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LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - JULY 2020 (previous months)

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Little Bluff cabin cam July 31 - cool, breezy, and DELIGHTFUL this morning!!! Fall is in the air and on the trees...

Journal updated on July 31st

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Print Of The Week special (above)

ARKANSAS 2021 ENGAGEMENT CALENDAR now shipping (click here)

2021 ARKANSAS WALL CALENDAR now shipping - click here

ARKANSAS GREATEST HITS - NOW SHIPPING - order here! (autographed, personalized copies available July 28th)

07/01/20 After putting in nearly a full day of work to get ready, we loaded up our camper van and headed west about 3pm. We drove across a very warm Oklahoma, stopping kat 1:30am for a few hours shut-eye in a little city park in Guymon. We have our camper van set up with 14 days of provisions so that we’re able to manage life without interacting with a single human - our little fridge/freezer are PACKED FULL! It is such a nice way to travel.

07/02/20 Nice drive through the volcano country of northeast New Mexico, then up and over the pass into Colorado, then over another pass into the San Luis Valley and past Great Sand Dunes National Park, finally arriving at our campsite just outside of South Fork.

The puppies knew immediately when we left the highway for the three-mile gravel-road drive to our spot that we were about to enter the “chipper zone” - the land of endless chipmunks with about acres to chase them on! And oh my goodness did they hit the ground running! Ten minutes later both pups had changed color (to dust color), and had their heads buried in one of several chipper holes. They were happy campers.

Us humans were exhausted after the 18-hour drive, but that ‘s OK - here at Sierra Creek we have nothing but time. Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that before, but our little spot on this steep hillside that got burned off by a big wildfire in 2002 is the headwaters of Sierra Creek - there are actually three tiny dribbles of water that come together around us and form Sierra Creek. While on our property the creek is just big enough for the puppies to make a mud puddle out of. The creek runs about two miles before joining Willow Creek, and then just a little while farther it runs into the big Rio Grande River, right in the middle of the Blue Ribbon Trout Waters section of it - we can see that area from our campsite.

Even though my body was weary I made a quick hike to the top of the road here - a mile-long 500’ climb, all above 9,000’. I’m happy to report that my head and body had no issues with the altitude, yippie! There are no snakes here, nor poison ivy, or ticks or chiggers, and it’s so GREAT to be able to just get out and roam around. But we do have a bear and a mountain lion roaming the property nearby.

Here's the big rock just below our campsite - my view of it from our driveway entrance as I was getting back from my hike -

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07/03/20 What can I say - it was a SPECTACULAR light show for sunrise today, which is pretty common here. Kind of like the ones we’ve had back home at Little Bluff - must be the time of day, haha! We don’t have a plan or schedule and don’t know how long we will be here, but I hope to post a photo or two. We do plan to mostly stay away from people and keep to ourselves - kind of like back home at Little Bluff, haha...There are a couple of projects that sill keep us busy (one of them a multi-year project to thin our aspen forest and create what I'm going to call a "Georgia O'Keeffe fence" to stabilize the hillside above our campsite (I'll explain later).

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FYI, Pam's dad will process and ship any book orders that come in so our shipping schedule will remain the same - I just won't be there to personalize any books nor make prints (I pre-autographed guidebooks and picture books so they all will be autographed). We have a caretaker staying at the cabin - I wonder if they will mow the yard?

07/04/20 A beautiful blast of color at dawn - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL IN THE USA! A quick update from yesterday - we did make a trip into town to attend the annual South Fork Fire Department Catfish Dinner fundraiser. It was a drive-thru, and there were HUNDREDS of vehicles in line. Every single person inside vehicles was wearing a mask, as of course were all of the firefighters and volunteers helping. The entire event was SO WELL ORGANIZED. And OH MY - the catfish, hush puppies, and all the rest were just amazing! You had to place and pay for your order online, then they scanned you phone while in line, drinks were delivered, then the meal, all within just a minute or two as the line kept moving right on along. Firefighters are such a class act!

Speaking of masks, since pretty much everyone in Colorado is wearing a mask, we feel SO SAFE HERE. They "get it” in Colorado. Such a simple idea - going out into public, wear a mask. No freedom is being compromised - you just spend part of your day with on additional article of clothing. The more folks wear masks, the sooner our country will be able to get back to not wearing masks, and the more lives will be saved. THANKS to everyone on the planet wherever you are for wearing your mask!

