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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - September 2013

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Cloudland Cabin Cam, September 30 - warm and froggy at first light - HAPPY MONDAY!

JOURNAL UPDATED Monday the 30th - way down yonder in the pawpaw patch...

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Print Of The Week #41 - Sunrise over Boxley Valley

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Our new 2014 Arkansas scenic ENGAGEMENT calendars (above) are in stock and now shipping - order here!

Our new 2014 Arkansas scenic WALL calendars (below) are in stock and now shipping - order here!

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Pre-order our new Buffalo River Beauty picture book (shipping in October)

Pre-order our new 2014 Holiday Special Package - all of the above (shipping in October)

09/01/13 It happened about 5:15 this morning. Only lasted a few minutes, but I knew it was a sign of things to come. It happened while I was sitting out on the back deck sipping a bit of java and waiting for my camera to complete a series of more than 1,000 star photos it had been taking since last night. The air had been warm all night, and the temp never dropped low enough to produce dew - which was a good thing since I had a giant glass bulb pointed straight up on front of the camera, and any moisture would have ruined the pictures. Anyway, all of a sudden there was a dramatic change in that air - I was hit in the face with a blast of COOL air, the first in a while. I stopped sipping and bent my ear to hear better - trying to detect the slightest howl of a coyote. When there was none, I stood up and gave my very best YIPPIE COYOTE!!! Autumn was a comin', and it won't be long now!!! (22 days to be exact)

09/05/13 It is calm, cool, and DELIGHTFUL outside tonight! While I absolutely love the different seasons we have here in Arkansas, I think I enjoy the transformation in the landscape from one season to the next even more. We are right at the beginning of that happening right now. There is just a hint of color here and there in the ground cover (Virginia creeper) and some shrubs (sumac). A few trees here and there are getting kind of a blonde-yellow hue to them. The forest is quite lush. The next 6-8 weeks will be a great treat to the senses!

I've put in a couple of 24-hour days this week, out shooting all night a couple of nights in a row. I spent the first night at the highest point in the Ozarks, shooting a series of more than 1,000 photos of the Milky Way and other stars as they moved through the sky. I was able to park our cargo van right next to where I wanted to set up the camera - that way I could simply crawl into bed and get a few hours sleep while the camera kept shooting pictures. But my plan did not work out so good. I got the pictures just fine, but what I discovered was that I spent a great deal of the night not sleeping, but rather listening for the sound of the camera shutter closing and then opening again - it took a picture every 30 seconds. It is amazing how LONG 30 seconds can be!

The next night I hiked into a gravel bar on the Buffalo River and set up my tent so that it would be part of the scene. (Actually we sold this tent to our friend, Jay McDonald, but I keep stealing it from him to use in these pictures - sorry Jay, I'll be done one of these months!) When I first arrived and set up to start shooting, the night sky was still pretty bright with only a few stars out. Later on it got really DARK with millions of stars overhead. I shot a series of pictures that lasted for hours, including many with a light on inside the tent. But by 4am the river started to produce some fog, enough fog to blank out much of the stars and sky. But I had fun playing around with different lights over next to the tent. I actually only got to look at a couple of those photos - one is posted here.

A funny thing happened while shooting down on the river during the night. As is often the case in quiet pools like the one I was shooting in (my tripod was in the water), there was a resident beaver. And oh brother this guy did NOT want me in his pool! What beavers will do is sneak up on you - I mean sometimes he would swim within just a few feet from me - in the dark so I never saw him. And then he would pick a very quiet moment, and SLAP his big, flat tail down onto the water surface as hard as he could - and it would sound like a canon going off! (actually it was a Nikon) HOLY COW!!! No matter how many times he did this - probably 75-100 times during the night - it would scare the pants off me every time and I would jump! I knew it was coming. I knew it was just a beaver. But it still got me, every time. Beaver - 100. Me - 0.

Even though it got rather irritating after a while the other night, each time I'm around a beaver that does this brings back fond memories of one of the very first nights I ever spent alone in the wilderness. It was on North Sylamore Creek one summer 40 years ago. I had backpacked up the creek for a couple of hours and stopped for the night next to a beautiful clear pool of deep water that had a large, flat boulder right in the middle of it. Back in those days I never carried a tent with me, and always simply laid out on the ground (or in this case on a flat rock) and spent long hours gazing up at the stars. There was a beaver in that pool too, slapping his tail every few minutes. And I've got to tall ya, I nearly jumped off of that right and right into the pool many times! At first I thought someone was throwing big rocks into the creek, but I was miles from no where. I finally spotted him once and saw his antics. I didn't get much sleep that night, but I did see a lot of stars! And that old beaver brought me many smiles ever since. I highly recommend folks go out and listen for beavers at least once in your life...

