CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - January 2015
Cloudland Cabin remote deck cam, January 28 - star trails in the Ouachitas
Journal updated Thursday the 29th - Forked Mountain stars
Print Of The Week Special (above)
01/02/15 We awoke early to the gentle sounds of rainfall on our tin roof. And then we went back to sleep - could slumber get any better? When I stepped outside just before daylight I could hear the wilderness landscape smiling - "Aaaahhhhhhhhhh, rainfall is our life-giving connection to heaven!"
Once the trees go dormant and moisture fills up the water table like it has been doing this past month or two, additional rainfall spills on the landscape and into small creeks, then flows into larger creeks - perhaps tumbling into air now and then as it leaps over rocks and bluffs - WATERFALLS! 'Tis the beginning of waterfall season in the High Ozarks of Arkansas. They won't allow me to get out and explore and photograph right now, but I can still stand outside and soak it all in - I can hear the sounds of the mighty Buffalo River drifting up from below; and when there are breaks in the clouds just below cabin level, I can see some small waterfalls just across the way coming off of Beagle Point. BRING ON THE RAIN! Keep flowing guys - I will come visit soon. It's going to be a great waterfall year...
01/03/14 More DELIGHTFUL rain overnight! It is pretty loud when stepping outside this morning with both the Buffalo River and Whitaker Creek ROARING! Every now and then there will be a break in the "living" fog that surrounds us, and we can see across the canyons to the big bluffline - where several 75' tall waterfalls pour off and splash into the forest far below. Peak waterfalls will continue for a while after the rain quits, but will run down as the week progresses - yet the creeks and many waterfalls should flow well now for a good long while. WATERFALL SEASON HAS BEGUN!
I had another Cloudland Moment yesterday. Both my lovely bride and I got to craving ice cream Friday evening - which I often do in the winter. After digging around a while we found one of those tubs that you put in the freezer for 24 hours and then make ice cream (instead of using crushed ice and rock salt). Man, it was tough to have to wait 24 hours, but we managed. Then more digging uncovered the little machine that goes with the frozen tub, and most importantly, a packet to make vanilla ice cream. It all came together Saturday afternoon when I made up the ice cream mix (using 2% milk instead of whole, but that's what we had), and started the ice cream maker to do its thing. We both disappeared in opposite directions while the little churn churned on for a while. Pam went downstairs to do yoga and I went next door to the gallery to do my physical therapy.
FINALLY the ice cream was ready, and oh my goodness - it was WONDERFUL! But my special moment came when I filled my cup with the frozen delight, then went outside and sat down with feet propped up on the deck rail. It was just above freezing, with a stiff wind blowing, and that wind chill was, well, kind of chilly - PERFECT weather to eat ICE CREAM in! I sat there and savored every spoonful, while watching the fog and clouds and landscape in motion - it was just one of those times where all the stars align and life is perfect - or should I say, YIPPIE COYOTE!!!
Unfortunately, I was unable to control myself (hey man, it was homemade ICE CREAM!), and by the time the moment had ended, the entire bowl was empty - all moved into my belly ('cept for a small cup that my bride got - sorry honey...).
01/05/15 We were bracing for a horrible freeze this morning that was predicted, but it actually feels warmer than it has been in several days. 18 degrees, no wind, clear skies, and BRILLIANT sunshine flooding the wilderness landscape right now at first light. Last night was really nice too, with a full very-yellow Wolf Moon rising just after sunset. Each full moon has a name, and the one for January is Wolf. I can just hear one of them howling at the moon - as I probably was, although the tone and volume of mine was probably not too pleasant.
We awoke yesterday to blowing show and flakes that got larger and thick by the minute until the ground was completely white. Ten minutes later the ground was mostly back to earth tones, with the snow melting on down into it.
The call of the rivers far below and waterfalls all around continued all day yesterday - so many great waterfalls out there, but I could only dream, and imagine how beautiful they were.
