CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - JANUARY 2013 A (to the 19th) Journal Archives
Aspen's last hike, yesterday at Cloudland. He is chasing bears in dog heaven now. So long our great friend...
Journal updated Saturday afternoon January 19th - a repost from October 1-2, 1999
01/01/13 It We had heavy fog and warm temps to begin the new year - well, at least the temps were above freezing anyway. Last night everything was coated with a layer of ice, but daylight began to creep into the landscape this morning there was no ice, and most of the snow had melted away as well. I LOVE the sort of conditions we had this morning, so naturally I laced up my boots and headed out on a hike - the first ramble of the year.
Lucy came with me, and we really didn't have a destination nor route in mind, just out roaming around and went wherever the terrain took us. As usual Lucy wanted to go faster and farther and it didn't take long for her to disappear. I figured it was a good place to stop and wait on her to come back, so I just stood there and watched and listened.
The forest was totally quiet, except for the gentle landing of raindrops. It wasn't raining, but rather the fog was so wet that it produced raindrops. I leaned up against a big oak tree, closed my eyes, and let the soft music of the new year flow on through me. Some time when you are out in the woods and there is a soft rain falling - stop and close your eyes and spend a few minutes listening.
When I opened my eyes the fog was almost gone - retreated on up the hillside. But just a few minutes later it started to creep on down the slope once again, and soon I was engulfed with thick fog. Funny to stand there and watch some of the big black trees be overtaken by the white fog. It was cool and wet and quite refreshing hitting my face!
And then Lucy showed up, wondering where I had been - couldn't I keep up anymore?
Most of the forest was bare and monotone grays and browns, but there were also many young beech trees that still had their leaves - and they added a beautiful golden glow to the scene. With the air so saturated today any moss or lichen was a rich green, and that added to the landscape as well. Come to think of it, the forest was not monochrome at all!
We hiked on down and found Hawksbill Crag surrounded by fog as well, with no one else in sight. I took a few pictures, then we headed up the hill and floated on along across a wide and mostly flat bench above. It is just so easy to move through the forest on days like this - silently, without purpose other than to enjoy the wilderness.
A little while later we passed through a meadow to an old barn that was leaning about 30 degrees to the south - won't be long now before this one will be on the ground. I peeked inside and took a few pictures of some old machinery that had seen better days. It was interesting to see the world from inside the old barn - including a large walnut in the field to the north.
After a while we were hiking down the road and saw movement coming toward us - it was my lovely bride, and Aspen! They were out to see how much water was in our neighbor's pond, and also to soak up some of the same great air that Lucy and I had been a wanderin' in.
One little lane we hiked along was literally covered left and right, and above, with young beech trees - they formed a golden canopy. That's my lovely bride and Aspen's white rump in the photo below.
As we crossed the East meadow we stopped for a hug and a kiss, and then walked holding hands as it began to snow - what a terrific way to begin a new year!
See a spread of winter photos from the Cloudland Journal in the new issue of the online ARKANSAS LIVING magazine here
01/04/13 Aspen and I were up and out early this morning. He needs a little help getting up and down the stairs, and I, well, I can always use the help of a fine dog! It was crispy cold out, so cold that there was ice in the air. Very fine ice, ice fog. It wasn't sticking to the trees, just hanging there in the air. Every breath was kind of like sipping on a frosty.
The ice is what makes a ring around the moon, and today it was more like a donut around the moon. A half moon, that even though it was shining through the fog it was shining pretty bright, and there was detail in the moon. I put a little camera on a tripod and found an interesting tree and limbs right in front of the gallery and took a few pictures. The sky wasn't really black, more of a dark blue, but a bright blue around the moon and the ice fog.
Later in the morning I went for a hike around the mountain and was out for an hour or more. It was still crispy cold, but I moved quickly to keep warm since I didn't have but a thin jacket on. The sun rose and lit up a frosty landscape all around me, and leaves crunched as I stepped - otherwise it was very quiet.
And then I heard something - it sounded like RAIN! But it was too cold for rain, and the sky above was blue. I lifted the stocking cap off my ear so I could hear better. Sounded like a sizzling steak on a grill. Sleet? And then the trees above me exploded, and the air was filled with a hundred BIRDS! It was their chatter that sounded like rain. And the weird part was that as soon as they took flight, all was silent for a moment. And then I could hear four hundred wings beating against that frigid air - that was a lovely sound indeed.
