LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - JANUARY 2020 (previous months)
Little Bluff cabin cam January 31 - heavy fog all day yesterday, top to bottom here. It rained a little overnight and by first light today the fog had settled into the canyons below - it's moving around and lifting already....
Journal updated on the 31st
01/01/20 Late last night I wandered out into the forest for one last hike of the year*. Since my lovely bride had take me on a long hike during the day, my minimum 15k steps and 8 miles had already been done, so this one was just to get out and enjoy. It was cool and crisp and the sky was especially clear, and the stars were so beautiful I decided that perhaps I would end the year by taking one last picture - of the stars. Oh my goodness you could not believe how large my pile of camera parts on the corner of the print room had grown! It took me more than an hour just to find a suitable camera and lens. Another 30 minutes to find a key piece of gear to automate the picture sequence I had wanted to take. Then another 20 minutes cursing at that key piece of gear since it wasn’t working.
An hour later I had managed to dig through my pile of gear a couple more times and managed to mount a camera and lens on the tripod that would work, find the perfect spot for the photo, and started the camera sequence to take that last picture. My vision was to capture the stars above our cabin as the earth spinned beneath them during the night - the North Star likes to hang out above our prow, so I wanted that in the photo too.
Turns out it would take me five or six hours to complete the photo, which happened about 5am this morning, which of course was a brand new year and decade. So I guess the resulting photo turned out to be my last photo of 2019 but also my first photo of 2020. And it not only shows 2019 becoming 2020, but also the end of the 'teens and beginning of the new roaring 20's.
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU from all of us at Little Bluff - may it be your VERY BEST EVER!
By the way, most of the time when you see trees or buildings distorted/tilted in photos like this one it is because of the extreme wideangle lenses on cameras - including cell phone cameras. This photo was taken with a 14mm fullframe lens in order to capture so much of the night sky, and when you point this type of lens UP, things tend to tilt towards the center. Kind of like being sucked into a vortex...
* A funny note about our hike, which was about four miles total over the hill and through the rural countryside of our neighborhood of pastures, cows, goats, and other assorted critters - see a pic below of the misc. feather we found (Journal reader, Joanne, says this might be a lucky feather for 2020!)). Along the way a package was delivered to us by one of the package delivery services (handed through his truck window) - this saved the driver having to take it all the way to our house (my idea - he wanted to deliver it to our door, but there was no reason for that). Not wanting to lug that package for four miles, I promptly stashed the box behind a fence post and continued hiking. I didn’t really know if someone had found and swiped the package until we were almost back home. Luckily it was still there, hiding in plain sight next t the post. (I think only one truck passed by, probably a neighbor, who if he had spotted the box and picked it up, would have delivered it to our door anyway.)
Here's a snapshot from my chair in the living room looking towards the opposite wall as the first rays of brilliant sunshine floods the room.
01/02/20 Yesterday turned into more of a work day than I had planned (i.e. my goal of napping all day didn’t work out!). INVENTORY had to be done, and my lovely bride and I spent a good part of the day counting - books, calendars, DVDs, maps, patches. We stock more than 45 different items that are either our own publications or those we distribute for other publishers. We have something like 20 or more pallets of boxes of books - many stacked on to of another.
Another business chore for the day was to get our new (old/new stock) computer up and running, and everything transferred from the old to the new - a process that ended up taking about 30 hours and wasn’t complete until today. Then we began the process of upgrading software, log ins and passwords, and all the things needed to get back up to speed. Most of this was pretty easy (we use Macs), but since our computer and some software was so old, several programs had to be updated ($$), others fixed so the would work with the new hardware and operating system, and a couple of programs simply had to be left behind and new software purchased to replace. At the end of the day, so far, so good, and our little publishing business continues without interruption.
At the end of the day, just before it was time for me to go to bed, I got a wild hare to make one last trip up to the gallery and back. (I needed a few more “steps” to make my daily goal, as if climbing around all over the book warehouse counting books wasn’t enough!) The pups almost immediately disappeared into the darkness (common) as I headed up the driveway. A couple of minutes later I heard a sound in the woods - not a bark or whine, or call for help - it was something else, but seemed to be dog-related.
I stopped walking and tried to locate the pups by sound, while calling them in. Silence. Moments passed and still nothing. After attempts to call them in I headed into the thick woods towards the direction I thought the unknown sound came from. Luckily I had left an outside light on the cabin on and while I could barely see it through the trees, I was able to use it to keep myself oriented as to my direction and relative location on our property.
After a while of searching and calling out to them I swung on around and made my way through the woods up to the gallery in case the pups had gone there. Nothing. I returned to the cabin and no pups there either. So I headed for the trail and started around the mile loop. Then I saw a pair of eyeballs, but they were not coming towards me, or away, but rather moving on an angle out in front of and away from me. No sound, just eyeballs shining in the night. I picked up my pace and tried to catch them but they kept bounding on ahead and off in one direction, then another direction. I finally got close enough with my headlamp to realize it was indeed Wilson. Good thing - but where was Mia?
