LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - APRIL 2021 (previous months)
Little Bluff remote cabin cam April 30 - one last photo for this month, taken early this morning (a half mile STEEP bushwhack down to this one, then back UP again, 55' tall)
Journal updated April 30 (posted on May 1)
NOTE - the digital ebook version of the largest search and rescue mission in Arkansas history has been released at a special introductory price of just $4.99! (same text, photos, and art as the original $20 paperback version but can be read on any digital device via the FREE Kindle app - more info and Amazon link for instant download here)
Next Week is the 20th Anniversary of this epic event - THE SEARCH FOR HALEY is now available as an ebook on Amazon at an introductory price of just $4.99* - click here for the info on Amazon (this is the same book as the original paperback version published in 2001 - but in digital format with reflowable text)
*we sold one last week at the higher price - contact me for a refund
04/01/21 Hoping to break my bad habit (being lazy) and post something here each day of April. There is always chatter going on inside my head but most of the time it never makes it to the keyboard. Later...
They came late to the party but the second major tree species to bloom in the Ozarks is coming on STRONG! Wild plumbs are blooming everywhere! The blooms have a much more delicate structure to the blooms than popcorn trees or dogwoods (may be blooming in another couple of weeks). And the plums are rather willy-nilly in their origination - the limbs and curled and gnarly and growing every which way towards the sky and the ground and everywhere - each with it’s own personality. The but best part of the plums is the delicate ad almost overwhelming fragrance that fills the air that is OH SO SWEET! I can step outside and pickup the fragrance of a single small tree 100 yards away.
We have many scattered wild plum trees here on our property, soak up the warm sunshine, and breathe in deeply. I thing if they ever cut me open they’ll find my lungs lined with wild plum fragrance, I wonder if there is a perfume that comes even close to that fragrance?
They won’t last long, but I recommend you seeking out a plum or two in full bloom on a sunny afternoon, set up a comfy spot on the ground, and just breathe for a while and all your cares will drift away with the breezes...
04/02/21 Speaking of blooming, popcorn trees also got a slow start, and in some places never took off due to cold weather. I was out doing some trail maintenance work last week on our section of the Buffalo River Trail when I stopped to catch my breath while working along a steep hillside. Looking around I counted 37 different popcorn trees in full bloom, all within my sight on the slope just below me. These trees don’t really have a fragrance, but oh my they do light up for forest - it’s like they are on fire, only a white flame.
Redbuds also are off to a slow start here, buy my goodness they are peaking right now. I made the two-hour drive to Russellville a couple of days ago to get my second covid shot (at Cobb’s Pharmacy - the BEST folks!!!), and Hwy. 7 was lined with brilliant redbuds on both sides of the road all the way down. Maybe the biggest redbud bloom in a long time. The river valley is always ahead of us up in the mountains - a lush and sweetness that soon will engulf the Ozarks as well in the coming weeks.
So far I’ve not had any reaction to my second shot, but I did try to get a little sympathy vote yesterday and took a nap or two (shhhh, the boss was on the road so please don’t tell her). Pam will get her second covid shot today and then in a couple of weeks we’ll be fully immunized. It’s not really going to change life much for us, except for the stress level. We plan to keep wearing masks anytime we leave our property (actually we double-mask), will avoid businesses that don’t require masks (or their employees don’t wear them), and will require masks for anyone inside our gallery (we only had two gallery visits in March - my photo business has been reduced to almost nothing, but we still are available every day for appointments and the gallery is PACKED with more than 60 canvas prints). It is so comforting to see almost everyone wearing masks these days, even folks who fought against it for so long. I’ve never understood why anyone would not wear a mask during this long-term pandemic, especially since it is simply the right thing to do to help protect other people around you. A lot of folks are just selfish, I get that - we’ll have to live with this issue for a long time to come (both the selfishness and the pandemic - they kind of go hand-in-hand).
One of the highlights of March was the delivery of a new load of firewood for our outdoor pizza oven (we were almost out!). We were THRILLED to have Kennie and Spanky Woods (of the Woods Boys Falls fame) deliver a huge bundle of hardwood slabs. Although I’m not sure which was more rewarding - the new supply of firewood or getting to spend some time with these guys, actual local treasures both. They are multi-generation Newton County, both born and raised in the Upper Buffalo Headwaters area, and know as much or more than anyone about the area, and all things outdoors. I’ve seen Kennie three times in the past few months, and everyone has always been masked, even outdoors - it really is not an issue.
Kennie was our next-door neighbor when we lived at Cloudland, and always used to look after our place when we were gone, helped us a million times whenever we needed anything done that I could not handle (most chores in the later years, along with his other brothers, and also Benny S., haha), and just happened to have the best little fishing pond on the mountain - AND he would take a big fish off her line whenever Pam caught one, and even put a new worm on for her!
