CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - MARCH 2010, part B Journal Archives
Updated Wednesday the 31st - ME, doing a senior portrait?
03/17/10 I had two goals for my afternoon hike yesterday - a hot dog, and some trout! Lots of bright sunshine as I slipped and slide on down the steep hillside below the cabin. On my way down I passed a large tree that had been felled by the ice storm last year. This one was a little different than most - it was in BLOOM! I had to look around the flowers and then the base of the tree - or rather the root ball - to make sure of what I was seeing (and the master tree guy Don Kurz, confirmed that this is a red maple). It is amazing that a tree can survive like this, but I've seen quite a few that have - the entire base of the tree had been pulled out of the ground, but somehow enough roots remained connected to push nutrients on up the trunk to all the branches. Kind of like seeing a three-legged dog running around I guess - you continue to live with whatever life tosses at you!
Here are some of the blooms of the red maple - note the "dead" tree on the ground
I could hear voices as we got close to Hawksbill Crag. When I hike with the dogs I avoid contact with other people as much as I can - I hate to have the pups tied up when they are roaming free in the woods. So we hung around on the upper trail until a long stream of hikers passed below us - sounded like they were having a great time, as they should! Once they moved on we made a quick dash through the woods down to the lower trail where the bluff below disappeared for a few feet and would allow us safe passage down. Oops, I did not time it quite right and another group of four hikers appeared just as we dropped below - I had to grab Aspen and Lucy and keep them from disturbing the silence of the wilderness!
I had not been below the big bluff there in a long time - man it was quite impressive, with LOTS of color and details! But we were not looking for big bluffs today, so bid it farewell and headed what felt like STRAIGHT on down the steep hillside. This was one of those areas where you can hardly stand up without holding onto a tree, and once you get headed down the hill it is tough to stop. Good thing the ground was soft and covered with a thick blanket with leaves for good traction - my boots really dug in and made the going easier. There were giant trees all around - beeches, sweetgums, hickories, black gums, and oaks. We were deep in the wilderness and there had been no logging in many years.
At the bottom of the ravine was the Lower Fork of Whitaker Creek, and I could just barely hear some water flowing - the landscape has really flowed itself out in the past few weeks with no rain to replenish the water table. Giant moss-covered boulders began to appear - somehow they landed and stuck on the side of the hill, no doubt having come off of the big bluff back up behind me eons ago - I would loved to have been around when that happened, just out of the way! You can see something like this that happened a few weeks ago in the Low Gap area on the highway between Ponca and Jasper. A large chunk of a bluff turned loose and plummeted on down the hill, with chunks of it coming to rest in different spots along the route (stopped before reaching the highway).
I had a vague recollection of where the hot dog was, and I thought it was along the old mule trail that ran from the Buffalo River up to Cave Mountain Road (past Mule Trail Falls). But I could not find the old trail on the steep hillside, and so had just about given up finding the hot dog. So I decided to hit the creek below and then just work my way downstream looking for trout.CLOUDLAND
Then just before I got to the creek, EUREKA! There was the hot dog right in front of me! I've never seen a tree quite like this one - a stately old and beautiful beech, untouched by human initials, yet it stands right next to one of the main historical trails in the area that connected the little community at the mouth of Whitaker Creek with the Ryker Post Office, which used to sit 100 feet from where our mail box is on Cave Mountain Road. It is one of those things you just have to stare at and scratch your head. When I first discovered this tree back in the 1990's I named it the Hot Dog Tree.
Here is a roll of fence wire that was next to the old trail near the Hot Dog Tree - perhaps the mule was overloaded? Was this from the last mule trip out on this old trail I wonder?
I followed the old trail trace for a little while - the creek down below me had a short life dancing from boulder to boulder to tiny emerald pool, but soon hit a layer of limestone and disappeared underground. I left the trail and disappeared over the hill, and continued my hunt for trout. And when I landed alongside Whitaker Creek proper, I found them - THOUSANDS of trout!