Today will be a work day for us at the campsite, but at the end of the day we’ll have burgers on the grill to celebrate the 4th (and to fill our bellies!). No fireworks in Colorado, but the amazing light show at dawn was pretty nice!

We were thrilled to discover yesterday that all three of the bird boxes we had installed last summer were filled with new families right now! In fact, we have three different species in them too! Mountain bluebird, Wild Rose sparrow, AND a swift family. The mountain bluebirds are the most beautiful birds here, with the possible exception of the western tangers, which we have heard already on this trip but not seen yet.

The white-belly swifts have always been constantly in the sky above and around us, but we’ve never seen them in a nest box before. And yesterday, oh my gosh, I get we had 50 or more swifts doing aerabatics all around us! In fact one group of five swifts had to abort part of their pattern at the last minute when they discovered they were about to fly THROUGH the gazebo tent we had just erected! I could have almost reached out and caught one of them in my hand they were that close. We LOVE all the birds here, but especially swifts because their fulltime job is bug catching, and they are really good at it.

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07/05/20 Here's the view from our meadow looking back towards the campsite at first light today - that steep hill catches the first rays of golden light, and is all Rio Grande National Forest land and goes up to Beaver Mountain, Del Norte Peak, and tens of thousands of acres of wilderness. Only the first 10,000 acres burned in 2002 - the rest is all lush with huge stands of aspens, ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, and many others - and lots of deer, elk, bears, and a few mountain lions too! Many lakes and streams with trout...

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07/06/20 This rainbow happened yesterday evening during my hike just above our property was one of the most intense I've seen in a while, and went on for more than 30 minutes!

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07/07/20 Some nice color at dawn (sorry, I forgot to post this photo below) - our view is to the northeast, and the farterest mountains we see are the majestic Sangre De Cristos near Great Sand Dunes National Park. HAPPY TUESDAY!

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07/08/20 (44 degrees at dawn) There’s a western tanager in a nearby tree this evening filling the air with music. I hear him each morning at dawn, and again after sunset as the colorful clouds fade to gray and the landscape slips into slumber. I can’t see the bird - never have seen him this year. In fact in the four summers we’ve been coming here we’ve only seen him one time - though he never fails to deliver the music.

Today was a rest day for me to help out my ailing back and neck. We’ve been hitting it pretty hard just trying to get back to normal here at the campsite, and also working on my Georgia O’Keefee fence project. Every year weeds and wildflowers cover our gravel “pad” area that we leveled out of the steep hillside, which is where we park and camp and live. Each year there are more grasses and weeds and flowers that we have to pull out of the ground - if it’s not done each year, then the following year they all will have taken over! (no such thin as a lawn mower around here) My lovely bride has been in charge of that, but I’ve helped out a little bit.

Mostly I’ve been working on the hillside just above the campsite, where we have a grove of about 300 aspen tree saplings all clustered together. We’ve been told to thin them for a variety of reasons, and that makes sense, but I always hate to cut down a beloved aspen tree. Then there’s the issue of where to put them once they are on the ground (they don’t make good firewood, and we never have a camp fire here anyway - it is always a high fire danger season when we are here and usually no campfires allowed). That lower end of that same hillside is prone to erosion where it meets with the levelled-off parking pad, and we really need a retaining wall of some sort but it just doesn’t seem right to construct one there - since everything except for the little storage building is natural.

So this summer I came up with an idea to then the aspen trees and use them as a retaining wall/fence - dead trees like that will last for decades here in the high country. So in the process of disposing of the saplings and making a retaining wall I hoped to create a work of art - something that Georgia O’Keeffe might have done, or at least might have smiled or smirked at. She once sent a crew of workers into Colorado to cut down hundreds of aspen saplings about the same size as we have, to use in part of the roof in the house in Abiquiu, New Mexico, that she was rebuilding. That was in the 1940’s or somewhere along then. Those very same saplings remain in her beautiful old house, painted and repainted a time or two I think. Anyway, this one is for Georgia! (she also loved old and odd items found on the landscape, like skulls and other bones, and she often made famous paintings of them)

So once I got the general idea of how my O’Keeffe wall/fence was going to work, I started selectively thinning the aspen saplings, then removing all the limbs, then placing each sapling in its place along the edge of the forest and camping pad. It took a while to get one course/layer of them cut and trimmed and places - it’s probably 100 feet long (I need to step it off tomorrow - OK, I just did it tonight and it is 126’ long!). Then I added a second and third courses, more in some places. No telling how many saplings it will take, or layers, or length of time - it will just sort of all come together as it happens.

