LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - MAY 2018
Little Bluff Journal May 31 - colorful dawn - happy Thursday!
Journal updated May 29th
05/01/18 It was about 2:30am local time when I crawled out of my sleeping bag this morning. I was expecting to see a dark sky filled with a zillion stars, but instead was nearly blinded by a brilliant-bright moon lighting up the landscape for miles and miles around me. I'm up at 9,300' elevation at our tiny hillside campsite in the San Juan Mountains of south central Colorado. After my last photo workshop of the spring on Sunday, I packed the van, hugged the pups, kissed my lovely bride farewell, and headed west, driving until my eyes blurred, when I pulled over and napped for a few hours. Yesterday I made it the rest of the way to Colorado. My chore here is to repair and rebuild the 1/4 mile electric fence that surrounds our campsite - a large herd of elk passed through here a month ago and broke the wire into many pieces and pulled out several fence post. They do this every year so no big deal, I just have to come out and get it back together before they turn loose the free-range cows for the summer, which they will do any day now. Cows leave large pies behind, which Mia and Wilson just love to roll in!
It was 31 degrees at 3 this morning, and after a bit of mocha and cold cereal I took off for a multi-mile hike in the moonlight around the property surrounding our campsite. It was quite beautiful, and cold enough that I had to keep up a pretty good pace to stay warm - a good thing for me since I've not hiked much in the past couple of days.
I'll head back to Arkansas later today and expect to be home tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I get to spend the day amongst a forest of young aspen trees that are just beginning to bud out, and a soft meadow beneath my feet that is already showing signs of spring green, even though there are patches of snow several feet deep just right over there. Colorado is great in the summer and fall, but I also love it this time of year as the landscape transitions from the harsh winter environ to spring...
05/03/18 Our 20'+ waterfall along the trail was cooking today!
05/06/18 Dawn at Pam's swing
05/07/18 Another week has rolled on by but no further progress on our cabin - all the workers must have spring fever and gone elsewhere, ha, ha. But we're hoping things will get back working this week - it has been VERY quiet lately.
We've had a few interesting moments this week, including when I drove our camper van directly into the side of a tornado while coming back from getting the electrical problem fixed (I managed to get myself and the RV turned around and back out efore any damage happened). And also many WONDERFUL moments with my lovely bride both on our trail and at the cabin.
Our waterfalls were running full tilt after the big three-inches of rainfall, and for days and days we've had steady flow beside our trail as the creek lances around rocks and leaps over ledges, creating beautiful music and swimming holes for the pups.
Pam and I slowed down a couple of days ago and took a good long while to carefully hike our mile loop trail - there is so much to see all along the way - including a dozen or more species of colorful wildflowers, moss-covered boulders as large as a car or larger - it was such a DELIGHT to spend some time soaking it all up. (I normally utilize our new path as a fitness trail and hike as fast as I can, missing most of the scenery.)
One very special night my bride and I sat in lawn chairs inside the cabin while moonlight and shadows moved slowly across the floor - it was MAGICAL! I know a lot of folks have questioned, criticized and scorned us for leaving Cloudland (which we've always found to be kind of odd), but really, our new home is every bit as wonderful to us, and even more so in many ways, so not to worry. Cloudland is in good hands, and so are we!
And for the first time in a long while I was able to get out and actually work as a photographer for a couple of hours after all the rainfall. I've wanted to photograph a particular waterfall for years and just never took the opportunity - and my recent physical issues have prevented me from carrying camera gear. But the call to do so was intense the other day, so I headed out with camera and one lens and an ultra-light tripod and hiked in and got back into the rhythm of photo work. It hurt so bad but also felt SO GREAT to be a photographer again, if only for a little while. My back held up, kinda sorta, and bounced back the next day, so I'm now encouraged that all is not lost and maybe I'll be able to venture into the wilderness with a small camera again once in a while, maybe.
Speaking of pictures, we had our two final slide shows of the season at the Eagle Watch Weekend at Bull Shoals State Park, and both groups of people were SO wonderful and gracious! It was a delight to see each and every one of you, and especially to see so many young folks with great questions. (AND my brother and sister who drove from Illinois!) We just barely cover our expenses for this program, and so it is important to have happy people to be with!
