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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - MARCH 2011 Journal Archives

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Cloudland Cabin Cam March 31, 7:40:am - clearing and cool

Limited space left in of our spring workshops

FREE POSTER, FREE BOOK - SPRING OPEN HOUSE and canvas print sale!

March2011POM

March Print of the Month

Updated Monday the 28th - THICK fog

03/01/11 It is clear and cold with a slight breeze early this morning at first light. We have stereo out on the back deck - the roar from the Buffalo River is booming up from far below to the left, and there is softer music drifting up from Whitaker Creek to the right. AND we have songbirds up early and singing to greet the day, a sure sign of SPRING! I generally consider March 1st as the unofficial start of spring here in the wilderness, although the heavy frost on the ground would not indicate that - at least it is frost and not ice!

While on my way into Harrison for rehab yesterday I took a slight detour to visit one of my favorite waterfalls, Triple Falls at Camp Orr. I was delighted to see it running quite nicely with all three falls looking like the classic scene. I brought along my big camera and spent a little while recording my very first waterfall of the year. One of the many things that make waterfalls so wonderful to visit are the negative ions that are produced by the thundering water (same deal with beaches and large waves), which increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy. And this particular waterfall was producing those ions times three! It was so great to see water flowing again after so long being without them. The landscape in general is saturated with water standing around in puddles, which means waterfalls and creeks are doing well - YIPPIE! Of course we will need rain weekly to keep this up so I'm hoping everyone has perfected their rain dance by now and will practice all spring. I keep coming back to the photograph that I made yesterday of this great waterfall and like it so much that I have made it available as the new March Print Of The Month (all of my images are available as prints, but this one will be cheaper than normal for the entire month as a result).

As I hiked the short trail to the falls the ground around me was covered with GREEN - wildflower plants about 1/2 inch tall were packed in as tight as they could get. No blooms yet, but it won't be long before this and many other areas will explode with the brilliant colors of spring.

As the flowers and trees begin to bloom and waterfalls flow around the region I will try to get out as much as I can this month and report on their progress. There is no question that springtime in Arkansas can't be beat by any season anywhere on the planet. The more you are able to get out and visit the outdoors this spring the better your life will be - especially if you spend time visiting waterfalls and soaking up all those ions! By the way, while I am not a big fan of the facebook craze we do now have a Facebook page where you can go to make comments (thanks to my lovely bride) - I'll be making posts there as often as I can and sometimes those will supplement what I post here, although the Cloudland Journal will remain as my main source of written inspiration about the wilderness.

03/02/11 Yesterday was one of those magical spring days that we often get here in the Ozarks - warm and sunny and refreshing! I spent much of the day working in the print room but took every chance I got to linger outside and soak up the beautiful day. Later in the afternoon my lovely bride stole me away and we went exploring for the first wildflower of the year. We found two different kinds of bright GREEN ferns growing at the base of some stones, but no flowers had poked their heads up from the brown leaf litter yet. Another day or two like that and we will have flowers blooming on the mountain - YIPPIE! Of course, we just heard they are predicting snow for this weekend - 'tis March in Arkansas!

While getting the oil changed in my car the other day the service guy brought me a quart can filled to the top with hickory nuts. Huh? They had found them inside my air filter! We have a pack rat at work at Cloudland. He suggested I get a rubber snake in the engine compartment to deter the critter. We had decided to get a fake owl to put out in the yard to deter hawks from swooping down and grabbing our remaining chickens. You should have seen Pam's grocery shopping list - milk, bread, rubber snake, fake owl, dog food.....

In the wee hours before first light there was a faint glow in the eastern sky this morning. Eventually a tiny silver sliver of crescent moon shone through the thin cloud layer - by the time those clouds were lit up bright colors the moon had faded away, but I kept watch just in case a photo could be taken, but it was not to be. I think I enjoy the crescent moon almost as much as the full moon, although any time spent gazing at the moon no matter what phase is time well spent.

It feels like another magical early spring day in store for us today, with a warmer start. We'll probably get out and hunt for the first wildflower each day now until that first one arrives - and I'll be sure and post a photo when it does...

