CLOUDLAND JOURNAL, MAY 1998
5/16/98 This is the first entry in this journal, and the first day of its life. As Cloudland ages, it is my hope that this journal will grow and fatten, and become a record and a reflection of life here at Cloudland (there is a hard copy at the cabin for everyone to write in, and includes all of this text). While I plan to write something in it most every day that I am here, I encourage everyone who visits Cloudland to jot down notes, record their visit, sketch, leave pictures (or send them later), or whatever. Many folks won't want to write, but even a name and date would be nice. Anything of interest that happens, or is seen or even felt should be recorded here. Once the weather station is installed, we'll have a running log of that information from year to year. Birds. Wildlife. Strange visitors. Great Food. I'll leave it up to you.
It has taken nearly a year to get this journal started. A journal and guest register have been on my list all that time, but it was my girlfriend that finally bought one, gave it to me for my birthday, and said to use it, NOW. Thanks! This journal will be more than just a record of life at Cloudland. It will also be the basis of my next book project - CLOUDLAND, A YEAR IN THE WILDERNESS - and will serve as the official record of dates and facts, and the place for my notes. Most names will not be changed to protect the innocent. And finally, this journal will be uploaded, along with a few selected pictures, to the official Cloudland Home Page on the world wide web for all to see and read.
So take a few minutes during your visit here at Cloudland to read through this journal, add to it, and enjoy.
The sun rose into a clear sky early this morning, the first blue in a while. It has been hazy and cloudy all week from the Mexican forest fire smoke, and rather warm. A cool front swept away the smoke, and temps were in the 50's. Ever since I built this cabin, I have vowed to explore a new place in the wilderness from Cloudland each month. Today will be my first such venture. I have a lot of catching up to do! The bluff across Whitaker Creek is where I will head, and take a picture of the cabin, just to see and show what it looks like from over there.
I left my trusted guard dog Stable behind to guard the cabin, and headed down the old historical trail to the river with water, "extractor," (snake bite kit) and camera in my daypack, and wearing long pants and shirt (welcome attire in the summer jungle). I took the Ladder Trail down to Whitaker Creek - the underbrush was REALLY grown up already. (The "Ladder Trail" is the historical trail that connected the mouth of Whitaker Creek to the Cave Mountain Church and schoolhouse. Folks in the area along the Buffalo River used it quite often way back when. It takes its name from the fact that a ladder is required to make it up/down through the bluffline, which breaks down to only about 12' tall where the trail comes to it, which is right near my property. Above the ladder, the trail crosses my property on its way to the church. When I bought the property in 1992, the old ladder had rotted away, so I replaced it with a new one, which is still in use.) The sun was still low, and barely made it through the trees. It was rather dark. I was surprised at how much water there was flowing in Whitaker Creek. From up on the back deck at Cloudland, the wind was still and I could hear the Buffalo talking loudly before the trip down, so I guess there was more water everywhere than I had thought. It was good to see all that water.
I crossed through two rock walls that were lining what was probably an old field on the other side of the creek. An old road trace left the area going uphill, so I followed it. Bill McNamara had always told me that there were wagon wheel grooves cut into the bluffs above, but other locals have said that there is no such road between here and Lovell Hollow, far upstream. Sure enough, the road headed UP the hillside, even switchbacking at one point, and I had high hopes. About 2/3's or the way up to the bluff, the road landed on a level bench next to a large boulder, and disappeared. I didn't spend any time searching further, but headed straight up the steep hillside to the base of the bluff. It was an impressive bluffline, much larger than I had expected. Damn, how was I going to find a way up through it?
I turned to the right and followed the bluff around the point, then headed up the Whitaker drainage. The trees were so full and thick that I really couldn't see out much. A squirrel up ahead jumped from his tree onto the bluff, then ran up the face of the bluff and out of sight. He was actually showing me a way up, and I thanked him. The bluff was broken up some, and there wee dozens of Ozark Columbine wildflowers growing on the face - about the best patch that I had ever seen! After a bit of a struggle, I made my way up through the broken bluff and onto the top. There were no really open views, but I did manage to snap a picture through the trees of the cabin and Buffalo Valley beyond.
Then I spotted a small but brilliantly-colored tree with red leaves. I had seen this very tree last week through the telescope. It really stuck out with all of the green trees around it. Don't know why it turned red. I grabbed a leaf to make an ID, but I think it was a Serviceberry.
