundreds - probably thousands - of great waterfalls, running at perfect "photo" levels. Generally it takes more water than normal for really nice pictures, but too much water and they don't look good and are usually muddy. This day was the perfect level right in between. But where to go next.
I decided to make another trip back to where Fireman Jason and I had been last week, and as expected, it was beautiful - every step in all directions. Not only were the waterfalls in peak form, but so was the forest itself, especially the moss-and-lichen "fairy forest" area along the Buffalo River Trail downstream from the Ponca bridge. It really is magical on days like yesterday. Oh my!
The rain had mostly stopped by then but spray from one of the big waterfalls (Hidden Falls) covered my camera lens almost instantly. So I had to use a technique of getting the shot all setup, then carefully wiping the front lens element with a special cloth and then hitting the shutter to take the picture before the lens got covered with spray again. My camera and lenses can take getting a little wet from spray or light rain like this, but anything on the front of the lens will mess up the picture.
After three or four hours in the area I was ready to head for another location (did not know where, just that I should move on). And as I moved towards the trail my feet slipped out from under me and I hit the ground with a loud THUD, and then an agonizing groan. I've been very careful lately and have not fallen much, but did slip and land on my backside when I was with Fireman Jason last week. As I struggled to get back up on my feet again yesterday, I just had to laugh a little bit through the pain - the four-foot-long slide that I just carved in the mud on the hillside with within two feet of the exact same spot where I had slipped last week with Jason!!! I knew that particular area was really bad slick (Jason slipped a time or two as well), but there is just something about that spot that keeps calling me back.
Not wanting to risk further damage to my back I decided that even though there was at least an hour of daylight left and waterfall conditions were perfect, I should due my due diligence and head back to the van. OK, so I was done shooting, but since I was already still RIGHT THERE at this magical spot, I decided to stick around for just one more picture. I did. It was great. And then I ambled on back to the van and called it a day. As I drove off I passed a couple of "real" photographers hiking across the big highway bridge across the Buffalo all decked out with giant tripods fully deployed and balancing over their shoulders. Dang it, I wish it was me just heading out into the forest with fresh legs and a normal back...
Speaking of my back, I have a somewhat humorous cabin-life story to tell ya, but like most things it would have been much better if you'd been here to see it (and maybe you could have HELPED!). We left almost all of our furniture at Cloudland when we sold and moved, and have been slow to replace it (furniture is SO EXPENSIVE!). But we got a wild hare and went to town on Saturday and came home with four items, all in boxes (we can only afford furniture that comes in boxes, ha, ha!) Floor lamp, bookcase, coffee table, and TV table.
Only the lamp was light enough to carry inside without aid, which my bride did and had put together and up and working in no time. It is a very simple reading lamp for the great room, but it does have three elk on it and fits the feeling of our cabin. The book case was too heavy for us to carry, but we were able to slide it out of the van and tip it up onto a hand truck, then my bride put her backside into it while I pulled up on the truck and we made it up the two steps from the garage and into the cabin without issue.
The coffee table was also a simple design but heavy so we used the same process and got the box to the prow in the great room - it was a bit of a struggle but we managed. When we started to unbox it we realized it had been smashed during shipment, and me being too cheap to pay the furniture store $75 bucks to deliver and setup started to come into question. The more we looked the ore damage we found, but I also decided the damage was repairable and would not be seen, so I decided to just make the repairs myself. That was Sunday - today is Tuesday, and the coffee table remains un-repaired and leaning up against the prow. But I do have a plan and the necessary metal plates, screws, and glue!
OK, only the TV table left, and it was going to be a bugger - it was nearly 200 pounds and in a very large box. What was I thinking? I came up with a plan, and late Saturday night we had cleared out the garage and I'd pulled the cargo van back inside and had it facing sideways and backed up to the mud room door - quite a feat in itself. My plan was to rig up a bridge to bridge the gap between the back of the van and the mud room floor. No problem, I had the bridge set up and we slide the big box out of the van, across the bridge, and into the mud room. But the PROCESS was SO funny! I had to sit down with my back up against the big box and scoot my butt inches at a time while my bride was on the other end pulling and guiding - I nearly pushed the big box off the bridge a time or two! Really, you had to be there. We laughed, and questioned our sanity. But it worked. Mostly.
