CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - MAY 2011 Journal Archives
(PART A, May 1-14)
Cloudland Cabin Cam May 14, 7:31am - cool and misty
May 2011 Print Of The Month
Updated May 14th - a day in the woods
05/2/11 Starting off a new month dark and early in the morning, heading out to go chase waterfalls all day. I was up at 3-something yesterday looking at the rain and weather maps and decided to head down to the Ouachitas. I made a slight detour along the way to photograph a sunrise - the eastern sky had broken up a bit. But the sun remained hidden from view so I continued to head south. Five hours of driving later the skies above grew quite dark and the rain started - just as I arrived at my first shooting location,. For some reason it seems that we've been having more and darker skies in the middle of the day this year - I've always been out taking pictures under such conditions, but my longer and longer exposures confirm things are much darker this year - I wonder why?
This waterfall spills off the hillside and pours almost directly into Blaylock Creek, which is near Albert Pike where the terrible flood happened almost a year ago and killed 20 campers. I felt guilty for wanting more and more rains right now for better waterfall pictures. Blaylock Creek was high but still running green instead of muddy like everything else in the area, and the waterfall was at perfect flow. When I first set up my tripod with special umbrella attached to take the photo, I realized the wrong lens was attached, so I abandoned my camera setup and ran/splashed about 100 yards back to the car to get the correct lens - blasts of lightning followed me along. Just as I finished my shooting and packed up to drive on, the heavy rain stopped.
Blaylock Falls, one of the tallest in the Ouachitas
The next new waterfall location was also right near the road, a beautiful cascade near the Caney Creek Trailhead. The forest was thick and lush and set and GREEN. I took some pictures and then motored on, stopping at one overlook to photograph the really need mix of brilliant green hardwoods mixed with the darker pine trees that covered the hillside. Then it was time to head back north again - my lovely bride had e-mailed that we were getting waves and waves of heavy rain in the Ozarks.
So a few hours later I found a new waterfall in one of my old favorite shooting areas - Devils Canyon near Fern. I'd photographed all around this one before but never pointed my camera directly at it. Turns out this waterfall was already on the guidebook map as a small "w" but it was so nice I felt compelled to spend some time with it. The radar was looking mostly red after that point and it was getting late so I headed home for the day, fighting heavy rain nearly the entire time. My total for the day was 12 hours driving and three waterfalls, yippie!
I'll post some pictures and write more when I get the time. One issue we have is sometimes we can't have the computers turned on nor be online due to storms racing through, and often the only time I have to write is in the middle of the night - some folks prefer to sleep then. I'll put up the print of the month late today or tomorrow - it will be the rainbow and lightning photo from last week.
It should be a great waterfall week and I hope many of you are able to get out and enjoy and don't get too flooded where you live. HAPPY MAY!!
By the way, it was ten years ago today when Haley Zega was rescued from the wilderness to end the largest search and rescue mission in Arkansas history - way to go VOLUNTEERS and HALEY!
05/04/11There is a whippoorwill crying out in a nearby tree, trying to be heard over the roar of the mighty Buffalo River far below. Another bird of some sort is also making a racket - oops, I mean making MUSIC! And he seems agitated for some reason. In fact there are lots of birds up early this morning to greet the day. The landscape is still asleep and dark but there is a red glow along the eastern horizon and soon the canyons below will be flooded with bright white sunshine. Right now there is a sea of clouds hugging the bottom of the canyon floor that will begin to move and break apart once the sunshine hits it. Come to think of it, I believe the critters are upset since it is a week bit chilly out - in the 30s - and we are already into the 4th day of May.
Even though I knew the skies would be clear I got up early yesterday morning and tried to figure out one waterfall I could go photograph before bright sunshine ruined the scene - since we still had tons of water runoff from heavy rains the day before I hated to waste it all. But I'd only have time for one so I had to pick carefully. I decided to revisit a large waterfall that I'd been too last spring and improve upon the photo I had taken then, so I packed my gear up and headed that direction, arriving about an hour later.