Spanky Woods has been playing music for decades - they used to have an annual local concert on Cave Mtn. that expanded into a much larger annual bluegrass festival in Jasper. He has a tool handle factory near Nail, and the scraps from the hardwood blanks he creates are where our pizza oven firewood comes from.
After the boys left we got to work cutting up the slabs of wood into pieces that would fit into our little oven. For the first time ever, my bride and I were able to get the entire bundle of wood cut up and STACKED - yippie! (Pam did most of the stacking - bending over kills my back). Previously I would only cut a few pieces at a time - enough for one or maybe two pizzas. And while it took us several days of labor, I think we have enough wood to last for at least a year or two of pizzas. (sorry for the duplicate photo of my lovely bride and the stacked pizza wood, but, well, I kind of like them both, and as Pam remarked, that pile of stacked wood makes her think of PIZZA!)
Speaking of pizzas, I’m happy to report that with the exception of a serious allergy attack back in December, I’ve been quite healthy for the past year and able to maintain myself at what I consider my optimum weight (155-160#s). I’m tall with a trim build (always have been - a “swimmer” body). And I’ve maintained the daily combo of a great and large fruit/veggie/protein smoothie each morning, a turkey/cheese/veggie wrap for lunch, and then pretty much whatever I want for dinner - which of course includes PIZZA!!! And while I did not complete my exercise circle on my activity monitor every day in March, I almost did, only falling a few hundred steps short three or four days.
I did have to laugh out loud though the one day I did trail maintenance (and saw all of the blooming popcorn trees). Our section of trail is three miles long, and the corridor had not ever been cut our since the trail was first constructed several years ago. My only goal was to cut the corridor back (supposed to be maintained about six feet wide for a backcountry hiking trail like this one - that means all small brush/trees that you can reach out and touch while standing in the middle of the trail). I carried a pair of new folding saws and must have cut out literally hundreds of small trees and limbs - and only got maybe half of the job done. Anyway, at one point after the first mile I happened to check my activity monitor and it said I’d done almost 30,000 steps!!! I think it was counting saw strokes along with my steps, haha. So if you are ever needing to add just a few more hundred steps to your daily activity monitor, get out a little saw and cut some corridor back!
ZERO progress so far on writing the book from my big hike in February. It’s one of those jobs that I know will totally consume me once I get started - so many hours of digital notes that I have to listen to and transcribe before I can even begin to write. I have no deadline - that’s always an issue with me (I work better with a deadline). And the very best season of anywhere on the planet is upon us - SPRING in the Ozarks. But, of course, that all happens outside, and I’m afraid I’ll be stuck at the computer most of the month (unless I sneak back to the trail with my little folding saw to rack up a few thousand more steps...).
04/03/21 Beautiful sunrise!
Plums, bees, and bluebirds - all were going NUTS yesterday! Especially thee plum trees - oh my GOSH! After a chilly start to the day bright blue skies and warm sunshine really got the plum trees in overdrive - I never seen so many on our property. One group in particular really stood out. At first I thought I was seeing things - redbuds were coming out too and oh so much color! Then a band of wild plums behind them. I thought my eyes were combing the two colors, but it turns out there was one wild plum that looked more like a cherry blossom in Washington D. C.. I had to climb our fence and scramble down the hillside to get close to it, and the closer I got, the more intense the pink color got. When I moved in even closer to get a picture I realized that the wind was not blowing yet the blossoms seemed to be moving around quite a bit - BEES, there were dozens of tiny bees buzzing everywhere! They were really enjoying this sweet feast! And I sucked in the heavy aroma.
Later on I counted seven wild plums blooming that were right in the middle of our little creek. I’ve kept track of a couple in previous years - it’s odd they live in the middle of the creek instead of up on the hillside. And now this year so many more that I’d never seen - even though they are only a few feet off the trail. It’s a really GREAT year for wild plums! And bees too.
Not so much for bluebirds. We have had a large population of bluebirds around the cabin lately - more than in previous years. But none have been using the multiple boxes we have for them - no issues before, and we’ve cleaned them out so they are ready for nesting. But for some reason not only have the bluebirds been avoiding the houses, but yesterday they started to go nuts - lining up along the rail in front of the prow and crashing into the windows, over and over and over. Last year we had the summer tanager doing that, but these bluebirds are even more aggressive. And early this morning - beginning about an hour before sunrise - four or five bluebirds have returned and picked up the pace. Maybe they just want to see me in my bathrobe outside in the chilly air waving a mop at them - bluebird comic relief perhaps?
My bride got her second shot yesterday and I’m happy to report all is well. Neither of us had much of a reaction other than a sore arm. So far, so good. To celebrate I made up a batch of pizza dough the day before and let it ferment for 24 hours in the fridge - that’s supposed to increase the flavor of the dough. Then I fired up the wood oven using only the new supply of ash from the Woods Boys.
