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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - August 2015 (Part B - August 10th - present)

SEE PART A - August 1-9 here

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Cloudland Cabin Cam, August 30th - soft colors at dawn

JOURNAL UPDATED 08/29 - hiking in the rain

08/10/15 - Our western road trip continues, now on into August...(see the first 12 days of the trip here).

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Daisies and Grand Lake, Colorado pastel (above), Beach boulders, Oregon pastel (below) - both by Pam Ernst

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DAY 13. Sweet Creek Falls. After a quick mile or two jaunt up the beach to greet the new day, we headed south, stopping at several interesting beach areas. At the Devil's Churn we found a lot more brilliant orange star fish and tidal pools filled with green anemone. The devil was indeed churning, and the crashing waves were nice to just sit and watch and listen to.

At another stop Pam motioned me to come over, and when I arrived she pointed at a little hole in the thick brush - "Wait for the sun to come back out from behind that cloud, then crawl in there." The sun came out I ducked down and crawled through a wall of thick vegetation - into a freaking FAIRYLAND! Oh my gosh, those moss-covered trees were everywhere, but the forest floor was almost bare - 'cept for a few ferns here and there. Looked like a Hobbit's playground! Sunbeams were filtered by the towering branches, and little spotlights dotted the landscape. WOW!

At Florence we headed inland along the Siuslaw River (I just call it "Coleslaw"), then crossed the river and drove up into the mountains following Sweet Creek. Pam's mom had told us about a very nice waterfall area, and she was CORRECT! We spent an hour or two hiking more great trail and across many trail bridges - some securely bolted to blufflines and suspended above the creek. This was one beautiful hike for sure! There were at least a dozen waterfalls, and lots of tumbling whitewater in between. The forest all around was lit up by afternoon sun that was soft and beautiful. Many trees were covered with thick moss which really glowed in that light. Normally it's the firs, pines, cedars, or spruce trees that are covered with moss out here, but there were a lot of deciduous trees covered with the moss along the trail too - we kind of had to do a double-take.

There were many stumps along the trail of forest giants that were cut down a long time ago. I showed Pam where the loggers had chopped holes in the bases of the trees to install a "springboard" - that's a plank of wood that gave the loggers a place to stand while sawing down the tree with a two-person crosscut saw.

The Sweet Creek valley leading up to the waterfall area was really nice too - lush landscapes and well-kept farmsteads lined the road. Kind of reminded me to Boxley Valley back home.

Next we continued our trip down the coast, and landed for the night at a small forest service campground at the southern end of Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. $10 for the night. Our little site is surrounded by towering red cedar trees with more of that moss covering them. Lush and beautiful! And it is cool enough to be a jeans-and-flannel-shirt night - only the skeeters are out.

As I was writing this, I happened to look over and saw my lovely bride with a sketch pad in hand working. I walked on over and realized the scene she was doing was of the campsite directly across the road from us - it was BEAUTIFUL! Giant, lush trees all around, with late evening backlight saturating the colors. I had to get my camera out - although I was reminded that anything I take a picture of and "publish" anywhere (even online, like HERE), she won't be able to paint and enter into a contest - but this was HER scene to begin with, and my photo would have nothing to do with her painting. But those are the rules, so sorry, you can't see the picture I took - but it was an amazing scene!

08/16/15 - days 14-20. We are home now, but I want to continue with the western trip journal before getting back to real time.

DAY 14. Back to the coast, and gray whales. I love technology! Modern things like cell phones and remote internet connectivity are what allow us to do some of the things we do, like going on this trip. Not only is Pam able to run our businesses via online connection, but I'm also able to get my stuff done too - like for instance the first thing I did this morning when I woke up was to process and submit a monthly report to the National Park Service about my photo workshop activity for July. I sat here in this amazing grove of giant furry trees at the break of day communicating with the government far, far away.

We spent part of the day doing laundry in a new age laundromat. The washing machines were GIANT, took a credit card, and got the wash done in about ten minutes! It was the most expensive load of laundry ever, but it was the only choice. Their dryers worked really well and FAST too.