As I was wandering back and forth between the camera in the river and the tent on the other side of the river, I had other friends with me too. The edges of the river bank, and edges of a narrow strip of standing water at the far side of the gravel bar, were lined with glowing bugs. These are kind of light lightning bugs at full charge, only the light stays on all the time. Kind of looked like a bunch of houses built around the edges of a small lake. I've seen them a couple of other times while being on the river at night, but they are not always there. It was just a little weird seeing them. And a little frustrating too. The frustration part was about not knowing if the little bugs were moving or not - I could not ever tell just from stopping for a moment or two and watching them - I really wanted to set up my camera and take a very long exposure to see if they moved or not, but my camera was busy with other chores. Note to self - make a special trip back to the river to make a timelapse photo of the glowing bugs!

At one point during the night I hiked back to the van to get something. Part of the trail goes through lots of tall, thick brush. Since there was no moon and I needed to look out for snakes, I used a tiny light to help illuminate the trail at my feet, but that was about all I could see. It was very quiet - no beavers nearby making canon blasts. All of a sudden there was a loud noise in the brush just in front of me - not always a good thing when out there all alone in the middle of the night. The area is frequented by elk, and this time of year the big bulls like to hang around - they are night guys. The next few moments turning into a bit of terror, as the sound seemed to be heading right for me - YIKES!!! Turned out to be an armadillo. You can't imagine how much noise one of these guys make when out there all alone in the middle of the night like I was!

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NOTE - our new 2014 Arkansas wall calendars arrived yesterday, so are now shipping. I think the reproductions are the best we've ever had (this is our 12th or 13th year of doing calendars). Note that we will eventually receive our new weekly engagement calendars and new picture book, and all three new products will be available at a special price as our Holiday Special Package - probably be mid-October before the new books arrive. ALSO NOTE, coorporate folks can get a big discount for volume discounts - just send us a note for info.

09/07/13 It was a TINY bird that broke the silence early this morning just before dawn - a little Carolina wren jumped up onto a naked limb in a nearby tree and started to sing the joy of the day, LOUD and clear! These little guys never cease to amaze me with their lung power.

A little while later while I was out on a morning exercise hike, I came upon another critter. He didn't make any noise, but could have eaten a thousand wrens for breakfast and still had room left over for pancakes. Ever since we returned from Colorado a couple of weeks ago we have been needing to head back out west for another quick trip. But I decided I had to lose seven pounds first. No problem - it is pretty easy for me to walk off some weight. And it worked - the first five pounds vanished within the first week. Then we went over to Luke and Mary's house for dinner - Luke is perhaps the finest outdoor chef on the planet, and I just could not resist. Needless to say, I'm now back to needing to lose nearly the entire original goal once again, and my pace has had to pick up on my fitness hikes ever since!

Anyway, so this morning just as the sun started to peek above the horizon and filter through the trees, I happened to look up and spotted a large black object ahead of me, just off to one side of the trail. This bear had very small ears - that means he was a big boy. And COAL black fur. So black that his fur was blue. And shiny.

We saw each other at the same time, and in what I now recall as being quite unusual, neither of us seemed to be startled at the other, nor did we stop in our tracks. In fact I don't think my heart even started to race. The other night I suspect that I peed in my pants numerous times when the beaver slapped his tail in the middle of the night (I was standing in water so who would know?). But when I saw the bear this morning it just seemed quite calming and natural - that was a bit odd. We both did eventually stop after a couple of steps, then the bear stood up on his hind legs. Did I mention he had small ears? Bears grow into their ears, so the smaller the ear appears, the larger the bear is. Small ears. Very small ears. But still a bright, shiny, blue-black and very healthy coat. Bears tend to be kind of fat and healthy this time of the year, and his shiny coat was evidence of that.