I made my way around to the point overlooking the Buffalo. It is quite a stunning view, and you can see both up and down the valley, although the view would be much better during leaf-off. This is a great spot to sit and welcome the sunrise, as I imaging Ozark pioneers and Indians have done in the past. There were a bunch of firepink wildflowers right there that must see the sunrise every day.
I turned around and made my way up the Whitaker drainage, still along the top of the bluffline. At one point, it looked like there was going to be another way down. As I scrambled down the steep incline, the land came to an abrupt end - it was another 30'-40' drop. It looked like a waterfall area when there was a lot of runoff. Peering over the edge, I was greeted with an umbrella magnolia tree, growing up towards me. It was covered with PERFECT blossoms! The huge leaves formed a round backdrop to the flowers, which were all the way open and laying flat on the leaves. I thought about these trees for a moment, and decided that they must seek out scenic areas to live, and only those in the most scenic locations, like this one, are allowed to blossom.
As I continued along the bluff, it finally broke up again and I found a way down. Under the bluff near there was an overhang guarding a sea of what looked to me like some sort of sorrel. I took a snapshot and hope to ID them later. They had tiny pink flowers.
On the way down the steep hillside, I made two decisions. One was that I would spend a great deal of time exploring this wonderful wilderness during the next year, make an effort to keep notes, and then put it all into a book. I don't really need an excuse to be in the woods anymore, but what the hell. And I decided that I would also make an effort to try to learn how to sketch. A pencil and pad are a lot lighter than a lot of bulky camera gear, not dependant on good light, and easier to put into a book if any are usable. Of course, a sketch takes a lot longer to produce!
Before long I landed back at Whitaker Creek, and stuck my head under - cold creek water is such a wonderful thing when you are hot and sweaty! I headed straight up the hillside, and soon found myself back at the ladder. A shooting star, one of the last of a very good season for them, met me at the top of the ladder. As I looked up, I could see spiderworts dotting the hillside, all lit up by the still early morning sun.
It was a great first hike, but I was glad to get back to Cloudland, take off my boots, sit back in the swing, and gaze across my kingdom...
The main project for the day was to attempt a complicated wiring project downstairs in the basement. It took me over four hours, but I actually managed to get two sets of three-way light and switches wired together, and they all worked! It is amazing what you can get out of a book.
My girlfriend was going to come out for the weekend, but her car gave up and she got delayed. I made up some Greek appetizers to take to the FIRST ANNUAL BUFFALO BASH at Dean and Bonnie LaGrone's property, which is located down across Boxley Valley and up on Walker Mountain. Just in case the Greek invention of mine didn't work out, I also packed up a case of cold Arkansas Ale.
It is a steep haul up to the LaGrone's, but it is a really nice piece of bench property - the views down into Boxley Valley are good, but would be really great if they would just cut out all of those big trees! We all sat around the fire and had beer, bratworst (very good), burgers, and a fine time. Roy and Norma, Dean and Bonnie, Bob and Dawna and assorted others were there. Oh yea, the Greek rolls disappeared before I got one. My girlfriend at the time, Leslie Brashears (who would sadly soon be an ex-girlfriend), rolled up in a new Dodge Durango. She had talked the dealer into letting her take one out for a test drive all weekend. She was not impressed with it though. I have always liked them, and will probably get one as my next vehicle. Hum, her and I don't seem to have the same tastes very often.
Back at Cloudland, she read the first part of this journal. She said that I should concentrate on writing more and talk less. Hum. I didn't know how to take that.
5/17/98 Stable and I got up early and went for a short walk. I noticed a number of tiny yellow flowers popping up - I think they were buttercups. Also saw several cicadas moving about. I was always fascinated as a kid with the empty shells of themselves that they shed and leave behind. Still am. I always get them confused with cady-deads, which are the bright green ones. The arrival of the cicadas marks the beginning of summer to me. I have many fond memories of going to sleep to their songs on hot summer nights in my youth.
