LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - FEBUARY 2020 (previous months)
Little Bluff cabin cam February 18 - funky clouds moving in, and one of the waterfalls along our trail this morning...
Journal updated on the 17th
Print Of The Week Special (above)
02/01/20 Clear and cool at dawn this morning and a brilliant clear-blue sky kind of day to begin a new month! It’s my dad’s 107th birthday, and while he died more than 40 years ago he still influences every day of my life. THANKS POP! Gonna be in the 70s here tomorrow - these tough Arkansas winters are killing us, haha!
Our big red oak tree at the edge of the back yard at dawn today with the Little Buffalo River Valley beyond - HAPPY FEBRUARY EVERYONE! (and the photo below was taken about 30 minutes later - the sunrise scene, not the wolves))
02/02/20 Warm and breezy and a colorful sunrise. Notice something missing in the sunrise photo below? - a section of the roofline edge metal facing came flying off about 2:30 this morning, crashing onto the deck. HAPPY SUNDAY!
*Here's a short video clip from along our trail for a Sunday treat - CLICK HERE
02/03/20 It’s kinda surreal here about an hour before sunrise. HOWLING winds that have raged all night are moving dark clouds all around. There appears to be a major widespread wildfire raging - bands of clouds along the horizon are glowing deep RED and orange. But the fire is actually a zillion miles away - on the surface of the sun! Looks like it’s going to be another colorful sunrise to celebrate the beginning of a new week (Monday is my favorite day...)
We had high winds yesterday too, and it got up to 76 degrees - pretty amazing weather for the Ozark Mountains in February - although really we usually get many nice warm winter days each year, one of the reasons why it’s one of the very best times to hike, and also one of the very best locations in the USA to hike in the winter!
(As I’m typing this the brilliance in the horizon clouds is creeping higher and higher, and that fire/sun is indeed getting closer.)
Our plan yesterday was to get a little painting done - the back deck of the cabin. We actually have four decks on the back of the cabin, including two covered porches and the left and right sides of the prow. First I had to get the piece of facing replaced that blew off the edge of the roof, and before I could do that I had to get two very tall ladders hauled to the location (one was at the gallery, another in two parts at the cabin).
Amber dropped by for a short visit in the afternoon just in time with her friend, Anthony, and he helped me get the ladders set up and the facing back in place. It was 3:30 before my lovely bride and I got started on the actual staining of the deck. We only had time and endurance to get one half of the prow deck done, which we finished in the dark, but at least that’s one more step in the process to stain all nine decks here. I won’t know until the sun comes up if it looks OK or not, haha... (photo below)
02/04/20 Here's a short video (35mb file) of MiaWilson Falls this morning after two inches of rainfall- with Mia Click Here
And here's the same waterfall a few hours later -
02/05/20 Cold and freezing rain - here's a snapshot of one waterfall along our trail this morning -
02/06/20 We got a dusting of snow early this morning before dawn.- a GREAT way to hike to work! Note the downed trees all around that still remain from the big ice storm of 2009 - taking a long time to become soil...
02/09/20 We had a wild and crazy week of weather - actually pretty typical for mid-winter in the Ozarks! One day I was hiking in 70 degrees with bright sunshine. The next we had freezing rain which turned the trees above into crystal works of art. The next day it poured and we got nearly three inches of wonderful rain! The next day it snowed and the landscape turned white from top to bottom. The day after that while hiking through the forest I was hit with ice bombs breaking off the outsides of ice-coated limbs. I hiked our mile-long loop trail here more than 20 times, each trip was unique, interesting, and beautiful!
The puppies had a delightful week outdoors too. One day Miss Mia came home stinking like a - well, I don’t even know how to describe it, but she was not pleasant to be around. And she was covered from head to belly with some sort of slime (it was not cow poop). Best I can figure is she spent a good bit of time digging down after an armadillo - they will bury themselves deep in the ground when being chased by a puppy.
