LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - MARCH 2018
LITTLE BLUFF cabin cam March 31 - the benvh/swing view this morning
Journal updated March 27th
Print Of The Week special (above)
03/01/18 .The crew is back! A fourth semi-truck load of raw materials arrived yesterday at dawn, and our construction crew got busy unloading and got right to work. By dusk they had built a deck on the front of the cabin, and got started installing shingles on the roof. Work will continue for the next couple of weeks as the exterior of the cabin (more decks) and attached garage. It is SO NICE to hear the music of construction once again - it was almost downright lonely this past week without the crew here.
We only got a fraction of the total rainfall last week that many other parts of the Ozarks received, but it was enough to recharge the creeks and waterfalls, and give the landscape a much-needed drink. All week we could hear our own waterfall on the creek that runs along the north side of our property. We ventured down to the falls a couple of times, although until we get a trail built the access to the falls is only through extremely thick and difficult steep terrain (the ice damage on that hillside from the great ice storm of 2009 remains).
We spent three days on the road this week to attend the funeral in Minnesota of an extraordinary man who I had the great privilege to spend some of the most important times of my life with, cousin Rick Kraus. If I ever become even half the man he was, I will have climbed a great mountain.
Our trip included an overnight visit to the historic farmstead where my mom was born and grew up near Waseca, Minnesota. We camped on the spot of the old barn where I took the very first really important photo of my career back in the 1970's. A print of that image was purchased and is in the permanent collection of the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.
The puppies had a bit of fun as they got to run wild across the frozen tundra at dawn - thousands of acres of snow-covered cornfields. They were very HAPPY DOGS!
Our GALLERY will be open this coming Saturday from 10am-3pm. We also can be open for YOU anytime we are here - just send us a note via email or call to see if we'll be here when you want to come by (all sales prices apply).
03/02/18 Beautiful crisp dawn at the homesite -
03/03/18 heirloom daffodils at the historic root cellar -
03/06/18 I got to get out and hike a bit yesterday for the first time in a long while - working on adding some short hiking trails to an upgrade to one of our guidebooks. It was a PERFECT day for a hike - overcast, with a wet and saturated landscape, which produced colors that really POPPED! Especially the GREENS of moss-covered rocks and boulders. Most folks prefer dry sunny days, but those are the worst visually for wandering around in the forest. The Smith Creek Nature Preserve between Boxley and Mossville is one of the best places for rich moss-covered rocks and boulders. All of the trails there are old roads, and some sections are very steep, but otherwise it is a delightful area to hike.
The Buffalo River and others in our area are quite colorful right now - that emerald green that is so typical "Ozarks." Two reasons why wintertime brings out that color the best. First, the green is in stark contrast to the rest of the overall landscape which is mostly gray/brown (except for moss-covered rocks of course!). Once spring begins to pop and especially on into summer the entire landscape is green so the color of the river blends in more. And secondly, that special green water color happens as the result of suspended ground up rock particles reflecting back certain wavelengths of light - high water grinds up more rocks and into finer particles, and once the muddy water settles down/washes downstream, those suspended particles really "shine" and produce the deep rich green color. I don't know of better fresh water ANYWHERE! (my lovely bride says the color is due to beaver pee, hum)
Construction update. The crew has been back working for six days now and making great progress. The front and back decks are done, along with most of the front porch overhead. The front porch will incorporate some stone that will be added later, and also a central entryway gable and timber trusses, but for now it is AMAZING to have a nice wide front porch! They'll get the side/north porch completed today, and with the exception of a small deck up in Pam's studio, the deck work will be completed. We like decks. Deck railings are a different matter, and those will be built at a later time.
With the exception of the front entry gable that has not been built yet, all of the shingles are complete - YIPPIE! We opted for 50-year black shingles instead of the more "Colorado" style of green metal roof - less subtle and will blend into the landscape better.
And just yesterday the local crew completed the slab for the garage - YIPPIE COYOTE! I've never owned a garage before and so this is a big deal for me.
The main crew will return home after a couple more days of work - they pretty much work from daylight to dark every day they are here without hardly any breaks during the day - and still happy and singing even into the last hours each day - and they get an amazing amount of work done. The local concrete guy was here early and stayed until way past dark and late into last night to complete the garage slab - we've got a bunch of great workers here all around!
Local sub-contractors will do all of the plumbing, electrical, HVAC, flooring, lighting, concrete, block and rock work, excavation, and a bunch of other chores. We're hoping for completion sometime early summer???
