Cloudland Cabin Cam December 31, 7:53am - breezy with freezing rain

JOURNAL UPDATED Sunday the 30th


Print Of The Week 2013 #1 - Canyon God Beams (above)


LAST CHANCE! - December 2012 Print Of The Month - Twin Falls of Devils Fork, Richland Creek Wilderness (above)

12/01/12 It is DECEMBER already - oh my goodness! These days my mind is beginning to blur just a little bit and for a moment last night during one of our programs in Springfield I actually forgot what day it was - a senior moment, or perhaps just the fact that my little brain has too much to process right now, ha, ha! We had a splendid crowd at both of our programs last night - so many great questions too, and it is those questions that really feed the show and make or break the crowd's enjoyment of it. So if you are attending one of our remaining slide shows this next couple of week, please be sure to ask a question!

It was after midnight when we got home from Springfield and we had an hour or two of work to do before we could get some shuteye. I'm headed up to the warehouse in a moment to recycle our bookmobile and get ready to head out at 9am this morning for our program in Bentonville - at the library at 1pm. I must say that one of the best thing about our programs this year is the fact that we're bringing along so many new Black Mat Prints for sale (at deeply discounted prices). We have special lights set up over each print bin to it is easy to view all the details in each print. So feel free to come and browse through the prints and books that we have set up before each show - and of course bring your Christmas list too! We'll be at the Nature Center in Little Rock tomorrow, then at the big Fine Arts Center in Clarksville on Tuesday, at the Nature Center in Ft. Smith on Thursday, and at the historic Lyric Theater on Friday - hope to see ya at one of these - bring all your friends!

We are in the middle of a warming spell up here in the High Ozarks right now and it feels great on my bones. There are many trees that never lost their leaves and have turned a golden brown, so when the morning or afternoon sunshine hit them it is a magical light show. Seems like the air is filled with moisture this morning too - dare I say that it almost feels like RAIN! I don't see much chance of that this week, but the winter rains are on the way - it is just a matter of time before we'll all be out playing in the mud puddles once again!

I know these pages are mostly filled with business stuff going on right now - but this is a Journal of our lives in the woods, and that is what has totally consumed us at the moment. We spend so much time and effort each year to bring the great natural beauty of Arkansas to as many folks as we can through our prints and slide programs, and we hope everyone has a chance to sit back and enjoy.

One last note before we have to get packing and hit the road. I posted the first of our "25 Prints Of Christmas" at midnight last night - a photo of the swirling golden waters of the Buffalo River that I took late one day after sunset back in January - it is one of my most favorite images of all time. It will be available at the special sale price today only - tomorrow there will be a new image that will be available at the special price, but again only for one day. We'll do this each day between now and Christmas. You can place your order at any time during the day and the prints will be made and shipped within 48 hours via Priority Mail. The special holiday promotion was the brainchild of our own child, Amber. And in fact all of the proceeds will go directly into her college tuition fund - next semester's payment is due the week after Christmas! We're hopeful that all of you will enjoy seeing these different photos as we post them - I don't know exactly what they are going to be yet, but there will be many colorful scenes of our spectacular wild places...

12/03/12 The wind has been howling all night and continues this morning. The humidity was so high yesterday we just knew some rain would be blown in, but nothing so far. There was enough moisture in the air that the rocks were all wet - kind of like weeping rocks. So the landscape got a little squirt of a drink, sort of. The clouds are boiling up from the south this morning, which often brings showers. We will have plenty of rain before too long, and once it arrives, the creeks will fill and the waterfalls will flow. It has been quite warm, especially for December! That's one of the many things I continue to LOVE about Arkansas - you can get out and hike and enjoy the great outdoors here much of the winter season, while many other hiking states are frozen up by now.

I had a Cloudland moment the other night. We were all nearly exhausted after our hectic schedule this past week, but it was time to set up for Christmas, so I hauled down the tree and six tubs of holiday decorations, then collapsed into my business chair at the computer to work on some print info. My lovely bride and our daughter caught fire and kicked it into high gear, and soon the cabin was filled with holiday spirit, and also a lot of pretty lights, ornaments, and just plain old holiday cheer. There was music, laughter, and I do believe a bit of dancing as the girls worked on the decorations. I sat there quietly and soaked it all in. These days every moment with our daughter is priceless, a gift from above, and it made my heart soar to see my two girls enjoying themselves so much. The cabin was indeed filled with love and happiness - what more could anyone ask for? It is our hope that everyone has moments like this during the holiday season - and in fact all year long too!

