Cloudland Cabin Cam July 31, 7:55am - warm and sunny

UPDATED July 31st




07/03/10 Pam's first plate of eggs from the new hens, including a double-yoker, which I hear is good luck.


The Box Kitty waking from a nap

07/05/10 Pam dropped me off early this morning down in Boxley - the girls were headed up north for their annual weekly trip to Minnesota (Pam, Judy, Amber, Sonya). We had some excitement along the way - a pair of BIG wild hogs were right next to the road, and we got to watch them for several minutes as they crossed a hayfield. One was a big black boy, and the other was probably a girlfriend. He was black and had tusks and a ridge of short, stiff hair running the entire length of his back - a genuine razorback!

I had hoped to see the hogs again - or perhaps I was actually terrified of having to walk right through that same area knowing they were nearby - but there was no sign of them when I went through on my way back home. I had a wonderful fitness hike of about eight miles - the first mile nearly straight up as always, which is why I do this route - because of the steep hill, which I love! It was just glorious hiking through the cool morning air as the sun rose over the distant ridgetops, lighting up fields of hay. And then walking right past some newly-cut hay - oh my goodness, the sweet smell of fresh-cut hay! I never saw a single critter on my way home - the wild hog sightings would be it for wildlife. Or so I thought.

As I approached the cabin at the end of my hike there was a strange feeling that came over me - that happens now and then. And up ahead, I could just barely see him through the trees - a bear! He was hanging out over near where we used to keep our garbage in a bear-proof container that we had built (but a bear tore it up last summer so now we keep our garbage in the deep freeze). I only got to see him for a few seconds as he tore off into the woods as soon as he realized there was a human around.

The chickens were clustered around the front steps to the cabin, and I noticed something funny - there was a naked egg yoke on the ground near them - no cracked shell, just the yoke. I stepped into the cabin only long enough to remove my fanny pack and when I went back outside again, the yoke had vanished - one of the ladies had it for breakfast! Naked yokes on the bare ground is not a good sign, but I soon realized what had happened. There was a large black snake in the chicken house! King George, Jr. was his name, and we've seen him around here several times and have always welcomed him. But his 15 minutes of fame had ended, and I loaded him up and delivered him to a new residence - we can't have snakes eating the produce around here! I do not think he had eaten any eggs, just scared the ladies off the nest, and was keeping them from coming back (we had two hens laying right now, with three more to follow within the next couple of weeks we hope).

And to add a final insult, when I returned again to the cabin I discovered that our two guard dogs had raided Amber's room and there was stuff scattered throughout the cabin - it looked like the bear had been in there too, but since the debris led right to Aspen's throne, I knew he was involved.

The chickens have returned to normal and as I sit here and type one of them has just jumped off of the nest so I'll go out and pickup her new deposit - I hope this one has a shell on it!


We had a long weekend filled with lots of work - which was at times quite frustrating. I tend to eat when I get frustrated and depressed, something that is not a good idea when one is trying to lose weight! But I kept up my exercise most days and weighted in at 177.4 pounds this morning - the goal was 177.5 so I made it! The new picture book and 2011 calendar are complete, except that I still have to make a set of match prints for each (at first I ran out of paper, then I ran out of ink, which is what I'm waiting on now). So now it is onto Don's new Arkansas Wildflower book - and I've already completed work on the last part of the book, which for me seems to always be the front cover - I decided to go ahead and pick it first, and Don has provided us with a terrific photo - you'll see! So the rest of my week will now be spent neck-deep in Don's other 400+ photos.

Speaking of the new picture book, I got kind of crazy yesterday and decided that instead of picking a single image for our July Print of the Month, we decided to just put ALL 130 photos from the new picture book ON SALE for the ENTIRE MONTH OF JULY! You can pick any of the colorful fall photos as a print only for just $29.95, or matted for only $49.95. (you have to go to the online gallery site to order any of these) This special sale will only last until the end of July. Am I crazy? Please don't answer that - I have to go collect a colored egg from the hen house...

07/07/10 Lucy and I are burning the midnight oil tonight trying to get the match prints and DVDs of the book and calendar projects finally put to bed, even though we won't be going there ourselves for a while yet. I've sent several hours worth of prints to the big printer, which has been churning away since Fed-X delivered a new batch of printer ink this afternoon (I ran out over the weekend). While the printer can run just fine without me, I don't like to go off and leave it unattended all night so I've been doing other chores over here while it churns away. Lucy always guards the door, then runs out in front of me as I hike back and forth.