Rather than just being this project and work and work until I’m done, I’ve been telling myself that OK, I will go cut down, trim, and place ten saplings before I do ABC (eat, nap, hike, etc.). Sometimes though I end up doing 25 or 30. Yesterday I got a little carried away and did many more and buy the end of the day I was having to stop and lay back in the deep grass and nap over and over. Luckily, my buddy, Wilson, was nearby to help, and to make sure that I selected the perfect resting spots on the hillside. This mini forest is just BEAUTIFUL! And not a single tick or snake or leaf of poison ivy in sight! And while I still hate to cut down even a single sapling, it seems that the forest is breathing a little easier now as it gets opened up a bit. The beginnings of the wall -

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A couple of days ago the afternoon sky opened up and it began to pour, and then high winds brought HAIL, and it got really noisy! Once the heavy stuff settled down Pam realized there was a large coyote that had bedded down in the meadow below us and had been there during the entire weather event. We started watching her through binocs and oh my goodness, she had a GORGEOUS, multi-colored fur coat! Very striking, with a white band running around her shoulders. She got up and walked across the meadow, then down into the Sierra Creek canyon and out of sight,.

A little while later I searched the meadow where she had been bedded down - Pam thought maybe she had been giving birth since she was licking herself a lot - but I could find no sign. We saw this same coyote the next day crossing a meadow not too far away - she looked really healthy, and beautiful!

Speaking of wildlife, as I’m typing this we just saw on Facebook that a neighbor not too far away has an agressive bear on their back deck, actually trying to get into their house! I just cleaned off our table and sitting area outside the van in case he paid us a visit, but I decided to leave our can of bear spray on the table just to see what he might do with it.

On another wildlife note, we had about 41 head of cattle in our little meadow just below our campsite the other day - 20 cows with 20 calves and one bull. It was a hoot watching all the calves grouped together and running and jumping and playing in the meadow. (the big coyote joined them one time and walked right through the middle of the herd) Mostly the cows just stood around and munched on the foot-tall grass. At one point, a bit wind started to blow - all the cows had been bedded down for a while, chewing their cud. But when the wind hit, the entire herd got to their feet and headed for the trees on the other end of the meadow - just like that in about two minutes all the cows had disappeared. They didn’t blink an eyelash when the big coyote was with them, but the wind scared them all away!

Time for me to go check on the can of bear spray and see if that critter is about. NIGHTY NIGHT....

07/09/20 WOW, it was like we were in a blender all day! High winds couldn’t make up their minds which way to blow, so they blew every which way, and sometimes everything came loose! (Wasn’t that a movie?) I decided to take another rest day for my back, but Mia got me up and working again when she took her brother over the electric fence and up on the hillside above camp in pursuit of a little chipper (chipmunk). That’s a NO-NO here - we need our puppies to stay inside the fence - bears and bobcats and hungry coyotes waiting for them outside! Our electric cow fence is working just fine - although the cows have only visited our big meadow one day, and it was great fun watching them - until a kid that was staying at a cabin next to our property quite literally chased all the cows away. “DO NOT EAT OUR GRASS!” he yelled as he ran down the hillside waving his arms and screaming. The cows scattered and eventually all left for quieter pastures. Thank goodness the kid left too. We can’t complain too much - we remain very isolated without human contact 99% of the time here and it is GREAT!

Anyway, it took me a while today to patch together bits of wire to hopefully secure the area where Miss Mia escaped. She KNOWS the fence is HOT (even though the lower wire is not hot), but she has figured out a way to jump straight up and over the lower wire (we have two strands of wire here - the top wire is hot for the cows, the lower wire is just for the puppies and not hot) without touching the upper wire. Hopefully a third wire in between will deter her.