Previously I would spent at least an hour getting the oven up to temp (about 900 degrees F), but the ash seemed to burn hotter and came up to max temp in only about 15 minutes. I only use one cup of flour for the dough, then cut that in half for each of our mini pizzas. Once in the oven they only take about two minutes to fully cook and then we’re done with the fire. I would like to be able to make a full report on how good the wood worked and the pizzas tasted, but unfortunately the final product disappeared SO FAST I was unable to get anything written down! Oops. Guess I’ll just have to try again, stay tuned!
One other note from yesterday. A nice young couple came up from Clarksville to the gallery to get their waterfall book signed. The husband told me he’d been given his guidebook more than ten years ago by a relative, and the first time he used it he asked a girl out on a date - a waterfall date to Cedar Falls. Well I guess that waterfall did it’s magic - they’ve been married for ten years and both LOVE waterfall hunting! Such a pleasant and happy couple - in part no doubt to all the waterfall visits and quality time they’ve spent together in the woods!
04/04/21 A couple of wildlife notes from today. It was another glorious textbook early spring day with bright sunshine, blue skies, wildflowers, redbuds, and wild plums blooming, oh my! I took the pups on a quick hike around the loop and at the very first corner they darted off into the woods after something. They pounced on a large bird that must have been resting on the forest floor - the bird flew away but didn’t gain enough altitude and smacked into the plastic netting fence. The pups chased it on down the steep hillside right through the middle of the Boulder Jumble area. I trailed behind trying to figure out what the heck it was. I never saw the bird again and neither did the dogs.
I did get a good look at the bird when they first jumped it though - it was the size of a crow but with dark blue feathers and a bright yellow beak! Couldn’t find anything in the bird ID books so I don’t know what the heck it was.
Then later in the day my lovely bride and I sat on the back deck soaking up the warm sunshine and spent 30 minutes watching the drama of crows attacking a giant red-tailed hawk. At one point the hawk was over there somewhere a few hundred yards away and down low and out of sight, and all we could see was the crows making dive-bombing runs at him. It was amazing to watch the crows hover high in the air, take aim at the hawk below, then drop head down on a steep run - then BOOM - they would reverse course and climb back up at the same steep angle! One after another. Crazy birds. But it was good entertainment for us!
A couple of book notes also. Yesterday we got a call from a young lady who wanted to come by the gallery and look at the stacks of out of print picture books we have. Over the years we set books back that for one reason or another we don’t want to sell as new. They aren’t exactly used either (they’ve never been used by anyone other than maybe as a display copy at a program). Some have messed up covers in one way or another, a dinged corner, smudged, or whatever. Last year Pam sorted through the piles of these and organized them on the shelves, but since we don’t sell “used” or damaged books they’ve just sat. We do get calls now and then from folks wanting this or that book that is out of print, and so I decided it was time we made them available.
I’ve done 14 picture books, six are still in print. I set out 14 stacks of the rest on a table in the sales area, although one stack only had a single copy (the original Arkansas Landscapes). Some of the rare titles had damaged cover jackets and I discovered a batch of new jackets that will bring them back to life (my first four picture books had dust jackets and were also packed in individual cardboard boxes - VERY expensive for us!). Other copies were ones I’d autographed and had either misspelled a name or got the wrong book.
Anyway, our customer was thrilled and left with 11 books that she was missing and now she is one of only a handful of folks I know with a complete collection of all 20 picture books! Now that the books are on display we will offer them to anyone who can come pick out what they want - any book is just $20 (original list price on our first four books was $50!), and right now we have copies of them all except for the original Arkansas Landscapes.
One funny note. It took us forever to finally sell out of the last really big book that had the dust jacket and cloth cover - ARKANSAS SPRING. The printing company had assembled many of them wrong and the dust jackets were crooked or creased or had other issues (that’s one reason we stopped doing dust jackets), and so I thought we had ended up with many slightly damaged ones. But NOPE! I could not find ANY! But I did have a vision. A vision of a case full of them. I spent nearly two hours yesterday going through everything I could find - we had hundreds of cases of books in our warehouse. And while I found a lot of “treasures” there wasn’t a single Arkansas Spring. As the meeting time approached I found myself way back in the far corner of the warehouse, down on my belly crawling over piles of cases of books, and literally got down to the very last case in the bottom of the corner. It was taped shut, and I had a hard time cutting it open. But lo and behold, it was a full case of ARKANSAS SPRING picture books with good covers - YIPPIE COYOTE!!!