I stepped out into a dim and soggy landscape that was more like a tropical rain forest than the Ozarks - or are they one in the same right now? I found where the Ozark Highlands Trail crossed the road and started to hike along the trail for just a little bit, then turned my boots out into the open forest towards the direction of where I hoped the waterfall was - I had only been to it once but came in from another direction. About 20 minutes later I was standing near the top of a thundering falls that was running full tilt - so much water that the falls created a large amount of fog as it plunged to the ground. I worked my way around the side and then slipped and slid and hung on for dear life as I made my way down through a bluffline. Plenty of water for sure, but way too much fog! Oh well, I was there and would not have time to visit any other waterfall before the sunshine arrived so I found a spot and set up my tripod and took a picture. The image that appeared on the back of my camera was indeed really foggy but it had a certain quality to it that I really liked, so I stayed there for the next 30 minutes and took a lot of pictures. I spent some time down on the creek below the waterfall and up on the opposite side where there was another waterfall spilling over the same bluff, but nothing really struck me as being photographically interesting so I packed up and headed back towards the car - just as BRIGHT sunshine flooded the canyon.
When I got back home and started looking at my to-do list from A MONTH AGO that remained undone, I moved instead to the ABSOLUTE MUST-DO list for the day and spent a few frantic hours trying to get as many items checked off as I could (how in the world did I ever survive before I met my lovely bride, who has taken over most of the book business!?). By mid afternoon my to-do list included a quick trip into Jasper and then I was off to the woods again in hopes of getting to another waterfall in the dim light late in the day. Clear blue skies are not good for waterfall photography, but even on clear days I can take pictures very early and late.
I choose to visit another waterfall that I had already taken a picture of but wanted a better one, and the very first order of business was to wade a wide creek that was about knee-deep - no hope of having dry boots on this trip! (my boots are almost always soaked all day) I hiked a long an abandoned county road that was now mostly just a four-wheeler trail that follows the Big Piney River (which was running high and kind of muddy, as expected). The sun was still out and the sky remained quite clear and blue, but there were a few white puffy clouds roaming around up there.
When I reached the waterfall I was kind of too early for good light but every once in a while one of those clouds would drift in front of the sun and so I set up my camera gear and waited. It is amazing how FAST a cloud will move when you are trying to take a long exposure of a waterfall with no sun on it! And then there were not clouds, but it did not feel like I had the picture that I wanted so I decided to just sit down and wait it out - either a large cloud would appear or the sun would set low enough to cast a shadow on my waterfall - either way I would be ready. So I found a good-sized tree to lean up against to pass the time.
I've been running around about like the waterfalls of late for a while now and I think my mind and body were both exhausted and worn out, and the result of this and my butt hitting the ground up against that tree was that I fell fast asleep. I mean it was LIGHTS OUT almost instantly! I have no idea how long I was out, but however long it was I do believe it was the first time in a long time that I had a chance to sit down and do absolutely nothing and so my body took that as a sign to shut down.
When I opened my eyes I could hardly believe what I was seeing. There was movement behind the thundering waterfall,. It took a moment for my brain to process what I was seeing - and to recycle it over and over again to figure out if it was indeed real - but finally it came into sharp focus and my brain woke up and kicked in. The first thing that stuck me about this waterfall when I found it last year was the fact there was a very well used deer trail back in behind the waterfall under the overhang - deer sometimes travel behind waterfalls for whatever reason (I happen to think it is because they enjoy the view from back there). And son of a gun, when I opened my eyes there was a deer creeping behind this very waterfall! It was at once like a dream, and yet it was quite real. Certainly one of the most amazing moments I've ever had while out in the woods during the past 48 years. (dad started taking me into the big woods to deer hunt when I was 7) And while I had hesitated to name this waterfall when I was here last year, there is no doubt now that it will be called Deer Trail Falls.