I started to follow Wilson - he wasn’t really paying any attention to me, but surely he would lead me to Mia. But soon I lost him in the darkness, so I continued to head that direction, and down the very steep southern slope of our heavily wooded property. I stopped and called. No reply. Down and down I went, trying to keep a sense of where I was - the cabin light was out of sight by now. And then just below me Wilson came charging up the hill towards me, huffing and puffing and nearly out of breath. I started to get kinda worried at this point - he had obviously been way down the hill and had been climbing out, but I wasn’t sure if he had been to Mia, or if he was just looking for her too.
Suddenly Mia came running up from BEHIND us, and was out of breath too - YIPPIE! Both pups where in sight and did not appear to be injured. On the hike back to the cabin we passed a fresh critter home entrance beneath to large tree root - armadillo or fox or something. Both pups had dirty noses, and Mia had dirt even on top of her head! That’s probably why I did not hear the dogs barking - their heads were underground!
The best thing about all of this was the fact that when I glanced down at my fitness watch I realized all this running around in the woods looking for the dogs got me way past my daily minimum steps, YIPPIE COYOTE!
01/03/20 We were all up early and working in the gallery to get the mail processed and out to the mailbox by 8:30 for pickup. When I returned from the mailbox my lovely bride had this look on her face - uh oh. Today would turn out to be BOX DAY at the warehouse! While we package just about every individual order in new packaging (usually padded envelopes, small boxes or stiff envelopes), but nearly all wholesale orders go into a box that has been used at least once, sometimes more. We get hundreds and hundreds of cardboard boxes during the year - a single guidebook reprint may arrive in 100 boxes. As we sell the books we end up with a lot of empty boxes,which just happen to make perfect shipping boxes for our retail customers (who order in bulk). We keep every box we empty so we’ll have plenty for shipping. But gradually we end up with more and more and more and more empty boxes than needed - they literally get stacked to the ceiling in the warehouse. Once in a while we’ll say enough is enough and prepare the boxes for recycling - cutting them down flat - and haul them to the recycle center in Jasper.
We did this very thing about a month ago, but today Pam discovered a mountain of empty boxes hiding in the rafters and spent much of the day cutting them down and stacking out the back door. Time to call Pam’s dad to bring his pickup over for a pickup and run to Jasper with boxes!
01/04/20 SNOW! We had a snowstorm pass through during the night. Actually there was a “snow coming” alert on the phone about 2am, and sure enough, reviewing the radar when I awoke later on a nice wide blue wave spread across the Ozarks. I doubt a flake hit the ground though. Come to think of it, with the exception of literally just a few sprinkles on the deck, we’ve not had a lick of moisture all year. Waterfalls seem to be running OK in many areas though, but we sure need some steady rainfall up here in the mountains to bring them up to proper winter flow and sustain them.
I was up and out early with the pups yesterday morning doing the loop trail on the north/steep side of our property. This is the area where the trail winds down through the “boulder jumble” that’s large boulder and little bluffy areas with some overhangs and one significant pedestal rock. Yesterday there was moisture in the air (perhaps from the big snowstorm) and oh my goodness the moss on the rocks, bluffs, and boulders was bright green and just magnificent! I even stopped to take a snapshot or two.
After the boulder jumble area the trail heads farther down the hill to the spur trail to the waterfall, then gradually rises up and follows the little creek that feeds the falls and eventually steeper up the hill to Pam’s bench that her dad built for her a couple of years ago. This bench (donated by Jay & Judy McDonald), looks out across our neighbors lush cow and hay pasture - where the first rays of brilliant and often gold sunshine first hit the landscape.
I had planned to loop back to the cabin from the bench, but discovered my lovely bride had already arrived at the gallery to work so I detoured over to do my part. Work continued on cleaning up and organizing the warehouse part of the gallery building - which will go on for years to come I bet! We don’t advertise this fact, but we have many copies of out-of-print picture books of mine that are scuffed, damaged, or autographed incorrectly to one degree or another that we are happy to sell at a vastly reduced rate to folks who just want to complete their Ernst collection ($10). (normally the inside pages are just fine and basically new) For those who count, I have 19 large-format coffee table picture books, the first dozen or so being out of print, and the rest are still available. You can find this list, along with year of publication, on page two of the 2020 Arkansas wall calendar. (and also in the back of most of the picture books, up to that current book)
The rest of the day was spent in the gallery pushing more stuff around from one location to another, and working on some small print orders. And while I had tried to get our big work table Bubba completely cleared off the day before, I somehow manage to get it almost completely covered back up with boxes, prints, and other assorted items that need to find a home elsewhere.
But the day ended with getting the wood-fired pizza oven fired up. I had planned to make one pizza, and mixed up only 1/2 of my normal dough, somehow that small ball of dough mushroomed into two full (personal-size) pizzas, and I ate almost BOTH of them myself! Oh soooooo good....
