CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - July 2013
Cloudland Cabin Cam, July 31, 6:12am - July leaves us with cool temps, rain & thunder, and lots of baby clouds!
Journal updated Monday the 29th
*TWO NEW ONE-DAY PHOTO WORKSHOPS ADDED IN OCTOBER! (one is almost full - sign up today!!!)
Print Of The Week #31 - Blazing Star Sunrise
07/01/13 I offer this photograph (taken near our cabin a few years ago) as a small tribute to the 19 brave souls - heros every one of them - who lost their lives while battling a horrific wildfire in Arizona yesterday. The flames of those angels rose up into the heavens and will forever look down upon us...
07/03/13 I had a Cloudland Moment today while returning to the cabin after an early-morning fitness hike. Sometimes when I'm making tracks and dripping sweat, I think I hear something off in the woods, but I have to come to a complete stop to get some clear air (I tend to make a lot of noise when I hike fast - think elephant). So I stopped dead in my tracks, and listened. There was nothing in the air, not even a bird tweet.
But I started looking around me, and realized I was standing not only in the middle of a forest, but in the middle of a forest of different species of trees. Maple, pine, cedar, red oak, white oak, sweetgum, dogwood, redbud, black gum, ash, hickory, and a couple more that I don't recall - all within a hundred feet or so of where I was standing. So MANY different tree species within such a small area of forest! Diversity is one of the things that makes not only the Buffalo River area so special, but also Arkansas, the Ozarks, the United States, and indeed our entire world.
But getting back to our little forest here for a moment. I got to thinking about how wonderful the wilderness here is, yet how different it all looked just a generation ago. Or the generation before that. Or when pioneers first settled in the Buffalo River area. Or when the Indians first migrated here. The landscape around us has evolved and matured for eons, with each time period looking completely different than the one before. The same thing will be true going forward - the landscape will be different. Better or worse? Who knows - that will be up to us, and to future generations to decide, as has always been the case...
A couple of wildlife notes. The whippoorwills around our cabin have not lost any volume in their voices! And yesterday I saw the first pile of bear scat that I'd seen this year since the day Lucy and I had an encounter with three bears. The scat was black as coal, and I could not tell what he had been eating. Blackberries are on the vine, but they are mostly greenberries right now. I suspect the hot temps that will return this coming week will begin to produce some really nice fruit.
07/05/13 I had a couple of wildlife moments today. We were in town, and while my lovely bride was inside I took the black and mysterious Miss Lucy for a walk around the edges of the parking lot - a nice wide spot of lush grass with many trees. It was kinda warm, with a bright sun, so we hung close to the trees and their cool shadows. As we passed beneath one tree a mockingbird landed on a nearby branch and really started to throw a fit. The more we moved the louder and more anxious the bird got. I figured she had a nest nearby, so we turned around and quickly retreated to a previous shade tree. And just about the time we entered the next spot of shade, I SWEAR I heard that mocking bird say "Thank you." Is that possible? I guess it is - they are able to imitate many different sounds, although it was more likely the hot sun getting the best of me.
And just a few minutes ago tonight, while I was outside in the dark taking a shower, there was another bird encounter. The wilderness spread out all around me was still and quiet, no moon and pretty dark. And then a BRIGHT FLASH lit up like someone had turned a spotlight on me. "What the heck?" And then I heard the loud BOOM - of course, someone was shooting off fireworks! They were more than a mile away, and I saw the flash before the sound got to me. Oh, the bird? As soon as the BOOM arrived, a whippoorwill started screaming - he was about 20 feet away on a branch - much LOUDER than the fireworks!
A belated Happy Birthday America!
07/07/13 It was four-something as I sipped my java on the back deck in the early twilight this morning. The air was perfectly still and quiet. The stars had already gone to bed, and the sky was beginning to morph from black to deep blue to mauve to pink on the horizon.
