CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - March 2017
Cloudland Cabin Cam, March 31 - wild plum blossoms this morning - HAPPY FRIDAY!
SPRING PHOTO WORKSHOPS - only a few spaces left for April & May!
03/31/17 I awoke to yet another Cloudland Moment this morning. There was a large and heavy, but warm and fuzzy critter laying on my chest, anxiously waiting for me to get up. His giant paws were just inches away from my face, and his hot breath was flooding my nostrils with what I can only describe as quite the OPPOSITE fragrance from the sweetness of wild plum blossoms!
March has been a great waterfall month with spring starting and stopping a couple of times. We're hopeful that there will be continued rainfall in April, great waterfalls, and the most amazing season of any on the planet - SPRING IN ARKANSAS! We hope you find the time to get out and explore and ENJOY!
SIDE note. We plan to have the new gallery OPEN for a few hours on April 29th and also on May 6th, subject to change. We might open at other times too, and will post that info here when available...
03/29/17 My lovely bride and I were walking in the forest this afternoon when the air filled with an amazing aroma - one we both recognized immediately. But there was none in sight. The fragrance was heavy and quite intense, yet at the same time light and airy. We turned into the wind and started to follow, looking for delicate blooms. We hiked on and on, but still nothing - a forest still locked in naked winter coats. At one point the scent grew weaker, and so I stopped, closed my eyes, and breathed in deep - trying to figure out which direction it was coming from - I let my nose do the pointing. As we came over a rise and started into a hollow, we found not one or two, but more than 30 WILD PLUM trees in full bloom! Oh my goodness the air was so dense with sweetness! Hum, I wonder if there will be enough jam made from the fruit this summer for a biscuit or two?
A couple of notes from my multi-day photo workshop from last week. First, I ate in a sit-down restaurant more times last week than I did in ALL of 2016! (I don't eat out much, but without a kitchen at our new gallery classroom, we take our meals at restaurants for now.) And funny thing - I went to the Ozark Cafe three times, and each time I was seated at the exact same table and seat each time! (And I found a new FAVORITE - their Reuben sandwich - 'tis a DELIGHT!)
And secondly, I'm almost embarrassed to even show this since there are so many THOUSANDS better elk jumping fences pictures posted everywhere, but this was my first attempt to do so, and it was while driving (VERY slowly) through Boxley - I just rolled down the window and literally took a single snapshot out the window - and it shows...
03/28/17 It was a classic BANNER day for WATERFALLS at Cloudland yesterday - oh my! The Buffalo River and Whitaker Creek were running high and loud, and they provided a constant soundtrack to the day. We could see TWO different Bathroom Falls, both about 70'+ tall, then more than 600' of solid cascade down the steep mountainside, where they both poured directly into the Buffalo River. This is the upper part of one shown below.
Looking towards Beagle Point to the south, there were at least FIVE cascades that plunged over the bluff and then again down about 600' of steep hillside, dumping into Whitaker Creek. Some of the soundtrack from that drainage was provided by the more than a dozen waterfalls running full tilt, adding to the roar in the air.
In the late afternoon/evening while I worked on the back deck grilling some brats and chickie breast for my girlfriend (who was working down in Boxley at yoga class), the sunshine casts shadows on the ridges and clouds moved across the scene, so I set up one of my cameras to do a short timelapse. The scene literally changed constantly for an hour or more. I sat in wonder of it all - Cloudland Moments just went on and on and on
In the middle of the day I went over to the new office and worked a bit, putting up a temporary gate across our driveway (the first and most important post had already been set in concrete by Pam's dad - how could we ever get along without him!), and unloading another load of boxes and tubs from the print room here at Cloudland. And I also took some time to make the quick hike down to the creek that runs along the northern boundary of our new property - and look what I found there! For now we will call it Little Bluff Falls, which is about 15-20' tall. There are dozens of cascades below this that tumble down more than 100' of steep hillside. There will be lots to explore there in the years to come.
So THIS WEEK will be the best waterfall week we've had in Arkansas in a very long time, with more rain to come. If you love waterfalls, I recommend taking a sick day and getting out to ENJOY!