We completed our weekend while sitting in the prow watching as twilight faded away and stars came out - listening to the last hour of a 17-hour audio book (A Gentleman In Moscow). We started this book back during program season but only got to hear bits of it during short trips to town since. Great story and especially great ending.
01/05/20 My bride left before sunrise for her weekly grocery run to town while the pups and I headed out on the loop trail. We were just emerging from the boulder jumble area when the first rays of bright sunshine started to skim across the opposite hillside. Those first few minutes (or less) of sunshine are often orange or another warm shade that really lights up the forest! By the time we reached the bench at the top of the climb the pasture had already turned to normal color after the burst of color at sunrise.
The skies were pure-blue with a stiff breeze. Temp for my hike was cool, but the wind had me bundled up pretty good at the beginning, but soon I had shed all layers during the uphill part, only to put them back on again for the level-to-downhill run back to the cabin.
I’m back at the computer now working on the first of my two morning chores - trying to get the Journal caught up! That bright sunshine has filled the cabin with warmth and I even had to pull the big shade in the prow it was getting so warm and BRIGHT. During these winter months with sunny days the prow windows heat everything up so well that the heater doesn’t even turn on all day - great solar heating for us!
BREAKFAST and 153#s. The two go together, kinda. My lovely bride began living a much-healthier lifestyle a year ago, and eventually I caught on and changed the way I eat - or rather what I eat. Or rather what I don’t eat. For most of the past 64 years I’ve had a terrible diet - growing up on cookies, cakes, and pies (my mom was a professional cookie, cake, and pie baker - really). Then came the junk food revolution. And then fast food and me becoming more and more anti-social and with less and less time to eat - so, DRIVE THRUS became the order of the day. Turns out the bulk of my diet - for MOST of my life - has been based on three things - SUGAR, FLOUR, and SALT.
I’ve always had a slender “swimmers” build - I swam competitively for 15 years (which ended with a short-lived stint on the Razorback swim team in 1973) - so that build was normal for me. But I’ve always had somewhat o a gut - like most guys, especially the older we get. At one point though I had built myself up to a weight of 193#s, though I still was considered tall and lanky, but I felt terrible. When I went into training for my photography trip to Iceland many years ago I got myself down to 170#s and I felt a lot better. From that point on I tried to keep around 170 as my winter weight, trimming down into the 160’s during the summer. Back in my younger days (1990’s) I would spend 3-4 months in the Wind River and other mountains of the west - often above 10,000 feet backpacking and got myself toned up pretty well.
Anyway, I began 2019 at 174#s. Not too bad, but again I still did not feel very good. As 2020 began I tipped the scale at 153#s - and I feel GREAT! (back to my high school swim team weight) I’ve been in the low 150s since summer, briefly packing on the pounds during our trip to Canada when I probably was near 170 (after several weeks of the great Canadian Pastry Shop Tour). On our way back from Canada I had a miserable allergy attack and dropped five pounds, then another five pounds in the coming weeks back home as we tried to figure out what I’d been allergic too (turns out it was flour, sugar, and milk).
Anyway #2, I’ve not been on any fancy or involved diet, I simply have stopped consuming LARGE amounts of sugar, flour, and salt all the time. And the pounds have simply melted away, and have stayed off - it was pretty amazing. I’m not saying this is the answer, only that so far it has worked great for me and I’m a happy camper!
OK, to breakfast. I always thought a big bowl of cereal would be a fine breakfast, but it turns out even “healthy” cereal is loaded with - hum - flour, sugar, and salt. And milk contains a lot of sugar, even low-fat or skim milk. Huh. One of the breakfast items that my bride started eating was a smoothie - a GIANT smoothie, filled with protein mix, spinach/kale/spring mix veggies - in fact it was GREEN - yuck! And 32 ounces - three times the size of the largest mini-blender container we owned. I’ve always LOVED smoothies, but a green one? Then I tasted it - how could the one she was making be so healthy if it tasted so SWEET? It was simple really - not all smoothies are created equal, nor do they have to taste weird.
Cutting to the chase, I was hooked on the very first smoothie that Pam made for me last winter, and with only a few exceptions, I’ve been eating the very same smoothie for breakfast every day since. (sometimes adding one of my homemade scones or other items, but on a small scale - well, maybe not the scones - I can eat four or five of my scones in a sitting - NOT healthy, but oh so good!). So here ya go - this is what I make up each morning and suck down every drop and try to lick the cup. This looks like a lot of mess - but it really isn’t. We normally only have one bag of frozen fruit vs. the three pictured here, and even when in our little camper van everything is pulled from and put right back into its place so its mostly eazy-peazy.
Here’s my normal mix, but it can vary a lot depending:
1.25 cups frozen fruit-I like cherries/blueberries/strawberries (FYI, bananas are almost 100% sugar)
cup of water
1.25 scoops of protein mix
ground flax seed
sometimes one scoop of whole grain rolled oats
Vanilla almond milk (unsweetened)
Light vanilla yogurt
Spring mix/spinach/kale - as much as I can cram in the top of my 32 ounce cup.