I got my picture, packed up the camera gear, and started to head back to the car. As I hiked along the old road the evening light started to move towards the magical quality, and I passed several scenes that were begging me to stop. One such area was a little creek that leapt from the road down a jumbled pile of smooth boulders on its way to pouring into the Big Piney River that was racing by just below. There was something about that scene that hit me and so I scramble down the rocky slope a little bit, set up my camera, and took a few pictures. I think this was one of those scenes that is nearly impossible to photograph, or at least to capture the essence of what it looked like and felt to me at the moment. I was not happy with the resulting photograph but I was glad to have taken the time to stop and notice. And while I was down there I discovered the remains of a very narrow old travel way that was either a very wide mule trail or a very narrow wagon road - the darn thing was only three or four feet wide but someone went to all the trouble to move boulders and line them up along the lower side and level the treadway. But that was many moons ago and all the rocks were moss and lichen covered and I had to look hard to tell exactly where the old trace went, but it was clear this was some pathway.
When I arrived back at that deep creek crossing it had gotten pretty dim out, but as I was getting ready to take the plunge and wade across the creek I realized that the light on the scene was quite special - a mixture of colors from the blue sky above and the rich greens of the forest all around. So what the heck, I set up the camera and worked my way into a position along the creek bank and set up my camera gear - but the light was so dim it required an exposure of nearly 30 seconds! Actually you can take a picture in nearly total darkness if you expose the sensor/film long enough, although normally an exposure of even 30 seconds would blur the trees that would no doubt be moving during that time. But the other thing I noticed besides the great light was the fact it was absolutely STILL - no air movement at all. So I held my own breath and took the picture.
Sometimes I will set my tripod up right in the middle of a creek like this to get the best composition, but the water was running pretty fast there and it would have been impossible to secure the tripod to keep the swift water from vibrating the camera. But I did manage to find a location right along the edge of the bank where the creek turned slightly that was OK composition wise, although I think if anyone came along and saw my setup they would break down laughing. Two of the tripod feet were actually in the water on either side of a large tree that was leaning out over the creek. I positioned the third tripod leg so that the big cubed head of my tripod was actually touching the tree trunk - which provided a nice resting place for the camera, with that third leg holding the camera against the tree. It was an odd setup and worked out perfectly. The only problem I had was the fact that while fumbling to remove a polarizing filter from my lens the filter slipped and fell into the rushing waters below. I franticly searched below the water surface for my expensive filter but it was no use - the creek just had a very expensive glass snack from Germany! (I will return in a few days to see if I can find the filter once the water level goes down.)
This scene was not a postcard nor calendar picture, yet it really drew me to it. I'm finding more and more as my career ages and develops (now in my 36th year) that I look for scenes with more feeling and depth to them, ones where the personalty, character, and depth of the landscape can shine through and be captures - ahhh, that capture part is often the difficult phase. Many times the wilderness wants to be seen but not captured! And I guess when it all boils down that is one of my jobs - to capture the wilderness in all its character, but due to many reasons that is often almost impossible. But as long as there are folks out there who want to look I will continue to explore with my feet and my camera and try to bring you the great natural beauty that surrounds us to share.
I got my feet wet and then drove home just as the last bit of light faded. Dinner at 9pm for me, then it was back to that to-do list!
The last creek crossing
05/06/11 There is a gentle breeze and soft music drifting up from the Buffalo River far below just after sunset this evening. The sky above is dark blue and clear, and high in the west there is an orange sliver moon, just hanging around waiting for the stars to come out to he can go dancing! I hear a wren making quite a fuss in a nearby tree, while several swifts dart around and squeak to each other above the forest canopy.
I was up quite early this morning scanning the rain and weather maps in hopes of finding some good rainfall in prime waterfall locations that I still need to visit, but it turned out the storm front that moved through the night only gave up a slight amount of moisture. Bummer. While I was sitting at the computer complementing my next move, it started to break daylight and I could see some interesting light happening - so I ran out to the car and sped off in search of an interesting subject to photograph.
