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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - MAY 2011 Journal Archives

(PART B, May 14th to 30th)

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Cloudland Cabin Cam May 30, 7:15am - sunshine and more WIND!

May 2011 Print Of The Month

Updated May 30th - star barn without snakes

05/14/11 - evening update. I've been waiting for a dark and gloomy day to go photograph the Latin inscription near Nail and after running some chores in town I figured today would be the day since the promised clear skies never happened. Once again I found myself deep in the Ozark jungle, and a steep and rocky one at that. To avoid a giant tree that had fallen I ended up scrambling far downhill until I landed on a nearly-level bench that was pretty easy hiking - that is if you ignored the three-foot-tall poison ivy that almost completely covered the ground!

Just when I was getting all proud of myself for finding a bit of easy hiking, I came upon what was probably the largest pile of bear scat I'd ever seen outside of grizzly country - that thing was HUGE! And no doubt so was the critter that put it there. Somehow everything got a little darker and gloomier after that, and I paid more attention to what was around me. Soon I left the easy bench and climbed hand-over-fist back up the steep slope to the base of a giant bluff where a tall waterfall was. It had been years since I've visited this spot, but I thought I remembered using that waterfall as a landmark to find my way. A few minutes later I arrived at my destination.

The bluff overhang was cut deep back into the middle of the towering sandstone bluff - probably 40-50 feet of bluff above and about that much below as well - not an easy place to reach. And the overhang was long, much longer than it was deep, with the bluff above curving back gracefully until it met the floor. There were a few large stones on the floor that had fallen from the ceiling, but mostly it was one of the cleanest bluff shelters I had ever seen.
The large stones (one or two were car-sized, a few others were coffee-table sized) provided easels for someone a long time ago to use to produce their art.

The Latin inscription stone was in the back of one section of the overhang, and I spent about an hour taking pictures and admiring it and the surroundings. I've always loved this overhang with its smooth floor and spring in the back that creates a tiny creek through the middle of the room that is lined with bright green mosses and maidenhair ferns. A really nice place to spend a bit of time.

The Latin inscription reads "Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." It is a "petroglyph" which is created by carving, scrapping, or pecking the stone out - in this case the stone is very soft sandstone. No one knows for sure how old or if it "historic" or "EuroAmerican" - but it has been there for a pretty long time.

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I also spent some time photographing another petroglyph nearby that I really like. No telling how old this one is either, but it has lichens growing on the carved parts so it too has been there quite a while. If you look close you can actually see two faces. I really like this stone.

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My hike out was much easier than going in - I hugged the base of the big bluff most of the way, and while I had to climb over and around quite a bit of rubble, I also got to admire the beautiful sculpted towering sandstone bluff up close and personal. I first saw this bluff back in 1980 from the air while I was flying grids over the forest looking for forest fires - the entire bluffline really stands out from the air! A large part of this bluff is private property and so access is limited. Few folks will ever visit these wonderful rock art pieces since they are so difficult to get to. I was grateful to have spent a couple hours with them under the big bluff today.

05/18/11 It is nice and quiet and cool here in the wee hours before daylight today. I kind of feels like a calm before a storm, and I'm hopeful that will be the case - we've got a few days in a row with "possible" rain on the way, and while I know that no one else wants any more rain until August, I still need plenty. This batch could be the last hurrah for the season. In the meantime I've been making short trips out to take pictures for the new picture book, selecting photos for the 2012 calendar, and dealing with what we hope are the last of the bear attacks this year - all of our chickens have now been consumed by the bear. It does not seem that anything short of having hens in the living room would have prevented this.

I did get to sneak off and head south for a few hours the other day, which included some time with wildflowers in the afternoon and the next morning, plus a night spent in the wilderness taking moon rise/set and star photos. I was not too prepared though - I left the house without a sleeping pad, sleeping medication, flashlight, or food! It was a long night but I managed OK. I'll be making final calendar selections and processing today and then will gear up for a few more waterfall shooting trips if we get the rain - my to-shoot list still has about a dozen different waterfalls on it.

Here are a few wildflowes along Hwy. 7 down in the Ouachitas (coreopsis and daisies, and pale purple coneflowers, plus a very yellow full moo)n:

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05/20/11 Today is graduation day. Jasper will have a class of 38, and not only will most of them be going on to college, but none of them are pregnant, yippie! Actually both feats are pretty good for this day and age. There has never been an honor graduate from Cloudland until now, and needless to say Amber is one of the brightest and most wonderful young people I've ever had the great pleasure to know.