We spent some time roaming along the windy sea stacks at Bandon - an incredible area.

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We camped alongside the ocean just south of Port Orford, and got to see WHALES playing around just before sunset. I was down on the beach at sunset trying to capture some rocks and waves and color after the sun went down. I continued to shoot until the very last bit of color disappeared. When I turned around to head back to the van it was so dark I couldn't see! Pam, HELP!

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We had crashing waves all night - I love these free parking spots next to the Pacific Ocean.

DAY 15 Out of muffins, the arch, CAMPSKUNK, and the Milky Way. I had done my research, and found this little bakery in the community of Port Orford (Siren's Cove) - their muffins were legendary, so we were anxious to see why. But when we arrived, there were no muffins. "The batter did not work this morning." Oh well, the rest of the day would more than make up for this minor disappointment.

We toured what many consider to be the most beautiful part of the Oregon coast that includes the Boardman State Park area. It lived up to all the hype, and there were incredible views around every turn. More crashing waves, blue Pacific, sea stacks everywhere, and lots of hidden beaches.

One spot I looked forward to was Arch Rock in the park. I LOVE arches! The parking lot and trails overlooking the arch were crowded, and the viewpoint not to my liking, so I do what I do best - I milled around and stood and stared, scouring the steep hillsides for a way DOWN to the edge of the surf where I might be able to find a better view of the arch. I spotted a thin trail way over there, and the hunt was on.

About 30 minutes later I parked the van, kissed my bride goodbye, and headed out with my camera gear. I slipped and slid on down the hillside until I landed on a magical beach, a beach free of footprints, a half-moon beach with sea stacks in front, crashing waves to the right, crashing waves to the left, and Arch Rock. The tide was coming in and where I wanted to shoot was being slowly flooded, so I only had time for a few photos. But I spent the next hour or two in photo and personal bliss shooting along this hidden beach, until something kind of odd happened.

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I had been buried in the camera viewfinder for a while, then came up for air and had to go back to my camera bag to changes lenses. After eight or ten steps towards it I happened to notice that my bootprints - the only prints on the beach - had disappeared and were replaced by barefoot prints. What? That's all I could see - barefoot prints in the sand, leading towards my camera bag. But I still had my boots on and there was no one on the beach. I followed the footprints and they led into a small sea cave that was about to be engulfed by the surf. I looked up, and there on the back wall of the cave was a piece of flat driftwood with something scrolled on it. I stepped in closer until I could see the word EMILY'S on the driftwood. Then a giant wave came crashing in and I jumped out of the way, and the sea cave floor was flooded, and all the footprints washed away.

Before I left this special area, I got out my phone and used a little app to calculate where the Milky Way would rise and how it might look in the middle of the night. I tucked that info away inside my brain with plans to return later. Sometimes ya just gotta dream.

I hiked back up to the van and my lovely bride and I hiked along the Pacific Coastal Trail to a bench overlooking the sea. It was sunny yet cool, with refreshing ocean breezes tossing the colorful tall grass around. THIS is what we came to Oregon for! It was just beautiful.

 

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And then our trip down the coast took an unexpected turn, literally. We had planned to continue south into northern California, then head back into Oregon to Crater Lake before going home. We heard there were wildfires further south that blocked the coastal highway, so we went to plan B, but it turned out that route was very smoky and we might not be able to make it. Plan C was to enter Crater Lake from the north, but there were new wildfires cropping up there as well. We didn't have a Plan D, but we did head back north of the Pistol River and parked for the night at the most incredible camping spot of the trip perhaps, right along the beach where sea stacks towered above us.

I chased the sunset through those sea stacks right on into the ocean, although I think Pam had the best view of it right from the van. A funny thing happened as I made my way back to the van after dark. I climbed up over some low sand dunes and popped up directly behind one of the most famous characters in the Roadtrek RV world (that's the brand of our van). I found myself looking directly into the open back door of this super-secret, nuclear-powered RV. He goes by the name CAMPSKUNK, and has been prowling the west for five years now, full timing in his little van with his wife and cat. He just got a new van from the company, and the joke is that he tries to be stealth and remain anonymous - but his new van is bright WHITE, and wherever he stops he deploys two GIANT satellite communication dishes - on for TV, the other for internet. He's a small motor home electrical genius, and there he was, right in front of me. I quietly slipped on past and discovered that he had parked only about 200 yards from us.