A few miles later I could see a sea of clouds covering the wilderness below - and it looked quite different than it normally does for some reason. Also the sun was just about to pop up on the horizon - already a brilliant orange/red glow could be seen. I knew of only one place up here on the mountain to view the sunrise over a sea of clouds like this, so I stepped on it as the color grew more intense with each passing moment. As luck would have it the top of the clouds were just above the viewpoint, and so when I got there I found nothing but thick fog. I could only imagine what brilliant scene was going on just above my head! Oh well, 'tis the nature of nature photography - sometimes you get them but most of the time you don't.
So I motored on and ended up a little while later down low at Triple Falls. The light below the fog bank there was beautiful, and the waters were running crystal clear with the falls at a very nice level - plus all the stones around the base of the falls had been scrubbed clean from the recent pounding floods and the entire scene was quite pristine. Oh yes, and the pool below the falls was a nice light emerald color - just marvelous!
I spent the next hour taking pictures - I have photographed this waterfall many dozens of times and yet I still never tire of it. And the water flow seemed to be just right with plenty of water yet not too much - there was very little spray to mess up the front of my camera lens. Seemed like the stones were nicer than I had ever remembered, so I ended up down low with my camera nearly on top of the stones, taking picture after picture. This remains one of the best five-star waterfalls in Arkansas, and it is so easy to get to as well.
When I drove up and out from the waterfall I realized that the cloud bank was still in place, so I pointed my car south and headed towards one of the overlooks of the "Arkansas Grand Canyon" along Hwy. 7. But by the time I arrived the cloud bank had nearly disappeared and I was left without a picture - foiled again! But that was OK - I got to spend some quality, unhurried time with a beautiful waterfall and I was a happy camper!
Many waterfalls should still be running well this weekend, especially those in the bottoms of drainages like Kings River Falls and Falling Water Falls. Smaller falls higher up in drainages probably have run down quite a bit by now and my not be great for viewing, although I suspect most will still be better than they have been for most of the year. I hope everyone gets a chance to get out and enjoy the great outdoors this weekend!
05/08/11 I left the cabin early yesterday morning in search of more waterfalls - probably the last of the bunch until we get a lot more rain. I knew the sky would be bad (clear blue) but figured I could get an hour of shooting in good light first. Before I arrived at my first parking spot my lovely bride called to inform me that a bear had just struck. There is one of those half-moon cutouts in our chicken coop outhouse, and it looked like the bear stood right in front of the door, reached his hand in through that cutout, grabbed a chicken right off the roost, and then tried to pull the chicken back through the cutout. Our pet chickens are pretty large and she (Blondie, our youngest) would not fit through the cutout, so the bear forced her through, which busted out the solid oak panels on the door, and also scattered bits of Blondie all over the place. It was a violent end to one of our favorite hens. We have our chicken quarters setup pretty well to defend against most of the critters in the forest now, but no way we can keep them from a hungry bear.
Much to my surprise I not only was able to make it to two new waterfalls and still had good light for photographs, but there was much more water running than I had planned and I got some good pictures for the guidebook, yippie! The waters were running clear and pure and pools were emerald and inviting. The next several waterfalls I visited were not running well but they were more minor ones anyway and will end up as small w's on the map, but I was able to measure the height of all the falls and get the GPS coordinates and directions so it was a good trip.
It had been a five or six hour difficult bushwhack to visit all the waterfalls, and then I had to hike a couple miles on a forest road to get back to my car. It was hot and sunny and I had to push myself a little bit to make it. My shoulder surgery took a tool on my overall physical condition and I'll need to do some serious training again this summer to get back into shape.
By the way, whenever I'm out bushwhacking this time of the year I now wear a pair of snake gaiters to help protect my lower legs from snake bites. I've only seen two copperheads so far this year but no telling how many I've passed and/or stepped on - I frequently can't see the ground where I am stepping since the ground cover is so thick. These are the things that I wear - TurtleSkin Snake Armor Gaiters.
On the way home I made a detour to go hunt for the polarizing filter that I had lost in the creek the other day, and son of a gun, I found it! Only the filter was actually UPstream from where I had dropped it in the creek - figure that one out. Not a scratch on it, but the filter was damaged since some moisture had leaked into the sandwiched foil part in between the two bits of glass. Oh well, I was happy to have recovered my little bit of trash that would otherwise have been a scar on the landscape.