Both my lovely bride and I decided to set up our “plein air” painting setups inside the gazebo during the day. Pam’s setup consists of a special wooden box attached to a tripod that contains something like 100 or more pastels, plus a metal easel that fits into the box, and her pastel paper on a board that attaches to the easel. My setup is a larger wooden box on a tripod with a glass palet that I mix paints on in the base, and a hinged top that opens up and holds a stretched canvas, canvas panel, or in my case an “oil paper” taped to a board (I’m just beginning to practice so don’t need to waste good canvas). Our comfy, shady setup is below -

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I started to work on my very first masterpiece (of the scene before us), while Pam worked on a new pastel of the big bluffs on the Buffalo River (she had multiple reference photos and previous in-person sketches she’d done this past year to work from). Well, this may not have been the best idea for us to setup and paint today since at one point BOTH of our rigs were blown over by the raging winds. Pam’s special pastel box got damaged when it crashed, but luckily she had just closed the top and secured the pastels, otherwise they would have been blown all over Colorado (I was able to fix her damage later on, well, sort of).

The wind gust picked up my setup and tossed it farther down the hillside into the meadow, but somehow there was no damage. I’ll just say that is was the most incredible oil painting that I’ve ever done! Fortunately the world will never see it - at the end of the day after I’d done all the damage with my paintbrush that I could, I removed the canvas, folded it up, and tossed it in the trash. There will be many repeats of this process (bad painting, not the wind) before an actual oil painting is ever produced. But it was GREAT practice! (This was the first time in 45 years of using a tripod that the wind actually blew my setup over. The blue is an attached roll of paper towels to wipe paint on.)

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Progress on Georgia's wall/fence will have to wait for another day.

07/10/20 50 degrees at dawn with a slight breeze, clear skies. We're headed for a couple days of pretty intense heat. I know it's nothing like how bad it is back home, but at this altitude the direct sunshine in thin air burns quickly. Best place is on your back in tall grass beneath aspen trees blowing in the wind. HAPPY FRIDAY!

07/12/20

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07/15/20 Lots of beautiful asters blooming...

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07/16/20 Sorry about the gap in posting - been busy doing a lot of nothing, and waiting. We have now completed our 14-day shelter-in-place self-quarantine period at our campsite. We’ve been able to make it just fine with only a couple of face-to-face encounters with other people (to restock a few items), and always with both parties wearing mask. We timed is all just perfect - our underwear lasted the entire 14 days we’ve been on the road, haha! Now we have been to the laundromat (everyone wearing mask) and have a fresh load of clothing to get us through the rest of our trip, and we’ll be back home in Arkansas before our underwear runs out again.

At 4-something this morning, while I was right in the middle of a long escape dream where we were trying to squirm through a tight squeeze structure beneath a highway bridge (aren’t most dream just weird?), one of the alarms in our camper went off - the loudest, highest-pitched one there is. Our bed is almost king size, but the escape end of it narrows down to about 24” wide, and that’s the exact spot where our 60-pound hairy guard dog sleeps - I was unable to move him so I had to climb over and then crawl into the tiny space beneath him on the floor to shut the alarm off. Consensus in the RV world is that this specific alarm is almost always triggered by a dog fart. Hum...

So now I’m wide awake and wander outside into the very cool air before dawn. Heavy clouds cover the sky, yet there is one tiny sliver of brilliant light - the crescent moon has risen in the east, and somehow its light penetrates the cloud cover to saw GOOD MORNING my friend, it’s going to be a great day!

We had some high drama yesterday on a couple of fronts. First, the pups escaped our three-wire electric fence that I’ve been having to modify just about every day we’ve been here, and this time they were really gone, not just beyond the fence a few feet. Chipper drive them insane (tiny chipmunks), and we knew they probably were nearby but tend of not be able to hear our calls due to the fact their heads are usually buried in the very black dirt here. Anyway, I had been out 30-45 minutes searching when it began to rain. At first it was those large drops that are spread out so you only get hit one at a time - each one like an ice pick into my shoulders or back - OUCH!!! Those drops were SO COLD. (no jacket, just a thin t-shirt) Mercifully it opened up and began a real downpour about ten minutes later. After an hour of searching with no luck I returned to base camp and my bride took over. Her voice has a penetrating quality when she wants to find you. When the pups finally arrived back at camp both looked like they’d literally been completely underground and were covered with the black dirt, now ground-in mud and would spend the rest of the day leashed to the gazebo. I headed off up the hill for my third hike of the day to the top.

