CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - March 2017
Cloudland remote Cabin Cam, March 23 - warm and sunny - thunderboomers on the way tomorrow..
SPRING PHOTO WORKSHOPS - sign up SOON!
03/21/17 Just when it looked like sunrise was a bust early this morning, a brilliant red ball appeared rising from the horizon. These sorts of sunrises don't normally happen this time of year - that's a summer thing when the air is full of dust and humidity and heat. My photo workshop group was pointing their cameras and lenses at the right spot, and were able to capture some terrific images.
Our next stop was normally a 30-minute visit, but the light was good and the location special and we spent a couple of hours there taking pictures. Lunch at the Cliff House Restaurant was great. Then back to the new gallery/classroom for everyone to look at their images. Later in the afternoon we hiked into a scenic area and spent three more hours shooting and enjoying a GREAT spring day in the Ozarks! On the way back to our photomobile van, the wind shifted, and the temp began to drop. The coolness felt very good after a warm afternoon. Dinner at the Ozark Cafe was pretty darn nice too!
I'm back home now to curl up with my sweetie - 16 going on 17 YEARS - I can't wait! I'll be up and back on the road again early tomorrow to meet up with my workshop group in Jasper to head out to parts unknown to seek out more spring beauty. In the meantime, I'm hopeful for a bit of RAIN tonight!
03/20/17 Windy, warm, and clear outside early this morning - in fact the winds are talking to each other, getting the trees to join in too as they sway back and forth. I can hear the Buffalo dancing far below there in the darkness.
Been a long past few days and nights, with spring in a holding pattern - in fact some of the trees that burst forth several weeks ago ahead of schedule have now been rethinking that. Redbuds in particular have shrunk back into their stems and trucks it seams. But with nightly temps in the 20's last week who could blame them.
We had an electrician come out the other day to do a little job for us. Turns out he was much more than just a professional electrician. He worked until after midnight and on into the wee hours of the morning on a difficult and odd project. Thanks to his unstoppable attitude and work ethic, he got the job done despite miserable working conditions and some pretty tough physical work. SORRY SHANE - I bet you had no idea what you were getting into! He worked on with a major storm swirling about threatening to dump and crash on us at any minute. His boots were so caked with slick clay that I bet each boot weighted a couple pounds or more. He did a great job and always a smile on his face and not a single displeasing word.
On Saturday we said goodbye to our beloved friend and my long-time photo assistant Angela Peace. I've known Angela for 20 years - and I thought really well - but after hearing the testimonials of many different people at her memorial service I realized there was so much more to her than I ever knew - in fact she led three or four lives at the same time. I had missed out on so much of her life because I never took the time. Angela, you were a true SAINT and helped so many people during your short time on this earth, and you have set an example for many to follow - it was an honor to have known and worked with you.
Yesterday was one of the biggest days in my lovely bride's young artist career - she sold two pastels, both of them among the best I've ever seen. It is amazing to sit back and watch as she emerges from her shell and takes literally a blank sheet of paper and creates magic on it - a vision of a moment in time that could only come from the heart and soul of a true artist. She has only just begun to create, and I look forward so much to what follows!
Here's my lovely bride holding another of her new pastels - "MAX" - and her note about the pastel (that was a present for our good friends Ray and Susan, who lost their beloved Max last year):
"Some paintings just seem to flow from the heart and this is one of those. When those rare instances happen you just have to hang on and enjoy the ride. It's as if your hand is being directed by something or someone greater than you. This is Max! Max was this hulk of a dog that was as large as a small horse and frequently mistaken for a bear. The most gentle of giants.
His favorite thing on the planet was to dig crabs on the beach and to chase squirrels. His favorite people happen to be some of my favorite people as well. Max, the crabs may not miss you but we sure do.... Max, 6x12, pastel"
Speaking of my lovely BRIDE, today is our 16th wedding anniversary!!! I still can't believe that she ever said YES, nor how FAST the time has flown by. I could not imagine what life would have been like without her by my side, nor what new adventures await the rest of our lives together...
Contrary to rumors going around, we HAVE NOT SOLD CLOUDLAND!!! We have been working with a potential buyer, and have come to an agreement, but no sale has been completed. Whoever has been spreading this rumor is simply misinformed. We continue to move the business side of our life over to our new gallery/book warehouse building near Jasper, but we remain 100% Cloudland residents and our underwear, socks, dog food and all personal items are still here! If/when we do close on our property, that info will be posted here the day it happens.
