LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - JULY 2019 (previous months)


Little Bluff remote cabin cam July 31 - here's part of the new Buffalo River Trail that looks like it could use a little maintenance! Jeff and I hiked 17 miles of it today working on a trail guidebook update.

JOURNAL UPDATED on the 27th, but I'm trying to fill in the gaps for the rest of this month so there will be more posts - I'll let ya know when I'm done, if I ever get caught up...

07/01/19 We had one of the very best nighttime photo workshops ever last night. Perfect skies for five different locations, and no one fell asleep! Kinda funny because as we began the classroom session at 7pm it began to rain. But there were giggles at every stop as amazing photos popped up on everyone's camera LCD screen. By 3am we were standing in a cemetery shooting the bright Galactic Core of the Milky Way as it sunk into the little white country church in Boxley that was shining white up into the night.

I got home and napped for several hours this morning before we got notice that our new 2020 Arkansas scenic wall calendar was waiting for us at the FedX Freight terminal in Harrison, so I loaded up my bride and transferred to her dad's pickup and collected a large pallet that weighted more than a half ton. The printing industry has been going through some major changes this past year and these new calendars were printed by a new company to us. I just had to stop along the way home and tear open one of the boxes to look, holding my breath. And they were BEAUTIFUL!!!! Perhaps the very best calendar we've ever produced! I think you're gonna like 'em. (2020 Arkansas scenic wall calendars now shipping)

We got them home to our book warehouse and fired up the old forklift and unloaded the pallet inside the building, and they are NOW ready for shipping. We expect to have the 2020 scenic engagement calendar available by the end of July (being done by yet another new printer), and then our new ARKANSAS SPLENDOR picture book should arrive by the end of August. They actually already printed those books last week, but someone at the printing company decided to make a decision to change something on their own, and guess what - they are having to print the entire book over again at their expense - oh my! All of these new products will be bundled together at a significant discount and available as our HOLIDAY SPECIAL probably around September 1st - in the meantime you can order the new wall calendar right now for shipment tomorrow.


I returned to the bed for three more hours of sleep this afternoon and am now getting ready for the next nighttime workshop that will be here in about an hour. We'll .e out shooting until 3-4am and then I can come home and sleep as long as I want - I'll be done with workshops until October! Hope you had grand June and are looking forward to a wonderful July!

07/02/19 It feels kinda weird to be sitting here at the cabin tonight, looking out the window at Jupiter instead of packing up camera gear and getting ready to head out to shoot all night. It's the first night in a while that I've not worried about how clear it is, and where I'm headed to take Milky Way photos. I just asked my bride was it really THIS morning I was out until 3am with our workshop folks, standing in the cemetery in Boxley valley? Seemed like forever ago. The second workshop was as good as the first, with "iffy" clouds and forecast at first, but it all turned out beautiful and the students got impressive results. I didn't take a single picture.

I always love being outside at night under the stars, with or without students. The stress of worrying about the weather and other conditions for workshops always gets me down though. But we're done with nighttime photos for the year. On to the next thing...


Woodland sunflowers are popping up all over the place

07/06/19 Today we headed west for a week in the high country. The 2am alarm that went off was not how we had planned it though. Smoke alarms all over the cabin went off. Oh my goodness those could wake the dead for sure they were so LOUD! After 20 minutes of climbing ladders to reach them to reset and replace batteries (all are hard-wired and connected together), we never could figure out what the problem was, so I ended up disconnecting and pulling the batteries. Our old friend, cousin Joseph, would be moving in later in the day to cabin-sit for us while we're gone, so we figured we'd just let him try and figure it out. Sorry man!

We traveled by way of Oklahoma City to visit the annual Prix De West art show at the Cowboy Hall of Fame - oh my goodness the art was the most incredible this year ever! So much great beauty on GIANT painted canvases, including some nearly life-size - like an eight-foot wide canvas of a COW! It was hot as we motored on across western Oklahoma (taking the long way cutting up to Woodward and then across Hwy. 412), finally stopping for the night at our favorite rest area in New Mexico in volcano land, where the temp was in the 60's at bedtime.