Pam and I make frequent trips down to the work site daily and usually at least once after dark, and it seems like each time we round the corner and our new home comes into view our hearts soar. It's not a castle in the sky or highly-embellished mansion (we've had to downsize from Cloudland quite a bit), but it will be ours, a place created by both of us where memories and a happy life will thrive. And, of course, coming from living for nine months or more in our tiny camper van it will seem like the Biltmore Estate!
One Cloudland Moment to share. Several days ago I went down to the cabin site about an hour before sunrise. It was quiet with no wind or birds or bugs or frogs. But there was COLOR in the sky - in fact the entire eastern sky was ablaze with brilliant reds and oranges. Two of the work crew was standing on the hillside just below the cabin gazing at the scene, taking pictures, and having a Cloudland Moment of their own - it really was a remarkable sight. And then the rock outcrop that some have called "Little Hawksbill Crag" began to light up - no actually it was GLOWING, more and brighter with each passing moment. And there was even what appeared like a beam of light leading up to it. Nothing else in that direction was lit up, just the rock outcrop. Yet it was still almost an hour before sunrise! In other areas they call this "Alpenglow" - and I sometimes call it "Ozarkglow" since it is in the Ozarks. Either way, it was quite stunning and became the main focus of our attention - looking in the opposite direction of the approaching sunrise. Life is like that sometimes - the most beautiful and meaningful moments may happen in the opposite direction....
03/09/18 There's a time at night - after sunset or before sunrise - when a bright moon is shining - between a 1/2 and 3/4 moon - when the light of the moon is equal to the light of the fading or approaching daylight. I often sit and ponder the world during this neutral time, as I did early this morning. The forest was completely silent, 'cept for the slight rustling of a morning breeze. Soon the pastel colors of the dawn began to creep into the landscape, and there were smiles all around. For some reason it feels like Monday today, which just happens to be my most favorite day of the week!
The construction crew cleaned up and left several days ago and will return in a couple of weeks to continue. Local crews will join them later this month and on into April and May. We now have all the decks in place (railing will be added later), and can walk around outside from our bedroom deck to the front of the cabin. One small deck and the gable roof over the front entrance are all that remain of the structure part of the cabin to be built.
Yesterday evening my lovely bride and I were on hand for another Cloudland Moment on the back deck of the cabin. It was just before sunset and the entire landscape spread out before us was bathed in beautiful, glorious light from the setting sun. The sky lit up pink and blue. It was quiet, peaceful, and felt like HOME! (this is about half of the view)
03/11/18 We had a couple of fun moments today. First, IT FIT!!!!! We've agonized for months about the size of our garage. We had to design it to accommodate our camper van that is almost ten feet tall and more than 24 feet long. Doing so made the garage very LARGE, even taller than our one-story cabin. And even though the garage has been built for several weeks now, we didn't really know for sure how it was going to fit overall. I decided that I could not wait any longer until the access ramp to the garage to be built, so this morning I spent about 30 minutes moving gravel - sometimes one stone at a time (I've turned into a 170-pound weakling) - until I felt confident the van could make it into the opening. Then I made my approach and drove right on in - YIPPIE! Cleared the opening by about seven inches. And to top it off, we'll be open all the doors without bumping anything, and also walk all the way around the van - YIPPIE COYOTE!
The second event happened while my lovely bride and I were hiking down the lane just before dark. There was a brisk breeze blowing and puppies racing through the forest. And then it HIT US. One of the most feared critters in land was close by and not a happy camper - we smelled SKUNK! A skunk had just sprayed something (or some puppy) nearby - it was very strong. The pups had been barking their normal squirrel bark and were out of sight, but we assumed they had just been nailed by this skunk and we were in for a very smelly next day or two (I know, use the tomato juice stuff - but it is never 100% effective). I ran out into the woods calling and looking for them and finally they came running - the moment of truth was upon us. DOUBLE YIPPIE COYOTE - neither had been hit by the spray!!! In fact, we realized that strong wind had been blowing from the opposite direction, so someone else got sprayed out in the forest somewhere. 'Tis the season for skunks out looking for a mate, so be on the lookout for them - especially on the roadways at night...
03/17/18 SPRING is arriving in the High Ozarks, and the next few weeks will be just wonderful here! Slow progress that Little Bluff though - I've yet to see the first wildflower here, but I suspect they are beginning to pop up as tiny jewels of the forest. I hope to spend some time today on my belly looking around for bits of color.
The heirloom daffodils at the historic root cellar are now almost fully in bloom - a sea of yellow to show where pioneers lived and worked. And the modern lady of the land - my lovely bride - has planted her first flowers at the cabin site, and they too are in full bloom. We're hoping to have more and more flowers around the cabin in the months and years to come.