But the real magic was just beginning. "Honey, I'm going to go out and take a couple of quick test shots of the Milky Way and will be right back." My bride new better. That was at 10:30pm. I returned several hours later, emotionally exhausted from the experience I'd just had. Words could never describe it, but generally speaking I had the time of my photo life down there on the beach, with the Milky Way rising up out of the ocean, towering sea stacks all around me - it was a very low tide and I was able to walk far out into the ocean. I kept getting more and better views of the Milky Way and the sea stacks. I had no idea where I was walking - it was very dark and I could hardly see. But each time I pushed the camera button, I gasped at the scene my camera recorded. I'd had many, but this had to be the peak of this trip for me. It was much more than otherworldly.

At one point as I set my tripod down into the shallow water and planted it firmly in the sand, the swirling water and sand LIT UP! Each time I placed my tripod, the steel-spiked tips would stir up iridescent algae (or SOMETHING), and the water would light up. I've only seen this once before - while diving at night in the Virgin Islands. It was just kind of creepy both times, yet quite beautiful!

I spent a lot of time this night walking backwards on the beach, watching the reflections of the sea stacks on SOMETHING - I was not sure what was making the reflections, but they were there - I had just walked across the sand and there was no water? Somehow the wet sand was enough to cause reflections of the sea stacks. And where I stirred up the sandy lights with my tripod, the reflection was so clear that I could also see the Milky Way reflection. WOW! It was just all incredible!

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DAY 16 So long beach, Old Growth Forest trail. Stars are just now beginning to pop out through the canopy of tall fir trees all around us. We are camped at Suttle Lake in central Oregon, one of three forest service campgrounds that are strung out along this beautiful lake. I didn't get much sleep last night since I was out with the stars, so I'm leaving that to everyone else to enjoy and am hitting the hay early (about midnight Arkansas time).

We stopped back by the Siren's Cove restaurant in Port Orford this morning on our way north along the coast (the place that didn't have any muffins yesterday) - turns out they have INCREDIBLE sandwiches!!! Oh my. That was the only stop we made before leaving the coast for good at Newport and heading east (this was PLAN D - to skip Crater Lake and head for Colorado).

We followed a nice winding road through the countryside that eventually headed up into the mountains - lots of lush forests all around. We stopped to hike this incredible short trail - the Hackleman Old Growth Forest trail - and I must say it is one of the very best short trails I know of - the TREES are giants (Douglas-Fir, Western Red Cedar, and Western Hemlock) - very much like redwoods in their width and HEIGHT - my goodness these guys TOWERED over us! Perhaps the nicest grove of big trees other than redwoods I'd ever seen. They did a great job with the trail too - Oregon hiking trails are very, very nice.

After that spectacular hike we drove through a scorched landscape where nearly all of the adult trees had been burned years ago - so sad to see, but GREAT to see the replacement forest was well on its way to reforesting the entire area. At the far end of the big burn we turned into Suttle Lake, and hunted through the three forest service campgrounds along the shore and finally got the last campsite available at the far campground. All three campgrounds have some pretty terrific campsites, but all were full with lots of folks having a grand time. Our site is quite nice and spacious - no close neighbors. And all is quiet and peaceful. I'm going to drift off to sleep in the cool mountain air, then get up early and head across the desserts of eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, Utah, and western Colorado, hoping to make it to cool air by tomorrow night.

Our visit to Oregon has been one of the best couple of weeks our or lives - just amazing scenery and weather all the way. We'll be back.

DAY 17 Drive through Sisters and camp at Snowville, Utah. It was a beautiful sunrise at our lakeside campsite, and we hit the road early - a very long day ahead. Sisters, Oregon looked like a great little town, and we plan to come back and explore. After Sisters we had hundreds of miles of just pavement going by beneath with not much to report. Although I will tell you a couple of funny things.

