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LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - JANUARY 2018

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Little Bluff future cabin site cam January 31 - we have BLOCKS!

Our gallery will be OPEN this coming Saturday February 3rd (2018), 10am-3pm

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Print Of The Week special (above)

Journal updated January 31 - roadside moonset

1/01/18 We had a wild time last night for our first New Year's Eve at Little Bluff - watched a Robert Redford/Jane Fonda movie on Pam's computer, then headed for the van at 8:30 to go to bed. OOPS! Something happened and the heater had shut down and it was pretty cold inside our camper van! It took me a while to figure out what the problem was (blew a breaker while cooking pasta in the convection microwave), then another hour to get the van warm enough for my bride to crawl under her down comforter.

Then I realized I had been pretty lazy all day and was nearly two miles short of my walking goal, so I put on my newly-rediscovered snowmobile suit and headed out to hike a few laps. It was quite BEAUTIFUL out there with the bright moon, tree shadows, and CRISPY air. The puppies ran and played like it was a day on the beach. I stayed toasty warm, although my eyelids nearly froze shut a time or two. Ding, ding, DING - I reached my goal while the temp was about four degrees.

It was ZERO when I got up and out before dawn this morning to begin a new day of walking - that was the coldest temp ever recorded here at Little Bluff in modern history (no one has lived on this property since before WWII). No doubt we'll have colder temps in the months and years to come, but it is still worth noting the first 0 temp.

The pups were up for more running and playing. I leaned into the brisk wind and put my feet on auto pilot. Wind chill was down to 20 below zero or even colder - high winds at zero degrees will keep ya movin'. After a few laps and a mile or two of hiking, the first rays of sunshine for 2018 appeared and lit up our future cabin site. Wilson stopped to eat a little dirt. Mia ran off in search of another squirrel. I took a snapshot with my bride's pocket camera I borrowed, then made my way back to the gallery to have a cup of hot chocolate. HAPPY 2018 TO EVERYONE!

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01/02/18 The full moon rise last night happened as I was wandering around our property with the pups. The moonrise was extra colorful with the orange moon against a deep blue sky that blended into a wide band of pink and then more blue. The sight, and temperature, took my breath away. (And froze my whiskers!)

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I rather enjoy hiking when the temps are cold. Seems like this is the first time in a number of years that we've had such cold temps and frozen earth though - frozen SOLID earth. I had to laugh today while outside with the air feeling OK at temps that just last week would have been FRIGID. Like a lot of life, the temp is kind of relative.

Another beautiful moonrise tonight, about an hour later so the sky was pretty dark with a few clouds - and the moon lit up the landscape right away and we walked silently through towering tree shadows. It is amazing how quiet it is in the winter - at times completely void of all sound other than your own heart beating.

As you will see, I'm going back to the original format for this Journal where new posts are added at the end instead of at the beginning like you see in "blogs" everywhere. There's just something unnatural about scrolling down and having to read backwards in time. This Journal will turn 20 in a few months, the longest running Journal of its kind. I'm hoping to fill it with a lot more material than I've produced lately - and I'm getting a new pocket snapshot camera and hope to be able to show you a lot more of my travels this year.

And I'll add a few snaps of the cabin building project and things move along. We're hoping February will be a big month in that regard, although progress will be very slow - hoping to be done by this summer. And in case you were wondering, since the temp has been so cold, they covered the concrete foundation footings they poured last week with a sandwich of black plastic and hay to help insulate the concrete while it cured - that's what you see on the ground in the last photo. Next will be concrete blocks that will define the shape and height of the foundation. We can't wait!

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01/03/18 Sometimes I wander off the driveway into the woods in search of new things to see. Mostly what I find are trees - lots and lots of trees. I LOVE trees! Someday there will be a trail that loops around near the outside of the property, and I've been exploring to see what the best route will be. Often these things just sort of make themselves - as in I tend to go the same way across that bench, or in between these trees, up and around that little knoll. I'm hoping to find the most natural route and eventually clear out a corridor to be easy to follow. I've been bypassing a small patch of forest because it is so darn thick in there. But today while my bride and I were getting some fresh air I took off after Mia who seemed to have something very important up a tree. I found myself on a narrow game trail and heading right into the thick of that patch of forest - the trail followed the natural flow of things - wildlife often does that - they like easy too.

