CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - November 2016
Cloudland Cabin Cam, November 30 - BRILLIANT sunshine!
SLIDE SHOW FRIDAY IN SPRINGFIELD
Cloudland FOR SALE - see info here.
11/29/16 Cloudland Moment this morning. Cloudland Moment last night. Sitting out on the back deck of the loft just outside the master bedroom, a cool breeze swept over me like a sea around a shore. Stars were shining brightly, bits of clouds swirled in the canyon below. And the soft lullaby of the Buffalo River drifted up and over me - the river is flowing again and making music! The stretch of the Buffalo in the wilderness below our cabin never goes dry, even in the dries of summers there are many deep emerald pools. The flowing water between them gets low and slow, but does not disappear until a mile or two downstream. The music does disappear for a few months every year though, and we've not heard it here in a while. Until last night. Recent rains have been enough to fill the pool more and allow enough flow to create the music. And it is such sweet music too! That's one of the most amazing aspects of Cloudland, and one that we will miss the most when we move - the music of the wilderness river. For now we sit or work quietly and enjoy, not wanting to ever move, but knowing we must at some point - and we will know the joy of passing this magic onto the next generation of residents...
11/28/16 It was like daylight inside the cabin at 4am today - LIGHTNING was coming in from all directions! But hardly any thunder, or perhaps the thunderstorms were too far away. I got up and wandered around outside without a flashlight. Most of the time where was lightning from somewhere to light my way, but when the flash stopped, I stopped, or perhaps kept going for a couple of steps. Then all was dark. So I stood there, motionless in the forest, sucking in the aroma of ozone and the approach of rainfall. Then the forest would light up again, flicker, and allow me several steps forward before going dark again. Soon a light rain began to fall, and there were more rumbles from above. Few things in life are as delightful as being in the forest at the beginning of a thunderstorm. And being in the dark makes it all that much better! Then the darkness began to be less dark - dawn was approaching. The edges of the darkness began to glow, and I could see tree shapes all around me. Ghost trees - fog was moving in, and the forest became a fairyland. I LOVE rainy days and Mondays!!! I do hope yours is rainy as well and you stop for a moment or two in your busy life just to smile...
We need lots of warm bodies for our free slide programs this week - if you are not able to attend and know someone who might be, please pass this info on:
November 29th, Conway, 7pm, Faulkner County Library (1900 Tyler Street)
December 2nd, Springfield MO, two shows - 5pm & 7pm, Springfield Nature Center (Missouri - reservation required).
December 3rd, Bentonville Library, 1pm (405 S. Main St.)
December 4th, Rogers Public Library, 2pm (711 South Dixieland Road)
11/24/16 Thanksgiving Fire Update. The Whitaker Point fire is basically out and the trail to Hawksbill Crag will reopen today - YIPPIE! Fire fighters did an amazing job of containing the fire below the bluffline, which is a major fact. If the fire had gotten either above the bluff or out into the main Buffalo River canyon, the potential for devastating results were great. Since they were able to contain the fire (at about 100 acres below the bluff) you won't see any fire damage either at Hawksbill Crag or along the trail to the Crag. This was basically a ground fire that was contained below the bluff. I've seen comments about the Crag being a "charred mess" and other things, but you won't notice any fire damage, really. The Crag and area above the bluff will be just as beautiful as before, thanks to the prolonged and difficult work of the forest service fire fighters.
As for us today, we had our family thanksgiving last week so no holiday for us, and today we'll continue the marathon workload to try and get our new gallery facility ready for our open house on Saturday - hint - we will NOT be ready, not by a long shot - but the door will be open and we will have art on the walls - just not as much as we had hoped for. I'm struggling physically to get my part of the work done to get power to the lights, and to get new canvas prints printed and stretched and labeled and support panels moved from our current gallery to the new location and the prints hung.
My bride has been working overtime on a host of chores that we have to get done - or as much done as we can - her to-do list has gone from about five pages down to about three pages, but it is still three pages long. And Pam's dad has been on the job almost 24/7 this week trying to get gravel spread for parking, a deck built on the front entrance, major construction cleanup mess inside completed, and on and on. He deserves a metal, sainthood, or at the very least the biggest batch of cookies! Pam's mom is working on the cookies, so even if we don't' have much on the walls to show you, the cookies should be great as usual from her! We are struggling to get the gallery half of the building presentable for you, but the rest of the building will be a mess - sorry - I'm totally wiped out and stretched beyond my limits. The gallery walls and ceiling are painted (THANKS to Pam's dad!), carpet is glued down, and we have a new European-style heating and cooling system (very small, QUIET, and super efficient!). But there is NO WATER to the building, so NO REST ROOM - you might want to pee in either Jasper or Ponca. If you are considering coming to one of our open houses, I recommend you skip this fire one and attend in December - we will be farther along in the construction process by then...