First, remember that DELICIOUS ice cream bars I found on the way out a couple of weeks ago? Well, we made a slight detour off the interstate today to revisit the little country store that had them to stock up for the trip home, and they were OUT OF THEM! We were unable to find them anywhere else. I will launch a search for more.

The other thing happened at the end of a very long and tiring day on the road, the last hour at the end of Idaho and on into Utah through heavy storms. Pam and I got to talking about something and flew right on by the Rest Stop exit in Idaho where we had planned to spend the night - OOPS! I was dog tired and exhausted when we entered Utah soon after. Then we started seeing these highway department signs about "Fatigued drivers cause accidents." "PULL OVER AND REST." "SLEEPY DRIVERS TAKE NEXT EXIT." OK, I got the message and I was ready to pull over, so we took the next exit, exit 5. Guess what - it was out in the middle of no where, and not only were there no places to pull over, there were signs all along the ramps and intersecting highway saying "NO PARKING." We even took the frontage road and there wasn't a single spot to pull off, and also more no parking signs. It was a very twisted joke by someone in the Utah highway PR department and I was not laughing - shame on them.

Anyway, we eventually did find an RV park on down the highway and had a restful sleep.

g Back on the road at first light, then we hit extremely heavy Saturday morning traffic through Ogden and Salt Lake City - seemed like we drove 50 miles or more in bumper-to-bumper traffic - how do people live in big cities and deal with this every day? But I was on a mission, so kept my eyes on the road and my hands tight on the wheel.

Mission accomplished - I treated my bride to the very BEST burrito I'd ever eaten, at a little place called the Sweeto Burrito in Linden, Utah (I found this place while waiting for the Photomobile to get fixed back in May - hiked more than a mile to get to it.). She was a little bit skeptical to my claims at first, but even before we left the parking lot she wanted to go back in and get two more for the road! I highly recommend this place, and especially their flagship dish, the Sweeto Burrito (pulled pork, but they have other meats).

We eventually entered Colorado and stopped for the night at - are you ready for this - JELLYSTONE PARK near Montrose! It actually was the best RV park we'd seen in quite a while (only the third one we'd stayed in though). There were only a handful of campers, so we mostly had the place to ourselves. And I was kind of shocked when I opened the back door of the van at bedtime and could see a BRILLIANT Milky Way rising - right at the edge of heavily-populated Montrose! In fact the Milky Way was even brighter than the ones we saw along the Oregon Coast.

DAY 19 Million Dollar Highway, daisies, tour Pagosa Springs, camp along the West Fork of the San Juan River, SPECTACULAR Milky Way display in campground. Well that pretty much wraps up our day. The Million Dollar Highway from Ouray to Durango is always amazing, although it seems the older I get the less I enjoy driving along steep dropoffs with no guard rails (Pam seconds that emotion!). We spent a bit of time on a hillside that was carpeted with brilliant daisies everywhere, a hillside filled with aspen trees and beautiful views. The hillsides of Colorado were GREEN and lush.

Then we got sucked into the crowds and heavy traffic of Durango. It used to be such a sleepy little town! Then motored onto Pagosa Springs - lordy, that place has simply EXPLODED in population and growth these past couple of decades. We tried to spend some time there, but just couldn't stand the crowds. So we found a little forest service campground near the edge of the West Fork of the San Juan River near Wolf Creek Pass to camp. It had been a long and exhausting trip from the coast, and this was the perfect spot to slow down and catch our breaths.

At least, until dark, when the Milky Way began to rise. The air was so clear and the stars so bright, even though I was shooting through a forest of towering trees, it was an incredible sight and I spent a couple of hours wandering around taking pictures. What IS it about the Milky Way and me? I just LOVE taking pictures of it, even if I never use them for anything. I'm addicted.

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Skeeters arrived - we have skeeters.