03/03/11 I got to sit out on the back deck early this morning for the first time in a long while, sipping java and watching and listening to the world coming to life. It was just cool enough that a heavy bathrobe felt great, with a crispy-cool breeze on my face to help wake me up. The rivers below were sending up hushed lullabies from whitewater pouring over smooth boulders. A few other souls were up early and their songs from the treetops drifted through the airwaves. It won't be long now 'til dawn will be filled with the chatter of songbirds.

And then there was a red glow in the east, and a band of low clouds hugging the horizon began to light up. I ran inside and grabbed my camera and stood out on the little balcony just off of our loft that faces east and watched in awe as the color in those clouds grew really intense - and I put the camera to work. It was a splendid beginning to the new day!

While that predawn light show was certainly a Cloudland Moment, I also had one yesterday afternoon in an odd place. The warm afternoon sunshine felt great and I was outside on the lower deck doing some rehab shoulder exercises. I was on my back going through one of the most painful of the exercises and looking straight up through the bare limbs of the big red oak tree that grows up through the deck when I heard a noise - a different sort of wilderness music. Honking geese. I strained to find them - you know they are always at a different altitude than you think they are and it is often a surprise when the flock finally comes into focus. There was a really large flock of snow geese flying north in formation about half way up, and they looked really nice against the pure blue sky. Watching their movement nearly took all the pain of my shoulder away (not really). And then another movement and splash of color caught my eye, but I had to refocus to see it - a BRIGHT BLUE male bluebird had landed on the very bottom limb closest to me. He was on his way to build a nest in our martin house - Pam and I spotted him early in the day doing just that. Such a treat to have bluebirds and geese in the same visual frame!

No wildflower in the woods here yet - and yesterday I hiked through the deep woods from our cabin all the way out to the mailbox, taking the long way, and never spotted a single one. No, I take that back - the most beautiful wildflower in the world was waiting for me at the mailbox, my lovely bride, who had hike there with Aspen along a different route - a real treat for me at the end of a fast three-mile jaunt. On the hike back to the cabin we did find the first daffodils blooming at the Faddis cabin - Benny/Mildred, your place is about to explode with color!

Speaking of COLOR, it is about a half hour later this morning after the beautiful predawn light show, and all of a sudden the world out in front of me lit up - the sun began to peek out over the eastern horizon and sent shock waves of brilliant color across the tops of the wilderness ridges, including our cabin and surrounding trees - oh my goodness it was colorful! And now just two minutes later all that color is gone - just white light now. (That is a hint to all of you sunrise photographers - often the great color only lasts a minute or two - on features that are opposite the sunrise - and then the color is gone - if you don't get your masterpiece photo then, you end up with just a snapshot like everyone else.)

03/04/11 The first wildflower has arrived - a trout lily! And then it almost got stepped on...

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03/06/11 I was standing in our hot-water exercise tank early this morning doing some shoulder rehab exercises when daylight started to creep into the landscape around me. Something about a distant hillside did not look right, and it took a few moments to soak in that the hillside was white instead of brown like the rest of the wilderness. It had been clear skies all night so it probably was not snow.

And then it hit me - HOAR FROST! There probably had been some fog before daylight, and with the temp in the upper 20's that old fog froze onto anything it touched. But the fog was up at a certain altitude and so the hoar frost only happened on the highest points that stuck up into the fog, including the one hilltop that I could see from my exercise pit.

It didn't take me long to dry off, collect my camera gear, grab a banana, and drive off towards the highest point in the Ozarks, where I hoped the trees surrounding the Buffalo Fire Tower would be covered with the bright-white hoar frost. Only the last half mile or so was white - everything else was just plain old brown forest. When I arrived the sky was white as well - the fog had lifted but not disappeared. I wanted some blue sky, but once the sun burned off the fog to reveal the blue behind it the temp would quickly rise to a point where the delicate hoar frost would melt fast so I would have to be ready - and crossed my fingers that the temp would hold out for the blue sky to arrive.

In the meantime I wandered around the top of the little mountain and the security compound that was constructed around the base of the fire tower a year or two ago. The compound was really covered with the hoar frost and the pattern of the chain-link fence look really neat - the razor wire looked interesting too but I didn't want to get too close to it!