12/04/12 It seemed especially light and easy to move around the cabin when I got up at 4 this morning. Then I realized that there was an almost constant barrage of lightning going on - all of it off in the distance as I did not hear any thunder. When I pulled up the radar screen on the computer and saw a giant line of RED heading our direction, I knew that RAIN was on the way, YIPPIE COYOTE! I headed out the door and ran across the compound as it started to pour, and then almost immediately those flashes got really close, and LOUD - lightning strikes all around!

I shut down and unplugged everything in the gallery building and then ran back through the rain - although I must say that I hesitated just a moment or two just to soak up some of that wonderful cold stuff hitting my head (I guess my bathrobe literally did soak up a lot of it!). Oh so nice to be standing in the rain once again!

Back at the cabin I ran around and did the same - shut down and unplugged all the computers and phones. Although I did get to use a special setup that I put together a couple of months ago just for a storm like this one. I really needed to be online this morning to upload the new Christmas Print for today and make the announcement on this Journal and also on Facebook. But normally I would not be able to use the computer or internet during a lightning storm due to potential lightning strike blowing it all up. But I have switched my main computer at the cabin to a Mac laptop, so when a storm is going I just unplug it from power. Then I leave our DSL modem and router turned on - but with all other computers unplugged from it - and use my laptop via wireless. So if the cabin gets blasted, the modem and router would be fried, but my laptop would be fine. And I have all my files on it so I can work on anything I need to. I also take this laptop with me when I'm on the road for the same reason - I have everything with me, including this Journal that I can update and upload while on the road when I have internet connection. Under normal conditions I simply plug the laptop into a special 27" Mac monitor that sits on my desk at the cabin, which has all the other computer stuff already plugged into it and ready to go (keyboard, writing tablet/mouse, and ethernet).

So I spent the next hour sitting in the middle of the great room working away at the computer and online via Christmas tree lights, with flashes of lightning booming all around, and the sound of heavy rains coming down on our tin roof. In fact the rain and lightning are still going on, so we might be getting an inch or more of RAIN - did I say YIPPIE COYOTE! I am not at my normal desk - nor have any lights on - since our guest room is directly below the desk, and I did not want to disturb our sleeping guest.

Someone asked online why was it Canada Day today at Cloudland? Good question. When I got up (and after running around to shut everything down), and reached into the cabinet to grab a mug for my one and only cup of coffee for the day, I noticed it was a special mug that I had purchased while on our honeymoon a couple of months ago in Canada - it has my favorite Canadian Maple Leaf printed all over the outside of the mug, and also one leaf inside that you see as you sip. When I went to sit down at my computer to select the Christmas Print for today, guess what the first photo that popped up was - OF CANADA! And then when the first giant bolt of lightning crashed and lit up the outside, I saw our van in the driveway - our "bookmobile" is all packed up (with more than 1,000 pounds of books) and ready to head to Clarksville later today for our slide show - guess what - our bookmobile was made in CANADA! So we salute our neighbors to the north today, and offer this very special image that means so much to my lovely bride and I...

12/05/12 It is just after midnight and I've been watching the most amazing moonrise I've seen in a while. The moon is just over half full, and it was laying/lying on its back as it cleared the eastern horizon a little while ago. It is the kind of angle you would like to be in while at rest, or when taking a nap under the rising moon. Actually, I would much rather be watching the rising moon instead of napping at that time, but you get the idea. I've been going back and forth between the cabin and print room while I make the three panels of an eight-foot-wide canvas print. I didn't get to start on it until we got home from our program in Clarksville tonight - another wonderful crowd as always there, and this year included Boy Scout Troop #76. My troop as a scout was #77 so I could relate.

While on our way home tonight we saw another great light show in the sky - an "earth grazer" streaked across the sky directly in front of us and we got to get a good long look at it. It was one of those where part of it hung there in the dark sky for a few seconds after the main object went by - in fact after the shooting star had completely disappeared, part of the stardust tail was still visible. It was a sight to behold, and I'm hopeful that a lot of you got to see it as well.

The temp dropped in a hurry today, and is now in the upper 30's here already. It kind of feels like a December day at last! So nice to see the rains that we got early this morning - the Buffalo River has been singing a lively tune all day!