(Match prints are what the printer person uses "on press" when the actual pages of the book come off of the giant printing presses - he will use the print that I send him to adjust the colors/contrast/exposure to match exactly. Each of the sheets that come out of the printing press contain 16 pages, eight on each side, that are eventually folded and cut and then sewn into the binding to form the picture book. It is critical that the match prints turn out correctly or the book will not be!)

The last time I went over to the cabin a little while ago I was met inside the living room by a nervous bat. They get inside form time to time and it is always a pain to get them out - and when we don't get them out they will fly around and squeak all night long! This little fellow was no problem though - he flew into the drawing room and landed next to a window. I got one of the headnets that I use while hiking and just walked right on up to him and caught him in the headnet. Poor guy was scared to death and I know was thankful to be free back outside once again (they LOVE mosquitoes, which is one reason why we love bats!).

Each time I make the trip from the print room over to the cabin to do something, the noise level outside increases - the silence of the wilderness is REALLY LOUD tonight! Frogs a million, plus barred owls, coyotes, and I don't know what else - all are screaming at the top of their lungs. Otherwise it is a perfectly lovely evening out, with cool breezes and comfortable temps.

My day began early with a nine-mile backpack before breakfast. I was SO WET by the time I got home - oh my goodness! I set my nylon shorts onto a chair to dry out a little bit and an hour later there was still a large puddle of sweat on the deck. I hit 175 pounds on the scale for the first time in a good long while - it FEELS so great to be inching my way back into shape again! Some folks have warned about wearing myself out, but heck, the more I exercise and eat right the better I feel and the more energy I have.

There has been a lot of bear sign everywhere I go - although most of it seems to be coming from cubs, or perhaps adults that are just barely getting enough to eat. I've only seen one large scat pile in the last month or two (made up of fine berry seeds). Lucy and I went out to collect the mail this evening and on the way back she went into her bear defense mode - right near a pile of fresh scat up near our entrance sign. I just hope they don't take a liking to chicken!

Burning the DVDs with the files they will use to print the new Arkansas Autumn picture book is kind of a double-edged sword - it signifies that I am really done with the project and feels great, but it also overwhelms me sometimes with knowing what goes onto the DVD will live on in the homes and offices of folks all over the place for many years to come - and goodness I hope I did a good job! Folks seem to be happy with the selections in the book if the range of print orders during the special July sale we have going on now is any indication - we've literally had orders from one end of the book to the other - in fact the first couple of orders were for page 1 and page 144! I had not really thought about making a print of the last page of the book - which has 16 different leaf photos on the same page (they are scattered throughout the book as larger images, and form a quiz about the identity of each leaf). Once I made a print of that last page I really liked it - the leaf IDs are included at the bottom.

Morning update - it is about 6am now and we just had a spectacular pre-dawn light show in the east - so brilliant that it woke me up! I was too late to get a good photo though, so simply had to sit and gawk. I completed the match printing process about 3am so managed to get three hours of shut-eye - I'm off to town now to deliver the prints and run a ton of errands - I've been holed up out here working for the past long while and have a lot of stuff backed up to do. TWO big publishing projects done - one more to go, yippie!

Chicken update - we still have two hens producing, plus a third that might be, although one of them likes to lay on the trail instead of inside the hen house!

07/13/10 The river far below if roaring this morning for the first time in a very long time. When I checked the statewide creek levels yesterday nearly all of the gauges showed "red" - which is too low to float. Folks think that whenever we get an inch or two of rain that all of the rivers get flooded, but this time of the year that is simply not the case - it takes a mountain of water to get things up and moving when you have the landscape sucking up gazillions of gallons of that water a second. We now have high water in a few parts of the state today, but that will run off in a hurry. Certainly waterfalls are great today, but most will be back to nearly-dry summer conditions by the weekend.

We got pounded once again many times during the night - wave after wave of thunderstorms. The satellite went out about 9:30pm, and so we shut everything down and went to bed. We had to shut down at least a couple of times during the day yesterday as well - that kind of messes up our work schedule, but what the heck - we love rain!

I was up and out early yesterday to put in eleven miles of fitness hiking before breakfast. Hard rains during the night had swept the roads clean and smooth and my boots made sharp impressions as I walked along. It was cool and damp and I was soaked to the bone with sweat in about ten minutes. A couple of passing folks have stopped this past week or two and asked what I would do if it rained - what would I care?