DAY 20 I'm sitting on the banks of a creek at about 8,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies. Brilliant sunshine is beaming through the forest to my left, lighting up not only the entire landscape spread out before me, but there are also beams of sunshine reaching into the deeper waters of the creek. The water is so clear that I can see rocks on the bottom, and even a little trout now and then that swims through the sunshine. The opposite bank is carpeted with lush green moss - which is REALLY green this morning in the sunshine! Above the moss are pine trees that are draped with "Spanish moss" - an unexpected sight high up here in the Colorado mountains.

Three puppies are sitting around basking in the warming sunshine - it has been a little bit chilly, and two of the pups have taken a dip or two in the creek, so that sunshine feels extra good to them I'm sure. There appears to be wide grins on their puppy faces. We just went on a three-mile hike into the nearby Weminuche Wilderness at first light this morning.

A few feet to my right, between me and the creek, my lovely bride has been doing a painting for the past hour. I have not seen what she is painting yet, but the view is of the sunlit creek tumbling over boulders as it winds it way downstream through the forest. There are ridges and peaks beyond, some in shadow, others lit up by that morning sunshine.

If the world were calling out to me, I could not hear it - the music of the river flowing at my feet has my full attention...

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West Fork pastel, Colorado (by Pam Ernst)

FAST FORWARD to the end of the day, after a cloudy sunset. We are camped near 10,000 feet elevation between Creede and Lake City, in a grove of mixed pine, spruce, and aspen trees. There are waterfalls nearby, cool breezes, and lots of clouds instead of sunset.

For dinner we dined on pepperoni pizza from the Lake City Bakery, a little sip of Apple Pie moonshine (we are almost out!), and for dessert we had the last of our Tillamook Chocolate Mint ice cream - it's just as good at 10,000 feet as it was at 50 feet above sea level - YUMMY! [We have a cooler with us that can keep items frozen hard (down to zero degrees), so we've been traveling with ice cream and dipping into it each night.] Not sure what we are going to do tomorrow without any Tillamook...

We had to use a cell phone booster to get enough signal for Pam to process book orders tonight (dealer orders ship twice a week; individual orders ship every day). It takes quite a bit of bandwidth to do all the things she does online, and we use a Wilson cradle booster when the cell signal is not enough - actually it is amazing that we can get any cell signal at all out here in the middle of the wilderness at 10,000 feet!

DAY 21-24 Going home. The remainder of the trip was pretty much a blur. We got to spend another couple of glorious days and nights in the high country of Colorado, ending with the Perseid Meteor Shower. I had parked the van overlooking a mountain range out the front, and the back of the van faced the most likely spot in the sky for meteors. I opened the back doors, then went around front to work on setting up my cameras to shoot all night. OH MY GOSH, DID YOU SEE THAT! I heard a couple of times coming from the back of the van. I guess it was a pretty nice view from the bedroom! There were some amazing meteors that blazed across the sky during the night, a fitting end to our great western trip. Beloww as taken on our last night in Colorado:

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When we arrived back home a couple of days later - after a very long drive across the hot plains - a pair of exhausted travelers drug ourselves into the cabin. When we opened the door and stepped inside, there was a collective release of emotion - we were HOME!!! It had been an amazing trip, but seeing the inside of our cabin was really the best part...

Just a few quick points about the trip. KANSAS and COLORADO were both lush and green while Utah, Idaho, and Oregon were mostly dry and sometimes literally burning up. The hiking trails in Oregon were TREMENDOUS!!! They really know how to build hiking trails in Oregon. Oregon was by far the most crowded, at times we could not even find a parking spot in an entire state park. But the southern coast of Oregon was certainly a highlight of the trip - just incredible every foot of it. We had a pretty good food trip - all the best dishes for me were in Oregon, especially the fish & chips from the Bowpicker in Astoria; breakfast at the Tillamook Cheese Factory; and sandwiches at Sirens Cove cafe in Port Orford - all A+ in my book. OOPS, plus the SWEETO BURRITO in Linden, Utah! And, of course, all the cheese and ice cream from Tillamook in Oregon was perfection! The worst meal I think I had was at a fancy cafe overlooking the beautiful harbor in Newport, Oregon - everything on my plate was ON FIRE and I could hardly eat it - way too much SPICE! That was the only fancy place we ate at. (In their defense, Pam's Crab Poor Boy was EXCELLENT!)