The only thing I remember about my high school graduation was a poster that my mom gave me. It remained framed on the wall of my home for years until a burglar removed it. The message was quite simple, and is something I believe in strongly and have tried to follow my entire adult life.

Do something - Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way!

It is a choice that I wish more students and adults would make. Not everyone can lead, nor are all leaders very effective. But those that can and are have made a big difference in the world and I applaud them for standing up to do what they believe is right. Most people will never be great leaders. But they can and should follow. Probably 90% of the work done in the world is done by followers - they are the backbone of our society and we should all strive to be good followers. I spend most of my time following someone else's example in my personal and professional lives, and my time in leadership roles are few.

Unfortunately a lot of the population doesn't do either - lead or follow. They just sit there, clog the system, and get in the way - they become the problem instead of the solution. These are the folks who I wish would get up and do something, anything, and contribute - or just get out of the way and let the world move on past them.

So that is my graduation speech. Do something - Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way!

It has been raining here at the cabin much of the day and I have been keeping an eye on radar screens and rainfall totals for several key locations in other parts of the state. Believe it or not most of the Ozarks have become rather parched with no rain in quite a while - a lot of the rain that has fallen today simply got soaked up into the water table. By mid afternoon though we are finally seeing some of the rainfall beginning to run off - that is a good sign! Only there has not been enough rain in my key locations for that to start happening just yet (which is why I'm still here and not soaked out in the woods). But I am hopeful that as the day and night wear on the rains will continue - I will be on the move by 4am tomorrow and headed somewhere in hopes of finding a beautiful waterfall at first light to photograph - or even a little bit before first light!

I am happy to report that my work on the new 2012 Arkansas scenic wall calendar is finished! I think you'll like the photos - in fact I hope you love them! Two of the images have never been published anywhere before, including in this Journal. Shhhh, don't tell anyone. We expect the calendars to be available probably in September, and I will let you know when the time gets here.

We should have a great waterfall viewing weekend ahead of us - I hope everyone gets the chance to be splashed in the face!

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05/21/11 Frogs are SCREAMING at me to hurry up so I'll make this quick. (I'm running on just a few hours of sleep and headed back out again at 3-something tomorrow.) The graduation at Jasper turned out to be one of the most memorable events of my life, and all I did was stand in the back of a PACKED auditorium and take a few snapshots. I must say that this tiny town of less than 500 people with only38 seniors in the graduation class put on quite a show that was about as professional as any major graduation you will ever attend - and I've attended literally hundreds of high school graduations when I used to shoot them in California. It was perhaps the best graduation ceremony I've ever seen. In fact nearly the entire county turned out for it - they used every single chair in the entire school and it was standing room only. Folks in Newton County LOVE their students!

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I've not taken an actual graduation photo in more than 20 years, although I have taken literally tens of thousands of them. But when it came to crunch time - handing out the diploma - I was really quite nervous and realized that I probably should have been better prepared - I would only have a few seconds to capture what Amber had worked nearly her entire life for. And then the moment came. I worked my way to the front of the stage - made sure I had a clear view - and when Amber looked up at me I took the picture - holding my breath that it would turn out. While I was walking back to the rear of the room I realized that everything had worked and the picture turned out - YIPPIE COYOTE! Later on I realized that it was perhaps the most important photograph I had ever taken in my life. Way to go AMBER!

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I was up at 3-something this morning and headed out the door to photograph several new waterfalls. By mid-afternoon I was exhausted and hurting and just about could hardly walk. Good thing I had planned to DRIVE home, ha, ha! The last waterfall that I photographed is one that I had discovered back in 1981 when working for the forest service to document scenic spots within all the proposed wilderness areas in the Ozarks - holy cow I had to cover a LOT of territory during that year or two that I worked on the project. And I discovered a lot of waterfalls - actually ALL of them were new to me since I had never done any waterfall exploration before! My photo of this particular waterfall way back then was not very good - taken on a sunny day with low water flow. I was bound and determined to do a better job today - I had a lot more to work with since I had cloudy skies, a lot more water, and I actually knew a little bit about what I was doing!

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OK, off to bed for a few hours - waterfalls should be great all over Arkansas on Sunday so I hope you get the chance to get out and visit some!

05/23/11 First off, a moment of silence for our friends in Joplin. There are no words.....