On a more personal note, many folks have commented at programs about how bad I look, wondering if I'm sick, losing too much weight, etc. While we appreciate your concerns, truth is I'm just getting older and daily life is taking a larger toll than normal. We've had a very stressful year (probably no more than you), and that is not likely to change any time soon. I have lost a good deal of weight this year - and while it may not "look" good on me, it sure feels better - my body frame is tall and slim and I'm best at around 160 pounds - I was over 170 last year so dropping 10-12 pounds is a good thing that I hope continues - although it will be tough with cookie season upon us!
11/23/16 We finally got a full night's sleep, not having to worry so much about the wildfire below us. We had several hours of gentle rain yesterday evening and on into the night. About 20 fire fighters emerged from the wilderness just as light rain began to fall. They had another long day of working the hot spots across the steep hillside below the bluff, but no doubt their hard work has paid off for everyone. The fire is not "officially" out, and it could spring to life at any time in the next week or even longer, but I'm going to say we have certainly eased our concerns and are able to get on with the business at hand.
And that business is a bit overwhelming - we've got to get the new gallery building in good enough shape for a "soft opening" this coming Saturday - our first Holiday Open House of 2016. Pam's dad has been working overtime trying to get a very long list of things cleaned up, and/or built. Pam has been doing the same - her list has shrunk to only about 50 more things to do! I spent much of yesterday having some minor oral surgery and sitting around the cabin just waiting to get back to work. Today all of us will continue to push for Saturday - we only have THREE days to go! (we had Thanksgiving dinner last Sunday, so tomorrow will be just another much-needed 20-hour work day.)
11/22/16 TUESDAY MORNING FIRE UPDATE. So far there is no smoke or flames visible this morning, nor can we smell smoke from our Cloudland property, and the landscape seems to be holding its collective breath that the fire fill remain asleep, or slowly creep into the ground and put itself out for good. A fire crew in a pumper truck kept watch from our driveway all night. Yesterday we had 20-30 or more men and women in yellow suits and backpacks full of gear that headed into the wilderness from our cabin to try and get the fire completely contained. Rainfall today would help a great deal. The Hawksbill Crag trail remains closed until further notice. I'll update this post later today.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE. I have been gone all day and did not get to see or talk to anyone this morning, but when I got home this afternoon there were nine forest service trucks in our front yard - which means a large number of fire fighters are in the woods below the bluff working on the fire. For those who wonder, there is a break in the 100' tall bluffline just below our cabin, which provides access for the fire fighters to get below the bluff - the next closest access point is more than a mile away in either directions. We have heavy winds right now, and no rain yet today. They are trying hard to keep any fire from spreading into the main Buffalo River canyon area.
UPDATE as I'm typing this - just now a group of yellow safety jackets appeared in the forest below, and a cheer went up as it started to RAIN! It was just a passing shower, but any rain will help a lot.
This is a photo of the 1,000-gallon tank that feeds a sprinkler system that is part of the defense system to protect our cabin in case the fire gets out of control. We're told they construct these sprinkler lines thousands of feet long in California neighborhoods and other areas out west to help protect property there. (Our line is only about 100'.) The folks who protect our forests in Arkansas have a great deal of experience fighting western wildfires and bring a great of expertise to their homeland here - THANKS!!!
11/21/16 Quick update this morning. We had several anxious hours last night as heavy winds brought thick soot-laden smoke pouring up over the bluff from the fire below, engulfing our cabin. We have everything sealed up pretty good to keep this out of the cabin, but the outside air was tough to breathe. By midnight the winds had calmed down and the smoke was much less. At first light this morning there is a little smoke, and the cabin area is clear. The forest service crew that spent the night made several trips out to check on the fire to make sure all was well. I think they had cold pizza for breakfast, but they might get a surprise if they stay here just a little while longer - my lovely bride has a big batch of her famous Homemade Cloudland Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies in the oven for them.
The fire will most likely build back up again today as temps rise and humidity levels drop, but several forest service crews will be in the woods working the fire and try to keep it from entering the main Buffalo River canyon, which is just around the corner. Still a long way to go before this fire, now in its ninth day, can be declared dead, but we're hopeful it will happen sometime this week. There is always a chance it could blow up and get out of control, so fingers remain crossed and continued THANKS to all who have been involved...
SATURDAY NIGHT FIRE UPDATE. This is the view from our back deck at 6:30pm this evening, looking out across Whitaker Creek - that's Venus looking on from above (the Crag is out of sight to the right). Forest Service crews have been very active today - we've got the best fire crews that's for sure! They're hoping the fire will go back to sleep tonight, and they will continue working tomorrow to get a line around it and make things more secure. Cold temps tonight will help. The trail remains closed, and probably will be for several more days...