JOURNAL UPDATE. The Cloudland Journal will turn 19 on May 18th this year, and my plans are to keep it going at least until it turns 20 - make that 21 years old - I want it to be old enough to drink a glass of wine! For those who tune in to see the (almost) daily picture that is usually taken of the view from the back deck of our cabin, there is no actual camera setup in place to take this picture (never has been) - ALL of those pictures ever taken these past almost 19 years have been simply me standing out on the deck (or in some other scenic location) with a camera in my hands or on a tripod and pressing the shutter button. Sometimes I leave the cabin before daylight and there is no picture, or we're on the road, or some other reason we cannot take and post the photo. If it were a stationary camera that automatically takes a picture you would see the same view every day - I much prefer a changing scene and I hope that you do to! So if we do sell Cloudland and move to a new location, my plan is to continue to provide you with an (almost) daily photo taken of the scene spread out before us...
03/18/17 We had a sea of fog covering the canyon floor at first light, plus a giant thunderhead that was lit up by the rising sun.
03/17/17 A foggy day on the way to the office this morning...
03/16/17 Had a visitor yesterday - a wild turkey was trying to get into the new gallery warehouse building, milling around and clucking like crazy. There are LOTS of wild turkeys this year, and I've seen one flock in particular frequently, 15-20 birds. Two or three of them seem to be hybirds (get it?) and have many white feathers vs. the full coat of darker feathers like normal. The young lady turkey that came by today was one of them as you can see. Still very wild, but with striking color patterns.
It was one of the more colorful and spectacular sunsets yesterday as I was driving home from the office - one of those times when it seemed like the entire sky all around was lit up red and orange and purple (after the sun had disappeared). Silhouetted trees. I kept on driving trying to find the perfect spot to stop and take a picture, but like most times, I never found one before the color began to drain from the sky. 'Twas one of those beautiful memories that will live inside me...
03/12/17 It was 2 - 3 - 4-something when I woke up this morning and realized it was BRIGHT outside. Full moon shining through clouds onto a snow-covered landscape turns out pretty bright in the middle of the night. So I crawled out of bed, packed my camera bag, and headed for Hawksbill Crag - there had to be a good picture there somewhere!
It was easy hiking through the forest, although I did have to keep one hand in front of my eyes - those small branches and sticks don't show up too well in diffused moonlight - easy to poke an eye out, or IN. Before long I was standing next to the Crag and it was just beautiful! The snow was about 2-3" deep and my boots dug in and gripped well. I figured by this time there would have been quite a bit of melting, but the snow seemed intact, and not frozen or crunchy.
I carefully set up the tripod and attached my camera, spun the camera dials a little bit, set the focus at infinity on the lens, then pushed the shutter button. The first photo was almost black, so I spun the dials a few more times, and the next picture that popped up was lovely! While just standing there in the semi-darkness of the night we humans don't register color very well - the landscape is mostly just shades of gray. But the camera sees and records whatever color is there, and replays the scene in full color on the back of the camera's LCD screen. Sometimes it is shocking to see what colors the camera recorded, as it was this morning. The overall scene was BLUE - and I guess that seemed perfectly natural since we tend to think of moonlight as being blue. Cool beans man!
After a few more blue photos, I noticed some movement in the trees upslope from me - a large barred owl was swooping down my direction, then he landed in the top of the very tree I was standing under. I had to reach out and grab another nearby tree to steady myself as I looked up at him. He was looking straight down at me, and kind of weaving back and forth on the branch. I could not see his eyes - with the sky above him being pretty bright with the moon up there above the clouds, this owl guy was mostly just a silhouette. Anyway, after a few seconds he just sort of leapt up into the air, and glided right on down past me and over the edge of the bluff, then spread his wings wide and soared on down and across the valley. 'Twas a CLOUDLAND MOMENT for sure! One of the reasons why I spend so much time alone in the wilderness is because of moments like this one - you will usually have many more wildlife encounters when you are alone - those critters seem to appreciate one-on-one time.
NOTE that normally even though the camera recorded this scene as being pretty blue, I would normally color-correct it in the computer to reflect the snow as white (that would be me "manipulating" the photo back to real color - snow is white - not blue). But I've decided to leave the scene just as the camera recorded it - and hope that some folks will find it to their liking and order a print (no one pays me to get up and go out in the middle of the night in the winter to take pictures - we only make a dime if one of you buys a print!