Pam’s mom made me a special holder for the 32 cup since my hand freezes otherwise while holding the cup long enough to consume all 32 ounces (see in pic below)! (I also have a cup of "Iceland" coffee - about 1/2 of a normal coffee up of normal coffee, with lots of French vanilla coffeemate).
Just a quickie note about lunch since I’m getting ready to make mine up for today. It’s a wrap. I’ve always loved wraps - even long before they became popular everywhere. My original wrap was made up for backpacking trips and consisted of special long slices of smoked turkey breast and swiss cheese - from the original Ozark Mountain Smokehouse in Fayetteville (they would last in my pack for days since the turkey and cheese were smoked). When tortillas became mainstream I would wrap my meat and cheese in those. But guess what - the standard variety these days is loaded with salt and flour! So we use ”flatout” wraps now that are much healthier, thinner, and taste great to me.
I begin with a mountain of fresh spring greens - literally about as much as a medium salad would be. Then add some cheap dijon mustard, turkey breast, and either baby swiss slices or feta cheese crumbles. Sometimes the greens are so thick that I have to really lay into the pile to get it squished down into a roll that will fit into my mouth! Then I let it sit for 10-20 minutes to come to near room temperature - it tastes a lot better then. Shown below before wrapping up.
Like the smoothie, with a few exceptions, I’ve eaten a wrap like this every day for the past 11 months or so and still LOVE them! Of course I could change ingredients, but I’m good for now.
One kinda funny note about the smoothie-wrap diet - I have eliminated two of the major decisions I have to make each day - what to have for breakfast and lunch!
For the third meal each day? ANYTHING I want! Like almost two pizzas last night that were made of FLOUR, lots of cheese, pizza sauce, olives, artichoke hearts, and pepperoni. Seems like if I mostly mind two good meals a day, everything else will take care of itself and even out. Of course, I’m also keeping up a regular high-step and exercise count nearly every day - 200 or more miles each month minimum. Etc. It’s just what has worked or me at the moment. Oh and LOTS of water - 72ozs a day or more when active.
What about my bride? I don’t keep up with her numbers, but I do know she is much lighter than me, has lost a ton of weight this past year, feels much healther - and looks GREAT! To me, my bride at 50 is even more beautiful inside and out than in her 30’s. She has learned how to eat better and live a healthier life overall.
01/07/20 This little crystal polar bear was given to me by friends in Norway many decades ago - it lives on one of the shelves high in the prow of our cabin and sees the sunrise before we do each day. It was kinda chilly with a stiff breeze at dawn today, but balmy by Norwegian standards.
01/08/20 My lovely bride left this morning more than an hour before sunrise for an appointment in Missouri, and the pups and I were left with no option but to sit on the couch in the prow and await the coming of a new day. Iceland coffee, protein fruit veggie smoothie, nap. OOPS! With the boss gone it was up to me to make a run up to the office and get orders processed, packaged, and out to the mailbox by 8:30. OK, got it, done. Back to the couch.
Fast forward to tonight, and oh my the wind was howling as I hiked with the pups up to the office for a little more work. I really love road walking at night in the winter when the moon is out - and tonight with a 3/4 moon it was pretty bright. Although there was a large and fat halo around the moon so the brightness was less, in fact kinda fuzzy. But there were still many naked-tree shadows all across our white-gravel driveway, and those are what catch my attention most at night. Except tonight, with the wind blowing the shadows around so much and the weird moonlight, it was kinda spooky.
Several days ago Pam and I sat outside for mid-afternoon tea. The temp was cool but sunshine had warmed up our deck chairs to the point that when I sat down it felt like I was enveloped by a giant warm full-body hug and it was wonderful! We had a delightful time watching all the little song birds keeping busy at the feeders.
And then we heard it - a low rumble and then saw a large blob moving across the forest below us. No question what that could have been - it was a GIANT Hercules C-130 Air Force plane flying below us out there in the Henson Creek canyon. It was moving quickly to our right, and then banked to the left and pulled up. There is a saddle/pass in the ridgeline to our southwest, and this pilot climbed on up to and just flew over that low spot, which is called Keys Gap. Then the plane dropped down in elevation and disappeared into the upper Little Buffalo River drainage towards Parthenon behind the hill - just like that and he was gone. Gulp!
These guys frequently fly training missions in groups of two or three planes, often just above the ridgelines, and sometimes directly over our cabin - they frequently use Round Top Mountain just south of Jasper as a turning point (that mountain is in most of the photos I take looking towards sunrise). They will even drop down low and follow the Little Buffalo River upstream. But we’ve never seen them fly below us like that - it was wonderful, but over too soon!
I saw three of the C-130s again today, but all cruising above the mountains. They’re kind of like gigantic eagles and rule the skies, and we always love seeing them. (They are based at Jacksonville Air Force Base near Little Rock, and most folks who live or travel in the Arkansas River Valley have seen them many times - the ones with the huge tail sticking up.)