Mia also got into moles this week, which is always so entertaining to watch. She will be jogging through the forest and all of a sudden come to a complete stop and go on point, motionless. She can hear them underground. I’ve seen many foxes and especially coyotes in Yellowstone in winter do this very same thing - after a period of time Mia will jump high in the air and lunge forward, landing front feet and nose first on the ground, digging frantically for the mole just beneath the surface. I want to film her in slow motion but so far have never been quick enough. And while she is often pretty successful, we’ve only seen her get one mole this week - the rest remain free beneath the forest floor for now.
Late tonight I headed up to the gallery in the rain to unplug all of our electronics since it was supposed to thunder for several hours. Fog started to roll in and the dogs disappeared. Not a peep from them for a while, and I never saw or heard them on the way back. 30 minutes later they arrived back at the cabin - both of the literally covered from head to toe, top to bottom with MUD! They were SO FUNNY! It took me about 30 minutes to get them both cleaned up with wet towels. They are currently quarantined in the mud room until they dry off a bit. No stink this time, but I bet they were once again digging down into middle earth after an armadillo.
There is some new green in the forest now and today I saw the first leaves of a trout lily, which is often the first wildflower to appear in spring. I bet the next warm spell with sunshine and they will bloom - this week sometime.
My lovely bride and I also bloomed a bit this past week. Not once, but TWICE we went out to dinner with other humans! We are both intensely private and anti-social and never do this sort of thing. Thursday we had a very nice dinner at a fancy place in Hollister with my sister and our daughter - a very rare combination! It was delightful and everything was delicious (both Amber and I had chicken fried chicken).
And then Saturday - hold onto your hats - we returned for the first very first time since we left in 2017 to our beloved Cloudland Cabin - for dinner with the new owners! It of course was kinda bitter sweet. But also just wonderful. The cabin glowed all over inside and out, as did our hosts - newlyweds having their first dinner guests (they are such a delight to be around!). They not only share our love of the wilderness, but also of solitude. In our 19 years of marriage, this was the first time my lovely bride and I had been over to someone’s house around here for dinner (Luke/Mary, Ray/Susan, Jay/Judy, and family don't count). It may be another 19 years before we go out again, haha...
Here's the puppies this morning - probably headed out for an armadillo breakfast...
02/14/20 11 degrees at dawn, and I'm outside in my bathrobe taking this picture - HAPPY FRIDAY TO YOU - kiss a frog like me today and maybe I'll thaw!
02/15/20 Beautiful colors fill the sky at dawn. I sit and watch this begin as a tiny band of color along the horizon, then slowly builds and reaches higher and higher as the intensity grows until it peaks with a brilliant display! Within a minute or two the bottom drops out and the color drains away, leaving behind a bright blue sky filled with sunshine...
02/17/20 It’s kinda ghostly here this morning. I can see the trees around the back of the cabin, but that’s all - they just seem to be floating out there, rising from the fog. I can see the trunks and limbs and pine tree needles all just fine - they are all dark and silhouetted. But everything else in the scene is just a creamy, misty white - no color, no nothing. I wish I could get out there and just float around like that!
We just completed a long busy week, with lots of road travel, gallery visitors, and at least a couple dozen laps around our trail. But even with all that I somehow have slipped even farther behind - how is it possible to do so much work and get more behind? (probably all those naps and hours spent just sitting and soaking up the scenes before me.)
Monday was our last chance to make a trip to the North Trail Forest at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville that everyone has been talking about. Amber sent us lots of videos from her trip there on Saturday - it looked magical but there seemed to be more people than lights, and they had to stand in line to do anything. They stayed for more than three hours and she said it was all quite magical - as most everyone else.
So I picked up my lovely bride after her yoga class in the historic Boxley Church and we headed towards Bentonville - we had tickets for an 8pm entrance. Of course it was raining, and the closer we got to Bentonville the harder it rained. We were not sure how much weather it would take for them to close the exhibit, but the closer we got the rain began to let up and our spirits rose - until it started to snow GIANT, wet flakes that crashed into the windshield. And the temp dropped four degrees to freezing.