For some reason, this one tiny but steep hillside where Lower Fork and Whitaker Creek meet is covered with yellow trout lilies - one of the largest concentrations I've ever seen. On this visit there were only a few yellow blooms, but the hillside was covered with trout-patterned leaves, and in another week or two it would be a blaze of yellow!
Aspen found a nice emerald pool to swim in - he got a good workout while Lucy and I inspected a layer of limestone nearby, and piles and piles of sandstone pebbles that had been smoothed by many years of tumbling around in the creeks above us. These sandstone pebbles can be found in most of the gravel bars along the main Buffalo River, but you can also find them high in the drainage on these little creeks too. And they are just as colorful! The layer of gray limestone we found had been worn smooth itself by the creek, and had several depressions where some of these pebbles had gathered. I added a couple of stones to one of these groups and took a picture.
The sun was dropping in a hurry and the creekbed was in shadow already, so after exploring the creek a little bit it was time to head back UP the steep hill towards home. But first I took a snapshot of this GIANT sycamore tree that was growing right out of the middle of the creek, each trunk curving in different directions. You can see the last rays of sunshine kissing the upper branches on one of the trunks. These trees grow fast and live where there is a lot of water to feed them. I wondered how old this giant was?
The temp warmed up quite a bit as I crawled on back up the slope, huffing and puffing all the way. Then it was an easy stroll back to the cabin. I passed several hundred normal trout lilies in full bloom along the way - many of them with their heads up and pointing towards the setting sun. I have a feeling that the little yellow guys down on the creek don't see too much sunshine in that hole. Funny though - the ones that get much more sunshine are white while the ones that don't are yellow - should be the other way around!
FATHER OF OUACHITA TRAIL DIES. We have gotten word that the man who first came up with the idea of the Ouachita Trail, a 223-mile trail that winds through the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and Oklahoma, has passed away at age 77. Art Cowley worked out the plan in the early 1970s for the OT and helped with the first phases of construction while working with the Ouachita National Forest. He later moved to California where he became the Big Tree Coordinator for that state and cataloged more than 250 big trees. His bootprints will forever remain in the Ouachita mountains and his spirit will live on in all who follow his path...
03/18/10 It remained cool and cloudy with mist all day yesterday. Doesn't seem like winter wants to let go, but only two more days left and then it will be springtime officially! I love each and ever season here, but spring brings with it a special magic - I've still never seen the same greens anywhere like we get here. But I digress.
The pups and I headed out for a hike just before dinner, not really going anywhere, just a ramble. I tend to hike along the outside edge of a bench, which give me a good view down to the benches below - sometimes I can see parts of two or three. I decided to head on down the slope and see what was below, but I found myself on a hillside with few hand holds and not much traction - so I simply sat down on my rump and scooted on down, leaving a path of disturbed leaves and bare ground behind me. I'm sure all the critters of the forest had a good laugh.
When it is misty like this the GREENS of moss on rocks is really amplified. And that GREEN stands out so much more so now since everything else is still kind of brown and gray. The first giant boulder that I came to was mostly covered with this GREEN moss - you just want to walk right up to it and touch, and I did. No doubt this boulder came from the small bluff just above, although with ions of erosion I could not find an exact fit for it visually.
There was a large dead tree leaning up against the opposite side of this boulder that was covered with pure white "shelf" lichens. I guess they all grew on the tree while it was still standing since they will typically grow level, but none of these were level. So many on this one log! Often these shelf lichens will be green, or orange, or some other color - these were quite bright white.
Even though I had just come from up above, I spotted an overhang in the bluff up there that I wanted to go visit, so back up the steep slope I went - using a large tree root for handholds for help. This overhang had a soft floor composed of several inches of dust - tiny particles that had worn off of the inside of the bluff itself. I'm going to call this type of overhang a 'bubble bluff" - once under the overhang the ceiling arches up in the shape of a bubble, and even though the opening of these is often only a few feet wall, you can sometimes stand up in the bubble. And the walls and ceiling are always eroded in a weird way - I guess that is where all the dust below comes from. Some day I hope a geologist can explain to me how this happens, and why it happens. Seems like there is an entire line of these bubble bluffs in this area - all in the same layer of rock so obviously it has something to do with the composition of this particular layer, but what, and how?