And while I never did find Mia (she had already run off to another squirrel in the treetops), I did find a bent tree. We got lots of bent trees on this narrow ridgetop, but I don't recall ever seeing this one before, and it just struck me. The game trail ran right under it. (It's not an Indian thong or marker tree, just a tree that happens to be bent.) I took a few moments to sit down and have a talk with this bent pine tree, and took its picture against the setting sun. Maybe I'll run the trail along the game trail so I can say hello to this pine on a regular basis.

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I guess this little trail of ours will feature many trees - run in between many pairs of trees, alongside double and triple and quadruple trees, and right up next to the biggest trees that will tower high above. I'm a tree hugger for sure, only I actually do walk right up and hug them - you can tell a lot about a tree by wrapping your arms around it.

Pam and I went to town today to pick up a load of guidebooks that had been reprint - nearly 5,000 pounds of them. On the way back through Boxley Valley we stopped to admire the one-legged trumpeter swan (he really has both legs, but stands on just one sometimes). the Mill Pond was frozen all the way across in one spot, and Mr. Swan was standing right in the middle of it. I didn't have a real camera with me, but I did have my new snapshot camera with me so I got a few pictures. In my younger years it would have been an hour or two with a big camera and lens and some really terrific pictures. But today I just got this one to give you an idea of what our one-legged trumpeter swan was up to this afternoon.

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01/04/18 Rather chilly again at dawn, but the fire in the sky made up for it - there was a BRILLIANT splash of color at dawn! Temp was up in the lower teens, but the wind was an icy gale. Last night before as my bride and I walked across the barren cabin site after dark we noticed that for the first time in a while the earth underfoot was soft instead of frozen.

We brought home about 5,000 pounds of a guidebook reprint yesterday eve, and I made the mistake of not unloading it at the time - and by this morning I was unable to get the old forklift started. It took me a while to get the heavy seat up and out of the way so I could get to the battery to recharge it. A couple hours later no go. I figured it was too cold for the propane to work, so I unhitched the tank and wrestled it down and into the gallery to warm it up. (the battery wore down while I was trying to start the forklift a second time, so it was back up with the seat for another recharge) After a couple of hours I hoisted the propane tank up onto the forklift, lowered the heavy seat, and gave it another go. Still nothing - the propane must will be too cold so I bright the tank back inside again.

Then I had a stroke of genius - put a heating pad under the propane tank - that would warm it up quicker! Time was of the essence since I had an appointment with a customer coming by the gallery to pick up a book, and I didn't want to be in mid-unload process when they arrived.

About ten minutes after a fired up the heating pad under the propane tank inside the book warehouse, I realized that my plan could lead to a Darwin Award for a guy who blew up a propane tank by heating it up inside a book warehouse. With time slipping away, I remounted the propane tank on the forklift, lowered the giant seat, and son of a gun, the forklift fired right up! Turns out that while the battery was dead at first, all my other woes were due to me not getting the propane connection on correctly. Duh.

It took me about an hour to unload the three pallets from the trailer that we borrowed from Pam's dad and get the safely stowed in the book warehouse. Just as my customers were about to arrive for their gallery visit, I brushed up against something on the forklift and covered half one leg of my jeans with thick, black grease - how delightful an impression that would make on my guests! But then as I scrambled to change my jeans before they arrived, I realized that the early-warning device on our driveway might not be working and it would be possible that the guests had already arrived and might step into the book warehouse any moment - getting a glimpse of my super-moon! These are the things that bounce around in my head. All was well, and they left without seeing any unnatural moons, and a pair of new picture books.

Speaking of the moon, the pups and I had a delightful hour hiking in the moonlight this evening - almost balmy temps with no wind. LOTS of moonshadows all around...

01/05/18 I FOUND IT! The southeast corner of our property. I've never actually gone to look for it before, but have always wondered about it (I knew where it was on the map, just not in person). To get to it I hiked to the far end of the little ridge here, then turned south and hiked/slid as straight down the hill as I could manage. The "little bluff" near the top of the ridge was broken up enough so that I could get down through it - in fact the only part of the bluff that is solid and impassable is the last couple hundred feet that wraps around the very tip of the ridge, and that part is not our property. But there are some large blocks of sandstone on our part - I plan to make the top of one of them my sun and moonrise shooting location whenever the moon/sun rises in the northeast (like the full moon did this past Monday). We won't have an open view to the northeast from our cabin site.

Below the broken bluffline the terrain was VERY steep, then leveled out across a bench for less than 100 feet and then returned to steepness. There is a county road down there, and it ended up being farther down the hill than I figured. But before I reached the road, I started to see orange flagging tape - and finally, the actual surveyed corner of our property. The landscape leveled out a little bit where the corner is located, and a tiny stream begins within a few feet of it. Otherwise, the corner is in the middle of nowhere, with heavy timber all around - my kind of corner.