Here's a photo from our back deck with the plane's approx flight path - Keys Gap is about 400 feet elevation below us. Wish I'd had a video of this!
01/09/20 There were no tree shadows on the road tonight as I hiked up to the gallery in the dark. In fact I could hardly see the road - fog was so thick I was afraid of getting lost on our own driveway! On the way back down to the cabin I decided to turn off my headlamp and just stand there in the fog. Guess what - I could SEE just fine! The light was actually blocking my view since it would simply light up the fog instead of what was beyond.
I had to chuckle a little when I realized life is like that a lot - sometimes we are so worried about lightning up every detail of our lives in front of us that we’re unable to see anything.
There was an almost-full moon up above it all - not bright - but plenty of diffused moonlight and I could not only see the road far out in front of me, but also way out into the forest - I could have easily hiked through the dense forest without my headlamp on. And so I did. We’d had a little rain already, so everything was damp and soft and silent. Such a wonderful time to be in the woods at night.
01/10/20 We ended up with about 6/10’s inch of rain yesterday, but I hear the big rain will happen today (3” maybe?). We’ve been doing our last slide program of the season for the past many years as part of the Bull Shoals-White River State Park Eagle Awareness weekend and that will happen again today. It seems that no matter how hard they try, the weather is almost always bad. That tradition will continue today, with not only 100% chance of heavy rain during the today, but also some pretty severe weather this evening. Our first of two shows will begin at 3 this afternoon, a second show at 5, and we plan to be done and packed up to head home about 7, when we’ll make a mad dash to get home before the worst hits (or we may be driving right into the teeth of the worst!). This will be the final showing of our newest ARKANSAS SPLENDOR slide show.
Speaking of the slide show, we have already begun to book the dates for the next round of programs - our Fall/Holiday 2020 schedule will slowly develop over the next few months, and we plan to visit most of the normal locations as we’ve been doing for the past 15-20 years. Unfortunately we got word this week that the rental price for the Harrison location just DOUBLED from this past year to $1,000 for our free community program. We are now looking for an alternate location and/or group in Harrison to host us.
I’m sitting here typing in the dark this morning a couple of hours before first light and the winds are beginning to howl. I have a feeling that I won’t be able to watch the horizon as color creeps in and fills the sky with brilliance like I normally do (nothing but heavy fog - pea soup for breakfast!). But we sure do need the rain so I say Bring It On! The landscape needs a drink, and hopefully many waterfalls will follow...
01/11/20 Expecting it to be raining while we unloaded the van at the state park for our slide programs and book sales yesterday afternoon, we had carefully packed everything on our two large program carts and then wrapped both carts with layers of cling plastic and tarps. We developed a new system for our shows this year that has greatly sped up our loading/unloading system, and helped my back a great deal. We carry more than 500 pounds of books and program equipment on two large rolling carts, and use a pair of adjustable ramps to load them into/out of the cargo van. (the ramps were originally purchased for our pair of recumbent trikes, which we can also load into the cargo van)
When we arrived at the state park at 1pm, the heavy rains had not arrived yet, so we scrambled and were able to get everything unloaded and into the building without a single drop of rain - it was great to be prepared enough and then not have to use it!
It poured on and off during our stay, and we were not looking forward to having to wrap up the carts again to load for our trip back home after the programs. With a great stroke of luck, there was a break in the rainfall so I ran for the van, pulled up to the building, and in two minutes we had everything safely inside the van without getting wet - YIPPIE COYOTE!
We knew it was going to be a rough right home with a line of severe storms hitting us in the face. The weather lived up to the hype and then some, with constant heavy rain, thunderstorms, and lightning that seemed to never end. As we got closer to home the tornado warnings started coming in and it was like a war zone overhead when we got home - WHEW, we had made it without getting any of the reported 1” hail on us! The tornado activity was just to the south of us, and the inside of the cabin was lit up from all the electricity the storm was producing. Turns out the worst part of the storm passe just to the south of us. HAPPY CAMPERS to be home and safe.
We started a new audio book for this trip - WILD. While I didn’t care much for the beginning and could have skipped the first hour of death and heron use, when she finally actually made it to the Pacific Crest Trail the rest of it we listened to was quite rewarding. I especially enjoyed how descriptive and accurate she was with the details of what a backpacker actually goes through. We’ve still got ten hours of driving to do - somewhere - to finish the book, although it may take us a while to listen to it all (I’m not a book reader, so rely on audio books, and since I also have been known to kill over dead asleep while trying to listen to an audio book when sitting at home doing nothing, we have to restrict the audiobooks to road trips - got a LOT of them done while on our month-long Canadian trip last fall!).
We had a long and LOUD night as more and more storms passed through, ending up with about 3” of rain. It is calm and cool this morning, with the temp dropping rapidly and headed into the low 20’s by afternoon - and hopefully some SNOW!