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Just as I found a spot in the woods that I liked, the fog behind the fire tower began to change from dull white to pretty blue, and the sun started to make the forest all around me sparkle! I set up my camera and stood in the same spot for the next 20 minutes as the sky got bluer and the sunshine got brighter. Just as the sky got completely blue, the wind started to blow, and I only had a few minutes to capture the pristine scene before the hoar frost crystals turned loose from the limbs - and then it started to SNOW! (all the frost particles blowing through the air) Kind of weird to be standing in the bright sunshine with pure-blue skies and snowfall.

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03/12/11 A giant yellow ball is just beginning to peek out above the ridge in the east, and brilliant sunshine is flooding the wilderness. At this very moment there is a guy standing on Hawksbill Crag (no relation to us), down on one knee, proposing to the love of his life, and asking her to share the great beauty of the wilderness and life with him for the rest of theirs. I hope she says YES! I can't think of a better way to begin the weekend, or the rest of your life. (Lots of folks propose and/or get married on Hawksbill Crag, and I am frequently asked to take pictures, but I dont do that sort of thing. Doing the proposal at sunrise was a GREAT idea I thought, and I have a feeling that this marriage will last a long time.)

The cold snap this past week sent any early wildflowers curling back into their winter hideouts, but the warmth and sunshine yesterday and today will coax them out into the fresh springtime air, along with about a billion of their closest friends. This will be the week that wildflowers begin to bloom in the Ozarks, and by weeks end we should have some nice displays going on in the places where we typically have early spring wildflower - like Lost Valley. Some rainfall will help along with warm and sunny days - of course, I mostly want the RAIN!!! We need several inches of it each week so if you happen to have a rain dance handy please dig it out.

03/12/11 A giant yellow ball is just beginning to peek out above the ridge in the east, and brilliant sunshine is flooding the wilderness. At this very moment there is a guy standing on Hawksbill Crag, down on one knee, proposing to the love of his life, and asking her to share the great beauty of the wilderness and life with him for the rest of theirs. I hope she says YES! I can't think of a better way to begin the weekend, or the rest of your life.

The cold snap this past week sent any early wildflowers curling back into their winter hideouts, but the warmth and sunshine yesterday and today will coax them out into the fresh springtime air, along with about a billion of their closest friends. This will be the week that wildflowers begin to bloom in the Ozarks, and by weeks end we should have some nice displays going on in the places where we typically have early spring wildflower - like Lost Valley. Some rainfall will help along with warm and sunny days - of course, I mostly want the RAIN!!! We need several inches of it each week so if you happen to have a rain dance handy please dig it out.

03/13/11 Since the girls are going to be out of town on the actual date, my lovely bride and I decided to pick yesterday to celebrate our wedding anniversary - our TENTH! No need for me to get all mushy here since I do it frequently and I'm sure lots of you roll your eyes enough, but I do want to say I TOLD YA SO!!!!! You would not believe how many of our "friends" said this day would never come, indeed our marriage would not even last a year. Why, I have no idea. I could not think of a better match in all categories. I hired Aspen for one thing and one thing only (to find my life mate), and he is a perfect 1 for 1. (Aspen ran over to Pam even before we had met, picked her out of a crowd that was standing in the pouring rain waiting to begin a hike, and put his muddy paws all over her saying "THIS is THE one!")

Anyway, since we had met on a hike, we spent the day yesterday in the woods with the dogs hiking various trails, then finished up the day with a dinner in Eureka Springs, where we got married on the first day of spring ten years ago (at Lake Leatherwood). And while this was meant to be a day of celebration, we both were surprised and delighted to find so many people out hiking and enjoying the trails and the beautiful spring weather - we love to see folks out hiking - that is what our life is all about - helping to get folks out of town and into nature.