03/27/17 We had an electrifying Cloudland Moment early this morning. My lovely bride and I were in bed a couple hours before dawn chatting up a storm (literally), when a bright flash of lightning lit up the sky. It also lit up the popcorn tree just outside our loft bedroom window - those bright-white blooms really sparkled whenever lightning happened! It was almost as if the electricity was coming from within.
A couple of days ago I was up about the same time as the storms that had been pounding us all night began to taper off. All of a sudden PEEPERS began to peep - these are spring peepers, tiny frogs that just love rainfall! Normally when the peepers begin peeping that is a good sign the storm is over. A couple of hours later it started to pour once again, and the peepers crawled back into their hole. It was GREAT to see the much-needed rain, with waterfalls all over.
There also seem to be butterflies all over - especially large yellow swallowtail butterflies. Been seeing lots and lots of them floating and fluttering around in groups of twos and threes. One afternoon when I had laid down in the middle of the forest to take a quick nap in warm afternoon sunshine, I watched as one of them landed right on my BOOT! Don't ya just love butterflies!
Speaking of wildlife, we had a close encounter with a turtle during out photo workshop last week. While the students photographed sunrise over a rustic barn in Boxley Valley that was reflected in a pond, we discovered a turtle that appeared to be stuck in the fence that went across one side of the pone. Upon closer examination it seemed this guy was merely resting on the wire and watching us. Everyone got a photo or two of him and then proceeded with the reflecting task at hand.
The next day, while I was scouring the countryside for a lost memory card, I happened to stop at that very same spot and found the turtle STILL "resting" on the fence wire, which was right at the pond surface. Obviously he was indeed stuck, and after a couple moments of trying to pry him loose I finally succeeded - the turtle turned away and swam off - YIPPIE COYOTE! (I found the memory card back at the new gallery, right where I had left it!)
Back to the present. It is breaking daylight now this morning and another round of storms is rolling through - lots more thunder, lighting and heavy rainfall. Seems like even more rain than we received a couple of night ago. Once the muddy waters go down it should be a spectacular week for both waterfalls and floating! While out in the woods chasing waterfalls - or just hiking - be sure to remember NEVER CROSS A FLOODED STREAM, especially if you can't see the bottom. This applies to both foot travel and in your car.
Yesterday I ran into Billy Woods (of Woods Boys Falls fame) out in the woods (of course!). He handed me a bouquet of small plants and said I should take a bite. What? After a round of questioning and assurances that I wouldn't die from it, I ate the entire little bunch. WOW! It tasted kind of like a sweet lemon and was wonderful! Billy sure knows his woods lore. Turned out to be wood sorrel, a little wildflower (Billy had a local name for it) I'd admired them for a long time - in fact their beautiful yellow blooms are noted in the very first entry in this Journal back in May, 1998.
The rains are letting up now this morning and from my seat in the great room I can see far into the forest out the window. There is fog pushing through the trees, moving on and trying to catch up with the first part of the storm I guess.
I just remembered - it is MONDAY, the very best day of the week! Which means I had better get this posted and off to work - hope you have a GREAT seek filled with waterfalls and other great things...
03/21/17 Just when it looked like sunrise was a bust early this morning, a brilliant red ball appeared rising from the horizon. These sorts of sunrises don't normally happen this time of year - that's a summer thing when the air is full of dust and humidity and heat. My photo workshop group was pointing their cameras and lenses at the right spot, and were able to capture some terrific images.
Our next stop was normally a 30-minute visit, but the light was good and the location special and we spent a couple of hours there taking pictures. Lunch at the Cliff House Restaurant was great. Then back to the new gallery/classroom for everyone to look at their images. Later in the afternoon we hiked into a scenic area and spent three more hours shooting and enjoying a GREAT spring day in the Ozarks! On the way back to our photomobile van, the wind shifted, and the temp began to drop. The coolness felt very good after a warm afternoon. Dinner at the Ozark Cafe was pretty darn nice too!
I'm back home now to curl up with my sweetie - 16 going on 17 YEARS - I can't wait! I'll be up and back on the road again early tomorrow to meet up with my workshop group in Jasper to head out to parts unknown to seek out more spring beauty. In the meantime, I'm hopeful for a bit of RAIN tonight!