Looks like lots of sunshine this week, and they have already revised the weather forecast with warmer temps than originally shown (up to 15 degrees for a low instead of 7). But, of course, that will all change. With the exception of ICE on the roads, it is all kind of relative - 20 degrees can seem COLD or BALMY depending on so many factors, including you own state of mind, and what your body has grown used to. I rather enjoy these cooler temps, and even more so when it is so calm like today.
I'm back to a normal work day today - the world continues to spin and deadlines are approaching. My physical therapy was good this morning - I push myself twice a day until the pain reaches the sharp pain point, then I back off a little bit. That point is allowing me a wee bit more movement each day. I still can't lift anything with my right arm, but I'm getting close to 100% range of motion in my shoulder in one direction - although it has to be 100% assisted at this point (I have zero strength, but that will come later).
My lovely bride spent much of Sunday working on processing and packing online book orders, and she has been at it since before sunrise again this morning. If you place an order today, it will most likely go out tomorrow! I spent most of sunday on my back watching TV - and longing to be out in the woods chasing waterfalls!
We have the first of three slide programs in January this coming Friday (Arkansas Nighscapes show).
And for those of you who are not on an electric coop service line in Arkansas, you might want to take a gander at the current ARKANSAS LIVING magazine published last week (mailed to all co-op members in the state - almost 400,000!) - it features our new picture book, with a very nice spread of photos on the cover and inside. Click on this link where you can open a browser and look through all the pages. The editors did a TERRIFIC job with selection of the photos and design of the article. This publication continues to showcase how beautiful our state is - WAY TO GO!
01/06/14 I had been working in the dark for a couple of hours when suddenly I realized that the world outside the window had begun to glow. That was odd since sunrise was still a ways off. Trees were glowing orange yet the sky was dark blue. I stepped outside and walked over to the eastern side of the cabin, and there it was - a group of broken clouds had gathered just above the horizon to watch the sunrise! And oh my they were beginning to light up, and the color of the clouds was beaming out across the landscape creating the orange glow. I often say the most colorful is an hour before sunrise - today it was about 30 minutes before sunrise. I grabbed my little camera and tried to take a few pictures - still operating with mostly one hand. The longer I worked the more intense the color grew. I just LOVE trees silhouetted against this sort of sky - it forces you to look at the naked structure of the tree, yet you can also look right past the trees to the brilliant color beyond. Get up early to enjoy the sweetest fruit of the day!
01/08/15 There was a roaring fire going in the fireplace by the time the girls rolled out of bed at 5am this morning. A wee bit nippy outside, although the temp only got down to 11 degrees with zero wind so it was not as bad as a lot of other places (it was about 2 degrees down in Boxley Valley). As the ladies drove off just after 6am (heading to the dentist) I took the puppies out for a romp in the crisp air. A big part of dealing with cold temps is your frame of mind, and since I usually find cold weather to be a good thing, it was rather delightful out in the woods before sunrise. It was also very quiet - perhaps a little soft crunch of the frozen earth, and a snarl now and then from the puppies. But otherwise, the world was at peace.
And then the trees began to glow orange and red as the giant fireball slowly rose in the east, spreading the warmth of a new day across the wilderness.
01/17/15 Cool and breezy this morning, and while the actual temp showed 40 degrees, the earth crunched underneath as the pups and I hiked up to check on our water supply just before sunrise this morning. The ground was covered with frost! I guess the temp must have dipped early, then approaching sunshine started to warm things up even before sunrise.