A blast from above shattered the serenity. Nuts. Acorn that is. For some reason, known only to the nut gods and squirrels, at about 9:30 last night, acorns began to turn loose and fall to earth, or in our case, to the metal roof of our cabin - and they did so with a BANG! This only happened every once in a while, and so it was always a surprise, and a bit of a jolt - especially this morning since the nut landed just a few feet above my head.
But most of the time it was quiet, still, serene outside, with just a little hint of cool air, with that special sweetness that only happens in the summertime.
And then a coyote let out a yell, changing volume and pitch that seemed to last forever. When his long note ended, it went on, echoing far up both the Whitaker Creek and Buffalo River canyons. The air was so clean and clear, and it sounded like this guy was very, very close, but he had to have been across the canyon, probably standing at the top or base of the bluff on Beagle Mountain, a half mile away. I wish you could have heard this - the note was SO clean and clear!
His second mournful wail lasted even longer and with more changes. And before his breath ran out, another coyote answered, and the two of their voices met in the middle of the canyon and swirled round and round for what seemed like ten seconds - equal to the best duets like John and Paul, Paul and Art. The paused for a moment, then both sang together for one other very long note - wow, just WOW!
And during this note my friend Mr. Whippoorwill sang out, trying to equal or exceed the volume of the coyotes. I had stereo in the wilderness at dawn!
When the trio had ended, there was one hoot from a lone owl way out there somewhere, and then the airwaves fell silent.
All the while the symphony was going on there were bats crisscrossing right in front of me. The lighter it got the more of them I could see. The entire few moments with the coyotes, birds and bats was surreal, and wonderful - moments like this are one of the reasons I love the wilderness.
It was kind of ironic to be surrounded by my friends the bast this morning - it was 40 years ago today that I led nine tours 200 feet underground at Blanchard Springs Caverns - it was our first official day of operation, and we let everyone in for free. We had something like 8,000 people at our door, and through the cave during the day - we all worked a 12-hour shift (there were 32 of us original cave guides). That was my first, and almost only real job. I was actually hired illegally - I was only 17 years old and in high school, and the legal minimum age for a civil service job was 18. Oops. So Happy Birthday BS Caverns!
One of my jobs this week has been digging a ditch. It's a small and relatively-shallow ditch, but one that has taken me several days to do, and I'm not quite finished yet. We are running an electrical line underground to one of our outbuildings here at the cabin. It is only 200 feet long, but most of the "soil" is really compacted rock and clay and very hard soil, so it has been slow going (and has required lots of ibuprofen). I've been using a pick mattox, steel pry bar, and cutter mattox for the job. It has been kind of like cutting a hiking trail across a steep hillside - which is akin to digging a ditch - and I used to do a lot of that in the heat and humidity of the summer. I am a wee bit older now, and for some reason the earth seems to be harder and with even more rocks.
For some parts of the ditch I've had to make six passes to get it deep enough for the conduit pipe that carries the heavy aluminum wires - each pass cutting into the rocky-clay-soil just a little deeper. I am almost done now - another hour or two should do it. And during one of my "breaks" I was able to get the heavy wire through a wall of the cabin, and snaked 30 feet through the sub flooring to the main breaker panel in the laundry room in the basement - I'm equally good at being a ditch digger and electrician.
I do believe that leading tours 200 feet underground in 57 degree air temp 40 years ago was a little more pleasant than ditch digging in this summer heat though, ha, ha!