The birds came back and landed, then took off again, then returned. They kind of followed me through the forest, or perhaps I was following them. Each time, they sounded like rain, then there was the beating of their wings. There were actually two flocks of birds. One flock was starlings. The other flock was robins - so many robins, with their brilliant orange breasts beaming in the early sunshine. I have always considered robins to be a sign of spring, but if so they have the wrong calendar!
The forest floor was coated with a thick layer of frost, but it began to melt quickly as soon as the sun hit it. I found a leaf that was rimmed with thick, white frost, and was backlit, and took a few pictures. Funny how for a few moments as I was looking through the camera lens - it was just me and the leaf, and the rest of the world was somewhere else beyond.
It is late night now, and I found myself back out in the forest - no moon yet, but plenty of stars. There were so many stars that I could find my way through the trees without any flashlight - it was slow going by starlight, but going nonetheless. And even though the temp seemed quite cold again, the ground was not frozen, and my feet dug into the hillside and sank in a few inches - almost like walking in a deep snow, only it was leaves and fresh earth below. The Milky Way was stretched out directly above me, and I just followed it on up the hill to the warehouse and then back down to the cabin again. It felt good outside. terrific way to begin a new year!
01/05/13 I got up at 4 this morning to take our pup out for a walk. It was pretty cool with a slight breeze. There was a blanket of clouds above so no moonlight to dance with, but there was just enough dim light to be able to make out features on the ground in front of me, and so it was slow but easy hiking. Sometimes when there are clouds like this I can see a little glow from distant cities along the horizon, and there were a couple out there this morning. If I had taken a picture, the glow would have been orange, but in dim light the color receptors in our eyes are shut down and we can't see much color.
As we moved slowly through the forest there was a hint of the light changing. The farther we went the more I realized it had nothing to do with the light, but rather the landscape itself was changing - it was getting whiter - we were hiking through a mini snowstorm at 4 in the morning! Snowflakes hitting the earth will sometimes make a sound, but you have to stop and listen carefully for it, and I did. I think overall we seldom cease all operations and pay close attention to the world around us - especially with our ears. We are too busy with the rest of life. But I usually find it quite rewarding when I do - there seems to always be something interesting to listen to, even if it is just snowflakes landing, or the breeze through the trees.
01/06/13 I stood out on the back deck tonight and listened. There was music drifting up from the Buffalo River far below - rushing waters that has not been heard in a long time. I was surprised at how clear the sound was since we've not had any rain in a while. It was no doubt because the air was so cold and crisp, and probably had just exactly the right moisture content that made for easy transfer of that glorious bubbling. There were no other sounds - just peace and quiet. And a sky filled with a zillion stars that all seemed to be dancing to the music of the river.
There was a sound early this morning, an hour or two before dawn - a bird out there in the wilderness was calling out. That usually happens in the spring and summer, when everyone waits all night for that first call, then a symphony cuts loose and builds towards sunrise with a thousand birds singing away. But today it was winter, and only one lonely bird sang out. No matter - it warmed my heart and lifted my soul. And I look forward to tomorrow, for I will be outside at dawn, listening for the river, and for a feathered friend to welcome the new day...
I wanted to share with you the photo of one of my prints that my brother just sent me - it's five feet tall by eight feet wide. I had just completed this giant three-panel canvas print a couple weeks before Christmas - it takes a week or two to make one this size - and then I decided it needed to go live at my brother's house in Illinois. Each of the big canvas prints that I make is special to me - I only do one or two a year and put a lot of myself into each one - but the location for this print is also very special. The desk you see in front of the print is one that we grew up with in our living room as kids - we played on, in, and around it (the middle of the desk top comes open - a very unique design), and it has always been a symbol to us of our dad. My brother, Terry, and his wife, Marsha, took the old desk and had it restored back to its full glory, and it is now back in service. I'm happy that the "God Beams" from our driveway here will be shining on our dad - who probably had a little to do with flipping the switch on the beams that day. One of the last things my dad ever told me - as I was about to leave my comfy job in 1979 and strike off into an uncertain future - was that he supported my decision to step out of the box, away from society, and try something new that I loved and really believed in - there were exactly zero professional nature photographers in Arkansas at the time, and he knew the risk of failure was high. He died the next day.