07/07/19 We were on the road early to Raton, then cut up southwest through the mountains past the Eagles Nest area and on down to and around Taos. While driving downstream along the Rio Grand River (running very dark chocolate color and high from snowmelt) we stopped at one of the many "local cherries" stands. We've had really good fresh cherries before in Oregon, but oh my these were SO SWEET! The valley along this drive was covered with cherry groves, and apricots and other fruit trees too.

Then we made our way around Los Alamos - got stopped at the giant security checkpoint and our RV searched before we could continue towards our target for the day - Jemez Falls Campground. (we didn't mean to travel through the high security area of the National Lab, but that's just where the highway took us)

As the road twisted and turned climbing up through dense forests - many that had been recently burned - we were hit with one of the most incredible vistas I'd ever seen - the giant and lush caldera of an ancient volcano. It was a stunning view, made all the more beautiful by partly-skies with sunshine moving across the bottom of the caldera like paint brush strokes. We pulled over and stood there in awe. WOW!!! I had no idea this place was so massive. And would be so LUSH!

I've never had a bucket list that I recall - most of the goals and dreams in life I've reached have more or less come to me as part of the daily grind and were never anything I put on a map and worked towards. Well, besides my one lifetime dream of finding that perfect mate for life, and I found my lovely bride nineteen years ago - but that was more of a dream come true than a bucket list item. I did finally sit down and put something on my bucket list, but only a few weeks ago, when I discovered it actually existed and was attainable - to visit the cabin site where parts of the popular TV series Longmire was filmed, Walt's cabin. I won't try to explain all of that, but for Longmire fans you will understand.

We decided to return to the perserve in the morning, so continued on along the highway.

We found a beautiful forest service campground about ten miles away called Jemez Falls Campground. The forest all around is of towering pondersora pines in a park-like setting with a wide open forest floor, and a winding trail that leads down to the waterfall through the same type of forest - just magical! This is our kind of place. The hosts are currently from Mountain Home and there was a shout out of "Hey Razorbacks!" when we arrived. Not sure about the price though - our cost was only $5 a night with the federal lands access pass discount!

Our host friends directed us to a small country store six miles away (and the first building you see after leaving the campground - a nice remote area) - we needed ICE CREAM! Turns out Angelina Jolie had just been filming part of her newest movie just two weeks before. Very interesting place. The entire area looked and felt good to us (ice cream, cammpground, caldera). Plus it was a step up in elevation but lower than our campsite in Colorado, so the perfect location for us to spend a day or two.

07/08/19 We got up early and broke camp, drove on back to the caldera and parked outside the gates along the highway where we had a commanding 180-degree view looking down into and across the caldera. LUSH, LUSH from side to side, with elk roaming about, and lots of wildflowers swaying in the breeze. Once the gates opened at 8am we momtored on down to the visitor center and parked.

They only allow a few vehicles per day into the "backcountry" of the preserve (roads lead through the coldera and into the mountains beyond, and many folks come of the trout fishing in the small streams). And while pets are not allowed in the backcountry, pets are also not allowed inside your vehicle while in the backcountry - first time I'd ever seen such a policy. So instead of leaving my bride and pups to fend for themselves at the visitor center (encircled by a major prairie dog town!), I left them behind and hike the two miles on over to Walt's cabin. It was a beautiful easy hike through the lush caldera - not at all what you think of in the bottom of a giant volcano! And then there was the famous Walt Longmire cabin and tac shed, and the VIEW from the front porch, which looks out and across the caldera to the mountains behind that was shown so much in the TV series. I know it is just made-up TV history, but all the structures were real ranch buildings - many built in early 1900's. There was something very special about it all.

I had taken a picture of the small tac shed next to the cabin and sent it to my bride (GREAT cell service down inside this volcano!), and as I was hiking back up to our camper van a while later, Pam was waving sommething in the air - it was a PAINTING of the tac shed she had done of the picture I'd sent her only 30 minutes before!

We took the pups on a hike through the rest of prarie dog town and they managed to not eat any of them, then we returned to the campground for another delightful night in the ponderosa pine forest. Just before dark the campground host drove up and walked on over to the fire pit and built us a FIRE! What wonderful service and such nice folks! No doubt this will be one of the best maintained campgrounds on the planet this summer while they are there (it's the fourth or fifth year being campground hosts in several different locations - moving to a different campground next summer - we may have to follow them!).

