CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - SEPTEMBER 2012 Journal Archives
Part A, September 1 - 18
Cloudland Cabin View, September 18, 7:27am - cool and breezy
Our new 2013 ARKANSAS SCENIC WALL CALENDAR is now shipping!
JOURNAL UPDATED Monday the 17th - foggy hikes
09/01/12 It is quite delightful outside early the morning, cool temps, with a swirling breeze that is not only cool to the face, but I can also tell that the trees all around the cabin are dancing with joy and each of their individual leaves has a big smile. There is a full moon up there playing hide and seek with the clouds, but enough of the moonlight is shining through to light up the landscape as far as I can see. Still an hour or two away from daylight, but it is bright enough outside that I'd be able to get out and wander around in the woods a bit without needing a flashlight, and I probably would not run into a tree.
Yesterday was one of those magical days with a light, soaking rain all day long - only problem was the melody of the raindrops on the tin roof of the cabin that put ya into a sleeping mood. It was just SO wonderful to know the earth was getting a well-deserved drink that would soak deep into its soul - it has been a long hot and dry summer, and this rainfall did a lot to heal the wounds. In the end we didn't get a ton of rain, although there was some water in puddles and in ditches, and I suspect even a creek or two began to flow a little bit, for a little while. But mostly it was just a refreshing blanket of wetness that will help set the stage for what I think is going to be a pretty darn nice fall color season to come.
We spent much of the day organizing and packing and trying to do all the things one needs to do to get ready to be gone for a while. We are headed off the mountain later today and will make our way out west to some real mountains - and more importantly, I'm taking my lovely bride - FINALLY - on our HONEYMOON!!! In honor of our 11.5 year anniversary, I figured it was about time. We don't have a schedule, other than the fact we will probably be back home in a couple of weeks. Actually I guess we do have a schedule, at least for the first couple of days - we will spend tonight in the Cabelas parking lot in Mitchell, South Dakota (they allow free overnight parking there). We'll have a romantic first night of our honeymoon crashed in the back of our van - what more could a girl ask for! The next morning we'll pick a can or two of bear spray - our next destination will be Glacier National Park, one of the many spots on Pam's bucket list. I've been there several times but am looking forward to this trip so much more than all the rest. That will be our home for a week - wandering where ever we care to - then we'll head south and spend some time in the Tetons in Wyoming, and eventually back home again.
I'm going to try and experiment on this trip. We'll be on the road much of the next year - working on six new book projects - and so I wanted to be able to update this Journal while on the road. I have switched my main home business computer to a laptop, and will be able to write and update the Journal at any point we have an internet connection (using a cell phone as a hotspot). On this trip while we'll be in Glacier, we won't have service, and I probably won't make a post about the Cabelas parking lot in South Dakota, but I am hopeful to make a couple of posts from other parts of the trip as I am able to. So you can look in from time to time during the next two weeks, but I won't be posting every day.
"Bullet" Bob is arriving at the cabin this morning to take over managing the cabin, the dogs, and the cats. And while our online store will be open for placing orders as usual, we won't actually process or ship anything until we return, which will probably be about September 15th. In the meantime, we hope you all have a wonderful first couple weeks of September!
09/02/12 After a couple of days of driving across the central US, we are in Montana parked for the night next to a bronze statue of one of my greatest heros - Jim Bridger, Mountain Man. The skies are clear, the air is crisp, and I am one tired puppy. We've driven about 23 hours, and still have a long day tomorrow before we reach Glacier National Park, but right now it is great to be breathing the air that Master Bridger did oh so long ago - and to be stopped for a while.
It was kind of odd yesterday as we drove north through first the return bands of the hurricane - lots of rain and heavy cross winds - and then a while later the wind changed directions and we drove for several hours in rain and heavy cross winds from the upper bands of the hurricane. At one point within a mile, flags were straight out east, north, and then west. When we finally got close to South Dakota the rains stopped but the heavy winds continued. We parked for the night in a delightful outdoor store in Mitchell, South Dakota, that has a special lot in the back for overnighters like us - really a nice setup. We got up early this morning before the store opened and fought more heavy winds until we got to Rapid City, where we were able to get the bear spray at Cabelas that we needed. After another half day of heavy cross winds, we reached Billings, Montana, and the winds stopped all of a sudden. The sun was low and the evening colors in the sky and on the landscape came out as we followed the Yellowstone river upstream - pastoral scenes all along the way. We then turned off the main highway and are now headed towards Great Falls via the scenic route, which is where we pulled over to park for the night next to Master Jim Bridger. There is a brilliant orange moon rising over the "Crazy Mountains" just to our east, and it is already flooding the lush valley with soft moonlight.