My girlfriend and I had Cloudland coffee and a Cloudland omelet in bed (do you see a trend in naming foods here). After a nap we headed up the hill for a walk, visiting Bob's garden along the way. He already had a lot of stuff coming up. We dropped down across the East meadow towards the yellow Lady-slippers. We noticed how huge the umbrella magnolia leaves were, and how they grew in wet areas - must need a lot of water to feed those giant leaves. I looked and looked and couldn't find the lady-slippers anywhere. I knew they wouldn't be yellow anymore, but I couldn't believe that I couldn't find the plants. It was really becoming a jungle out there. I pulled up a small sassafras plant and held the root to my noise as we walked along, enjoying every deep breath of the sweet aroma. My girlfriend did not like the fragrance at all.
My brother, Terry, his wife Marsha (she is responsible for the animal slippers and beanie babies), and my mom came by in the afternoon. They brought a case of fine wine from my sister (birthday present). Terry and Marsha went on back to Illinois, and my girlfriend fixed spaghetti and salad for lunch. We lingered on as long as we could, enjoying the afternoon to the fullest (some fun stuff went on up in the loft while mom and Stable enjoyed the back deck), then we left Cloudland behind and headed back into town.
5/20/98 I arrived just before dark, and it seemed almost as hot as it was in town - getting hot a little too early for me this year! The cabin was nice and cool though, about 15 degrees cooler than outside. I spent the evening planning the next day's projects, and enjoying the new stereo. It was dark out with a slight breeze.
5/21/98 I awoke to the sound of raindrops on the tin roof - rain, yea! My excitement was short lived, as I realized that the rain was only heavy dew running off of the roof. Bob and I planned an early hike to go see the Lady-slippers and showy orchids, so I got my boots on and headed out. An orange ball broke through the haze and filled the woods with streaks of brilliant glowing light. Before I reached the gate, the streaks had turned to yellow and then to white - sunrise was complete.
There is a patch of wild bergamot on both sides of the road as you leave my property and enter the Faddis meadow (a wild mint that you can make tea from - used to make Earl Grey tea). There was an orange butterfly on almost every plant - I counted almost 60 of them! It was an amazing sight, and they seemed to quiver in the new light. This is one of those scenes that you could never photograph very well, but that I would like to be able to sketch (it would have to be in color, like Susan Morrison does - sorry Mac). As I walked on by, all of the butterflies took to the air at once, filling the morning sky with more yellow streaks.
When I got to Bob's cabin - and this is a FIRST - he was still in bed! We headed down the hill, past the old orchard (only one old apple tree left now). He took me to the showy orchids, which live at the base of a large ash tree, right next to the creek. Their blooms had faded, but Bob said it was a great year from them. We both walked past the Lady-slippers without seeing them. Now I felt a little better about missing them the before (Bob couldn't find them either). We did eventually find them (just before the end of the old road, marked with three rocks). Their blooms had faded as well. I did manage to get a good picture of them a couple of weeks before, and it can be found on page 100 in the new Buffalo picture book.
I spent much of the day working on more wiring in the basement. After many hours of work, the power flow didn't go as expected. It was HOT outside, nearing 90 degrees. The basement remained a cool 68 degrees. I got frustrated and gave in to the wires and the heat and sat down and had an Arkansas Ale.
The shadows were growing long, so I headed up the hill to Bob's place to check on a door he had called about (he went back to town). The bear had wrecked the outside of this place the week before, and he wanted for me to check that the door was all closed up. It was like an oven inside his place, but I sat down anyway and read the Jasper paper. There was an article about a twelve-year old boy from Jasper that was becoming a great elk photographer.
I heard something out on the back deck. Certainly it couldn't have been the bear. I was about the only one around who hadn't seen him yet, but this was only the first time in quite some time that I had been at Bob's, inside, and alone, in a long time. It must have been Eddie or Billy dropping by. I went outside, down the deck steps, and peeked around the corner. Son of a gun, there was a tall and VERY black bear, standing up on his back legs, leaning against the cabin. Damn! He turned and looked at me with one of those "what do you want?" looks. He had about the most luxurious black coat that I had ever seen - deep black, shiny, and lustrous. He was a very healthy bear, and looked a bit out of place standing there against the cabin wall looking at me. Oh yea, that's right, there was a big black bear, 24' away, looking right at me, and he is hungry!