The woods will be FILLED with hikers today - YIPPIE! It will be one of the best weekends to get out and hike in Arkansas in a long while - balmy temps will feel almost like summertime, especially with that bright sunshine and blue skies all day. So if you hike this weekend, I would avoid popular places and perhaps seek out lesser-known ones, or be prepared for crowds and enjoy the company. (*not many waterfalls are running much though - we need RAIN to get them back up again - but creeks are flowing and looking really nice, as are some waterfalls on main creeks)
I hiked down into the Whitaker Creek drainage yesterday to check on a report of something below Hawksbill Crag. I was only on the trail for 1/4 mile or less and passed about 50 hikers. So great to see everyone out enjoying this weather. I believe I located the item someone had asked about - a tent. In fact it appeared that an entire camp was blown over the bluff. It has been illegal to camp at or even near the Craig or along the trail to the Craig for a long time, but of course not everyone obeys the law. But I wonder what happened? Whoever it was, a bag of trash went over the bluff too, and appeared they had been there for a while and dined on Chef-Boy-A-Dee ravioli, Vienna sausages, bud light, and zig-zag cigars. I have a feeling they might have been camped directly on top of the Crag when a bear approached them - we've been seeing a LOT of bear sign around here the past several weeks. The boys ran off and the bear had some fun.
Anyway, the tent actually had blown/tumbled quite a ways down the steep slope below the Crag, and it took me a while to get down to it. On my way down I found a dollar bill sitting on top of the leaves. I was not in a position physically to pack all the trash up and haul it out, but I will return soon and try to collect everything. FYI, far and away the most numerous trash item below the Crag are plastic water bottles - I counted more than 100 of them. I also found various articles of clothing, hats, a camera, telephoto lens shade, and lots and lots of Christmas tree ornaments. Here is the view looking up from underneath the Crag:
AND I discovered part of the bluff that had recently fallen off - in fact one solid chunk of rock 10' x 15' x 3' thick! This one came down from the very top of the bluff (around the corner from the Crag), and took out a couple of large trees with it, plus numerous other boulders scattered about - the breakage was very fresh (within the last year).
We've been getting out daily to hike around the mountain with the pups - sometimes great sunny weather, other times cold and foggy or rain - my lovely bride has been anxious to hike no matter what the weather. And it has been doing me a lot of good, although still a bit painful on my shoulder. It seems to be doing Lucy a lot of good too - she just seems to get younger with age, and now spends a lot of time running and playing with the pups. And the other day she even discovered a ROCKET in the middle of the woods! It was about 20" long with metal fins.
One day I had taken the pups over to the other side of our mountain where the hillside is about as steep as it gets, when Mia disappeared for a while. There was no wind and the forest was very quiet, and so I sat on a log and socked up sunshine and waited with the other pups for her return. All of a sudden I heard some LOUD "animal" noises down under the hillside, and I feared Mia may have found some critter she should not have. A few moments later she appeared at the edge of the hill and headed back to us. This has been one of the areas of increased bear activity, and perhaps she had been investigating a bear den and got a little too close!
A couple of nights ago I stepped outside to see if I could spot the LoveJoy Comet that everyone has been taking about - a comet that was only discovered this past August. I knew about where the comet was, but it was impossible to see it with the naked eye. I still could not find it with a pair of binoculars, so I set up one of my cameras to see if that would help. Son of a gun, with the very first picture that I took there IT was, right in the middle of the frame - Comet LoveJoy, a beautiful and bright green blob! I was so excited that I took the camera off the tripod, ran into the cabin, and showed my lovely bride!
Then I spent the next four hours trying to get a real photo of it. I'm OK with doing "nightscapes" - photos of the night sky with landscapes of the earth - but doing straight "astro" photography is quite a bit more advanced then I can do at the moment. There have been some really SPECTACULAR photos of this comet posted lately. It was after midnight when I figured I got the best image I could. I must say that I kind of miss being outside under starry skies all night - I LOVE it out there!
The picture of Comet LoveJoy I got was OK, and would have to do for now. I'll leave the really good images to the experts. (I tried again last night for several hours to get a better photo of the comet, but nothing worked.)