While it seemed like a long time for a bear to be standing to close to me, with eye-to-eye contact, I'm sure it was probably only a second or two (bears stand on their hind legs not as an act of aggression, but rather to be able to see better - they have rather poor eyesight). But I SWEAR he gave me a big HIGH-FIVE with his left paw while he was standing there. Then winked, hit the ground with a loud THUD, turned and sauntered off into the tall brush. I watched him disappear, then continued on my hike like nothing had happened. I've seen quite a few bears in the past ten years, but never have I been so completely at ease as I was with this guy, and I never looked back. I wonder why?

I DO know why he gave me a high-five though. It's because I have just won the Superbowl. So many photographers rave about being an "award-winning" photographer for this or that, which is terrific for them and I applaud their merits. I have never attained that status, but have always been happy working along as an award-less photographer - and as some of you may know from previous posts here, I shun the spotlight (except when I am trying to sell something, ha, ha!), and literally hide from other people and photographers when I'm out in the woods working.

We found out this week that one of our photos was selected and published on the cover of the leading nature photographer magazine in the world, Outdoor Photographer. (They first started publishing my work nearly 20 years ago, but never a front cover.) It's a picture of Neal Compton's Double Falls that I took a few years ago at the peak of fall color and high water (a rare combination). The waterfall is located up Whitaker Creek a mile or so and just around the corner a little bit from our cabin. I think it is a great tribute to the man who led the battle to save the Buffalo River area and helped create America's first National River - that a waterfall named after him be the first photo from Arkansas to grace the cover of such an important magazine. THANK YOU NEIL COMPTON for all that you have done for so many, and for having the courage to lead the way against such tall odds!

The editors of Outdoor Photographer are to be commended for picking not only an Arkansas image for their cover (Colorado or New England usually get that honor in the fall), but also for highlighting another Arkansas image as the #1 "Pro Nature Photographers Fall Color Hot Spots" - an image I took of the Big Piney River a couple of years ago. The Big Piney River area does not get much attention (other than from floaters), but I consider it to be the second most scenic drainage in all of Arkansas (second only to the Buffalo River itself, of course). The October issue of the magazine should be on newsstands shortly, but here is a scan of it so you know what to look for if interested:

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There is also a photo in this same issue that was taken by one of my photo workshop assistants, Ray Scott. Ray has been helping me with multi-day workshops for many years, has several magazine covers to his credit, AND has been published by National Geographic. I can't think of any other photo workshop in the region that has not one, but TWO instructors who have both had images published by Outdoor Photographer and National Geographic - way to go Ray Scott!

I'm still an award-less photographer, but now I have attained the Superbowl of nature photography, so I'm a happy camper!

Speaking of photos of Arkansas in national publications, there is also a photo of mine in this month's Backpacker magazine - a photo of Hawksbill Crag which the editors listed as "The best view in Arkansas."

OK, I've dropped one entire pound since our visit with Luke and Mary last weekend - time to get back out there and see if I can find another bear or two!

A heads-up about Cave Mountain Road - the county road that goes to Hawksbill Crag and some Upper Buffalo Wilderness area access points has just been graded and is a dust bowl from end to end! I recommend avoiding the area until we get some good rains to pack it down. The road is very smooth though, but the dusty powder will choke ya...

09/11/13 It was just one of those things - it came out of no where, made one heck of an impression for about 20 minutes, then was gone, just like that. The dust around here had gotten to thick it covered everything. Temps soared, along with the humidity. The sun beat down, and your pace quickened when outdoors - headed to any little spot of shade.

And then, BAM, a crack of thunder, then that wonderful aroma from above that makes you look up and SMILE! The heavens opened up and it began to pour. Buckets worth. The temp dropped from 94 to 78 in about 30 seconds. I was standing out in the woods going from one building to another when it happened this afternoon. I did not run for cover. In fact I stopped in my tracks and literally soaked it all up! A minute later I was dripping wet and didn't care. A summer thunderstorm just when we needed it most - YIPPIE, COYOTE!

Of course, it was over way too soon, the sky cleared and that burning sun came back out again. But ya know, it wasn't quite so hot this afternoon after all - not with a little cloudburst thrown in...

It is inching towards late tonight and I just heard a really LOUD sound coming from outside - must have been a giant acorn hitting the tin roof. 'Tis the season for music like that - lots more nuts to follow. I just went out and wandered around a little bit. There is a bright 1/3 moon lightning up the wilderness, and some of that cool, crisp, clean air has returned - it is quite DELIGHTFUL outside!