My reaction was to take a step or two towards him, yell at the top of my lungs, and waved my arms like crazy. He got the message, turned and bounded off of the deck. I ran around the other side of the cabin to see if I could get a glimpse of his hind end disappearing in the woods, but instead I found him stopped right in the middle of the yard, looking back at me. I ran towards him, making as much noise as I could, and he turned and headed down the hill towards the woods. He stopped again when he got to the woods, and looked my way. I really wanted him to associate this cabin with something negative, and I figured that a screaming maniac coming at him would do the trick, so I ran after him once again, and he lumbered into the steep woods and out of sight.
One note - bears look much smaller on the ground as they are running away from you than they do when they are standing up close by staring at you.
As I walked back to the cabin, I realized that I was still clutching the newspaper, and must have been waving it at the bear the whole time. I sat down outside on Bob's deck to not the event in his journal, when I looked up and saw Mr. bear coming out of the woods in my direction. I got up and chased him back into the woods again. About five minutes later there was a tremendous crash out in the woods nearby, like a big tree had fallen over. It was getting dusky dark by then, and I decided that I had better hike back to Cloudland while I could still see. At that time of day, there is still plenty of light around you, but it drops off quickly and the woods become VERY dark. I wondered if the bear would follow me. I made it through Bob's fields OK, but felt a bit uncomfortable as I entered the dark woods of Cloudland. You must realize that in this situation, each squirrel that crashes through the brush (and there were many of them doing this) triggers an active imagination. It was a long walk home, and I was very glad to see the warm glow of the logs at Cloudland.
5/22/98 I got up early and sat on the porch swing and greeted the day. The summer bugs were very loud, and you could tell that it was going to be a hot day. I headed into town to do a TV spot, then wire part of mom's house that had gone bad, and then returned to Cloudland about dark. Bob had returned for the weekend. He had placed two coolers full of food on his deck railing, just daring Mr. Bear to return. I'll bet that he does return again within a week. So far, Mr. Bear has stayed on the north side of the ridge between Bob's Woods Place and Cloudland. While it is kind of nice knowing that he is in the neighborhood (Mr. Bear), I hope that he stays on that side of the ridge. I don't really have room for a bear rug at my place just yet.
I put up one of my fly rods on the wall over the picture window. It has always been my intent to only put stuff up on the walls that is both decorative AND functional. The cross-country skis, snowshoes, fly rods, and gun can and will be taken off of the wall and used. I guess that I will have to put up a picture or two someday, but they will be OK. The one that we put up in the guest bathroom fits just great.
5/23/98 I must have been dreaming. I awoke to the sound of music. The woods were alive with the music of raindrops - yea!!! These raindrops were real, and I jumped up out of bed and ran into the morning to greet them. The shower didn't last too long, but it was as good as any in a fancy hotel. The summer bugs turned up the volume. I sat in the swing with Starbucks mocha and a toasted bagel. Over the roar of the summer bugs, I could hear a dozen or more different kinds of birds singing in the distance - I think that they enjoyed the brief shower too.
It is cool this morning, with a light breeze filling the air. Jim Brickman turned down low on the stereo is a perfect compliment to the bugs, birds and breeze. NOTHING can match the relaxing atmosphere of an early morning at Cloudland!
First Official Memorial Day Weekend Cookout:
• Grilled Apple-Chicken Sausage
• grilled green peppers
• grilled onions
• grilled yellow squash
• Iced Arkansas Ale
After I finished off the cookies, I sat out on the deck and read a while, soaking up the cool breezes. Just as light rain began to fall, three hawks appeared in the canyon out back. I swear they weren't looking for food, but were simply playing in the wind, as happy for the rain as I. At some point, for an unknown reason, the summer bugs all stopped. Their sound was replaced with dozen and dozens of bird songs, coming from all directions, from close by and from far away across the valley. I need to learn some bird sound ID's!
After a much-needed nap, I got busy and put together the oak trim around the kitchen bar. Like most things on this building project, it took me a lot longer to finish that I had expected. And I used every single power tool in the place. It is done, for now.
(later in the evening) I just went on the most amazing little walk, and I never really even left the area! After a second session at the BBQ, I headed out into the evening breeze, up the hill to do my usual loop to the Faddis place, over through the East meadow, and back through the woods. It had stayed near 70 degrees all day, a welcome relief. The sun was very low, breaking through the clouds. The wind was tossing clumps of daisies around in the Faddis meadow, painting a moving picture of color. The orange butterflies were back on the wild mint, and the glowing sun really lit them up. The connection road over to the East meadow was lined with daisies along both sides and down the middle. I felt like I was walking into a painting as the graceful curves of this lane led me to the East meadow.