And yesterday another milestone - power outlet and switch boxes were installed inside the cabin by our electricians from Crowley's Ridge Electrical Service - little blue boxes everywhere that give us a preview of where all the outlets and light switches will be so we can get a feel for them and make changes as needed before any wires are strung. The construction crew will be back on sight Monday and widows and exterior doors should be installed by the end of the week.
We've had several Cloudland/Little Bluff moments at the cabin site this past week - our two lawn chairs that had been waiting out at the edge of the forest were moved onto the new deck that surrounds the back of the cabin and my oh my is that deck a WONDERFUL place to sit and soak up the surrounding country side - AND the warmth of brilliant sunshine that comes beaming down! More than once my bride and I, with pups in our laps, drifted off to slumber there. Napping is easy - there is almost no sound at all - other than breezes through the tall pine trees, and distant bird songs. I once closed my eyes and counted a couple dozen different species of songbirds and others singing the praises of spring. It is all so peaceful.
Work on one of my hiking trail guidebooks has been delayed yet again by the powers that be, so I switched my focus to another guidebook that needed updating - the Ozark Highlands Trail guidebook. There have been a couple of major reroutes to this greatest long-distance backpacking trail in mid-America (including one just built last month). And a job finally completed is the relocation of all the 164 mileposts along the route from end-to-end. Normally we just update a few pages as needed and reprint the guidebook, but there are changes to nearly every page so a brand new edition is in the works. (hoping to have it available in May).
I spent one very long day documenting the two big reroutes on the OHT this past week, and along the way discovered a reminder of the glory days of this early trail. More than 30 years ago I took on the task of scraping away many thousands of sloppy paint blazes on trees - the trail had been blazed with more than a dozen different types and colors of paint - some just a dot on the tree bark, others painted circles all around the tree, still others with so much paint it ran down the trunk. My job was to scrape off ALL sign of any paint, then scrape the bark down smooth in a single location that would be the same on all trees and use a template to produce a common 2" x 6" white paint blaze for hikers to follow. I had 31 days to perform this task, which required me to hike the trail twice - once in each direction - in AUGUST, one of the worst months to hike in the Arkansas! But I relished the job of not only pushing myself to the limits (I was young then, ha, ha!), but finally getting the this great trail blazed properly. (The painted blazes were eventually replaced several years later by the current aluminum blazes - all originally installed by a volunteer - my lovely bride in fact - she had to hike the trail twice from end to end to nail all the new blazes up correctly too!)
Anyway, while hiking a section of the trail that had to be bypassed by one of the new trail reroutes due to a massive landslide, I came upon some of those original white paint blazes of mine from more than 30 years ago. Back then the paint was leaded, and the white had yet to fade. The tree bark was coming back to life, yet the blaze that had led so many hikers along this scenic route still shined on. It was like seeing an old friend.
SPRING IS FOR HIKING, and I hope many of you are able to get out and enjoy the extended hiking season we have here in the Ozarks. FYI, the current version of the OHT guidebook is still plenty accurate - most folks will never notice the two big reroutes around the landslides since the trail is easy to follow and the scenery terrific. And all of the mileages in the guidebook are still accurate - only the mileposts have changed (the first part of the trail near Lake Ft. Smith State Park is a mile shorter, so the new mileposts are one mile lower, but consistent from end-to end).
03/18/18 Fireman Jeff Davis arrived early yesterday morning with two chain saws, a heavy weed eater that had been customized with a skill saw blade, and my favorite tool of the trade - an industrial backpack blower used to clear fire lines in the wilderness. By the time the dust settled the two of us had built nearly 3/4 of a mile of our mile-long hiking trail here at Little Bluff - YIPPIE COYOTE! Jeff worked on and on like a robot with all his cutting tools to open up a six-foot wide corridor through the thick forest. Many places had hundreds of small trees crammed together - too large for a normal weedeater, too small for a chain saw - but his adapted skill-saw blade weedeater did the trick! No larger trees were removed, but there were many deadfalls from years past across the trail route that had to be cut out with his chain saws.
I've been designing the route of this trail for months, wanting to not only get as much mileage as possible around our little wooded property here (one main use will be as a daily fitness trail), but also to showcase as much of the diversity and beauty of the landscape. And include some historical features. So it was a great pleasure for me to push ahead with the backpack blower to clear out the way and refine the exact location of the trail tread.