This will probably be the only post I'll make for a while since I don't think there will be any net access in Glacier, but I'll make another post when we come out the other side in a week, sooner if I get access....The honeymooners are doing great!
The Jim Bridger, Mountain Man statue just before sunrise
09/03/12 It is rather nippy at the feet of 'ol Jim early this morning (32 degrees with a wind chill in the low 20s), but the predawn sky over the Crazy Mountains is colorful, just like the character himself. We're off up the valley, and will land at Glacier tonight for the next week or so. Hope you have a GRAND week!
We made it to Great Falls - after a delightful trip along scenic Hwy. 89, through rolling hills and beautiful forests. We even got to stop and hike to a waterfall. We'll spend the next few days exploring the east side of Glacier, perhaps with a side trip across the border to Canada...
EVENING UPDATE. I was unable to upload the Journal before we went offline, so all of this will be late getting posted. We arrived at the Two Medicine Campground to find many campsites available, and we landed at one of the best in the park. I'm sitting here in our van looking at a scene that almost rivals our very own Cloudland view - we're looking out over a lake and surrounded by towering peaks in all directions. Right now the sun is just starting to hide behind Rising Wolf Mountain, but all of the other peaks remain sunlit. There is a grizzly bear up on the steep slope just across the day, munching on ripe huckleberries. We can see several small groups of folks around the shore of the lake - all with binocs watching the same show.
This afternoon we hiked through the campground (there don't seem to be ANY foot paths in the campground - only the paved road) and out the other end, up the highway to a trailhead, and then along a hiking trail to a nice waterfall in a tight canyon. The forest all around was thick and beautiful, with many of the trees and limbs covered with lichen that was so thick and green that it kind of look like moss. The wind blew pretty hard here today, but now as the sun is setting, things are calming down. It has been bright and sunny all day.
There was a line of campers we passed that stretched for tens of miles today - Labor Day campers heading home. The campground is not full tonight, but you would not know it by the attention paid by the park service staff. I've counted at least a dozen walk-or-drive bys - rangers making the rounds just to make sure everything in the campground was in order. And every single one of them has at least waved (if driving), or said hello if walking - and all were happy campers themselves. It is so refreshing to see them all enjoying what they do - folks tend to do a better job that way.
I've been able to get a bit of work done today as well, but plan to turn in early this evening - it was a long 30-hour drive with nearly constant heavy winds, and I'm a tired puppy. We'll have one of the best seats in the country for sunrise tomorrow - I'm expecting several of the peaks surrounding the lakes here to light up at dawn. Soon after we'll be off for a hike to another waterfall, and then we'll head to the Many Glacier area to spend a couple of days.
My lovely bride has been a real peach to travel with, and I look forward to each and every new day with her!
09/05/12 I've been sitting here watching the nighttime sky - there is a tall ridge just to the southeast that has been silhouetted against a deep blue-black background filled with stars - and of course the stars have been moving right on along with the rotation of the earth. At one point a very bright star appeared at the very tip of the ridge. I watched its progress for probably 30 minutes, and then I glanced at it one more time and it was gone - it just vanished! Then I realized dawn was upon the land, and a new day was beginning. That was about 20 minutes ago, and one by one the stars have faded and the sky is getting a lighter, richer shade of blue. A bright moon has been shining all night and lighting up the landscape - a landscape filled with dancing trees since the wind has been blowing pretty hard. We are camped just across the way from St. Mary Lake, and I bet that wind is a wee bit chilly coming off that frigid water.
I don't know what today will bring, but I do know we had a terrific one yesterday. We were also camped next to a lake (Two Medicine), but it was cloudy and I didn't get to watch any stars disappear. My lovely bride and I were both up early though, sitting on a bench at the edge of the lake, sipping on warm java or tea. There was no wind, and the lake reflected the surrounding mountains. Soon the cloudy skies above began to ripen with color - pinks and reds and oranges and blues. It was not dramatic color, but it was quite lovely. We huddled close and soaked it all in.
And then my lovely bride let out a little "eek" or something to that effect - she had spotted a bear! It was up on the hillside above camp, munching on wild huckleberries. Once we knew it was there, he was so easy to spot - the only black item on the entire hillside. Few things in nature are pure black, and this was one black bear! The evening before there had been a grizzly bear grazing on the same hillside a few hundred yards away. We watched the black bear feeding a while as the colors of the sky lit up, and then the landscape below lit up too.