11/20/16 "Your property is now highly defensible" was how the head forest service ranger described to me the condition of our cabin and other buildings at Cloudland. The forest service has been hard at work on the fire that continues to burn below the bluff and within about 1/3 or a mile or less from the cabin. They essentially built firelines around the cabin and all buildings here; erected a portable pool of water - with 500 gallons in it to start; and a water sprinkling system that encircles the cabin - once turned on, the sprinkler system will "water the lawn/brush" and keep any approaching flames from being able to reach the cabin (if the fire ever gets above the bluff, which everyone is hopeful will not happen). It is clear they are taking protection of residences seriously out here, which is a priority when wildfires strike.
The fire itself was pretty spectacular last night - I stayed up monitoring it for several hours, and shot a timelapse video that I've posted on our facebook page. About the time the timelapse ended, the wind was about to shift directions, and soon the cabin was engulfed with smoke, which continued all night. At one point the fire got a lot brighter, and appeared to be burning stronger away from us and closer to Hawksbill Crag. Early this morning the last photo that I took (about 5am) showed the fire had gotten a lot smaller - probably due to the temps being in the upper 20's with little wind.
Today the fire crews will return and begin working on the larger picture, which may include building a fire line from the bottom of the bluff below our cabin all the way down to Whitaker Creek - basically following the old "Ladder Trail" steeply down the hill that I used to take every day during summer months down to the river for a one-mile swim. They think this will keep the fire from advancing out of the Whitaker Creek drainage and into the main Buffalo River drainage. We have so much work to do over at the new gallery building that we are about to leave Cloudland for the day and let the professionals do their work.
FYI, Hawksbill Crag trail remains closed and probably will be for many more days - they have a lot of work do to below the bluff to make sure the area is safe before they allow hikers back into the area. Fire crews from the Ozark National Forest and Arkansas Forestry Commission continue to do an outstanding job - they are top-notch and we are grateful for all they are doing!
SUNDAY NIGHT FIRE UPDATE. I was gone most of today but heard the forest fire and forest service all had a very active day. So active in fact that we could see the smoke plume from Mt. Sherman near Jasper! The wildfire had gotten pretty aggressive by this afternoon, and the forest service decided to move up their blackburn plan to today. So basically what they did was build a fireline from our cabin all the way down the mountain to Whitaker Creek (about 600 vertical feet). Then they lit the forest floor and sent the fire back towards the wildfire that was burning on the same slope. The goal was to burnout the leaf cover and prevent the wildfire from getting out into the main Buffalo River canyon, where it could get very bad.
During the day they watered down the hillside between our cabin and the tall bluff below in case the fire jumped the bluff. So far, so good. The team of fire fighters was just leaving the mountain as I was coming home about 7pm. A new two-man crew has arrived and will keep a watch on the fire here at Cloudand.
I can see flames from my desk, and as you can see in this photo which is looking straight down the hill from our back deck, the fire is pretty close and is right below the cabin. Another SPECIAL THANKS to all the forest service crews who have put in so much time and tough work!
11/19/16 Saturday morning update. Calm winds, 30 degrees, and no smoke at first light this morning that we can see from our cabin. The fire remained asleep during the night. Forest service fire crews will continue their operations all day and into tonight.
11/18/16 We had a great group for our program at Windsong Church last night in N. Little Rock. We left the cabin about 1pm and returned home at 11pm. The long drive each way was made shorter while we listened to a pair of five-part Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar old-time radio programs. We no longer have satellite radio, but were able to download about 50 episode of this - or most favorite of all time radio classic programs. Bob Bailey is well on the top of the list of the best actors of all time - sure does make the miles slide right on by.
Although on the way home the DEER were EVERYWHERE! We saw one heard after another after another - some 10-12 or more deer each. Fortunately none of them were interested in crashing into the bookmobile, so we arrived back at Cloudland safe and sound.
As we were crawling into bed at almost midnight, my lovely spotted a FOREST FIRE - right out the window! We scrambled to pinpoint its location - which was only about a half mile from Cloudland, over near Hawksbill Crag. It appeared that the fire was burning in a line from the base of the tall bluff all the way down the steep slope to Whitaker Creek - and it appeared to be headed TOWARDS CLOUDLAND! We alerted 911, who dispatched a fire crew - actually more than one. High winds continued to blow, and we had a few anxious moments - well actually several hours of them.