Sometimes I kind of get into a zone while doing these long fitness hikes, my mind will wander to wherever it needs to be, and with a headnet over my head (bugs come out early sometimes) and lots of miles ahead of me I will often simply focus on the ground directly in front of me and rarely see anything else around. At one point yesterday - this was at about mile nine, something made me look up, and I'm kind of glad that I did. There was another critter out there on the road, walking the same path as I had taken - right down the middle of the road. He too was pre-occupied with something or another and just walking along with his nose to the ground. We both saw each other at the same time, which jolted us back into real-time in a hurry. I looked up and saw a HUGE, coal, shiny, BLACK bear! He was right there in the middle of the road coming straight at me - not more than 50 feet away!!!

I stopped dead in my tracks and so did Mr. Bear. But even at such a close range the bear could not see too well (they have terrible eyesight), so he immediately stood up HIGH on his hind feet to get a better view of me - I was the short guy in the conversation. He hovered there up in the air for a moment or two, we exchanged glances, and then he hit the ground with all four paws turning and disappeared into the jungle within a split second. I'm not sure if I actually peed in my shorts or not since I was so soaked already! Certainly I skipped a beat - and I bet the bear did too.

And then I just had to laugh. The last several tracks of his going down the middle of the road were placed almost exactly on top of my tracks that I made on my way out the road an hour before. I wish I had a camera - some tracks were a human boot print with big claws in front! I had seen big piles of bear scan right in the middle of the road in this same area more than once, so I guess this guy has found some juicy treats nearby to keep him in the area. The rest of the trip home was not quite as exciting, but I thought I heard a bear or two or three in the thick brush - probably nothing more than squirrels.

As I got closer to the cabin I did see another black critter - it was a TINY hoppy toad, no larger than a pea, and he was hopping right on across the road.

Our work continues on the new Don Kurz Arkansas Wildflower guidebook - holy cow this is going to be a GREAT guidebook, and so much better than anything we've ever had before for identification of Arkansas wildflowers by mere mortals like myself (previous guidebooks have been great for the scientific-minded, but I don't read Latin, so really need something else, and this new guidebook will fit the bill perfectly). The girls are working on the index, which takes several long days by itself, and I'm completing work on all 416 of Don's great photos.

I've also been doing other photo and print chores, although with my training schedule getting pretty heavy right now I'm only able to pull 12-14 hour shifts instead of my usual 16-18 hour days. But meeting my weight and fitness goals has been well worth it for sure - I continue to feel so much better! The only problem has been on some days when I discover a stash of sweet treats hidden in the cabin - when I overeat I simply have to put in more miles. So far I've hit every single Mondy-morning target of losing 2.5 pounds a week, now down a full 15 pounds from where I started six weeks ago. The next month is going to be tough, not only because I have less fat to trim away so it will be harder to lose, but also once I get down to my target weight I will need to maintain that and so will naturally tend to slack off in both my training and eating habits - I must fight the urge to eat bad foods! I suspect what will happen is that I will go below my target weight, and then slowly move back up again a bit, hopefully settling in at a weight where I feel great but can maintain.

Today is a day off of training for me, which means I can work all day long and get even more chores done - plus I'll have the rhythm of the river drifting up through the fog to sing along with!

07/14/10 Just a quick update this morning. I got a wild hair yesterday and ran out the door in search of waterfalls, or rather to photograph a couple of specific waterfalls - one I had been to several times but just wanted to get a better photo of, and one that would be brand new to me that Brian told me about. The forecast called for sunny skies yet it was still cloudy at noon, and the "future" cloud map showed clouds all day so I took the chance.

With a little tweaking of directions I found the first waterfall and it was really nice. There were two problems though - first, the old four-wheeler trail down to the falls took me through a good patch of blackberries and oh brother were they RIPE! But since the sun was beginning to play tag with me I was not able to stop and graze on the blackberries for fear that I would not get a good photo with cloudy skies, so I raced on past the berries that were calling out my name.

The second issue was with my boots. This was my first wilderness trip with the new boots that I've been wearing all summer, the only boots in my life that have not hurt my feet. But I did not know if they were waterproof, or even close to it. When I reached the top of the waterfall I found out immediately, since I had to cross the creek that feeds the waterfall, which was about 3-4 inches deep. Not only are the boots not waterproof (sorry, double negative, but it just sounds best this way), but they sucked in water as soon as I got close to the stream! Bummer. And to top it off, they area REALLY SLICK on the bottom whenever coming into contact with wet rock. Double bummer. So I won't be able to wear these as my normal hiking boots anytime I expect to be near water - back to the Pack Rat for a pair of normal hiking boots! (my old ones wore out last spring, which is why I went hunting for a new pair in the first place)

I managed to get photos of the waterfall with both the sun shining and behind clouds, and I think that I like the one with a touch of blue sky better after all (I now carry a special black filter that does allow good waterfall photos in sunny conditions - sometimes - without the special filter the sunny photo would have been terrible). This great new waterfall will go into the updated guidebook - well worth the trip.