We're doing some work on our yard this week, and I just now realized how much difference one little tree can make. There has always been this skinny oak tree where the walkway to the gallery and the gallery parking lot meet. I have used it hundreds of times as a waypoint in the dim light of night travel - it has always told me where to turn both coming and going. The little guy died this past year and we took it down today. It just feels wrong when I get to that point in my journey - remembering all those nights when I could hardly see anything after having just come out of a brightly-lit print room, and that little tree who stood tall and helped me make it. No doubt a new little tree will now begin to grow there, and in a few years I'll have a new friend to guide me through the darkness...

Shhhhh, don't tell anyone, but we will have the Canvas Prints Gallery OPEN this Sunday (regular Open House is on Saturday) from 10am - 4pm. All canvas prints are available at HALF PRICE, plus all of our books, calendars and Black Mat Prints are on sale at the special program prices...

12/08/12 I was up early today working in the print room trying to get ready for our open house today, but did not expect the approaching headlights. There were two, three, four emergency vehicles headed into our place before daylight. I spoke with them and found out that someone had fallen off the bluffline near Hawksbill Crag during the night, and they were trying to find the parking spot to gain access to the area. I drove up to the Faddis cabin and led a team of first responders and other emergency personnel down to the Crag, where we could see a person on the ground below - it was just getting daylight by this time, but it was foggy.

The group split up with half of them remaining on top of the bluff while I took the others down through a split in the bluffline about a half mile beyond the Crag. As we passed underneath the Crag and the person came into view, it was obvious this had been a terrible fall with little chance of survival. I have measured it with a measuring tape before, and it is exactly 100 feet from the top of the bluff to the forest floor below. We were all somber as we approached, and then all of a sudden one of the paramedics yelled out "He is breathing!" We all saw it. A miracle had happened right before our eyes.

I could only stand back and watch as these three guys kicked it into high gear and attended to the needs of the injured young man. They called up on the radio to the command post at the Faddis cabin that had already been set up, and dozens of other rescue folks jumped into action, including literally running additional supplies down the steep hillside to the top of the bluff above us, where someone came down the ropes they had set up. I know this has been witnessed and said many times before, but it is amazing what these Search & Rescue guys do, how well they do it, and how FAST they do it.

Looking around I noticed a small tree next to the injured young man. About eight or ten feet up the tree was the stob of a freshly-broken branch. And on the ground below was the branch. It appeared to me that this little tree had broken his free-fall, and was probably the reason why he was still alive. A single little tree.

As the paramedics worked I was no longer of any use and just in the way to I made my way back to the top of the bluff and out to the Faddis cabin, where there were dozens of emergency vehicles at the command post. It has scarcely been an hour since I met the headlights in the driveway in the dark.

While all of this was going on, a neighbor brought the injured man's friend who had been camping with him to our cabin so that he could phone his dad. He had been wandering around in the darkness for quite a while trying to get a cell signal to call for help.

I was not present for the rest of the evacuation, but I have been told that the injured young man was still alive when they reached the waiting ambulance at the Faddis cabin. They raised him up over the bluff right at Hawksbill Crag, then carried him up a steep and rough old trail trace out. He was driven to the hospital and then flown to another emergency care unit. Due to the fog in the area this morning they were not able to fly a helicopter to our area to pick him up.

And I have VERY GOOD NEWS LATE TONIGHT. I just talked with Glenn Wheeler, one of the rescue team commanders, a few minutes ago and was told that the young man is alive and stabilized in the hospital tonight. He has a lot of internal injuries and broken bones and they do not know to what degree he will recover, but this is nothing short of a miracle that he is alive - people generally do not survive a fall of this magnitude. The world owes a great debt of gratitude to all the search and rescue folks around the globe - the job they do is unbelievable. Thank you for all of your prayers...

12/10/12 It is crispy-cold early this morning, kind of blue-cold too, and there is a dusting of snow on the landscape. Seems like winter is approaching - in fact it will be here in 11 days! Most of the trees that are going to lose their leaves have done so by now (some maples, oaks, and most beech trees keep their leaves all winter), and the forest has transformed into what I think is a beautiful never-ending panorama of shapes and textures and perhaps more personality than at any other time of the year. Besides all the naked trees, you can also see boulders and bluffs more clearly, the moos on them seems richer, and of course there is already more water - and soon lots of WATERFALLS too!