As I stepped out into the open, I looked up and saw three deer at the far end of the meadow. They saw me too. After a few seconds of nervousness, they went back to feeding in the lush green grass. This field, too, was dotted with clumps of white and yellow daisies, the rest being rich green something or other, about knee high. The colors of the entire scene grew richer with each step, as the setting sun cast "Ozark Glow" across it all. The deer moved about cautiously, twitching their tails and spending as much time watching me as they did feeding. Their fur was so bright brown and clean-looking, which is typical of this time of year. They let me get pretty close to them, too close probably, before they bounded off into the deep woods. I sat there in the grass at the upper end of the meadow until the last rays of light faded. On my way back, the clouds up high lit up brightly and lighted the path home.
5/24/98 I was out wandering around in the woods when the sun, once again a big orange ball, popped up over the hill and began to burn off the morning haze. It was clear skies above it all, and something told me that the cool high of 70 degrees from the day before would be long-gone. I sat on the back deck swing and watched the sunlight fill each little valley below, one at a time.
Today was a day for the little swifts, who dart about and dance in the air, devouring gobs of insects (I'm not really sure if they are swifts, I just call them that). These little birds were getting brave, and flew closer and closer to the cabin, sometimes even swooping down over the lower deck and almost under the porch. Way to go guys, eat them mosquitoes all up! Later, a couple of buzzards flew in closer too, and circled inside the open space, then landed on a snag. A pileated woodpecker flew through this space today too. And I saw several bluebirds hanging around - I wondered if any of them were refugees from Bob's, tossed out into the wilds when his bear smashed their houses last week. I sure am glad that I cut all of those trees out of the way, because the opening has really attracted the birds.
Bob said that he was a pair of scarlet tanagers today. This is one bright bird that really stands out in the forest. Last year at about this same time, as I was just creating the opening, a single scarlet tanager would sit in the snag out front for an hour or more. It was the first that I had ever seen, and I remember digging through the bird book back home to see what it was. There are at least two bird books at the cabin now, and I wish someone would use them and add to the "Cloudland Life List," which is located in this journal. There is also a list of animals and trees and flowers - feel free to add to them at any time.
My girlfriend decided not to come out this weekend (a trend), so I had the place to myself (and all of the food that I brought out). I forced myself to eat a hearty plate of Cloudland Hash, and then drank a small pot of Cloudland Coffee. I don't really like coffee, but do make it when my girlfriend is here. I probably shouldn't have drank this pot by myself (it has a lot of booze in it). After a pot of this wonderful stuff, all I could do was sit out on the deck and watch the birds until it got too hot, then I laid around the cabin all day, enjoying the peace and quiet. When I sobered up a bit, I did climb up the big ladder (23' tall) and removed the insulation from the power vents in the ridgetop, and did some staining where some of the outside rails needed it.
But mostly I just laid around. It was near 90 degrees outside, 72 degrees on the main floor, and 65 degrees in the basement. I hiked over to Bob's near dark and had a glass of wine with he and Tom Triplet. The no-see-ums ate me up, so I didn't stay too long, but did have a nice hike back in the cooling twilight air.
5/25/98 The summer bugs must have been screaming for water all of this time, because at 4:30 this morning, a big storm rolled through, dumped a lot of water, and I haven't heard a peep out of the bugs since. It was one of those classic summer thunderstorms, with lot of swirling winds, a sky full of lightening, thunder that bellows and rolls on forever, and hard rain. The temp dropped into the upper 50's, and Stable even crawled into his fuzzy bed for the first time in a couple of weeks.
I slept in late, and when I did get up, was greeted by a classic Cloudland vista - There were cloud banks hanging low, hiding the Buffalo, and extending up into every side canyon,. I sat out on the deck in awe. The scene changed dramatically every few minutes as the clouds moved back and forth - they were like solid light, moving and defining each ridge, separating the canyons from one another. At one point the clouds lifted right up to and engulfed the cabin.
Cloudland is where the clouds live and play. It is where sunlight comes to rest. Where the rain becomes sweet, and where the wind perfects its music. It is the place where birds vacation and find mates. It is a spa where one comes to renew the soul. You don't have to DO anything here - you just have to BE here. And enjoy. And as I found out while having my breakfast among the clouds this morning, Cloudland is also a place where when you drop your toasted bagel that is smothered with butter and raspberry preserves, it will land upright! What a place. If I ever tire of this place, if I ever say that I don't want to come here, if I say that it doesn't matter, then please light a match to my feet and scatter my ashes with the clouds.