Second book note. We’ve been working on a digital version of the SEARCH FOR HALEY book for a while, and I’m finally right at the finish line - or it has seemed that way for the past WEEK! (20th anniversary of that epic event is later this month.) gAnd then something comes up and it takes me another day of messing with it to figure it out. This ebook will actually just be the same text and photos and art work from the original paperback that was published in 2001 - long since out of print (we gave away the last 500 copies to US solders fighting in Iraq). These ebook conversions are weird. Anyway, when I got to what I though was the very end of the road and ready to upload to Amazon and go live for sale, I thought about adding a “2021 UPDATE” chapter to the very end. One thing led to another and here it is late Sunday night and I’m STILL not finished! (not sure if I'll add the update.) My bride knows me pretty well, and knows I’m ready to go on a trike-riding adventure on a railtrail in eastern Arkansas, but we can’t make the trip until the ebook is done and uploaded! That’s about the only way to get me to complete a project sometimes and so I do plan to get it done tomorrow, maybe. I’ll keep ya posted....
04/05/21 We heck fire I still don’t have the ebook done yet, nor have headed out with our trikes - perhaps another time. I do plan to get the ebook done and available sometime later this week, maybe, I hope, hahaha...
Seems that we’ve made it through most of the “white” phase of budding trees and wildflowers - although we still have wild plums and a few popcorn trees, and DOGWOODS are just now starting to bloom - and I think it’s going to be an exceptional year for them. (what did I just say about white blooms being about done?) Anyway, redbuds have taken over parts of the forest here and we have 50 or more in the forest between the cabin and the boulder jumble area, and they are in full bloom right now - WONDERFUL!
And the ground had turned color - while our main hillside below the boulder jumble and up the creek has been covered with toothwort wildflowers for weeks (very light color, almost white), and a lot of rue anemone that have also been very light, almost white. But today I noticed a lot of those rues coming along in darker, richer shades of pink and light purple. And especially today we’ve seen an explosion of the giant violets - many of them hugging the ground and hanging on for dear lift as high winds blow through. They are so big, and rich and saturated! Also a few patches of wild phlox with almost the identical color, though those guys only grow on the protected steep hillside below the boulder jumble while the big violets are mostly along the top of the ridge by all of the redbuds. The forest is quite colorful right now! Below - Redbud, Rue, violet, phlox...
04/06/21 I accidently made another pizza for dinner last night. Oops. Historically homemade pizza night has always been Friday - dating back to when I was a single hermit in the middle of the wilderness when the pizza was “Cloudland” pizza and the dough was made in a bread machine. I put out small batches of dough and everyone added their own toppings, then cooked in the normal oven. That continued when my lovely bride and Amber moved in, but came to an abrupt halt when I was diagnosed with a severe allergy to yeast, a main ingredient in pizza dough. No pizza again for me for years - and I never found a non-yeast recipe or commercial pizza that was any good.
A few years ago when I was “cleared” of my yeast allergy pizza came back into my life, which eventually led to getting our little wood-fired pizza oven. Only 90 seconds bake and the world’s best pizza. Then about two minutes until the pizza has disappeared. YUM!!! But I’m still experimenting to find the very best dough recipe. Last year when the pandemic hit and I went to order a special pizza dough mix direct from a mill in Arizona - and discovered they were OUT of the normal two pound box of special flour mix - I ordered not only what seemed like a year’s supply (ten pound box was the only thing they had - but it only lasted five months), but I also got a little bag of instant yeast - yeast was also in short supply and I heard folks were fighting about it in the stores. I transferred some of the yeast into a small jar and kept the little $10 bag of remaining yeast in the bottom of the freezer. I just ran out yesterday, and had to hunt for the little bag of yeast - and oh my goodness there must be FIVE years worth of yeast still left!
So naturally we had to make a pair of small pizzas to get to work on that yeast - don’t want it to go bad. The new Ash firewood that the Woods Boys brought out has been working GREAT and the oven gets up to temp much quicker than with just hickory. The only problem right now is I’m working on not only a 24-hour dough rise (in the fridge), but a 72-hour dough rise (also in the fridge) - make on Tuesday for Friday night pizza. Unheardof. Everything about the process is the same as normal (one-hour rise before baking), you just have to REMEMBER to make it three days ahead and then WAIT! We’ll see...
Oh, the pizza last night was quite delicious!
04/07/21 The day began with howling winds and those did not stop until late afternoon. The sound changed though - it went from howling to roaring a few times. Despite multiple WARNINGS from the weather service of severe storms, hail, tornadoes, etc., we barely got anything other than a half inch or less of rain. It did sound like being beneath a bowling alley a few times though, with coal-black skies. And I guess folks further south of us had some rougher weather.