03/20/17 Windy, warm, and clear outside early this morning - in fact the winds are talking to each other, getting the trees to join in too as they sway back and forth. I can hear the Buffalo dancing far below there in the darkness.
Been a long past few days and nights, with spring in a holding pattern - in fact some of the trees that burst forth several weeks ago ahead of schedule have now been rethinking that. Redbuds in particular have shrunk back into their stems and trucks it seams. But with nightly temps in the 20's last week who could blame them.
We had an electrician come out the other day to do a little job for us. Turns out he was much more than just a professional electrician. He worked until after midnight and on into the wee hours of the morning on a difficult and odd project. Thanks to his unstoppable attitude and work ethic, he got the job done despite miserable working conditions and some pretty tough physical work. SORRY SHANE - I bet you had no idea what you were getting into! He worked on with a major storm swirling about threatening to dump and crash on us at any minute. His boots were so caked with slick clay that I bet each boot weighted a couple pounds or more. He did a great job and always a smile on his face and not a single displeasing word.
On Saturday we said goodbye to our beloved friend and my long-time photo assistant Angela Peace. I've known Angela for 20 years - and I thought really well - but after hearing the testimonials of many different people at her memorial service I realized there was so much more to her than I ever knew - in fact she led three or four lives at the same time. I had missed out on so much of her life because I never took the time. Angela, you were a true SAINT and helped so many people during your short time on this earth, and you have set an example for many to follow - it was an honor to have known and worked with you.
Yesterday was one of the biggest days in my lovely bride's young artist career - she sold two pastels, both of them among the best I've ever seen. It is amazing to sit back and watch as she emerges from her shell and takes literally a blank sheet of paper and creates magic on it - a vision of a moment in time that could only come from the heart and soul of a true artist. She has only just begun to create, and I look forward so much to what follows!
Here's my lovely bride holding another of her new pastels - "MAX" - and her note about the pastel (that was a present for our good friends Ray and Susan, who lost their beloved Max last year):
"Some paintings just seem to flow from the heart and this is one of those. When those rare instances happen you just have to hang on and enjoy the ride. It's as if your hand is being directed by something or someone greater than you. This is Max! Max was this hulk of a dog that was as large as a small horse and frequently mistaken for a bear. The most gentle of giants.
His favorite thing on the planet was to dig crabs on the beach and to chase squirrels. His favorite people happen to be some of my favorite people as well. Max, the crabs may not miss you but we sure do.... Max, 6x12, pastel"
Speaking of my lovely BRIDE, today is our 16th wedding anniversary!!! I still can't believe that she ever said YES, nor how FAST the time has flown by. I could not imagine what life would have been like without her by my side, nor what new adventures await the rest of our lives together...
Contrary to rumors going around, we HAVE NOT SOLD CLOUDLAND!!! We have been working with a potential buyer, and have come to an agreement, but no sale has been completed. Whoever has been spreading this rumor is simply misinformed. We continue to move the business side of our life over to our new gallery/book warehouse building near Jasper, but we remain 100% Cloudland residents and our underwear, socks, dog food and all personal items are still here! If/when we do close on our property, that info will be posted here the day it happens.
JOURNAL UPDATE. The Cloudland Journal will turn 19 on May 18th this year, and my plans are to keep it going at least until it turns 20 - make that 21 years old - I want it to be old enough to drink a glass of wine! For those who tune in to see the (almost) daily picture that is usually taken of the view from the back deck of our cabin, there is no actual camera setup in place to take this picture (never has been) - ALL of those pictures ever taken these past almost 19 years have been simply me standing out on the deck (or in some other scenic location) with a camera in my hands or on a tripod and pressing the shutter button. Sometimes I leave the cabin before daylight and there is no picture, or we're on the road, or some other reason we cannot take and post the photo. If it were a stationary camera that automatically takes a picture you would see the same view every day - I much prefer a changing scene and I hope that you do to! So if we do sell Cloudland and move to a new location, my plan is to continue to provide you with an (almost) daily photo taken of the scene spread out before us...
03/18/17 We had a sea of fog covering the canyon floor at first light, plus a giant thunderhead that was lit up by the rising sun.
03/17/17 A foggy day on the way to the office this morning...