As I was returning to camp from my hike I heard a disturbance through the trees. As I came around the corner I found my bride in the middle of the meadow at the base of the big, lone aspen tree that you see in many photos - she had a log in each hand and was waving and swatting at something - what the heck? Turns out another one of those carnivorous squirrels was trying to get into one of our bird boxes - the one with baby wild rose wrens. No way a squirrel could get into that entrance hole, really? (probably so). Pam said both parent wrens had been dive-bombing the squirrel, even landing on his head and pecking him. When she arrived with a couple of small aspen logs she’d grabbed along the way that she tried to smack the squirrel of the tree with, the parent wrens started to dive-bomb her, only it was more like they were landing on her head and cheering her on. Eventually the baby wrens all exited the house one-by-one and sailed down into the meadow before ungraceful landings in the weeds (it was, after all, their first flight). So all of that was going on when I approached, and at some level it was kind of funny watching - and try as I might, I never did see the squirrel, but I trust the three brave souls that had run him off - good job everyone! (the baby wrens were later seen with their parents)

We’ve had near-record heat here several days with actual temps near 90, which is very rare this high in the mountains. Thank goodness we also had high winds most of the time. One day another hail storm hit, and while I got up out of my chair inside the gazebo to close side panels to keep the blowing wind and hail from getting inside, the hail had nearly covered up my seat when I returned to it! Humidity has been below 10% most days.

Sunrise colors have been quite amazing, especially starting about 5am. That’s when I’ve been trying to head out and hike to the top of the hill. Sometimes it is such a pleasant experience that I don’t even notice the altitude gain or steepness of the climb, I just look up and I’m near the top! We made a short drive up the Silverthread Scenic Byway several days ago, but other than that we’ve been right here at our campsite for the past two weeks. It’s pretty safe and calm and quiet here. Of course, work still continues with Pam processing any online orders that come in from our web page, and her dad back home packs up the orders daily. Yesterday he spent much of the day with Fireman Jeff staining decks at our cabin - thankfully those were all covered-porch decks and were in the shade, but I’m sure it was miserable. We’ll be back soon. But for now there is a hint of color and light along the eastern horizon and it’s time for me to head up the road and see if I an find the top...

07/17/20 A balmy 49 degrees at dawn with 43 degrees wind chill - nice color towards the east as a fog bank formed to the west above our campsite. HAPPY FRIDAY!

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07/18/20 More great color at dawn...

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07/21/20 Like a little boy I was restless and tossed and turned for an hour before the alarm went off at 4:30 this morning. I’M GOING FISHING!!! First time I think in 20 years. Since we’ve mostly been sheltering in place here at our little campsite on the hillside all month we’ve not been anywhere except to the store to restock groceries, and once for laundry. I have been able to hike quite a bit - up to 13 miles a day - but all of that has been on our roads here around the campsite, and above 9,000' elevation. Typically I hike at dawn, 2-3 times during the day, and also just before sunset. Turns out there is a pond within our 1,500-acre neighborhood and that’s where my hike will take me this morning - about two miles down the road. I’ve got my fly rod case, vest, and hiking shoes all piled up just outside our camping van, and it is all downhill to the pond (but, of course, that means it will be all uphill back to camp, haha).

The sky is SO dark and clear, with a zillion stars, a very BRIGHT Venus and probably other planets up there. No wind. Temp of 45 degrees. And oh the air just feels so wonderful! I just need to let a tiny bit of daylight creep into the landscape before I head out - thar’s still a mountain lurking about. On a funny note, just a few minutes ago our security camera at the gallery sounded off and there was a bobcat walking around there! Several days ago I saw it’s larger cousin during one of my hikes - a Canadian lynx crossed the road right in front of me - much larger than our bobcats back home. Since we’ve been gone there has been a parade of wildlife at the gallery - mostly during the night - including a bear, deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, armadillo, skunk, and a neighborhood cat that does regular patrol.

Since it’s been 20 years since I’ve tied a fly on a line I’m not really sure if I’ll even be able to see well enough with my 1.25x reading glasses to make that happen, but often fishing - especially when flyfishing - is more about the experience and the motions and the surrounding great natural beauty that is worth the trip - doesn’t really matter if I catch any fish or not - or perhaps even if I can get a darn fly tied onto my line! The pond sits near the bottom of the valley and is surrounded by high ridges that will catch the early morning light here in another hour or so - with towering cottonwoods along one side. I expect it will be beautiful. AND I’m looking forward to the two-mile hike at the break of day, which is often the very best light and sweet air of all.