Besides a lot of bear sign, we've been seeing a lot of bluebirds here - in fact a flock of them hangs around sometimes, and a pair of them has been visiting the bluebird house here almost daily. Isn't a little early for bluebirds? We've also had solo bald eagles come floating past the cabin several times a week. Always great to see them riding the air currents here!
My shoulder rehab continues, and I'm reaching the point where I have to really push myself to the limits in order to improve. Those improvements often come with several days of extreme pain, but as my good friend, Emil, says - IT'S ALL GOOD! I still don't have much strength and can't hardly lift my arm, but I am able to lie flat on the ground and raise my arm straight out up over my head and flat onto the ground - YIPPIE!
My shoulder will get a good test today - we are out of water at the cabin, and somehow I have to wrestle a 550-gallon water tank up onto our big trailer and secure it for a trip into town to fill the tank. I can't actually pick the water tank up by myself anyway - it is more mind over matter, or should I say "butt" power over matter!
TWO SLIDE PROGRAMS AND A PRINT EXHIBIT NEXT WEEK. We have two events this coming Tuesday night at John Brown University in Siloam Springs. The print exhibit opening will be from 6-7pm in their gallery, then we'll move to another building nearby for the ARKANSAS NIGHTSCAPES slide program at 7pm. SATURDAY evening we'll show the program at 7pm as part of the DeGray Lake Resort State Park Eagle Awareness event (the LAST TIME this program will be shown). We had 160 folks at this event at Bull Shoals last week, and it was SO GREAT to see so many of you!
My lovely bride and the lucky guy who works for her!
Temps in the 70's later this week - hope you get the chance to get out and ENJOY the great Arkansas outdoors!
01/19/15 It is almost eerie outside tonight - so VERY still, calm, and quiet. And almost pitch dark as there is no moon. Yet there is plenty of soft starlight to define the edges of the wilderness' and after I have been outside long enough, I can see into the landscape too - many dark gray shapes out there. Then silence is broken with the howl of a lonely coyote off in the distance. Before the echoes that bounce off the canyon walls fade, another howl is tossed out - this time from another direction. Coyote email perhaps?
A pair of barred owls begin a conversation, and soon the wilderness airwaves are filled with the music of several coyotes and owls. I sit back and gaze up at the twinkling stars, planets, and comet.
There was a Cloudland Moment today. It was late afternoon, and the shadows in the forest grew longer with each step I made. The color of the non-shadows drifted towards the warm shades of orange and red. I could not see the setting sun, but I watched those shadows move as I moved. One of the shadows was me, and I was reminded of a favorite Thoreau quote of mine. With the low sun, my shadow was stretched about 20' tall across the forest floor next to me. I believe the more one walks with the trees the more one with the earth he becomes. Thoreau said it best - "Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees." We all need to get out and walk a lot more...
01/25/15 I wanted to fail today. I wanted SO BAD to fail. We got a call about a multi-page, hand-written note that had been found on Hawksbill Crag this morning and turned in by hikers. The officer said it appeared to be a suicide note. I packed some gear and headed out the door at a trot. A few minutes later I was approaching the edge of the bluff near the Crag. There was no one around. All was calm and silent. I continued past the Crag towards the break in the bluff about 1/4 mile away where I could climb down and get to the bottom of the bluff. I passed a pair of hikers headed for the Crag and told them what was going on.
I slipped and slid and made it to the bottom of the bluff and started to hike towards the Crag, scanning the forest floor below, and trees above for any sign. There is a spot in the bluffline where you come around a point and the Crag first comes into view - I stopped there, almost not wanting to take the next few steps for fear of what I might find. I'm sure people in the business do this sort of thing all the time and that is just part of their job and they are great at it. But I don't, and I'm not, and I always feel quite uneasy, unprepared, and worried that I would not be able to do anything to help a victim.
My heart raced and pounded, I prepared myself for the worst, then stepped around the point and scanned everything I could see over and over again. I moved slowly forward at first, then my pace picked up - I wanted to cover ground as quickly as I could - there was ALWAYS a chance that someone might still be alive. But I saw nothing. No sign of anyone.