I knew where the northeast corner of our property was, and had it marked on my GPS (it's REALLY in the middle of no where, and is a difficult spot to reach do to the steepness of the terrain and severity of ice damage from the big storm in 2009). But I did not know the boundary line between the two corners (our east line). So I pulled out my GPS and started to hike straight at the northeast corner - straight back up the hill I had just come down.

On the way up the hillside I passed many large trees of different types, including a giant walnut tree. It's the only walnut tree I've seen on our new property (and we didn't have any at Cloudland - so our first walnut tree!). There were also places where some of those sandstone blocks broke loose and came tumbling down the mountain in the not too distant past. And there were many game trails, all but one of them crossing my route.

As I stood there on the side of the hill looking around at the rugged terrain, it felt great to be climbing up a steep hillside and sucking air once again - it had been quite a while since I'd been able to hike anything that required sucking air.

When I got back to the top of the narrow ridge I continued across it to the far bluffline - and I was delighted to discover that some of the most interesting parts of the bluff were on our property. The trail I'm laying out will visit that small area of broken bluff before dropping down to the creek below where our waterfall is. There are still many parts of Little Bluff where I've not set foot, but it was great to finally get to see that southeast corner.

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01/06/18 When I awoke at 4-somethiong this morning my first thought was about ICE. There have been many great ice photos posted on social media from our area lately, but I've not lifted a finger to capture any myself. Then I thought about our own waterfall here, Little luff Falls. But surely there wouldn't be any ice left on it after the warm temps yesterday?

Sunrise was just about to happen as I disappeared down into the woods headed towards the falls. I knew the little creek would be mostly dry, but "seeps" are what make the very best ice formations, built up during below-freezing weather over time - many days and night below freezing, a week even better.

I was thrilled when I arrived at the top of Little Bluff Falls and found a sheet of ice flowing over the edge, and even more thrilled when I scrambled down the far side and landed below to discover magical curtains of ice. I had my new pocket snapshot camera and no tripod, and spent the next ten minutes trying to capture some of that beauty of it all. First I shot from the front, then crawled around behind it, squeezing myself as far back into the overhang as I could get to capture a wide-angle view looking out. It was a frozen fairlyland.

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There were many different pictures I wanted to take, but without tripod or much time, I only made snapshots, and worked quickly. Satisfied with enough for at least one good photo for the Journal, I slipped the camera back into my pocket and began the steep but not long trek up and out to the driveway. It was a refreshing hike, a bit of a challenge, but we made it back in time to complete some chores to get the gallery open by 10am. A couple ice curtain photos turned out, so I was a happy camper.

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01/07/18 Cool and cloudy this morning, with rain on the way - that would be a great BIG YIPPIE COYOTE. What follows is mostly from yesterday afternoon, although I had written part of it late last night and posted it here while under the influence - of my nine-cent sleeping pill (I'm a touch typist and my home position was not where it shoul have been!). If any of you saw that before I got up at 3:30am and deleted it, please forgive. And if you actually understood any of it, then you probably should not drink so much, ha, ha! (I hadn't had a sip.)

After we closed the gallery yesterday the pups and I went for an extended ramble and spend a good bit of time exploring what I'm going to call the Bluff Jumble. This is one part of the bluff that is broken up into dozens of pieces - some parts still being part of the bluff, while other parts being sandstone blocks or boulders, with some of those having slipped part way down the slope. During the summer it is an area no meant for man or beast to wander into - I could image millions of snakes living there, all waiting for lunch! But in the dead of winter it is a delightful place to spend some time. The area is overall pretty small - probably less than a half-acre - but every foot of it is different and I just find the place interesting on several levels. The puppies like it too - actually the LOVE it - so many nooks and crannies to explore! During leaf-off there are also many views through the naked canopy of treetops out into the no-mans-land wilderness below and beyond.

If I can remember to do so I hope to take an aerial photo of this rocky area - probably best viewed with a light snowfall on the ground to show up the features best. I walked around shooting a "snapshot" video for a couple of minutes yesterday, but it was really just a test to see how my camera would do and I probably won't post it anywhere for human consumption. One of the things on my bucket list is to start shooting landscape videos - not just from the air, but from the ground as well. Timelapses and videos - I LOVE them! Along the way perhaps.