There is a hint of orange on the horizon - time to sneak outside and gather up my gear and head out in search of a trout or two...

UPDATE - I caught a trout on the third cast on a tiny mosquito dry fly - AND I was able to thread the hook!

Photo below - 45 degrees, a golden sunrise on the ridge above our campsite - this is the view from the pond where I caught my first fish in 20 years this morning! (2.1 mile hike from our campsite, which is located behind the trees about half-way down that mountain that is lit up in the center of the photo, Beaver Mountain)

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07/23/20 I found three nice mule deer bucks (plus a small one on the right) watching me hike this morning - one of them will be a "5 x 5" trophy this fall.

07/24/20 SPECTACULAR light at dawn from my hike (top photo), and we had a picnic lunch down at the little pond here yestrerday and the clouds were amazing! (lower photo)

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07/27/20 After a long two-day drive across Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, we landed back home this afternoon and it FELT GREAT to be home! We spent the first part of our trip trying to avoid severe storms in Colorado, then had what I can only describe as a delightful drive across the Oklahoma panhandle and ended up in a big-box-store parking lot just after midnight for a few hours sleep. We only stopped twice - once to walk the pups along a lonely gravel road in the middle of the epicenter of the 1930’s Dust Bowl saga. The temp was 92, and while we had spent much of the past month in the 60’s and below, it actually felt great - nice wind blowing, and I didn’t even work up a sweat. Was I dreaming? We take Hwy. 412 from Clayton, NM to almost Kingston, AR, and it was smooth sailing all the way. Well, it was kinda hot in Enid at 87 degrees after midnight, but I got in my normal four or five hours of sleep before we headed for home this morning. Our normal nighttime sleeping temps all month have been in the upper 40’s and low 50’s.

We were at our Colorado campsite for 26 days, and I averaged about 11 miles hiking per day, so 286 miles in July, all above 9,000 feet elevation, and all of that was inside the 1,500-acre old burned out cattle ranch on gravel roads - we never went anywhere to recreate, only a few trips to the store in South Fork for groceries. And a couple (hum, maybe FOUR trips) to the new local bakery. Turns out the new bakers is literally within sight of our campsite, although 3.5 miles by road. Each morse; we had was DELICIOUS!!! Might have been the altitude, but I doubt it.

Besides wanting to stay away from people (even though most everyone was masked all the time, even before any mask ordinance), the first three weeks we were there the road to the highway was very dusty (6.0 mile roundtrip on gravel - compared to 14 miles roundtrip on gravel at Cloudland, and 2.8 mile roundtrip from our current home here at Little Bluff). I’m not a fan of dusty roads, especially when you can smell and taste the dust as you are driving, even when all windows and doors are closed up tight.

I’m afraid I actually spent most of my time in the high country simply sitting around doing nothing, and that was OK after 45 years of mostly being on my feet all the time. I’ve always enjoyed just living at altitude, and especially hiking, even if it was only on gravel ranch roads - favorite times being before sunrise and after sunset when the light was the sweetest, and there was almost total silence.

One day as I neared the top of my hike I had some Taylor Swift playing on the little phone in my back pocket, and it turns out a group of really large mule deer bucks liked her music too - they came near me and hung around just listening and

buckswatching as I hiked past them and on up to the top, then circled around and back down again past them - and they never ran off.

One day I sat in my camp chair (and old zero-gravity chair) and watched a giant red-tailed hawk being bombarded by a pair of unidentified birds. The hawk landed in the top of a giant ponderosa pine just past the end of our meadow, and the birds swooped down on him one at a time, taking turns. Neither bird ever got really close to the hawk, but each time one would come near the hawk would jump up a few inches and flap his wings. Eventually one of the little birds flew off and the other bird continued bombarding the hawk for another five minutes, then the hawk was all along atop that big pine tree. He sat there quietly for another ten or fifteen minutes and finally flew away.

The little baby “wild rose wrens” that my bride helped saw from the squirrel a while ago started to come around us in our gazebo. First one of the chicks - then nearly full grown but they had this “chick” look to them - would come in and land on the arm of a chair and stare longingly at Pam for a handout, then momma wren would land next to her chick, chirp few times, then bot of them would fly off. The chick always seemed very interested in Pam (I understand why!). We never saw the squirrel again.

I didn’t get much more work done to the Georgia O’Keefee wall, but it was a great start and already looks pretty nice and is doing its job. I plan to add to it a little bit each trip.