Best campsites included: Wilson Lake in KANSAS; many campsites in Oregon - both inland forests (at Wyeth and Trillium Lake), and of course boondocking along the coastal highway overlooking the beach; and a couple of campsites in the Colorado high country. Worst campsite was the parking lot at the state park in Utah - never again. The most expensive by far was Jellystone Park, Montrose, Colorado, at about $50. Many of the best campsites were free!

Diesel ranged from $2.29 in Oklahoma on our way back, up to $3.12 in Bosie, Idaho. Laundromats were really expensive.

We never saw any evidence of current forest fires the entire trip, although many of the places we were are now covered with thick forest fire smoke. We did have to miss Crater Lake due to fires, but otherwise we really lucked out.

All in all it was a great trip - perhaps the best we've ever taken (certainly the longest, and the most nights we've ever spent in the van - 23). Both of us worked much of the time along the way - Pam keeping the business afloat back home and painting when she could; I tried my best to capture the amazing beauty we found almost everywhere, and have posted a sampling of those images here. Amber and Pam's dad did a terrific job back home getting all of the orders out the door without a single delay. Cousin Joseph did his usual - although as you will read in a moment, he left a couple of days too EARLY!

08/19/15 I was just sitting outside this evening and had to wear a FLANNEL shirt it was so cool! What - mid-August in ARKANSAS? We've actually had pretty nice weather here ever since we returned last week - was it really hot while we were gone? Also lots of heavy rain today, although I was in town all day and didn't get to hike in it any. Come to think of it, I've been on the road almost every day since we've been back - seems to be a pattern!

Cousin Joseph was living at Cloudland while we were away, keeping the cats fed and all the critters at bay. He had to leave and head back home a couple of days before we got home - we almost never leave the cabin unattended when we're gone, but he could not help it. We had quite a shock when inspecting the grounds upon our return - it looked like a BEAR pooped on the lower back deck, then broke through the railing and fell about 15, landing on the steep hillside below - I bet he let out a scream and then laughed as he rolled on down the hill into Mom's meadow! You can see where he stepped right on the lower part of the railing, and where he went through and over the edge - taking several of the log pieces with him.

So, if a bear lands on his behind after falling off our deck in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does he make a SOUND?

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Since we've been home we received the first copies of both our 2015 Arkansas calendars - and they look really great! I collected two tons of a recent guidebook reprints from the loading dock in Springdale. And the new picture book has been printed and we'll see the pages from it in a couple of days. Life rolls on here at Cloudland...

I just saw an ad for DISH TV network in the paper, which is the service we have. The ad was for $19.95 a month. Really? Ours is about $120 a month. We had it suspended for the summer and I think we'll have it shut off - that is way too much money to spend on the boob tube. We really only want it for local channels, which we can't get any other way. Funny, but while we were on our trip, neither of us saw a TV, listened to radio, or looked at news reports online - we were totally cut off from all that. If the world changed while we were gone, well, we just missed it. That was so refreshing!

EFFON WHITE COMES HOME. Our old friend, Effron White (performed at our wedding here at Cloudland in 2001), moved to Nashville (TN) last year to work on his music career. He's one of the best songwriters I've ever known. Anyway, he came through northwest Arkansas last month and payed a visit to Ozarks At Large - CLICK HERE for the interview, which includes two live songs - such an amazing talent - GO EFFRON! (and please hurry back)

08/22/15 Lots of rumbling thunder from the southwest early this morning. The canyons are kind of foggy/hazy, but above I can see blue sky and small thunderheads with silver linings. There isn't a breath of air, yet the air is crisp and cool, just about perfect to sit outside in your underwear sipping a cup of java (or actually mine is coffee-flavored French Vanilla Coffeemate - I love the smell of coffee, but hate the taste).