This was the view from our parking spot along the highway. That red dot is Walt's cabin, where much of the series was filmed.


Here's Walt's cabin, and the view from the front porch...



07/09/18 We're camped for a second night in a beautiful forest of towering ponderosa pines, and wildflower meadows that Wilson just loves! Jemez Falls Campground in the lush hills nearby the Valles Caldera National Preserve.



07/9/19 We got up early and left our magical forest, returning to the caldera for one more sunrise, then motored north into Georgia O'Keeffe's country through Abiquiu and with a stop at amazing Ghost Ranch that she made famous. Many folks think that she owned this 22,000-acre ranch, but actually she only owned a small parcel of it - a summer home with a few acres that's a couple of miles away from the main ranch complex (her home has never been open to the public). STUNNING rock formations all around, and it was easy to see why Georgia loved it so much there and drew such inspiration from the magical cliffs and countryside.

We continued our journey north through Chama, New Mexico, and finally up and over and down into Colorado near Pagosa Springs, then up and over Wolf Creek Pass and finally down to our beloved South Fork, where we own a small parcel of land up at 9,000 feet elevation on what was a burned off hillside. Our little part of heaven is now covered with a forest of thousands of small aspen trees, all in their spring green dress and swaying in the breeze, with a LUSH meadow below that was filled with wildflowers! This would be our base camp for the next couple of weeks.

We LOVED New Mexico, and plan to return to explore more in the years to come. Now was time to sit back and soak up a bit of the high country while the pups began a non-stop search for "chippers" on our little property (chipmunks - we must have 50 of them in the meadow and surrounding forest).

07/10/19 we made it to our little campsite in Colorado yesterday where we were greeted by this giant wild iris - first time we've seen them in bloom here. Lots of lupine and other wildflowers too. The great SUPERBLOOM of 2019 has not started in the high country yet.



07/11/19 Flowers and hikes were the order of the day...




Our short, narrow driveway into the campsite is lined with wild rose bushes and the aroma is quite intense - ahhhhh! (above). Roses above our campsite too - such sweet air... (below)


07/12/19 Today was laundry day and we were the first customers at the little laundromat in South Fork, the community at the bottom of the hill about 9,000 feet in elevation below us (we can almost coast all the way there). While the clothes were washing we had breakfast in the van of our usual giant proteinpowder-fruit-veggie-yogurt smoothie. Then as they tumbled dry I decided to give the van a bath - the very first one I think in the two years we've owned it. There was a car wash next door to the laundromat. Only problem was the price was $1 per minute, and it probably would have cost me at least $10 just to get all the dust and bugs off, so I settled for a quick $3 rinse. I feel better.

We took a slight detour on the way home to visit Beaver Reservoir a few miles away and found it completely full of water for the first time in many years - so much snow in Colorado this past winter has filled many lakes that really needed it. Back at camp we swept our the van, wiped down the floor and wall of dust, and laid back on fresh sheets and sleeping bags for a nap after lunch. The bugs that have driven us indoors the past couple of days had disappeared and we spent all afternoon outside enjoying cool breezes and lazy passing clouds. We saw one GIANT coyote in the meadow below that looked like a wolf in full winter dress he was so big and fluffy - not like old Wiley Coyote from cartoon fame.

In the evening we both took off for a hike up the mountain with pups in tow (or actually vice-versa), with Mia going one direction and Wilson another. We discovered a new neighbor was camping on their lot above us and to the east a bit - first time we'd ever seen anyone there (Chuck and Marilyn from Texas). Very friendly and a lot like us - happy to be above and beyond most other people. Two friendly rescue dogs. Later back at camp we grilled burgers and fresh onions from the farmer's market, and munched of fresh cherries. Another great day in the high country.

07/13/19 It's 5:02am this morning and there is a western tanager that just started singing at the top of his lungs right outside in one of the aspen trees! We've seen him a couple of times, but this is the first time he has been up to greet us at dawn. Sounds almost exactly like our summer tanager friend back at Little Bluff. There is an orange glow in the northeast over the "Cristo" mountains above the Great Sand Dunes, with a few lazy clouds floating above. I've been up for about an hour and spent a little bit of time wandering around in the darkness - SO quiet and peaceful here, and so dark. The bright part of the Milky Way had already set behind the ridge next to us, but there were still a zillion stars twinkling.