This trail won't be used by anyone but us and it's not Lost Valley or Hemmed-In Hollow, but this evening my lovely bride and I spend an hour hiking one of the most beautiful trails ever - in our very own back yard. It winds through giant pine trees, along the edge of a lush pasture, follows an actual babbling brook, and currently ends at a small waterfall on the creek. It's an intimate trail, and just perfect for us. When we begin the hike at our gallery and go to the end of the constructed trail, then return along the same trail to the gallery, the trip is an even two miles - a perfect exercise lap! We still have to build the most difficult 1/4 mile that will go past the large waterfall and up a steep hill and through the boulder paradise and complete the loop at the cabin. But for now this a Goldilocks trail - just right for us. THANKS FIREMAN JEFF!
03/20/18 HAPPY 17th ANNIVERSARY TO MY LOVELY BRIDE!!! I got her a few windows as my present to her...
03/26/18 Recap of the last week. The building crew from Wisconsin arrived last Monday morning and so did all the windows for our new cabin (local) - YIPPIE! The crew made quick work of them and all windows and exterior doors (except the front door, which will come later) were installed within a day and a half, including all the prow windows. Then they got to work on installing the lap siding - a long and tedious job that will be complete today - but oh my goodness the exterior looks SO good with that siding and trim on! So many folks have asked about our new cabin being log - it is not. I don't think anyone will notice. We have a GREAT building crew, and they have been working pretty much non-stop from daylight until dark.
The electricians (local) got started drilling holes and making final placement of the outlet boxes and worked all this past weekend running wires (until 6pm last night, on a Sunday!). Another couple of days of running wire next weekend and most of the electrical work will be done. It has been great having those blue electrical boxes in place all over the cabin so we can visualize all the locations of everything, and make changes as needed. My bride and I made a trip to the big box stores a time or two (local) and selected most of the light and ceiling fax fixtures. We had 17 ceiling fans at Cloudland, but will be down to eight here at Little Bluff. There will be 55+ recessed LED ceiling lights inside and out, plus a few track lights in the great room and in Pam's studio. We have GREAT electricians!
The view from Pam's studio will probably be the BEST of all, and I have a feeling she'll have company a lot up there - although she has informed me that I'm not allowed to wear pants. Hum.
The plumber and his crew (local) got started drilling holes, installing drain pipes, water pipes, and fittings everywhere. We added a small faucet in the mud room where we can fill up the puppies water dish without having to haul the dish full of water from a sink - back-saving feature. We have a GREAT plumber!
The heating and air guy (local) will begin work today to run the ducts in the crawl space, then will install the furnace and AC units later this week. The insulation guy has been out to measure everything and suggest how to proceed - he is ready to go in a couple of weeks when needed.
We went shopping and selected a fireplace for the great room (local). My bride and I are funny sometimes and often have exactly the same taste. Try as they might to sell us the most expensive unit, we both loved the very same fireplace - the cheapest one in the showroom - how did that happen! (usually we like opposite item that we can't afford)
One bummer in the construction process is that we've been waiting on the "block guy" now for a month to return and build our safe room and block up posts along the front porch (these will be covered with stone), but so far nothing (he does GREAT work). We're hoping he shows up soon or they may have to go to plan B.
SPRING has been slow to come, but we now have wild plum and popcorn trees blooming, and just yesterday I saw the first redbud tree begin to show a little color. Also yesterday I found the first wildflowers blooming - rue anemone popping up along the trail next to the creek along the north side of the property - YIPPIE COYOTE! This is going to be a favorite stretch of the trail as spring continues. (Popcorn, plum, and wildflower below.)
We had great visits from Ray and Susan Scott, Jay and Judy McDonald (who brought us TWO porch swings - one will live at a special spot along the trail where my bride can sit and gaze across the rolling pasture next door - and will also be a rest stop after climbing up from the waterfall area along the trail.), and Bob Robinson and his friend. It is a little odd showing folks our new cabin - there has been incredible progress in the past month and it all looks quite wonderful to us, yet the cabin is still naked in many places and almost want to wait until the job is done, but we just can't - we are so happy with the results so far. One of our electricians and the UPS guy both bring treats for the puppies. I'm seeing a trend here.
I have a bucket list of places I want to take my bride, and yesterday we were just about ready to begin a week-long trip to one of those spots - spring bluebonnets in the Texas Hill Country. And then "Houston we have a problem." The giant inverter under the couch/bed in the back of the RV fried - literally. In fact our electrician was under there checking to see what was causing an electrical burning smell when it happened. We scrambled for the fire extinguisher but thank goodness did not have to use it. Damage was confined to the inverter, but that was significant damage and we had to abort our long-awaited trip that we'd been planning for years. It was not a happy day at Little Bluff, but we will redirect and make the trip another time. A larger issue is that the RV was our bedroom, and we have moved into the gallery until we can get it fixed - or at least until we can get the RV in for service and be convinced it is safe to sleep there (we have alternate heat for chilly nights, but not AC). Calling the Roadtrek dealer in Conway first thing today. Fingers crossed.