WILDFLOWER REPORT. The early explosion has not happened yet, although there are some areas with a few wildflowers popping up but we need more rain and sunshine and warm temps - hopefully that will happen this week and next. We did see a few trout lilies, bloodroots, and toothworts, but no spring beauties or other early wildflowers that signal the start of the explosion. And no blooming trees yet - although wild plums have budded and are ready to pop open - that will be the first tree to bloom, along with serviceberry or POPcorn trees - I expect them to begin blooming this week. No sign of redbuds yet, which will be the next trees to show off. While I have not been there, I suspect these trees have already begun to bloom down south in the river valley and in the Ouachitas. The next few weeks will be an incredible sight! Oh, and we did see some whitchhazel bushes in bloom yesterday - actually it is LATE for them since they are a winter-blooming bush around here.

CANVAS GALLERY OPEN HOUSE ON APRIL 2. I'll post a few more details later, but we will have our very first spring open house here at the gallery in three weeks, on April 2nd, from 10am - 4pm. All canvas prints will be on sale at HALF PRICE! There will be more than 100 gallery-wrapped canvas prints to choose from in a variety of sizes from 11 x 14 to FIVE by SIX FEET! We'll also have a selection of Black Mat Prints on sale for only $50 (also Print On Demand for any image you like at this size - while you wait!). AND all of our picture books and guidebooks will be available at the special program prices ($20). I missed the last open house we had back in December due to my surgery, but I'll be up and Adam for this one (who was Adam anyway?). So plan now for a springtime adventure to the upper Buffalo River are that weekend and come visit Cloudland and take home a work of fine art and a few books!

PHOTO WORKSHOPS. There is only one or two spaces left in both of our spring weekend workshops, and only a couple of spots left in the one day workshops - better hurry before all the spaces are gone if you are interested.

REHAB. Many folks continue to ask about my shoulder and rehab. I have passed a milestone in range of motion movement and things are progressing well - I get a little bit more movement every week, but it comes at a price. Now that I am able to push myself farther, that is exactly what the great folks at the rehab center in Harrison are doing - PUSHING to the extremes. Progress only comes from tearing down muscle, and in my case that must be done in many different directions. Along with the increased movement comes a great deal of pain, and in fact I'm in pain pretty much 24/7 these days but the progress is worth it. I'm told it will be another 4-6 months before I can declare victory, and in the meantime I'm slowly getting back to normal activities, although I'm unable to put in a really long and hard day like I used to. Besides going to rehab twice a week I spend a couple of hours a day here at the cabin doing exercises - including playing with silly putty, which has really helped regain feeling and movement in my wrist - would have thunk it! AND Pam's back is much better now after her surgery - thanks for asking!

Put April 2nd on your calendar, but get out NOW and go hiking...AND please put those rain dancing shoes on and make some music!

03/17/11 Spring seems hesitant to arrive up here in the high country. Could be that when it began to pop last week it was met with temps down below freezing. We have many popcorn trees in the area that tried to bloom last week but were frozen back - now they are just giving it a half-hazard try and the blooms like kind of weird. Wildflowers are also hesitant to stand up and unfurl - we saw several bloodroots the other day that had tiny blooms and their single large leaf remained tightly curled around the stem. With temps in the 70s yesterday and even higher today and tomorrow I suspect things will get back to normal. This should be a great early spring weekend to be out in the Ozarks, although waterfalls remain mostly low - any rain we get now runs off quickly - but waterfall locations are normally great places to be even without the thunder.

I've been on the road most of this week with more road time today so don't have much to report from the woods. I did manage to spend a couple of hours Monday exploring a new waterfall area after the big storm blew through the night before. I mostly wanted to see one waterfall that a friend told me about - it will be great with more water and will certainly go into the new version of the waterfall guidebook in the fall - but the flow was too low for a photo so I spent the rest of my limited time exploring around the area. I found six more waterfalls just downstream! I plan to return to this drainage when I can spend a full day looking around, and expect to find many more waterfalls - none of them are very large, but it should make a great trip for serious waterfall hunters.

Besides the color changing from brown to green there are other changes happening in Boxley. First off, there is a new chicken "house" in town! It is actually a bus that has been converted to a coop, and you can see a flock of chickens roaming around the bus. It does not have an engine but has moved to three different locations in the past month - not sure what is up with that, but the chickens don't seem to mind. It is located right now on the far side of one of the big fields in Boxley - and if you look really close you can see a plastic owl sitting on top of the bus - to keep hawks away.