Lots and LOTS of bugs out too. We've not been bothered too much by bugs this summer, although with all the rain we had in August I think there are more bugs now than we've had in a while. The no-see-ums are the worst - come on BATS, wake up and get to work! I've been seeing a lot of bats lately too - good for them. We need more bats.

Saw three fresh piles of bear poop yesterday and today. They were full of persimmon seeds. Hum, I wonder if our daughter would like to split one of those open to see what the winter will bring?! Gotta wait until after the first freeze though. I'm hoping for a good pawpaw crop - sweetest fruit I ever tasted, and it only takes a couple to fill ya up!

I saw a few young black gum trees turning red today - first ones I've seen. Also a few sumacs that are brilliant red. But that is about it. Seems like we are behind already with some of this early color. Rain usually means later and more subdued color, but that will depend on how much rain we get between now and mid-October. I suspect we'll have a grand fall color season no matter what.

09/13/13 We left the house early yesterday morning and spent a couple hours a our favorite dentist in Harrison - cleanings and checkups. The next time we stopped the van it was at the Cabelas parking lot in Kearney, Nebraska, sometime after 10pm. We have had great "camping" spots at Cabelas stores before (most will allow you to park overnight), but this one was TERRIBLE! It was an old store and not really setup to have folks stay overnight, but the biggest issue was directly across the street were not one, but two major railroad lines. That's not a really big deal in itself, but there was a road crossing there as well, and so about ever 30 minutes all night long we were treated to the music of five blows from the train horn.

We were up and back on the road by dawn today, drove through a lot of rain and strong winds through the rest of Nebraska and on into Wyoming. This storm system was part of what caused the flooding in Boulder Canyon and other parts of Colorado - in fact all of the highways between Colorado and Wyoming in this area had been closed - good thing we took the northern route across Nebraska instead of across Kansas or we would have been stuck in that mess.

Later in the day in between rainstorms we came upon was has got to be one of the most amazing rainbows either of us had ever seen. I rushed to find a spot to stop the van and get out and grab a few pictures. The sagebrush meadows directly in front of us were shaded by thick black clouds above, but barren hills just beyond were lit up by bright sunshine - which is where the rainbow lived and thrived. Behind it all - shrouded in heavy clouds, lightning, and lots of rain - were my most favorite mountains besides the Ozarks - the Wind Rivers. I've made many dozens of trips into the Winds since the 1970s, and worked as staff for the forest service for five summers in the 1990s. I mostly worked on the eastern wilderness areas of the Winds out of Lander, but also made a few trips on the western slopes, which was what we were looking at and driving along today.

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The farther north we got after the rainbow the more beautiful the countryside became. And as the clouds parted and evening sunshine spread across the valley and up the slopes, that light turned into magic - the quality of light in the Winds - and in the Tetons - is rare and just beautiful.

We are camped tonight along the banks of the Hoback River south of Jackson Hole at a small forest service campground - $7.50 with our annual access pass. The river is singing a lively tune just a few feet away, the temps are cool and crisp, and a half moon is lightning up some very interesting cloud patterns in the skies above. 'Tis a perfect resting spot after our second 14-hour driving day in a row. Tomorrow we will venture into the Jackson-Tetons area for the tail end of their annual art festival, and hope to spend a few days roaming around and working on some projects in the area after that. Lucy is with us - she has never been to Wyoming before, and so far seems to like it!

09/18/13 It was 34 degrees and blowing snow at first light this morning. We're camped next to a beautiful lake that is backed up against the Continental Divide, about 9300 feet elevation, near Togwotee Pass in the Absaroka Range west of Dubois, WY. When we arrived yesterday there were ospreys and bald eagles flying around and working the lake and surrounding meadows. I had a "Cloudland Moment" as my lovely bride and I walked hand-in-hand along the lakeshore - being with her is always the very best part of any trip I make!

It was the first (and only) day of our road trip that we stopped and made camp at a reasonable hour. We got to spend a couple of hours actually enjoying the place instead of just working. (actually just trying to catch our breath - it has been a long, exhaustive week) This was just a quick stopover though, as we'll headed home in a little while (a 24-hour drive).

We have spent the past few days on the road in northwest Wyoming doing research for various future projects, visiting art galleries and studios, talking with working artists, taking reference photos for potential painting subjects, and of course working in a few hours of photographer as well. We were in the Tetons and Yellowstone national parks, and now in the national forest as we head home.