Speaking of happy people, we'll have our SPRING OPEN HOUSE this coming Saturday, May 12th, at our gallery of canvas prints and Pam's original pastels. No marching band or homemade cookies, but the walls will be filled with beautiful images - and EVERYTHING WILL BE ON SALE! (all picture books and guidebooks too) So if you or someone you know is going to be in the greater Ponca/Jasper Metroplex this Saturday, be sure to stop by and spend a few moments or an hour at our gallery - it is going to be a TERRIFIC weekend to be out and about in Arkansas!
And also note that we welcome visitors to the gallery at almost any time - all sale prices apply no matter when you visit - you just need to contact us to make sure we will be here and then we'll unlock the door and turn the lights on for ya! (we are not normally open so we need to hear from you before you come)
05/09/18 It was just after midnight this morning when we arrived back home from a quick trip south to Hot Springs Village. My lovely bride attended a meeting and demonstration by a famous pastel artist - worth every minute, every mile of the trip! But my goodness the last part of the drive up Hwy. 7 to Jasper was harrowing! Last week I drove our camper van right square into a tornado. This time it was DEER. I've seen a hundred or more deer along the roadsides at night before, but this was different - there were a hundred or more deer ON the highway pavement itself! In fact there were dozens and dozens of them standing right in the middle of the road - just standing there, like "deer caught in headlights" - and many would not move out of the way! Must have been something on the pavement they were attracted to. It was kinda weird, and kept up alert and on the edge of our seats.
I dropped Pam off at the church (monthly meeting of the Arkansas Pastel Society) and then headed out to find a hiking trail - they are all over Hot Springs Village. There was a trailhead nearby and I spent the next couple of hours hiking the DeSoto Trail and others, a winding trail that was passed along the edges of neighborhoods but was still quite wooded and pleasant. There trail system is set up to handle a lot of folks - wide and well maintained, sometimes paved or graveled. Only problem is that you have to watch out for a golf cart or two!
We really hated to leave the work site here though - for the first time in two weeks there were workers working - YIPPIE COYOTE! This included our crew from Wisconsin, a painting/staining crew from Minnesota, and several local crews including heating/air, excavation, sheetrock finish, and the septic tank guys - although the main guy called in sick so that part got called off. It was a bee hive of activity at last. We are patiently waiting for first light this morning to see how the wood trim on the outside of the front/prow of the cabin will look...
05/10/18 A couple of wildlife notes from today. But first, it was a DELIGHTFUL day in the forest - mild temps, cool breezes, and low humidity made it one of those days when you hated to be inside, and just loved being OUTSIDE as much as possible.
There is a lot of tick news going around - about a LOT of ticks this year. We've seen zillions of them here at Little Bluff, and up until this week the ticks have been large and very FAST! I mean they would hit your arm or leg at full tilt and scream across your skin like they were being chased by a wild turkey. I've pulled hundreds of ticks off me already this spring, and keep a constant watch out for them, including stopping every few minutes while hiking to check myself top to bottom. I'm in the crowd that things it is good to wear shorts so you can see and remove them easier. Although I'm leaning in the other direction of soaking all my clothes with a diluted solution of Permethrin, which once dried will keep working to repel/kill ticks for quite a long time (six or more wash cycles). I've never done it this way, but thought I would give it a shot this season for more peace of mind. The main thing is - ALWAYS do a tick check top-to-bottom at the very least every day you venture out into the woods.
This evening my lovely bride and I got the chance to sneak down to the cabin site and sit out in our lawn chairs on the back deck. They have completed all work on the backside of the cabin except for the rock guy and hand railing (which is waiting for the rock guy to get done - but he hasn't started yet so it may be a while). The log posts, headers and trim around the prow are done and look really nice. Anyway, it was a lovely evening with even cooler breezes and musical pine trees playing our favorite tunes - sounded kind of like waves lapping on the beach. Above us were 6-8 "Ozark Eagles" doing all sorts of acrobatics - basically riding and playing in the wind currents round and round. I know they must have been having some FUN up there! Quite interesting to watch, especially when they come in close. It was one of many soon-to-become textbook beautiful days at Little Bluff.