I was up at 3 yesterday morning and headed south, not really sure if the five-hour drive each way would be worth it, but I wanted to visit one of my favorite shooting locations, Cossatot Falls. Most photographers in their right minds would have stuck around the Ozarks, but something inside my brain pointed me south. It was a long and tiring drive with thick fog and rain much of the way - I only stopped briefly to fill up with mocha at the McDonalds in Dardanelle. Boy, I really needed there to be good water and light at the end of this long drive.

Five minutes after I arrived at the Cossatot I knew I had made the right choice. What I wanted were dark heavy skies with mist and some rain, and plenty of water that was not muddy. What I got were dark heavy skies with mist and some rain, plenty of water that was not muddy, AND beautiful lighting! To give you some idea of how much I loved the spot, I spent the next SIX hours shooting non-stop without a break or even sitting down for a moment, and never left sight of the car - everything is very close to the parking lot. WOW, I was in heaven! And with the exception of two pairs of tourists who wandered in for a few minuets, and two boats who took out just above the falls, I never saw another soul.

This turned out to be one of the very best photo shoots of my entire career - a fact I kept telling myself during the entire day. I just could not believe the magical light and heavy clouds stuck around so long - that sort of magic only happens for a few moments when it happens at all. Oh yes, and there was also a veil of fog/mist hanging around that added a great deal of mystic and mood to the scene - I think it wanted its picture taken. All of this combined to create some gorgeous light, and with all the unique rocks soaked to the bone, there was a great deal of color all around. Quite honestly, if I had this sort of light and subject to shoot all day, every day I would not be able to make it - being on a super-charged emotional high is exhausting both mentally and physically. Plus I never wanted to leave. But I did leave and made the even longer drive back home via a different route (to check out a new waterfall location someone had told me about - turned out to be a bust). I suspect a couple of these pictures will wind up in the new Arkansas Portfolio III picture book...

OK, it is Monday morning - now time to get back to my real job! I hope you have a grand week!

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EVENING UPDATE. We got a good shower late this afternoon and while my lovely bride and I were sitting in the dark after the power went out, sipping tea (her) and bourbon & coke (me), I decided that I needed to run out and point my camera at some nearby waterfalls. I didn't have much time but managed to hike into Mule Trail Falls, Thousand Kisses Falls, and Haley Falls - all were running nicely. Then I drove on over to Hedges Pouroff and took a picture there just before dark. The power was back on by the time I got home - but there is a big storm bearing down on us so we're getting ready to pull the plug for the evening. Looks like more rain on the way tomorrow - let's hope everyone keeps safe and dry..

Mule Trail, Thousand Kisses, Lower Halwy, Upper Haley, and Hedges Pouroff:.

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05/25/11 The weather alert radio blasted us awake just before 1am today with the warning of the tornado passing through the southern part of Newton County. When I got up a couple of hours later it just so happens that the same area was my target for the day - to visit a beautiful waterfall that I discovered last year but had never gotten a good photo of. When I stuck my head out the door to access the sky I was disappointed to see nothing but clear skies, stars, and a bright moon - gosh darn it - I need CLOUDY skies! Oh well, I probably could not reach the parking spot anyway if a tornado had just ripped through the area. But of course I decided to go anyway and figured that if I could make it to the parking spot then I would have perhaps 30 minutes to bushwhack my way down to the waterfall and take a picture before the blasted sun arrived to ruin the scene - so I sped off into the night.

As luck would have it I took the wrong road - simply forgot to consult a forest map and in my haste to get there was not paying attention. I had only been to this waterfall once, and the parking spot is at the far end of an unmarked road, several turns and many miles from the highway. When I figured out my mistake my cursing got worse because daylight was upon me - and I had to stop and cut out several small trees and large limbs that were across the road - all of them on the route I should not have been on, but someone had to cut them out eventually so I was glad to help. As the other kind of luck would have it, but the time I did make it to the parking spot the skies were cloudy and I would be able to get a good picture, yippie coyote!

The Ozark Jungle was about as thick as I'd ever seen it, and everything was soaked to the core and so I was soaked to the bone in no time. The bushwhack was down a very steep hillside so a lot of it was just slipping and sliding and trying to hold on to whatever I could grab. I did not go directly to the big waterfall that I was after because I did not know if I could get down the bluff face there, but I did know of a break in the bluffline about a quarter mile away, so that is where I headed for - and a different thundering waterfall met me there - it was running bright and clear and loud!

Within a few minutes I was standing at the base of one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever discovered, Piney Bowl Falls, 64 feet tall. It was sunny and hot when I discovered it and even then I knew it would be spectacular, and it certainly was. I spent the next hour taking pictures and just hanging around admiring the view - and it remained cloudy the entire time.