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The other big change happening in Boxley is that they are putting the clothes back on the old white church after it has been naked all winter - YIPPIE! The iconic building is being renovated inside and out, and the white classic white boards were removed last fall and are being replaced starting yesterday by new white concrete lap boards - the look of the building should remain the same once all the work is done. It will be GREAT to see the old girl back dressed up to greet all visitors to Boxley Valley!

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03/18/11 Just a quick note this morning. A few minutes before sunrise I noticed some color in the eastern horizon, then realized that our resident popcorn trees seemed to be blooming, so I grabbled my camera, laced up my boots about half way, and ran out the door, slipping and sliding down a VERY steep slope until I reached the top edge of the bluff that is directly to the east of the cabin. There was some very nice color, and my favorite popcorn tree had finally POPPED - probably during the night after the warm sunshine yesterday. I stood only a few feet back from the edge of the tall bluff and tried to line up the bright white tree and the sun rising behind it - a situation that photographers know is a difficult one to photograph because the contrast is just so great that no film or digital camera can record it all. I spent the next five minutes taking many pictures with my intermediate snapshot camera until the sun finally rose above a cloud on the horizon and really blue out the entire scene. While I knew there was no masterpiece there, I was quite thankful to have just been standing there for the few moments when the sun lit up that beautiful popcorn tree for the first time this year.

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And then as I turned to attempt the tough climb back up to the cabin I realized that I was being watched by not one, but dozens of critters! Well, probably critter would not be an accurate term, but I certainly was being watched, and a feeling of utter joy came over me. The hillside that I was standing on was covered with trout lilies in full bloom, each one open wide and staring right at me! The hillside was so steep that many of the flowers were at my eye level and only a few feet away - I could almost reach straight out in front of me and touch them. 'Twas a Cloudland Moment for sure - sharing such a magnificent moment with the flowers of the wilderness, and a great way to begin the day - YIPPIE!

03/20/11 WELCOME to the first day of SPRING!!! We have warm temps, bright sunshine, and a howling wind late this morning. Popcorn trees are POPPING in front of my eyes. Tiny wildflowers are popping up too and unfurling about as fast as you can hike past them. We seem to be a bit behind this year - perhaps by a full two weeks in the High Ozarks, but someone hit the great gong on the sky and spring is now in full swing as it should be. I've seen spring beauty, bloodroot, toothwort, trout lily, and about a dozen other species of wildflowers that I could not ID - I suspect in another week we'll have 50 species up and blooming or more. Not much in the way of blooming trees though - other than the popcorn trees - from where I'm sitting at my desk in the cabin typing this I can see about 50 of them in bloom, mostly along the tops of the great bluffline that runs for 75 miles through the wilderness. AND I did see the very first redbud tree in bloom yesterday, but that was down in Boxley Valley - no red/pink buds up here yet, but they won't be too far behind.

We had cloudy skies most of yesterday but I did have contingency plans to go photograph they widely-hyped moonrise if some blue sky appeared, in fact a main plan and a backup (I grew up studying NASA). By late afternoon there was a hint or two of blue sky, so I loaded up my camera gear and headed out, confident that I would arrive at my destination a full hour before sunset and be able to photograph any Ozarkglow on my subject, which was an old weathered barn on a hilltop facing west, and the full moon would rise just off to one side of it - a perfect setup. But you know all about the best laid plans of mice and men - there was so much smoke in the air that the Ozarkglow happened about an hour and a half before sunset - I could see it up on the hilltops as I screamed through Boxley Valley - oops, I mean gently rolled through. By the time I reached the barn all the color had been soaked up/blocked by the smoke. I stopped and took a few photos anyway just for the fun of it - looking at them today I can't find a lick of color in any of them. So it was off to location B, just down the road.

Once again the thick smoke got in the way and actually blocked the view of the rolling hills that I wanted to photograph. So I ended up driving around for the next hour looking for a new composition (I did not have a plan C - NASA would not be amused). And to make matters worse, the smoke was so thick that the moonrise itself was blocked - UNyippie! There was no moon at all in the eastern sky. So I turned around and headed for home.