When I got home we put the chicken coop back together as best we could and cleaned up Blondie's body parts, which were mostly just feathers. A little while later Pam was outside and said that something just felt "weird" in the atmosphere, and then she had to chase away the remaining two chickens to keep them from running up onto the deck (they are not allowed on the deck!). Five minutes later one of the hens turned up missing, and never returned - had the bear stuck again? So we are now down to a single hen. I would never have believed that a bear would eat live chickens like this, but one of our closest neighbors told us that a bear had cleaned out their entire chicken coop a couple of years ago so obviously it does happen. I guess considering the wild location of our cabin we have been pretty luck to have been able to have chickens here for a year, what with foxes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, owls, hawks, and now bears all wanting to eat them. (and I don't blame them - chicken tastes good - we just have them for the fresh eggs though)
This is not a good start to the problem bear season here, which typically runs through the summer.
UPDATE - the missing hen has RETURNED - yippie coyote! (oops, I had better not use that term out loud)
It is about an hour before sunrise here now and I just took a stroll around the cabin outside. Yesterday at this time the cabin was being blasted with the LOUDEST hail storm I've ever heard - sounded like someone was on the roof with a baseball bat. The hailstones were only about dime-size but they were really hard and made a lot of noise on our metal roof. Anyway, it is much more calm and quiet and serene outside this morning. The wilderness below has taken on a blue glow (my mom's favorite color) to match the sky above - all the stars have already gone to bed. Our resident whippoorwill is up already, as are many other birds.
But holy cow we have a ton of BATS! I could hardly take a picture without getting a moving bat in the frame within a foot or two of the camera. We LOVE bats around here since they eat so many bugs. I bet there were at least a dozen different bats working the area right around our back porch and even underneath the overhang.
Looking down on Mom's meadow just below the cabin I can already see signs of color this early in the day. The meadow is coming to life with wildflowers of all sizes, shapes, and especially color. Mom LOVED flowers, and her heart and soul and spirit live in this little meadow. And so I end this post today with a nod to all moms across the land - obviously none of us would be here without them, but most moms I know are also very special people. And while today was invented by Hallmark to sell cards, I do believe that we should honor or moms every day of the year. So if you are a mom, first off, THANKS - I know it is a tough job all the way around! And secondly, if you are not a mom, please remember to also take the time some other day to recognize how wonderful they are. For now I think I'll head out into the dim early morning light and go say hi to mine......
EVENING UPDATE. A very nice, cool breeze is creating a lovely evening here in the wilderness. It has been warm and humid much of the day so the coolness is welcome. As a very long couple of weeks for me come to an end I wanted to share with you three images that got stuck in a corner of my monitor with no place to go. They seem to bring on a mellow and cheerful mood. I'm hopeful your weekend has left you the same!
05/09/11We were jarred awake in the wee hours of the morning today by loud thunder and bright lightning. Huh? Nothing in the forecast but I guess this time of the year we can expect just about anything at anytime. I jumped up and ran around to shut down and unplug computers and phones in both buildings. Then I sat out on the back deck sipping a cup of java and watched the light show. Some of the bolts stuck pretty close so I was glad I shut everything down and unplugged. Cool breezes from the before had turned much stronger, and were thrashing trees all over the place, which made me wonder about one of our pet chickens.
Last night - for the second night in a row - one of the hens disappeared just before dark and did not make it to the chicken coop. These chickens have not been out of sight of one another since birth, but I guess the violent death of the hen the other night was just too much for this one lady, and she refuses to go back into the coop. Can chickens learn? Neither hen has laid an egg since that attack, at least not that we've been able to find. The other hen has returned to the coop each night as usual. We searched in the dark last night for the missing hen but could not find her, but at 6am this morning - right as the thunderstorm started to exit our immediate area - she came waddling down the driveway. Pam says she is going to follow the girl tonight to see where she goes, and perhaps will find some eggs there too!