In the scramble that followed we each instinctively gathered up items we felt the most valuable and irreplaceable throughout the cabin, studio, and gallery buildings. We loaded computers and harddrives and treasured photo scrapbooks and other personal items into not one or two, but three vehicles that we also needed to get out of the line of the fire. This is the first time of the nearly 20 years I've lived here that we felt threatened enough to evacuate. And so we did.
We drove two vehicles up to Cave Mountain Church, then Pam drove me back to the cabin to get the third vehicle - and a few more important items. Any monetary items and important documents are always stored safely away in safe deposit boxes in town, but there are so many of the little things one clings to that we keep nearby.
I soon returned to the cabin with several of the Woods Boys who had been out here all week deer hunting (yes, THOSE Woods Boys that the waterfall is named after). I alerted them to the fire and they came running to help. Soon guys from the Arkansas forestry commission arrived to access the fire from the back deck - the fire was in full view, and it was cooking pretty good. One of the guys began to clear a fireline around the cabin while the other guy headed off in the darkness to find the upper edge of the fire and report its location - .45 miles from the cabin, as the crow and/or forest fire embers fly.
As the fired burned on slowly towards us, a light rain began to fall. Really - rainfall when we needed it MOST? No way. WAY!!! Within an hour (about 4am actually) the rain picked up a little bit, and by5am I think we had enough actual rain to put a good damper on the spread of the wildfire. There have been a few fire trucks drive past the cabin, but I have not talked with anyone since the rain began - it is 6:30 now and the rain is about over, but there is a red/orange thunderstorm not far away..
HAWKSBILL CRAG AREA FIRE UPDATE. As daylight swept across the wilderness we see several smoke plumes in the burned area, and even one section across Whitaker Creek. The forest service has officially CLOSED the Hawksbill Crag trail until further notice - i.e., probably all weekend and at least until early next week. This is not a giant wildfire, but it is spread out in very rough terrain that is difficult and dangerous for fire crews to work in and is going to take a good bit of time to get the situation safely resolved. So in the meantime, please enjoy your weekend hiking on other area trails and avoid the Cave Mountain area. PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION. Thank you!
11/16/16 HOLY MOLY, we have FALL COLOR all of a sudden! Seems like all the trees that still had leaves decided to get up and put on a show. Oaks are brilliant orange, hickories YELLOW, maple trees a spectacular RED! And there's even a lot of underbrush that is just now waking up and showing off amazing color. Unfortunately a lot of trees had already lost their leaves, but the ones that remain are looking really great.
It smells and sounds like fall around here too. Many leaves that have already fallen crunch underfoot as we hike, and they fill the air with the sweetness of autumn - I know sniffing crushed dead leaves doesn't sound too appealing, but somehow it is comforting and brings up all sorts of fond memories of fall in Arkansas.
It's been sunny and on the warmish side, and along with that weather a few bugs have been showing up - lady bugs in fact. Yesterday we did our annual bug bomb inside the cabin, then took the pups and spent the afternoon working over on the new gallery building. When we returned last night I had an allergic reaction to the bug bomb - something new - and so I had to flee the cabin last night and camp in the van. It was kind of weird camping in the front yard while my lovely bride (and puppies to keep her warm) slept inside.
I got up at 4 this morning and had breakfast. Ate a salad for "lunch" at 8:30am, then stopped by Subway in Jasper on my way through town and had "dinner" at 3:30pm. It is 10pm tonight and I'm getting kinda hungry.
Our caretaker arrived today (cousin Joseph). and unlike previous years he is going to bunk in a little RV instead of staying in the guest room downstairs like previous years. We needed the guest room to remain open for folks who come out to look at the cabin and property (visits are by appointment only). Joseph looks after Cloudland while we are gone for programs and such, and will be here until almost Christmas.
The new gallery building is coming along, with Pam's dad doing most of the hard labor. The gallery room is now painted and awaiting carpet. We've installed a new print hanging system on the walls, but also will have two rows of black carpet panels for prints in the middle of the room. It looks like we will have enough of the building ready to host the Holiday Open House on November 26th, although only part of the building will be suitable - the rest of it will still be a construction zone - so PARDON OUR MESS! We will have a few new canvas prints and many old favorites, but not sure what the final count will be yet - the space is a little larger than our previous gallery, but it will probably be the december Open House dates before we're able to fully stock the gallery. We will hope to have the "Print On Demand" Black Mat Prints available (also a selection of 40-50 in stock to begin with). PLUS we will have some of Pam's pastel and oil paintings on display and for sale - YIPPIE! More than one of them I'm hoping never sell since I want them for my own! I'll post more info next week, including directions to the new gallery.