Then we had to figure out a way to hoist the big box up onto a 4' long 2x12 board on skates that Pam's dad had made up for moving heavy stuff. It was a comedy of error for a while, and I eventually used a strap around one end of the box and got everything lined up and moving through the mud room and into the kitchen headed for the media room at the far end of the cabin. Not wanting to mark up our wooden floor, we used a series of outside floor mats to place under the wheels as we rolled along. SUCCESS! Not only were we able to get the TV table into the room, but when we cut open the big box there was no damage - it was in perfect shape - YIPPIE!
Whew, I'm tired and sore from just writing about all this. Time to go see if I can put the coffee table back together. Oh yes, and some year we probably need to get television service again - we've been without for four years.
Our new coffee table (still needing repair - I hope it works)
Here's my standarad camera setup when its raining
02/15/19 A couple of days ago I was sup at 3am to get a few chores done at the office before I headed out for the day. My first stop was at a nearby viewing spot where I had planned to photograph the entire Milky Way from horizon-to-horizon in a series of pictures all stitched into one. I had the perfect location, but the extremely-clear air that had been swept clean by the recent storms that passed through got cloudy just about the time I was ready to shoot. Shoot! Foiled again. 'Tis the nature of the nighttime beast. No matter, it was on to stop #2 - Haw Creek Falls before sunrise.
Conditions were perfect at this longtime favorite waterfall of mine, and I was able to catch some of the nice light at dawn and also as just a tiny bit of sunshine begin to strike the creek below the falls. There continues to be magic for me at the edges of daylight - somehow the light is sweeter, with a touch of magic now and then. I was a happy camper (pun intended - the campground across on the other side of the river remains closed all winter).
Then I quickly packed up and headed to an 8am meeting with Fireman Jeff - we always get to places early, and I ran into him on the highway at 7:30. At that moment I remembered that I had left not one, but two long measuring tapes on the ground directly in front of my office door so that I would not miss them when I left for the day in the dark. These were kind of important since our goal that day was to attempt to measure two very tall waterfalls. In the dark and excitement I stepped right on over them. OOPS! So we made a quick side trip to Clarksville to buy a new 300' tape (100' would not be long enough), which caused us to start our journey about an hour late.
There aren't very many waterfalls in Arkansas that are 100' or more tall, but it is often difficult to measure them and guesses are not always correct - which is why I always use an actual measuring tape and am careful to stretch it from the top of a waterfall to the very bottom, often requiring two people. These two waterfalls (new to me - but they've been known about and documented for a long time by waterfall hunter Brent Robinson), live in very rough country (Jeff had already been to one of them and close to the other), and this would be my first time to do an extremely difficult bushwhack trip since my back went kaput on me.
Our hike began along a beautiful babbling creek, running high but clear from recent rains. Soon we left the main branch and headed up into a side drainage of Sally Ann Hollow. Ridges all around us rose rapidly - it was a small drainage, but BIG hillsides - which often makes for wonderful waterfalls!
We passed one nice waterfall and emerald pool along the side creek, then another, then came to a fork in the creek with a waterfall on both branches - and the hillsides on each took a major turn UP, EVEN STEEPER. "It's up this one" Jeff said, and so we crossed the creek, dug in our heels, and leaned into the hillside. Both of us are kind of mountain goat like and a little bit stubborn, and the steeper and rougher the hillside got, the faster we both went. It was almost a sprint to the top, and soon we were standing at the bottom of the two-tierd Sally Ann Falls. The lower falls was something like 27 feet - a beautiful waterfall on its own, but the one above it was the prize.
We'd been told that not only was this country extremely rough, but that there may not even be a way around and up through the bluffline for Jeff to get to the top to drop the measuring tape from. Ha, ha - he was at the top in less than ten minutes and already had the new BRIGHT YELLOW tape tossed over the edge by the time I had set up my tripod to take a picture. The height of this "120-footer" turned out to be 81 feet. A very impressive waterfall for sure, but far short of 100'.
"I know another one that is even taller in the next hollow over" Jeff said, so off we went. Jeff made his way along the top of what looked to me to be a very scenic ridgetop, and before long I had joined him up there - what an incredible sight it was looking all around - including a great view of a multi-tiered waterfall in another side drainage, plus giant boulders and rock outcrops that towered above the landscape. But the hillside was dangerously steep and slick in the area right above the bluff where we were traveling, so we slowed our pace and placed each step carefully.