Just as the storm passed by a little while ago this morning the sun tried to show up, and before it did the eastern sky filled with brilliant colors of orange and red. It was still pretty dark but I managed to get a photo that pretty much captured the color - it was a beautiful light display and a great way to begin a new week - YIPPIE, I love Monday! Hope your week is a grand one..
05/10/11 Yesterday was one of those days when I kept thinking all day that I should be out somewhere taking pictures of something. This is the time of year when I have so many big projects going on that I need to be producing a lot of photographs (picture book, calendar, waterfall guidebook update). But the light was terrible and waterfalls were running low (at least for photography - I need more water than most folks). So when I could not stand it any longer I packed up and headed on over to Kings River Falls - I knew the light would be terrible there too but figured eventually the sun would go down and I might find a good composition and great light.
The waterfall was just about perfect - lots of beautiful white water and a large emerald pool. And the river leading up to the falls was reflecting both the blue sky above as well as golden light from the sun touching trees above the water - LOTS of blue and gold in the water. And so I spent some time above the falls taking pictures of this gorgeous color.
Later on I moved downstream to shoot right into the face of the waterfall, and while the light on the falls themselves was nice there was too much sunshine elsewhere. It took a long time - at least another hour - for the sun to finally disappear and leave the scene bathed in wonderful soft light all over. But man that was a long hour wait! But it did give me some time to just sit there and enjoy the moment, although these moments come at a price. Each time I was able to sit back and focus on a really neat object - like a branch above that was filled with fresh green sweetgum balls against the blue sky - something inside my brain would start pounding - QUIT WASTING YOUR TIME ENJOYING THIS PLACE AND GET BACK TO WORK! This happens frequently to me - there is always that strong urge to work instead of enjoying the moment. 'Tis a curse of my job. But I struggled through.
Just before the last rays of sunshine left the tops of the trees I set up my camera and took a few pictures - a small island of river-washed pebbles with its graceful curved shape getting my attention as an important part of the scene. Then I took a few more. And a few more. And a few more. As our part of the earth rolled farther and farther away from the sun and the sky and scene got darker and darker, my exposures got longer and longer (in order to correctly expose the scene) - since my eyes adjusted to the darkness the longer exposures were my only clue to it getting dark.
And then the magic happened - the exposures stopped getting longer. Puzzled, I looked up and around and realized that the scene was no longer being lit up by the sky above from the left over sunshine bouncing around up there. It was being lit by the light from the nearly half-moon that was directly overhead and shining down brightly - YIPPIE! If you exposure a moonlit scene long enough the resulting image can be as bright as daylight, but the light is a great deal softer than harsh sunshine. I absolutely LOVE to hang out in this sort of light, and also capture it with a camera when I can.
At some point during all this a cool blast of air swept downstream and hit me in the face - oh man that felt GREAT! This air was so sweet - filled with the luscious aroma from all the wild azalea bushes that were in bloom. With the exception of being next to my lovely bride back at the cabin, I could think of no finer place on the planet to be at that moment.
OK, I got a picture, and felt much better about life. And then I realized that it was actually pretty dark back in the shadows where I had to hike back to the car - and of course those dark woods would be FILLED with hungry bears! (not really, but those sorts of things tend to bounce around in your mind while you are hiking along) To top off the evening, as I drove away from the trailhead and turned on the radio my most favorite Beatles song of all time was just getting started...
Sundrops (above), spiderworts (below)
05/14/11 It's about an hour before sunrise here and there is a lot of chatter going on outside - I can hear at least a dozen different species of birds sounding off. Kind of an odd day for me - normally I would be all excited and anxious and nervous about picking the correct location to point my car towards as I sped off into the darkness, but today I'm staying put today, well, at least that is the plan at the moment. I'm not done chasing waterfalls just yet, but I am getting close. In the past four weeks I've driven nearly 5,000 miles and hiked/bushwhacked probably 100 miles or more in search of new waterfalls and/or to photograph ones I'd already found. My tires and legs and body have been put to the test but so far almost no major breakdowns.
