CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - July 2016
Cloudland Colorado Campsite Cam, July 31 - a lone cow in the meadow this morning
Journal update on the 31st - July's last bucks
Fall color photo workshops page HERE
FREE SHIPPING ON ALL ORDERS ALL THE TIME - NO MINIMUM ORDER.
our CLOUDLAND cabin and property is FOR SALE - info here
Print Of The Week Special - God Beams
07/01/16 (just after midnight, so barely July) There is ELECTRICITY in the air tonight! I'm perched in the middle of a high meadow on a ridgetop with a 360-degree view. The hay is pretty tall, but my tripod and I are taller. I'm working on a lightning-bug picture with the camera pointing to the south - lots and lots of tiny green streaks of light firing off everywhere. Above the meadow they sky is lighting up as well, with what I can tell are at least a dozen thunderstorms going on. 'Tis one of those nights where most of the flashes are soundless - just lightning and no thunder. But every once in a while - like just now - there will come a rolling boom that engulfs me and shakes the ground - and the rumble just keeps going on and on, echoing across the many distant ridgetops and down into and out of the canyons. No rain here, just a great light show!
Well I did it - FINALLY completed one of our publishing projects - the 2017 ARKANSAS WALL calendar. Funny how it takes so long to do one little job that only has 14 photos in it. All 14 are recent and never before published (other than probably in this Journal). Some of the photos were easy picks - in fact several I knew the moment I pressed the camera shutter they were top contenders for the calendar. Each photograph has to not only stand on its own, but also has to be interesting enough to be stared at for a full month on your home or office wall. I hope these images will be good enough for ya.
That's one job under my belt, and I've been working on #2, the 2017 ARKANSAS ENGAGEMENT calendar - it will have more than 50 photos - some from years gone by, many others brand new. I've gone through several hundred thousands photos looking for images that fit the vertical format of this calendar - some of these were shot specifically this past year for this specific calendar. In fact there were many times when I would head out in search of vertical subjects for the calendar. Some of those were easy picks, but many of them are not making the first cut - you never really know how a 3-d scene will transfer to the 2d world of paper and screens. I have one folder with about 35 that are pretty strong, and another folder with 40 others that I'm thinking about. If I don't find I want from those I will dig deeper.
All the while I've also been pulling photos for the new picture book, which is project #3 - it will have more than 120 ALL NEW images in it - at least that is our goal - no photos that previously appeared in any other of our picture books. In some ways that makes the selection process easier (I only have to look through new material), but in other ways I hate to leave out key photos - but new is new, and we'll just have to wait and see how it goes.
By my count I'm nearly a full month behind with these publishing projects - life does get in the way. Just like yesterday for instance. I had been testing a new camera - specifically for nighttime photography use - and when it came time to start looking at the images I had taken the night before but I had to update my processing software before I could read the files from the new camera. That meant I had to lug my big computer from the my offic space in the gallery over to the cabin - no internet at the gallery, only at the cabin - and with everything being APPS these days, the computer has to be connected to the net to download direct to the harddrive.
OK, so I got the software updated just fine, then after I hauled the computer back to the gallery it failed to start up. OOPS! Not sure what happened, but after a couple hours of trouble-shooting I gave up and lugged the computer back to the cabin. I was able to quickly boot the computer up into "recovery" mode, and was able to get the problem solved - which took about seven hours of download time (we have DSL at the cabin - very large file).
So, OK, I get everything back to the gallery and start working for the night, when first my keyboard won't work, then a replacement keyboard I hooked up refused to type the number 5. It is tough for me to process images and name things without using the number 5! Luckily I had another keyboard. But then I discovered that another key piece of software would not work with the newest operating system that the recovery process installed! Fortunately that one was an easy fix.