No way to fix the non-waterproof boots, but I was able to rectify the blackberry situation and stopped on the hike back out to graze for a while on sweet, juicy, and refreshing blackberries - I only wish I had an ice cream maker handy! There was no way I could have picked enough berries to take home since I ate every single one of them on the spot.

The next waterfall was a good ways off - nearly a three hour drive - but the rain map showed the area had good rains the past couple of days so I figured it was worth the drive. And I didn't care about sunny skies since this falls was deep in a ravine and also facing east so evening sun would not get in the way. I arrived around 7pm to find the thundering waterfall at a trickle - DOUBLE BUMMER!!! I had just driven six hours out of my way for nothing. Oh well, 'tis the nature of waterfall hunting!


EVENING UPDATE. One of the most beautiful and most photographed old rustic barns in the region died this week - the old barn along scenic Hwy. 16 near Boston, which is located right up on the very crest of the Ozark Mountains. Last month she lost a front leg, then last week the other front leg fell in. And then sometime within the past few days both her hind legs collapsed and she went down. So sad, but she gave many folks such wonderful memories and photographs that will live on for generations, including this young whipper-snapper photographer who first pointed a camera at her more than 30 years ago. Farewell old friend.

07/16/10 We had an epic electrical storm last night - it dumped a lot of hard rain in our area too. In fact I could see the storm - and the lightning bolts from I-40 down at Ozark as I turned to head back home after a quick run out to document a new waterfall. The storm looked so bad and I made a detour from my normal route and drove along the Mulberry River Road parallel to the storm in hopes of missing the worst part of it. My plan WORKED! I didn't get a drop of rain until I turned north at Oark and made my way up onto the spine of the Ozarks and Hwy. 16. Then I hit the storm full force, and drive through it the rest of the way home. The girls had been pounded by this storm for a couple of hours already, and they had to go hide in the basement where they found Aspen already guarding the room. Good dog.

Everything is calm and sweet outside this morning, with beautiful, colorful clouds at first light, lots of baby clouds in the canyon, and roaring rivers drifting up through them all around. Looking at a rain map of the area I see that we got some of the heaviest rainfall amounts in the upper Buffalo River area, but directly south of us didn't get a drop. Certainly a lot of the waterfalls in this area are running today and may still be up this weekend, although many of them will be close to bone dry as well - it will all depend on how much rain a particular drainage got, and certainly the areas south of the main Ozark crest won't be running much at all.

There are several guys in Arkansas that are part of a new breed of waterfall hunter and have been sending me info about many great new waterfalls - lots of them will appear in the new guidebook next year. Brian found another waterfall yesterday and sent me the info on it, and that is what sent me running out the door yesterday afternoon. The top of this waterfall is really easy to get to and within 100 yards of a forest road - a nice change from some of the waterfalls I've been finding that are deeper inside the wilderness.

When I first got out of the car to gear up for this waterfall I thought - "NO WAY!" The terrain was nearly FLAT. But I could hear the waterfall from the road. It was an easy stroll through the forest and about a minute later I was standing on top of this beautiful new waterfall that plunged 51 feet over the edge. The creek was running enough to produce the waterfall, but it really needed a lot more water for great photos, but I climbed on down into the canyon to make my "moon landing" photo just in case I never get back in time with higher water.

One thing that struck me about the land above the waterfall were all the wildflowers in bloom EVERYWHERE! Funny that I've been spending so much time processing more than 400 of Don's flower photos for his new guidebook, and now I got to see probably a dozen different species in bloom at a time of the year when most folks consider flowers to be all dried up. But the forest can be alive with wildflowers throughout the entire summer, including low-growing species, and also small bushes and shrubs in bloom, like several that I saw yesterday with BRIGHT yellow blooms. And I could not ID a single one of them - just too many flower photos in my head I guess!

There was a nice emerald pool at the base of the waterfall, and I looked around a bit to find a good spot for a photo that would include this pool and show off the height of the waterfall. There is also a nice overhang that makes a wide sweep behind the falls. One note - part of that overhang came CRASHING DOWN while I was there, yikes!

The sun was shining and lighting up part of the waterfall and some of the ground around the base so I sat down to wait for better light (SOMEtimes I can use my special black filter on waterfalls, but this was not one of those times). I rarely get to just sit and relax and enjoy these things, so it was very nice to be able to do so. As the sun dipped lower in the west the angle of the sun actually lit up more of the waterfall, and also the back of the overhang, where there were moving patterns of light bouncing all over the place - it was quite a show! The sun shone through part of the waterfall and projected that onto the back of the sandstone wall (which was moving all the time), plus light that was shining on the pool below was reflected on that back wall and moving around as well. I wondered who else in history had ever sat there and watched the same thing going on?