We got a call yesterday from the young man who was camping with the hiker who fell off of the bluff on Saturday. He said that his friend was recovering in the hospital and was in amazing condition despite falling 100 feet. They still won't know the full extent of his injuries for a while, but they remain very hopeful, which is very good news.

We have one last very busy holiday week here at our remote Santa's workshop filling book and print orders and getting the Canvas Gallery ready for our last open house of the year this coming Saturday. We will also be open on Sunday afternoon for a couple of hours for anyone who need to run by and pick up a book or calendar or half-price canvas print. And shhhhh, don't tell anyone, but I just completed and installed a large canvas print yesterday that no one has seen yet - it is a three-panel print that measures a giant 5 x 8 FEET! And WOW, you should see it on the wall!!! And like all of our canvas prints, this one is on sale right now for HALF OFF the normal price! I'll post a photo of it later this morning.

We also have slide programs in FT. SMITH on Tuesday and the big one in RUSSELLVILLE on Thursday.

Our 25 Prints of Christmas special promotion continues with a special image today that Amber picked out - AMBER'S MOON & CEDAR TREE. The entire print promotion was her idea, with all the proceeds going directly to help pay her college tuition this spring semester. Each image is available for only the one day it is displayed here on our web page at the special size and price, then is replaced with a new image - each day through Christmas Day. I make all the prints that were ordered the following day, and they are shipped via Priority Mail the following day so it does not take too long for the prints to reach you. Each print is 24" x 36", which will fit in a standard poster frame - or you can have it custom matted and framed for that special touch. These are printed on very special HEAVY photographic paper and will last for generations.

So it is off to the print room this morning as I do a tiny bit of swoosh, swoosh, swoosh on through the woods. Have a HAPPY MONDAY, the best day of the week!

12/12/12 Some terrible news tonight from the family of Austin Elder:

"Dear Prayer Warriors, Our precious precious Austin has taken a turn for the worse. Austin has suffered two massive strokes, which has left him with no brain function. We will meet with Dr. Lee in the morning to take Austin off of the respirator. We will give you more information tomorrow, but we can't express how much you have held us up, witnessed to us and loved us. We know you are the Gift that God gave us to help through this. We will Praise Him in this storm."

December 13 - there will soon be a star in the heavens so bright that we will all be able to see the world around us.

We dedicate this day to Austin Elder; to all of the rescue team members and medical staff who have worked so hard to keep him alive; to the many thousands (perhaps millions) of great people from everywhere who have been praying for him; and especially to Austin's family, who have endured this terrible tragedy with incredible strength and kindness towards others, and who have given hope to countless people around the world.

Austin loved sunsets, and now we will see Austin in every sunset from this day forward...

See Austin's FACEBOOK PAGE for updates


Dec. 14th - Austin completed his journey to heaven this evening. The world is a better place because his bootprints are here..

See Austin's FACEBOOK PAGE for updates

12/15/12 The wind has been howling, swirling, and pounding the cabin with cold raindrops most of the night. Soon the fronts will have passed through and the dawn will reveal a brilliant new day filled with sunshine - and a landscape that has been refreshed with a cool drink! It will be warm and humid today, perhaps our last warm spell before winter arrives in a week.

There have been lots and LOTS of blue birds flying around the past few days, adding splashes of bright color to the landscape. Some are bluebirds, others are blue jays. I wonder if they were gathering just to help lift their new angel into heaven, which happened last night just as the storms were approaching. We've also been seeing lots of bright meteors the past couple of nights - more bright ones that I ever recall seeing during a meteor shower before. In fact the other night as we were driving home from a program in Russellville, it was tough to concentrate on driving because there were so many of them lighting up the sky. Both of my girls were awake and watching for them, and we all would scream out when one streaked across the sky. Every time I saw one I couldn't help but think these were for Austin - "Come on up man, we are ready for ya!" I will have more to say about this strong young man and his amazing family at a later time.

Today is our final Holiday Open House this year, and the first time to display the new eight-foot-wide canvas print that I completed this past week. Everything will be on sale, of course, but we will also have some SUPER-special prices on some items - including five of our larger matted and framed prints - these are the only framed prints we've ever sold - they are stunning and will be a steal! We will also be OPEN ON SUNDAY (tomorrow) from noon-4. We may have another open house later in the spring - late March probably - and I will post details here.