I have begun the process of moving my internal clock forward about eight hours so that I'll be able to be wide awake to teach three all-night photo workshops next week that are back-to-back-to-back. I'm staying up an hour later each night, then taking my normal sleeping pill and getting about five hours of solid sleep. I'm up until about 2am today. I don't want to wake up my bride at 2am (3am tomorrow, etc.), nor do I want her to wake me when she gets up at normal-person time. So I've sort of moved into our little camper van until the end of the workshops, which is parked and plugged in at the cabin. So far that process is working well - I still have another full week to go though.
Wednesday night my bride and I took a break and watched The Bridges Of Madison County.
OOPS, it is starting to RAIN here, so I need to go secure my camera gear! Seven drops is about all we got - but they were large drops. Continue with lightning bugs...
And back to Bridges. I know this is a girl's movie, but it has always been one of my favorites, and being able to visit the locations last month really made the movie extra special - so many things we noticed this time around and were able to connect with - you know. And now we can't wait to go back to Iowa and see all those places again!
OHHHH, I very cool breeze is sweeping across this high meadow - pushed off of one of the big thunderheads out there somewhere I bet. It sure does feel great! WELCOME TO JULY! Time for me to quit playing with lightning bugs and get back to picking photos for the calendar...
2am now. We did get a good burst of rainfall - the air is so sweet outside! But major thunder and lightning to go along with it, so I had to shut down the big computer.
07/02/16 Almost 3am and I'm just about to shut things down for the night. I didn't go out tonight to take pictures, but instead spent the past 10 hours locked up in the print room working on the engagement calendar. I've made great progress tonight, and am hoping to get it completed this weekend if all goes well. But I've had to bring out the big guns - I've been rocking to A Hard Day's Night and other classic Beatles albums. I usually reserve them for the final push to get the new picture book completed, but felt it was necessary to bring on the Beatles tonight.
Along the way I discovered one very old image of mine taken many moons ago that was the frame before I took one of my all-time best-selling photos. I actually had no idea I'd taken this new-found image - no telling if it will have the same impact as the other one, but I like it.. I'm hoping this new image will make it into the picture book. And then just now, after having already given up finding a really nice image from a recent trip into Waterfall Hollow - the trip where I busted my tail on SLICK rocks (actually it was my poor elbow, but who's counting) - that fall prompted me to begin wearing a crash helmet when I'm in the woods. Anyway, the light was so harsh and terrible that I thought all of that work and pain was in vain, but at about 2:30 this morning I discovered one photo with great light (cloud passed overhead), and it is the one I went in that day to shoot - YIPPIE COYOTE! Only problem is that I REALLY like it as a black and white image. I will probably already have one black and white waterfall in the engagement calendar (and perhaps in the book too) - not sure if I could handle two. I'm not a black and white photographer - not good enough to see the shapes and tones - but once in a while I find one I like.
We no longer have books in the Hastings bookstore in Russellville - they filed for bankruptsy and are unable to pay us for our books they sell. BUT since we now have we have FREE SHIPPING on ALL ORDERS, it costs you no more to order direct from our secure online web page (hint, hint).
OK, 3am, time for me to head across the compound and crawl into our little camper van for several hours of sleep...(but first, just one more of the Fab Four - no one has ever come close to their accomplishments in the music industry - and the music they made remains so mighty fine now 46 years after they broke up!).
07/03/16 I snuck out during the night and got another lightning bug photo - this one shows them during a three-hour time frame:
07/04/16 1:15am. Another thunder-boomer is rolling in, shaking the ground and lighting up the sky. We've seen a few of them this weekend, with more to come they say. I just put a timer on one - the thunder lasted for 16 seconds. The landscape needs a drink, so we're glad to have them. Sometimes the temperature will rise and fall 10-15 degrees in 30 minutes as storms approach or march on. Sometimes the winds are so inviting that I find myself looking for a tree to climb up in just so I can experience the full force - John Muir used to do that and reports getting pretty excited.
There was other thunder in the sky out here too. Pam and I sat on the back deck for an hour this past evening and got to watch quite a fireworks display from distant neighbors miles away - or actually several of them. We have views out to five miles across the wilderness and beyond, and colorful bursts would light up the night, then the CRACK, bang and booms would wash over us and keep on rolling. There must have been something different in or about the air - we've seen and heard years of fireworks displays here, but the sound has never has so much depth to it before. I've not shot off any fireworks since childhood, but do enjoy seeing them (and with a wet forest there is little chance of wildfire we hope).