And then just as I came around a corner I could see a faint hint of the moon beginning to burn through some of the smoke, and there was a very nice composition spread out before me as well. I turned around and tried to find a place to park, but there was no shoulder so I ended up just sort of off on the side of the road, kind of. As I jumped out and started to open up the big tripod the moon showed itself more and more, but I figured it would not last long. I ran up the highway until the view opened up completely, set up the camera and started taking pictures. One of the things that struck me was the contrast of colors from the blue-smoke landscape and the yellow moon. GOT IT! And then the moon disappeared back into the smoke clouds. I was a happy camper.

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Soon after I got back home the moon came out again and then eventually climbed up into a clear sky above. I went out and shot a few pictures of just the moon and dark sky surrounding it. If you look close at this second photo you can see that the moon was not exactly full at all - but rather only "99%" full (there is a tiny bit along the top that is in shadow).

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I was up at 5 this morning to great the beginning of a brand new season - SPRING WAS SPRINGING TODAY, YAHOO, YIPPIE COYOTE! But even more important was the fact that it was ten years ago that my lovely bride said "I do" while we stood in front of a Justice of the Peace on the banks of Lake Leatherwood in Eureka Springs. Wow, no other single event has ever shaped or changed my life is so many positive ways! And I do indeed give thanks each and every day for the tree ladies that moved to Cloudland soon after. Aspen and I really struck it rich!

Anyway, heavy cloud cover had moved in and there was no view of the setting moon in the west. My plan B for that was to give up immediately and go jump into the hot tub and enjoy the new season creeping into the landscape along with the first light. But then I saw a reflection of something in the glass above, and son of a guy, THE MOON! And holy cow it was BRIGHT YELLOW! I climbed out of the tub and went streaking through the cabin (remember the song?), and within two minutes I was speeding off towards an open meadow about a mile away from here - the closest open view of the moonset. But I was too late. By the time I arrived the moon had already started to sink behind a thick cloud cover and while I did take a few snapshots, I was bout 60 seconds too late. Sometimes life just happens like that.

But then on my way back to the cabin I saw that some really nice red/purple color was happening in the east, so I made a quick detour up to Aspen's meadow and got there just in time to take some pictures of the sun just beginning to rise. I believe I like this composition and color much better than the moonset would have been (and more importantly, I actually got this shot!). I'm glad I jumped up out of the tub and only had a little bit of water to clean up later.

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I came back home and set out on a six-mile fitness hike before breakfast - the early spring forest is just delightful right now, although man that wind continues to howl. I'm not sure how much the fitness part of my hike helped - ever since I returned I've been snacking non-stop!

Time to get back to work. But one closing thought - for all of you who have ever doubted, or perhaps even gave up on the thought of ever finding your life and soul mate, a best friend for life, I'm living proof that no time is too late. ENJOY who and where you are right now for sure, but know that your very special someone for the rest of your life could walk right into yours at any moment, so be prepared and open to it, and then everything else you thought was great will seem like just another nap. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY BUNKIE!

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The newlyweds, ten years ago today.

03/23/11 HOWLING winds all day long yesterday and the day before. I was only able to manage a three-mile hike yesterday afternoon but I'm sure it was more like six or eight since I had to constantly lean into the strong winds, or fight against cross winds. Holy cow the winds were STRONG! But I did have two great Cloudland moments during that hike. Come to think of it there were actually three.

The first was while I was hiking along the top of a bluffline. It was cloudy and warm and everything was working right - a delightful afternoon in the woods. Then all of a sudden it began to SNOW! Really, are you kidding me, in the middle of a warm spring afternoon?! Well, not quite. The air was filled with blowing white alright, but the white were the little bits of popcorn tree blossoms - the heavy winds were ripping them right off the trees and sent them sailing through the forest. At one point the ground around me was nearly white! It was kind of like leaf-off, only with fresh popcorn tree blossoms. Very odd, but beautiful at the same time.