Our last slide program of the year is in Dover on Monday, December 17th. We will spend the rest of the week trying to catch up with everything that has been going on during our marathon holiday run - AND I'll be getting back to spending time in the woods - and making more written post with pictures here. For now it is time to get back to work and get the gallery all set up for today. We hope you have a splendid weekend, and get the chance to get OUTDOORS and enjoy the last weekend of fall!

12/19/12 33 years ago today my world came crashing down - not a day goes by that I don't think about and salute the greatest man I ever knew - I was watching him and paying attention, and hope that at the height of my own life, I will be half the man he was. He was a man who taught me how to be a man, how to be a good citizen of the world, how to be a husband and father and friend, how to give much more than you receive, and how to appreciate the great beauty of the natural world. These colors are for you dad - thanks for life...

12/20/12 When I went to bed last night the skies were filled with bright flashes from an approaching big storm, the ground was shaking, and there was lots of booming going on. We had shut down all computers and unplugged anything that was connected to a phone line, so were able to drift off to sleep without fear of damage from lightning. I don't know how much rain we got out of the system, but the heavy winds are still pounding the cabin early this morning, and I can hear stuff flying around outside and banging into other things - must have been one heck of a storm, and I was glad for a new ten-cent sleeping pill that my doctor found for me that gives me a full five or six hours of deep sleep - YIPPIE!

Since we got home late Monday night from our last program of the year we've been running around all day like crazy trying to play catchup. Our first priority each day has been to process print and book orders - my lovely bride is in charge of all that - I honestly don't know what I would do without her being here every day! Next comes the major stuff we've had to sweep under the rug since there has simply not been enough time this past two months to do much of anything else but the book promotion tour and gallery open houses - we work on that a little each day as we find time. Finally we have been rushing around trying to prepare for the Christmas holiday. We've been working long into the night on these chores, but hope to be caught up enough by next week to sit back and catch our breath - after all we've got new books to get back to work on!

Yesterday while I was hiking back down the hill through the woods from the warehouse I realized it was getting dark - in the middle of the day. Then it got light again. I was pretty much on auto-pilot so was not paying attention to what had been going on around me, so I stopped, leaned up against a tree, and tried to grasp what was happening. At first it just looked like one of those typical overcast gray winter days. Then I realized that the "gray" was moving, and coming right at me! It was a fog bank, a solid wall of pea soup - and it hit me hard! And all of sudden I was in a white-out - I could barely see the ground at my feet. And, of course, I LOVE fog, so I was in heaven. This fog seemed different than most - it was even wetter than normal - full of water and literally dripping wet - and it was SWEET - is it possible for fog to be sweet? I had just devoured a full bag of Iron Works Kettle Corn (I am in LOVE with the Sweet & Salty stuff), so perhaps there was sugar lingering in my head, but darn this fog was sweet! I stood there for a few moments and soaked it all in, then remembered that the girls were waiting for me back down at the cabin to bring them some supplies from the warehouse so I lowered my head and inched my way along the trail - it was a delightful hike.

Sitting at my computer inside the cabin later in the afternoon, I could look out the window and see the fog blowing through the trees. It was pretty warm out - nearly 60 degrees - so I opened the doors and windows and let some of that wonderful fog inside. Low humidity inside our log cabin is always an issue in the winter when the heat is on and drying things out all the time, so I figured it would be a good time to give the cabin a "drink" of some super-saturated air. The girls thought I was nuts of course, especially when we could actually see the fog blowing through the cabin too - but it was good moisture. Just another experience that I bet our daughter will be able to tell folks about as time goes on.

It has been a lot of fun getting up early and picking the new Christmas Print each day. And for the first time I know what tomorrow's and the next day's prints are going to be - but shhhhh, don't tell anyone. Tomorrow will be a classic wildlife shot of mine - the Bull Elk & Harem standing in the middle of the Buffalo River. And Saturday we will do something a little bit different. We've gotten several requests for a star photo, and since I could not decide on which one to pick, I'm going to declare it Star Day at Cloudland and make three different star photos available as the special Christmas Print. The Sunday print will probably be another classic photo from the Buffalo River area, but Monday and Tuesday I have no clue. I will say that these big prints look TERRIFIC, and if you have ever wanted a large print, this is the time to do it. The promotion will end with the last print on Christmas Day.

Speaking of prints, even though our Canvas Gallery is not open, you are still able to reserve any of the canvas prints on display there and get them at HALF PRICE. Shipping is possible for the smaller prints (although it costs a lot to package), but we can arrange to meet you hear to pick any of them up - just go to our online gallery and see what is available, then let us know what you want and we can work out the details.