After the dogs and I explored this little bubble bluff I returned to the floor of the bench and continued on, following the outside edge looking down to the benches below - lots of ice damage as far as I could see down there. And then another bubble bluff caught my attention and it was back up to the bluffline to explore.
At some point Aspen found another bone - he is getting good and finding bones out in the woods. Not sure if this one was from a deer or a coyote or a wild hog - there was just one bone. He sat down and spent the next ten minutes chewing on it intently while Lucy and I sat watching him (we also looked for another bone to give Lucy, but could not find another one). I took the opportunity to send a Find Me Spot signal back to the cabin, even though no one was there.
I eventually took Aspen's bone away from him and we explored some more of the bubble bluffs - several had really interesting openings, and even two or three levels or shelves inside. Remember the big GREEN boulder - turns out the underside of this guy was also a bubble bluff - and in fact it looked like a perfect little campsite under there!
Some toothwort wildflowers about to pop - they will be quite colorful!
We spent about an hour exploring this little bench and bubble bluff area and then it was time to return to the cabin - I had visions of a giant chef salad I had planned for dinner (the girls were making tacos, but I'm on a salad-once-a-day kick right now so am making the most of it). The salad was great, and so was the hike - and I never got more than ten minutes away from the cabin!
BEAR DEN CAM. For those of you interested in black bear cubs, here is a link to a web cam at a bear den in northern Minnesota. The mom and single cub are just inside the den and in full view of the camera (the camera is inside one end of a long tube that is placed just outside the den). The mom gave birth live on camera with more than 10,000 folks watching! Both mom and cub are getting more active as warm weather creeps in, and sometimes the mom leaves the den and just the cub is left - it is kind of funny to watch the cub try to walk!
03/20/10 FIRST DAY OF SPRING! Nine years ago today a car pulled up into the driveway. Some mighty precious cargo was left at the cabin as the car returned to Missouri. That cargo included a bright blue bottle of champagne, and the love of my life. She was not my lovely bride at the time, but was about to be. Pam had just suffered a serious back injury and her mom had to bring her to Arkansas so that we could elope. We carefully drove to the site of our very first meeting the previous year, the Lake Leatherwood Trail at Eureka Springs, where we waited for the Justice of the Peace to arrive. Saying I DO at the edge of that beautiful lake that afternoon was the beginning of the rest of my life. I was little more than a shell of a man back then, and to say that Pam completed me would be a large understatement. I owe her nothing less than the world. My goal is to be married to the most wonderful person in the world for 50 years - the first nine have simply flown by and I think the next 41 will too!
And then this morning, just as the east began to glow bright orange and red, a wonderful aroma drifted down from the heavens, and along with it large drops of life-giving rain - YIPPIE! And then Pam left me behind in the dust. She and the girls were headed for the Gulf Coast for a week to stay at a friend's beach house for spring break. Even though my lovely bride will be apart from me during this first week of our tenth year, she will be with me every moment and with each breath that I take - SOMEone needs to look after me!
The rain has already stopped and the sun is now peaking through the clouds and lighting up the wilderness. We will no doubt get some much-need rain today and tomorrow, and that will be wonderful! I'm not sure about all the calls for gloom and doom though - I'll wait to dig out my snowshoes until the white stuff has actually piled up. But it is true that March is when we normally get the deepest snows of the year so I am hopeful - but I'll take MOISTURE in any form - we need wet stuff for waterfalls AND to clear the air of the terrible forest fire smoke that hangs over the Ozarks like death - rain will cleanse the air and also stop the burning, at least for a day or two, so COME ON RAIN!