I was up at 3-something yesterday morning, frantically pouring over rainfall maps and weather radar screen shots and precip forecasts. There had been quite a lot of activity sweeping across parts of the state the night before and I wanted to get out and take advantage of some much-needed rainfall. The other day I sat down and plotted all the new waterfalls on a big state map, including ones that had been found but not photographed, areas that still needed to be explored, and ones I had photographed but wanted better photos of. Then I made up a list in order of priority - 'tis a long list. But I needed rainfall in those areas first.
The two waterfall areas at the very top of my list did not receive hardly any rain overnight, but a couple of areas did - that meant I would be able to photograph at least one more waterfall that was flowing well. But I knew that might be it for the day since when I got up the skies above were nothing but stars, drats! An hour later I was standing next to this new waterfall and it was flowing very well, but even though I left the cabin way before first light and arrived before sunrise, I was almost too late as the sun woke up very early and was just about to ruin the scene - but I managed to get a good picture, yippie! This one is called Glory Be Falls and is located right next to a county road so will be an easy one for folks to visit. So many of the new waterfalls are located in the backcountry and require difficult bushwhacks to get to, but I have a good number of new ones that will be pretty easy as well.
When I finished taking the picture I happened to look around me as I was packing up - the scene directly behind me was quite spectacular as the sun was lighting up some puffy clouds with brilliant streaks of red and orange, and all that was reflected in the rushing waters of the creek. In a rare moment for me I got to stand there and simply enjoy this scene for a moment or two - it was Momma Nature saying hello, and I threw a salute back to her with thanks for a beautiful sunrise and waterfall!
The next location was a two-hour drive away and I had pretty much dismissed it as being ruined by clear skies, but I decided to just head that way anyway, just in case. And sure enough, when I parked my car next to the highway there were still clouds above, yippie coyote! I put on my heavy bushwhacking gear and headed into the jungle. And holy cow was it a JUNGLE on this day! Not only was the forest in full growth mode, but everything was saturated from rain overnight that made branches hang down more in the way, and everything just a little bit fatter - combine all this with the fact that this area was one of the hardest hit by the ice storm two years ago and oh my goodness - some of the going was so tough that at times I could not see my feet, more than two feet ahead of me, nor more than a couple of feet in ANY direction around me! Sometimes I had to back out and make another path, other times I had to just lower my shoulders and push through the mess, often dragging vines and limbs and other things right along with me. More than once I found myself down on all fours - yep, crawling through the thick jungle on my hands and knees just to get through! And there were other times when the hillside was SO steep that my boots would not hold in place when I stepped, so I was back down on all fours and clinging to any little twig that I could find just to keep some traction - knowing that at any moment I might slip and go sliding down the hillside.
I fought this sort of jungle for the next three HOURS! It was a difficult, exhaustive, and sometimes dangerous bushwhack. But I hit the pot of gold three or four times and was able to photograph several waterfalls and even found a brand new one. One waterfall I had visited three times before but never got a good enough photo. But I got one yesterday, yippie! And best of all - the sky remained cloudy the entire time. At no time was I ever more than a half mile from the highway - it is amazing how thick the jungle can be here in the Ozarks, even right next to the road.
At one point when I ground to a halt, and realized I was entangled in some nasty briars and was unable to move in any direction and was forced to the ground, I just started laughing out loud. More and more folks seem to want to "shadow" me or "carry my camera bags" or follow me around while I am out shooting - REALLY?
OK, I survived, whew. But I was completely soaked to the bone and so had to strip down and put on some dry clothes before getting back into my car - that was quite a show for folks who happened to be driving by and I'm sure they wondered what this idiot was doing. But a very happy and dry camper drove off in search of the next waterfall.
I knew from the rainfall maps that my next target probably would not be running well, but I was near by anyway and also wanted to drive a different route to access it so I decided to see what I could find. Turns out the rainfall map was correct and the road was dusty - no more than ten miles away from where I had just been that had had about two inches of rainfall overnight. I was bummed not getting to take pictures, but I also found three more potential waterfall locations nearby - I will need at least one more major rain event in the next few weeks in that specific area in order to get pictures - keeping my fingers crossed!