We got to spend some time in Jackson at the annual art festival, which included a "quickdraw" on the square with more than 20 artists painting. The main artist that we drove all the way out to see did not show up for some reason, but that was OK - it was amazing to watch everyone work, and I learned a great deal (I'm the novice in our group, and have so much to learn). Afterwards all of the paintings were sold at auction that got pretty hectic at times. It was great to see how everything worked.

Then we spent time in the Tetons, and worked our way up into Yellowstone, which was as crowded as I've ever seen it, with some campgrounds filling up even before noon, and some parking areas full with cars waiting in line. It rained every day, but we did manage to find some beautiful light in between storms.

We discovered that Lucy does NOT like buffalo! She is OK with all the other wildlife, but when we were near buffaloes, she really got her hackles up and started to growl. She also does not like sulphur dioxide (neither do I!). We actually try to avoid national parks because pets are not welcome there, but we made the best of it and were able to get Lucy out to exercise as often as possible.

One evening in Yellowstone just after sunset I wandered into a meadow where the Gibbon River flows through - the river twists and turns as much as any creek I'd ever seen. I walked along the creek and spent some time up on my tippie toes, and also down on my hands and knees, looking for just the right composition. There were some interesting clouds floating around, including a couple of large thunderheads. I finally found the spot I was looking for, set up my camera and tripod, and started to compose a picture. Then it started to rain.

Rains is GREAT for landscape photos because it soaks everything, and wet stuff just look better - richer, more vibrant colors. But you can't really shoot much while the rain is in progress since the raindrops will blur in front of your camera and make the overall scene soft. So I waited. And waited. And waited. The clouds moved around a bit and started to light up with beautiful light from the sun that had already set. I repositioned myself a few feet lower and then higher on the hillside I was standing on, waiting for the rain to quit.

It rained for about 15 minutes, but when it quit, I was ready to start shooting - and those clouds had some pretty nice color in them. In fact much of the sky was all lit up, which brought out many campers from the Norris campground nearby. Most of them were just looking up at the sky, but I was also looking at the reflections in the river - the river, with its twists and turns added a great deal of personality to the scene.

At one point I had at least a dozen other campers/photographers gathered around me wondering what I was taking a picture of - the sky was actually more colorful looking in a different direction, but it was just sky that direction - no creek twisting and turning, and no reflections. It wasn't until they came over and stood right next to me that they were able to see what I was seeing. "OOOHHHH!" It took me nearly and hour to get one good picture, but it was an hour well spent, and I enjoyed the changing moods and colors of the Yellowstone twilight. (*note - I have made a couple prints of this scene since we've been home and they are absolutely lovely! So rich and alive with color...)

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We got up early the next morning and headed out of the park, driving through lots of rain and thunder boomers, until we arrived at the camp spot at the lake yesterday afternoon. It has been a very stormy week in the west...

09/19/13 We arrived back home tonight after a grueling trip across the plains - YIPPIE COYOTE, WE ARE HOME! We drove through quite a bit of bad weather, and got hammered pretty good while stopped for a few hours at an interstate rest area in Nebraska. Actually I'm not sure what made more noise - the thunderstorm or the thundering traffic on I-80 just a few feet away! Nebraska rest areas are TERRIBLE places to stop and "rest" because they are literally just a few feet away from the pavement - really horrible design. Actually I think they are designed as a pee stop only - they don't want you to stop and "rest" - even though they do allow you to stay for up to 10 hours. NOT RECOMMENDED! (FYI, the rest areas in Kansas are WONDERFUL in comparison, and they seem to welcome folks to make longer rest stops - good for Kansas! But we prefer going across Nebraska when we're headed to Wyoming, but we'll avoid the rest areas in the future.)

09/22/13 It is crispy-cool early this morning, with a few baby clouds in the valley and temps that really do "feel like fall" - which is a good thing since TODAY is the first day of autumn - YIPPIE COYOTE!!! We've been going non-stop since we got home a couple of days ago - I should say that my lovely bride has - she is in charge of processing orders for our book business, and whenever we are gone for even a week there is a ton of work to do - especially this week since our newest product started shipping.

I took the cargo van into town on Friday to pick up our new 2014 ARKANSAS ENGAGEMENT CALENDARS. I normally would have taken the jeep with trailer to pick them up (they weight nearly a TON), but it was raining on and off all day and I needed to transport the shipment inside to keep from getting wet. So the van worked out perfectly - it can hold about 3,000 pounds. Seems like we use that van more and more all the time - not sure how our business ever got along without it before!