01/07/13 We've added two specially-priced prints today:
01/09/13 I was up at 3-something yesterday, got a few chores done here before packing my daypack and headed out for Fort Smith - the lake. I sat in the car for just a few minutes at the trailhead waiting for the very first bit of daylight, then started to make my way along the lake shore as soon as I could see to walk.
My destination for the morning was to hike the first six miles of the Ozark Highlands Trail to confirm a few things for a reprint of the guidebook I'm doing this month. Since the end of my investigation is in the middle of nowhere, it would be a 12-mile hike for me as I had to turn around and hike back to the car. But that was fine - it was warm and sunny and a SPECTACULAR DAY to be in the woods!
The first stretch of this trail runs along and just above the lake, which yesterday was very low and so I got to see a lot of things in the dry part of the lake that are not normally visible when the lake is full. The trail was easy, and I had covered the first three miles by the time the sun flooded the valley at sunrise. Along the way I passed several really neat historical stone structures, including a springhouse and a couple of chimneys - the pioneers built their cabins right next to Frog Bayou Creek way back then, and that creek was eventually dammed up to form Lake Shepherd Springs, which was merged with the nearby Lake Ft. Smith via a much larger dam back a few years ago to form one very large lake. I paused a moment or two at each stone structure to ponder what life might have been like back then, and to soak up a bit of the beauty of the locations they choose.
There is also a waterfall right next to the trail, which was dry yesterday, but would be flowing pretty good most of the winter and spring - and it the first of literally hundreds of waterfalls that are along the 164-mile Ozark Highlands Trail.
The beginning of this trail has a very special meaning for me. When I was five years old dad took my brother and I on our first camping trip - we camped at the base of the Lake Shepherd Springs dam that was near where the trailhead is now. We couldn't afford a tent, so my dad laid an old canvas tarp on the ground, put us kids on top of it, then folded the tarp up over us and left just out heads sticking out - that was a really good choice. I remember vividly spending the night out in the open, gazing up at zillions and zillions of stars, and staying awake long into the night making wishes on so many shooting stars. That first camping trip had a profound impact on the rest of my life.
Anyway, by the time I had crossed Frog Bayou Creek and headed back down the other side of the lake yesterday, the sun had risen and the leaf-off views down the lake were very nice. The miles clicked along quickly and soon I had turned up into Jacks Creek and had reached my turnaround point - I had gathered all the info that I needed, so it was time to hike back.
I never tire of hiking the same section of trail in the opposite direction - you are looking at completely different country, different light, and you see so many new things - it is never boring! And soon I was back on the other side of the lake and making my way towards the trailhead. But first I stopped and went down to the creek where a pair of beavers had made a fresh dam - I saw them working just before sunrise on my way in, and the dam was stacked with freshly-peeled limbs and small tree trunks. I think they must have heard the weather forecast and wanted to beef up their dam for the oncoming rush of water. This was one of the neatest beaver dams I've seen in a while, and I spent a little bit of time trying to find just the right spot to photograph it from. It was also interesting to walk along the dry lake shore that was normally underwater - I know it is a terrible drought we are in right now, but the low water levels sure do revel a lot of stuff.
Before long I was back at the trailhead, 12 miles in less than four hours of hiking. It not only felt great to be outdoors on such a fine day, but it was also the longest I had hiked in a single jaunt in a long time, and my body held up pretty well. I'd not had all four of my limbs working properly in several years, so it was good to be "back" and know I could still do this sort of thing!
It is a couple hours before daylight back at the cabin this morning, and a little bit of rain that we got overnight has brought with it a thick blanket of fog - it is pretty warm and all the moisture feel and smells great. We're hopeful of getting a few inches of rain today to add to the creeks and rivers, and maybe even waterfalls.
01/10/13 'Tis the middle of the day today and we've got heavy fog and winds, with a little light rain. Our rain total is probably less than a half inch, but it is nice to get everything wetted down a bit even if the predicted amounts did not arrive. I've made several trips up to the warehouse on the hill and back just so I could soak up the fog, and moisten my soul a little bit.