And then one of the hikers I had met above stepped out onto the Crag, looked down and saw me, and started jumping up and down and waving her arms. OH NO I thought - she had seen something and was trying to get my attention. My heart sank. Then she moved back away from the edge and out of sight.
I doubled my efforts and my pace and ran until I was directly underneath the Crag, looking frantically all around, out on the steep side of the hill below, and then on past the Crag, up in the trees, and all along the ground below the Crag. There was nothing - no sign of anyone below the Crag. I continued on along the level bench below the Crag for another 1/4 mile, scouring everything I could lay my eyes on both above and below.
And then I realized that I must have failed my job - I could not find anyone who might have fallen off the bluff , and so in my mind no one HAD gone over the bluff - and that was GREAT!!! But it was still an uneasy feeling, and I worried that I perhaps had missed something, and so I worked my way back to the Crag, back to the crack in the bluff, and on another 1/3 mile or so along the bottom of the bluff until I came to the base of Haley Falls - and still found nothing. I climbed back up on top of the bluff and hiked back home. The sheriff's department is supposed to look into the matter on Monday, and I hope they find this person back at home safe and sound and on the mend (I will post an update here if I hear anything.). I hope to always fail at finding a body, and pray there is always LIFE instead...
We had our last two slide programs of the season this past week and we where thrilled to see and visit with all who attended. The first one was at John Brown University where they had the opening of our ARKANSAS WILDERNESS: A RARE QUALITY OF LIGHT print exhibit. This is such a GREAT university, and the facilities there are so wonderful - and especially the STAFF - oh my goodness they were terrific and so helpful!
We only had an hour to visit with folks at the print opening before we had to move over to the slide show building, and I so much enjoyed trying to answer as many questions as I could. It is such great fun to be able to stand there in person in front of a giant print and discuss specifics about a location or photography technique. I'm sure I never shut up the entire time. Then we got to show the slide program on the big screen with so many people - I ALWAYS LOVE to answer questions at the end of these shows, and there is never enough time!
Yesterday we drove nearly five hours down to DeGray Lake Resort State Park for our final show. We are only a small part of the weekend events there, with the main stars being the live eagles, hawks, and owls they have on display. Just as we entered the park we got to see a flock of ducks trying to take off out on the lake. We stopped and looked closer and realized there was a bald eagle trying to catch one of them for dinner!
As I sat in the dark and watched the images and moved to the music I realized that would probably be the last time I would ever get to see this program. Sounds funny coming from someone who has seen it many dozens of times, but I get quite attached to these shows and I don't want them to end. But it's time to get going on the next project!
It was after 9pm when we got all packed up and ready to head for home, and 1:30 this morning when we finally reached Cloudland - always a terrific feeling! In my advanced years I'm not as able to make such a long drive after a full day of work, and coffee has never really helped me much. But I tried one of the 5-hour ULTRA energy drinks (it has more caffeine than their normal stuff, which does nothing for me), and son of a gun, I was able to make it all the way home without getting the least bit sleepy. We had all three dogs with us on this trip, and Mia spent the entire drive home in Pam's lap. The puppy is quite a heater!
Late this evening we got word that one of the most remarkable people I've ever known has died, my mom's brother, Uncle Jim Zimmerman. He was one of my heros, a giant of a man who inspired me in so many ways. He endured a great deal of hardship (his wife and all six children were killed by a train in front of their school when I was about five or six years old), yet he always brought joy into the room - or in our case out in the field, which is where I usually spent time with him. He was a simple man who farmed corn and raised livestock, hunted and fished - and wrote beautifully about it all in a weekly newspaper column he did for many years. He had been recognized as a one of the greatest conservationists in Minnesota, and helped lead the battle to restore wetlands and restock game all across the state. He was a true outdoorsman in every sense of the word - the very best I've ever known. I owe a great deal of my outdoor ethics and heritage to him. You deserve a rest Uncle Jim, and we thank you for your great service to us all!!!