05/11/18 There is a small pool below one of the waterfalls that is almost deep enough for Wilson to swim a couple of strokes without touching. Today it was a little too shallow for him, but he got to plop in and splash around and soak. I really wanted to get Mia in that pool so she could splash around and soak some poop of one origin or another off of her shoulder that she had rolled in. She is a smart cookie, rolled in that poop for a reason, and wasn't about to let me get her down in the pool and scrub it off (my bride did that in the utility sink at the gallery later in the day). But both pups enjoyed several romps in the creek and pools as we did three laps around the property today.
The weather was cool and refreshing until noon, then winds picked up bringing in warmer temps. By evening the temps were cool again, and the four of us enjoyed another hour hanging out in lawn chairs on the back deck of the new cabin. Actually wind was howling, and the Ozark Eagles put on quite a show making pass after pass after pass - we decided they have to be playing and not hunting - just too many smiles on their faces as they screamed by close.
And then a lone red tailed hawk came soaring past in front of us, and was bombarded by a loud crow. Not sure which one was the attacker and or victim, but they continued on for quite a while. I did the best I could to evade my main work chore for the day/week/month (doing a major upgrade to one of our hiking trail guidebooks that I've been working on for months). But I did get out at dawn and drove around to find an interesting scene of a rustic barn in Boxley with the crescent moon rising behind it.
We have our big SPRING OPEN HOUSE here at the gallery Saturday from 10am-3pm. We have work to do tonight and early tomorrow morning before we can open the doors, but if I didn't put off these things until the last minute I would never get anything done! Not many people will show up, and those that do will pretty much have the gallery to themselves with plenty of time to wader and gaze and ask questions. And if you can't make it Saturday, we ALWAYS extend the sale prices to anyone who stops by at a later day to select their art or books. Hope to see ya Saturday...
05/12/18 Sunrise over Pinnacle Mountain (in Newton county, just north of Jasper)...
05/14/18 We had a WONDERFUL group of folks for our open house on Saturday - so nice to meet for the first time or see you again!
I've been getting up early the past few days, and the last several mornings I've been out with camera in hand in search of a photo. The past two mornings I've photographed the sunrise - which is happening right now just after 6am. I found a spot near our property with a tiny window through some trees towards a mountain some 13 miles away - Pinnacle Mountain between Jasper and Harrison and Western Grove. I would have never guessed what this place was until Michael Tomlinson figured it out on the interweb. So I found this scene, set up my camera with telephoto lens well before the actual sunrise time, did a few test exposures, then waited. I'm embarrassed to say that I knew the exact time the leading rim of the sun would appear by looking at the iphone in my pocket - since we have cell service now, I'm finally able to utilize many of the tools this gadget has. Anyway, I find the silence just before dawn is magical - something "internal" about those moments that are so rich. And then the madness begins as the brilliant disk begins to appear - followed by about 30 seconds of panic and terror and excitement as I try to work the camera to capture the incredible glory before me. And then poof, it's gone - not the sun - but the ability to capture the magic of the moment before the sun gets to harsh and BRIGHT. 30 seconds of sometimes even less, often that is all you get.
Oh yes, yesterday I also got up extra early and got to photograph the rising Milky Way in a couple of different locations - it was a very clear morning and the stars were brilliant! Only problem was that the "L" bracket on my camera was loose and I could not do vertical photos since the weight of the bit fat 14mm lens on the front of the camera kept making the camera creep down, causing all the stars to be blurry. But I made do with just horizontal photos and got one I liked.
So this morning I slept too late to get more star photos (need to be on site by 3:30 or 4 - only get until about 4:30 to shoot before stars begin to fade into the approaching dawn), but I'll head out here in a few minutes to see about my third sunrise in a row at the same small window location - amazing how much the sunrise moves in just a day. Wish me luck. Then I'm taking the kigs into town to get their summer haircuts. I LOVE Monday's, and hope yours is a TERRIFIC one!
05/16/18 A shaft of sunshine at dawn thism orning...