These new engagement calendars are a crap shoot for us. So many people keep their lives on their phones these days, but we like had copies, so wanted to see if other folks did too. This new calendar has both weekly pages and a two-page month spread each month. There are 56 photos - one for each week plus a couple of others - so it is kind of like a mini picture book of Arkansas. The photos are from all seasons and include scenes from around the state - some are brand new and never published before, others are classics that I love. There are macros, landscapes, and wildlife pictures. The only thing they all have in common besides being Arkansas pictures is that they are all vertical format.

It was actually kind of fun working on this new calendar project - shooting all vertical pictures. The year before I was shooting all horizontal pictures for the ARKANSAS LANDSCAPES II picture book, then I switched to verticals - it takes a mental shift to do such things, and as some of you may know my brain does not shift to quickly these days! Anyway, not knowing if folks would like this new product or not, and being a calendar we only have a few months to sell them, we got a limited supply printed. If you guys like them and they sell out this year, then we will probably make this a regular item each year.

NOTE - this new engagement calendar is also included as part of our HOLIDAY SPECIAL package with the 2014 Arkansas wall calendar and new Buffalo River Beauty picture book (you basically get the engagement calendar free in the package). Since the picture book is not available yet, those orders will ship in mid-October. If you just want the engagement calender, you can order it now and it will ship the next day.

OK, back to this morning. The sun has just now peaked up over the eastern horizon, flooding the wilderness below with beautiful and very yellow light. There is absolutely no wind, and the only sounds I hear are a few drops of dew dripping off the tin roof. The light is so yellow that even the green pine trees just below the cabin look yellow. I guess since green is made up of yellow that would make sense. Crystal clear blue skies too. An absolutely perfect fall day in the High Ozarks - hope you can get out and make the most of it!

09/24/13 There is a LOT of bear activity around our cabin right now - GIANT piles of new bear scat appear every day, filled with persimmon seeds. I have not even seen a persimmon tree yet this fall with fruit, so I have no idea where they are getting them from - must be a secret bear orchard somewhere.

My lovely bride also reports seeing several snakes each time she hikes out to the mailbox and back (three miles). A couple of days ago she came upon a little guy that was not too happy about her being there. He was small - less than a foot long - an quite colorful. Young snakes usually at their peak of color and can be quite beautiful. Anyway, this little guy first try to scare her off by being a rattlesnake. Pam has seen her share of rattlesnakes so was not fooled. Then he reared up, flattened his little head out as wide as he could get, and started waving back and forth just like a cobra! We don't have cobras in Arkansas, and Pam just had to smile as this little guy. He was a hognose snake, or puff adder, and that is what they do when danger approaches. If you start to play with them they will also often simply roll over and play dead. We like having these little snakes around.

The 3/4 moon rose in the east last night about 10pm. On the day of a full moon it will rise near sunset, then rises about 45 minutes later each night. Also each night more and more of the moon is chopped off ("waning" moon), and right now each night the moon seems to lay farther and farther backward, as if reclining as it rises. Eventually there will only be a sliver of a silver or orange moon left just before sunrise until it goes completely black. Then it will begin a slow growth, growing more and more each night ("waxing" moon) as it sets in the west, and then two weeks later it will be full once again. This year the full moon should rise and spread brilliant moonlight across the High Ozarks that will be in full bloom with fall color, YIPPIE COYOTE! (October 19th)

09/26/13 Lucy and I hiked up to the top of the hill yesterday - only when I looked back Lucy was no where in sight. She has been acting pretty weird this week when out in the woods, and we had suspected that she's been catching the scent of one or more bears wandering around. I in fact found a large, fresh, and very BLACK pile of bear scat right in the middle of the tall grass in Aspen's meadow - I broke the brush hog this past summer and have not got it fixed yet (special THANKS to Benny for getting it mowed for me once this summer!), but the meadow has grown up white a bit since all that rain in August.

After finding the big pile of fresh bear scat, I hiked along the edge of the meadow, right next to the treeline that was grown up so thick with brush that I could not even see into it more than a foot or two, and would have trouble trying to scramble through it. And then the next step I HEARD it - a tremendous thud and WOOF. Then lots of brush crashing. I wanted to freeze in place, but also wanted to move around and try to see what it was. That brush was SO thick that I never did see what had made the sound, but it most certainly was a big old bear. Most of the time the bears around here don't like the thought of hiking with humans, and will take off in the opposite direction toot sweet, which is what this guy did. I was glad that Lucy decided to head back to the cabin when she did, otherwise she may have taken off in pursuit of this bear and things may not have ended well for any of us.