Soon the new waterfall came into view - quite an impressive sight from above, but we dare not get too close to the edge! Jeff found a secure place right at the top of the falls next to a sturdy tree, and I made my way around the top of the bluffline to where I was able to slip and slide and eventually climb a tree to get down below the bluff and eventually to the bottom of the falls where the yellow tape was waiting for me.
I placed the bottom end of the tape and signaled to Jeff to record the measurement. It sure looked like it was taller than Sally Ann Falls - and it was - 86 feet tall. There was also a lower falls just a few feet away that we measured at 30'. After Jeff joined me at the bottom and we figured that at flood stage it might be possible for this waterfall to push out far enough to leap over the lower falls, making a combined height in a single fall of 116' - but that would take a huge amount of water and might never happen.
It was one of those clear pure-blue-sky days with brilliant sunshine, and while I don't like to take pictures of waterfalls on sunny days, I had packed one of my lightest cameras and tripods with me, just in case. I spent about an hour taking pictures of this waterfall as we stood at the bottom looking up at a living, breathing creature - tall waterfalls like this tend to really come alive when there are strong winds, and this guy was being blown back and forth like crazy, like a water hose gone wild!
At one point when I was up in the back of the overhang below the falls shooting up towards the sunshine and blue sky, I noticed that as the wind blew the falls around there would be weird shadows on part of the falls. Then I realized the shadows were those of giant pine trees up top, and if you looked close, you can even see the outline of the trees in the waterfall shadow - how cool is that!
We decided to make our way to a third part of the drainage where we had seen one multi-tiered waterfall from high above, and made quick work of crossing back below the bluffline to the base of this third drainage. Right there was a six-part waterfall (meaning six distinct waterfalls in a row, one after another after another). But the tight hill on both sides made it nearly impossible for me to get to a safe spot to take pictures, so we continued up the little drainage, sometimes climbing hand-to-hand nearly straight up a narrow ridgetop.
We came to another multi-tiered waterfall, and then another, where we ran into the same bluffline that formed the original two tall waterfalls. This little side canyon did not have tall waterfalls, but it made up for it with all the shorter ones. On the way back down the hill I stopped and took pictures about a dozen times - it was all just SPECTACULAR! At one point we stopped and could see more than a dozen waterfalls at the same time in three different small drainages/canyons. We were in waterfall heaven.
Time was running short and we scampered on back to the truck and sped off to the second tall waterfall we were after, Leeds Falls (named after a legendary backwoodsman and hunter that had worked for the forest service, Gene Leeds). Soon we were hiking up the lovely, wide and gentle Dry Fork valley. About a mile later we found the drainage we were looking for and hung a hard right up a side creek, which quickly turned into a very steep and rugged and beautiful tight canyon filled with waterfalls. Well, not exactly filled with them, but FIVE waterfalls in a short distance. #1 was down on the lower end and easy to get to, #2 and #3 were down in a canyon that we had to scale above across an extremely steep hillside to get around. At that point the hillside turned RED - the red being thousands and thousands of tiny thorns on tall stems of something (I only know the name by the cursing I do when encountering them). Both of us knew we had to stay away from the red parts of the hillside, and so we pushed on up and UP to get above and around them.
We were told there was probably no way Jeff could reach the top of this waterfall, and while there was no bluffline on the opposite side of the canyon, that hillside was covered with RED, so Jeff decided to have a go at scaling our side of the canyon - where it turned out there was NO break in the bluffline. The bluff was not very tall (maybe 30-40 feet, and made up of layers of rock. He skillfully worked his was up and around and up again - finding handholds in the layers of rock. At one point he was crawling horizontally and stopped, ready to turn around and retreat - only retreating in this position is often worse than going forward!
So I tried to guide him from below to a safer location, and he was able to make it to a wider ledge where he could continue his climb and soon was up on TOP of the bluff - literally climbed up part of the bluff hand over fist - YIPPIE! Minutes later the yellow tape came spilling over the top of the waterfall. This time I had to venture out directly into the plunge of the waterfall to grab and place the tape, and of course got soaked in the process. But we really needed an accurate measurement. I placed it at the top of the pool below - 90 FEET!
This was the most impressive of the tall falls we visited on this day. It was also the most difficult to reach, and both Jeff and I shed a bit of blood getting to it, literally. One funny note. It was amazing to stand back and watch Fireman Jeff go full tilt across and up and down these extremely rugged hillsides - at times we had to literally fight our way through the thick brush and downfall. One time when we came upon a large tree down across the way (a couple of feet off the ground, and the top of the tree was probably 3-4' off the ground), Jeff jumped straight up in the air, landed with both feet on top of the tree, then jumped to the ground on the other side and kept going - all without breaking stride. He did spend some time on the ground though - almost impossible to make it through the tangle and mess without falling now and then.