During the only real rain event I noticed an instant and alarming odor. Then I saw a pair of very soaked puppies - that’s not unusual. And then the toxic aroma increased to the point that when I glanced over at my lovely bride at her work desk, I noticed she was wearing a MASK! Soon I was as well and we spent the rest of the day sitting side-by-side in the office with masks on because our dogs STUNK so bad, haha! They’ve found a honey hole of stink somewhere out there in the woods (probably a dead animal), but even though I’ve tried to follow them to discover the source, they always wise up in a hurry and lead me away.
Later in the afternoon as we were making another lap around the trail I looked up and the sky was pure BLUE! A final gust of wind must have peeled back the cloud front to reveal a lush and vibrant landscape - oh my it was a BEAUTIFUL spring day! The creek remained just a trickle and we could sure use a few days of rainfall...
04/08/21 The first bat of the season followed me up the hill to the gallery this evening. That means there must be a few bugs out and about - a typical bat can consume its weight in tiny flying insects every day - as in, thousands of mosquotios! Bats are your best friends. Really. They help keep the skeeter population down. And while they do prefer the total darkness and even temperature of a deep cavern, they are quite happy to sleep inside trees, under the eaves of your house, or anywhere really where they can hide in a dark space - that’s one reason they are sometimes found in attics - not to scare the beejeeves out of ya, but just to get a good day’s sleep. YEA BATS!!!
The forest here is beginning to change from its winter browns and grays into hints of that beautiful spring green that is so vibrant. So much will change during the next week or two as trees begin to leaf out. It’s always been one of the best seasons anywhere on the planet.
We had really high winds again today. My bride was on the tractor this afternoon moving some dirt from the dirt pile over to a new flower bed her dad built her last week. When I came out of the woods to see how her progress was going I found the tractor parked and the flower bed only half full of dirt. She said later that with the wind blowing so hard she got more dirt in her eyes than in the flower bed and she was having trouble seeing, haha!
04/09/21 BEAUTIFUL redbuds at first light - we have 40-50 between this spot and the Boulder Jumble area.
We had a pretty good storm blow through this afternoon with a lot of wind - top speed was 54 mph but not much rain to go with it. Another line of storms is about to hit us tonight at bed time - there is quite a bit of lightning in the south - I wonder if that is going to hit us?
I took a hike after pizza this evening and oh my the forest was just BEAUTIFUL! The little rainfall we had really ramped up the saturation of the GREENS on mossy rocks, but also the landscape appeared to have popped out all over. No doubt the next couple of days will see even more of this amazing transformation.
Finally got the last page of the Search For Haley e-book done and uploaded to Amazon. It’s only $9.95 and their FREE Kindle app works on just about every computer, phone, and tablet (click here to order). This is the same text with art and photos as the original paperback version that came out in 2001, but the text is reflowable and you can resize to suit your viewing needs. One thing that took me so darn long to complete this project was that I wanted a different photo of our Cloudland cabin - I never found what I wanted but did use this one (taken in February 2017), hoping it will give readers a sense of how remote the area was (is). FYI, Here's Haley's YouTube channel with two videos she did about her experience - GREAT to see and hear her tell the story!
Speaking of the remoteness, Cave Mtn. Road to the Hawksbill Crag Trailhead is open again this weekend - I hear they have done a first round of tree removal along the corridor that will eventually be upgraded in near future (paved?).
On our little hike this evening as I approached the lower section of the Boulder Jumble and was being awestruck at the feeling of the landscape, I discovered a large boulder that I’d never noticed before. About VW bug size, and totally covered with brilliant green moss. I walked on over and climbed on top - wow, what a view! The view has always been there but this evening I just took the time to stop and enjoy. Hope you get the chance to do the same - HAPPY WEEKEND!
04/14/21 We finally got the chance yesterday to try out our recumbent trikes with the puppy dog trailer we purchased more than a year ago. We made a quick trip to bike a section of the Frisco Highland Trail, a 35-mile railtrail that runs from Springfield, Missouri to Boliver. This is an old railroad route - built in the 1800’s and long-since abandoned that is now a multi-use railtrail (second longest in Missouri). We’ve biked a small section of the trail that just happens to run within a couple hundred yards from our daughter’s house north of Springfield, but we wanted to do a longer section that included more than a dozen railroad bridges/trestles, the longest being more than 300 feet long.
So we parked at the Wishart Trailhead and yesterday morning loaded (stuffed) the pups into the dog trailer and took off. We had been warned by a local neighborhood girl on a bike that there was a mean dog in the area who has already bitten four bikers, so we had special spray ready if needed (we didn’t have any issues with this puppy, although we did see “Romeo” after we’d completed our ride.)
We had no idea if our dogs would stay zipped into the dog trailer, which is a heavy-duty twin baby stroller on steroids, adapted for bike use. And if they did stay in (on a short leash to keep them from being able to jump out) we didn’t know if they would be miserable or enjoy the ride. Their participation is critical for us to be able to complete our dream of being able to trike the entire Katy Trail across Missouri - something we’ve been waiting to do for more than ten years.