Things didn’t look good as we turned off the interstate and approached the Crystal Bridges entrance - there was a steady stream of traffic leaving. We didn’t bring an umbrella, but both of us had raincoats and down jackets - AND handwarmers! As we approached the empty ticket shack we were kinda gloomy, but a smiling young lady popped up from behind the counter and said WELCOME TO CRYSTAL BRIDGES! They were still open, we got right in, and spent the next hour consumed by the magic of this amazing exhibit.
How about the crowd? Most of the time we could not even see another person - we basically had the entire exhibit to ourselves. It continued to rain but we didn’t care - in fact I think it even added to the steam and fog and mist that filled the entire forest. The rain mostly stopped and we made it home about midnight.
The next morning we were up early to process orders and hit the road headed to Little Rock for a noon meeting with our good friends to plan a camping trip to the UP in Michigan. The weather was good for this road trip but still quite late when we got home.
I spent much of Wednesday trying to walk off all the food I’d eaten the past couple of days while sitting on my fanny driving - so I got to enjoy our loop trail here quite a bit while the pups chased squirrels and pounced on moles. Winter is my favorite hiking season of all for many reasons - one being how wonderful all the naked trees are. It’s also usually quiet (unless the wind howls), and I’m able to wander wherever my feet take me and ponder the universe without interruption.
My lovely bride hit the road and made trips to Missouri Thursday, Friday, and Sunday (she had to come home each night to process orders and run our business - she was running on fumes). I spent those days working on an update to the Buffalo River Hiking Guide that has had me bogged down for months now (I missed my third deadline for it two weeks ago!). And also visiting with folks who came to the gallery, including a famous guest and one bearing PASTRY!
Terry Keefe (of Keefe Falls fame) and his lovely bride, Kathy, were here for three hours, and I don’t think I stopped to take a single breath - we hadn’t seen each other in a while and it was great to catch up a little (Terry has been to 93 countries and getting ready to add several more to that list). His bride presented us with an AMAZING watercolor that she’d made of one of my photos - so much talent! (it will be framed in hung in our cabin soon - I’ll post a photo of it)
Saturday one of the gallery guests brought EIGHT cherry and apple turnovers, fresh from the bakery. OH MY GOSH! Five days of exercise went right out the door - or rather into my stomach! I LOVE pastry. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone - I can’t afford many gifts like that, haha.
We also received a VERY generous gift that will keep my feet covered and in good shape for years to come - a full case of special hiking socks! I only wear one type of socks - THESE. So while they are the best hiking socks, to me they are just my “socks” since I wear them every day, hiking or computer work or fancy events (one a year maybe, haha). THANKS LARRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yesterday evening my lovely bride and I enjoyed a hike around the loop with the pups, and got to watch them play in the creek and waterfalls, and romp through the forest. Mia crawled into Pam’s lap when we reached Pam’s swing at the top of the hill (Wilson would not fit), and the four of us decompressed from a hectic week as we gazed across the pastoral pasture/meadow spread out before us. Our neighbor (who owns the pasture) came by and chatted for a while, and told us about a band of wild hogs he said is living in a bluff house below our cabin (the terrain drops off 1,000 feet below the cabin, and I never figured out where he was talking about). Those hogs stirring have probably been what our pups sometime take off out the door in the middle of the night to chase - we hope they never meet though!
Wildflower update. Nothing - no wildflowers have opened here yet, and in fact the trout lily leaves I found last week have vanished - maybe the hogs ate them.
It’s now Monday morning and we just discovered today is a national holiday. Hum, UPS runs today, and I’m still way behind, so no holiday for us - but I’ve already done the loop trail with the pups at dawn and getting ready to head out for another lap - in my new socks! HAPPY MONDAY TO ALL OF YOU, and thanks for reading!
ONE last note. Most mornings this past week I’ve been able to sit inside the prow of the cabin and lay back on the couch and slowly sip my 1/2 cup of Iceland coffee - while enjoying what has been an AMAZING display of color each morning! The color usually begins about an hour or more before sunrise, and gradually builds and expands until just before the sun arrives. So many wonderful colors - I think even more than at any other time of year, day after day of color - well, execpt for today, haha.....
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