01/29/15 Night before last I was climbing a mountain down in the Ouachitas. The sun was just beginning to set, and was just beginning to light up the face of that mountain when it hit me - DUH, I should have already been in place to photograph this scene instead of just beginning my climb! As the minutes passed and the Alpenglow/Ozarkglow/Ouachitaglow on the mountain peak grew more intense and colorful, I realized that I was still in nighttime photo mode when I didn't consider sunset or sunrise scenes, just the darkness between them. Now that my nighttime photo book is long since put to bed, I need to shift my thinking a bit and concentrate more on daytime subjects. Or perhaps not. Either way, it was a GLORIOUS color display on the mountain, and I never took a single photo of it.
I spent the next 30 minutes after sunset roaming around on the steep rocky slopes of this mountain trying to find a scene that I had imagined 40 years ago when I first climbed it. The boulder field spread out before me in all directions, and covered the slopes all the way up to the very sheer face of the mountain. Kind of funny - there was not place to stand anywhere in the boulder field without having to balance on two different rocks - there were no horizontal surfaces! It was mostly just a controlled boulder-hop, never able to stop and gaze for more than a moment or two before needing to hop to the next one.
The sun had set, but yet there were shadows beginning to form. What? Of course - it was THE MOON, which stood directly above. At first the glow of the sunset sky lit the boulder field all by itself; but soon as that glow faded the light of the moon overtook it and became the main light source; and then the sky was dark with only moonlight shining down.
I found a good scene and set up my camera, took a few test photos, then moved the camera a foot or two backwards and tested again. I repeated this until I had moved the camera position SEVEN different times until I finally found the right spot. Sometimes you get it the very first time, often you never find it. I set the camera to shoot all night long, facing towards one of the twin peaks of Forked Mountain, which had a sky full of twinkling stars above and behind it. Then I hiked back down the mountain to the van, where I started working with another camera on another scene on the opposite side of the mountains. Can you tell that I LOVE this mountain!
It was still pretty dark the next morning when I sat up in the van and sipped a cup of java. The moon had vanished but there were still zillions of stars everywhere. Then the eastern horizon began to glow, and the mountain peaks grew into wonderful silhouettes against that glow. And it hit me AGAIN - HEY DUMMY, GET OUT AND TAKE SOME PICTURES OF THE SUNRISE! Once again I failed to remember that I needed to shoot something besides just the night, so I put on a few clothes and ran back up the mountain to my camera - just as the sun arrived at the horizon.
I had missed the most colorful part of sunrise, but I set up the camera to capture the first rays of dawn on the tall rock face that was the mountain. It was quite spectacular, and an impressive view all around into the Flatside Wilderness. It was GREAT to be back out in the woods, and especially with camera in hand.
Back home at the cabin we've been seeing an uptick in bird activity. Yesterday my lovely bride and I got to sit and watch a flock of bluebirds feeding on sumac berries down in Mom's meadow. And then today a flock of cedar waxwings gathered in the trees just beyond the deck and feasted on berries of some sort - perhaps the sumacs. Later on we saw other birds beginning to test the brilliant-red holly berries in the Faddis meadow. 'Tis a great time to be a little song bird around here!
My shoulder continues to improve, and I passed the second round of physical therapy and got the go-ahead from the surgeon to move onto the next level. I have regained nearly 95% range of motion, although at a price of constant burning pain that I'm told is a good sign of healing! I still can't lift much with that arm, but will now start to build up strength during the next four weeks of rehab using four different colors of giant rubber bands. This week is yellow, next orange, red after that, and finally I get to exercise with the blue band - I should be able to put a really good squeeze around my bride by then! (Months ahead of my previous shoulder surgery.)
FYI, we never heard anything more about the suicide note...