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While stumbling around in the Jumble just sort of moving from one spot to the next, something caught my eye downslope a ways. It was a tiny white something in a tree branch about 10-12 feet in the air. If it were spring I would have thought it to be a dogwood or popcorn tree bloom. But upon closer inspection - and then really close inspection - I decided it was a pure-white bit of down from a passing goose. Is that even possible? I was able to reach up and bend the little branch it was on down to right in front of my nose, then used the macro function on my little snapshot camera to take a macro picture. Kind of funny though - the wind was blowing at a pretty good clip and changing directions with every puff, so the down fibers would change directions all together with each puff - reminded me of a school of fish in the ocean all changing direction at the same time.

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With rain moving in today I'm headed outside to try and get a few things cleaned up that have been left out in the open lately. Then get the book warehouse prepared for muddy puppy feet. Once rain arrives I suspect we'll be out roaming around to soak in the sights and aromas of a freshly cleansed forest - rain always brings out more saturated colors and odors. Maybe we'll visit the Bluff Jumble again...

Arkansas Wildlife picture book DVD available here.

01/08/18 It was about 9pm tonight when I realized I still needed more than 6,000 steps to meet my daily goal - YIKES! So I got all wrapped up and the pups and I headed out into the night. It was really foggy, and even with my headlamp I could only see a few feet in front of me. Making things worse was the fact the wind blew so hard I had the hood of my jacket pulled tight around my face, so I didn't have much of a sight window. I LOVE hiking in fog though, so it was all good. One lap, two laps, three laps. On my way back up the hill on the third lap I turned off the headlamp and had to stop moving for a few moments while my night vision started to kick in. Funny, but once I turned off that light and walked on I could see a lot better, and the fog didn't seem too thick after all. It felt great and my wrist buzzed me past the goal line in no time - so I kept on hiking another couple of laps just for good measure.

01/10/18 We headed out for a couple days of guidebook research and camped at one alongside the North Fork River below the Lake Norfork Dam. We visited quite a few campgrounds - nearly all of them closed - but found two or three we really liked. One highlight of the trip was when we reached the far end of a campground that had been gated way back at the highway. It stuck out into the lake almost completely surrounded by water. The tip of the area was mostly bare - washed away by high water this past year no doubt. So the entire point of land was covered with a sort of "beach," and there were small mussel shells all over the place. We laughed and sent text messages to friends telling them we were hiking on the beach collecting shells (no one believed us). Anyway, we turned the puppies loose and they ran around at full tilt across the beach, into the lake, back across the beach, and on and on. It was like one of the beaches on the Oregon coast that allows dogs off leach - where Mia took off several years ago and ran nearly to Mexico! It was a rare treat for our pups, and we enjoyed their laughter.

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Our campsite along the river (above), Hwy. 101 bridge on Lake Norfork (below)

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08/11/18 Another puppy story today. It took me a while to catch up to my lovely bride who had the pups out for a hike mid-day. As I approached the dogs took off into the woods and pounced on something near the end of a fallen tree. Both started digging - another mole we thought. When I got closer to investigate, I realized they had chased an armadillo underneath the root ball of that large fallen tree. Armadillos are known for being able to completely bury themselves within a minute or two when trouble finds them. Thus guy was only able to burro into the rootball about a foot, which left his hand end and tail sticking out - much to the delight of the puppies!

08/12/18 WINTER HAS RETURNED - holy MOLY! The temp was only in the teens this morning, but the wind was howling and sent the wind chill down below zero. The frigid air continued all day, and I had to suit up in my snowmobile suit anytime I got out to wander around. And the ground was frozen solid once again. I think we've already had more winter this year than all of last and the year before and the year before.

As I headed out to make up a couple thousand more steps for the day late night I almost quit after just the first lap the BITE of the frigid wind was so cold. But I decided not to yield to wimppieness, and went back for another lap, and then another. That second lap was OK, but the third lap was actually very nice - seems like when I turn off my headlamp and let the forest take over everything just feels better. My night vision has always been pretty good, and I LOVE carrots!

Cabin construction update. There has been no progress since they poured the foundation footing. Maybe next week.

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08/13/18 Quick update this morning. I could see COLOR about to happen along the eastern horizon, so I made sure my snapshot camera was in my pocket when the pups and I headed out early this morning for a few laps. As I was in the middle of the second lap I had to turn around and run back to the cabin site - the sky had turned brilliant RED, with even a "sun pillar" in the scene. I took a series of photos for the next several minutes until the peak of color had come and gone - HOLY MOLY that was BRIGHT RED!!!