And we started another project - collecting hand-selected “potato” rocks from the batch that we had spread on our camping pad. (these are natural granate stones that have been tumbled by the churning waters of the Rio Grande River that runs at the bottom of our hill) One of two or three at a time we picked up at various places on the pad and added to one of two piles near the camper van. Yesterday morning Pam assembled all of them into three boxes under the bed in the camper - which added about 500 pounds to our load. When we arrived home today she jumped out and started carrying the polished granite stones one by one, from the van to her flower garden in the front of our cabin. We are hoping with enough trips with boxes of rocks from Colorado to cover the beds with stones - and maybe even a couple of small dwarf blue spruce trees mixed in. (we have too many potato rocks on our pad)

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This afternoon we made a couple trips up to the gallery to begin going through the mail - 88 degrees with humidity to match is little thicker air than 66 degrees and no humidity. I look forward to sitting inside the prow tomorrow morning and sipping a cup of Iceland coffee as the sky and landscape fill with color....

I pretty much maintained my diet (with the exception of the bakery/bistro at the bottom of the hill) of a veggie-fruit-protein-mix smoothie to start each day, large salad, turkey, and cheese wrap for lunch, and Ramen and veggies or grilled fish, chicken, or burger for dinner. I lost three pounds and have gotten back down to my summer weight and feel GREAT! The six bad disks in my back and expanding arthritis in my neck and shoulders continue to be painful, but what the hey - I'm a geezer now!

07/28/20 Our first morning back home, and while I slept in a little bit I did manage to have my morning Iceland coffee on the back deck before sunrise - it was a cool 71 degrees with nice breezes and felt GREAT! About half way through my cup, Mia started to growl a little bit and ran towards the tall weeds below - she sensed something quite different than her normal squirrel or deer here. I heard a crash, and then she started barking and running towards the weeds. Then a big black bear stood up just a few feet away from her - he was a big boy with small ears, coal black. All of our bears are “black” bears, but their color can range from black like this guy to “cinnamon” or brown, to a very light brown or “blonde” color. All are black bears.

Anyway, instead of trying to take a picture of this kind of funny sight - our tiny Mia holding off a giant back mass of fur that was standing just a few feet away - I yelled at Mia to COME! and then hollered BIG BEAR so that Pam would try to find Wilson to make sure he did not come out to help. Mia ran towards me as instructed and we found Wilson safely inside. The bear decided he’d seen enough and disappeared back into the woods. WELCOME HOME!

Note that this was not the same bear we’d seen on our security camera at the gallery - that guy was much smaller and younger and had larger ears (bears will grow into their ears - the ears appear large as cubs and young bears, then appear smaller in relation to the body of the bear as the bear gets bigger - the largest bears appear to have small ears - the bear today had smallish ears). Also note that Pam had removed all of her bird feeders while we were gone - bears LOVE bird seed and hummer food. Those will remain in storage until this winter...

07/30/20 It is early today before dawn and the wind is blowing hard, everything is WET, and there’s lightning in a storm that’s approaching from the west. We had HEAVY downpours yesterday here and much of my way down Hwy. 7 to Russellville (had to pick up medication at Cobb Pharmacy - GREAT folks!). Our rain total was only 1.5” though - gave the landscape a much-needed drink.

We made an early-morning grocery run yesterday at dawn and oh my gosh the sky COLORS were some of the most intense and best I’ve seen all summer, and they just kept getting better and brighter as we drove. I finally stopped in the middle of the highway near Jasper and took a phone picture out the window (my bride doesn’t like me doing this but not much traffic at 6am in Newton County, haha).

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We’ve been gone a month and it seems like a year’s worth of chores have added up - it’s taken us two days just to get the camper van empty from our isolation trip - oops, scratch that - we STILL have a lot of work to do to get the camper van empty from our isolation trip! Thank goodness Pam’s dad was here working each day we were gone.

By the way, we decided to CANCEL all of our slide programs for this year. I’ve been dreading making the announcement for weeks but it just seemed like the right thing - and the ONLY THING - to do. So far no one has seemed surprised and most are happy we’ve stepped away from what would have been a long run-up of worry. stress, and nerves to each event, only to have been probably cancelled at the last minute anyway. A wise person remarked that ”I’m not surprised to hear you have to cancel all of your programs, but I AM surprised when I see ANY group event still scheduled!” Amen to that! It’s a WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC - life is NOT normal right now and won’t be for a good long while. We have to adapt. 2021 is going to be a great year!