I spent most of the past couple of days out here in the print room working on calendar #2 and I'm happy to report that I just completed it - YIPPIE COYOTE! We went through five different drafts, hopefully refining each one, and finally have put the 2017 Arkansas Weekly Planning/Engagement calendar to bed. It feels good, this our fourth edition of the calendar, which includes a lot of brand new material. Both of the new calendars will be available later this fall. I'll post the covers here later this week.
OK, so only one publishing project left for 2016 - the new picture book (my 17th) - ARKANSAS: IN MY OWN BACKYARD. I've been working on it all along, setting images aside while doing the calendars. And tonight I started to make selections and dig around to see what sort of material I have. My deadline is fast approaching, so keep your fingers crossed and wish me luck...
07/06/16 We just completed an EPIC nighttime photo workshop at 5am today. The skies were totally clear for almost the entire shoot (we started about 10pm and shot until about 4:30am). The Milky Way was brilliant, and the students were all producing amazing images at each stop. Only one student had ever done a serious Milky Way photo before, and all went home with a memory card full of not only spectacular Milky Way images, but also wonderful memories of what I hope was a night they will not soon forget. I never took my camera out of the bag - I get a kick out of spending my time walking around looking at everyone's new photos as the pop up on the back of their camera's LCD screen. Sometimes I would just stand back there, alone in the darkness, and listen. It is easy to tell how pleased someone is with a picture - they are usually quite vocal, and it always fills my heart with joy to hear the exclamation points they omit!
We begin the night's shooting standing right in the middle of where the Buffalo River used to run, but the great flood last December left that location high and cry and a PERFECT spot to shoot from - no wading into the water for the best view of the Milky Way rising and reflected in the river pool below. It was epic! By 3am we were standing in the middle of a graveyard in awe at the scene spread out before us. Since I didn't take any pictures I can't share with you, but hopefully some of the students will post a photo or two from the night online.
This was the first of a new style of nighttime workshop for me, and I think the format worked pretty well - only I forgot to load COFFEE CUPS in the van! We managed to scrape up a couple of used sonic cups that were shared and everyone had plenty of caffeine to make it through the night. Come to think of it, they really didn't need any - they were more like giddy school kids out discovering the next greatest thing in their lives - and I believe that is exactly what happened.
Today after four hours of sleep I'm recycling and tweaking my program for the next nighttime workshop - which begins at 5pm this afternoon. I don't know how we can come close to last night's show, but we'll be out all night doing our best. Work on the new picture book is on hold until I complete the workshops for this week on Friday, then I'll lock myself away in the print room and not come out until the new book is done. I'll keep ya posted when I can...
07/07/16 Nighttime workshop #2 completed - another incredible night sky and BRILLIANT Milky Way. In most of these workshops there comes a time when everyone is kind of autopilot - they've been through all the testing and hiccups that come with doing such things in the middle of the night, and all their equipment is tuned and working well. The scene before them defies reality - it is not only rather unusual, but also simply beautiful, and I think most folks are in awe of it all (or at least I am!). Anyway, my job at that point is to simply stand back and let them soak it all in and create images. It's the very best part of the workshop for me - a time when folks realize and understand why they are there, in fact why they are any where - to just be in the moment and rejoice in LIFE. I hope each workshop student reaches this place during our brief time together - those sorts of things are much more important and last longer than any incredible photograph they may take home. Oh yes, and not only are the surroundings we visit to photograph quite amazing, but the people in these workshops are pretty darn terrific too - actually then are even more special than the landscape they photograph, and it is always an honor for me to be a part of it all...
One more workshop tonight and then it is back home for me and I'll be locked into the gallery until I emerge with a completed new picture book.
07/09/16 Workshops complete, now into book mode until it's done. Here's one from the workshop at Steele Creek early yesterday morning.