Later we hiked to a really nice waterfall downstream. And while it was a beautiful waterfall, we spent more time looking at the little things along the path - from the brilliant RED rocks in the creek, to the delicate wildflowers that were tucked away in the thick underbrush. And berries, oh my there were LOTS of berries of all shapes and color - from BRILLIANT red, to pure white. And I finally learned - or remembered, since surely I had known this in years before - the name of my favorite western berry. I had noted this as being a "wild raspberry" while on my visit to the Tetons a few weeks ago, but the common name out here is a "thimbleberry," which is just like a raspberry in the way the fruit is more of a cap than a solid berry. It didn't take too long before both of us were grazing on thimbleberries - they are on of the sweetest berries in the wild that I know of (just like my bride, ha, ha!). I wondered if there were any bears watching us grazing in the berry patch?
Later in the day we set up camp at Rising Sun Campground, then drove along St. Mary Lake towards Logan Pass, which was packed, as it always is. On our way back down, we stopped to hike to several waterfalls. One of them was St. Marys Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls I'd seen anywhere. It was not thousands of feet tall, or hundreds. But it poured into an emerald pool of crystal-clear water, surrounded by some of the reddest rock you will ever see in the wild. And in between this double-decker falls, the trail crosses on a sturdy bridge - well actually not all that sturdy. I tried using the bridge to steady my camera while taking a long-exposure picture, but the almost-constant flow of people a ross the bridge kept it rockin' and a rollin'. No matter - it was a special spot that we plan to return to again.
OK, back to today. We got an early start and found the perfect parking spot at Logan Pass, and were one of the first to hike the wide boardwalk that climbed up across fields of wildflowers - the sun rose behind us with each step up we took. After spending a bit of time enjoying Hidden Lake, we returned to Logan Pass and head out on the Highline Trail. Part of this trail cross a sheer rock face that towers above the Going To The Sun Road below - in fact you could spit and hit the top of a car 100 or more feet below you! It was one of the most scenic miles of hiking trail I know of - not for those with a fear of heights though.
We got to spend a bit of time with both mountain goats and bighorn sheep, and with some French ladies who seemed intent on befriending a pair of fat marmots - I bet they followed them around and took pictures for an hour. It was another splendid day in the mountains for us - however by nightfall it began to rain, and it rained all night - such lovely music hitting the roof of our van!
09/06/12 We awoke early this morning and found a layer of clouds hovering just above us. As daylight crept into the landscape the cloud layer lifted just a little bit - and all around us we saw FRESH SNOW! The forecast was for more rain and snow all day, which was fine with us since we had planned to spend the day a little farther north in Canada. And so we headed out and soon had made it through customs and were entering the fairyland known as Waterton Lakes International Peace Park. Oh my, it is one of the jewels of the world for sure! I won't even attempt to describe it - again, for those of you who have been there, you know what I am talking about. For those who have not been there, I highly recommend it.
Our first stop was to munch on a little lunch at the famous Prince Of Wales Hotel - perhaps one of the most scenic locations in this part of the world. And while I just snickered when my lovely bride suggested that we actually go in and sit down to eat, I was really surprised to find the prices for lunch about the same as anyplace else (we RARELY eat at a restaurant, so this was a very special treat for us). The food was great, of course, but the view was one of the finest.
And then we got a bit of a surprise. Just across the lake from the hotel, a large grizzly bear had been fighting with a smaller bear (a black bear, we think). The griz killed the black bear, and was at that very moment feasting on the bear he had just killed - all within plain sight of the hotel and restaurant, and dozens of visitors! We finished lunch and ran to grab the binocs and spent the next hour out in front of the hotel watching the spectacle. Waterton Lake is a huge lake, yet the entire time we were there we only saw three boats on it. One was a sailboat, and after it posed for a photo or two for me, it eased right on over to near where the grizzly was having his feast - brave sailboat crew, or perhaps dumb. A little while later the big tourist boat also came by for a look. The big old grizzly bear was not too happy to have all these folks getting so close to his dinner, and you could see that in his body language, and the expression on his face. But soon the boats retreated and the bear relaxed.
We also visited another lake nearby, and looked around the town - another place we plan to return to and spend more time. But soon we were off back to the good old USA, where we found a stunning still-water scene of towering mountains surrounding a mountain lake. We also saw a momma grizzly and her cub right next to our van.
One side note. The last time I went to Canada, I had a terrible time getting into the country, in fact my experience was written up in an issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine way back when. Anyway, I've heard a lot of folks complain about their experiences crossing the border going both directions. Well today, we had the nicest folks at both crossings - smiling and joking around. In fact one of the customs agents came inside our van and decided that he wanted to come back to camp with us tonight!