"To be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter...To be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wild flower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life." ---John Borroughs
The clouds opened up and it rained really hard for a couple of hours. I was forced to retreat to the couch, where I spent my time aboard ship with John Muir in Alaska. I even got a nap or two in. Then the sun broke through, and i got up and finished building the walls in the basement. Ray Scott and his girlfriend came by to get his red vest that he had left at the cabin during an April photography workshop, then Stable and I headed home.
5/27/98 Just came out to pick up some wire and unload a new hammock that I just got from the Pack Rat. Very quiet and still. Not looking forward to going back home. Lots of standing water in the road, power off for eight minutes since my last visit. Carport light on when I got here.
5/30/98 When I arrived this morning, the first thing that I saw was a pair of red-tailed hawks sitting in the tree at the edge of the opening in the back. They both took off towards the Crag, then circled back to see who had disturbed their Saturday morning sun bath. It was very cool in the cabin, but heating up rapidly outside, and the summer bugs were loud. This was going to be a work day, and it proved both very constructive, as well as quite long.
The first thing that I did was solve the problem with the extra log arm that sticks out from one of the back deck posts. One of the Amish kids installed this log arm there last summer - it sticks out and goes nowhere with no apparent reason to be. Most folks who visit ask what it is for, and so I have had to repeat that the Amish boy did it just for laughs over and over again. It isn't really structurally sound enough to hold anything, nor have I wanted to take it down. Now it is the proud resting place for a colorful windsock, showing a field of flowers and butterflies, with blue, yellow purple and red streamers. It actually adds a great deal of class, color and motion to the place. The butterflies are for my mom, who loved butterflies. The sock is an accurate wind direction indicator too.
Speaking of the wind, installing the new weather station that I had just received (finally) was the big project first on my list. It will record the wind speed and direction, inside and outside temperatures and humidity (highs and lows), rainfall, wind chill, dew point, and barometric pressure, plus it stores everything. Two of the cables weren't going to be long enough, and they were out of extension cables, but I hooked everything up anyway, and set up the computer console in the loft bathroom (this was the only place where all of the cables would reach). The temp/humidity sensor and rain gauge locations were easy to establish, but the wind gauge was going to be tough. It is supposed to be mounted at least four feet above the roofline. I ended up selecting a location that is where the loft roofline brakes from the great room roofline. It was a tough spot to reach, and the metal roof was heating up rapidly. I managed to get everything set up without falling off of the roof, but realized that I would have to climb back up later and install a taller post - the gauge was only just above the roofline, and it probably would not give a good reading.
While I was upon the hot tin roof, a red-tailed hawk paid a visit. He came in close, down low, and circled three times, making eye contact all the while. The tail feathers were quite colorful when backlit by the sun. This is one animal that really lives up to its descriptive name - it really DOES have a red tail (unlike redbud trees that are purple or fire pink wildflowers that are bright red). The reason that he came by, except to say hi, was to show me his future lunch - he was holding a rather large snake in his talons. This is a very smart hawk, who doesn't really have to hunt to survive. Next to one of the many snake trails in the woods, he has erected a sign. Whenever he gets hungry, he just goes to his sign and waits for a customer. Here is what his sign says:
- FREE SCENIC WILDERNESS FLIGHTS -
I was glad that he came by to show off his lunch.
There was another wonderful creature nearby that I discovered - a luna moth sleeping on the side of the cabin, near the carport light. It was almost as large as my hand, and neon green color. It stayed there all day, oblivious to the noise that I was making above. This wonderful creature must have some great story behind it somewhere in history. It is so striking, and so large for a moth! I think perhaps the species migrated here from the moon, when the cheese all ran out (hence the name "luna" moth).
Another big project for the day was to replace all of the 3/4" hot water lines with 1/2" water lines. The smaller lines would be more efficient. I should have put them in in the first place. I was really dreading this job because it took Ken Eastin and I so long to put the lines in the first time, and I had to unhook all of the insulated pipes before I could even begin this time. WOW, Ken and I must have been drinking a lot that day or something when we first put the pipes in, because replacing all of them this time was a snap - total time was less than two hours (it took us a couple of days last time). I now feel much better about the water situation, and get hot water a lot quicker at the taps. One odd note: I realized that the water in the hot water tank was still war, even though it had been over five days since I had shut it off, and the basement was a constant 65 degrees - I've got a great hot water heater!