Seems like there are a lot more elk in Boxley than I've ever seen before. We've been seeing a lot of coyotes too roaming around. Deer are EVERYWHERE. Domestic cows are dropping calves right now in record numbers. You can see them in Boxley - momma cows will group calves together with other calves in nurseries on the bright green pasture, leaving one momma cow behind to look after them while the rest take turns grazing. The air is filled these days with birds of all shapes, colors, and sounds. It is the time of the year with the world comes back to life - SPRINGTIME in Arkansas - there is no other place like it!
TONIGHT is the bean supper and pie auction to help raise funds for the old church/community building in Boxley. If you are anywhere in the area be sure to stop by and have some good eats and fun too! We had dinner at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper last night - more people than I have ever seen there. And the waitress got every single order at our table of eight right! Oh yes, and a NEW BBQ joint opened on the Jasper square just this week - it is located just a couple of doors down from the Ozark Cafe - it is BBQ from TEXAS so I suspect it will be great! And also the Cliff House restaurant just opened for the season - serving breakfast and lunch daily, plus dinner on weekends. They have the best view from any restaurant in the state - looking out over the Grand Canyon of the Ozarks. I just wish the would open before 8am for breakfast - the sunrise from there is really special!
OK, now that the cat is away it is time for this mouse to play! Oops, I mean WORK! Pam does more work around here these days than I do so it is going to be a long week for me trying to fill in for her - plus I have to remember to feed all of our livestock that includes dogs, cats, fish, birds, deer, and more cats!
Speaking of cats, we still have four semi-wild cats that are living up at the tractor shed. We feed them just enough to get by each day, but otherwise they fend for themselves (a mom and three nearly-grown kittens that belong to Pam's parents). The other day we discovered that a SKUNK had tried to invade the tractor shed. Even though the skunk outweighed the momma cat by at least three times, the skunk lost the battle and I had to cart off the body. That momma cat is REALLY protective, and I would not want to mess with her...
OK, time to get back to the rain dance - hope you have a grand weekend, and get WET!!!
03/21/10 Ahhh, how nice it is to live in a log cabin in the wintertime! I've just spent a delightful evening curled up in front of a roaring fireplace with a good book, a mug of warm tea, candlelight dancing off the log walls, and a fuzzy dog at my feet. That was really about all that I could do - the power went out this afternoon - the "good book" was the phone book so I could call the power company, the candles because it was really DARK in the cabin with now power! The power came back on again sometime after 10pm this evening, and so now I'm able to curl up with a good computer and get a little work done!
I awoke to snowfall today, and it came down really hard and fast all day long, until sometime tonight - one of the longest HARD snowstorms that we've ever had here. And while I LOVE heavy snowfall like this, the fact that it was blowing so hard and steady all day long kept me from being able to take a lot of photographs. In fact I hung around in the cabin all morning just watching it snow, and feeding all the livestock here, and trying to figure out where I was going to go take pictures. When the snow never did let up, I went ahead and packed up the car with camera gear and headed on out.
It was kind of fun getting to FINALLY use a nice set of tires out here in the woods - first set of really good tires I've had since I was in college. So getting around in the deep snow was no problem, but every time I found a scene that I wanted to photograph I had a tough time being able to do so due to the driving snow - it was nearly always blowing directly at my camera, and you can't take pictures with heavy, wet snow pounding the front of your camera lens.
I got to be the first human to go down the steep hill into Boxley - a deer had just been ahead of me. I had to put the car into granny gear in low range, and then crept on down the hillside - the snow was probably about 7-8 inches deep by then, deeper in some places. I had a couple of scenes that I wanted to photograph down in Boxley Valley - I've been waiting for one of the snowstorms where the snow sticks to the tree limbs, and this was one of the very best. But as soon as I started down the steep hill, wind and warming temps knocked most of the snow out of the limbs, and by the time I got down into Boxley and lot of the "pretty" in the snow scenes had vanished.