So we are camped at Many Glacier tonight, and tomorrow will trek up towards Grinnel Lake and around the area. Where we will go after that we are not sure - we'll probably spend another day in the park, and then head south towards Yellowstone and the Tetons. We've seen every large wild critter available except moose, so we are still on the lookout. Temps tonight will probably dip into the 30s, with highs in the mountains around 60 tomorrow. I've still been unable to upload the Journal - not sure why - but will continue to write a little bit and you can catch up later on. We have been able to receive and send e-mail many days, but we've not heard a speck of news from the world - thank goodness!
09/07/12 Just a quickie update this morning since we are getting ready to head out on a long hike. Our campsite is surrounded by towering peaks, and right now the tip-top of each is glowing a fire RED - a brilliant ball of sunshine has just peaked over the horizon somewhere far back to the east and is lighting them up. This amazing color will only last a few minutes and then it will be gone, but oh my goodness what incredible few minutes those are! One kind of funny note about this. I know there are many photographers camped in this same campground, but so far I have not seen a single one up - they are all tucked away in their sleeping bags - the temps is 33 degrees so who could blame them. The funny part is the fact that while they are still asleep, the most beautiful, magical, amazing light is happening right outside their tents. But what about ME you say? This is not a working photo trip for me so I am not concerned with capturing the magic light - in fact I'm having a grand time just sitting back and actually looking at the scenes instead of trying to capture them. Oh how sweet it is!
Oops, I just saw movement off to my right - two photographers have crawled out of their tents and are frantically grabbing tripods and camera bags - they know that magic light is fleeting. Good for them! The most magical light is already gone, but they will get some great stuff anyway I bet.
The sky above is pure blue with not a single cloud. The air is completely still and crisp. 'Tis a wonderful day to be in the mountains! We're off to Grinnel Lake...
CONTINUED...We've been looking forward to this hike for a long time, getting to see the special color in the lake that is fed directly from Grinnel Glacier. I took a photo back in 1995 from high above the lake, looking down on it through one of the big waterfalls up there (was published in the WILDERNESS REFLECTIONS picture book). But I had never been to the lakeshore itself. As we headed into the woods from the trailhead, we discovered that the trail ahead was CLOSED due to grizzly bear activity - bummer!
We ended up going to a different trailhead and hiking around the southern side of two lakes, which turned out to be an even better route. We hiked through thick, LUSH forests, with millions of thimbleberry bushes - I had to stop frequently to munch of them! Fog was rising from the lakes, and also from the creeks in between. Everything was quiet, still, and well, just beautiful - this was already the very best hike we'd been on and we had not even reached the lake yet!
At one point my lovely bride reminded me to be sure to look our for moose - the only big game animal we had not seen on this trip. As the words were leaving her lips, we heard a splash. A bull moose came out of the woods and waded into a calm pool in the creek just ahead of us - right on cue! He was kind of odd in that the undersides of his antlers were bright red. A few seconds later we saw an even large moose in the water just ahead of him. In face we realized that we had probably walked within a few feet of the other moose and had not seen it. One of many wonderful moments on this trip.
Just a little ways down the trail we came to perhaps one of the most beautiful scenes I'd ever laid eyes on - perfectly calm water on Josephine Lake, fog rising, frosty banks, and the jagged peaks of the Continental Divide all list up with new sunshine (including Grinnell Glacier) - all reflecting in the lake. It was one of those magical moments that will last a very long time. While I did not have my "big" camera with me, I must admit that I did slip into "photographer mode" for a few moments and spent some time shooting pictures with my point and shoot camera in a way that will enable me to make very large prints of the scene if needed. Even now when I look at the picture on the computer screen, I just stop and stare - WOW!!!
We moved on through more lush forest and thimbleberries. And then had a kind of funny moment. There was an older couple up ahead of us that kept going in and out of sight. They crossed a "puncheon" - a low and narrow wooden bridge that is built a foot above wet terrain. I decided it was time to pee, so when the couple had crossed the puncheon and disappeared, I told Pam to wait at the close end and I would go to the far end of the puncheon and water the flowers. Mission accomplished, and I called back to Pam to come on - she was out of sight back in the trees where the puncheon had curved away. As she was crossing the wooden structure she found WET BEAR TRACKS! I had just crossed that darn thing and did not see them, and so it was possible that a bear had come out of the forest right behind me and crossed the puncheon while I was peeing! They were just "small" bear tracks I told Pam - we moved on quickly.
We passed through more amazing forests and beautiful clear streams with those brilliant red and green stones, and then finally reached the shoes of Grinnel Lake. At that moment the calm and serine scenes tuned into a near hurricane - the air that had been perfectly still was blowing about 40-50 mph across the lake, and there were huge whitecaps everywhere! I was unable to keep my hat on and had to wad it up and stash it in my daypack. How weird this wind was! Only a few feet back down the trail there was no wind at all.