03/16/17 Had a visitor yesterday - a wild turkey was trying to get into the new gallery warehouse building, milling around and clucking like crazy. There are LOTS of wild turkeys this year, and I've seen one flock in particular frequently, 15-20 birds. Two or three of them seem to be hybirds (get it?) and have many white feathers vs. the full coat of darker feathers like normal. The young lady turkey that came by today was one of them as you can see. Still very wild, but with striking color patterns.
It was one of the more colorful and spectacular sunsets yesterday as I was driving home from the office - one of those times when it seemed like the entire sky all around was lit up red and orange and purple (after the sun had disappeared). Silhouetted trees. I kept on driving trying to find the perfect spot to stop and take a picture, but like most times, I never found one before the color began to drain from the sky. 'Twas one of those beautiful memories that will live inside me...
03/12/17 It was 2 - 3 - 4-something when I woke up this morning and realized it was BRIGHT outside. Full moon shining through clouds onto a snow-covered landscape turns out pretty bright in the middle of the night. So I crawled out of bed, packed my camera bag, and headed for Hawksbill Crag - there had to be a good picture there somewhere!
It was easy hiking through the forest, although I did have to keep one hand in front of my eyes - those small branches and sticks don't show up too well in diffused moonlight - easy to poke an eye out, or IN. Before long I was standing next to the Crag and it was just beautiful! The snow was about 2-3" deep and my boots dug in and gripped well. I figured by this time there would have been quite a bit of melting, but the snow seemed intact, and not frozen or crunchy.
I carefully set up the tripod and attached my camera, spun the camera dials a little bit, set the focus at infinity on the lens, then pushed the shutter button. The first photo was almost black, so I spun the dials a few more times, and the next picture that popped up was lovely! While just standing there in the semi-darkness of the night we humans don't register color very well - the landscape is mostly just shades of gray. But the camera sees and records whatever color is there, and replays the scene in full color on the back of the camera's LCD screen. Sometimes it is shocking to see what colors the camera recorded, as it was this morning. The overall scene was BLUE - and I guess that seemed perfectly natural since we tend to think of moonlight as being blue. Cool beans man!
After a few more blue photos, I noticed some movement in the trees upslope from me - a large barred owl was swooping down my direction, then he landed in the top of the very tree I was standing under. I had to reach out and grab another nearby tree to steady myself as I looked up at him. He was looking straight down at me, and kind of weaving back and forth on the branch. I could not see his eyes - with the sky above him being pretty bright with the moon up there above the clouds, this owl guy was mostly just a silhouette. Anyway, after a few seconds he just sort of leapt up into the air, and glided right on down past me and over the edge of the bluff, then spread his wings wide and soared on down and across the valley. 'Twas a CLOUDLAND MOMENT for sure! One of the reasons why I spend so much time alone in the wilderness is because of moments like this one - you will usually have many more wildlife encounters when you are alone - those critters seem to appreciate one-on-one time.
NOTE that normally even though the camera recorded this scene as being pretty blue, I would normally color-correct it in the computer to reflect the snow as white (that would be me "manipulating" the photo back to real color - snow is white - not blue). But I've decided to leave the scene just as the camera recorded it - and hope that some folks will find it to their liking and order a print (no one pays me to get up and go out in the middle of the night in the winter to take pictures - we only make a dime if one of you buys a print!
At the opposite end of today - as the last rays of sunshine were lighting up the far side of Boxley Valley, my lovely bride encouraged me to stop, go back, and spend some time taking pictures of elk reflections in a pond there. I've always wanted to do this, just never took the time. I rarely will pick up a camera when there is anyone else around, but this was different, and perhaps the only time I'd be able to take these pictures. So after I crept up and started shooting pictures, a couple of other cars stopped and joined me. It was a magical scene with the elk wandering around while the hillsides behind them lit up with "Ozark glow."
It didn't take long for nearly all of the snow from last night to melt away - some hillsides went from pure white to brown in less than 30 minutes. South-facing slopes went first; while north-facing slopes hung on into the afternoon - and perhaps there are still some steep slopes that remain white for now. I LOVE snow, and it was great to get to romp around in some early this morning. And even the melting snow is great - feeds streams and waterfalls and the water table - YIPPIE COYOTE!