At the opposite end of today - as the last rays of sunshine were lighting up the far side of Boxley Valley, my lovely bride encouraged me to stop, go back, and spend some time taking pictures of elk reflections in a pond there. I've always wanted to do this, just never took the time. I rarely will pick up a camera when there is anyone else around, but this was different, and perhaps the only time I'd be able to take these pictures. So after I crept up and started shooting pictures, a couple of other cars stopped and joined me. It was a magical scene with the elk wandering around while the hillsides behind them lit up with "Ozark glow."
It didn't take long for nearly all of the snow from last night to melt away - some hillsides went from pure white to brown in less than 30 minutes. South-facing slopes went first; while north-facing slopes hung on into the afternoon - and perhaps there are still some steep slopes that remain white for now. I LOVE snow, and it was great to get to romp around in some early this morning. And even the melting snow is great - feeds streams and waterfalls and the water table - YIPPIE COYOTE!
03/11/17 We just went on the MOST AMAZING hike in the woods - heavy, hard, WET, blowing snow - almost so much snow coming down that we could not see very far into the forest! It was just getting duksy-dark, and had only been snowing about 15 minutes. Yet there was enough snow on the ground to make tracks. So much snow coming down that 15 minutes later when I turned around to hike back to the cabin, the tracks I had just made were almost gone - covered up by more snow! In fact half way home the tracks were completely covered up. Both puppy dogs were also covered with snow - it especially stuck to their fur, and also to the hood of my old ragged green down jacket.
The wet snow followed rain that fell on and off all day, so the landscape got a really nice drink today - a drink that will produce some great waterfalls tomorrow!
We had a TERRIFIC time at our program in El Dorado a couple of days ago. It was a long trip - about 650 miles of driving for us - but it was great to meet so many wonderful people and see old friends (a SPECIAL THANKS to everyone who came!). This was one of the largest crowds we've ever done - more than 300 folks. Like most programs though, we didn't have enough time and soon the great hall was empty. We hope to return again - and not wait 17 years (our last program in El Dorado was in 2000 - in fact three of the seven people who came to that first show in 2000 were there again this time - it was ESPECIALLY great to see them again!) El Dorado - our smallest audience ever, and also one of the largest ever - go figure.
The puppies slept most of the way on this trip (as they always do), but my goodness they were READY to jump out and run and play! My lovely bride and I were ready for a nap.
03/07/17 Yesterday late evening, we decided it was time for a haircut. We normally do this outside on the loft deck - I love to sit out there and listen to the soft music of the Buffalo River far below as it drifts up and around me, and for a few moments I forget all about when I used to have a lot more hair! Now it only takes my lovely bride about 60 seconds to trim me up! But last night was different - my hair was wild and free and blowing around like crazy, and Pam had issues getting the electric clippers all lined up - tough to cut moving hair!
Turns out this was the beginning of the approach of the supercell storm that produced the EF-2 tornado that caused havoc in nearby Parthenon. That storm touched down a couple miles north of us up here on Cave Mountain and took out many trees, including two of my most favorite of all time. The storm hopped across the Buffalo River, crossing Hwy. 21 north of Mossville and on into the Smith Creek Nature Preserve. Then it hit Parthanon, and elsewhere. There was some really bad damage in Parthenon.
I got up early and headed into the office but got stopped by a large tree across Cave Mountain Road. We have a second "escape" route when needed, so I took it around the long way (to Hwy. 16 and on past the Glory Hole to Mossville), where I encountered the damage on Hwy. 21. Other than those few spots where the twister touched down, it was a crystalline day with brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine! (No damage at or around our Cloudland property.) And somewhere out there, a few strands of an old buzzard's hair were drifting around...
03/06/17 The woods were talking this afternoon - in fact were singing at the top of their lungs! Some voices were squeaky, others more bass, most were combinations of different trees being blown around and rubbing against each other. I wonder if anyone has ever recorded singing trees? Sometimes when I hear them I have to stop and listen carefully to know if it is a voice, critter sound, or just the trees.
And the wind itself was making music today as well - mostly howling, sometimes moaning, and now and then a very happy tune - after all it was wild and free and having a grand time sailing along through the forest!
Then back at the cabin I discovered that I could tune the volume and pitch by how much a window was open - it turned out to be a very musical afternoon at Cloudland today! (Tonight we're getting mostly howls...)
It was pretty foggy as I drove down the mountain towards Jasper early this morning so I left a few minutes early for my physical therapy appointment. Since I was making good time I stopped and ran into the woods with my little point and shoot camera to take a picture - first time I've done that in quite a while. As soon as I stopped to take the picture I was looking for, I wished I hadn't. The scene was quite beautiful, but I had the wrong camera, and I knew it. What I needed was my big camera and tripod, and about 30 minutes of extra time to record the amazing scene spread out before me. As it was I spent about two minutes all bent out of shape and got a couple of snapshots, then returned to the car and sped off. I just LOVE the lush green moss of our fading winter season! Especially when it covers the forest floor and leads off into a foggy landscape.