It was another incredible scene though, even with all the wind, and the color of the lake was pure glacier water. We had planned to lunch at this lake, but the winds were way to high to be comfortable, or to even be able to hold onto lunch! So I spent a little bit of time searching for a calmer spot. I eventually found an upturned tree and we were able to crawl back up against the root ball and be completely out of the wind, yet still had a perfect view of the lake and the whitecaps and the waterfalls and the glacier - it was an amazing moment in my life to be sharing all of that with my lovely bride, and on our "honeymoon" to boot! I did not want to ever get up and leave, but eventually we packed up and started back. One of the highlights of my entire life for sure Funny, but I never felt like that the last time I was in that area - must have been the company I was with on this trip!
Just FYI, we measured a different root ball of a big tree that had been blown over along the trail - just the upturned roots themselves were 33 feet across - holy cow!
Later in the day we left the east side of Glacier and went up and over Logan Pass and down the western side of the park along the dreaded Going To The Sun Road. It turned out to be no big deal at all - in fact I found it kind of fun. Pam was not so happy about it all - it really is a very TIGHT fit and against a sheer rock wall. But our little van was so narrow that it make it through everything without a scratch (literally).
We stopped and spent some time hiking what I consider the best hiking trail on the west side of the park. In fact while it is a short trail and either paved or a boardwalk the entire way, it is one of the best hiking trails in the United States - the Big Cedar Trail. I've always loved the big trees along the way, but previously always spent time photographing the amazing little Avalanche Creek gorge that is about half-way along the trail (WILDERNESS REFLECTIONS picture book). But on this day I spent more time enjoying the TREES - oh my goodness, they were just incredible! And not only the big cedar trees, but also giant cottonwoods and pines too. The entire area reminds me of a redwood forest. If you just rush through Glacier like a lot of folks do - or don't want to commit to a longer or more difficult hike - be sure to stop and do this easy, short trail.
And with that, we bid Glacier National Park a fond farewell and headed south to the Tetons.
I must pause and relate a moment that happened to me along this backroad highway that runs along the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the largest in the lower 48 states. I was cruising down the road late one night after a photo trip to Glacier with my photo buddy, Greg Heinze. We were feeling pretty good and jamming to some Beatle music that I had cranked up on the stereo. Then all of a sudden smoke started filing the cab - oh my goodness, we were on fire! But not really. Turned out I was so excited and animated tapping my foot to the beat of the music that I had stirred up years of accumulated dust in the floor board!
OK, back to the current trip. We pulled off on a remote forest service road along the way and parked the van for the night. I have not said much about this van so far. We recently decided it was time to get a camper van. We are spending so much time out working on multi-day trips - and with SIX new books in the works right now, we'll be out a lot in the coming years. I really need someplace to WORK while I'm on the road - and that means electricity and a comfortable chair and table for my computer. We also needed to be able to reach remote locations on forest roads, and also be able to park wherever we needed to. Neither of us wanted a big RV, but we did need all the convinces they offered for an extended trip. Then we discovered "Class B" vans. Our friends Larry and Marilyn from Springfield had been driving one for a couple of years - including a multi-month trip to Alaska - and loved it. After a great deal of research, spirited debate, and a six-month test drive of a model that turned out to be wrong for us, we purchased a Roadtrek camper van. It is one of those Fed-X tall-and-skinny delivery vans that you see everywhere, that has been converted for use as a camper. It quite literally has everything that we need for a quick two-day trip, or an extended multi-month stay. And I can get my work done while on the road, YIPPIE COYOTE! I had planned to be able to upload updates to the Journal while on this trip, but there was a computer glitch that prevented that - I hope to have that cured soon.
Bottom line - the new van was EXACTLY what we needed, and will enable us to take more, longer, and SAFER work trips in the future without the need to return home every night. It gets BETTER GAS MILEAGE THAN MY CAR! And we'll be able to take the dogs with us (we did not take them on this trip since dogs are not allowed on national parks trails). We will still have a caretaker staying at our cabin while we are gone, but this van will give us new freedoms we've never known before. AND, it is still just a delivery van, can park anywhere, has no "RV" restrictions, and can go down any road, including the Going To The Sun road and the Zion tunnel.
09/08/12 We left Montana early in the morning, drove through Idaho, and arrived in Wyoming and Tetons the next day and spent some time touring art galleries in Jackson. This is a great town for art - everything is so close together. It is also a major tourist town, and sometimes we love to "people" watch, and there were a lot of folks in town for the weekend. But when we came out of one gallery there was something very odd going on. All of sudden the entire town went silent - people were still walking around, but not saying a word, or perhaps only a whisper. And the LIGHT - oh my goodness the light was RED. And then we realized we had seen that light before - it was from a forest fire! We turned around and saw a huge mass of black/red smoke beginning to blanket over the town - there was a raging forest fire just on the other side of the mountain from the ski slopes that tower over Jackson.