As the sunshine faded I took a few pictures and then bid the area a fond farewell. Oh yes, one other thing that I noticed - while the surface of the pool contained hundreds of water strider and other water bugs, there was not a single bug in the air - YIPPIE! That was very odd since there are almost always annoying little bugs out these days. I wonder if all the different species of wildflowers in bloom had anything to do with that (natural repellents)?

Even though this waterfall was within two miles of the Mulberry River, I decided to take the "back" way out so that I could check some road mileages, which is why I ended up in Ozark where I saw the big storm. THANK BRIAN, for another great waterfall find!


Today and tomorrow MAY be the end of my marathon work days for a little while - at least I hope so! We have almost come to the end of work on Don's new wildflower guidebook - still have more than 400 color conversions to go, some final editing, then I'll make match prints of the entire book and burn the DVD for the printer. I'm also working on some nice prints for an emergency room waiting area, plus I have several large canvas prints to make - I should have all of this completed by this weekend, YIPPIE! Then I can get to work on the long list of other chores that I've been putting off ever since these book projects began.

(FYI, we found a home for the hot tub!)


Evening view from the back deck looking up Whitaker Creek

07/18/10 Another quickie post. I spent much of yesterday getting the hot tub ready for departure. A chance meeting while out on one of my training hikes with two of the Woods Boys (the waterfall is named after them), means that we'll have enough man power later today to lift the 700-pound tub out of the deck and out to a waiting trailer for transport later to its new home. Today is "Decoration Day" at the Cave Mountain Cemetery, and there will be a large crowd of family members and distant relatives of many who are buried there gathered for a feast of celebration of their loved ones. We often see many visits from these folks who come by our cabin after the event just to have a look around - some have made the difficult trip down the ladder trail to the old homesites at the foot of the mountain, although the last of the folks who were kids down there are now too old to make the trip. Anyway, the Woods Boys volunteered to get a crew together from the gathering to come help move the tub, and a giant YIPPIE! rang out inside of me when I heard this news!

But it took a great deal of work yesterday to get everything ready, which included cutting around the hot tub with a special circular saw blade that is made just for cutting concrete and tile. Then we had to place a pair of heavy straps completely around the tub. Today I will cut some lumber to put under the straps that will act as handholds for the crew to use to lift the tub up from its sunken deck location. Then we'll have to turn the tub on its side and push it through one door, about 75 feet along three different decks (12 inch step up in between each), and finally out a second door and then up onto a trailer. The first door is going to be TIGHT - the tub itself is 79.25 inches and the door is 79.30 inches tall. We decided simply to remove the second door since it was just installed and has not been sealed up yet. KUDOS to the Woods Boys (Kennie and Billy) who have already been down twice to help me on this project, and to all the rest who will be here later today! It is so great to live in a community where folks will drop whatever they are doing to go help out a neighbor (although I did mention a visit to the Catfish Hole #3 in Fayetteville as a possible payback!).

We found a young man who just graduated from high school that is willing to take on the hot tub project at his home - he is going to try and fix the heater and get it back up and running again. If he does, he'll have a great treat awaiting him each night after work as I have had for eleven years!

Big canvas prints and more work on Don's wildflower book will also dominate today, but the end is near! The river far below continues to sing loudly and has cleared up from several days of being more hot chocolate than pure mountain water. Pam spent most of yesterday in town doing laundry. Our almost-brand new Maytag dryer quit working a couple of weeks ago. The "local" Sears Home Repair service was called out to fix it - after a series of four phone calls (they won't let you know the phone number of the local repair shop). The repair man arrived a week later and said he would be back the following Friday with the new part. He never showed up. Four more phone calls later got us the answer that the shop was closed for the day. It will be at least another week before we see him again - or perhaps we will never see him again, we don't really know since they won't allow us to actually talk with the local office. This is a really BAD way to do business, and I highly recommend that you find ANYONE else to use other than Sears Home Repair service!

07/21/10 Cool and calm at first light this morning - a great time to be up and outside for sure! I suspect that heat will slip into the air soon and caves will look like great places to visit. Lots of little birds up and out enjoying the sweetness of early morning. I guess one thing I love about this time of day right now is the fact that the FROGS are all asleep - it is normally much louder out here in the summertime at night than in the city.