The next project was the loft closet. This was my main goal of the weekend, to put up shelves in the closet. Before I could do so, I had to run the wind gauge wire through the closet walls, cut out a hole in the bathroom wall for a built-in hamper in the closet, and install the new water pipe in this same closet wall, plus install cedar paneling on the closet walls.
It was kind of weird cutting what seemed like a large hole in the aspen wall of the bathroom for the hamper, but after I did it and tried out the new convenience, I wondered why all bathrooms weren't so equipped - what a great idea! The hamper in the vanity was just too small and a pain to get into , and I just don't like a bucket of dirty clothes out in plain view in the bathroom, so it is only logical to me to toss the dirty clothes into the closet, where I have plenty of room.
Putting up the cedar was pretty easy, and WOW, what a great smell! Finally I got to the shelves, which were more trouble to put up than I had expected, but now look and work great. It was good to get so many things done.
During the day, I took frequent TV breaks. (I had decided that there is so much going on outside that can be seen from the back deck - as much entertainment as you would find on any TV screen - that I would call this view my TV - TIM'S VIEW. I intentionally designed the cabin so that there would be no spot to put in a real TV, which would force one to seek entertainment elsewhere, like on the back deck.) Boy, there sure was a lot going on outside! It was hot and hazy, but the soaring birds loved it. At one point, I could see seven different levels of soaring birds, some down in the canyons, some level with me, and many more high above. I could see buzzards miles away that were just specks. There were mostly buzzards, although there were also a lot of hawks out. One red-tailed hawk came in really close - the middle of the opening seemed to be at the edge of his flight pattern, and you could really look into his eyes. I love doing that - makes me feel part of it all, like I am connected and interacting with these birds. One hawk came in close several times, but I couldn't figure out what it was. It wasn't shaped or colored like a red-tailed hawk at all, and I couldn't find him in my bird books. I need some bird watcher at Cloudland to help ID. While I had the telescope set up all day, I realized that it was best suited for viewing stationary objects, like Hawksbill Crag, the river, or a distant tree. I really need a good pair of binocs for viewing birds. My little ones are actually pretty good, but a real pair would be ideal. Damn, sounds like another Leica purchase.
While there wasn't too much traffic to the Crag on this hot day, there was one young couple that caught my attention. She was wearing a tank top, hiking boots and cutoffs - very nice legs. I would consider it quite a compliment to be admired from over a half-mile away. Anyway, while they were sitting there talking, she reached into her daypack and pulled out a book and started looking through it. Upon close inspection with the tele, I realized that it was one of my guidebooks! It made me feel good that I helped this couple get to the wonderful spot that they were at and obviously were enjoying very much.
I normally don't like hot summer days, but the changing panorama in front of me was great, the wind was blowing, and I was utilizing my new favorite seat - an outdoor bar stool and table that I had just bought and brought out from Wal Mart. This seat is really comfortable, it swivels, and is high enough to get me up to see over the log rails.
One buzzard that came in close was easy to single out because he had a single main wing feather out of place and sticking straight up. It was interesting to see how the buzzards and hawks all soar together, not really paying much attention to each other. I guess they really aren't direct competitors, since the buzzards only eat dead stuff and the hawks normally enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the capture of live prey. All in all it was a great TV day!
I worked hard all day (except for the TV time), and only had a salad to eat - rather unusual for me. Also drank a gallon of sun tea. I worked until 11pm, took a shower and crawled into bed. The 1/4 moon lit up the canyon with an eerie glow. There was a lot of haze around too. At around midnight I heard something - it was loud and deep with a regular beat. I went out on the loft deck and saw red lights coming at me from across the river. It was a big helicopter, and it was flying just about cabin level and moving slow. I couldn't see it plainly because of the trees, so I went down to the back deck. Soon the chopper was right over the open spot, and as it passed, a spotlight came on and lit up the cabin. This was really weird! It was one of those big, twin rotor things. It never stopped, and within a few seconds it turned off the spotlight. I could see how someone could mistake this for a UFO! I ran down to the lowest deck and watched it fly up Whitaker Valley. Now picture this - the eerie moonlight, the haze, and this giant helicopter hovering over the valley with Hawksbill Crag in its spotlight! This was really bizarre!