I had also planned to hike into a scenic area nearby but realized the limbs would be snow-free in there as well. Oh well, at least the creeks and rivers were up and running a little bit, which meant we would have some nice waterfalls in the next few days, yippie!
I did hike down into an area near Mossville that was high enough up to have nice snow in the trees, but then I crawled way back under an overhang, and then the snow in the limbs was no longer a main subject. Oh well, it was nice being under there out of the blowing snow for a little while.
Later I climbed back up Cave Mountain Road and found more neat snow scenes to take pictures of - one in particular kept me in one spot for nearly an hour. And while I was there I met one of my neighbors - literally met her for the first time ever (I think), even though she has lived up here longer than me, and I pass her house nearly every trip to or from anywhere. Even though she lives out here on Cave Mountain, she has a full time job as the Postmistress of the post office at Ozone - a long drive each day for sure. I see her husband frequently - he probably knows more about the mountain than anyone - but I've just never met up with her before today. She was on a mission to spread salt on the dangerous corner at the top of Cave Mountain Road so that her son could return home tomorrow safely - the things that moms do for their kids!
Speaking of things going out, our e-mail server in Fayetteville shut down yesterday. We actually have three different servers that must all be working in order for the mail to be delivered here at Cloudland. First the mail goes through a SPAM filter that runs on a server in Fayetteville, then the e-mails that make it through are sent to the second server in the same room, then our "server" out here logs on and grabs the mail from server #2, and then we can view, edit, and reply to e-mails. It was server #2 that shut down yesterday. I have been able to go into server #1 and READ some e-mails, but can't get them onto my computer here, nor can I reply directly to them. But I have been able to reply to a few e-mails via a roundabout path, it is just very slow. I'm hopeful that everything will be back up to normal on Monday. I also have a yahoo e-mail account but almost never use it. I could have used it today if I really needed to. So nice to have options!
Most of our really big, wet, snowstorms happen in March, so what we got this weekend was not all that unusual. It would have been a good day for snowshoes, but not for x-country skies. I let my car be my snowshoes today, although when I did leave the road and hike down into the wilderness the gaiters over my boots and socks worked very well and my feet remained dry. My lovely bride got me a pair of tall rubber boots to wear around here when things get sloppy (often), and I wore them today as well. Funny now many different pairs of boots it takes to keep me running! (I don't have a single pair of "dress" shoes, but I've got about a dozen pairs of work shoes/boots.)
I see now that the time has just slipped into tomorrow so I had better go find that fuzzy dog who is going to keep my feet warm tonight. I hope many of you got the chance to go play in the snow this weekend! No actual play for me since it was all work, but I love my work so it is no problem...
03/25/10 The PEEPERS are making so much noise (I mean, music) tonight that I can hardly think! It has been a long time since they've been around, and are a sure sign of spring. Seems like spring is a little late in coming this year, but I have seen tons of bloodroot wildflowers that have sprang out of the ground, and a couple of days ago the popcorn trees started to pop, although still not too many yet. Tomorrow we are supposed to get sunshine, and I suspect the hillside will begin to pop with popcorn trees! Certainly by the end of next week we will have springtime in full force in the Ozarks with popcorn and redbud trees, and lots of wildflowers.
My focus this week has been on waterfalls - I've been able to make two trips out into the woods in search of new waterfalls - one a couple of days ago, and then most of the day today. I continue to search for new waterfalls to include in the update to the waterfall guidebook that will be published in early 2011. Some of the waterfalls I've known about for a long time and just have not been able to photograph them, or had some other reason not to include them in the book. There are many hundreds of waterfalls that will never be included - just not enough room. I spend a great deal of time doing research on waterfalls that I don't know about, including getting great info from many of you, studying drainage maps, reading newsletters and trip reports and online pages - always on the lookout for a photo or a reference or any little bit of info about a new and interesting waterfall.