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When I got back to the computer I was unable to make the pictures look like what I had just witnessed - couldn't get the correct color that was so intense and RED. My workshop folks know that I preach to only shoot RAW files, but this was a case where I was just not good enough to reproduce the scene with a RAW file. But as luck would have it, on this new snapshot camera I also have it set to shoot JPGS - which are almost always incorrect as far as color goes. Yet somehow the camera software processed the RAW data that it shot perfectly, and what you see posted here is pretty much the scene that I saw, and also the file that came out of the camera without any changes (this depends on your monitor - the colors may not always display correctly). I may have to continue shooting RAW plus JPG files, just in case.

01/14/18 Since the ground was already frozen solid, seems like every flake that fell stuck, and we woke to about an inch of white powder covering the landscape. It was the perfect snowfall to help visually define the boulder jumble sandstone blocks that are piled one on top of another and side by side at the far end of our property. I made several trips there today, on the ground with the puppies, and also one from the air to take a few snapshots. I found myself wandering around in the jumble again and again. It is not a big place, but some of the boulder blocks are 15' tall and 30' wide. A partial snow covering made it all the more interesting for both man and beast.

In this aerial photo you can kind of see where the boulder jumble area is in relation to where our cabin will be - the red dot in the clearing is where the cabin is going. The boulders are lined up along the edge of the little bluff near the point of the ridge (which is off to the left in these photos - the gallery building is 1/4 mile back towards the right and uphill on the ridge a little). Click on the photo to see a 20" wide version that is also cropped in a little.

The temp got up to 30 and melted a lot of the landscape by mid-afternoon. Most south-facing slopes turned dead-leaf-colored pretty quickly, but the north-facing slopes - and stuff down in the hollow - didn't melt much if at all - so much of our landscape remains white. It was a GREAT day to be in the woods!

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01/15/18 Here is the cooncrete footing to the foundation of our new cabin and garage. It will be smaller than Cloudland, but all on one floor (except that Pam will have a small studio over part of the garage).

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01/16/18 A new record low of -1.1 degrees F this morning.

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01/17/18 Another record LOW temp recorded here this morning: (minus) -1.3 degrees below zero. Not much wind though so it was much warmer than the 1.1-degree below zero we have yesterday, which also had howling winds that brought the wind chill way, WAY down below zero. We inched above freezing today for a little while, and it is supposed to be in the 60's this weekend.

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Ever since I first set foot on this land a couple of years ago I've wanted to lay out a hiking trail. While I have tromped through most of the places I want the trail - some many times - I've never really hiked the route as a whole all in one hike. So yesterday as the temp climbed up into the low teens, I decided it was time. My goal was a solid mile round trip, and it ended up being 1.05 miles (begin and end at the future cabin site), so YIPPIE COYOTE!

This will not be an easy trail to build - even if I were a young stud trail builder of long ago. In fact I'm not sure how we are going to get a large chunk of the trail built, but getting it put on a map is a good starting point. Some of the trail will just be game trail (now puppy trail too). A small section will be part of the historic road into the homestead that has all but vanished (both road trace and homesite). Some stretches we'll just have to remove brush and clear out a corridor. Lots of dead timber to clear out all along the way. There is a stretch that will run from the Boulder Jumble down to the waterfall that is across a VERY steep hillside that is covered with downed timber and root balls from the great ice storm of 2009. We might have to use a small bulldozer to carve out that section.

If we can get everything done at some point, I think it will be a nice little hiking trail that will visit the boulders, waterfall, run alongside our stream, past our neighbor's beautiful and lush rolling pasture, through many towering pine trees, and past the little dugout root cellar of the homesite. Here's a crude map of the route with a few points noted.

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My lovely bride came with me today and we hiked the rough half of the route, down the steep ice-damaged hillside to the waterfall (still frozen), then up along the creek and pasture and back to the gallery. The pups played with a squirrel a while and I think everyone had a good time.

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01/18/18 While on my way back from a book delivery this afternoon I spotted some nice light on the river near Ponca. But I didn't have a good camera with me, so I had to run back home to get one. 30 minutes later I had made my way along the river and was set up on the lower edge of a small bluff next to a dirt bank. The light I'd seen had vanished, but I spent the next hour standing in exactly the same spot next to the bluff and dirt bank and found interesting things to point my camera at in all directions. With temps above freezing for the first time in a while, the river had begun to melt a little bit - I LOVE the edges and transitions of Nature - like at the beginning and end of daylight, beginning and ending of storms or any sort of weather, the four seasons, when snowfall first begins to pile up, and when ice starts to give way to warming sunshine like it was doing today.