05/17/18 Well I accidently slept in this morning until 6:05. I've been planning for this morning for a week since it was the day when the sunrise would happen right in the middle of the gap between Pinnacle and Boat mountains. I've been getting up naturally at 4-am-ish for months, so didn't bother to set an alarm clock. I rolled out of the van and ran into the woods to see how great the sunrise was that I just missed (no time to make it to my shooting location by 6:06 - the official sunrise time), and I discovered there was NO SUNRISE today due to a thick bank of clouds! So at least I feel a little bit better about missing it. The next opportunity to photograph the sun coming up in the gap will be in a couple of months. Could someone please remind me to set the alarm clock just in case?
FYI, the current Print Of The Week that I took yesterday morning while waiting on the sun to rise in between the mountains is a historical photo. I was forced to take it with my iphone since I didn't have a lens on my big camera that would work (I'm only able to carry a camera with one lens due to back issues, and that lens yesterday was a telephoto - I needed a wide angle lens for the clouds display). The historical part is that I sold a print of this beautiful scene - the first photo of my ever sold that was taken with a telephone!!!
CONSTRUCTION UPDATE. Our Wisconsin crew was here last week but is gone until after Memorial Day. Today they will complete the sheet rock finish work and spray inside the cabin - YIPPIE! We'll hopefully have the AC working by this weekend, which will lead to getting the floor delivered so it can cure in the cabin environ for a week. During that week the painter is going to arrive to stain the remaining outside wood beams and trim, and also paint the inside. We're hoping that everything is done by the end of June.
05/17/18 the view from above...
05/20/18 Our first trail turtle! -
05/22/18 Sunrise near Jasper this mornin'...
Our friend Glenn Wheeler won the republican primary yesterday but not at least 51% of the vote total so will there will be a runoff election on June 19th. Only those who voted in the primary can vote in the runoff, and since there is no democrat in the race, the winner of the runoff will be our new sheriff - hopefully that will be GLENN WHEELER! More on Glenn later, but for now here is his FACEBOOK PAGE.
05/23/18 Sunrise near Jasper (same spot as above, different clouds):
05/24/18 Two views from inside the great room this morning - we got CABINETS delivered!
05/25/18 Another beautiful sunrise - and they started work on our fireplace - YIPPIE!
05/27/18 My sunrise series continues with a nice one this morning...
05/28/18 It was dragonfly day. The air was filled with dragonflies! They have a unique shape and you know one is coming at you or flying by even from a distance. A couple of days later the air was filled with Black Hawk choppers - flying in formation and headed right towards our cabin! They flew right above the twin pines and gave us quite a show.
Another day we had a momma turkey hen running around at the eastern corner of our yard, a yard that now has grass more than a foot tall. Soon we saw eight turkey chicks running hither and yon. They looked so small, but son of a gun they could already fly!
One afternoon while my lovely bride and I were sitting on the back deck we saw a pair of nighthawks sailing by above. Then another, and another and another. They road the wind currents and did acrobatics for nearly two hours. Easy to identify them by the white slash on each wing. And then they disappeared, and we've not seen a single one since.
We've been trying to spend at least a couple of hours a day on the back deck bird watching. Lots of swifts (chimney sweeps I guess - I just call them swifts or "tweety birds"), buzzards, Indigo buntings, Woody Woodpeckers (pileated woodpeckers), and one spectacular scarlet tanager (the "flame of spring). This BRILLIANT bird sits in the top of the same tree day after day - just far enough away that we can't get a good luck, but still easy to spot and identify - and what a lovely song he has!
One day when I left my bride alone on the deck and returned to the gallery to take a nap, a young woodchuck snuck up on her - we have woodchucks at Little Bluff! Seems to be a different critter show up every day. Keep 'em coming.
But most of the hours we've spent on the back deck have been watching clouds - oh my goodness, do we have CLOUDS here!!! And it has been a great week for them. It all started when Pam asked "what have you been smoking" when I made a comment about how fast a cloud was moving across the sky. Turns out the sky was filled with moving clouds, and they all seemed to be going in different directions at the same time! It is amazing to sit in one spot and just watch and see how much the view changes. I need to start making timelapses of this.