EVENING UPDATE. Fried RV update - we are in luck - the Conway dealer can see us next week to diagnose, then will have to get approval from Canada to order parts, then the parts may take a while to arrive, then another wait to get back into the dealer for install. In the meantime my lovely bride has a delightful bed on the floor of the gallery - SORRY HONEY!
The heating and air guy (local) arrived this morning and began work and will get the bulk of it all done to our new cabin project later this week. YIPPIE! We have a great heating and air guy (local). Our sheetrock guy was also here this morning (our third job with him- always a GREAT sheetrock guy!)
While it was not a replacement for missing a bucket-list week with the bluebonnets of the Texas Hill Country with our good friends Ray and Susan, I loaded up my lovely bride and her mom today and made the seven-hour roundtrip drive down south to visit the tulips at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs. Even though the peak of the tulips had passed, this turned out to be one of the most spectacular flower displays we'd ever seen anywhere - YIPPIE COYOTE! It was an hour of awe with each step - such a DELIGHT!
And then when my bride and I got home last night and went out for a stroll in the moonlight, we both were stopped in our tracks at the same moment. A heavenly aroma so thick it instantly filled our lungs with sweetness - WILD PLUM BLOSSOMS! We have a LOT of wild plums in full bloom here, and in particular a solid mass with dozens of trees tangled together - all grouped around the historic home site near our gallery. Oh my goodness - talk about a bucket list item - huddled in the moonlight together with a cool breeze and engulfed with such sweetness - DOUBLE YIPPIE COYOTE! I'm a very lucky boy...
03/27/18 We had a bit of rain today - HARD and steady rain - about three inches worth. There were white caps on the creeks, rivers, and even some of the ditches! One of the things that attracted us to this new property of ours was the small stream running along the northern boundary, down in the canyon between us and the lush rolling pasture. I laid out our little hiking trail alongside this stream, and today the route was about as beautiful as I'd ever seen it before - with wild plums and wildflowers blooming, and cascades galore. And there are a pair of 5-6 foot tall waterfalls that pour into shallow pools right where the trail ends. Eventually the trail will extend beyond the big waterfall and eventually rise up the hill through the boulder jumble and loop back to the cabin. It is wonderful down in that little hollow, and I suspect we will have lots of great times along the way.
We could hear all three waterfalls from our driveway, and this afternoon we could even hear the roar of Henson Creek 1,000 feet below our property - being able to hear it was a pleasant surprise.
During the afternoon downpour our builders arrived at the gallery ready to help move my anniversary present to my wife into place along the trail. And while we won't have the A-frame to hang the porch swing on just yet (her dad will create another one of his masterpieces), my bride now has a lovely swing that overlooks that same lush rolling pasture.
03/31/18 It sure was BRIGHT outside last night with the moon at 99%. Tonight's moonrise will be a "blue moon" since it will be the second full moon in the same calender month. I suspect there will be many photos posted on social media with the moon actually being blue, but it really isn't. Everyone knows the moon is made of cheese and probably the normal sharp cheddar, so orange is the real color!
My lovely bride is in Missouri today attending a small oil painting landscape workshop focussing on techniques of the old Hudson River School style - which we both LOVE and aspire to be able to do! (Pam has a great shot at being able to do so, I will probably never even learn how to sign my name.)
I spent most of yesterday visiting and hiking on eight or nine different parts of the Ozark Highlands Trail as part of a major guidebook revision. It was SO NICE to be out on the trail, a journey that began for me in March of 1974 when I first hiked from Lake Ft. Smith State Park to Ben Hur (ending at the Who Of Thought It gift shop to find a working telephone to call home for a pickup). It was a VERY long five days of my life, but set the tone for much of the rest of it, including coming up with the basic route of the current OHT. I also realized yesterday that I most likely would never be able to backpack again. Bummer. But I'll continue to roam trails here and elsewhere as much as I can, and continue to update guidebooks and produce a few new ones.
March has been a wonderful month here at Little Bluff with major construction progress and a landscape that has come more and more alive every day. The recharge of life will continue on into April, with GREEN becoming the dominant color. Pam will get to spend a week in New Mexico painting (including at Ghost Ranch, the home of Georgia O'Keefe); and I'll be doing four different photo workshops here in Arkansas, and will spend much time on hiking trails in the region working on more guidebook updates. AND we'll have more major progress on our new cabin - YIPPIE! Hope you get the chance to spend as much time outdoors as possible - 'tis perhaps the very best season on the planet.....