We left town and headed into Teton National Park to find a campsite, and the farther we drove north the more the red cloud grew over Jackson. We knew there were hundreds, if not thousands, of trees burning up and the mood was quite somber. *see update on this at the end of this trip post
Buy sunset it looked like the fire had died down somewhere, and we enjoyed a lakeside dinner in the van with a spectacular view of the sunset with the Tetons reflected in Jackson Lake. One of the perks of a van like this is that you can park anywhere, grab something out of the fridge, cook on the store or microwave, and sit back in a reclining caption's chair and enjoy the view right out the window or the open door. Or in my case, of course, I had to grab my camera an run down to the lakeshore to take a few pictures - it was stunning!
09/09/12 We drove to another beautiful spot for breakfast and sunrise at the Oxbow Bend along the Snake River, the drove onto the Mormon Row to visit some of the rustic barns there - bright sunshine has just started hitting them, and the Tetons were all lit up in the background as well. But there was a already a crowd. Those darn photographers!
Turned out it was only one photographer - with a staff of about 20 folks. We walked up and spent the next hour being right in the middle of a major fashion shoot with a super model, well, actually two super models - one of them was a horse named Elvis. I just sorted of melted into the crowd of staff members and joined in - all the folks were quite friendly and it was great fun being part of it. In fact, while I fully expected to be run off by staff members right away, the only comment that was made was to please not note the name of the product or the personalities (well, except for Elvis), nor publish any close-up photos of the shoot. I was happy to comply.
I can relate one funny moment though that even my lovely bride found humorous. During a shoot like this there is a constant barrage of communication between the photographer and the model - move your leg, turn your head this way, arch your back, etc. On this shoot the photographer also had to direct the horse, Elvis - often to do the very same things - turn your head, move your legs, etc. Both models had people to help, although while the super model had a hair stylist, clothing stylist, makeup artist, and several others at her disposal, Elvis only had a single wrangler - but that lady had a bucket full of treats for him!
Anyway, right in the middle of all this as the shoot was building to a peak of excitement (it was a really a spectacular scene with the super model, the beautiful horse, the rustic barn, the Tetons, and gorgeous light on it all), the photographer said something that both Pam and I will remember for a long time. "NICE ASS!" And everyone laughed. But we still don't know if he was talking to the model or the horse! It was all great fun and even the model was having a good time - despite the fact it was 32 degrees and she was only wearing a very thin tank top. But this was for a national ad campaign and so I suspect everyone was being well compensated.
Later on we stumbled into yet another amazing scene that we became a part of - this time back on the square in Jackson. It just so happened that not only where they having a big art fair with 40 local artists exhibiting new work, but it was also "A Taste Of The Tetons" day - there were a dozen or more local chiefs set up and serving a favorite dish of theirs - this was the sort of food that we would probably never order, in fact probably never set foot in their restaurants since they were all so fancy and expensive. Yet they were serving small plates full of each dish for only $3!!! And oh my goodness, the food was incredible! And I must confess that we overate a bit. But it was the last day of our honeymoon, so what the heck.
As we were headed out of town for home the euphoria of the day turned to sadness as we passed the area where the wildfire had started the day before just south of town. High winds had fanned the flames and the fire was now burning out of control, with many fire crews fighting it, and the skies were filled with choppers dumping water on it from above.
We stopped for the night near Cheyenne and parked at a forest service trailhead. There was a $5 parking fee, but the price would only be half of that with out National Parks & Federal Lands Access Pass - which we've been using for almost a year now to get either free admission to parks, or half-price camping - it has paid for itself many times over. My lovely bride announced that she would pick up the tab for lodging for the night, and handed me $2.50.
We were far from town and the nighttime sky was clear and filled with a zillion stars - and a bright Milky Way reached directly overhead from horizon to horizon. It was a great place to spend the night.
09/10/12 We slept in until daylight, and I took a nice little hike up into the nearby hills through groves of young aspen trees that were starting to turn that marvelous pure yellow. And then we pulled out and headed across the windy planes of Colorado and Kansas - not a lot to report from today - just a lot of wind! We parked for the night at a rest area in Oklahoma - the last night of our honeymoon - how romantic!