03/11/17 We just went on the MOST AMAZING hike in the woods - heavy, hard, WET, blowing snow - almost so much snow coming down that we could not see very far into the forest! It was just getting duksy-dark, and had only been snowing about 15 minutes. Yet there was enough snow on the ground to make tracks. So much snow coming down that 15 minutes later when I turned around to hike back to the cabin, the tracks I had just made were almost gone - covered up by more snow! In fact half way home the tracks were completely covered up. Both puppy dogs were also covered with snow - it especially stuck to their fur, and also to the hood of my old ragged green down jacket.
The wet snow followed rain that fell on and off all day, so the landscape got a really nice drink today - a drink that will produce some great waterfalls tomorrow!
We had a TERRIFIC time at our program in El Dorado a couple of days ago. It was a long trip - about 650 miles of driving for us - but it was great to meet so many wonderful people and see old friends (a SPECIAL THANKS to everyone who came!). This was one of the largest crowds we've ever done - more than 300 folks. Like most programs though, we didn't have enough time and soon the great hall was empty. We hope to return again - and not wait 17 years (our last program in El Dorado was in 2000 - in fact three of the seven people who came to that first show in 2000 were there again this time - it was ESPECIALLY great to see them again!) El Dorado - our smallest audience ever, and also one of the largest ever - go figure.
The puppies slept most of the way on this trip (as they always do), but my goodness they were READY to jump out and run and play! My lovely bride and I were ready for a nap.
03/07/17 Yesterday late evening, we decided it was time for a haircut. We normally do this outside on the loft deck - I love to sit out there and listen to the soft music of the Buffalo River far below as it drifts up and around me, and for a few moments I forget all about when I used to have a lot more hair! Now it only takes my lovely bride about 60 seconds to trim me up! But last night was different - my hair was wild and free and blowing around like crazy, and Pam had issues getting the electric clippers all lined up - tough to cut moving hair!
Turns out this was the beginning of the approach of the supercell storm that produced the EF-2 tornado that caused havoc in nearby Parthenon. That storm touched down a couple miles north of us up here on Cave Mountain and took out many trees, including two of my most favorite of all time. The storm hopped across the Buffalo River, crossing Hwy. 21 north of Mossville and on into the Smith Creek Nature Preserve. Then it hit Parthanon, and elsewhere. There was some really bad damage in Parthenon.
I got up early and headed into the office but got stopped by a large tree across Cave Mountain Road. We have a second "escape" route when needed, so I took it around the long way (to Hwy. 16 and on past the Glory Hole to Mossville), where I encountered the damage on Hwy. 21. Other than those few spots where the twister touched down, it was a crystalline day with brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine! (No damage at or around our Cloudland property.) And somewhere out there, a few strands of an old buzzard's hair were drifting around...
03/06/17 The woods were talking this afternoon - in fact were singing at the top of their lungs! Some voices were squeaky, others more bass, most were combinations of different trees being blown around and rubbing against each other. I wonder if anyone has ever recorded singing trees? Sometimes when I hear them I have to stop and listen carefully to know if it is a voice, critter sound, or just the trees.
And the wind itself was making music today as well - mostly howling, sometimes moaning, and now and then a very happy tune - after all it was wild and free and having a grand time sailing along through the forest!
Then back at the cabin I discovered that I could tune the volume and pitch by how much a window was open - it turned out to be a very musical afternoon at Cloudland today! (Tonight we're getting mostly howls...)
It was pretty foggy as I drove down the mountain towards Jasper early this morning so I left a few minutes early for my physical therapy appointment. Since I was making good time I stopped and ran into the woods with my little point and shoot camera to take a picture - first time I've done that in quite a while. As soon as I stopped to take the picture I was looking for, I wished I hadn't. The scene was quite beautiful, but I had the wrong camera, and I knew it. What I needed was my big camera and tripod, and about 30 minutes of extra time to record the amazing scene spread out before me. As it was I spent about two minutes all bent out of shape and got a couple of snapshots, then returned to the car and sped off. I just LOVE the lush green moss of our fading winter season! Especially when it covers the forest floor and leads off into a foggy landscape.
NOTE TO SELF - always take your big camera with you!