Later on I topped a hill and was engulfed with the incredible heavy aroma of wild plum blossoms - oh my gosh they smelled almost as delicious and intense as whitchhazel blooms (which did not really happen much this winter). It was the sort of aroma that stopped me in my tracks just to inhale and savor for a while. I did not look close but I suspect there were a bunch of bees enjoying the sweet nectar as well.

And finally, while on my way back to the cabin, with the wind still howling away, I happened to look around and noticed that I was surrounded by DARK BLACK clouds in all directions - all the way out to the horizon. It looked quite ominous, and a little scary. And then it began to sprinkle just a little bit - well, not many of the tiny drops ever hit me since they were blowing horizontally, but I did get hit from the side! Anyway, then the sky opened up back to the west (behind me) and flooded the entire landscape with brilliant light - holy cow, it was like, well, like someone turned on a bright light in a dark room! The quality of this light was just amazing - the sort of light that photographers and artists crave and seek out and are blessed when it happens and they are there to witness and record. It seemed like all of a sudden every single trunk and branch in the forest was neon. And all of that up against a coal black sky. I see this sort of light perhaps six or eight times a year. It was an incredible feeling to be right out there in the middle of it all, but at the same time I had a sinking feeling - NO CAMERA!!!!! Note to self - ALWAYS have a camera with you! This epic light only lasted for a minute or two at the most and then it was gone and everything grew dark once again. I thanked the light gods and motored on back to the cabin. Whew, it was quite a hike, even if only three miles!

The redbud trees have now started to really pop in this area, although they all seem to be very dark, more of a purple than pink (certainly no where near RED - someone must have been smoking something when this tree was named). Wild plumb and peach trees too. The popcorn trees are on their way out - obviously WAY out with all the wind removing their blooms. The landscape is getting pretty dry though and we really need some rain - like a week of it would do quite nicely. I keep getting e-mails from folks around the country who have had enough rain and/or snow, and I tell each one to please send the extras our way!

03/27/11 HEAVY fog this morning and cold, just like yesterday. The temp is near freezing - if it were only a few degrees colder we would have a winter wonderland of hoar frost everywhere! It is very still out with no wind or breeze of any sort. The only sounds seeping through the fog are those of the rivers below drifting up. All the birds must still be asleep. All that fog was deep blue before first light, now it is much lighter blue as some daylight begins to creep into the landscape.

We had a good bit of rain early yesterday morning - a couple inches in our area. But this was not widespread, mostly just along a thin line through the Ozarks, although they got a lot more up north. After studying the rain maps early yesterday morning I could only find one area with waterfalls I needed to visit, so it was an easy choice where I needed to go. An hour later I was hiking along part of the Ozark Highlands Trail heading down into Waterfall Hollow where I hoped to photograph three waterfalls that are all near each other. That specific area had received about 2.5 inches of rain overnight.

As I hiked along in a heavy mist/light sprinkle I started to see wildflowers along the trail - mostly bloodroots that were all curled up tight - the temp was in the upper 30's so I did not blame them. The flowers actually looked kind of frozen. And then I realized that they WERE frozen, only it was not the flowers I was looking at, but rather ICE! Most of the forest floor was covered with the normal brown leaves, but when I looked close I could see individual leaves that had pockets of HAIL all piled up - just slightly less than marble-sized hail. The more I looked around the more piles I saw. I don't think it had hailed in that area for at least several hours, and with so much hail still there it must have been quite a hail storm and piled up pretty deep for that much to have stuck around that long - good thing I was not hiking when the hailstorm hit!

The creek below was flowing nicely but the waterfalls were not quite up to snuff for me - they were running at about half tilt - good for viewing but not so good for photographs. I hiked around a little bit and enjoyed the stream and the frozen flowers and the piles of hail and the chilly sprinkles, but I never even bothered to dig out the camera. The landscape must have been really dry for that much rain to have had so little effect on the waterfalls. WE REALLY NEED RAIN!!!

The girls have been on the beach in Alabama all week (my wife is so brave - she took six teenagers to the beach for a week and she was the only adult!) and just got home last night. (we have a friend with a beach house near Gulf Shores - could not afford such a thing otherwise) The girls were exhausted when they returned home, and a little shell-shocked - it was in the 80s when they left the beach at 5am yesterday, and in the 30s when they arrived home last night. I had little sympathy for them.