A couple of days ago I headed out late in the afternoon to a waterfall that I had read about on the web - complete with a photo and gps coordinates of not only the waterfall location, but also where to park. I was interested in this since it was located in a drainage that I've always known should have great waterfalls, but I've never heard reports of any, and I have only visited it once and never really got to explore much. I figured this trip would be a quick one of less than an hour in the woods, and I would come away with a great new waterfall! The best laid plans of mice and men...
When I arrived at the parking spot I got kind of worried - it appeared to me to be on private property. I don't knowingly do private property generally. There was a house nearby so I knocked on the door to see if I could find any info about the place, but no one was home. I hoped it was indeed OK to park there and I was just reading the land incorrectly, so I headed off into the woods, where I reached government land within about 200 yards.
The waterfall was right where I expected it to be, but it was not nearly as nice as I had hoped - in fact it was just a little creek coming into the side of the main creek. I would need to find something really interesting before I could recommend this area to other folks, so I found my way down to the main creek and started to explore around. There was lots of neat stuff down there for sure, but also a TON of ice storm debris. Holy cow it was everywhere! I know I have said this before - several times - but this was the most ice damage I'd seen anywhere. It was more climbing than hiking.
But eventually I made my way on down the creek to where the hillside started to drop off steeply - certainly I would find a big waterfall down there somewhere. But the going got tougher and tougher, and the creek even got clogged with massive trees and treetops and limbs. Beneath the carnage there was plenty of whitewater that was having a blast leaping from boulder to boulder, foaming all the way.
It was not really more dangerous, but the terrain was very difficult to climb down through. Several times I was unable to walk at all, and had to actually climb down a fallen tree right out in the middle of a very steep drop in the creek - actually waterfalls under there! In fact I think the debris allowed me to go places that I never would have been able to get to before - it was so steep in there! And even though my hour of time had long since passed, and the sun had dropped below the ridge, I kept on going, knowing there was a great waterfall just ahead, somewhere.
The creek kept luring me on with one gushing waterfall after another, tumbling, crashing, making all sorts of noise. But nothing I could really photograph, nor consider for the guidebook. The best one was just ahead though, so I continued on, crawling, climbing, wading, doing whatever I had to in order to continue. All the while I kept a watchful eye at the hillside on the opposite side of the creek - I would eventually have to climb/crawl back up that sucker to the big bluff above, and then find a way up through the bluffline to the top of the ridge and back to my car. The light continued to fade. I pushed on.
And then just when I was about to give up, the last rays of bright sunshine lit up a giant wall of limestone down below me - and I knew that a wall of limestone that large had to cross the creek and produce a glorious waterfall! I tried to push on towards it, but it was no use - I was running out of time and the terrain just got rougher. I had to give up and planned to return another time when I had all day to explore.
It took me a good while to crawl up that opposite hillside, but thanks to the many fallen trees that provided handholds I was able to make it out safely and without too much trouble. As I made my way along a level bench up there I could look back down on the limestone wall, still glowing in the evening light - taunting me.
30 minutes later I was back at the car - and guess who was waiting for me there? A very large man who was not too happy. Oops! I knew then that I had parked on private property and I was about to get what was coming to me. Turns out it was not his land, but he wanted me to know it was NOT OK to park there. NEVER ASSUME WHAT YOU READ ON THE INTERNET IS CORRECT!!!
But the encounter turned out OK - we got to talking about waterfalls and the gentleman perked right up and started telling me about two or three of them on his land that were just beautiful, and he would not let me leave until he showed me one of them. It was a beautiful twin falls that was running wildly - and exactly 100 feet on his property and away from government property. But the creek and both waterfalls were completely clogged with mature downed trees - it would be years and years before they would be open again. I thanked him for being so nice (pretty common of most folks you run into around here - be nice to them and they will return that to you), and left him with a picture book! He invited me back anytime.