The cabin is coming to life and the break of day almost upon us - the winds are still howling and throwing things around. Time to head over to the print room and get to work - hoping I don't get lost in the fog today (actually that is NOT true - I would love another thick fog bank to engulf my mind and soul!).

12/21/12 The alarm was set to go off at 3am today, but I was wide awake at 2 so I got up and left early to go shoot sunrise at the Buzzard Roost Arch, the largest natural stone arch in Arkansas. I did not get off to a very good start. My first few steps into the woods along a four-wheeler road were noisy, and crunchy, and wet, very wet. There was no moon, but there was plenty of starlight, so I didn't bother to use a flashlight. But there wasn't quite enough star light for me to see the GIANT mud hole that I walked straight in to! Fortunately it had a crust of ice, and before I got in over the tops of my boots, I backed out and managed to keep my feet dry.

A little while later after an easy two-mile hike, I was standing at the base of the great arch, and the sky above was filled with a zillion stars. I had originally just wanted to shoot the sunrise, but when I had arrived so early (about 5am), I realized that the end of the world was supposed to be at 5:12am, so I might as well set up my cameras and take a picture of it.


Of course, nothing happened, the heart of the world kept on beating, and I got a nice picture of the arch and stars as a bonus! I shot quite a few photos as the deep blue sky got lighter and the stars disappeared. And then I heard voices - two other photographers had the same idea as me. I determined many years ago that when the sun reached its southern-most point on the morning of the winter solstice, the sun could be seen rising beneath the arch - the only such place that I know of in Arkansas where this happens. Taking this picture usually requires a hike in the dark on a frigid day (it is always the first day of winter after all), but I've never seemed to mind it - this is such a rare treat for anyone who is willing to make the trip.

The sun appeared beneath the corner of the arch and the magic happened. The three of us scrambled to frame the scene just right. And then it was all over in a couple of minutes - until next year that is.

(Kind of a funny note - after all the planning and effort to shoot this sunrise photo specifically so that I could post it at the "remote" Cloudland Cabin Cam here today, our good friend, Jason, told me late in the day that I had forgot to post the darn photo! But is is here now, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did shooting it!)


The hike back out to the car seemed easy - I love to lean into the hillside and work my legs. And it was still cold enough that I could push it a little bit and not even work up a sweat. By the time I reached level ground my mind was floating right on along through the woods, birds singing the joy of a new day, and of a new season - WINTER had been born. And then all of a sudden I smelled a very musky odor that literally stopped me in my tracks. I looked up and saw three deer staring at me less than 50 feet away. When the air is crisp and still like it was this morning a scent travels easily. I had to chuckle - thinking back to my high school days when a "musk" cologne was all the rage - perhaps it still is, I don't know. I would rather not smell like the musk glands of a deer!

(On a related note, I am STILL using the exact same bottle of Brut 33 cologne that I had in high school - just a couple drops goes a long way! The old bottle is nearly empty now, but may still last another year or two.)

We've had some terrific winds these past few days - more downed trees and limbs across the landscape that I can remember in a long while. And it was a weird sort of blow - things happened that never happened before, even with much stronger winds. For instance, the canvas print that has been hanging on the outside of our gallery building for years was blown more than 50 feet out into the woods - it survived even the big ice storm and nearly took a direct hit from a big tree that day. The print was fine after its trip into the woods yesterday, and I hung it back up (these canvas prints are pretty darn tough!), but it had never been blown off before.

I saw several flocks of bright red cardinals today - fitting to have such a delightful splash of red just before Christmas. In fact there were lots of birds out today all over the place - I guess that wind got them all stirred up.

It is late tonight and Aspen and I just took a short walk outside. The half moon is shining brightly and it is easy to hike through the woods. I love looking at tree shadows on nights like this - they are so well defined with so much personality. The winds are calm and it is brisk but not frigid. I could have hiked on for hours, but I believe my internal clock is telling me to put this and myself to rest. I've got to get up early tomorrow - it will be STAR DAY at Cloudland - I'm going to select three different star photos as the daily Christmas Print - I just can't make up my mind and we're about out of days.