One last note before I crawl back into the van - oh, no WAIT, I get to sleep inside the cabin tonight! We just posted my photo workshop schedule for 2017 - it includes 12 workshops in March, April, May, June, and October, including one-day workshops, one-night workshops, and multi-day workshops both spring and fall. Our plan is to base all of them from the new gallery building, so less bad-road driving for all students! Generally speaking, the one-day workshops are for novice shooters and you really don't need any experience, and only minimal equipment. The multi-day workshops are for folks who are more comfortable with their equipment and want to get out and stretch their photographic legs for an extended period of time - mostly for intermediate shooters, but beginners and advanced are welcome too.
North Little Rock slide show tomorrow night the 17th, then Shiloh Museum in Springdale on Saturday the 19, and finally our visit with the Ft. Smith Trail Blazers on Monday the 21st. Hope to see ya soon!
11/14/16 The moon was so bright at 4am this morning that I managed to hike around in a large cow pasture taking pictures for more than an hour and never stepped in cow poop a single time! That should become a new standard of light level measurement - how many times you step in cow poop per hour (while hiking without using a flashlight). Lower numbers are better...
I was in a neighbor's rolling pasture that was dotted with big oak trees and towering pine trees. When I head out in search of subjects to include in a lunar landscape I sometimes don't have a clue what I'm looking for or where to find it - both were the case this morning. I just wanted to get out and bask in the glow of the big moon and try to find a suitable tree or two to photograph in front of the moon. I found a couple of them that I liked, and kept going back and forth between them as the moon dropped lower and lower in the sky. For one of the trees I was on the side of a hill and looking up a steep slope to the tree near the top; the other tree was part-way down the other side of the hill and I had to lay on my belly to get the angle that I wanted. Hum, it never occurred to me until just now that I probably should have checked the pasture for cow poop before I laid down...
As the moon got close to the horizon just before dawn, it was about to sink into a cloud bank. The color of the moon changed dramatically from it's normal brilliance to a glowing ORANGE. I only had a couple of minutes to compose and shoot the final shot before it was gone.
We've had a squirrel revolution up here on Cave Mountain! HUNDREDS of young gray squirrels have migrated into the area in the past couple of weeks - maybe thousands of them. Seemed like it happened almost overnight. And we almost always see them in pairs, although they appear to be too small to be adults (and already married). Our little pup, Mia, is rather fond of squirrels, and spends most of her time outdoors either running at full speed trying to find them, or stopped at the base of a tree with her front paws part-way up the tree and looking for any squirrel movement above.
This morning we were all trapped inside the cabin for about 30 minutes. A doe had walked into the yard and was munching on acorns when she all of a sudden jerked around and froze - staring at the Fat Cat who was sitting on the ground about 20 feet away, basking in warm morning sunshine. The deer was very curious of the cat, and inched toward him, carefully, one step at a time - in fact sometimes only a half step or less. Fat Cat just sat there and stared back. Then the deer stomped one of her hooves just to see what Fat Cat would do. Nothing. At one point the deer got so close that Fat Cat arched his back and hissed at her! Five pound cat vs. 120 pound deer. The deer backed off. This went back and forth for a long time as we watched from the kitchen window - both our pups were at the front door inside, sniffing - they knew something was going on out there but they could not see.
So between my lovely bride and I, counting cell phones, we have at least 11 cameras. We could not find a single one of any type inside the cabin, so we could not take pictures of the cat-deer standoff. Not even a cell phone. When it finally got the best of me and I opened the front door, the deer only moved a few feet away, then stopped to stare back at Fat Cat again. The doe eventually did bound off into the woods just as I was reaching for my point-and-shoot camera in the van. Fat Cat was still there in his sunny spot an hour later.
I'm sitting here inside the cabin enjoying the big old moon tonight - just watching it through one of the tall windows in the great room - I'm too lazy to dig the camera gear out - working at 4am was enough for me today I guess. (No cow poop inside either.)
And we have BABY NEWS! Our niece, Sarah, and her husband, Mark, had their first child today - HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMMA!!! I'm a grand uncle. (Is that right?) Men have it so easy - I could never give birth... (Let's see - that would make my sister a GRANDMOTHER!)
11/13/16 Here's a beautiful little wildflower I found early this morning growing near the base of the bluff below Hawksbill Crag. I went to check on the status of the fire*, and discovered this guy just outside the fireline. The fire is out, only a few old logs on the ground remain smoldering. While I was down on my belly taking this picture, I heard laughter coming from above - it was from a group of young people from Missouri who had "pulled an all-nighter" to drive down, then hike out to the Crag for sunrise. They were friendly, polite, and quite respectful of their surroundings - as cherry as the little flower! SO NICE to see young people following in the footsteps of their elders - and making their own tracks and treasured memories.