But I had managed to make it without my usual falling down all the time - I was wearing my Angela rubber boots instead of the normal hiking boots for this trip - it just seemed like I should wear them on this day for some reason. Anyway, as we were just about to end our grueling day in the woods, we came to the last creek crossing. Jeff jumped up onto a big log across the creek and scampered along the top of it like it was nothing. I elected to pick my way carefully across the underwater rocks, but when I put my foot down on a rock above the surface to push off to dry land, my foot slipped out from under me and I landed - perfectly spread eagle - on my face! (this was the funny part) Somehow I was not injured at all since the blow was spread over my entire body, but my tripod was slung across my chest and it kind of dug into me. Once I assured Jeff I was OK, a little bit of laughter echoed up and down the canyon. It had been a good day in the woods - a GREAT day - and I was pretty much totally exhausted. But Jeff said later - "I wish we could have found more waterfalls..." Below is Leeds Falls -
EVENING UPDATE. We've had light rain and some ice much of the day, and tonight there is a lot of ice, at least on our decks, which is as far as I've ventured this evening. I spent a good part of the day with a lady who is working on a historical account of the Ozark Highlands Trail Association, a volunteer group that I founded in 1981 and led for 27 years. I wasn't exactly sure what she wanted to get from me, but to help be prepared my lovely bride and I dug out many storage buckets from the tall racks in our book warehouse that contained records, newspaper articles, awards, lots and lots of paperwork from all those years, and pictures and other artifacts of the first 25 years of the organization. She sat down and turned on her tape recorder about 10:45 and asked me what led to the formation of the club? Oh boy, it was three or four hours later before I shut up! And I was really just getting started. By the way, the name Luke Collins came up several times during our discussion, and many of the historical papers I had dug up had his name on them. Luke was one of only three surviving people who attended the very first meeting that I called in September, 1981 - thousands of volunteers from most all 50 states and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours later, we all have an amazing hiking trail that remains one of the most scenic in the United States. THANKS LUKE!!!
02/17/19 It was an EPIC day yesterday as the highest of the High Ozarks around here were covered with frozen fog and turned the landscape into a magical winter wonderland. (The actual name for this is "soft rime ice" - CLICK HERE for details.) But there was a specific cutoff elevation, which was easy to see while driving around. For instance, the lower part of Round Top Mountain just south of Jasper was brown, everything above that line was WHITE and had as much as a full inch of the frozen frost crystals clinging-growing on everything.
I spent several hours in the middle of the day wandering around visiting a couple of local pastures that I knew had individual trees in them - I have permission to access their land, which is the only way I do this. As I headed to one particular lone tree and stopped to take a picture, the resident herd of cows came running over looking for a handout, hoping I was the tractor that delivered their daily bales of hay. Oops, SORRY GUYS! They crowded in so close that one of them actually walked up and licked my tripod! I took the opportunity to take about 50 pictures of them with my backup lightweight camera, which showed the cows against a backdrop of the frosty pasture and trees. They seemed to like being photographed. I also took a couple of snapshots with my big camera, which is normally only used for serious landscapes. Thank goodness I did that, because I later learned that my little camera was set up to shoot WITHOUT a memory card in it, and so none of the photos were captured. (Some digital cameras allow this to happen so they can demo them at the camera store, but otherwise it is a terrible option to have on a camera since you have no way of knowing this is happening. This is another way of saying that I MESSED UP and didn't have a card in the camera, haha.)
After wandering around in this beautiful pasture for a while I found a second tree that I spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of - I LOVE lone trees on hilltops, with snow, stars, or just blue or purple sky behind them.
As the day drew on the soft rime ice hung around and continued to build up on trees, fences, and anything that wasn't moving. Temps remained below 30, so the delicate soft rime ice kept on growing. When my bride suggested we go hike the Round Top Mountain Trail I couldn't get into the car fast enough!
This was our second EPIC local hike of the season, and we spent more than an hour hiking the trail through magic land. It was just so AMAZING! At one point the entire trail corridor of soft rime ice trees formed a tunnel. At first it was kinda weird when you got close while hiking - because they looked like evil SPIKES that would HURT! But as my brave bride proved, you could actually stick your tongue out and lick the spikes - YIKES! It was a cool and weird sensation that was also WONDERFUL! And it was also great to see so many other folks out enjoying the same - we ran into about a dozen other couples and one little one with ma and pa on the trail.