I was in town yesterday morning to get our daughter's car serviced, and I just had to chuckle when they offered a box of donuts and computer station while I waited. It was cool and breezy outside and the perfect weather for a little hike. I found a paved bike trail that was nice, and it led to the end of a fence where a I could get access into the Wilson Springs Conservation Area, a small tallgrass prairie and wetland that has been protected by Audubon Arkansas and the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust (behind the SAMS Club in Fayetteville).
I spent the next 30 minutes or so just wandering around in the thick brush, and found a few little things to take pictures of. So nice to have earth under my feet and limbs in my face! I kept zooming in on individual leaves, or berries, or lichens, and there was even a squirrel and jumped up on a branch and did a little dance for me. Big landscapes and views are great, but I also love to get lost in the details. When it was time to leave I was a little surprised to discover that the interstate was only a couple hundred yards away from me the entire time - and I never heard the traffic. That is one of the things that nature does for us - it allows us to filter out the garbage and spend some quality time just being us. This was my first visit to the area in modern times*, and I didn't even get to the wetland part of it - I'll be back for sure!
*When I was a little guy I used to spend long summer days wandering for miles on this side of town - in between our house near the Veterans Hospital, and the rock quarry at Zero Mountain, or Great House Springs, or other areas in between. Back then there were few buildings, no interstates, but lots of things for a kid to explore and enjoy!
For anyone in the Mountain Home area, we will be giving the last slide program of the season TOMORROW evening, January 11th, at the Gaston Visitor Center at Bull Shoals-White River State Park, which is located at the Bull Shoals damsite at Lakeview. This will be part of the bit Eagle Awareness Weekend they're having at the park Friday and Saturday. The Little Rock Zoo will have many critters on site for you to look at and learn about, plus there are many activities both days. Our show will be at 5pm, and I'll be giving both the ARKANSAS LANDSCAPES II and ARKANSAS WILDLIFE slide programs. Plus my lovely bride will be there with a table full of all our books, calendars, and Black Mat Prints - all ON SALE! This will be our last public show until November. Hope to see ya there!
01/15/13 We had one heck of a show at the Gaston’s Visitor Center at Bull Shoals-White River State Park on Friday evening. When we first showed up to set all of our slide program and sales stuff up, there wasn’t a soul around who was not wearing a uniform - seemed like it might be a long trip for nothing. But by program time the two rooms they had merged together were not only filled to capacity, but they opened all the doors and there were lots of folks standing in the hallway looking in. A terrific crowd as always, and it was great to see so many wonderful folks!
Of course, we were not the main attraction - the visitor center soon filled with more than two dozen birds of prey, from a tiny screech owl to a GIANT bald eagle. Park service, Game & Fish, Little Rock Zoo, and other staff members held the birds and spent several hours answering questions from literally hundreds of folks who were there to see them. It was an amazing fun and educational evening for all!
We had quite an show happen here at the cabin this morning. After several hours of normal overcast and chilly skies (the temp was in the teens), all of a sudden my lovely bride pointed and said “Look at THAT!” We can see a little more than five miles from our desks, and way on out there the ridges started to disappear, one by one - turning white due to an approaching snowstorm! The storm was engulfing everything with a cloud of heavy snow, and within two or three minutes it had reached cabin and everything went white here too. BIG flakes, coming down really hard.
It took less than five minutes for the decks and ground to turn white with snow. And since it was so cold already, the snow stuck and started to pile up. It only lasted about 30 minutes, but the storm had transformed the landscape into a winter wonderland. And then about an hour later, the clouds moved out and BRIGHT sunshine flooded everything - it was sunglasses time!
This was some of the driest snow I’d ever seen - I bend down and blew hard on the deck and could move the snow down to bare wood just by moving my head side to side while blowing. I guess when it does this for a day or two up in the big mountains out west it creates really nice skiing. I once got marooned in a log cabin at the base of Mt. Elbert while it snowed like this for four days straight. When the sun came out the snow was about four feet deep. I put on a pair of snowshoes and headed out the door, but I sank in up to my crotch with every step because the power was so dry.
01/19/13 - the following is a Cloudland Journal repost from the first two days when our beloved pup, Aspen, came into my life more than 13 years ago. He died today, and his spirit is now with the wind...