I left early this morning in hopes of finding a great new waterfall or two after a good bit of rain overnight in some areas of the Ozarks. I had a small topo map that I had printed off that I had drawn a circle around an interesting looking set of topo lines near a creek I had been to once. Actually the only time I had visited this area was in the middle of the night - both coming and going - I had never been there in the daylight, and never to this particular area, but it just looked great on the map. Even before I got to the parking area I was kind of stunned at the scenery - it was quite spectacular! The road switchbacks down through a big bluffline, and at one point there was even a waterfall that had drilled a hole through part of the bluff. There were other nooks and crannies and areas where the bluff had fractured that you could hike back into.
After that the road got pretty bad, and then I came across a beautiful hillside covered with mossy boulders and whitewater - and just above all of that and hidden by several giant boulders - a WATERFALL! I climbed up the steep slope and got behind the boulders and found a really nice falls, but when I set up my camera to take a photo I realized that both my main set and backup set of batteries were dead! I had a third set in the car (and a 4th), but it was a really tough climb back down so I decided I would return later - this was not the main waterfall that I was after anyway.
I eventually made it to a place where I parked and headed on up into the woods in search of the main waterfall. Then son of a gun, right where it was supposed to be, I came upon a big waterfall - YIPPIE! This waterfall would be worth the trip for anyone for sure, and it will most likely go into the guidebook. The setting was spectacular as well, with a giant bluffline going off in two directions - hum, that meant even more waterfalls in the area!
Later on I drove down to the road that runs along the Big Piney River to a place called Car Wash Falls - I think you can see where it gets the name from! The only problem is that I realized I needed another person in order to be able to park the car under the waterfall and then get out to take the picture - oops. I only got a little bit of the inside drenched. This is a very unique location.
My next stop was another location that someone had told me about - a waterfall that "could be seen from the highway." In fact I think I remember seeing it myself many times. I had my map out and the creek marked where it crossed under the highway, and it was very easy to find. I pulled over and got my camera gear out and started to hike up the creek, which was flowing very well. Man any sort of waterfall with this flow would be great! The creek wound back and forth, snaking its way up into a steep hillside, but no waterfall. I hiked on, enjoying the rushing waters all around. There were several waterfalls in side canyons, but nothing on the main creek. I hiked on, and on, and on. Hum, certainly anything this far back into the drainage could NOT be seen from the highway! But it had to be it, so I pressed on, trying to keep the faith, but beginning to doubt the information. OK, only TWO MORE TURNS in the creek and then I'm heading BACK! And I did find a very nice twin falls where the creek split, but they were not very high and I probably would not recommend folks hike this far back just to see them,. I was really disappointed, and also getting kind of tired - the terrain was pretty tough. So I gave up and turned around, only this time I decided to take the high route back, hoping to find a logging road or four-wheeler trail up there somewhere. My goodness there were some GIANT pine trees on that hillside! Unfortunately they were all marked with paint to be cut down soon.
I did find a little four-wheeler trail and it was a much easier hike all the way back to the car. I was not a happy camper to have wasted so much valuable time on a wild goose chase, but these things happen. How many of your guessed it? As I drove off - within 100 yards of where I had parked - there was a spectacular waterfall within sight of the highway!!!!! Boy, did I feel like an idiot!
The rest of my day was filled with mostly driving around and not finding anything more to photograph. Some areas of the forest had not received much rain at all while others were at flood stage. In fact the best area was where I had been first thing this morning. All in all it had been a good day, and I also got my car washed!
Before I pack it in for tonight, I must tell you about my trip to McDonalds. My lovely bride does this from time to time and I always thought it was a great idea but I never thought anyone would do it to me. When I pulled up to the drive thru window to pay, the lady said that the person in the car just ahead of me had paid my ticket! That kind of caught me by surprise - I had exact change and everything. What a wonderful and thoughtful thing to do for a total stranger! But strange is exactly how I felt. Why would someone do something nice for me? It just felt a little odd. And of course the car had already left so there was no one to thank. Perhaps that was the issue - I could not thank anyone for this kind act. So not knowing what else to do, I told the lady at the drive thru window that I would pay for the car behind me, ha! Turns out that ticket was more than mine would have been, but that was OK. One good turn deserves another, and perhaps your good deed might just come back around to you - and then you could pass it on once again...