When I got up a couple of hours ago this morning (about 4am) and went outside, it was really BRIGHT out, yet the moon was only slightly larger than half full. But that is about the perfect phase to show the most detail in the dark forest. When the moon is fuller and really bright, the difference between the moonlit and shadow parts of the forest is greater than we can see detail in, so there are a lot of shadows. When the moon is smaller like it is now, that difference is less, and our eyes and brains are able to see more detail in the shadows. Hum, perhaps the same thing happens when we are talking about sunshine and digital cameras too - hint, hint - if you have shadows, it is much better to have less sunlight so the difference is smaller, resulting in photos that have more detail in them! (i.e., take pictures early or late in the day when the sun is less intense, or on cloudy days - my favorites)

Think I'll go wander around a bit up towards Aspens meadow before sunrise and see if I can spot any shadows that are moving...

09/30/13 HAPPY MONDAY, the best day of the week! It was kind of warm and foggy here when I got up at 4am, and decided that instead of heading out to shoot sunrise on top of a distant bluff, I would stay here and get started on office work, which is what I've been doing for the past couple of hours. I LOVE walking around in this sort of weather - the more fog the better - especially in the dark. As I hiked between buildings this morning (I'm never organized enough to keep all my work in a single location, hence a lot of walking between our four buildings out here, oops, now five!), I stopped often to shine the flashlight up into the trees and move the light around - those trees take on different and interesting personalities in the dark and in the fog. I've not ever tried to photograph them like this, but perhaps I'll figure out the best way to do it soon.

THE NUTS ARE FALLING! (and I'm not talking about the clowns in Washington) All of a sudden this past week we started to get pelted at all hours of the day by both acorns and hickory nuts - HOLY COW one of those makes a LOUD noise when it hits our metal roof! And on the cabin, sometimes a nut will hit the top roof with a BANG, then roll down and hit the porch roof with another BANG, then continue to roll and hit another metal roof with another BANG. And I find this kind of funny - some of the acorns make a much louder noise than do the larger hickory nuts.

Some areas of the forest are already covered with a multi-colored layer of acorns, ranging from bright yellow to red to green to brown. Some nuts are green and red, or red and yellow. Most of them lose their hats on the way down, or when they hit the ground - hope a cold snap doesn't arrive or all those nuts will get chilled without their hats on! There are almost not squirrels up on Cave Mountain right now, so there will be plenty of mast for other wildlife to munch.

Lucy and I took a quick hike around the loop yesterday afternoon, and found some giant wildflowers blooming in the East meadow. Come to think of it, the tall grass in the meadow was catching the last rays of evening sunshine and lit up nice too.

flower

It was a very pleasant walk - that is until we came to the pawpaw patch. I could smell the sweetness long before we arrived - I consider pawpaws to be far and away the sweetest fruit in the forest. And they can get to BIG! But I was not prepared for what I saw when I stepped into the pawpaw patch, which on our property is about a dozen tall and skinny trees all bunched together in the middle of a thick forest. There were ripe pawpaws on the ground EVERYWHERE!!! Normally a single tree will produce up to a half dozen pawpaws at a time, and they drop them once they get ripe, so they are literally easy picking - just bend down and pick on up. But there were so many on the ground that I could hardly walk around under there without stepping on one. I sat down and gathered up the fruit that was only within arm's length around me, and from a single tree - I could not even reach all of them under this one tree. The photo below is of my haul. I stood and counted more than 100 pawpaws on the ground, but there were also as many or more still on the branches above. I saw one bunch with at least eight or nine pawpaws clumped together! It was too dark already to take pictures of those up in the tree, but I did manage to get a photo of the bunch I had gathered up. Note that some of the larger ones are six inches long. And oh my goodness, they were SWEET!!!

pawpaws

Pickin’ up paw paws,

Put ’em in your pocket

Pickin’ up paw paws,

Put ’em in your pocket

Pickin’ up paw paws,

Put ’em in your pocket

Way down yonder in the paw paw patch

And so on this Monday morning with such a long week ahead for all of us, I wish you a very happy and sweet week! And if you happen to wander through the forest, be sure to look out for falling nuts!

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