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One of the things I love about this waterfall - aside from the great painted bluffline it pours over - is the fact that there are several large boulders that are all gathered around the base and they form sort of a pool or bowl - and there is one boulder in the middle of the pool as you can see. There were lots of umbrella magnolia trees plus two GIANT sweetgum trees, one on either side of the bowl.

After I packed all my gear up I hunted and found what I had a vague recollection of from my first visit to this waterfall - a crack in the bluffline nearby with sort of a staircase that led right on up and over the bluff, yippie! It was an easy climb to the top, although it might not be so easy to go down since it was very steep.

I wandered around a bit while making my way back to the car (500 feet UP the hillside and a mile or two away), and in the process discovered three or four new waterfalls. They were not nearly as impressive as the big one, but nice to visit anyway and they will all be marked as a small "w" on the map in the new guidebook for those that want to see them all. It was actually a pretty easy bushwhack back out - unlike the first time I was there when the climb out nearly killed me!

I made a quick trip into the Penhook Special Interest Area late in the day for one more waterfall....

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05/27/11 Bright and chilly here early this morning and the airwaves are filled with happy birds singing the beginning of a new day. The river far below is also making some music, a hushed lullaby of deep bass tones to fill in some background to the high-pitched birds. The rivers here now are just gorgeous - a rich emerald color and just about perfect flow height. Many waterfalls are looking really good right not as well - should be a grand waterfall weekend for viewing!

A few random notes from the past several days of tromping around in the woods. First, we have not heard any cicadas here at Cloudland yet. This is one of those 13-year cycles where the forest will get quite loud as one species emerges that has been dormant since 1998. When I was down in the Ouachitas the other day the sound was quite loud and the critters were flying all over the place. While I was standing at one location along the side of Cossatot Falls taking a picture one of them flew into and got entangled in a spider web on a little bush next to me. I watched him struggle for quite a while - and I wondered if I should lend a hand to free him? On the one hand it seemed like the right thing to do, but on the other hand I might be taking away needed food from a predator. I really struggled with this ethical dilemma for nearly an hour until just before I completed the photo I was working on - the bug gave one final twist and turn of his body, and then dropped a few inches and took off flying - YIPPIE COYOTE! I was glad for him!

I also noticed quite a few cicadas singing while I was in the Penhook area a couple of days ago - as soon as I opened the car door I knew what was going on - it is an unmistakable sound. We have seen some of them here at the cabin, but no music from them yet - probably in the next day or two more of them will "emerge" and will add their music to the landscape for a while.

I saw my first newborn fawn yesterday. It has brilliant spots and a huge look of panic on its face as I approached. But the little guy actually seemed to be pretty large for a May fawn and had no trouble bolting and running off into the woods. I've seen a lot of adult deer in the past week, many more than I've seen in the past month combined. And the color of their coats has turned from the dull winter gray into beautiful, rich and glossy shades of tan and brown - they look so healthy!

While on my way home from shooting the other day the western sky started to turn amazing colors - and the sun dropped out of a dark cloud bank - the entire scene looked really weird. There is a shortage of sunset locations in our area - in fact I can only really think of one, along Hwy. 7 just north of Sand Gap. (with a clear view to the west) I pulled over, gathered my camera gear, and hiked out to an opening in the forest. Just as I arrived so did a horrific storm front, and for the next five minuted I was hit with heavy winds - probably 50-60mph - and pelted with horizontal rainfall. I had to use the umbrella that I had along to protect my camera gear to try and block some of the weather from pounding me so hard, and I had to retreat from the open area back into the forest where I huddled next to a large pine tree - it helped keep me from being blown over. The entire time I could see spectacular color and shapes out there in the view as the sun dropped closer to the horizon - the heavy rains added to the beauty of the scene. But I could do NOTHING about - there was no way I could ever take a picture since the front of the camera lens would be instantly coated in heavy rain. All I could do was hold on for dear life and hope the rain would stop before the color did. As luck would have it the sun dropped behind another black cloud bank and most of the color was drained from the scene. And then the rain stopped, gosh darn it! I missed getting a photo of a really terrific scene, but that is the way it goes sometimes - at least I was there and able to witness it, but unfortunately I can't sell my memories, ha, ha!

