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LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - October 2018

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Little Bluff remote cabin cam October 31 - lots of rain, fog, and COLOR! (upper Buffalo Wilderness area)

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Journal updated October 10, 16, & 26th

10/01/18 Cool, lush and BEAUTIFUL at first light today. Oh how I LOVE October!!! But today I went back more than 60 years to the homestead where I was born and spent my first 20 years of life, our house which was at the time on the outskirts of north Fayetteville. My first stop was to the "local" woods just up the hill from our house. I grew up on that hillside running as fast as I could, and often just sitting on the forest floor doing absolutely nothing at all except being there in the forest. I hunted birds and squirrels with my trusty BB gun, built an igloo one snowy winter day, and built more than a half mile of hiking trail with nothing more than my feet (with my brother's help of course) - They are called "social trails" now when a trail developed on its own from folks taking the same course through the woods or across a meadow. That's just how we traveled - running through the woods, and eventually trails developed beneath us - and those trails still live today in an official Fayetteville park (Gegory Park). It's kind of a mountain bike park now, with special courses built for the bikes. Which I find ironic because we also spent quite a bit of time growing up on the seat of a bike too, tearing all over the place - ours were fat tire bikes, although that's all there was back in the early 1960's.

The reason for my visit today was because I got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago asking "Is it true that you grew up in the house at 1742 Woodland?" YES, I did! was my reply. The lady who just happens to live about two miles from here near Parthenon was asking about me because a neighbor had told the company who had just leveled and rebuilt our old homestead had heard from a neighbor that I had grown up there. Turns out my brother's wife, Marsha, had been corresponding with that same company for the past six months as they rebuilt our old house. So today we all got together - one of the guys who designed and rebuilt the house, and my brother and sister and their spouses (all from Illinois), and had a look inside.

Here is the listing with lots of photos on Zillo. And the firm that designed and built it, 3 Rocks Construction.

What an amazing transformation it was! Our house was built in the late 1940's and was very small as most were back then, at the edge of town in a heavily-wooded and undeveloped area. I came along a few years later and lived there until my early 20's. (Family of six with ONE bathroom - my brother and I lived in our parent's room, so we had four in one room with the only bathroom down the hall - I peed outside a lot!) We sold the property in 2002 after my mom died. Anyway, the 3 Rocks company literally took everything down to the cinder block foundation and completely rebuilt everything from that point on up. The house sits on a tiny lot in between two other houses - those lots were vacant when we lived there. The inside is filled with amazing ultra-modern finishes and built-ins - they turned my old bedroom in the corner to a giant master bath. They built the ceiling much taller (I used to be able to reach up and touch the ceiling throughout the entire house), but otherwise kept the exact footprint. Named Baile An Speir, or Home of the Sky, by British designer Damian FitzPatrick

AND a great surprise was the fact to many GIANT oak trees remained from my youth! In fact there are huge trees on three sides of the home - they had to be more than 100 years old since they were giant oaks when I was growing up. Even my mom's English ivy has survived and covers two of the trees and a rock wall and walkway. Great to hear tales and facts from my sister and brother (older than I) from before my time.Oh so many memories.......

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10/05/18 Another SPECTACULAR light show at dawn this morning. Sometimes ya just can't do anything but stand (or sit) and gawk. Hopefully by the end of this month the trees will be as colorful as the sky.

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My lovely bride left me yesterday - we left for the airport at 4am and she landed in Canada mid-afternoon. A group of 100 outdoor painters will be spending a week painting in the Canadian Rockies at their "fall color" paint camp. As luck would have it, they will also get to paint a little bit of SNOW - turns out a record winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow in the area this week, with more to come next week. Temps will be in the teens (F) at night, and fairly brisk during the day. So it may turn into a snow camp, but knowing this group, they will have a terrific time, an epic week in fact. I only wish I could paint!!! (Some of you may remember that I spent more than a year trying to learn how to do even a simple painting and failed miserably. Some year I may give it another go, but for now I'm thrilled that my bride has come as far as she has already.)

Back here at the home front our HVAC guy Brad fixed both the AC and Heat at the cabin, and MAYBE our shower tile guy will get a little more work done this weekend. Only a few things left to do before we can claim almost-complete.

In the meantime, here's a snap of some goldenrod growing in the meadow below the cabin. MANY folks blame their fall allergies on this beautiful wildflower, but fact is the plant doesn't give off enough pollen to make anyone sneeze. Ragweed is in full bloom right now, and that's what most folks are sneezing at. So ENJOY the bearty of all the bright yellow goldenrod that is quite showy in the Ozarks right now.

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10/08/18 Cool breezes, clear skies, and delicate rich color at dawn here this morning - a textbook early fall day in the Ozarks. And the air was oh so sweet! I made a mad dash out to our campsite in Colorado this weekend - left Friday morning and was home Sunday afternoon. Aspen and cottonwoods in Colorado were ablaze with color, but I never took a singe picture - I was just there to decommission our campsite, took a quick nap, then headed for home. The puppies were with me and spent a while chasing the ghosts of chippers (chipmunks) - who all had already gone to sleep for the winter so the pups didn't find any. (non-stop enjoyment for them during the summer, chasing chippers)

While we were gone Tyler the tile man was here and got about half of the shower in our bathroom tiled - maybe one more trip and he'll be able to complete. And our old neighbor from Cloudland, Kinnie, came by and loaded up another trailer of lumber. We were left with six or seven piles of unused lumber from the cabin build here, and so we donated most of it to the Woods Boys (a tiny repayment for all they did for us while we lived at Cloudland!). Our yard is far from all cleaned up, but that helped a great deal. I'm happy to report that I made only one stop at McDonalds on my trip to Colorado - the rest of my intake was mostly protein bars, bananas, and Starbucks mocha.