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One funny thing happened while I stood there on the river bank. I kept hearing noises from behind me. It sounded like the darn dirt bank was breaking up. I kept looking to see any movement, but was not fast enough. Finally I noticed a wet/dry line crossing near the middle of the dirt bank, and then I heard more sound and caught some pebbles and dirt clods breaking off the bank - actually reached out and CAUGHT some of them! I know when ice forms the water expands and can cause things to break up, and then the opposite happens when that ice begins to melt - and those times are when rocks crack or soil breaks up and rolls down the slope, sometimes landing in a photographer's hand.

Soon after I got home I took the pups for quick lap around and discovered a FIRE was raging in the valley below. It looked like another controlled burn, but it was happening right at sunset/twilight - one of those transition times when light and colors are so interesting. And not only was the fire glow and orange smoke rising up and adding to the mix, but there was a TINY sliver of a moon headed down to the horizon. I ran back up to the gallery and grabbed my camera and jumped into the van to go find a place where I could get the setting moon behind the fire. It was an AMAZING sight!

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Later on I set up a camera to shoot a timelapse of the fire using a long telephoto lens - I was zoomed in on the trees and the entire frame was filled with the FIRE and SMOKE and COLOR! My hands were so cold from handling the camera gear that I had to retreat into the van and fire up the heated seat - and then I sat on my hands while the camera did all the work. The wind was blowing hard and the temps were headed back down into the 20's - I don't have much circulation in my fingertips and it doesn't take much exposure like this to zap all the blood out.

When I returned to the camera I was expecting to find a wonderful set of fire photos that would make a great timelapse, but instead I discovered none of the 600 photos were going to work - I had the camera set wrong! Duh. by then the fire had begun to die down a little bit so I packed up and headed home.

01/20/18 The tall pine trees here are making lots of noise tonight! Howling winds causing all sorts of musical notes as the trees toss back and forth, some rubbing on each other. Thar's a powerful storm a brewin', and we hope to get some much-needed rainfall out of it tomorrow.

Yesterday was the first of what I hope are many more work days in the woods on hiking trails this year - I have a lot of miles to cover to document new trails for guidebooks. First time I've been able to get out and actually work at my hiking job in a long time. My ailing back has kept me from being able to carry anything on my back, and also has kept me from hiking very far. Only a few months ago I couldn't even hike more than 1/4 mile without intense pain and having to stop and either lay down in the dirt or return home.

But yesterday I hiked about seven miles at full speed, and was able to fully document the section of new trail I was on. Lots more of that to come in the months ahead - it felt GREAT to be back at work in the woods!

My lovely bride an I have been listening to audio books during our long drives this fall back and forth to programs. The very first book we listened to was 14 hours long, and was about the epic trip that Teddy Roosevelt took down an unknown Amazon "River Of Doubt" in 1913. In the book Roosevelt recounted how he was a very sickly child, weak, un athletic, and just kind of a wimpy kid. One day his dad sat him down and said that if he was ever going to amount to anything that he would have to "make his own body." And so he did - spending years pushing himself to physical limits as often as he could. And he became SOMEBODY indeed by making his own body.

After spending a good bit of time and money this past year doing everything the doctors had me do to try and fix my back - and it getting worse all the while - I decided to follow Teddy's example and try to "make my own body" as much as I could. So instead of turning around after 100 yards in pain and quitting, I began to lean into the walk and go a little farther before turning around each time. Soon I was able to hike a little bit farther before the pain set in - not sure if the pain was actually getting less or if I was getting better at ignoring it. Within a few weeks I was able to hike a mile here at Little Bluff with less pain than 100 yards from a couple of months ago.

And while I still can't carry a daypack, fanny pack, or camera backpack, I am now able to go on multi-mile hikes, which is a big YIPPIE COYOTE! But I still need to carry a minimal amount of gear that includes a GPS, digital tape recorder, small camera, emergency self-rescue device (I use an In Reach satellite communicator), spare AA & AAA batteries, headlamp, bic lighter, a bottle of water and lightweight water filter, light jacket, and a couple packets of peanut M&Ms. I was able to stash all of this into pockets of a lightweight nylon camera vest. The vest pockets helped distribute the weight around my body and allowed me to carry it all without hurting my back too much.

While I don't expect to be able to carry a camera pack again any time soon, I need to hike and document about 50-60 miles of new hiking trails in the coming months, and am now hopeful this new vest system will make that possible.