In the meantime we’ll spend much of the day unloading the van and packing all of our program equipment away - our next show will be in November. So nice to be sitting in front of the fireplace early this morning with my lovely bride and puppies. Although one of the pups (Mia) is insisting we go on a hike, so I’ll have to replace my slippers with boots and obey. HAPPY WEEKEND TO YOU! Stay warm and safe...
MiaWilson Falls this morning was running great!
01/12/20 After a very foggy morning and half day of office work, I got to go on a hiking date today with my girlfriend! But when we arrived at the trailhead it was packed full of cars and we thought it might be kinda noisy in the woods. The Buffalo River had already dropped a great deal from the recent heavy rainfall and was running a beautiful green color (no longer flooded and muddy) - and so was Leatherwood Creek right next to it. So we decided to hike up Leatherwood Creek. I figured most of the hikers were headed to Balanced Rock Falls, and figured those folks would stay on one side of the creek so we decided to hike on the other side. While we saw other hikers a couple of times in the distance, we had the creek and forest to ourselves most of the time.
The waterfall was running well and everything else was still wet and colorful, including the rocks and bluffs. Leatherwood Creek was especially nice, with more waterfalls along the way. The temp was in the mid 30’s but both of us shed a couple of layers on the way up to the rock falls - it was just a very pleasant day to be in the woods.
The hike to Balanced Rock Falls is pretty easy most of the way - that is until the very steep climb just before you reach the falls (difficult for a lot of folks). No official trail to the falls, although there are social trails on both sides of the creek - this will be in a future waterfall guidebook of mine - maybe by the end of 2020. Here's my lovely bride this afternoon at Balanced Rock Falls near Ponca...(and the photo below is how our cabin looked at first light)
01/13/20 The mixture of colors in the sky was especialy pleasing this morning...
01/14/20 2020 is going to be my year to attempt to take control of my life and get many of the projects done that have been piling up on my to-do lists for a long time. For instance I figure I’m about five years behind on updating and creating new guidebooks alone, much less everything else. To help get me pointed in the right direction my lovely bride is in charge of making a list each week of the three most important things we need to get done THAT WEEK. Each of us will have two lists - personal and business. (I’m as far behind in my personal life as I am in business!). We just started this a couple of days ago and are already off and running! The trick will be to keep it going each week and then each month and then all year.
It was still pretty dark when I rolled out of bed early this morning. There was a sea of clouds covering the canyons below as far as I could see. Cloudy above too so there were no stars and no color. There was a little slit along the horizon that I hoped would produce some light and color as we approached sunrise, but as the sea of clouds grew and rose and the clouds above sunk down a bit that slit of open sky got smaller. I can still see the distant ridgetops and am holding out hope the sun will appear in a few minutes. In the meantime Mia and I have been getting up from in front of the fireplace and wandering outside a few times to enjoy the crisp air and beautiful scene that is spread out before us for miles (Mia mostly runs around chasing the scents of critters that passed through during the night, but once in a while she’ll look up to check on the sunrise.)
Back in front of the fireplace I’ve had my mobile computer setup and going through one of the guidebooks that needs a tiny bit of tweaking before we send it off (later today I hope) to be reprinted. This morning I’ve been going through several of the maps and making changes - not drawing anything, but rather just nudging things around a bit that may have changed. We’ve been using software that’s at least ten years old and now have updated to more modern versions - which seem to do exactly the same things as the old version, it just costs a lot more. (the older versions will no longer work on our computers)
Moving forward with each step, yet pausing and sometimes going out of my way to look around, breathe in the delightful mountain air, and enjoy the moment...
Speaking of moments, while on our way up to the office this morning (after the non-sunrise), we veered off the trail and headed down into our own little canyon towards the waterfall and through the boulder jumble. Oh my goodness the moss on the boulders was SO GREEN! That’s due to the high moisture in the air, which always makes colors more saturated and brighter. So here’s a happy moss boulder to help brighten your day!
01/15/20 A beautiful, multi-colored layered dawn this morning...
Quite warm today - in fact it was 70 by afternoon. No doubt it will be colder again soon (tomorrow in fact, and all of next week), but these warm winter days in the Ozarks are always something special - a time for even fair-weather folks to wander out into the woods.
My job today was closer to home. Eight or nine years ago I made an attempt to learn to paint - I wanted to be able to paint the scenes I’d been photographing. I could see paintings in the world all around me, but I had zero experience or talent. Spent almost an entire year going to workshops in Arkansas and other parts of the country. Bought a lot of paint, canvas, and brushes. After a year I had failed miserably - in fact I never even completed a single painting. I got close a time or two, but in the end I was unable to even sign my name and everything I had worked on ended up in the trash.
I’ve just begun another attempt to learn how to paint. This time my attitude is different and I’m trying another approach. My progress will be slow, but I’m happy to report that today I was able to actually complete a painting! It wasn’t the sort of painting I was going for, but what the heck, I had to start somewhere. By my count we have nine decks surrounding our cabin - I got the smallest one done today from start to finish using a heavy three-oil stain. Yippie coyote (in a low voice). More to come...