It continued to remain mostly cloudy with calls for even more clouds as the day went on so I drove another couple of hours to another waterfall location that the rainfall map had indicated good moisture during the night. But first, I got an e-mail from John Moore about a field of wildflowers that just happened to be in the same area so I decided to go there first.
Most folks speeding by would never have even noticed, but John is a fellow photographer and has a keen eye for these sorts of things. Tucked back in the corner of a large hayfield were thousands and thousands of spiderworts in peak bloom - and they were packed in there to tight that you could not even step in between them! Standing there surrounded by this sea of wildflowers was like being in a fairyland - it was quite stunning. But the wind was blowing hard and photo conditions were rather grim. These days I travel with three different camera systems - sometimes you need one camera for some stuff while at other times only this other camera will work. And so I dug out the correct tool for this job and spent the next hour working hard to try and capture the essence of this incredible mini landscape of color. WOW, this was spectacular! I used several different lens focal lengths from 11mm to 400mm. It was difficult shooting with the wind and took everything I had inside my brain to make it work. Even so, I hated to leave, but I still had one more waterfall to find before dark!
The last waterfall was one of the best - I was able to drive within a couple hundred yards of it and got to the top really fast and it was flowing well. But like most of these it took a little work and a lot of slipping and sliding to get down to the bottom. The entire area was lush and LOUD with running water. I set up and took my guidebook picture, then started to wander around and marvel at all the other waterfalls in the immediate area - one wall had three distinct waterfalls - kind of a small version of Triple Falls. Another one was a tumbling cascade joining at least three different waterfalls. And the creek continued on below, leaping and laughing out loud all the way. You just gotta know that these creeks just LOVE what they are doing, and it shows!
OK, now from the magic of waterfalls and wildflowers back to reality. We had another bear attack yesterday morning. The bear busted into the chicken coop once again and grabbed one of the last two chickens and made a real mess of things. The chickens had just gotten settled back down after the last attack and had only started producing eggs again a couple of days ago. The lone remaining chicken fled the scene and only came back once during the day and then disappeared again. It is beginning to break daylight here now today and she has not returned, but we hope to see her again. Problem is that we don't know what we can do to prevent bear attacks in the future, and the answer is there probably is no reasonable answer - if a bear wants chicken there is little to stop him. We've had a great experience with the hens and have had wonderful luck keeping them safe all this time - they have been a delight to have around, not to mention all the wonderful colorful eggs! Not sure if we'll restock the hens or not.
It is cloudy and misty this morning as soft light gradually creeps into the landscape. Gosh darn it I should be out somewhere finding a waterfall! There remain hundreds if not thousands of great waterfalls to find and photograph in Arkansas, and I still have a few left before putting this new book project to bed.
I am also working on the final photographs for my new picture book and am looking for prairies full of peaking wildflowers and COLOR. We have lots of great prairie natural areas around the state and if you happen to know a location where the wildflowers are great and colorful and solid right now please drop me an e-mail (or anytime during the next few weeks as things begin to bloom). In the meantime this is graduation week for Amber - an honor student who grew up in a log cabin out in the middle of the wilderness - she has done very well for herself and has made her parents quite proud! Events begin tomorrow and finish up with the graduation ceremony on Friday.
Just a note that the Lost Valley campground and trail area in Boxley Valley remains CLOSED and probably will be for some time. The park service has decided to remove the campground and make it a day use area only when it does reopen, so no more camping at Lost Valley. They will rebuild the foot bridge and a lot of the hiking trail that got washed away a couple of weeks ago.
And also note that renovation of the grand old Baptist church in Boxley continues, however most of the outside of the building was completed a month ago (as noted in previous Journal entries) - some construction equipment remains, but you can often find views to hide it. They still are in need of funds to cover the final costs.
The temp is supposed to get down into the upper 30s here tonight, really? I guess Colorado got more than a foot of new snow the other day so why not!.