Both Don Kurz and I were up and making final edits to his wildflower book yesterday at 5am, Pam soon followed going through the entire text one last time. And then it was done and off to the print broker who sent it to another print broker in California who then sent it onto the printing house. We expect all three new publications of ours (Arkansas Autumn picture book, 2011 Arkansas scenic wall calendar, and Arkansas Wildflowers guidebook) to be available sometime in October - I'll keep you posted!

There are always a few moments of great euphoria once we get our new publications completed each year - seems there are always two or three months worth of marathon days to make that happen. It is such a GREAT feeling to get it all done at last! But soon real life hits you back in the face, and instead of getting to take a day or two off, the long list of projects that you have been avoiding all that time pops up - OK, back to the rest of our work again! I'll spend much of today trying to catch up on e-mails and doing household chores, including constructing a larger "run" for the chickens - they have already outgrown the small one we built for them (we had not planned on all five hens surviving this long, so they need more space). Most of the time the girls are let out of the coop and run free throughout the property, returning to the coop to lay their eggs (three hens laying daily now, two still too young to begin production, but will soon). But for days when we may not be here in the morning to let them out they will need a larger space to run around in - just a few posts and a roll of chicken wire will do the trick!

Just yesterday I noticed a large crop of mushrooms popping up all over the place - red, white, and blue ones too! Some of the red ones are 8-10 inches in diameter. Seeing a lot of whitetail deer fawns too - seems a bit late for them, but I've been seeing even very young ones. Horseflies are not late though - they are early, and the crop is heavy and hungry this year. I'm going to have to start wearing long pants on my hikes because of them. We have a great crop of HICKORY NUTS - giant ones, plus many that are coming out four at a time. Euel Gibbons would be proud.

Speaking of old timers, we lost one of the early builders of the Ozark Highlands Trail to cancer last week. Bob Starnes worked long and hard during the early years to help carve this wonderful hiking trail out of the wilderness, and also led the restoration efforts of the historic lodge and cabins at White Rock Mountain. Without his help I doubt the OHT would exist today, or at least it would not have been nearly as nice to hike for sure! Bob won't rest in peace either - he'll be out on the trail all the time from now on! He was a good egg.

Think I'll go put in a few miles myself and remember the good old days, and make a few memories to think back on fondly when I get to be an old timer!

07/23/10 It was quite breezy early this morning before first light, which makes even the worst day a lot cooler. The temp reached the high 80's here yesterday, which is almost as hot as it gets up here in the mountains. With temps generally ten degrees warmer in town it is no wonder that I seldom stray far from the woods in the summertime!

My lovely bride and I were up at 5am yesterday for a long drive to a distant future trailhead - right now there was nothing to mark the beginning of a brand new 11-mile section of hiking trail that I needed to document to be included in a future guidebook update, but we found the trail with little problem - just had to drive really slow and look.. The temp was already 83 when we found it. Having spent a good bit of time pounding the road these past few weeks in warm weather, I was not too worried about the heat, but I did come prepared for just about everything else.

When I set off on the new trail I was covered head-to-toe, including a headnet on the top and a pair of snake gaiters on the bottom, long pants and shirt in between. I needed two packs to carry all of my gear (including a belly pack for easy access to some items), which included quite a bit of water (about a gallon), snacks (two apples, banana, and two energy bars), a gps (so that Pam could use the "track" of the trail to draw the map and elevation profile for the guidebook), FindMeSpot (in case of emergency), tape recorder (so that I could record all the info that I needed to do the write up for the guidebook), measuring wheel so I could document exact distances (which I pushed in front of me), moleskin (for any hot spots I got on my feet), and various other articles of clothing just in case.

The trail was nearly grown completely over and under, and I did not even see my feet for the first mile - sure was glad I brought along the snake gaiters! Turned out that I never saw a single snake, but it was possible one could have been on the trail underneath the heavy weed growth and so I wanted to be prepared. I was almost completely covered with spider webs within a couple hundred yards, so I was REALLY glad I had a bug net over my face - there were no bugs other than the spiders, but that net kept me from eating spiders all day!

The trail was pretty easy to follow, and it should have been since it was just constructed this past year or two. I was thrilled with the location of the trail, which provided plenty of great views of the Buffalo River far below. There were plenty of ups and downs for sure, but it wasn't until near the end of the trip that I hit a really steep hill, with a trail that went nearly straight up that steep hillside through a rock garden for nearly a half mile. (hint - hike this trail the way it will be written up in the guidebook because there are steeper climbs going the opposite direction)

And something that I was only half expecting, but found to be much greater than I could have imagined, there were at least five waterfalls along this new stretch of trail, including three that were just beautiful and will be going into the new waterfall guidebook next year - a BIG PLUS! In fact one of them was running well enough yesterday that I probably could have taken a photo of it, but I would rather return and do a better job during higher water. I will have to return to all these waterfalls in the next week to measure them.