Mia chillin' in the dog trailer
It took a mile or two but eventually the pups settled in on top of their double-layer dog beds and enjoyed the passing scenery. And it was a really beautiful ride through a lush spring landscape of rolling hills, across streams, and past farmlands - it’s all out in the country, much of it away from any roads. And oh my the REDBUDS were just exploding - like they have been here. It was pastoral, remote, peaceful, and very GREEN.
I was able to manage OK pulling the extra 130 pounds of dog and trailer behind my trike - as you might imagine an old railroad grade is pretty flat, although there were gradual uphill sections, and BRIDGES. The approach to the more than a dozen bridges/trestles required a little bit more UMPH to get myself and dog trailer up and onto the level surface, but once on the bridge it was really quite amazing - especially going across the long bridges and the one over the Little Sac River, which was made of stone and quite impressive.
My trike in front pulling the dog trailer, with my bride making sure no one jumped out!
And here's my bride -
We weren’t in any hurry and had a great trip. Pam got chased by a month-old calf who thought she was momma (part of the trail is through free range cattle pasture!). And we did get chased by one old and large blue tick hound dog, but I think he was just looking for someone to play with, Our pups took it all in without comment. Both of our trikes and the trailer held up well, and it was a great first step to find out it might be possible for our little family to make the complete trip across the Katy Trail - maybe in 2022.
Oh yes, we never saw a single person on the trail, although I suspect it does get some use during weekends - mostly by bikers and runners. We’ll return one of these days and do the entire 35-mile length of this railtrail, which includes 16 of the railroad bridges.
Once we get to do the Katy Trail we’ll have someone shuttle our camper van and trailer to each campsite ahead while we ride during the day. There is also a good set of B&B’s and small hotels along that route, but there are plenty of campsites and parking areas too for our little camper. For that trip we’ll stop every 5-10 miles and get the dogs out to hike around a little bit - and explore the local sites. So far, so good!
04/16/21 Felt kind of like mini rain forest on our hike early this orning - everything was lush and wet, soaked, dripping - delightful music and beautiful! I spotted a cave opening along the little bluff in the Boulder Jumble area and decided to investigate. 'Twas a nice spot to get out of the rain to sit and contemplate the beginning of a new day - HAPPY FRIDAY TO YOU! (Hoping you find a peacefull out-of-the-way spot of your own - but watch out for bears...)
04/18/21 Thanks to Journal reader, Donna, for helping solve the mystery of the white flowering bush at our historic homesite - our search led to the EXPERT on all things blooming, DON KURZ, and he's ID'd it as a Snowmound Spirea - thanks to BOTH!
04/19/21 So soft, serene, and beautiful landscape and light early this morning - the very essence of early spring in the Ozarks. Gentle breezes, pastel skies, the brilliant GREEN of new growth forest wide, and the air oh so sweet - although as I hiked along our little trail and headed up the slope next to the pasture next door, some of that sweetness was from fresh cow poop - the herd, which included a couple dozen new-born calves, was crowded up against our forest property line, the aroma of recycled fresh grass in the air. Here's the view at dawn, and later part of the herd -
We’ve seen dozens of hawks each day - most of them not the resident red-tailed hawks that we so well, but many are much smaller, more falcon-like in their appearance and flight. One pair in particular - a very long, graceful body and wings - come by each afternoon about the same time - and make only one pass, dipping a wing or two rising up then flipping over, only to dive out and away. And we await their next visit, even if so brief.
It’s late evening tonight and my bride just heard the first whippoorwill of the year. There are rumbles in the heavens but nothing on the radar, then some of the rumbles turn into big jets - wonder if there are military C-130’s with jets engines instead of the props that we normally see? I just spotted four in a row. Not as stealth as the little falcon hawks, but we love to watch them during the day when they fly by the cabin, sometimes below the cabin.
04/22/21 After a brief but BEAUTIFUL snowstorm yesterday afternoon (each flake melted on impact), we have brilliant blue skies today. Three nights of aerial military exercises ended (reported by many folks across the area), but we never got to see any of the big birds flying in the canyon below the cabin - we LOVE watching them! EVENING UPDATE - the military exercises continue tonight up high - drop some flares guys please, then come back durinng the day for a real show!
04/24/21 MIA SLEPT in the guest room last night - can you tell?
04/26/21 A colorful BLAST of light at dawn today!
04/29/21 I’m sitting in the van waiting for it to rain. I got up at 4 this morning and checked the rain web page and discovered the entire target area for waterfalls I was hoping to visit today had received about three inches of rain during the past 24 hours - PERFECT! I loaded up the van and headed downstream (of the Buffalo River area). There were five stops on my radar, with the last one being a 15-mile hike (fat chance of me getting to that one today).