07/10/16 The fog seemed pretty blue early this morning when I headed out into the woods for a three-mile fitness hike with the puppies. I know sometimes cameras will record fog as blue, but it really is white. But I swear it was blue today.
On the way back to the cabin an hour later brilliant sunshine burst through the fog and lit up the forest all around. It was a scene I've been waiting on for many a hike. I really wanted to include a "God Beams" photo in the new picture book, but since all the photos have to be new and never in a book before, I couldn't use any of my standards ones. Today was the last day, and so I packed my small camera just in case.
I started to shoot the beams as soon as they appeared, and was still taking pictures of them five minutes later when my lovely bride came driving right through them (she was headed out for chores in two different towns). It was one of the more beautiful God Beams displays I'd seen in a good long while, if ever - the beams just kept increasing and getting brighter. OK, THANKS to the man/woman UPSTAIRS - I got my God Beams photo!
A little while later when I was processing the best of the batch I tweaked the color so the fog was slightly blue. Guess what - it didn't look right! So I took it back to white and that looked much more natural to me, despite me swearing to the contrary.
In fact that God Beams photo made it into the final batch of possible book covers, but we ended up picking another one after five drafts. But the beams will be in the book for sure.
Speaking of the book, tonight I had a major breakthrough. I had printed out more than 170 finalists and spread them all out on our 4'x8' work table and started to pick and choose and line them up as book pages. After several hours of work I had nothing but a big pile of prints on the table - it was a mess with no direction at all. Then this evening I hunkered down and got a creative wind and in about twenty minutes had almost everything in order - down to the final 124 pictures. My came over and move a couple around, and we replaced a couple with better matches, and presto, the organizational part of the process is now DONE - YIPPIE!
My goal is to get the entire book completed by the end of this week.
Last week turned out well - we had three almost perfect nights of workshop photography and everyone got some incredible images on all nights - the only three clear nights of the week, ha, ha! Pam prepared BBQ and homemade Cloudland cookies each night. And my sleep schedule that I worked so hard for a week to run my clock forward worked out perfectly. I made it through the all-night workshops without so much as a yawn (well, maybe one or two, but no yawning spells). Standing around for hours while everyone worked did take a toll on my back though, and I would spend a good bit of time after midnight back in the shadows doing yoga/stretching exercises to try and ease the pain.
All in all - a SPLENDID workshop week, and I think that I will schedule more of these one-night workshops.
Since I normally work alone it was kind of weird to be out all night with other photographers while the rest of the world slept. It was amazing how well everyone stayed awake - I know most of them worked all day, drove to Cloudland, shot photos all night, then turned around and drove home. Some crashed at the gallery for a couple of hours afterward, and several had rental cabins or campsites. All were terrific students to work with and I admire their gusto! And it was also kind of odd (in a good way) to have sometimes personal conversations and get to know people while out shooting all night in the darkness - and then bid farewell in the dark as well, without ever really getting to look at each other during the process.
I only took my camera out twice and ended up with a couple of nice photos that will be included in the new book (posted above). I used a new and special light to light up the bluff and gravel bar, the barn, and the church - amazing how such a small and dim light can light up so much of the landscape evenly - it's all in how we used the light that counted, which is why we were there - to learn how. These days/nights I prefer to light with a soft glow rather than with a harsh light. We also learned how to use one special (and cheap) item that is essential to being able to photograph in Arkansas during summer nights.
07/15/16 It was DELIGHTFUL here at Cloudland last night! One of the storms that rolled through lowered the temp by at least 20 degrees, perhaps more. And one of the times that I emerged from the gallery and headed back to the cabin it was like walking into a cooler - I could see my BREATH, in mid-July in Arkansas! The air was light and sweet.
As I scramble to get the new book completed, I worked right on through several of the big thunderstorms last evening, saving my work as I went along in case of electrical accident. By the end of the night I'd completed processing of almost all of the photos, which is always a major part of the book production job.