Thanks again to the Ozark National Forest fire crew for getting the line around this fire so fast, and also to the Newton County Sheriff's department who sent a deputy in to help, and also to the Buffalo National River fire crew.
HAPPY SUNDAY TO ALL!
*I will post some notes later today or tomorrow from yesterday about the small wildfire that happened below the bluff next to Hawksbill Crag. It is out, and most folks will probably never see any evidence of it, but it could have been a lot worse - forest service fire crews got to it quickly and built a fireline around it to keep from spreading.
EVENING UPDATE AND FIRE STORY. It is quite SPECTACULAR hiking around in the moonlight this evening! I normally don't buy into all the media hype over supermoons (there are at least three this year, actually three events THIS week!), but the moon was indeed larger than usual when it finally rose above a wall of clouds - my lovely bride and I watched it from a meadow along Cave Mountain Road near our cabin. Monday morning is when the full moon actually happens (at 7:52am), so the moonset a couple of hours before is when the moon will be the largest that we see it - I hope to be somewhere to take a few pictures, but I don't have a spot picked out yet.
THE FIRE. Yesterday morning a visitor to Cloudland (Kyle Clay) told me how he and his friend had just come from a hike to Hawksbill Crag. Kyle is an urban fireman and fire fighter from Texas. He said as they approached the Crag about 8:30am they found a smouldering campfire right next to the trail, which was also right at the top of the bluff a couple of hundred yards before they reached the Crag. He said the campfire had spread to a nearby dead tree and had caught part of the old tree on fire. He told me that he put out the fire and cleaned up the mess as best he could with what he had, and thought the fire was out.
During their visit to Cloudland we happened to walk out onto the lower back deck of the cabin (this was about 11:00am), and we could see SMOKE rising next to the Crag - UH OH!!! It had to have been the abandoned campfire coming back to life. We grabbed a couple of fire-fighting tools that we always keep here at the cabin, sped up to the Faddis Cabin, then the three of us made double-time through the forest, coming down to the bluffline a few minutes later at the spot where the abandoned campfire had been.
We had expected to see the woods above the bluff on fire, but there was nothing. The fireman was puzzled when he looked down - "The campfire WAS RIGHT HERE! Someone must have kicked it over the bluff!" And that appeared to have been exactly what happened at some point after he had left the scene the first time. There was a thick wall of smoke billowing up and over the bluffline. We could see the flames below the bluff, and Kyle quickly accessed the situation, turned to me and said "We'll never be able to get this alone - it is going to take a real fire crew."
When we finally made contact with the county emergency folks, the fire had already been called in and a fire crew was on the way. There had probably already been 100 or more hikers to the Crag - it was a busy morning - and no doubt at least one person was able to get cell signal and report the fire.
We hiked out and I drove up to Cave Mountain Road to try and catch the fire crew and direct them to a closer staging area then the Crag Parking lot - which by this time was pretty crowded anyway with cars and hikers. I took the forest service crew to the staging area, then led them down to the split in the bluff where they could get below the bluff down to the fire. The fire had probably grown to four or five times it's size in less than two hours. The forest service guys immediately began to clear a fireline around the fire, and also called in for more fire crews. It was not a big dangerous wildfire like you see on TV, but it was spreading down the VERY steep hillside below the bluffline, and also was getting pretty close to the base of Hawksbill Crag.
I hiked on over to the Crag to let folks there know what was going on, and we all stood and watched the flames creep closer and closer. It was kind of weird - the heavy smoke continued to billow up and over the bluff directly above where the fire was burning, but since there was basically no wind the smoke did not reach the Crag - folks where milling around, taking pictures, and enjoying the sunny fall day as normal. Yet the fire and thick smoke was less than 100 yards away.
the fire from Hawksbill Crag
Since the area around the Crag is inside a federally-desiginated Wilderness area, mechanized things are not allowed unless a special exemption is granted by the Regional Forester (office in Atlanta). I've built a LOT of wildfire lines in my decades as a trail builder - building a trail is basically the same thing - you have to clear EVERYTHING on the forest floor down into mineral soil several feet wide. A gas-powered backpack blower that tops out above 200mph wind speed does a pretty good job of this - at least to blow back the dead leaf and duff on the forest floor - the firefighters still have to use hand tools to dig and scrape the fireline down into mineral soil to form a barrier around the fire. In this case the bluffline itself acted as part of the fireline, but the fire was burning down some VERY STEEP terrain below it.
Anyway, while we were all up on the Crag watching the flames, we heard the backpack blower that one of the fire fighters had packed in start up and begin to hum. I swear folks on the Crag CHEERED when we all heard it - that meant the fireline would be built easier and the fire contained quicker. The forest service ranger had been able to get that special exemption from the Regional Forester in Atlanta. Forest fires are serious business.