90 minutes later I was creeping along a washed out gravel road hoping I’d be able to make it to a parking spot and back out again - heavy rains overnight had gutted parts of this road, with literally chunks of sizable rocks being deposited across it. I made it to a parking spot and headed out in a light rain. Creeks were swollen everywhere, with whitecaps in the ditches - MY kind of conditions for waterfall photography! 15 minutes later I was standing at the base of Amphitheater Falls, 47’ tall (on the Buffalo River Trail), a really neat waterfall I’ve photographed several times before but never with really good water flow. It looked pretty good today, and fifteen minutes later I’d shot it from three different angles, measured the height, was packed up and headed back UP a steep hillside to the van.
Seemed like water conditions were perfect for all of my waterfalls today, but as I drove to spot #2 it began to rain really hard. Soon the side road I’d headed down was flooded, and the downpour continued. Thinking of the two-mile hike ahead to get to the next waterfall on my list, I realized a hollow I needed to cross half way in would most likely be flooded to a point that might be dangerous, perhaps even impossible for me to cross. Darn it! The waterfall would be TERRIFIC, but I decided not to risk getting washed into the Buffalo River and never seen again, so I turned around and headed back to the highway and on to my third location.
The deluge continued and looking at the radar appeared it was going to keep raining buckets for the next hour or two. There were a couple of questionable creek crossings I’d have to manage during the three mile hike to reach the first of a group of three waterfalls, including one double creek that would most likely be tough to get across*. ABORT again!
So I motored onto my stop #4 farther downstream, which is a brand new waterfall that I’d found during my grand hike in February (it was actually frozen solid that day), but that I knew would take a massive amount of water to make it look good on camera - no creeks to cross to reach it so TODAY looked like a perfect time for it, and I needed to let the big storm pass those other waterfall locations and maybe I’d get them on the way back home later today.
Here I am at the parking spot for the new big waterfall and guess what - the deluge of rainfall has NOT reached her yet!!! In fact while my trusty map showed this spot did indeed get 3” of rain in the past 24 hours, and the Buffalo is a mighty ocean of fast-moving mud, it appears most of that rain had soaked in to the landscape - the ditches are not even running! So I’m sitting here in the van waiting on that deluge to catch up - unfortunately I don’t have any cell service so I can’t get radar to see if that will happen or not.
My fifth waterfall location - the one I waited YEARS to get to - I just realized that the access road to it would be totally flooded so I could not even get to within a mile of the starting point without making a dangerous creek crossing in my van (which only has 4” ground clearance) - that one will have to wait for another day (15 mile hike that was a long shot for me today anyway).
COME ON RAIN!!!
FAST FORWARD TO THE FUTURE. OK, so I decided it was silly to sit in the van waiting for it to rain, so I decided to move the van to a higher parking location and go ahead and bushwhack down to the big waterfall - a longer hike than planned but it knew it would be safe from potential rising Buffalo River waters.
As I headed out across the hillside (no trail) I quickly realized the forest must have soaked up all the rain from the day before since there was no water running - ugg, that was not good. But when I got pretty close to the waterfall location I all of a sudden heard something. Shhhhh, listen... I took a few more steps and the hushed sound turned into a ROAR - there was a giant waterfall out there running full blast! At least that’s what I thought - I was still a half mile bushwhack away and several hundreds yards above the bluffline where the waterfall lives.
It was a tough bushwhack through dense underbrush between a tall limestone bluff above me and the raging Buffalo River just below me. Funny, but at times the river was totally silent - a moving river of liquid mud. It was eerie. And then I came around a corner and there it was - a THUNDERING waterfall that exceeded my wildest dreams of what it would look like - oh my goodness!
The power of the falls created a great deal of very wet wind, and I worked for more than 30 minutes to get a good picture of it - sometimes these waterfalls are just so large and powerful yet the jungle below is so thick that it is tough to get a good view, especially one out of the blast that the waterfall produces. I managed, and soon was headed back UP to the van in a hurry to get back to the other waterfall locations.
The rains had stopped and water was already out of the ditches I’d seen whitecaps on just a couple of hours before. I loaded up my pack and hit the trail almost running - no problem with having plenty of water for great waterfall photos, but the sky was beginning to break up and I didn’t want any sunshine to ruin the pictures (seems like I’m always in a hurry!).
I hiked passed the first waterfall (Saw-Whet Owl Falls, 43’ tall) because I already had a photo of it from a couple of years ago, but planned to stop on the way out for another “insurance” photo. As I approached the second waterfall I could hear its power and glory from 1/4 mile away, and then I rounded the trail and came face to face with Christmas Hollow Falls (photo below) - it was flowing GREAT, with a spectacular cascade below it! This is one of my most favorite spots on the entire Buffalo River Trail (page 142 in the new BUFFALO RIVER HIKING TRAILS guidebook, #5) - something magical about it, and it was perfection today!