NOTE TO SELF - always take your big camera with you!
It turns out that the physical therapy for my back issue is not working after all - not sure why. The last session I'm allowed will be on Wednesday, and while I love the workouts and treatments I'm getting 3x per week - and the facility in Jasper and all the great staff there - it simply does not appear to be helping my particular situation. I may just be old and breaking down, with my past working habits catching up. One of the main things that triggers the most pain is the act of me setting up to take pictures (with my real camera) - I've got a few pictures to take in the coming months, so something will have to give!
Speaking of pictures, we'll be showing TWO slide programs this coming Thursday night at 7pm in El Dorado, Arkansas, as part of the Southern Arkansas Community College's "SouthArk Lecture Series" at the El Dorado Conference Center. I'll be showing both the epic ARKANSAS NIGHTSCAPES and also our latest ARKANSAS IN MY OWN BACKYARD programs. I will be slightly intimidated by this event - the opening speaker in the lecture series this academic year (last fall) was legendary Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, who famously jumped into the presidential limo and shielded Jackie Kennedy in the moments after President John F. Kennedy was shot. GULP. My lovely bride will have all of our books available both before and after the program and ON SALE! If you know of anyone in the area who might like to attend, note that it is free and open to the public!
03/03/17 I got a chuckle when I pulled up the current temp for the location we were supposed to have been camping last night - it was -0.1 degree F! That's a three-dog night in my book, yet we only would have had two pups with us so it would have been a wee bit on the chilly side (although it actually "felt" like a balmy 0 degrees). We had to postpone our quick trip to Wisconsin this week, which was probably a good thing. 'Tis a warm 32 degrees at Cloudland this morning...
03/02/17 It was a beautiful early morning, with skies so CLEAR you could reach right on up and touch the stars! Cloudland is located in the middle of the darkest night skies in all of Arkansas, and with the "summer" Milky Way now visible just before dawn, I set up my camera to take a snapshot of it rising behind the cabin. There continues to be something quite special and awe-inspiring to me about being witness to such great beauty in the Heavens. It just give you pause to think about where you are and your place in the universe. The air was not only extremely clear and the stars bright, but it was also so QUIET - not a whisper of sound other than the low rush of the river far below.
As dawn approached I sped away headed for a field of daffodils near Osage that I wanted to photograph against the rising sun. When I reached the field I realized all the flowers were FROZEN, and covered with heavy frost - OOPS! So my original vision of thousands of bright and beautiful dancing daffodils was not going to happen, but I did get a snapshot of their poor frozen state, and I loved the cool/warm color contrast and the patterns of the frosty stems.
Later in the day I delivered the last load of heavy steel pallet racks to the new book warehouse building, and Pam's dad helped me erect them inside. The warehouse is only half of the new building (actually less than half), yet we've been filling it with the entire contents of our old book warehouse building - it is getting kind of crowded in there, but we had to downsize everything so we will make it fit. Several days ago friends Aaron and Bryce helped move BUBBA JR. and also my GIANT color printer into the new building - seems like everyone has been helping with the heavy lifting required to move the book warehouse and print room but me - I've mostly just been standing around feeling like the old geezer that I am!
03/01/17 HOLY MOLY the wind BLEW yesterday! All day, and into the night. I know I've said this before, but I don't recall the wind being so strong, so long-lasting, having so much force through the trees, then it did yesterday. It was a warm wind though, often coming directly out of the south for much of the day. Funny thing though - I didn't see any blown-down limbs on the roads or trails - guess we've had plenty of wind already this year and most loose limbs have already reached the ground.
The big storm arrived in the middle of the night with thunderboomers, bright lights, more WIND, rain, and hail. We are strong believers of secure metal roofs on all our buildings, and each time we hear the pitter-patter (or BANG) of hail we know we made the right decision!
Dawn is breaking now across the wilderness, it is cooler, with a few breezes. I can hear crows in the distance working their way up into the Whitaker Creek drainage. The hushed roar of the Buffalo River is drifting up from below - the water does not appear to be muddy or too wild, but I bet it comes up some during the day. (i.e., more waterfalls, yippie!). Looks like we're in for sunshine the rest of the week - should be a wave of wildflowers to follow.
I LOVE March - 'tis the time when spring really takes hold here in the mountains and life renews itself, spreading color across the landscape and deep into your soul.