The red dot is the Crag in this photo of the afternoon smoke as seen from the lower deck at Cloudland
More firefighters joined in and sometime during the night they got the fire 100% contained (that just means it was not going to spread, but it continued to burn within the fireline). Early this morning I hiked down to the fire and could see a number of downed dead trees smouldering, but the fire had basically burned itself out - at least the surface dead leaves had. But those logs would most likely smoulder and smoke for a while - sometimes for days in fact - there was only a little bit of smoke rising - almost none really. I noticed a forest service "bladder bag" next to the trail that was full of water - this is one tool used to fight wilderness fires - fill it with water, then squirt on the hot spots to put out the fire. Only problem was that there is NO WATER on that mountainside right now - every drop would have to be packed in from the county road up above. We used these same bladder bags when fighting the only two forest fires I'd ever fought while working for the forest service (in a Wyoming wilderness area above 10,000 feet elevation). Pretty tough work all of it. Those guys should get our highest praise - not only for their quick response time, but also for the terrific job they do - they are the best!
As Pam and I headed out at 10am this morning to go work on the new gallery building near Mt. Sherman, we passed two fire crews that had just arrived at the staging area and were suiting up to go back down and spend the day "mopping up" - digging into some of those smouldering logs and stumps and other hot spots and putting them out. The ranger had told me on Saturday that it might be a couple of days before everything was completely out.
So there ya go, the rest of the story.
THANKS TO ALL WHO HELPED, from Kyle the fireman from Texas, to the person that first reported the fire to 911, and especially to the forest service firefighters who did the dirty work!
11/10/16 The decidious Holly trees on the mountain are in full "bloom" right now!
11/09/16 I just hiked up to the book warehouse tonight in my skivvies and HOLY MOLY it was CHILLY outside!!! And it felt oh so wonderful too. Finally feels like fall around here - in so many ways. It's not just the cool temps, but the air is quite delicious - like biting into a sweet, crisp apple! Plus the moon is so bright - no need for any flashlight as there are plenty of shadows to dance around with.
Daytime was about the same - each step I took felt better than the one before. The cool front rolled on in and swept the atmosphere clean - the sky too, was a beautiful sparkling blue. And more color than we've had this year (although still not much).
While I'm pretty sure thar's no way I'd have been tough enough to survive more than a week or two, I probably would have been a mountain man had I been around 200 years ago. "I've been to a town Del." I certainly understand the need for towns, but give me the woods and mountains and streams any day, or night.
And speaking of the very first DVD I ever bought (Jeremiah Johnson), we now have a DVD available of the new ARKANSAS IN MY OWN BACKYARD slide program available for sale. We plan to have them for sale at slide programs, but you can also order online here. Coming to the free programs will always be better, but if you can't make it, the DVD will be the next best tingg...(you can see a snippet from the show on our facebook page here)
11/07/16 We made a quick trip to some state parks in the eastern edge of north central Arkansas over the weekend. The "peak" color they were advertising turned out to be brown or green color, not much real fall color. But we visited four state parks to kick off our run to all 52 Arkansas state parks for an upcoming picture book. Pre-dawn colors yesterday at Lake Charles State Park were wonderful - in fact my lovely bride was able to set up and complete a plein air pastel while we were there - lovely! We stumbled into squirrel's heaven at one historic park where giant oak trees produced both equally-giant acorns but also TINY acorns, sometimes from trees growing right next to each other. We'll make at least one other visit to each of these four parks, but this gave us a good start on the project.
I got rained on early this morning while outside taking a shower - first actual raindrops we've seen in a while. Didn't last too long, but the skies continue to look "rainy" this morning so we're hopeful there will be at least enough today to settle the very dusty roads a bit. Unlike Karen Carpenter's beautiful tune, I happen to LOVE rainy days and Mondays! Speaking of Monday, holy moly, the world premiere of our new ARKANSAS IN MY OWN BACKYARD slide program will be this coming Friday, 10am, in Hot Springs Village. DVDs are supposed to arrive Thursday (cutting that kind of close, ey?). HAPPY MONDAY TO EVERYONE!
Here are a few state park snapshots from the weekend. HAPPY MONDAY EVERYONE!
11/05/16 Look above and below! During a quick puppy hike yesterday morning I heard voices in the sky, stopped and gazed up to see a flock of geese way up there - flying south of course for the winter. Seemed kind of late, but as warm as it has been they know best. Within three steps I saw a beautiful worm sake stretched across the trail, and he was heading north! The geese still had a long journey before they stopped to rest for the winter; Mr. Snake was probably only going another 100 feet up into the hillside for a long slumber. I liked them both.