I've been doing my fitness hikes up here on the road at about four miles an hour, but was slowed down to nearly half of that for this 11-mile hike yesterday - it took me about five hours. I had to stop many times to take GPS readings, and other chores associated with documenting this for the guidebook, and also I stopped to admire the spectacular views quite a few times along the way. All in all I think this new trail will be one of the very best hiking trails in all of Arkansas, and it will be great to have it in an updated guidebook that will be out this fall (this is a hiking trail guidebook, not the waterfall guidebook - the waterfall guidebook will be out in 2011). And the BEST part of the hike - my lovely bride met me at the end, yippie!

Now I have to transcribe the tape from my hike, then do a write up of the trail for the guidebook. Pam will take the raw data from the GPS track and produce a map and elevation profile - she uses the track as a template and then draws everything freehand using a graphic artist pen and tablet on the computer. I must get all of this done and sent off before I leave for Iceland.

Fat Boy Report, a little early. I have met my goal of 170 pounds as of today. 20 pounds lost in less than seven weeks. (I actually started at 191.6 but who is counting.) My goal now will be to maintain myself pretty close to this target weight, and to keep in shape. I could tell yesterday that I was in pretty good shape for all of those hills in the heat - neither really bothered me much. It would have been a struggle for me two months ago, especially after sitting on my hind end for much of the past five years, ha! The least I have weighed as an adult was 160 - while doing extended summertime trail construction. I probably won't ever be back in that sort of condition, but 170 feels pretty darn great.

Today I must head into town for many chores - it won't be hot will it?

Here I am all decked out at the end of the hike - this is what the stylish guidebook author is wearing this year in the woods:


07/27/10 Boy, did we LUCK out! Looks like today is going to be the coolest day of the summer, which goes against what it should be. You see our AC at the cabin quit working yesterday and the temp inside has been slowly inching up. We normally run the AC at 78 degrees (with lots of ceiling fans going), and by dark yesterday the temp was up to 82. With windows open and more fans on during the night the temp in here is now down to a very comfortable 75. The humidity outside is close to 100%, so that is what it is inside as well. As soon as things begin to warm up a bit outside this morning we'll shut most of the windows and try to keep the coolness inside. Fortunately, the repairman is supposed to be here late today to fix the AC, we hope. This may be one indication of the economy - normal it would be at least a week before a repairman would be able to get to us.

Speaking of such things, after four or five more phone calls to Sears Home Repair Service, we finally got a phone number that someone found in a secret place for the secret office in Harrison that had connections and could get a message to have the actual repair guy who first came out to fix our dryer call us - he never showed back up a week later with the part, nor ever contacted us. And he did eventually come out to put in the new part, but guess what - the part did not work! So we continue to wait on Sears Home Repair Service to fix our dryer. Next time we will probably just buy a new dryer since this is now going to cost us almost as much, and we'll have been without one for a full month.

I've been on several long fitness hikes the past few days (13 miles yesterday before breakfast), but am taking the next day or two off to let my body recover. One thing that I've noticed is that the road is almost totally free of trash - a very nice thing to see in your own neighborhood, especially with so many thousands of other folks coming and going all the time. THANKS for helping to keep Arkansas clean! Since I spend a good bit of time with my eyes focused on the road at my feet, I do get to see interesting things that are embedded in the road, or recently churned up by the road grader. Most common are simply bits of metal of all shapes - lots of washers, bolts, and other metal items that I can't really identify - all fallen off of one mechanical part or another. The most common item found on the road - horseshoes! I've found at least a dozen of them in all states of being, most of them being bent out of shape and worn way down - some appear to be historical as they are weathered quite a bit.

I've been finding lots of beautiful leaves on the road - bright orange and red with green veins. Most of them are blackgums, but also many sassafras and other unidentified leaves. Gazing upon a wide landscape that is at the peak of fall color is one thing, but being able to examine a single leaf like this is just as rewarding to me. You will see how much I love these little guys when you look through the upcoming Arkansas Autumn picture book - there are many macro photos of individual leaves, each with its own shape and personality. (And just a hint about this - our SPECIAL SALE price for ALL of the images in the new picture book will continue until Saturday - an 11 x 14 fine art print of ANY photo in the new book for only $29.95!!! Or with a black mat for only $49.95 - better browse the online gallery and order a couple today before you forget! I'll get them all printed and shipped before I leave for Iceland.)