One note from my hike yesterday. It was a beautiful day to be in the woods - warm temps and sunshine - and I got to hike through country I'd never seen before. I came upon three guys on horseback and we chatted for a while. (Beautiful horses!) They asked me how I planned to cross the river ahead they had just come across - "we had to break through ice that was knee-deep on our horses!" I quickly compared knee-height on their horses to my own, and decided it would be no big deal. I did have to break through more ice while crossing the river (about 75 feet wide), and while the water was pretty icy cold and my boots filled up immediately, it was an easy crossing for me.

So THANKS TEDDY ROOSEVELT for giving me the will to press on down my own River Of Doubt and complete the first section of new trail, and give me encouragement to proceed with many more miles to come this spring.

01/22/18 PEEPERS are PEEPING! That's a sure sign of spring. (But, of course, we still have two months of winter left.) Actually I'm thinking the peepers are really a sign of RAIN! ("peepers" are spring peepers, a type of small frog that loves water) I first heard the peepers last night while out late trying to collect a few thousand steps that I neglected during the day while I was laid out in front of a TV watching football (my guy won). Since we have not had TV in two years, I watched at Pam's parent's house. Anyway, I had only made it a couple of laps in the dark before a bolt of lightning lit up the forest and shook the ground. BAM!!! Then the peepers started to peep - as if they knew there was a big storm front about to hit us (I'm sure they knew this in fact). And less than a minute later, right on cue, it began to rain. Both the peepers and this lazy hiker were HAPPY CAMPERS!

I did not complete my laps before deciding to seek shelter from all the fireworks, but I was peeping inside because the rainfall was steady and hard. This was the first really hard rainfall we've had here since August, which helped wash nasty clay out of our parking lot grave - one step in that clay and we get the orange gunk all over the gallery building and inside the RV - so we do a lot of switching shoes to clean pairs whenever we get moisture.

The pups and I were up and out early this morning and the sky above was SO CLEAR with a ZILLION stars shining. And peepers were peeping at several points along our route, although most of the rainfall had already soaked into the parched landscape. But a little spring near the cabin site was flowing clear - first time I'd seen it flowing in several months. When it's working we have an automatic puppy water station.

I was out in the woods below the cabin site when brilliant sunshine popped up over the horizon, and standing in a spot where a pyramid-shaped chunk of the bluff was silhouetted in front of the sun. I moved a couple steps to the left and took a picture of the rising sun between that boulder and one of the left, which we dubbed "picnic table rock" when first seeing it two years ago. It is kind-of flat on top and seems a good place for a picnic table, and will be easy to get to from the cabin. This little bluff boulder is below the front of the cabin on the opposite side of the little ridge from the much larger Boulder Jumble area.

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One funny note from yesterday. While out in the middle of the woods on our property, I discovered a object half-buried in the leaves. Turned out it was a tiny alien drone. After further investigation on the interweb, I discovered there are perhaps millions of these little toy drones all over the world. But how in the heck one of them landed in the middle of Little Bluff I have no idea - can these toys really fly a mile or more? I would think may they could fly across the room, but out into the real world, really? Perhaps this one was dropped from a real alien spacecraft. Hum, I will continue to monitor the skies for such activity.

drone

So the landscape is smiling big time today after the rainfall, and it should be a glorious week all around with warmer temps and lots of sunshine. HAPPY MONDAY TO ALL - have a terrific week wherever you are!

01/24/18 - first semi load of materials arrives at the cabin site.

semiunloadair1small

01/30/18 A quick recap from the past week. First off, the first three semi-truck loads of materials for our new cabin arrived last Wednesday. One of the massive trucks was able to make it all the way back to the cabin site at the end of our circle drive - but just barely. As the giant truck inched along our the circle, one of the big trees at the edge of the forest ended up leaning in between the cab and trailer - the rig could not move forward or go in reverse. Our contractor saved the say when he used a large 4-ton lift to reach over the big rig and push the tree back and hold it there while the truck pulled forward, finally clearing the tree. Big sighs of relief all around.

The same truck had some issues trying to get back out after being unloaded, but some quick-thinking crew members were able to get everything clear and the truck back to freedom at the gallery. Truck #2 decided to stay put where it was waiting at the gallery and our builder was able to get the truck unloaded with the big lift, setting the giant pallets of materials around the edges of the parking lot (eventually moving them via the big lift down to the cabin site).