A note or two about my job with the U. S. Forest Service. I've been working for them in some capacity for 40 years now - as an employee, contractor, consultant, and as a volunteer - I've put in almost 20,000 hours for the forest service as a volunteer (was awarded the Volunteer of the Year for the country one year). I've worked for five different national forests - Ozark, Ouachita, Mark Twain, Teton, and Shoshone - other than my cave guiding, always trail work. What was really funny about my first forest service job as a cave guide (1973-76 working summers and weekends during the rest of the year), was that I was PETRIFIED to speak in front of even small groups when I started - yet my job was to talk off the cuff to 30 strangers for an hour and a half, five tours a day (we worked 10-hour shifts). Back then our tours were not scripted one bit - everything we talked about during the tour was of our own choosing (not the case with most other commercial caves, where you hear the same schpeel over and over again). It was a LOT of fun, and I absolutely loved being in a cave all day (and sometimes all night too - they used to let us explore other parts of the cave during off hours - this was before there were other parts of the cave developed). That job taught me the gift of gab, which is often reflected now during my book tour programs when you can hardly get me to shut up! That was almost always the case down in the cave - I really hated to see each tour end and the people leave me, or the end of the day when there were not more tours...
It is sunrise now, and I never heard another peep out of the coyotes - perhaps they met up down there in the canyon somewhere?
Just in case some of you are wondering about this photo, if you look close you can see: Pam's door art; my great-great grandparent's giant iron kettle that they brought over to the USA from Europe in the 1800's (used for making lye soap back then - now filled with flowers); a pair of raised garden beds (one filled with green peppers right now!); the weather station on top (that has not worked in several years); the carport wall hiding the "bookmobile" van - which is now used to haul all sorts of big items that won't fit in our cars); the "piazza" made of flagstone rock that Pam's dad installed (with help from cousin Tyler); and finally - a line of flowerbeds up on the deck - built by Pam's dad - that are filled with lots of great flowers!
Monday morning update on the ditch - it is mostly complete, with the heavy "direct-bury" cable installed inside the glued conduit (kind of like wearing suspenders and a belt, but I tend to over-build things), and almost ready for power. Oh my aching back!
07/17/13 The big news on Cave Mountain this week was the funnel cloud that was seen by our friend Sonya yesterday, a couple miles (as the crow flies) from the cabin. Bright red and orange blobs flew by all afternoon on the radar screen, some of them bearing down on our cabin and making direct hits with heavy rain. We stood outside and watched the big black clouds just across the way at Mossville - that particular storm had quite a wallop when the lightning blasted off. It was probably that storm that Sonya saw the funnel cloud in a few minutes later. I wonder if she wet her pants?
We did get a bit of rain out of those rolling red bombs, just for a few minutes at a time, and the water was sucked up immediately by the parched landscape. We are in full summertime mode here in the High Ozarks, in a holding pattern of mostly dry and dusty and high temps that will last for several weeks - a typical July.
But the early mornings have been just delightful, with temps down in the 60's and even lower, birds playing and singing about like it was the peak of spring. For some reason we've been hearing a lot of coyotes - even during the middle of the day - which is rather unusual. Their songs can be everything from slow and deep and mournful, to high-pitched laughter. If I were a coyote, I'd be sitting in the creek right about now, just like our little buddy Aspen used to do.
We have just received the first samples of our two new 2014 Arkansas scenic calendars - our old standard wall calendar, and the brand new weekly engagement planning calendar. We should have them both in stock by late September or early October and I will post that info here as soon as we get them under our roof. Our Holiday Special package will include both calendars and the new Buffalo River Beauty picture book, which is scheduled to arrive in late October.
07/18/13 There were pink streaks of clouds painted across a soft blue canvas at dawn today - a pastel morning. The big red oak that grows up from the middle of our deck below arched over and across the scene, its branches and leaves silhouetted against the sky. The air was filled with tweety birds dancing above, and cooing doves perched out there somewhere. Stillness and calm was the order of the day.
And then one of the red oak leaves decided to wake up and turn loose from the branch that give it life, and rode the heavy air back and forth, twirling a little, as gravity pulled it downward. There was a group of wild summer sunflowers on the hillside below that had gathered their brilliant yellow flowers together to await the coming dawn. The little green leaf gently came to rest right in the middle of them, landing on top of the flowers. Hello! The leaf will remain there, suspended a few feet above the ground, until a breeze comes up and whisks it away to continue its journey. Eventually the leaf will find a final resting place on the ground, where it will gradually decompose and become earth.