10/1/99 October signals the beginning of fall to me. I got up at 3am, not to celebrate my most favorite month of the year (actually tied with April), but because I had a very long day ahead, with a lot of driving to do. It was a wee bit chilly as I motored away from the cabin. It was going to be a very exciting day.
A few hours later I was up in Kansas, getting close to my destination. I pulled into a tree-lined driveway and stopped at a house that was set way back from the rest of the neighborhood, off to itself really. The nice lady owner, Dianna, met me at the front door. We walked around the house, through a yard filled with fresh walnuts, and down a small hill along a nice graveled trail. As we approached the barn and out buildings, there was a lot of commotion.
Dianna opened the gates to the pens, and I was immediately engulfed with more than a dozen bouncing black/white and liver/white English Springer Spaniel puppies and parents. They hovered in a large circle around us, darted over and jumped up on us, and ran and ran and played and sprung all over the place. It was easy to see that this was a very happy place, and these dogs were well cared for and having a ball.
I had been looking for a new puppy for a while now, and was unable to find anything that I wanted in my area. So I turned to the internet, and found Winterwood Kennels listed and gave Dianna a call. I wanted a liver/white male, and she had four of them.
One by one she put the dogs back into their pens, until I was left with only the four males running around. Each one of them jumped up into my lap, looked at me with those big brown eyes, and said "take me, I'll be your best bud!" They kept circling, then roaming around playing with this and that, and jumping up in my lap doing their politicing.
Lordy, it was going to be a very tough decision. I narrowed it down to two of them. Or was it three? One had three spots on his back - I'm partial to the number three you know. Yea, that would be the one. I picked him up and laid him on his back to see what he would do, and he became a little squirming pile of fur. I had just read in a book that this was a good way to tell a lot about their personality.
One of the other pups kept coming over and getting into my lap. Just for fun I turned him over too, and he laid there, mesmerized, staring deep into my eyes. OK, this guy had to be the one.
It had been sixteen years since I brought Yukon home as a pup (also a liver and white male), and one of his litter mates was with him. As I drove away with my lone pup, I wondered if it would be OK for him to be alone, and hoped that I wasn't messing up his life. Would I be able to cope with the long hours and days of him wailing and crying for his littermates? It was going to be a long drive home. I stepped on the gas.
My little pup was snug and secure in the back seat in his new bed. I had purchased the largest bed available, knowing that he would grow into it. Good thing, as he used every bit of space as he flopped around from end to end, constantly readjusting his position. He slept most of the way home. Except for one time when we stopped at a little park and I let him out. I was concerned that he would take off running and I would have a hard time catching him. Much to my surprise, he stayed right next to me as I walked around, and even when I ran a little.
I had never bought a dog with a long pedigree before, but wanted to give it a try this time. There are many champions in his pedigree, including a number of national champions. He is a "field" springer as opposed to a "show" springer. Field springers are some of the best bird dogs in the world. And while I don't plan to hunt with him, I wanted a dog with an natural instinct for the outdoors, and one that required a lot of exercise.
This pup already showed me that my money was well spent, as it was obvious that he was smart and eager to learn. And twice while I had to leave the car and go inside on the trip home, he stayed put, and didn't cry out a single time. In fact, he never got out of the bed at all (the bed is a little nest with six inch side walls that he could have easily crawled over). Good boy.
It was nearly dark when we finally arrived back at Cloudland. I was eager to see what my new pup would do in the woods and on the trail, especially after he had been sitting around all day in the car. We took off towards the east meadow, with my new dog "Aspen" in the lead.
He loved the trail, and the woods, and bounded around and explored everywhere. We went out for another hike later in the evening, well after dark. It was very dark out in fact, with only starlight to illuminate our way (the stars in the coal-black sky were INCREDIBLE!). Aspen stayed close by, although all that I could see of him was the white part of his body.
At ten weeks old, and after knowing me less than half a day, Aspen would come when I called him. I was a little surprised at this. He is certainly a little bundle of joy, that will grow and mature into a handsome wilderness dog.
OK, now the real test. The first night away from his family. I hadn't really worried about this too much, but knew it would be a long night. I decided to go ahead and put his be up in the loft, and get him used to the normal routine right away. But I wanted to make things as comfortable as possible, so after thirty minutes of playing on the floor, I laid down next to his bed and hoped for the best.