12/26/12 It was pretty easy to see in the woods this morning as I went out for a short hike a couple hours before daylight - the ground was covered with SHOW, yippie! We ended up with 2-5 inches on the ground, depending on where you measured. Very fine, dry, powder snow. Seems to be a thin layer of ice underneath. Part of that is from about an hour of sleet we had yesterday before it changed to snow. And that exact moment was one I will long remember. It was toasty warm inside the cabin, and the girls were all laid back in front of the fireplace staying warm - it was pretty nasty outside with the high winds and pelting sleet. And then all of a sudden Amber looked up and said "It just changed to snow." What was odd was that we could not really see the sleet or snow since it was blowing so hard, but we could hear the sleet hitting the cabin. And then the noise was gone, just like that. Amber was right - the sleet had turned to snow and it was perfectly quiet outside.

The ground turned white in about an hour - most of the snow had blown on by and didn't get the chance to land at Cloudland. It continued to snow long into the night, but it was always the very fine, dry, powder stuff, and with the winds still howling, again it took a long time for anything much to pile up on the ground. There were times when we lost sight of Beagle Point just across the canyon - blowing snow created a whiteout around us. And it wasn't always blowing from one direction (northeast mostly), but rather the winds swirled, kind of like the big cold front was doing that brought the snow to begin with. There is snow piled up underneath all of our porch coverings on all sides of the cabin.

My lovely bride and I took the pups on a hike around the mountain early in the day. It was one of those days that my mom would have called "Colder than Billy Ned." The temp was in the 20's, but oh my goodness that WIND! And it followed us all the way around the mountain so there was no being blocked by the hill when on one side or the other. I was so cold that I had to borrow a stocking cap from Pam - my ears were nearly solid! She had three layers on her head so I was not too ashamed of having to beg for warmth. Just before we got back to the cabin, it began to sleet - and oh what delicate music it was hitting the forest floor! Kind of like a soft summer rain, only with an edge - and ICE edge!

They were calling for a lot more snow and "widespread" power outages - and while we are not "out of the woods" yet and the power could go off at any time, so far, so good. We tried to stock up with groceries and gas and other items in advance of this storm just in case, and I put in a good stockpile of firewood. We don't normally use the fireplace, but it is always available for heat if needed. And even though we had power yesterday, it seemed fitting to have a crackling fire going on Christmas day, and so we did.

Power did go off the other day, and was off for several hours. Those were critical hours for me as I was making prints that needed to be shipped the same day (our special Christmas Prints). But our "bookmobile" van came to the rescue. I parked it at the front door of the gallery, fired up its generator, and ran an extension cord into the print room to power the computer station and my big printer. I was able to get all of the prints made, packaged up and out to the mailbox to be shipped the same day. We have a big generator that we can hook up to power the cabin, but for the gallery, so the van generator was a lifesaver. We've made a big effort to get these special Christmas Prints out on time, and got every one done within 48 hours, many within 24 hours.

And now that the 25 Prints of Christmas special is over, I want to tell you how it all happened. Our daughter is required to do some study abroad as part of her business degree. Her university has a business campus in Greece, and so that is where she needs to go. It is very expensive for her to make this trip, but it is required and is just something we have to pay for as part of her education. But on her own, and completely out of the blue, she came up with this 25 Prints of Christmas promotion back in November - the idea being that all proceeds would go towards paying for her trip. We all thought it was a great idea, and have put a lot of effort into promoting and processing the prints. We got off to a very slow start - some of the prints didn't get a single sale. But things picked up and the end result of all the sales - we sold enough prints to pay for her entire trip, including her books! WAY TO GO AMBER! And just FYI, parents are not allowed to go (we could not afforded it anyway), but I expect there will be a lot of face-to-face computer talks going on while she is gone.

See all of the Christmas Print images here - the poster-size promotion has ended, but you can order any size print.

It is starting to break daylight here today, a very frigid 20 degrees with some wind, but the howling gales of yesterday are gone. There is some snow on the trees, but mostly the landscape shows dark tree trunks against the white forest floor. Not enough snow for snowshoes (my preferred mode of snow travel these days), but it will still be great to get out and swoosh around through the forest later. The dry earth will appreciate every flake when things begin to melt - melting snow is a great way to recharge the water supply - it is always slow, soaking moisture which is what we need most right now.