5/31/98 A whip-poor-whill outside my window woke me up at 5:20am. Don't recall hearing one early like this before, as they are usually night birds (it was still nighttime outside I guess). I had a big breakfast of Cloudland hash, then hiked to Bob's. On the way I discovered that a frog had taken up residence in a mud hole that had been created by the recent rains in my road. There seemed like a new batch of wild mint near the gate - there was tons of it growing in the same spot as the wild bergamot. I soon realized that this new mint WAS the bergamot, without its floppy head. I need to make some tea out of this stuff, or perhaps mint juleps.
The mint was spreading, but the daisies in the Faddis meadow were dull and shrivelled up - they had been so bright and cheery just a week ago. I don't think it was because they got burned up (after all, they are a summer flower), but I guess the heavy rains that we had were too much for them. Bob's place was OK - no sign of my bear friend. There was an article on cicadas in the Jasper paper that I tore out and have pasted into the journal. It does a pretty good job of explaining the little critters, and why there are so many of them this year, although the article did miss a major point.
There are several different kinds of cicadas. They all live in the ground, dormant, for many years, then all of the same species emerges from the ground and crawls up into trees at about the same time in the same year. They only live above ground for a short time, to breed, laid eggs, then they die. And they shed their shells first thing. Two of the species are the 13 year variety and the 17 year variety. We are one of the few places in the country that have both species (the author missed this point), and this year, for the first time in over 200 years, they both came out together. So there were actually TWICE the normal number of cicadas out there in the woods, making all kinds of racket. This noise is what I have been referring to as "summer bugs," although tree frogs and a few other assorted critters have also contributed. I heard a story on the local Ozarks At Large radio program that scientists and photographers from all over were in the Ozarks studying and photographing what in some locations was literally thousands and even millions of the cicadas coming out in the same location.
The blackberry bushes were filled with green berries, so it looks like it will be a great cobbler season. Were is that recipe?
When I returned from the hike to Bob's, I took up my place on the back deck and watched the show. That speckled hawk that I can't ID came by close in again. I realized that I now have room for 24 people to sit on the decks, in six different types of seats (log rockers, log rocking bench, log porch swing, high-back plastic chairs, swivel bar chairs, and the picnic table). The hammock would make seven, but it isn't put up yet (once it is up, I probably won't get ANY work done!).
A three-inch walking stick hiked up the tree trunk that is growing out of the lower deck. I wonder if this is going to be one of the big years for walking sticks too?
The wind blew hard all day, with the new weather station operating fine (from the bathroom). I discovered that when the wind reaches 23mph, it sends the big BBQ grill sailing across the deck, crashing into the east railing. I had to move it back and set the wheel lock, which took care of it for now.
I laid on the couch and read for several hours. I wanted to finish John Muir's account of his 1881 trip to Alaska by boat. I'm a slow reader, and was interrupted by several naps. I finally finished with Muir and got myself to work again. I baked bread, put up the fly rods in a new location over the loft staircase, drilled holes and strung wire and put the weather station in it's permanent location on the wall below the thermostat. The temperature/humidity wires reached OK, but the wind and rain wires did not. I decided to try ordinary telephone cable as an extension, and it worked just fine. Now that the rain gauge is up and running, I want it to RAIN!
Every time that you drill a hole, you create a pile of sawdust - especially with a paddle bit, which makes a large hole. So I spent a lot of time with the central vac in hand cleaning up all of my little sawdust piles. This central vac is a GREAT product.
At 10:40pm I called the weather service in Fayetteville to get the barometric pressure reading so that I could calibrate my new (I hadn't thought about calling until this late). We had a discussion about what factor to use for my higher elevation at Cloudland. With that set, I shut the cabin down for the night (still hot and muggy outside), and Stable and I went for a shot walk. The stars were incredible - no haze at all tonight - and the moon was small enough to allow the stars to shine, yet casts enough light to view the hills and canyons all around me.
While I didn't get to spend nearly enough time at Cloudland in May, it has been a wonderful month here, full of wonder and work and mother nature, and even a big bear. I look forward to many, many more Mays here at Cloudland.