09/11/12 We spent some time touring the art gallery at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma (it actually has a different name, but that is what I've always called it). Man they have some incredible paintings there, including one called "Immigrant Crossing" that shocked me when I first saw it many years ago - I had no idea it was possible to PAINT such incredible LIGHT with a brush and oils! And that very same painting was the first one in the gallery, and every bit as mesmerizing as it was back then. We didn't have time to see anything else but the art gallery, but it was well worth the short detour.
When we arrived home our puppies were glad to see us. This was the longest trip we had ever taken as a couple, and I must say it was easily the best trip I'd ever taken, ever. 5,000 miles, 13 states, two countries, in 11 days. The van was exactly what we needed, and we'll probably put at least a couple hundred thousand miles on it in the next few years as we tour Arkansas working on all the new book projects - and oh yes, TAKING PICTURES too! One other note - neither of us looked at a single news item online or in print, hear one of the radio, and never laid eyes on a TV - 11 days without all that was quite refreshing!
I did take a few photos while on the trip with my point-and-shoot camera, and wanted to share a few of them with you here. The image quality from this little Sony camera is very good, and all of these pictures are available to purchase as prints - as large as you want to go! In fact I suspect you might see some of them on the wall during our holiday open houses beginning in November.
09/13/12 All book and print orders that were placed while we were gone are going out today, and I'll post the Print Of The Month shortly (done - it is the sailboat photo). Hope everyone enjoyed the cool break in the weather back here in Arkansas while we were gone - fall is just around the corner, YIPPIE!
* FOREST FIRE UPDATE. We found out today that the wildfire just south of Jackson we saw has grown to 2700 acres and is out of control with only 10% contained. Fingers crossed for HEAVY RAIN on Jackson!
The old man with a bronze Jim Bridger, Mountain Man, and our new camper van (above); early morning color on Pray Lake in Glacier National Park from our campsite (below)
My lovely bride decked out with binocs, camera, and tea for a morning stroll (above); and as a tree-hugger (below)
Colored creek rocks (above, under water; and below)
Leaf detail (above); The Highline Trail above Going-To-The-Sun Road (below - see hikers?)
The Tea Room at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Canada (above, too rich for us); our lunch view from the hotel (below)
The shore of Waterton Lake (above); thimbleberry (below - I ate a LOT of these!)
Early morning at the edge of Josephene Lake (above); Jackson Lake in the Tetons at sunset (below)
And finally, the photo shoot with "Elvis" and a supermodel at Mormon Row in the Tetons (below - all of these folks are part of the shoot)
09/17/12 It's still an hour or two until first light but Aspen and I have already been out for a nice walk this morning. He got up in the middle of the night and couldn't seem to find the door, so I put on a robe and slippers and showed him the way. It was pretty dark out - heavy cloud cover and no starlight. But after a few minutes my eyes had adjusted enough so that I could see his white rump ahead of me and so I just kind of followed him around. He headed on up the hillside - sometimes meandering through the open forest, other times following a path or even our driveway. It was a slow pace, and Aspen ramble with nowhere in particular to go.
The longer we were out there the better I could see. And then we broke out of the forest into what seemed like almost daylight, but it was only the Faddis meadow - and without the thick forest canopy closed in tight around us, the open sky helped lighten things up quite a bit. I guess I should really start calling this the "Stovaugh" meadow and cabin since Benny and Mildred have owned it for many years, and the Faddis clan has not owned it in more than 20 years. But historical names sometimes stick.
We wandered around the open meadow sniffing whatever we could find, and spent some time at the little apple tree that is absolutely loaded with apples - they are very small apples, some of the hardest I've ever seen. Most folks don't like the taste, but if you have a strong enough bite, when they are ripe I find the taste very sweet, in a tart sort of way.
The air was quite sweet all around, and the trip back downhill to the cabin seemed to go pretty fast, even though it was still plenty dark once we left the meadow and got back into the forest. Soon a soft orange glow from a light I had left on inside the cabin beamed out through the dark forest - it was home, and both of us went back inside with a warm feeling all over.
It was a little different story yesterday morning. It was after daylight when Aspen decided he wanted to go outside, it was very foggy, and raining. One of these days I will learn, but that is coming slowly to me. 30 minutes after taking him just out the back door to pee, I find myself a mile away from the cabin, soaking wet since it was still raining, in my robe and house slippers! But Aspen was having a good time, and I was enjoying the ramble myself as well. I LOVE this sort of weather - foggy, rainy, cool, and just delicious outside!