One food note from our western trip and then I'll give a fall color report. I ended the winter season and headed into summer weighing in at 175 pounds - a little overweight for me but OK (for reference, I was 160 at the peak of my training for Iceland a few years ago, but I've never been back there since). Usually when I go on road trips I gain weight - too much sitting and french fries. When I came back from the long trip to Utah in May, I had actually lost a couple of pounds, down to 173 - a lot of that was due to 20-hour work days and night, and then the stress of being stranded multiple times in the van and spending time in Salt Lake City having to deal with it.

When I got home I went into book and calendar panic mode, and the stress levels piled up higher and deeper every day until I finally completed all three publications in early July - I was down to 165 pounds, which felt really good! I don't actually ever "diet" - but rather I will go into training for a particular event (like Iceland), or go into "stress dieting" when I have deadlines and a mountain of work to do. Either way, I was at 165 and a happy camper.

By the time we left on our western road trip I was back up to 168, but I realized that I had not eaten a single french fry in July, nor in June - so one goal was for me to make it to the end of July on the road trip without even a single french fry (I LOVE fries!). That all worked out great, although it had taken us six days to reach the Oregon coast, and with most of that being interstate driving I didn't get much chance to exercise, so my hopes of not losing weight on this trip were fading. And then my lovely bride found the BOWPICKER. The only thing they serve is Fish & CHIPS. Of course, "chips" are just fries. But this was the BOWPICKER, and their only dish was Fish & CHIPS - what could I do? So I gave in, and with only a couple days left for my July non-fry quest, I ate every single "chip" on my plate - and loved each one of them!

If you followed the western trip narrative you know that I replaced fries with ice cream - I ate a LOT of ice cream (and loved almost every lick). And while we get out and roam around quite a bit sometimes during the trip, 90% of the entire trip was still nothing but highway miles - no way to avoid that on this trip. I did manage to avoid fries almost the rest of the trip, only slipping up once in a while. But we arrived home I knew I was in trouble, and headed for the scale first thing, stepped on and held my breath. 168.0 on the dot - YIPPIE! I had maintained my weight despite the chips and ice cream. Now to keep it off...

The thunder is getting louder and closer this morning, and the sky darker. Hum...

My job yesterday was to drain and clean out our big fresh water holding tank up on the hill. The process took me about 16 hours. It included two trips to St. Paul to feed a little building in the middle of an empty field quarters - about 50 quarters each time. We have great water at Cloudland, but not much of it. So we have this 1,000 gallon holding tank that the pump fills up, which give us a lot of water to use. But I needed to drain it for some maintenance and fill it up again using the "city" water from St. Paul. I counted 17 trips down the hill to the cabin for one thing or another and back up again through the forest and fields. It is about 1/3 mile each way, so I hiked about five miles.

Each hike through the forest brought great sensations. It remained cool all day - beginning in the lower 50's, peaking into the upper 70's, but always overcast and with a nice breeze. The forest remains mostly green, but there are a few small black gum trees that have POPPED orange and red. Sumac bushes are BRILLIANT red some of them. And I even saw a single maple tree that was in full bloom - just gorgeous! As I wandered through the forest I thought about those splashes of fall color - they seemed kind of like brush strokes on the canvas of life - the beginning of the most beautiful season of all.

And with the color season comes our workshop season, our holiday open houses here at the gallery, and also our fall program season of slide shows. We have most of those dates all set, and I'll be posting all of that info later today or tomorrow.

It has grown REALLY DARK here now this morning, and those rumbles in the distant sky now sound more like I'm in the belly of the great whale - had better unplug and run for cover!

08/22/15 Three notes from a ramble I took this evening just before sunset. It had been mostly cloudy, cool, and breezy all day - quite lush all over from some heavy rainfall last night. Not your typical hot August afternoon in Arkansas.

There is this plant - not sure what it is - that grows along our lane and sometimes down into the woods - very lush and green, with multiple blades of "grass" on each stem. As I was hiking this evening I spotted a smattering of pure white blooms deep within this grass. I bent down to have a look - reminded me of a field of daises swaying back and forth. It was just so striking - all those little WHITE flowers down inside the sea of lush GREEN. I looked the rest of my hike and never saw another group of the little while flowers. On my way back to the cabin I stopped and counted - 137 little while flowers in the sea of green.