Temps rose during the night with light rain and so this morning the magic had all melted/washed away. It is breezy and cool, but still a nice day to head out or a hike. So far I've only managed to hike from the bedroom to the kitchen to the couch, where I remain now. Hum, seems like it is time now for a nap... HAPPY SUNDAY!
02/18/19 Beautiful ice patterns on our back deck glass rail panels this morning at dawn -
02/19/19 Winds are howling and it's 24 degrees this morning at 4. Mia and I have been sipping a small cup of java together on the couch in the prow - well I guess she is just trying to get at my cup, so far has not been successful. But yesterday when I was forced to take a break from breakfast to run out onto the deck to photograph the ice crystals on the glass panels, I returned to find Miss Mia's head buried in my cereal bowl. She's a good dog, most of the time.
I spent a precious couple of hours late yesterday afternoon down at the river near Ponca trying to photograph some of the beautiful emerald (or whatever it's called these days) water that we get a lot of in the winter. Pam used to call it "beaver pee" green. I've photographed and published this wonderful colored water for decades, but it seems folks are just now beginning to realize it is the perfect natural color of our water a lot of times (vs. the product of some special "photoshopping" that I must be doing - I don't). It is great that folks are taking the time to SEE an enjoy some simple visual treats like this - easily captured with a simple camera or phone.
My time was way too short and I ran around trying to find the perfect composition that I had in my head - which I never found - but I ended up someplace else altogether shooting these delightful and waves that were ALIVE with motion and a color of their own. I spent an hour standing in one spot shooting in three different directions and still never was satisfied - seems I can never get enough of our beautiful great outdoors around here! Hope you have a GREAT TUESDAY!
02/21/19 We discovered Momma Nature left our pine trees covered and HEAVY with a thick layer of ice yesterday morning. Several of the pines were bent double all the way over our driveway, a couple of the larger ones snapped off and one hit the gallery building. We were trapped. Luckily I actually remembered where I stored the battery Stihl chain saw that I had to buy in Colorado last summer, and the battery was even charged, so I got to work. With trees like this under so much pressure it is easy to just touch the chain and often the tree will SNAP and CRACK and oh my goodness you had better GET OUT OF THE WAY! I got through the trees between the cabin and gallery OK, but the ones at the gallery were larger and more trouble, and my bride needed to get to an appointment ASAP, so I cut a route to get her out, but it wasn't pretty!
Later in the day I cleaned up my mess a little bit with the chain saw, but some of the sections I had cut out were so laden with ice there was no way I could move them very far, so the poor UPS driver had to squirm his rig around a little bit to get in and back out again. THANK GOODNESS for that saw - I could have never cut us out without it! (I can't do gas saws any more, and most battery saws are too wimpy.)
In the meantime, I discovered there was a small section of land and the northwest corner of our property and along CC road that was BEAUTIFUL and had a lot thicker ice. I would spent the next two hours with freezing hands trying to get a few pictures of it all - or rather of a few isolated elements of it all. At one point - after the sun began to break out and got the ice started melting, I had a neat macro shot set up of three icicles that were all dripping, very slowly. But the drips did not happen at the same time, and I had a devil of a time trying to get a shot of all three with drops ready to fall at the same time (this is the point when the drops are the largest). Kind of funny really. Also I wanted blue sky in the background so I was shooting with the camera tilted UP, BUT when you do that of a vertical subject like an icicle, you can't get all of it in focus at the same time. So in addition to trying to time the drops, I also had to focus on two different parts of the ice, going back and forth, back and forth. I shot more than a hundred or two or three and don't know if any are any good, but I found one that kinda is OK to show you here. The detail in these photos is stunning when viewed at 100% of the original file.
I'm off early this morning to test a new device for measuring the height of waterfalls with Fireman Jeff. Wish us luck!
