CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - JANUARY 2012 Journal Archives
PART B, January 25th - 31st (see PART A here)
Cloudland Cabin Cam January 30, 8:05am - clear warm and BEAUTIFUL! - HAPPY MONDAY!
2012 Arkansas calendars now on SALE!
January 2012 Print Of The Month: The FIRST photo of the new year!
UPDATED - Monday the 30th - a beautiful weekend on the Ouachita Trail
01/25/12 I had rained most of the night and continues this morning as the black sky begins to turn dark blue, then lighter blue, then gray. Silhouettes of the closest trees and branches begin to appear, followed by the ghostly outlines of distant ridgelines and hilltops. The sound of raindrops falling on our tin roof are music - makes me want to go crawl back into bed, but also excites me to GET UP AND GO CHASE WATERFALLS! It is supposed to rain much of the day - we've already had a couple inches of rain. That will be enough to recharge the water systems in Arkansas and fill up the creeks and waterfalls. But today is not really a good day to go view waterfalls since so many of them might be muddy - tomorrow will be the best waterfall hunting day this week as the water will clear up overnight but still should be flowing well. Some waterfalls that require a LOT of water will depend on the local rainfall amounts in their drainage.
Last night before the rains began I stepped outside to listen to a pack of wild coyotes that were singing just across the canyon - I think they were standing at the base of the big sandstone bluff over there since their yelps echoed throughout the wilderness. I did somewhat of a double-take once my eyes got adjusted to the dim light - the horizon was GLOWING in all directions! I counted seven or eight bright areas where city lights were bouncing off of the low clouds above them and sending their street lights beaming on for many miles - some of these towns were 40-50 miles away. We see this from one or two cities every once in a while, but I don't recall seeing so many at the same time before. The picture below is pointing almost directly south of us and shows the lights from just two cities (Clarksville and Russellville). Perhaps this is what the coyotes were singing about - yelling out a hardy HELLO to the folks down in the flatland cities - "Come on up into the mountains and play with us!"
We've had a couple days of really THICK fog all day long, the sort that goes all the way to the ground and hugs it all day long. We get a lot of foggy mornings here, but seldom does it stick around this thick and low all day. We had one day of it, then a day of clear, BRIGHT sunshine, then another day of thick low fog. I love getting out and wandering around in that thick pea soup. The silhouetted trees have so much more personality in heavy fog, and it is easy to just drift around from tree to tree and visit as many of them as you can. It could easily be a haunting experience, but when you know trees and enjoy their company it really is one of the best sorts of hiking there is. And since you can't see very far, there are not many distractions - your attention is right on the individual trees around you. It is kind of like being the only couple on the dance floor - just you and your beautiful tree partner - instead of being surrounded by a hundred other dancers.
Speaking of tree partners, on the one clear day my lovely bride and I and our pups headed out for a ramble during the warm afternoon and ended up going several miles through the forest and meadows. We stopped by the East meadow where Kennie was trimming up a few small trees around the outside edge of the meadow - if you don't trim stuff along the outside edges the meadow keeps getting smaller and smaller each year. That is happening to Aspens meadow - it is smaller now then it was a few years ago!
We hiked on down and along the edge of Dug Hollow and visited Eddy's meadow - he has been successful in getting rid of all the non-native species there, which took a lot of work and time. Most meadows in the Ozarks are filled with non-native and invasive species - some we like, but many are not good.
Aspen continues to have an issue with his aging hips. As long as we keep him off the ground and moving he is great and can go and go all day. But once his rear end hits the ground he has a tough time getting up. We had to help him off the ground just a time or two and he had a really good hike. Odd that we did not see a single critter during our entire hike (well, not counting Kennie).
Daylight is beginning to creep across the landscape. The chilly fog and rain kind of remind me of many days spent in Canada one fall when I went moose hunting. Funny how a certain kind of weather will remind you of other places, but it looked and felt just like this for days on end. I also remember that on that trip (long before credit cards) that my money roll of cash for the trip got lost one day while I was on my belly taking macro pictures. I found it a week later - mice had also found my bank roll and had chewed up most of the money and there were pieces of green all over the place! I did manage to piece together about half of the bills enough to get replacement bills when I got back home (all you need is two matching serial numbers - in some cases that was about all I had left of some bills!). It was a grand trip - the four hunters in our party never laid eyes on a single moose but we had a great time!
ENJOY the rain today, and get ready for the return of WATERFALLS! (The photo below is of Bathroom Falls - taken out our bathroom window in the morning across the canyon of one of two 75' tall waterfalls we see when we have lots of rain!)
01/27/12 Sunshine is SO MUCH brighter when it hits you square in the face after being in a thick fog for a couple of days! Yesterday was one of the very best days for waterfall hunting and photography in a long while - most falls were running full tilt and clear and pretty, and it was overcast most of the day - PERFECT conditions! But when faced with the option of spending the day in the woods with my beloved waterfalls, or getting to be with my lovely bride in town all day, guess which one I picked? Waterfalls will be around forever, but any moment I spend with Pam is the very best air I could ever breathe so I was lucky to get to spend the day with her - YIPPIE!
It was late in the day when we got back to the cabin, and I headed out into the woods with our pups for a quick ramble through the forest. In the middle of our hike the sky began to break up and clear off and the SUN popped through the clouds and my oh my, it was BRIGHT!!! And so refreshing - the entire landscape had been scrubbed clean from the rains of the day before, and it was all fresh and new - but bright! We had a delightful hike and returned to the cabin just as the sun said goodbye for the day.