A couple of things I noticed as I was doing the final image processing/edits. First, I was not doing much in the way of "editing" the photos. Many of them were left in their pristine state with standard settings in the camera and in processing software - somehow all of that seemed to look just right to begin with (usually takes a bit of work to reach that point, but as camera sensors and software and photographer get better, less work).
And secondly, I realized that for a lot of the scenes I shot I pulled back a bit more than normal - instead of zooming in while shooting to isolate a particular part of the landscape, I captured a wider view, and tended to keep that view intact during editing. So what you will see in this new picture book will be more of the surrounding landscape in the pictures - well, some of them anyway. Most of the time I prefer to let you see the main subject smack-dab in your face.
Oh, and a third thing. I try to include every single detail while taking a picture - I want to capture individual leaves on trees across the canyon way over there, grains of sand, an ant hiking across a small log in the back of the scene. While the camera has captured these fine details, you really have to zoom into the image in order to see them - I LOVE doing that on my big monitor in the print room! Sometimes I'll just sit there at the computer and study all of the wonderful parts of the forest or whatever the scene is as I scroll around the image. Actually the camera captured much more than I could have possible seen while standing there - our eyes just don't zoom in that much most of the time.
Today is my deadline for getting the book done, but at the moment another storm is passing through and I'm waiting to fire up the big computer until things settle down a bit. I still have a few more text edits to make - the editors have been through seven drafts. Once I get everything done, I have to upload about a dozen giant digital files to a server somewhere out there in the cloud - each upload can take several hours. At the moment this book project is about 87 gigabytes in size - OH MY GOSH!
As I was up and wandering around at 4-something this morning, the photographer in me kicked in and I rummaged around to find a camera and tripod and spent the next hour out on the back deck trying to get a picture. The lightning storms all around were not showing the bright bolts in the sky, but were lighting up the canyons below - and cameras tend to render lightning light as purple, a sky color I happen to like. I have not gone through the files yet to see if I got anything, but if so I will post it as the daily deck cam. 'Tis the weekend coming up - hope you have a GREAT ONE! I will post cover copies of all three new publications before the weekend is out...
07/16/16 Our THREE NEW PUBLICATIONS are done and will be ready in late October! -
Wall calendar (above), and engagement calendar (below)
And the new picture book!:
07/20/16 HAPPY APOLLO 11 MOON LANDING DAY! As a starry-eyed kid I hung on every moment of the space program, and like the rest of the world, especially did during the July 20-21 landing and walk. I continue to be star and moon stuck, and probably always will.
I was finally able to put the new book project to rest Sunday morning, and then packed up the van and headed west. We made a grueling two-day drive on little sleep to get to the high country in Colorado. We are now camped at 9,200' elevation in the San Juan Mountains - our favorite part of the world that is not Arkansas. We'll be camping here for at least a few days, trying to rest up a bit from the sheer exhausting pace of the past few months. Working seven days a week, usually 20 hours a day, for weeks and months on end can take a toll on a fella.
Unfortunately business must go on, and so while my lovely bride gets to breathe in the same cool air up here among the aspen trees, she has to get up and work every morning to process, package, and ship book orders from our online store. She will continue the great customer service of shipping all orders with 48 hours - the only difference you will see is a post mark from South Fork, Colorado - the nearest post office from our campsite. We have boxes of books, packing and shipping supplies with us in our Roadtrek camper van, and Pam is able to get all the postage done online, and printed out on our little printer we brought with us. It is GREAT that we are able to continue fulfilling orders while on the road - 'tis one of the perks of modern technology! The van/bookmobile/photomobile is what makes all this possible. (I will also print and ship Print Of The Week orders.)
Back to the book project. Yesterday I got e-mails from the company that is printing our new picture book. They found a couple of errors in the photo files in the book, but I was able to make corrections from the backup files I had brought with us, then transmited those files to them via our phone internet connection. Again, I just LOVE the technology!