01/16/20 HOLY MOLY someone opened the freezer door! We kinda got lured into tropical temps yesterday but this morning we stepped out into more of an arctic adventure - the temp was down near freezing with a stiff gale out of the north. I had to zip everything up and even pull the hood on my jacket around my face tight. It was just a couple of weeks ago when conditions like this would not have bothered me a bit, but I guess having the warm weather just yesterday made my body relax and weak.
Seems like someone else was expecting spring to come along - these heirloom daffodils from the old Casey homesite here are already up out of the ground a week bit early - OOPS!
My lovely bride took Wilson to get his thick winter coat shaved off (we wait until a skirt of long fur appears on his backside, unbecoming of a grizzled wilderness dog), so it was up to Mia and I to hold down the fort. She isn’t one for sitting around inside so we spent much of the day doing laps around the property, mostly hunting squirrels in naked trees. I was happy to have her with me since she almost demands a fast pace, and I needed that just to keep warm.
This evening after Wilson got home and we romped around a little bit outside, it was dark-thirty and we all were sitting in front of the fireplace winding down from a busy day when a bit of excitement hit. I heard the hum and then roar of engines, ran outside just in time to look up and see the lights from one of our favorite airplanes, a giant Air Force C-130 cargo that was banking directly above the cabin! We turned the outside lights on as a second plane approached and seemed to pivot right above the cabin again. Then a third, fourth, and FIFTH! We stood on the deck and waved - it was an amazing air show! They had approached from the east and disappeared to the south, their lights slowly getting smaller and smaller just above the horizon.
01/17/20 We got a couple of winter weather advisories during the night and sure enough, a solid cover of sleet pelted the cabin for a couple of hours. By daylight the temp was in the 20s with a brisk wind, but nothing on the ground, except, well, for frozen ground, plus a few frozen window panes (not the neat ice crystals like is in the new picture book, but just frozen water drops). Actually the longer I sit here in front of the fireplace the more our big windows are getting frozen over - perhaps we’re getting more freezing rain. I shall investigate with the pups when we head to the office in a few minutes. Hope your day is warmer!
01/18/20 Sitting in the dark before dawn staring up at a fat crescent moon that’s shining down from the tops of our pine trees. I never can remember which phase of the moon is waning and which is waxing, but the current moon is getting smaller - last time I saw it a few nights ago it was just above half.
In between the pine trees and the moon were thin layers of clouds whizzing by - I wonder how fast an actual little cloud layer like this is moving? It is all relative of course - the closer the clouds are to you the faster they will appear to move, clouds that are farther away moving at the same speed will appear to move slowly. Eventually the clouds that are far enough away traveling at the same speed may not appear to move at all - that is until you do a timelapse sequence with a camera and then you can see movement. I guess with a few exceptions all clouds are moving at some speed - if not in a single direction they are expanding or contracting, and sometimes both, and sometimes also all three at once!
When we got yet another rain shower “alert” from the weather-something yesterday afternoon, not a drop of rain fell. But oh my goodness did some sort of front hit us - the wind howled and some trees bent way over and swayed back and forth. That went on all evening and night - so much so that many times our pups ran out the door howling themselves and dashed off into the woods - chasing the sound of the wind. Mia at the front door (below)
High winds at 30 degrees made us bundle up each time we went outside to hike to or from the office, and also had an impact on dinner! Friday has been our traditional pizza night since the early days of Cloudland, but now with our outdoor wood-fired pizza oven the weather sometimes determines if it happens or not. The oven has been moved a few times and now rests in a compromise spot on the front deck - under cover just barely, at a location where the heavy smoke that comes out of it’s little chimney won’t build up under the roof of the porch. But it still takes a direct hit when the wind blows. And on a cold night with high winds like last night it takes a lot longer to get up to the 700 degrees F that I like to cook at. All the work was worth it though - I was able to pull a pair of really nice small pizzas out - unfortunately they were so good that my lovely bride and I ate every scrap!
It was late in the day yesterday when I finally accomplished and got to check off the #1 business item on my check list for the week - a minor update to one of our hiking guidebooks. We’re using a new printing company in Illinois for the first time with one of these guidebooks and I wanted to make sure everything was going to work. And then after I had made and kneaded the pizza dough and started the wood fire inside the pizza oven, I scrambled around out in the garage to get the next set of peg boards installed - also on my to-do list for the week. Everything worked out just fine and we were able to sit down in time to watch the first episode of the new season of Grace & Frankie (I know ALL the new episodes are available now, but we’re trying not to binge watch!)
Today will continue with my to-do list for the week (we work seven days a week here and I’ve still got a dozen chores left on mine), plus have two meetings at the gallery. The temps should be a little warmer, with sunshine, and maybe the winds would be howling so much - I suspect we’ll make several trips up the hill and through the woods between the gallery and office which will make our day that much better. HAPPY WEEKEND TO YOU!