And the rocks have reappeared up near the church. A couple of months ago several large rocks appeared right in the middle of the road - you had to be very careful to keep from hitting them. These were rocks the size of a football, only flatter. After a day or two of driving around them I stopped and pulled them off of the road. More rocks appeared at the same location the next day. And then the next. And the next. Same location, three or four random rocks scattered on the road in a sharp corner so you didn't see them until the last moment. Someone saw a dog sniffing one of the rocks and the rumor began that the dog was actually placing the rocks there - hardly. And then a week or so later the rocks stopped, after I had removed them at least six or eight times (I never heard anyone else say they had removed any of the rocks, only me). No more rocks until Saturday night, when Amber not only reported a BUNCH of new rocks in the middle of the road, but one of them was so large that it scraped the bottom of her car as she carefully tried to go past. So now this rock thing has turned into harmless vandalism into a felony. It is obvious that someone is trying to damage cars on Cave Mountain Road. I hiked over to the spot Sunday morning and removed all of them - the largest one was almost too large for me to move, that's how big it was. I've heard that security cameras will be installed so the next time the yahoo puts rocks there I think they might get a visit from the sheriff.

Speaking of our lovely daughter, she may have saved the peach crop, yippie! While she was driving home the other night she scared off a bear that was climbing up into a peach tree in Benny's garden - this was the first such visit by a bear to the garden this year, and Amber did her best to send the bear off into the next county. The bear had eaten all the peaches off of one smaller peach tree, and he had been up in the other peach tree and broke off a large limb that had at least 100 peaches on it, but the tree contains many hundreds more peaches, almost ripe. We're hopeful that the bear will think twice about coming back - at least until all the peaches are eaten!

OK, now back to real time. We have heavy fog here this morning with a light breeze. When I look around the cabin I can see the fog actually moving through the cabin! I love days like this - cool and foggy and lush all over. It is one of those days when you can breath deep and take that moist air deep inside you - seems like you get a little extra of something with each breath. It is also one of those days that might stay this way most of the day, and I hope so, not only because of our AC problem, but also because it is a great break for the landscape to be cooled and damp.

Time to get to real work - hope you have a GRAND day, and time to step outside and suck in some delicious air today!

07/31/10 It was warm early today, or actually I guess it never cooled down during the night. We keep our temp inside the cabin set around 78 and I always know when I open the door at 4 or 5 or 6am to step out onto the back to sip my 1/2 cup of coffee how warm it is out - if the air FEELS cooler (than in the cabin) then I know it is at the most in the low 70's, if it feels warmer than I know the temp is at least in the low 80s - not a good sign for early in the morning like today! There is not a wisp of air moving, and that will make for a very hot day - but hey, that is what you expect during the height of the summer so no problem!

Speaking of AC, when ours went out this past week a guy from Paschal Heating and Air in Springdale arrived within 24 hours (and right on time too), had the cool air blowing once again within 30 minutes, then drove off with a wave and a smile - this is the type of service that you should expect from a service company, and the kind of service that I don't mind paying for. (On the other side of the coin, our almost-brand-new clothes dryer still does not work, even after a month of waiting and three trips to repair it by Sears Home NON-Repair in Harrison. We drove to Missouri yesterday evening to buy a new dryer - Home Depot in Harrison didn't have any in stock. If anyone wants a nearly-new clothes dryer for free, please let me know!)

Chicken update - out ladies continue to produce eggs every day (still only three laying - we are beginning to think that the other two are roosters!). They are a hoot to watch as they wander around the yard and forest areas near the cabin in search of bugs or whatever it is they do out there - you should see them when a certain type of small blue butterfly comes around! They sometimes will chase a bird, and will often surround one of the cats and chase him/her around too - I think all of this is just for fun! So far there has been no interaction at all between the chickens and our dogs.

The girls are off to Missouri and it is time for me to get to work. We've had a very interesting month of July this year - with lots of rain, some cool weather, and also lots of typical hot July weather. I hope you have been able to seek out an old swimming hole or two to soak and cool down in this month - and remember where that was since you might need it again for August!

One last note - today is the last day to order any (or all) of the 130 scenes from the new Arkansas Autumn picture book at the special Print Of The Month sales price. And MANY THANKS to everyone who has already placed an order - there are some really neat prints going out the door to you! (most I have never printed before, so it has been a lot of fun to process and print them for the very first time)!

UPDATE - it took me about ten minutes to install our new dryer this morning - DOUBLE YIPPIE!

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