12/28/12 I heard a hawk screaming and looked up just in time to see him fold his wings and point his head and body towards the ground - and he started to go really fast. My first thought was that he was about to pounce on one of our cats - they like to spend the day on the roof of the cabin sunning themselves. But just then a very large dark bird floated over the cabin almost directly above me - it was a HUGE eagle only about 20 feet above the roof. The hawk flew within a foot of the eagle, collected himself, then spread his wings and glided back up above the eagle as both of them veered away from me. A couple minutes later this same scene repeated itself, only they were a little higher, but still so close that I did not need binocs in order to identify the giant bird. It was a first at Cloudland - a GOLDEN EAGLE!!! Wow, I could not believe it. They repeated this little dance another time or two and eventually they moved away and out of sight. The eagle knew the hawk was not much of a threat I guess - the eagle never flinched a bit when the hawk dive-bombed him. The hawk kept screaming - perhaps more of a laugh and they were just playing. It was a Cloudland Moment for sure, and I soaked it all in until they disappeared. We now live where golden eagles roam.

The landscape remains white here this morning at first light, although there is a fine mist coming down and coating everything with a thin layer of ice. I had trouble walking on any ground that was not snow-covered (like the driveway or steps) - the snow helps get a grip. It is really a micro-thin coating, and even looking close I could not see it, yet my boot would slide right away. The temp is pretty warm - around freezing - so if it bumps up even a degree or two today I bet a lot of the snow will disappear. There is fog rolling in now and Beagle Point just disappeared - some of that fog may freeze on the trees in what is called "hoar frost" - which can produce some really dramatic landscapes with the pure-white frozen trees it leaves behind. Of course, the fog has to lift before you can really see it, and if the temp rises with the fog the ice on the trees will melt away quickly. I wonder if sitting here waiting for frost to form is as exciting than waiting for paint to dry? If I see, then you will see, so we'll see...(Update - the temp moved up a notch and the fog lifted without any hoar frost, but I got to go wander in the foggy-winter landscape for a few minutes and it was delightful!)

One treat we always look forward to in the winter are the brilliant RED berries of the deciduous holly trees that are scattered around the Faddis meadow. They seem to appear almost overnight, and are the most colorful items in the landscape. They often hold snow well, and I have photographed them many times - snow-covered red berries are a classic symbol of the Christmas holiday. The red remains most of the winter until all of a sudden a flock of birds will engulf the little trees and eat every single berry! But this year those berries turned various shades of orange instead of red. I shot this picture a couple days ago in the bright sunshine and you can see the sun reflected on every berry. They kind of look like navel oranges to me.


12/30/12 There was a brilliant burst of "God Beams" that flooded the canyon below the canyon here yesterday morning - it only lasted for about 30 seconds and then it was gone. But as luck would have it, there was a boy with a camera standing on the back deck who was patiently waiting for something to happen - and it did - and he got the photo. What made the scene and photograph especially pleasing to me was the fact that it was snowing - also lots of ice crystals in the air since the temp was in the teens. And at the moment when the sun beam broke through the clouds, it lit up the snow and ice crystals and with a golden glow that was just magic to me. I had no time to run and get my big camera to set up and use, but my "snapshot" camera did a fine job recording the scene.

I realized later on when we got the new January, 2013 edition of ARKANSAS LIVING magazine, that one of the photos of mine used in a winter article there was taken off our back deck exactly two years ago - and featured an almost identical "God Beam" that moved across the scene - and it too was golden in color (see page 13 in the magazine if you get it). We had a lot more snow then, but the effect of the brilliant sunshine in the snow and ice crystals was the same. For that older photo I was in my bathrobe and house slippers standing in about 10 inches of new snow, and I was highly medicated - I just had shoulder surgery a few days before! (If you don't get the magazine you can view it online, although I just checked and they don't have the new issue posted yet, but here is the link. My photo of the Frozen Glory Hole Waterfall is on the front cover.)

The new scene that I shot yesterday and is pictured below is going to be the first print available in a brand new print series that we will be starting tomorrow. This new series will replace our popular and long-running Print Of The Month series - it will be called the PRINT OF THE WEEK! Each Monday (or close to Monday, depending on my travel schedule), I will post a photo that will be available as either a print only, or with our black mat - the same special prices as our previous Print Of The Month will apply - but only for that week. Some of these will be brand new images like the one I shot yesterday, others will be classics from my previous 37 years of nature photos. Most will be from Arkansas, but many will be from others areas I have traveled to, or will travel to. This will give both me and you the opportunity to see 52 prints a year instead of the traditional 12 photos a year in the old series. I will post the link here as always.


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