01/19/20 We got some new frost flowers in bloom, and they hung around all day and never melted...
01/24/20 Not sure where the past week went since my last post, but I know what happened tonight - I hiked a half mile through negative space in the dark! Landscape painters talk about “negative space” frequently, and I guess photographers do to, but I never really paid much attention nor knew what they were talking about. But tonight as I stepped out of the cabin and into darkness, I realized for the first time what it was - and I welcomed it.
We left the cabin this morning and drove slickery roads through a snow-covered landscape to deliver a large canvas print to a customer in Little Rock (then had a nice lunch with fellow RV long-distance travelers, Susan and Ray Scott). After a several days here of nasty weather and ice on the trees, ice on the roads, and ice on the rocks, it was good to finally get some snowfall. And I guess it didn’t melt any today at our cabin since there seemed to be as much if not more snow on the ground when we got home about dark this evening.
Anyway, when I headed up to the office after we got home I didn’t need a flashlight to find my way. The forest all around me was white, but the road was - well, there was no road - there was just a blank space in between the snow! I.E. “negative space” So it was easy to hike up the hill in the dark without a light - I just walked in the negative space. Now I know what it is and what it means - the part of the scene that is blank (but sometimes there is a road there!).
Speaking of walking, I’ve made several dozen hikes between the cabin and office this week, and each one seemed to get colder and the ground more difficult to hike on. At first there was just a little ice in the trees. Then some of the forest floor had bits of ice. Then the ground actually froze solid and some areas started to heave - kinda like a frost heave in Alaska! Lots of frost flowers formed and stayed out for days. Finally the forest floor completely froze over and got to slick that we had to use Yaktrax on our boots - which worked GREAT on the ice! We’ve had several pairs on hand for years now. (Yactrack at REI)
But it was the high winds that blew up from the SOUTH that really surprised me this past couple of days - southern winds are supposed to be warm - but these were FRIGID! Yak, yak, YAK..
01/25/20 Cool, calm, and colorful at dawn - with a bit of snow on the deck!
01/27/20 It was an hour or two before dawn when I got up and pushed the “make coffee” button on the refrigerator door. I was immediately dawn to the far end of our living room - there were a gazillion twinkling stars out there beyond! Stepping outside into the yard I was mesmerized by how crystalline the dark sky was, and how brilliant the stars were - and so many of them! It was one of those nights where the “transparency” of the air and sky was so high/clear - a good telescope night for those that have them.
As I sat on the sofa with little Mia and sipped my iceland mocha, I realized I was looking directly across and a little bit down at some of the stars. Normally stars fade out and disappear and they get down to the horizon, but today they just kept going until they went behind the earth. The photo below was taken at dawn so no stars on the horion, but you can see how crystalline it was.
Our mile-long loop trail here has a few small dead trees and large storm-blown limbs down across it, and while I maintain the trail as I hike each day (kicking small loose rocks and scattered limbs off the trail), some are too heavy for me to move. I have a really terrific medium-size battery chain saw that is great, but I always forget to pack it with me. Some of those logs are easy step-overs, one or two I have to detour around. There is this one large limb that was really green/dense/heavy when it landed on the trail and I can’t move it, but Wilson seems to take pride and joy whenever he gets to it - he leaps in the air with a smile on his face. And while I’ve always thought about taking a slow-motion video of him doing just that, I only think about it as he’s about to make the jump so never get my camera out in time. But yesterday he was up on a big log nearby looking at something when I actually remembered to pull out the phone, got myself positioned on the trail and waited for him to come running towards me. Here’s the video of what I see several times a day - my boy doing what he loves to do - run and play and jump in the woods. Kinda reminds me of what I was doing at his age (he’s almost 7).
Here's the video clip - a 15 mb .mov file (it will open in a new window) - CLICK HERE
We had an interesting wildlife moment while my lovely bride and I were sipping tea in the warm afternoon sunshine yesterday. There was a cat in the front yard. What? Really? Both pups were napping, or at least could care less about a trespassing cat. We listened, and the cat got closer. M E O W. We both got up and wandered to the front porch, but there was no cat. Only a hawk. We were puzzled. This medium-size hawk was in a tree in the middle of Pam’s park (our front yard). He made a noise or two that kina sounded like a cat, then flew off deeper into the woods. OK, so where was the CAT? The hawk was not carrying anything. After an investigation of all known facts and a search of the area that included a little bit of sniffing by our hounds, we determined that there was no cat and it had been the hawk who was meowing. Do hawks do that?
01/28/20 A beautiful pastel dawn...
01/31/20 My lovely bride and I watched her docu film this evening and were joyed and moved and happy for her - way to go TAYLOR SWIFT! Thank you for sharing your heart and speaking your mind and trying to make America a better place, especially for those who come behind us. We are already better because of you. HAPPY JANUARY EVERYONE!
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