HEY, there are TWO tanagers singing now - "get up, get up get out of bed you sleepy heads!" We have a big day planned that will include an early run downstream to Alamosa for a major grocery shopping trip, a stop by the plumbing supply store to hopefully buy a $65 brass fitting that will be part of the fix for our broken water line at the campsite, then we are off to an art show somewhere up in the hills of the Rocky Mountains just north of the New Mexico border (about two hour drive).

A beautiful sunrise today, and there seemed to have been a LYNX join the tanagers in the morning chorus - I wonder if that is who has been visiting our campsite during the night? We've seen and heard him before. HAPPY SATURDAY!


07/14/19 A quiet and peaceful dawn...


0716/19 Twin Peaks and historic cabin at dawn, Twin Lakes, Colorado (at the base of Mt. Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado - not in this view though)


07/17/19 My lovely bride working on a watercolor panoramic along the base of the continental divide above Twin Lakes, CO (and the overall scene panoramic from my cell phone)...



07/18/19 (we're back at our normal campsite) We saw this "sun pillar" early this morning - it is a "vertical shaft of light extending upward or downward from the sun. Typically seen during sunrise or sunset, sun pillars form when sunlight reflects off the surfaces of falling ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds (like cirrostratus clouds)."


07/19/19 We found some wildflowers! Between Crested Butte and Gothic is looking great this week...


07/22/19 A spectacular sunrise today as we packed up to head back to Arkansas...



07/24/19 Back home again at a cool 56 degrees this morning with tons of meadow sunflowers below the cabin - happy to be home!


07/26/19 Today was yard-work day. (a dusty version will be posted soon)


07/27/19 All was silent at 4-somethine as I slipped out onto the back deck with a half cup of steaming java. The cool crispness of the air flushed my cheeks and I slumped back into my soft bouncy deck chair with an AHHHHH so nice! The tanager had already begun his solo lullaby, which was soft and beautiful but also a bit LOUD as it echoed across the empty, dark landscape spread out far below. As the clock pushed on into the 5am hour, warm colors began to appear across the horizon. One, two, then fifteen or twenty birds joined the tanager in song, and soon the airwaves were alive to proclaim the dawn of a new day!

At 6am some brilliant streaks of bright pink appeared against the blue sky - sunrise would follow soon and wash out the colors - I was forced to jump up and run across the deck to get a picture with my little phone. Wow, it's indeed beautiful here in Arkansas on this cool, lush mid-summer morn.

I'll be working in the gallery some today as we had a couple of folks coming by for a look (we're always open by appointment any time we're home - just call or e-mail to see if we'll be here and we'll be happy to open up for ya - no trouble at all!). My body parts are a bit worn out after a full day of yard work yesterday, but it feels great...

*funny side note about this. I"ve noticed two different types of SPAM phone call rackets this past year, one of them very new. First, they've figured out how to call your cell phone using one of the special local cell phone prefixes - in our case 577 (870-577-xxxx) - so it looks like the call is originating from your local area - possibly someone you know. But these are mostly computer-generated spam calls, and as soon as you hit the answer button and the recording begins, BOOM - your number has just been added to a list of "live" numbers that are then sold to other spammers. So now unless I know the 577 number that is coming in, I don't answer - and if it's a real person, they will need to leave a voice message and I'd be happy to call them right back.

The second wave of SPAM phone calls that has started up recently are random butt dials, always from out of state, always from different computer-generated numbers. Oh boy, someone from out of state is calling so I must answer! Sure you get butt dials from friends once in a while, but not four or five a day from unknown out-of-state "friends." When you pick up and hear road noise, crowd noise, or whatever you call the noise of someone walking with a cell phone turned on. I think the ploy here is to get you to call the number back to see who it was and tell them they just butt-dialed you, but actually you are calling a spammer, or at least a spam computer, and once again your phone number is added to a list that is sold to other spammers. What will be next I wonder? So while I'm happy to receive calls on my cell phone, I probably won't answer unless I know exactly who it is - just leave a brief message on the voice mail and if I'm in cell service I'll call ya right back.

Oops, my phone is ringing - I need to go see who's butt is calling today - looks like it's from New Jersey...

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