I must tell you about my house slippers. They are one of those $6 pair of cheap plastic slippers that are popular now, and I've had several pairs of them. But this one pair, my first pair, I bet have 20 miles of hiking on them. They have several holes in the bottom that are 1/2 inch across or larger - I mean literally holes - my bare foot is on the ground with each step. And typically when I go outside with my faithful dog it is only for a minute or two just a few feet away, so I don't bother to put on proper hiking attire. But sometimes the little guy just wants to keep going, and since his days are numbered, I'm happy to follow him wherever he wants to go. And those slippers keep wearing down more and more. They, of course, have zero traction - probably always had a smooth sole. But that is part of the adventure I guess - to see how long I can keep from slipping!
By the time we returned to the cabin we both were completely soaked through and through, and both had large grins on our faces. It is good to wander through the forest with your dog on a rainy day. The photo below is our drive leading to the cabin.
A couple of days ago my lovely bride and I made a trip down to a really neat bluff overhang. There was a heavy mist falling, and oh my goodness it was just so wonderful to be out hiking in it. We ducked under the bluff to spend a little bit of time just absorbing the place. About half of the dry floor was covered with about a foot of crisp, brown leaves that had been blown in during last winter's leaf fall event. There were lots of rocks for sitting, and beautiful soft light filtering in through the lush forest that surrounded the overhang opening. There is normally a nice waterfall pouring over the lip and making a pretty good roar, but it was nice to see it dry and quiet - a completely different personality for sure. Sometimes we just sat and listened to the hushed music of the falling mist. With continued low water levels - NORMAL for this time of the year - I highly recommend a trip into the woods to look for places like this - in fact just about any location that is listed in the Arkansas Waterfall Guidebook would still be a delightful place to visit right now, even dry - ESPECIALLY dry. Get out and enjoy!
I am happy to announce that our new 2013 Arkansas scenic wall calendar is now for sale in our online store - we are expecting delivery of them to our warehouse here in a couple of days, so they will be shipping later this week. I will also post the new ARKANSAS LANDSCAPES picture book available for pre-order later today - those should arrive in early October. And I have posted our 2012 HOLIDAY SPECIAL, which includes the new calender, picture book, and a very special 5x7 print (with an 8x10 black mat). WOW you should see this print - it is very nice! If you order just a calendar, it will ship now. If you order the book or the holiday special that includes the calendar, those will ship in October once the book arrives.
I just realized that today is Monday - my most FAVORITE day of the week! I hope yours is a good one too...
09/18/12 It feels like heater-weather this morning - down in the 50s - or actually just flannel-shirt weather - I LOVE flannel shirts and jeans! The wind is blowing and those breezes are on the cool side. We drove around a bit yesterday and could find some of the landscape kicking into early fall mode - some hillsides were taking on a yellow hue, a few individual smaller trees were headed into turn mode. Some nice underbrush color too. This is all very typical for late September - in fact some of the underbrush is actually late already in changing color.
How much and what colors we have in October will depend on how much more rain we get between now and then. The forest - at least in the High Ozarks area around here - is in pretty healthy condition, despite all the gloom and doom from folks all summer. If we get a lot more rain, the colors will trend towards yellow and be muted, but still beautiful and last longer. If we don't get much more rain, the colors will trend more orange and red, will be more intense, but won't last as long. As always, I'm expecting a really great fall color display in the Ozarks, and I'm hoping to be out in it as much as I can, and I hope that you are too! (We still have some space left in our first photo workshop on October 13th - this is open to novice and all other photographers, including point-and-shoot folks.)
What is odd for this time of the year is all the YELLOW flowers popping up everywhere. In fact some species are actually early-summer flowers that never happened back then. Case in point are what I call "mountain" sunflowers that normally fill Mom's meadow here just below the cabin in June and July. We didn't see any of them until early August. And now her meadow is just about filled with them, and Mom is adding quite a splash of color to the landscape.
I spent some time surrounded by all that great beauty yesterday afternoon and took pictures of Mom's flowers - and I must say there was a great deal of activity going on there. At first I was just concentrating on capturing a nice composition that showcased the shape and color and density of the flowers. Then I noticed there were leatherwing beetles all over the flowers, and they were quite active. And then I realized just what these guys were up to - there was a lot of beetle love going on!
Speaking of love, my lovely bride and I took a nice hike out to the mailbox yesterday. At one point we came upon a pair of giant bees - they were an inch or more tall each. They were clutched together and I swear had arms wrapped each other. Love in the fall is nothing new, but these guys were actually hovering in mid air, about four feet off the ground, and they remained hovering in the same spot for nearly a minute! Ahhhhh, Momma Nature had cast her spell on them!
We also saw a lot of fresh bear poop along the way, but I don't think that had much to do with love, although it did look like they were loving the persimmons that have just begun to drop.
Recent rains have produced a lot of mushrooms that are popping up all over the place, and I thought I would share one family with you...