It turns out that the physical therapy for my back issue is not working after all - not sure why. The last session I'm allowed will be on Wednesday, and while I love the workouts and treatments I'm getting 3x per week - and the facility in Jasper and all the great staff there - it simply does not appear to be helping my particular situation. I may just be old and breaking down, with my past working habits catching up. One of the main things that triggers the most pain is the act of me setting up to take pictures (with my real camera) - I've got a few pictures to take in the coming months, so something will have to give!
Speaking of pictures, we'll be showing TWO slide programs this coming Thursday night at 7pm in El Dorado, Arkansas, as part of the Southern Arkansas Community College's "SouthArk Lecture Series" at the El Dorado Conference Center. I'll be showing both the epic ARKANSAS NIGHTSCAPES and also our latest ARKANSAS IN MY OWN BACKYARD programs. I will be slightly intimidated by this event - the opening speaker in the lecture series this academic year (last fall) was legendary Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, who famously jumped into the presidential limo and shielded Jackie Kennedy in the moments after President John F. Kennedy was shot. GULP. My lovely bride will have all of our books available both before and after the program and ON SALE! If you know of anyone in the area who might like to attend, note that it is free and open to the public!
03/03/17 I got a chuckle when I pulled up the current temp for the location we were supposed to have been camping last night - it was -0.1 degree F! That's a three-dog night in my book, yet we only would have had two pups with us so it would have been a wee bit on the chilly side (although it actually "felt" like a balmy 0 degrees). We had to postpone our quick trip to Wisconsin this week, which was probably a good thing. 'Tis a warm 32 degrees at Cloudland this morning...
03/02/17 It was a beautiful early morning, with skies so CLEAR you could reach right on up and touch the stars! Cloudland is located in the middle of the darkest night skies in all of Arkansas, and with the "summer" Milky Way now visible just before dawn, I set up my camera to take a snapshot of it rising behind the cabin. There continues to be something quite special and awe-inspiring to me about being witness to such great beauty in the Heavens. It just give you pause to think about where you are and your place in the universe. The air was not only extremely clear and the stars bright, but it was also so QUIET - not a whisper of sound other than the low rush of the river far below.
As dawn approached I sped away headed for a field of daffodils near Osage that I wanted to photograph against the rising sun. When I reached the field I realized all the flowers were FROZEN, and covered with heavy frost - OOPS! So my original vision of thousands of bright and beautiful dancing daffodils was not going to happen, but I did get a snapshot of their poor frozen state, and I loved the cool/warm color contrast and the patterns of the frosty stems.
Later in the day I delivered the last load of heavy steel pallet racks to the new book warehouse building, and Pam's dad helped me erect them inside. The warehouse is only half of the new building (actually less than half), yet we've been filling it with the entire contents of our old book warehouse building - it is getting kind of crowded in there, but we had to downsize everything so we will make it fit. Several days ago friends Aaron and Bryce helped move BUBBA JR. and also my GIANT color printer into the new building - seems like everyone has been helping with the heavy lifting required to move the book warehouse and print room but me - I've mostly just been standing around feeling like the old geezer that I am!
03/01/17 HOLY MOLY the wind BLEW yesterday! All day, and into the night. I know I've said this before, but I don't recall the wind being so strong, so long-lasting, having so much force through the trees, then it did yesterday. It was a warm wind though, often coming directly out of the south for much of the day. Funny thing though - I didn't see any blown-down limbs on the roads or trails - guess we've had plenty of wind already this year and most loose limbs have already reached the ground.
The big storm arrived in the middle of the night with thunderboomers, bright lights, more WIND, rain, and hail. We are strong believers of secure metal roofs on all our buildings, and each time we hear the pitter-patter (or BANG) of hail we know we made the right decision!
Dawn is breaking now across the wilderness, it is cooler, with a few breezes. I can hear crows in the distance working their way up into the Whitaker Creek drainage. The hushed roar of the Buffalo River is drifting up from below - the water does not appear to be muddy or too wild, but I bet it comes up some during the day. (i.e., more waterfalls, yippie!). Looks like we're in for sunshine the rest of the week - should be a wave of wildflowers to follow.
I LOVE March - 'tis the time when spring really takes hold here in the mountains and life renews itself, spreading color across the landscape and deep into your soul.