The forest all around was dark due to continued cloud cover and end to the day, but as I got near the top of the hill there was a spot in the forest that was lit up. It was the side of the trunk of a hickory tree out in the middle of the forest - nothing else was lit up, just the tree trunk. I had to kind of rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing it correctly. Only a section a couple feet tall of the tree trunk was lit up, and the color of the light was BRILLIANT ORANGE/RED! It was so stark seeing that intense color in the middle of the dark forest! Looking around as I hiked I found several more brilliant trunks glowing in the last rays of the day - in fact those were the only rays of the day, so I guess the rays were making up for lost time! If I had a camera and took a picture, you would not believe how intense the color was. I just stood and stared and soaked.

Soon after the glowing trees, I saw Wilson up ahead of me stop and do a double take, then whirl around and plop down on the ground - there was something after him. As I started to run towards him I saw him get up and come charging towards me. My first thought was BEES were after him. My second thought was STOP! STAY! DON'T come near me! I had visions of my friend, Luke Collins, sprinting past me one summer while out doing trail construction work near Jacks Creek on the Ozark Highlands Trail - he was COVERED with bees, and more swirling all around him. Thanks Luke for bringing the bees to me! Actually the bees followed him on up the trail and I never got stung.

Anyway, Wilson didn't listen and got right up to me within a few seconds - and then I saw this giant horse fly on his rear quarter panel. I LOATHE horse flies, and I believe Wilson does now too! It took both of us about 30 seconds to dispose of the giant fly - poor puppy, I suspect the fly took a big chunk out of his hide.

TIM'S CANVAS PRINT GALLERY 2015 HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE SCHEDULE - November 14th & 28th; and December 12th. Our Canvas Prints Gallery will be open each of these days from 10am to 4pm with all canvas prints ON SALE for half price! Also all of our books, calendars, and Black Mat Prints on sale too.

2015 TIM ERNST HOLIDAY SLIDE PROGRAM SCHEDULE. We may add a few more to the list, but here are the programs we have scheudled so far. The slide show will include photographs from my new picture book - A RARE QUALITY OF LIGHT: 40 Years of Wilderness Photography by Tim Ernst.. All programs are FREE and open to the public, and we'll have ALL PUBLICATIONS on SALE before and after each show.

08/27/15 There's a special moment that happens a few times each month - when the moon is about 1/2 - 3/4 full. I'll be out for an evening stroll, an hour or two usually, just wandering around, bumping into trees and rocks and assorted other things. The landscape is barely lit by the glow from the western horizon after sunset. The more steps I take, the fainter the glow. My pace slows as I strain to see - Watch out for that tree limb headed for your eye! And just when my eyes have adjusted to the onset of the night (you have to be in the dark for an hour or more without any lights), the landscape itself begins to glow just a little bit. I don't have a name for this, but it's the time when the light from the moon overtakes the glow from the horizon and becomes the main light source in the forest. Hum, how about we just call it "moonglow." Yes, that's it. Moonglow. Highly recommended!

moonglow

The moon was kind of yellow when it first rose this evening, but the color quickly faded, and then moonglow took over the forest around Cloudland...

08/29/15 It was just breaking daylight as we were hiking along the top of a ridge near our cabin when I heard a roar in the forest ahead. Then an odd rumble began far off to my right - a very low rumble that grew louder and higher pitched as it approached, and then as it passed overhead. The volume continued to climb as the rumble and the roar collided into a loud CRACK! The roar was rain, and within seconds a wall of rain hit us. It was clear when we left the cabin only minutes before.

We hiked in rain for more than 30 minutes, through some heavy waves and high winds. But most of it was just a delightful summer thunderstorm, soft raindrops all around. As the rain began to tail off the sky in front turned blue once again, and then a rainbow appeared. We hiked towards it for more than a mile before it melted into the sunny skies...

It's the other end of the day now, and an orange full moon is rising through layers of clouds:

fullmoon

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