Again I was rushed due to clouds breaking up, but I managed to get about 20 minutes of shooting done before headed on to the next stop, which was a waterfall on a brand new section of the Buffalo River Trail that literally had just been built a few weeks ago directly below this “new” waterfall (no name, no pictures). My pace picked up partly because I was SO EXCITED to be able to see this neat new waterfall in all its glory, but also because I was worried about that darn sun breaking through and messing my photos up!
As I worked my way down the last hill into the drainage where the waterfall was located I was stunned, shocked, and quite puzzled at what I saw - BIG GULP HERE. The trail below me simply disappeared - into a LAKE!!! Long story short, the Buffalo River had gotten so flooded that it had backed up more than 1/4 mile into the hollow where the trail ran - the trail was literally 10-15 feet UNDERWATER!!!
No way I was going to wade out into that mess, but boy howdy I sure wanted to get to the waterfalls! I had to work my way upstream of the first creek for a ways before I got to the end of the Buffalo lake and was able to cross, then had to do the same to get around the lake to a second creek crossing. The trail below was still underwater so I had to bushwhack high above it and finally made it to the waterfall - all the while wondering if even the waterfall had been flooded - is that possible, for a waterfall to get flooded - if so, what would it look like?
Buffalo Lake had come within 50 of the base of the waterfall, and I spent 30 minutes getting some good shots of it (photo below), and also a couple snapshots of the new trail - and two flights of stone steps they’d just built that were now underwater too! I retraced my steps back to the van, although had a tougher time getting across the creeks above the lake and back to the dry trail. Whew, that was close! Only one more waterfall to go, but there was two more hollows to cross - I hoped there was no Buffalo Lake!
Turns out the lake had indeed covered up the trail again in the next hollow, but not nearly as deep and it was easy for me to hike upstream and get across. I made it to the newly-named Stalagmite Falls (photo below) and got some great photos, and made it back to the van just before dark. It was a long day which began at 4am, and I got home about 9:30pm - I LOVE waterfalls!
04/30/21 This will be a short post, but I was up before dawn and knew I’d only have a short window to get to and photograph a waterfall before the bright sun would appear and ruin everything. My plan was to park beside the highway and plunge over the edge into a GIANT canyon and bushwhack my way down nearly 1,000 feet in hopes of locating a waterfall I’d seen a vague reference to once.
After 30 minutes of some pretty difficult STEEP bushwhacking down without any trace of a waterfall (and not much water in the little creek I was following - I was beginning), I came to the top of a giant bluffline and a beautiful waterfall - yippe! Good luck finding a way around and down that big bluff - it appeared to go on for quite a ways in both directions, and I had to get to the bottom for a photo. As luck would have it, literally within 200 feet of the waterfall on one side there was a crack in the bluff that went all the way to the bottom - and with a little scrambling I was soon at the base of the giant falls looking up - YIPPIE COYOTE!
Time was not on my side and I knew the sun had risen that nothing but big blue sky above. Luckily this waterfall so tucked far down in the canyon and it would be a while before the sun reached it, so I got out my camera gear and started taking pictures. This is one of those moments that I wish I’d never gotten rid of all my “serious” camera equipment almost two years ago - these days I either just use my phone to take snapshots or use a 10-year old point and shoot camera when taking guidebook pictures. Oh well, I did the best I could. (see the photo at the top of this page - the last photo for the month)
Turns out there was another waterfall below the big one, then another one below that, and another one below that, and another one below that, and another one below that. Each time I had to scramble around across very steep hillsides and land with a splash to try and get a photo, and then I’d look up and there was yet another waterfall below. I actually never made it to the bottom of this amazing waterfall “polyfoss” area, but I got what I needed. The photo below shows one of those waterfalls, with the big 55' falls at the top, behind that big boulder - can't judge scale.
A tough 45 minute climb and I was back to the van and my waterfall photo safari would be over for this round. WHEW!!!
I spent the rest of the day with my lovely bride on the back deck of the cabin enjoying an influx of colorful birds - including several species that had just arrived (rose-breasted and blue grosbeaks, summer tanagers, Indigo buntings, and on and on) - I bet there was at least 15-20 species of birds at the feeder and in the skies above. Including a batch of kingbirds (flycatchers) that were working the meadow below the cabin. They were so fun to watch as they’d sit on a perch for a few minutes, then fly up into the air a few feet and spend the next minute doing all sorts of aerobatics catching bugs, then land to rest a minute or two and repeat.
APRIL had been on GLORIOUS month for us and I hope YOU got to spend a good bit of time in the great outdoors to enjoy it all too! Now ON TO MAY - oh my goodness...
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