The little guy went right to sleep, and stayed there all night - not a single whimper or cry. I was pleasantly surprised.
10/2/99 We got up well before sunrise, and I hauled Aspen outside and down the steps and across the road to pee. Aspen did too. It was chilly, but not cold. I put on a sweatshirt, and the two of us went on our first ramble.
We headed up to towards the east meadow once again, with Aspen in the lead. He likes the trail, but also enjoys getting off of it and exploring far and wide, just like his master.
We checked on the banana peel that I am testing - it has been there for three weeks, or something like that. It is now about one third its original size, completely black, and getting hard. I suspect it will be there for a very long time.
I sat down against a hickory tree to wait for the sun to come up, as Aspen covered the nearby hillside, sniffing every leaf, investigating all the nooks and crannys along the small bluffline. I broke off a stick and tossed it at him. He brought it right to me. I threw it a few feet away, and he retrieved it first time. Springers are born retrievers, and Aspen was no exception, as long as the stick wasn't too far away.
The sun peeked over the far ridge and lit up the forest. Time to move on, and soon we were in the middle of the east meadow, both of us running zig-zags. We went down the connecting lane, across the Faddis meadow, and back into the woods, Aspen keeping up just fine, and often running out ahead.
I stopped a couple of times along the trail and sat down. Everything was new and exciting, and Aspen got to sample it all. He seemed to have a smile on his little face as he bounded from rock to stick to leaf to my lap. I believe he will like it here.
We are back at the cabin now, and Aspen is sitting in the chair with me as I am typing this. He stuck his paw out and typed a word for you - "bhhhh n." Don't know for sure what it means, but I suspect it is something good. There are two happy dogs at the cabin this morning.
I know there will be many "accidents" and much chewed stuff that shouldn't be, but I think Aspen is a great puppy, and I'm glad that I took the time and effort to seek out the right dog.
Aspen got a chew attack that lasted about an hour. While I was working at the computer, he would go over to the bookshelf nearby and pull of something and begin to chew it up. The bottom shelves are filled with games and maps and stuff like that, not books. He would take one item off the shelf and begin to chew it up, and I would take it away from him. He would get right up and go get the next item on the shelf, and on and on. Most items survived, although one copy of the Ozark Highlands Trail map got shredded before I could get it away from him.
And Aspen has taken a liking to the three pairs of animal slippers that live below the bench in the living room. He can tell that they are real critters, and enjoys chewing their little bottoms up. They all now reside on top of the bench.
The trees are beginning to turn, and I would say that we have about 10% coverage now. There are a number of individual maples, sweet gums, black gums, and hickories that have turned. In fact, there is a blaze orange maple and a bright red maple right outside the cabin. And a pure yellow hickory. Out in the forest, there are many maples turning, including one that had a red branch, a yellow one, an orange one, and a green one, all on the same tree. Lots of underbrush turning too, like sumac. Most of the dogwoods shriveled up last month though, and while they will have some good red berries, I don't expect much color from their dried up leaves.
We spent most of the morning laying out the route for the telephone line and trail from the cabin up to the new office site. Aspen even helped clear out the path a little, carrying off little sticks and twigs. Yukon used to help me a lot too when I was building trail, only he would carry sticks and logs back ONTO the trail once I had removed them. I suspect that Aspen will grow in to the job.
We also went around the loop trail twice more during the day. The early afternoon hike was very hot and dusty, but the wind was blowing and so it wasn't too bad. There were a number of large sycamore leaves blowing across the Faddis meadow, and Aspen tried to run down and catch every one of them. He must have got twenty or thirty of them before we hiked on into the woods. Aspen was a wee bit tired when we got back to the cabin.
The evening hike was very nice, with the low sun really lighting up the colorful maples. We ran into Tom Triplett and a dog that he was taking care of over in the east meadow. Aspen was a little shy, but not afraid of the larger dog.
After a movie and a short hike in the darkness, and an hour of chewing rage, we went to bed. This time, I put Aspen's bed up on mine. I had put the official Cloudland flannel sheets on the bed for the first time once October arrived. Once again, Aspen went to sleep without a whimper.
The future "Super Dog" at four months old (photo by Danny Hale)