Just yesterday we sat and watched an almost-full moon rise into a sky with many clouds and beautiful blue behind them all. There was one delicate cloud that was hanging out just above the maple tree. The moon first appeared rising from the top of the maple and moved up through the cloud, which was shaped like a tuning fork (see photo below). The moon continued up and to the right (the moon always moves to the right here, and either up or down, but always to the right). We soon realized that the tuning-fork cloud remained in place and did not change its shape - for more than two hours! How could that be? I don't believe I've ever seen a cloud stay in one place that long (for that matter, have you ever watched a single cloud for even 30 minutes without it moving or evaporating or changing shape). The sun set and it got dark and the cloud was still there.
OK, so the cabin painters have not shown up yet, but our HVAC guy (Brad Chalmers) did get the AC running in both the cabin and in Pam's studio - that's a big YIPPIE COYOTE! But the floor never arrived - bummer. It has to sit inside for a week before they will install it, so we know it will be a more than a week before the floor. But the rock artists arrived and started the process of putting stone on the outside of our fireplace in the great room. They began on Friday and returned this morning and have been working all day. Also YIPPIE COYOTE! Each little item that gets done is a giant step forward for us - it has been a long time coming, and still a good long while to go, but we love progress!
I've been trying to take a sunrise photo every day, and so far have only missed one in the past two weeks. We've had a solid week of moist conditions and high humidity and a sea of clouds each morning. Sometimes a cloud bank along the eastern horizon keeps the sun from showing, but on some mornings - like today - the sun arrived as a red ball, and I was there waiting for it, sitting on a steep hillside with my camera on tripod at hand. I usually get about 60 seconds of glorious sunrise before the sun gets so bright and hot that it won't register as anything but a hot spot. I've been shooting from four different locations, although this morning I was actually standing right in the middle of Hwy. 74 when the sun began to peek out from behind the distant mountains. Good thing there wasn't any traffic this morning. You will most likely see some of these sunrise photos in future books and calendars...
A couple of random notes. First, Pam's ma and pa showed up the other evening with a fresh PEANUT BUTTER PIE that was just incredible! (my first one ever) There was nothing left when they left. (Many advantages of living near her parents - sometimes we get PIE!) And a couple of nights ago we watched the first movie we've seen in a long time (we've not had TV channels in years). It was one my bride picked out and oh my goodness it was one of the most beautiful films either of us had ever seen - not English - it had sub-titles, but that really didn't matter. The cinematography was just incredible, with lots of pure, clean, simple landscapes and scenes. The Lighthouse Of The Orcas on Netflix (based on a true story). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
05/29/18 The alarm in my phone went off at 3:15 this morning, just as I was rounding a curve in Boxley to find four elk standing in the middle of the road! I had been up since 2:30 and was on a mission to arrive at Flanagan Prairie down near Clarksville before sunrise, elk or no elk. Thankfully they moved enough for me to pass, along with numerous other elk in Boxley and a couple dozen deer between there and Clarksville. How nice the young lady was at the McDonald's drive-thru window - amazing these places remain open all night!
The brilliant full moon was easing down into a fog bank to the west just as I pulled into the small parking lot at the prairie - in fact there was fog both east and west. It was already light, but before sunrise - I had made it just in time! I spent the next hour wandering many acres that were covered with pale coneflowers and other assorted wildflowers, trying to capture something of the grand beauty of this natural wonder. For a few minutes I was tormented by the moon - I really wanted to photograph it as it quickly set, yet the sun had begun to rise in the opposite direction - oh where to point the camera first!? I managed both, but soon the moon disappeared into the fog and I spent the rest of my time facing the rising sun.
This was the first time in more than a year that I have been physically able to carry more than a couple pounds of gear at once - two cameras plus an extra lens (Teddy Roosevelt "make your own body!") - and I used everything I had in the bag while switching back and forth as I moved around and changed subjects and camera formats (35mm and medium format cameras, wide-angle to telephoto to macro lenses). By the time the sun had burned off the fog I was soaked from head to toe and exhausted, but a HAPPY CAMPER to be out in the wilds chasing pictures again!