My lovely bride has had an epic trip so far up north - she's painting all week with a large group of outdoor painters in the Canadian Rockies and staying at a wonderful resort - she reports the food is as amazing as the scenery. Here's my bride with her pastel setup today after the clouds moved in...

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10/10/18 We had heavy downpours several times yesterday, and the treat of severe weather was in the air all day. After I packed up my office computer and headed down to the cabin from the office in late afternoon the sky really got weird. As I was fixing a bowl of ramen and broccoli everything got even weirder. Looking out the prow windows it looked like there was a funnel touching down on the next ridge to our east. I tried to snap a few photos, but then I remembered we have a TORNADO SHELTER right here in the bedroom, but it was piled high with tubs from Cloudland an I had to scramble to move them out and grab some supplies (water, food, flashlight, etc.) in the event a tornado got us locked in. But I really wanted to go set up my real camera on the back deck and shoot pictures! I was able to pull up weather radar that showed the giant front moving towards us, which included that classic hook along the front edge - that's right where I was seeing the funnel activity just over yonder.

Right in the middle of all this I got a text from my bride in Canada wondering if we were OK. I said "well, except for THIS tornado right outside!" Within minutes whatever it was over there rose up into the dark clouds overhead and disappeared, and it began to pour hard, and did so for the next hour. (I got called away and never completed this post.)

10/16/18 I'm sitting here in the dark on the back deck early this morning waiting for color to appear along the eastern horizon. My internal clock gets me out of bed well before the chickens each day, but I've been wanting to hang around here at the cottage until something happens in the sky - vs heading on up the road to work. There are now bands of gray clouds that stretch across the entire sky - alternating lighter and darker bands. These are the types of clouds that could get interesting as intense color seeps into the lighter/background clouds first, then the darker/foreground clouds soak up more delicate color. Of course, they could also just remain shades of gray.

Yesterday was a wildlife day. There were flocks of geese high above heading south, honking all the way. Monarch butterflies that came spilling over the roof of the cottage also headed south, eventually all the way to Mexico. Individual butterflies would sometime just hang there in the air, kind of riding some light wind currents I guess, moving side to side but not really making much headway. They reminded me of the feather in the opening and closing scenes of FORREST GUMP. (I got called away and never completed this post.)

10/26/18 It was kinda weird hiking down to Hawksbill Crag yesterday morning. It wasn't the THICK fog all around, or the fact that each step had to be deliberate and careful (I have a bum knee and it feels like any tiny misstep will send me crashing to the ground - and to the hospital for surgery). It was the first time in a very long while I'd hiked to the Crag, after HUNDREDS and hundreds of times doing it direct from our cabin for 20 years. This time I was not a land owner, and I kind of felt like an outsider, even though I was on forest service property all the time today. But the incredible beauty that engulfed the landscape in all directions elevated the hike into an EPIC event filled with beautiful color and scenes simply everywhere. It was tough for me to hike towards the Crag because there were so many things to stop and take pictures of!

But I hiked on until I reached the overlook near the Crag. Fog was low and heavy and I could barely see the Crag, but just being there on top of the bluff looking out over the wilderness area was a special moment for me - and has been each of the hundreds of times I'd been there before. The fog and clouds played tag with me and even after being there for three hours I never got a clear shot of the Crag, but I did get lots of "atmospheric" scenes captured with the camera, each one unique as the scene changed constantly.

I also got to mill around the Crag area a bit and discovered many beautiful, more intimate scenes to photograph - one of a jumble of boulders that I've always wanted to take pictures of but never took the time. But yesterday there was a small tree at the outer edge of the lichen-covered boulders that was beaming bright yellow, and with the wet conditions and fog the yellow really stood out, and so did the greens of the lichens and moss. Of course, as luck would have it, while I had both me and my tripod in contorted positions in order to photograph that scene, I could see the fog had cleared away from the Crag for a few moments - but I was with the yellow tree and boulders, and missed the shot. Oh well, 'tis the nature of the beast.

Another amazing intimate scene that I found and photographed was this INCREDIBLE high-bush huckleberry tree growing at the top of the bluff and up against a boulder - the only way to see the details and color of this images is going to be via a giant canvas print that I'll have to make and display at our gallery - it was one of the most twisted and detailed living things I've ever photographed - my oh my!

After I hiked out to the van I visited with old buddy Kennie Woods (of "Woods Boys Waterfall" fame) and bummed some hardwood sticks off of him to use in our wood-fired pizza oven. Then I returned to Cloudland for the first time in more than a year to pickup a stack of book that we'd left behind. Damon Shaw, the new owner of Cloudland, was there and gracious as always, and we got to visit with him for a few minutes. Damon is perhaps the best nature photographer in Arkansas right now - a former workshop student of mine several times - and he is also a really nice guy. The cabin and grounds looked really terrific in the foggy air, and I bet he has a world-class view off the back deck with all the color going on.

I spent the rest of the day screaming around corners trying to find another scene or two to photograph, and ended up at Maplewood Cemetery in Harrison - many of those giant trees are in full bloom right now, still others are green - it will be great there for the next week I bet.

I also spent some time with a dogwood tree or two, and other trees in the fog that I found along the way. This morning my neck is really SORE because of all the rubbernecking I did all day - while either driving or hiking having to turn and twist my head from side to side to look at all the amazing COLOR we have peaking in the High Ozarks right now. It's going to be a pretty bright next week - I hope you get the chance to get out and enjoy!

Oh yes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the most wonderful person I've ever known - my GIRLFRIEND!!! Thanks to Kinnie for providing the special wood I need, I think I'll bake her a birthday pizza tonight for dinner. I'm SO LUCKY to have ever met her.....

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Dogwood berries above, high-bush huckleberry bush below

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