02/24/19 ’Tis the break of day and the eastern horizon is glowing orange, morphing into blue as your eyes rise into the sky. It is a brilliant clear-blue day. The trees are dancing like crazy as they are kissed by sunshine. High winds, but they are calm winds compared to the past 18 hours. We had such gale-force winds last night that I had to move the wood-fired oven from the back deck all the way around onto the front deck and even part-way across the front deck by the front door to keep is out of the high winds! Not only could I not get more than 100 degrees C out of it, but the wind actually came in so hard down the flue but actually blew off the front door of the oven several times! Here's a photo looking inside the oven at about 500 degrees C - pizza cooks in 2-3 minutes:
But this morning, the breezes seem quite calm in comparison, birds are singing, music from the “relaxing” station on pandora is drifting through the cabin, puppies are asleep at their assigned positions on their couch, and the world is at peace. Oh yes, and my belly is quite full from not one but two wood-fired pizzas last night - the first for me in a long while.
A couple of days ago I tried to keep up with Fireman Jeff on another mission to measure waterfalls. I was able to and it was a great workout for both of us. We made it through some pretty tough country and up through a spot or two where I had to stop and ponder life for a moment before deciding to proceed - Jeff helped out a great deal. It didn’t take long to realize our new fancy waterfall-height-digital-measuring device would not work, not even close. So it was back to the normal way with a long measuring tape - still the most accurate by far. (We also used a method I’ve seen others use where you take a GPS altitude reading at the bottom of a waterfall and at the top, then use the difference as the height of the waterfalls. Doesn’t work, not even close.) Funny, but we seemed to be following Danny Hale's bootprints much of the day - he had just been to this same area the day before - I have trouble keeping up with Danny these days!
So the first “100-foot” waterfall was 61 feet. (it measured 102’ using the GPS top/bottom method). The second one - actually called Hundred Foot Falls - was 57’. And one that was labeled as being 40’ turned out to be taller, 55’.
And then we went back to a beautiful drainage we’d been in before that contains many beautiful waterfalls (and the tallest one in the area, a new find we made a couple of weeks ago - 91’). I wanted to explore a small section in the upper-most section of that drainage where on waterfalls had been reported. It turned out to be one of the most difficult parts of our day, and perhaps the most rewarding.
But first, as we made our way down an extremely steep slope into the canyon that was filled with briars and very thick undergrowth - both of us were pretty much beat up from doing this same thing all day and were kinda grasping at the hope there just HAD to be something in this no-mans-land. I made a few steps to the left, twisting and turning and fighting through vines and briars that had wrapped around me, and literally clinging to the side of the cliff, two things happened at the same time. I looked up and saw - a WATERFALL! And my phone rang, right at that moment of euphoria. It was a car dealer in Bentonville wanting to let me know a part they had ordered was in, needing to make an appointment to being our RV in and needed to know the VIN# first! I just had to laugh and tried to explain my predicament - I don’t think the nice lady quite understood or believed me.
But there IT was, a stunning waterfall living in an impossible place. Both of us scrambled and slide and tumbled and struggled through and across the mountainside until we landed right next to the falls. It was BEAUTIFUL! And quite unique. First thing I noticed was that the wall of the bluff it was pouring over was covered with CALCITE formation - i.e. cave formations - flowstone and even a active stalactite. There was a tiny soda straw dripping, growing just a tiny bit with each drop it released (that is how these cave features grow - one drop at a time leaving behind a tiny amount of calcite).
It was a struggle to reach a spot at the base of the falls for me to take a picture, then afterwards Jeff suggested a different location and I made my way up to the other side and he was right - a beautiful spot that was much easier to reach - plus another wall covered with cave formations! Calcite Falls seemed like a appropriate name, but the height is in question. From one side below the visual height was 43’ tall, but from the other side it was clear there was more above this, and Jeff measured 51’. A really nice waterfall and interesting location, but getting down to it was pretty tough. There are a number of smaller waterfalls along the creek below and out to a forest road, so I will probably bring folks in from that direction which will give them the choice of seeing a lot of smaller waterfalls without too great of a hike, and then maybe making the extended trip UP to this one.
On the way back UP to the car, we found another nice waterfall 30’ tall. It was a great day in the woods, and my body was beat up, bloody, and kinda stiff by the time I got home and rolled out of the van after dark.
The next day and night we lived in THICK FOG all round - I love the look and mood of the forest on foggy days like this, but I wasn’t able to get out and take any pictures. It was especially thick day and night, and hung around a long time, not breaking until Saturday afternoon.
YESTERDAY after the fog broke, my lovely bride and I went on another “fun” hike into the far end of Smith Creek in Boxley Valley. A textbook winter day to hike in the Ozarks - warmish with clear skies, and saturated colorful landscape all around us (from two days of thick wet fog). The trails there are all roadbeds so the hiking was easy - well if you don’t mind going up and down a few steep places.