There will be millions of small things going on around everyone today. I hope you get the chance to take a moment or two to look around and enjoy...
07/23/13 We were blasted awake at 2am yesterday morning with a sky filled with thunderheads that were doing their best to make up for the Fourth of July display we never had. The air rumbled and the ground shook as I ran around shutting down and disconnecting computers and other equipment in the cabin and also over in the gallery building. While I was outside, I realized that the lightning bolts were not the only light source - there was a giant, beautiful, and very BRIGHT full moon shining. And there were also stars up there. I moved down to the lower deck of the cabin to get a better view of it all, and oh my what an amazing scene it was - thunderheads cracking with lightning bolts all around, stars, and that full moon, all in the same sky at the same time. It was kind of surreal, and one of those scenes that was impossible to capture on any device other than with own memory. The heavens put on quite a show for such an early hour!
It is about 4am today, and while there are no rumblings directly overhead, I can see orange flashes of lightning in distant storms way off in the southeast. And that same big old bright moon is lighting up the wilderness spread out before me. The ridges and canyons are no black, but rather a very, VERY deep blue, or is it green - we don't record or process color too well at night. Far up Whitaker Creek there is a single baby cloud being born. With the light of the full moon hitting it, the little clouds is a brilliant pure white, a stark contrast to the dark tones of the surrounding landscape.
And then I heard a critter that seemed out of place and time - a lone bullfrog sang out. I just had to laugh. He sounded like he was down on the Buffalo - probably up early enjoying the beautiful moon as I was.
CRAZY weather lately, ey? We had been paying particular attention to the storms of late, watching dozens and dozens of red and yellow and green blobs move across the radar screen. It seems like each day brings the storms rolling through from a different direction. One day the line of storms changed their travel direction 180 degrees in about an hour - they had been coming from the northeast, and then all of a sudden the next time I looked at the radar screen everyone was moving up from the southwest.
While many parts of the High Ozarks have received significant amounts of rainfall this past week, we're really only been hit with one downpour, which was a big one and dumped about an inch of rain in 20 minutes. We've had a few other short showers, but nothing too major. Please don't repeat this to anyone, but for once I've NOT been hoping for rain. We are in the middle of a small construction project here and raindrops are unwelcome.
I've had a couple of encounters with bears this spring, but mostly we've hardly seen any bear sign at all, and nothing right around our cabin. Others have remarked how scarce they seem to be this year, which is unusual since early summer is when they are the most active. And then yesterday we heard from a neighbor just a few miles away at the far end of Cave Mountain - they've had FIVE bears around their place, including a blonde (rare), cinnamon (more common), and a brown - all are black bears though, the only species that we have in Arkansas.
In case you may be wondering about our current Print Of The Week promotions, I skipped a couple of weeks this month (life gets in the way sometimes you know), and so now am trying to catch up, with two of the specially-priced prints available right now - but TODAY is the last day for those (WOW, the image of Falling Water looks TERRIFIC as a Black Mat Print!). I'll be adding a new print today, and then another one later in the week. I should be back on schedule next week with a new print each week.
07/25/13 It seemed that I had overslept this morning when I opened my eyes and saw a very bright scene coming in the windows. But the clock said it was 4:03. A big moon would not create such broad brightness, so I knew the clock was wrong and dawn was happening. But when I stepped out onto the back deck I discovered what was going on. It was almost a total white out with fog, except for the cabin and surrounding trees. And that big old bright moon was shining through the fog and creating a giant soft lightbox that lit up everything (this is an item that studio photographers use to light up a subject by shooting a large flash through white cloth) - I almost needed sunglasses!