In the process of the big truck and lift traffic, the results of a "perfect storm" happened. Multi days of below zero temps that froze the ground solid down deep for a week or longer, expanded the compacted soil, clay gravel, and white gravel of the gallery parking lot that had settled into place fore more than a year. The semi trucks got mired in the just-thawed earth/gravel and sunk in up to TWO FEET deep! It was a colossal mess, and required our builder to use the big lift at times to pick up the back of each semi and move it around in order for the big rig to get unstuck and leave the property.

Truck #3 didn't arrive until almost dark, and by 8pm when the builder got it unloaded around the gallery parking lot, that parking lot was a REAL MESS. But one thing about the mess - it was not muddy or even sticky at all - it had a consistency more like the play-dough of my youth, and so we have dubbed the entire mess the "Play-dough massacre." It was such a mess with the deep ruts everywhere, we decided not to have the gallery open to the public this past Saturday - no way even an SUV could drive on it.

Yesterday our great "dirt" team spent about half the day fixing the mess (with bulldozer and truck loads of gravel), and with a couple days of drying out and settling the gallery parking lot will be back to normal. WOO-HOO! We plan to have the GALLERY OPEN this Saturday February 3rd from 10am-3pm. (It's going to take many gallery-open days to help pay for having the parking lot damage fixed.)

So the first load of three trucks of materials are now on site and ready for the construction crew to begin building. Only holdup is that the contractor doing the block walls of the foundation has not appeared yet, so the builder can't actually build anything. The footings have been done for almost a month. We wait for blocks.

I've been able to continue my trail hiking and documentation of new (or different) trails for an updated guidebook that I've been unable to physically do for a long time. The main 16-mile section took me four trips to complete (one trip being an exploratory trip to try and figure out where an unbuilt part of the trail was going to be). In the end it took me three days to hike the 16 miles, a distance that I normally would have easily done in a single day. So while I was able to complete the distance, it took me three times as long - but what the hey - for a geezer with a bad back that could only hike 1/4 mile a few months ago I'd say that is progress - YIPPIE COYOTE!

I had been feeling much better about all of this hiking until yesterday morning - when I was reminded that my disks are still mostly damaged and may not ever be repaired. While leaning over to carefully tighten my boot laces, my disks simply broke down after this simple movement and I was forced to spend the rest of the day on my backside in bed with ice and heat. I was able to get back on my feet again late last night and did a couple of laps around our property without screaming.

My bride also had physical issues one day when she banged her already damaged knee into one of the new white pine beams that had been delivered by the big trucks - the impact knocked her to the ground in pain and she struggled to make it to her feet again, and then was in doubt if she would even be able to make it back to the gallery. Unlike her husband - who now carries cell phone to call for help - she was not able to call for me to come pick her up for a more pleasant ride home. She's a tough one, but still the cutest gal in the forest for sure! (her knee is much better now)

Speaking of my lovely bride, she began cutting out (lopping) the forest corridor of the mile-long hiking trail we've been planning here. Baby steps for both of us right now. She had planned to do about 10' a day, but her very first day netted 130'! Day #2 netted zero feet, but she is still way ahead. We'll continue to carve out our little hiking trail as we get time and can physically do it - as much as we are able to do. Many parts of the trail will be beyond what we can manage at the moment, so we will need a lot of help. But I think we'll have a really nice little hiking trail by the time we get done. It will mostly be a fitness trail - partly to replace the three-mile hike we used to do at Cloudland (it will take three laps here to equal three miles). But there will also be many beautiful features along the way.

One other property improvement my bride did - she located a perfect spot for two lawn chairs down at the cabin site, and once installed we spent an entire hour the other afternoon just sitting in the sunshine, soaking up the view and warm temps. We don't get much downtime (most self-employed folks don't), and it was especially nice to have that hour to just relax.

pamchair

Last night Pam cooked up one of the best bowls of ham/bean soup I've had while we binge-watched another season of Grace&Franke on Netflix (we don't have a TV). More trails for me this week (I hope), then a lot of computer time to turn my hikes into guidebook pages.

01/31/18 I was up and out early to find a spot to photograph the super/full/blue/blood/wolf moon. I ended up inside the van with the window rolled down and my camera and tripod set up outside leaning against the front door of the van - all I had to do was lean forward to look through the viewfinder and take pictures. Arkansas was not the best place to photograph this event, nor was it a good time for the event to happen (just before sunrise). And while all moonsets are wonderful, this one was just so-so. Not sure if any of my photos turned out or not (not), but at least I was up and out and had my camera. I still am not able to carry my camera setup anywhere, so I may become a roadside photographer in my geezer years...

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