Sunrise is about to happen here, and we've got three anxious puppies that want out to go on a hike (oops, we can't say that word out loud or the puppies go nuts - so we'll have to call it something else - they have also learned the word "walk"). The caretaker/cabin sitter that is taking care of Cloudland while we are gone reports it is also "kind of" cool this morning, and that the cats have already begun to fatten up since we left (he feeds them frequently).
"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." INDEED!!!!!!! Thank you so very much NASA, and all the brave men and women who have been part of the space program...
The view from inside our tent at the Coloardo campsite
07/23/16 Just a quick note tonight from our campsite in Colorado. Brilliant colors of twilight have faded and darkness has set in. A coyote lets out a lonely howl that echoes across the valley. There is a slight breeze that's tickling the young aspen trees around us. And a bat just flew through the open sky above us. A bat? I had no idea they had bats here, but I guess they do. We've seen about three mosquitoes this week, and a lot of black flies.
Our campsite is at 9,200 feet in elevation and cools quickly at dusk - I'm wearing jeans and a long-sleeve shirt and getting ready to hunt up a jacket if I sit out much longer. The puppies LOVE it here - especially our 19-year old shelter dog, Lucy. She is like a young girl when she's here - running and jumping and playing! Mia and Wilson just stand there and look. Then they tear off into forbidden territory and we have to go chasing after them.
This afternoon Wilson grumbled a little bit, and I noticed him sitting at attention looking out across the meadow just below our camp. When I got over next to him I followed his eyes and saw nothing but meadow and sky. Then far back to the right a giant mule deer buck in full summer velvet stepped into the edge of the meadow. We'd seen him before running with another smaller buck. The deer carefully walked out into the meadow, then stopped and looked directly at us. Wilson tensed up a bit. Just in case he got ideas of running after the deer, I reached out and grabbed his blue harness.
I always get a thrill when a wild animal stares at me like this - sometimes followed by fear and trembling it if happens to be a big bear. The three of us stared for a few seconds, then the bug buck turned and quietly walked on across the meadow and into the trees. Wilson tried to lunge at the buck, but I held tight. Then the deer was gone. Wilson looked up at me with one of those "Ah dad, why wouldn't you let me chase him!?" I think the buck would have 1) easily outrun him, and 2) might have turned around and chased back.
They don't seem to have any summer bugs here. The nighttime silence is almost deafening...
FYI, I just posed info about my new fall color photography workshop. This will be a new format for us - a lot cheaper than normal, but no lodging and most of the meals are on your own. And since a lot of folks have requested easier hikes during the workshop, this one will be mostly shooting from near our vehicles with only a few short hikes - the workshop is for intermediate photographers, but I would rate the physical difficult as easy! As I type this we are already about 2/3rds full, so if you know someone who might be interested, have them check the workshop web page and let us know.
07/24/16 It is dark once again at 9,200 feet at our campsite, and there is heavy breathing going on all around me. I mean really HEAVY breathing! We had a herd of 82 cows come calling this afternoon and they decided to spend the night in the meadow below, with a few stragglers on other parts of the hillside nearby.
We had at six different mule deer bucks stroll through the meadow as well, including at least three ten-point bucks - all in velvet of course. And then right in the middle of dusky dark while we were all sitting and enjoying the night sky, out smallest pup, Mia, jumped up got really tense, staring into the woods nearby. We could hardly make it out, but there was a very large deer standing about 50 feet away. Our eyes don't see much color in such dim light, and this brown deer nearly blended into the green forest.
We had a nice rain shower this afternoon, and the air was filled with heavenly aroma. My lovely bride made homemade cherry cobbler for after dinner tonight - that was HEAVENLY too! (with Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream).
ARKANSAS PROPERTY UPDATE. No progress on the new warehouse/gallery building at our new property near Mt. Sherman, but they hope to get the walls and roof done sometime soon (haven't started yet - just a concrete slab at the moment). We are planning to have workshops there in October - not sure if our holiday open houses will be in the new building or in the current gallery at Cloudland, but we'll post dates and locations here in another month or two.