I've been on the road every day this past week with little/no time to spend in the woods (leaving before dawn so have not been able to take/post any cabin cam photos - sorry.). A couple days were 20-hour work days for me while I attended class in another part of the state - I had to drive home each night to take care of all the livestock and book orders. Plus two days of doctor and rehab visits in town.

Many popcorn trees got blown away last week and are on the way out if not gone already. Redbuds are coming on strong up here in the High Ozarks. And I saw a few DOGWOODS beginning to bug out - wow, they are EARLY! Most of the rest of spring has been late this year. It seems like the landscape does not know quite what to do or when to do it. Sounds like spring has finally sprung down south and in the river valley though so it will quickly spread up into the Ozarks once the cold spell moves on.

You would have laughed at me I'm sure. I got my lovely bride a large rock for our 10th anniversary. Being the wilderness guy that I am it was probably not the type of rock that you are thinking about. I found this rock last weekend during a hiking trip out to the mailbox. It is a really neat bit of sculptured sandstone with a wavy crater in the top - kind of hard to describe, but it looked really neat and my lovely bride loves interesting rocks so I figured it would be a nice piece to add to her rock garden. The only problem was that he rock was too heavy for me to just carry out, nor was it close to vehicle access. So I had a plan. Lucy went with me while Aspen sat on the front porch and watched - I'm sure he was laughing inside. The only thing I could think of to use was a large hand truck we have to move large/heavy objects with. So off into the woods I went pulling a big green hand truck behind me.

It takes a while to haul such a thing 1/2 mile through the trailless woods, but I managed to get to the rock, get the rock strapped in place, and back to the cabin without damaging the rock - the rib only rolled over a dozen times or so, but never down the steep hillside I was near. Happy Anniversary honey - I got you this big rock! Life with Ernst in the wilderness is seldom normal....

RAIN DANCES PLEASE!

AND don't forget about our FIRST EVER spring open house at the canas print gallery THIS Saturday Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I plan to GIVE AWAY a beautiful color poster to everyone who attends, PLUS a FREE book to every family!

03/28/11 I got to spend a delightful hour early yesterday drifting around the mountain in some of the thickest daytime fog I've ever seen. And I had not one, but THREE cameras with me! I started out the door with miles on my mind - needing to start to work off a few extra pounds I picked up while the girls were down on the beach - but I had only hiked a half mile when I realized that I could burn some calories anytime but I really needed to take some photos of the fog, so back to the cabin I ran, and soon I was lost in the fog and in heaven with my cameras.

The very tip-tops of the mountain were kissed with bits of hoar frost, but most everything else was just thick fog. There were spider webs everywhere that were filled with dew (or melted hoar frost), and they really shone out in the forest where everything was mostly brown. I found one or two that struck my fancy and spent a bit of time with one camera and a very long lens taking pictures.

The local cemetery just up the road looked kind of eerie and really nice so I stopped and took some pictures there too. There were great ghostly scenes all over the place (not just in the cemetery), and it was one of those times when I did not know where to stop because there was just so much neat stuff.

I finally ended up just down below the fog in an old field that was filled with wild plum trees that were in full bloom and really showing off. And oh my goodness that sweetness that filled the air and my lungs was something else, oh my goodness! I used a different camera and got up really close to the blooms and spent nearly 30 minutes taking picture after picture after picture.

Somewhere along the line I found a really neat composition of a beech tree silhouetted against the fog and sky at the top of a hill and spent some time working with my big camera, which I have not been able to do much this year. In the next couple of months I'll put that camera to good use and probably take 10-20 thousand pictures with it as springtime explodes in Arkansas.

So I ended up using three different cameras to photograph the fog and I will probably use images from each in the new picture book. Each camera has its own strong points and I use them for different situations - there really is no one single camera for everything - I know, I keep trying to find one!

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Just FYI, the old Boxley Baptist Church is almost back to normal on the outside - only the top part of the front remains naked, the rest of the church has new white boards.

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COME ON RAIN!!!

DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE SPRING OPEN HOUSE THIS SATURDAY - we'll have free stuff!!!.

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