I set up my camera gear to take a few pictures, and wound up spending the next hour or so shooting with three different cameras. This time of the year the moon is very low in the southern sky - kind of like the sun is during the wintertime. And so I was able to get pictures of the silhouetted trees around the back deck, the foggy-blue backdrop of sky, and the moon shining through, at times with a red ring around it. Eventually some of the fog cleared out and the sky filled with STARS - yippie! It was a very surreal scene, but then a lot of the things I photograph are such - which is often why I point my cameras at them! I have not seen those images yet, but when I upload them to a computer and have a look I hope to find one suitable for you to look at here.
Just before sunrise the fog started to back off a bit more, revealing Beagle Point floating in the fog like an island - Beagle Island! There was a nice blue and pink sky behind it, so I took another picture for the deck cam shot of the day. Hope your day is just as wonderful as the light show here has been the past couple of hours!
FYI, the classic Mill Pond Sunrise photo that I just posted as the Print Of The Week is only going to be available at the special print prices for the next couple of days, so if you know of someone who might like a print of this be sure to have them order soon. It is one of my alltime favorite sunrise images, with a blast of brilliant color that I've seldom ever seen. The old barn in the photo fell down years ago, so this scene will never be duplicated. Also a flood destroyed the short dam that created the Mill Pond, so reflections like this don't happen there either. It was the perfect storm for a sunrise photo!
EVENING UPDATE - the moon, stars, and fog photos turned out pretty nice - in fact it is now one of my most favorite lunar photos ever! I've added it to the Print Of The Week list, so it will be available (along with the Mill Pond Sunrise photo) at the special sale price through Sunday. Then I will be back to the normal schedule of posting only one new one each Monday. That is Beagle Point that you see rising out of the fog.
EVENING UPDATE #2 - Since all of our fall photo workshops filled so early this year, we have decided to add two NEW one-day workshops in October, so these two dates are now open and space is available - October 12th, and October 13th. Go to our workshops page for more info and to register - I expect they will fill pretty quickly.
TWO NEW ONE-DAY PHOTO WORKSHOPS JUS T ANNOUNCED - October 12, and October 13, 2013
07/29/13 Amber came out to the back deck yesterday where we were cooking dinner and asked "How do you get something out of the toilet that you don't want to kill?" (Sounded like a case for the "Turtle Man" of recent TV fame.) Living at Cloudland, there was no telling what might have been living in Amber's toilet, so I went into her bathroom and lifted the lid with great interest. It was a blue-tailed sink, and a baby one at that. Could you imagine a skink jumping on you while you were sitting there doing your business? The skink was successfully relocated into the front yard.
On a more serious note, a car showed up at the cabin in the afternoon with news that one of their group of 21 hikers had fallen 15-20 feet off of a ledge in the wilderness near Mule Trail Falls, was injured, and needed to be evacuated. I called the sheriff's department (we are still the only county in Arkansas without 911 service for our land lines, but it is coming), and the dispatcher set into motion a search and rescue mission.
I figured out a short cut into the area and the hikers took me down to the lady - she was injured and probably broke her leg, but she was awake and stable - the group had a nurse with them who no doubt helped out a great deal. I scrambled back up to the top of the ridge and the road, where I met with the first rescue team member (a volunteer from a local search and rescue team), and led him down to the injured hiker. We met up with the forest service who had also answered the call and had been directed by Amber to come in via trail. I took both men down to the injured hiker. Members of the hiking club assisted in directing other rescue team members, and were a big help.
By the time I had hiked back up to the road to my car, Glen Wheeler had arrived and was setting up a command post and getting everyone organized. One of the first groups that he sent in - carrying a large aluminum basket that would be ultimately used to transport the lady out - were Mennonites from the Berryville area - and the guy at the head of the basket was the foreman of the crew that built our very own Cloudland log cabin! (He also built our gallery building). Small world.
Plans were to hoist the lady up and over the top of a 60' bluff that she had been hiking along the base of, then carry her through the wilderness, up the steep hill, and out to a waiting ambulance. Not an easy task, but our search and rescue guys in this area are the finest on the planet, and she was in good hands. As always, a SPECIAL THANKS to each and every one of them for doing their jobs so well!