We also won’t have any Holiday Open Houses at our gallery here, but the gallery will be open for appointments almost ANY TIME between now and Christmas - that’s the only way we’ll be able to do it. But everything will be available at the same SALE PRICES as always - the only real difference being that you will have the gallery to yourselves (plus me), and NO GRANDMA’S COOKIES! Sorry about that. We will also have total contactless pickup of any and all items if you so choose. One note - while we do have the new picture book and both 2021 Arkansas calendars in stock and available to ship now, we only have about half of our normal big canvas prints on display in the gallery - the rest are at the museum exhibit in Ft. Smith (those will all return in early September). We’ll eventually have an online gallery setup for you to look through with all canvas prints shown that are available for immediate pickup here. OR you’ll be able to order ANY of my photos for free pickup at the gallery - I will just need some lead time to get them printed and ready for you. (smaller ones can also be shipped for usually $20-$30 shipping)

My bride just added caption info and the year each photo was taken to all of the photos in my newest ARKANSAS GREATEST HITS picture book - click here to view. You can order prints direct from that page (up to 16x20), and prints of any size by coming back to us to place your order.

ONE NOTE about our three new products - the pandemic has lowered the quantities of each that we were able to have printed this year, so each will only be available in a limited supply and when they are sold out that will be it (we don’t reprint picture books or calendars). I am happy to personalize anything, but due note that I must actually be here to do that so if I’m on the road please be patient - and let me know if you need something by a certain date. Otherwise we do ship all of my books autographed within 48 hours - I always leave a quantity of all my books autographed before I leave to go anywhere. Our new products mostly have not made their way into your local stores yet, but it never hurts to ask, haha...

It’s getting lighter in the east as I’m typing and the clouds are looking kind of funky. If we get more great color I’ll be sure to post a photo, if not you will see a photo of some funky clouds! Either way I hope you have a TERRIFIC DAY TODAY! Thanks for reading...

07/31/20 July is gone already? Like most days I’m beginning it just before dawn sitting outside in cool breezes and beautiful skies that change color rapidly - sunrise is about an hour away. While there were times yesterday when the heat/humidity got to me while trudging back and forth up to the office and back, the sweet, cool air this morning seems to be pumping energy right back into my system - HURRAY for early morning! My lovely bride and I started yesterday off with a three-mile hike along the pastoral country roads here - lots of curious cows with babies running around.

Pam got all 500 pounds (my guess) of polished granite stones from our land in Colorado unloaded and placed in her flower garden at the front of the cabin. They kinda look just like polished Buffalo River stones except they are mostly granite, and REALLY heavy! We figure it is going to take several more trips to complete this first flower garden, but here’s her artwork so far. (Our oversize rain gutters above this flower bed can't handle heavy downpours and always tear up the bed, even with thick layers of mulch and a weed barrier, so we've given up and will have a rock garden instead.)

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Speaking of Pam’s ART - she sold another original pastel over the weekend at the Buffalo River Art Gallery in Gilbert (the only town directly on the Buffalo River). That’s her 10th pastel sold there in the past year. Such a wonderful little gallery - you have to look a little bit to find this gallery in Gilbert, but it’s a pretty small town (and the gallery often has CUPCAKES on weekends!). She has been working on some new pastels that will be added soon. That’s my girlfriend!

Signs of an early fall. Yesterday I found not only the first green acorn on the ground, but also discovered that several of our black gum trees have leaves falling that are brilliant RED! These are usually the first trees to turn color in the fall, but it normally doesn’t happen for another couple of months yet. It sure does feel like fall here this morning, but I know it will feel like AUGUST later today - guess that’s a good thing since it will be here tomorrow! In the meantime I’ll just kick back and gaze upon the beautiful landscape spread out before me that is coming to life as the new day begins (and try to ignore the most recent to-do list of more than 50 items that’s sitting on the table next to me - maybe next month...)

OOPS speaking of my bride again, the small veggie garden that she planted last spring is beginning to bear fruit. We harvested the first tomatoes and one of them ended up as a topping on my wood-fired pizza last night - YUM!!! (it's getting ready to go into the outdoor oven) I’m a big fan of fresh produce, especially if it comes from our own yard...

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