COYOTES continued to get up and out and vocal early in the evening lately - even in the middle of the afternoon. Sounds like they are all just below the big sandstone bluffline that lines the wilderness area - probably one reason whey their yips, howls, and calls are so crisp and clear because their voices bounce off that big bluff and beam out through the wilderness. Seems that the monarch migration has completed their trip through the area headed south.
I spent a good part of the day on the big tractor, bushhogging tall fields with hay at least chest high. First there was Moms meadow just below the cabin - not exactly a level spot and it is always a challenge to hang on while going across the steep slope, but the green grass revealed was lush and aromatic. When I got done and was headed out I discovered a small patch of happy daisies still standing tall that had avoided the mower blades - a testament to Mom's enduring love of the land and wildflowers - this is her meadow, and she continues to flourish and bloom and spread hope and happiness for all who visit.
11/04/16 I just had an "Orion Moment" at Cloudland. About 4am this morning, while leaning back in the small easy rocker where I often spend a few moments in the dark sipping coffee, I happened to look up and spotted Orion beaming brightly through one of the tall windows in the great room. I designed four tall windows in the great room so that sunshine would stream in throughout the day, as it does so it and associated shadows dance across the pine floor. What I did not even think about was that moonlight would do the same thing, and we've spent a lot of time enjoying moonlight from inside the cabin. And especially the past several years, more and more we're noticing STARS through the windows - I'm sure they've been there all the time, I just always thought a guy had to go outside to see stars - but not at Cloudland - they are inside too! Anyway, Orion is one of the major winter constellations and is so easy to spot. But I had never noticed it through the window until this morning - now I'll look for it each day. Sometimes it's just good to just sit back and search for stars...
11/03/16 FALL COLOR UPDATE. I have no idea what the color is doing - oddest fall I've ever seen here!
11/02/16 For facebook users we have started a Cloudland For Sale facebook page here. Our property is now fo sale "By Owner" and we are accepting appointments to visit.
11/02/16 WELCOME TO THE CLOUDLAND BLOG! Ugggg, I hate the word "blog" but I guess that is what the rest of the world calls them. I have decided to publish the November Journal in a "blog" format to see if folks like it better. What that means is that I will add each new post to the top of the page instead of to the bottom, so while the entries will now be in reverse order, the newest post will be immediately visible and available for you to read instead of having to scroll to the bottom.
Just one quick note from this morning. I took the pups on a pre-dawn hike out to the main road and back (about three miles). Remember the "persimmon alley" that I talked about last week? The aroma of that part of the lane has gone from very sweet, to fermented, and this morning was kind of sour - it was easy for me to tell exactly where I was on the road even though it was still mostly dark. I suspect next week the air there will be clear, a sign that fall will be on the way out.
Still not much color in the landscape around here, but with a lot of green remaining I'm still hopeful...
11/01/16 After spending several hours staring into a bright computer screen tonight, I shut off all the lights in the cabin and stepped outside. It took me a while to begin to adapt my eyes to the darkness (the moon had set a couple of hours before so nothing out here in the wilderness but starlight). As I sat there at the base of a tree in front of the cabin, stars began to appear - LOTS of stars! The brightest part of the Milky Way has already set in the west soon after dark now - and will be hidden from view until later winter/early spring. But there were so many stars in another section of the Milky that stretched across the sky before me, I just had to walk over to the van and dig out my "stars" camera and take a couple of pictures. We continue to be blessed to live in the darkest location in Arkansas, so we tend to see more stars than most folks - especially after sitting in the front yard for an hour or two!
Last night was our 19th straight haloween without a single trick-or-treater - something about a spooky log cabin in the middle of the wilderness I guess, but I'm a happy camper as I am the default recipient of a bag of "left-over" mini snickers! And just by coincidence, we had a visit to the dentist today.
After getting the main slide program tweaked and all set up for our program season, I spent another two full days of long hours reformatting and setting up a copy of the slide program for DVD duplication - to be sold at programs and online - 'twas a difficult time negotiating the various legal hoops we had to secure commercial rights to use the music, which will now allow us to sell these DVDs. Folks ask about them at every program, so now we'll be able to say YES, WE HAVE THAT ON DVD! Since DVDs still use an older, lower video format for playback, the movie won't be nearly as nice as looking at the raw data produced live on the big screen at a program, but the quality seems to be good enough for most home TV venues. We could kick the image quality up a notch by offering Blue Ray disks, but they would be a lor more expensive and only play on a blue ray player. This will be a test for us to see if they will sell, and if you like them enough for us to do them again. ($14.95 retail, $10 at programs). Hoping to have the first batch available art our first slide program on Friday the 11th in Hot Springs Village. I'll keep ya posted.