It rained all day Wednesday, but I was able to sneak out for a couple hours in the afternoon with camera and tripod to visit a couple of nearby waterfalls. I have been unable to get enough of the little spring house in
Boxley, and it only runs well during flooded times for a few hours, so I stopped there first and spent some time with this old friend. There were a few raindrops coming down but nothing too bad. I just love the look and texture of the smooth stones they used for this little building, also the lush moss-covered little bluffline right next to it, and of course the splashing waterfall in between.
There were literally hundreds of places I could have gone next, but I decided not to wander too far from home and eventually pulled over and parked next to the highway as it climbed up and out of Boxley Valley headed south towards Mossville. I packed my camera gear and slid on down the steep hillside heading into the Smith Creek Drainage - just as the sky opened up and began to pour.
Working my way along the bottom of a small bluff looking for a little bit of shelter I came upon a waterfall that I have named Marty Falls - after Marty Roenigk. (QuiVaLa Elise Falls is named after his wife, Elise, and is located in the same drainage a ways on downstream near the very bottom of the canyon - see the Arkansas Hiking Trails or Arkansas Nature Lover's Guidebooks for maps and directions). The falls was running about as much as I'd ever seen it run, but the rain continued to come down as well - which meant I could not photograph it from out in the open in front of the falls. So I spent the next 30 minutes back underneath the large overhang shelter taking pictures from several different angles - keeping the camera dry the entire time. I LOVE shelters and waterfalls like this one, especially when it is so noisy you can't hear!
This recent rainfall has recharged streams and waterfalls in much of Arkansas, and I expect we'll have great waterfall viewing for days and weeks to come - and months to come if we can get a good shower or two every week or two. This should be a wonderful weekend to get out and go waterfall hunting - pick up a copy of the Arkansas Waterfall Guidebook #2 and have some fun!
Marty Falls (three photos above)
Predawn from the cabin
01/30/12 A friendly feathered friend was up early and singing a lively tune this morning - was this a sign of an early spring, or the little guy wondering when we would get hit with a heavy snowfall? Perhaps both! What a lovely way to begin the day!
I spent a couple of days working on the Ouachita Trail over the weekend - and speaking of LOVELY - oh my goodness, the weather was just beautiful, and the country this long-distance backpacking trail winds through was equally wonderful. I spent Saturday in and around the Flatside Wilderness Area. During the first part of my hike I found a new waterfall - not a giant one, but certainly very nice at 11 or 12 feet tall - Sugar Falls. It was tucked away in a neat little side canyon that the trail run up alongside - with many cascades to go with it.
The first trail shelter that I visited was neat and clean and in a great location - like all of them on the OT are - and this one was well stocked with more than four gallons of fresh water (water sources are far apart on this section of the trail).
Next I dipped down deep into the wilderness are and found another beautiful little waterfall (about 10 feet tall), Holly Falls. Again the trail followed along a scenic stream with smaller falls and little emerald pools - plus lots and lots of bright green holly trees growing everywhere. That part of the trail led to a disaster area at Crystal Prong Creek - a tornado or very strong straight-line winds had knocked down a hundred or more big trees and it was a real mess. The OT goes right through the middle of it and I don't know how long it will take for volunteers to be able to cut a way through it all - since it is in a wilderness area they are not allowed to use chain saws, and the work is going to be great to cut through with crosscut saws. You can get through now, but it takes a bit of time.
It was 19 degrees when I headed up a long hillside on the trail early the next morning, but by the time I had reached the top (and another great log shelter), the sun had lit up all the surrounding hills and I had shed just about all my layers. A beautiful, spectacular morning!
Later in the day found me on top of Ouachita Pinnacle, home to one of the most amazing views in Arkansas! You can see forever, and it gives you a good idea of what the Ouachita Mountains are all about.
Later on I hiked on into Big Bear Shelter - perhaps the most scenic location for all the trail shelters, with a wonderful stream filled with lichen-covered boulders running by. When I left the shelter I took a "short cut" upstream to cut off some serious mileage to get back to my car, and I discovered a couple more waterfalls that spilled into emerald pools - only five or six feet all, but just beautiful. Soon after I passed them I was treated to the steepest hike I'd seen in a long while (it was not a "hike" but rather a bushwhack - straight up a long and tall hillside!).
I hiked more than 20 miles on the Ouachita Trail over the weekend and never saw another person! Winter is one of the very best times to get out and hike - especially with the warm temps we've been having this year. And the more I hike this trail (I've done the entire trail before, some parts several times over the years), the more I like it. The volunteers have the trail in the best shape it has ever been in - and with new blazes and mile markers it is easy to follow (trailhead and road crossings are well-marked too). I actually started hiking this trail back in 1974 when I was teaching "Backpacking 101" at the University of Arkansas. They had just started construction on this trail then so there was not much completed, but the only other backpacking trail in Arkansas was the Caney Creek Trail and so the new Ouachita Trail was a great resource.
I didn't take a single photo while I was in the Ouachitas - my time was spent trying to put in miles and record data. But on the way home I got to stop and photograph a beautiful reflection in a pond - the trees were all lit up by the setting sun, and even though the wind was blowing, I could not resist. I'm getting up at 3am tomorrow and heading south again to spend the day on the OT, then have to drive back home tomorrow night for some physical rehab work in town on Wednesday. So this will be the last Journal entry for January. It has been a great one, and I hope you have enjoyed following along a little bit - I look forward to giving you more reports from the Ouachita Trail and beyond in February!