Ghost Falls (above)
This is the waterfall right next to the highway (above), and Carwash Falls (below)
03/31/10 Very weird outside early this morning. The wind has been HOWLING all night, and continues. The color of the sky and the dim light of pre-dawn is BLUE. And there is an almost-full moon hanging low in the southwest that is burning through all of the blue haze - the moon is white but everything around it is blue (they set over 20 forest fires yesterday and there is a lot of thick blue smoke in the air). There are birds and frogs singing at the top of their lungs. And the WIND - did I mention the wind was howling?!
I've only set foot in the woods once since last week, a quick trip into Lost Valley to photograph some wildflowers. I would say that spring is solidly two weeks behind schedule here. There were lots of flowers in Lost Valley, but they were not very thick, in fact they were scattered in areas where normally they are THICK. I did find my favorite Ozark wake robin flowers and spent a couple of glorious hours crawling around on the forest floor taking pictures of them. For each flower I set up my special remote studio with a white light tent to diffuse the sunshine, a black umbrella to remove all trace of that bright light, and then a little reflector to bounce a little bit of light back to illuminate the flower. Most of the light came from the very soft light coming through the light tent - this is my favorite and standard way of photographing wildflowers these days.
I've seen TONS of pure-white bloodroot flowers this year - perhaps more than I have ever seen - but otherwise the wildflower crop has been much subdued this spring.
FINALLY this week we have POPCORN trees POPPING! And with a week full of bright sunshine I expect we'll have many thousands of popcorn trees dotting the landscape up here in the Ozarks by the end of the week. The ones that first pop out are those that guard the tops of big blufflines - they get more direct sunshine than others. And followed a day or three later are the other trees that live deep in the forest. Eventually you will think the dogwoods have bloomed since there will be so many popcorn trees (aka "service berry" or "sarvis" trees). But the dogwoods will be later in April before they bloom up here in the hills. NO redbuds yet, and that is a big surprise - these normally come out in early-to-mid March. I expect to see some of them coming out this week as well. Yup, about two weeks behind schedule for most spring blooms it seems. I expect that we will see both redbuds and dogwoods blooming at the same time - a rare treat indeed!
I did something really odd for me yesterday - I spent more than two hours shooting an outdoor PORTRAIT of a person - oh my gosh! I used to do this sort of thing all the time, in fact would often do 20-30 portrait settings a day, day after day, when I used to do sorority photos (back in the late 1970's). For some reason I agreed to do the senior portrait of a friend's daughter. We went from one outdoor location to another (the family owns land in Ponca, which includes the covered bridge with the waterfall flowing underneath - one of the shooting locations of course!). I took more than 500 photographs, and there are lots of really nice portraits there. Since I don't own any actual "portrait" camera equipment, I had to improvise with what I had, which included a very long wildlife lens that worked out pretty well and gave a new perspective to the young ladies portraits. After taking a quick look at some of the images last night I realized that the photography techniques that I have developed and honed these past 30 years since doing any portrait work seemed to do pretty well with people too - some of the images are just amazing - certainly due mostly to the subject - but the equipment captured her quite well. Other than our own lovely daughter's senior pictures, I'm hopeful that there won't be any other senior portraits in my future (that is NOT what I do - I just got lucky that some of these turned out well).
APRIL will be upon us in a few hours - my FAVORITE month of the year for sure! I don't know of any place on this planet that can beat April in Arkansas. I hope to be out chasing waterfalls quite a bit, but also will be working on a new picture book so will have a lot of other scenes to photograph and share with you.
Oops, one final note - wild azales will be blooming in April, but TODAY is your last chance to order the "wild azalea at sunset" Print of the Month at the special low price!
A final image from March - Ozark wake robin wildflowers along the Lost Valley Trail