No news about any potential sale of Cloudland either - our property is still on the market and being advertised but there are no deals in the works. We've had several folks ask how our "new cabin" is, are we fully moved in, etc. Not sure where they are getting this from, but we have no plans to move unless we sell Cloudland first - could not afford to own two.homes. So Cloudland is still our home, and the caretaker living there while we are on the road reports the AC is working well!
There was SPECTACULAR light shows again at dawn (above) and dusk today...
07/27/16 first light from our campsite.
07/29/16 We own a small parcel of land in Colorado (aka, the "campsite"). It's not going to be a residence (Arkansas will be our home far into the future - we have no plans to build a house in Colorado), but rather it is simply a place where we can park the bookmobile and spend some time away from the crowds each summer in relative peace and quiet. 20-30 years ago I always spent summers in the mountains when I worked for the forest service doing trail work in the backcountry - the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. I've made many trips out west to Colorado and other states in the fall for photography. Pam used to travel to Colorado for work several times each year, and we have returned here a number of times since marriage - but never enough time due to work duties back home. We pretty much are on call 24/7/365.
So we decided to have a place where we could spend time in the mountains and still keep our businesses going. Our little seven-arce plot of land is at 9,200 feet elevation on a steep hillside near South Fork, Colorado. There was a 1,500 acre cattle ranch here before a giant wildfire burned nearly everything to the ground in 2002 (hence the reason we could actually afford a small parcel of Colorado land!). The 1,500 acres is split into 154 lots (our seven acres is the smallest). There is a good road through the property now, with a few cabins here and there. Our land backs up against the Rio Grand National Forest, and in fact the national forest surrounds the entire area.
We have underground electricity and a good well. Our campsite is about 25' wide and 100' long, with a small meadow in front and a steep hillside behind. There is lots of wildlife, including many birds of all sizes - especially HAWKS - seems like they all followed us from Cloudland. Lots of deer, and in the spring we're told this spot is popular with a large elk herd. There is a marmot family just beyond or property in the rocks over there, and zillions of chipmunks (chippers) everywhere. The temp this summer has mostly been lows in the 40's and 50's with highs in the 70's and 80's. A blazing afternoon sun is often cooled by breezes.
We store books and shipping supplies in a small storage shed at the end of the campsite area, and have an 11 x 13 foot screen tent set up next to the bookmobile that serves as our main living area. The bookmobile is where Pam does the daily chores of order processing and packing. She ships individual book orders from here, and e-mails the paperwork to her dad back in Arkansas and he packs all the wholesale orders. Our cousin Joseph has once again taken up residence at Cloudland to keep things going there, and to feed our cats. Bookmobile provides a restroom and shower, and we coko outside a lot.
The roads up here make perfect dog-walking routes that can take us up near 10,000', or back down to the highway three miles away in the bottom of the valley. The valley we overlook is the headwaters of the Rio Grande River. So we are about ten minutes from ICE CREAM, which has proven to not be a good thing for my waistline, but sometimes I'll beg out at the bottom of the hill and hike UP 1,000 feet to our campsite to help offset some of those calories. We have to keep puppies leashed all the time, other than when they are at camp, where we have an area enclosed with an electric fence to keep cows out and puppies in. There is a herd of 82 cows that roam the area munching on whatever they can find.
Kind of funny - we are in the outdoor recreation business (guidebooks and nature photography), yet we almost never get to outdoor recreation ourselves. We've been here now for 11 days and only yesterday got to go on our first fun hike - a trip up to 12,000' for several miles along the Continental Divide Trail. We hope to be able to get out a lot more in the days and weeks ahead to explore southwest Colorado. And we'll be headed back to Arkansas in a couple of weeks for a while, then back here, then back home again, then back here, then back home in early October - a lot of "windshield time" as the UPS drivers call it. In October we gear up for our photo workshops, program season (beginning November 11th in Hot Springs Village), and also dive head-first into the new picture book project that will take us to all 52 Arkansas state parks between October and next June.