It was a little bit of a work trip for me since I wanted to do a final test to figure out which distance tool to use for mileages in upcoming trail guidebooks. In the past I’ve always used a push measuring wheel that measures very accurately in feet (it’s about the size of a bicycle wheel, only it was a solid flat tire). Pretty much everything I’ve published up until now has been measured this way - the only way to get a precise measurement along the ground. The more I use GPS the more I realize it is just not very accurate while hiking - UNLESS you hike straight ahead and don’t make ANY pauses or stops - then GPS is fine. But who hikes that way, for miles and miles all day long - no one (well, except for me sometimes). So the handheld GPS units most folks use give us a false distance reading almost all the time - and always a greater number than the actual distance. Try it sometime - turn on your GPS and hike a little while, note the exact distance, then sit down for ten minutes, or have lunch. Check that distance again before you get up and get back to hiking - the GPS signal constantly searches for the exact location for itself (which often takes hours or days or never), and all the while it is doing this it is adding up the distance the signal is traveling - even though the actual GPS unit has not moved an inch. So even though the trail you just hiked may be 3.1 miles, your GPS may tell you it was 3.5 or 3.9 or 4.7! You simply cannot rely on GPS distance if you are on a casual hike.
BUT, I have discovered that the GPS apps in phones DO seem to give an accurate measurement of distance traveled - they don’t seem to hunt while you are stopped for some reason. (They will, however, continue to measure if you are moving around, stopping to pee, get up during lunch to see a waterfalls, etc. - but not if the phone remains stationary - that is whe it is more accurate than a GPS unit). This has been verified by a lot of other folks I know, and also with pretty specific field testing we’ve done with different GPS units and iPhone apps. Hum, so this is perplexing. When I publish walking distances in my guidebooks should I use the ACTUAL distance as measured by the measuring wheel, the iPhone distance (which turns out to be almost identical to the wheel), or the handheld GPS distance - which is what so many hikers use and seem to rely on (even though those distances are usually false)?
I’m thinking I’m going to use the phone app distances because they seem to be very accurate, and also a lot more hikers are using those vs. handheld GPS devices. So a phone app is better than an actual GPS. Weird. (*I’m not talking about the $30k GPS units that real professionals like surveyors use - those are completely different than handheld GPS and do require being stationary for a while before they hone in on an exact location.)
So back to TODAY. My bride has gone into town grocery shopping, the puppies have napped for two hours on the couch and are ready to get up and DO SOMETHING, so I think I’ll lace up my boots and do a couple of laps on our trail - might even try to work off my “green smoothie” breakfast (fruit, protein powder, spinach, flax seeds, and almond milk) - I LOVE this mix!
02/24/19 - sunshine and puppies!
02/26/19 Is it almost MARCH already? Goodness, I need to get to work! Spent most of yesterday getting a wire buried deep inside the RV fixed - five hours driving to/from dealer, 4.5 hours in the waiting room. Rumor has it that some overseas vehicle manufactures use something in the wire coating that rodents (mice/squirrels) LOVE, which is one reason why so much more damage these days - most of our wire chewing damage has been done to vehicles made in Germany. Hum.
The pups and I made a quick trip around the loop trail here after sunset - the forest is just SO WONDERFUL at the edges of daylight. And it is amazing how much you can really see when your eyes adjust to the dimming light. Early this morning during my morning sit-on-couch-in-prow-sip-java there was a great deal of soft but very nice color along the eastern horizon that lasted for 15-20 minutes before fading. Then the color began to grow orange and pink against the backdrop of blue sky, and all that color seemed to wrap all around us, peaking just before the burst of brilliant sun rose. Calm and quiet and serene with wispy clouds just hanging out. In fact it seems starkly quiet after several days of high winds. While I don't eat tacos much anymore, today is TACO TUESDAY in many places, and I hope you get to munch and crunch on some - ENJOY your day!
BUFFALO RIVER DOG TRAILS & LOST VALLEY UPDATE - the national park service has just announced the four short dayhiking trails at Tyler Bend Rec Area are now OPEN FOR DOGS! (not the Buffalo River Trail though) AND that Lost Valley day use and trail will REMAIN CLOSED UNTIL APRIL - bad weather had delayed new road construction and trail building at this popular location. Lots of other trails to do in the area - see our Buffalo River Hiking Trails guidebook, and of course our Arkansas Waterfalls Guidebook for more info.