Tomorrow morning we will attend the dedication of a new trailhead on the Ozark Highlands Trail that was constructed along the Mulberry River as a canoe launch parking spot. Our volunteer hiking club built a spur trail from the parking are on up to the Ozark Highlands Trail that now provides another access point to the trail. The trailhead is being dedicated to our good friend, Dawna Robinson, who lost her fight with cancer last fall. She spent a lot of time working on and enjoying the trail and it is a fitting tribute to her. The trailhead and spur trail are included in the current printing of the Ozark Highlands Trail Guide. Later we will be attending the opening of a new gallery and show in Eureka Springs of Susan Morrison's newest artwork. And in between these events we'll be out roaming around trying to find fields of wildflowers to take pictures of, as well as other great springtime scenes - my time to shoot photos for my new picture book is winding down.

And finally, I totally MISSED a big birthday - this Cloudland Journal turned 13 years old a couple of weeks ago! We are now into our 14th year of writing, which is the longest-running and oldest journal (or blog, but I LOATHE that word) on the internet. Hard to believe it has been that long. In fact when I started writing this in 1998 was the last time the 13-year cicadas emerged, and at the time we also had the 19-year cicadas emerging and the music from the wilderness was especially LOUD! Anyway, it has been great to have been able to share some of our lives with all of you - and no doubt the Journal would not have lasted nearly as long if not for your interest and support. So THANKS and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you for your years of reading!

05/28/11 It is windy and cool here this morning and the airwaves are once again filled with happy critters singing at the glory of a new day! There is a tiny sliver of silver moon hanging just above the eastern horizon - that sliver always points towards the sun you know (pre-dawn or post-sunset), even though the sun is out of sight.

I spent most of yesterday working at the computer but my lovely bride and I did manage to get out for a short hike to the mailbox - and as luck would have it we heard our very first cicadas singing up here on the mountain - they were up near Benny & Mildred's cabin. We also heard them down near Cave Mountain Cave on the far end of the mountain, but so far those are the only two places up here - I suspect we'll have the chorus at the cabin within the next day or two.

I spent some time down on the river in the upper end of Boxley Valley at a little swimming hole (Swimming Holes Of The Ozarks). I wanted to see if I could photograph the pair of sandstone boulders that live in the emerald pool there. It was cloudy when we left the cabin, but bright sunshine when I arrived at the river (I wanted cloudy skies of course). I found the composition that I wanted, set up and took a few pictures, then wandered around a little while and hoped for a cloud to arrive to block the sun. At the upper end of this little pool there are a set of rapids pouring in that looked pretty nice and were in the shade so I spent some time with them.

There is a bluff on the other side of the river that rises out of the water and curves towards you and over the river - kind of like a sandstone wave forever frozen in time. I spent a couple of hours at this pool and watched five or six different phoebes building nests under that bluff - they were working pretty hard at it too! And then I saw a BAT flying around. What, in the middle of a bright sunshine day? He seemed kind of lost and out of place, but also did not seem to mind the sunshine and just kept flying around - I think perhaps he wanted to enjoy the emerald pool as much as I did.

All in all it was not a grand landscape type of visit, but I rather enjoyed my quiet time there with the boulders and the trees and the white water and the emerald pool. It was wonderful to be out there surrounded by all the great natural beauty. I hope everyone gets the chance to do the same this weekend. And while you are out there, please remember to take a moment to reflect on the reason why this is a holiday weekend - to honor the fallen heroes that died so that we could be free...

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05/30/11 Instead of getting up really early today to go shoot photos I stayed up really late last night, then left the cabin about midnight and drove into the next county to photograph a neat red barn against a sky filled with stars - a scene I've been hunting for years. My lovely bride and I had been to this same spot the night before to take pictures but I wanted to return and use a different light source to illuminate the barn, and also to get more stars (later at night). We'd had HIGH winds at the cabin all day - in fact probably some of the strongest winds of the entire year - and so I had to wait a while to get a break in the velocity so that the pond water would be calmer and the reflections better. So I stood out there in the pitch black of a moonless night waiting, and waiting, and listening to see if I could hear any snakes crawling up to bite me! Snakes love to hang around pond banks. It was kind of like hiking in the woods at night without a flashlight though - I will often "see" bears that are never there! No bites. No snakes. Lots of stars.

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A cicada update - they emerged at Cloudland yesterday, and we could hear them singing even over the howl of the wind. They will no doubt get louder in the days to come, although as already noted probably not nearly as loud as they were 13 years ago. It is just after sunrise here this morning and I can already hear them singing - interestingly I don't hear any birds though. Hum, I wonder what is up with that?

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