In the meantime, the daily "deck cam" will normally be taken from our "campsite" - a view that looks northeast out across our little meadow to the towering San Juan mountains and Rio Grand National Forest areas. In the far distance we can see the northern part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains too near Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Oops, the puppies are tugging at my pant leg for their morning walk, and I see the sky in the east beginning to glow and the clouds above light up with color - so I better get this posted and head on up to 10,000 feet...
07/30/16 We had a lynx in camp this morning - in fact he was our 5am alarm clock. I've only heard one twice, and there is nothing else like the screams of a lynx. I quickly put my boots on and headed towards him. It was before sunup, but it was light enough that I did not need a flashlight - in fact I grabbed my camera just in case I got a look at him. The back of our property here is very steep - almost too steep to stand up on without holding onto something, and that is where the kitty was, up in the rocks that overlook our camp. Our eyes never met, at least that I could tell, and he quit screaming the moment I stepped out into the open. Not sure if he has been here all along, or was just passing through. I suspect it was the same cat we encountered on our last night here back in October.
My day began at midnight taking pictures of the Milky Way rising behind our campsite - the stars were bright and quite brilliant! The night sky here is very dark since we are far from any city. Lower humidity usually means clear skies too. And with just a sliver of moon (that had not yet risen), the sky was about as dark as it gets. One of the things I enjoy about our location is that I can wander and roam without worry of snakes, poison ivy, ticks, or chiggers. Of course, there is the possibility that a lynx might jump on me!
After a quick breakfast this morning we loaded up and drove along the headwaters of the Rio Grande River towards Creede to a state wildlife area. My lovely bride set up her easel along the bank and within less than an hour had created a beautiful "plain air" pastel of the river as it wound through the valley towards the mountains beyond. While she created art, the puppies and I explored upstream through sagebrush fields and along the riverbank - all three pups went in for a swim, but it was a wee bit too chilly for my old bones! By the time sunshine flooded the valley, Pam's pastel was complete. I continue to be amazed how artists can create something so beautiful when starting with a blank canvas or sheet of paper! I can't, so will stick with a camera - you only have to push one button...
The crowds in Colorado at the moment are the largest they've seen in five years. (Happening all over the place - more and more people are heading to the great outdoors to lift their spirits and renew their souls - GREAT to see this!) Henry David Thoreau said it best more than 100 years ago - "We all need the tonic of wildness." Anyway, we never saw another soul on the river this morning - most folks never get out to experience the sweetness of dawn, so if you enjoy solitude, just get up and get out early and you'll have it most places.
An afternoon thunderstorm is rolling through at the moment while I'm typing this. The puppies and Pam enjoy some down time inside the tent. FYI, the stuffed lawn chair belongs to Mia. Sometimes she lets Wilson on it too, especially when she is cold and needs some additional heat.
07/31/16 It's July's twilight, and the final Cloudland Moment of the month is upon us. All five of us are sitting together inside our screen tent just basking in the pink and orange sky as the day ripens into night. The quiet and stillness here is almost deafening. We've had a bit of rain this afternoon and the rumbles going on above us roll on and bounce off the distant mountains many miles away. There's a lightning flash or two. Three majestic mule deer bucks just grazed into the meadow about 75 feet away from us. The puppies stood at attention at first, then sat back and relaxed - they seem to have accepted the wildlife here as part of the view, of our life here up on the mountainside. No bark. 'Tis a fitting end to a very long month that has been filled with great joy, and a lot of difficult work. As the three bucks graze into a stand of young aspen trees nearby, another deer appears, a big, fat doe, with ears as large as - well - MULES ears - appears. Those ears are not only HUGE, but also wide and floppy. Her body is not as large as any of the big boys, but they all step out from the aspens and nod her direction. She is boss - perhaps they are her sons, or perhaps, future suitors. It is odd to see a doe with bucks this time of year, but she could also be a he, without any velvety antlers this years. But this makes nine distinct big mule deer bucks we've seen in our little meadow here in the past week. We all are blessed to be here and bid farewell to July...