LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - JULY 2021 (previous months)


Colorado Camp 9033' cam July 31 - My bride is going to drop me off this morning at a trailhead several miles from our campsite, then I'll hike several miles and 1,400 feet up and over a ridge, then drop 800' and another mile or two back to camp where I'll get to take a nap I hope - ahhhhh, it's here - ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND!

Journal updated on the 31st - July wrap-up

07/05/21 Made a quick trip EARLY today (left home at 4:45am) for the three-hour drive to the Cedar Falls trailhead at Petit Jean State Park - I needed to measure the height of this most popular and iconic waterfall (no one had ever measured it before and I'd not been allowed to, even with a rope team - too dangerous). The height estimated by the park many years ago was 95' and that always seemed a bit tall to me - it is a giant and powerful waterfall with an impressive location for sure, but I meeasured it at 84' today and that seems correct. Even at a very low flow it was quite beautiful, espeically early with not another person anywhere. I know folks complain about crowded waterfalls (even though each person that complains is exactly the same as everyone else there - part of the crowd). Yet I hardly ever see people at the waterfalls I visit...


07/07/21Bee and blazing star...




07/15/21 I had a hot date at a National Grassland in New Mexico last night - beautiful sunrise today as we make our way to Colorado -


07/20/21 I'm leaving before first light today so wanted to post a couple of snapshots from my evening hike last night near our campsite -





07/22/21 Another ketchup day. (Funny, but I really only like ketchup on french fries sometimes, and as the glaze on my mom’s crusty meatloaf - of course I’ve not had the good fortune to have had a bite of that for more then 30 years - no one could make it like she did!)

While five hours into my drive out west a week ago I stopped at the gas station in the median of Cimarron Turnpike in Oklahoma to get the pups out to water the flowers - it was already 90-something degrees and I parked the camper van next to the grass so they would not have to step onto hot pavement. When we returned to the van I was shocked to find someone had not only entered our van but they were inside using the bathroom! Thank goodness it was my lovely bride!!! For the first time in many years Pam was driving her car to Colorado so that we’d be able to use it for daytrips while our camper van remained mostly parked at our campsite. We’ve only done this one before - five years ago - and it worked out great. She is able to drive much faster than I do (she can do the speed limit while I normally have to cut back due to high winds and just because in the big van it’s a lot easier to drive slower), so she drives her own trip and we meet up when we can.

I should have known there might be a wind problem when I saw high wind warnings for all of western Oklahoma, which is exactly where I spent the next nine hours driving - talk about two fisted, white knuckle driving every inch of the way! It was well after dark when I pulled into the national grassland parking spot where Pam had been for a while waiting on us. The temp had cooled down into the 70’s and we had a perfect few hours of sleep, then awoke for an early start the next day - arriving at our “Camp 9033” in the San Juan Mountains near South Fork, Colorado.

I swear this WORKS, although no one I’ve told this to has ever believed me. Both of us now consume a lot of gatorade Zero (no sugar) and tylenol on the two-day trip out to the high country, and when we arrive neither of us have any issues with the altitude. In fact I ran to the top of our little mountain area at full speed without stopping or even breathing heavy just a few hours after we arrived. Yea I know, water does the same thing, blah, blah, blah. Somehow this combination just works for us...

Colorado is LUSH with wildflowers everywhere, although the weed population has also exploded and our camping spot was covered with a carpet of all sorts of vegetation up to 2-3’ tall. We spent a good part of the first several days here just trying to get it under control - I can only work so long with a weed eater before my back gives out, and my bride is still one-armed and in recovery with a bad shoulder. (Oops that reminds me that I still have about a third of our camping pad left to clear the weeds out of!).

We’ve been able to do a couple of day trips using Pam’s little Subaru, including going to explore a small forest service campground on a creek that was almost EMPTY, even on the weekend. Lush, beautiful, and all the sites were FREE, and only three of the sites were occupied! (There ARE places to camp in the West, though of course if you only look at RV or other populated campgrounds you might not find space.)

Anyway, TODAY was the day we picked for one of our big adventures of the summer - a trip we’ve done only once before and could only do now because of Pam’s car. We went to Platoro to get a cheeseburger. It was a grueling 68-mile drive on pretty bad gravel/dirt one-lane backroads, plus another 40 miles of highway - so we basically drove 100 miles (total) to get a cheeseburger. And oh boy was it WORTH IT!!!

THE DRIVE is part of the experience and we drove through a high country along the Continental Divide that was just spectacular all the way in every direction! We saw wildflower displays we’ve never seen in the high country before - like meadows just packed with DAISIES, above 10,000’! It was epic. The only other time we made this trip was in my large 4WD sprinter van, and oh my goodness the roughness of the road nearly killed us (that van had a very stiff suspension). But with Pam’s Subaru the ride was oh so much smoother, though still quite rough in places. For some odd reason it kills my back to drive her car (it’s not the seat), and so Pam had to drive most of the way (I’m OK riding in it).

Anyway #2, we made it and the cafe and were thrilled to discover their dining room was closed and only takeout available (YIPPIE - SO MUCH SAFER THIS WAY!) They had a simple menu - six different kinds of burgers, a BLT, and a chicken sandwich - all with fries and a can of soda pop if you want one. Order and pay at the front desk of the lodge, then go outside and wait - that’s my kind of place! (drive thru is best, but this is second best - I’ve always been mostly anti-social and have almost never enjoyed dining indoors with other people - I’m just weird, but you probably already knew that).

Anyway #3, the cheeseburgers and ESPECIALLY the FRIES were just as good as expected - perhaps more so (no ketchup needed). On the trip back we stopped so Wilson and I could make a quick run up to and along the Continental Divide Trail. I swear the wildflower display was ever bit as spectacular as Yankee Boy Basin - but there are many places in Colorado like that right now. Wilson and I had no problem taking the trail out of the lush forest and up above treeline - it was just and amazing side trip, just a boy and his dog!

Some really bad weather was beginning to move in (flash flood warnings were upon us), so we exited the high country and headed back down, hitting a torrent of rain and hail along the way that at one point nearly consumed us along the narrow winding road. In fact at one point the temp got down to 45 degrees and there were sheets of water coming off the hillside next to us - along with ROCK SLIDES. I’m glad we were in her Subaru as some of it got dicy and we weren’t sure if we could/should continue since it was a sheer drop-off on one side, the flooding hillside just a few feet on the other side. But we powered on (afraid to stay in place!) and made it though just fine. WOW, that was quite a storm!

We arrived back at camp to dusty roads and 82 degrees - and not a drop of rain so we had a lot of dusty roads.

I hope it doesn’t take us another five years to return to get another cheeseburger... Here are a few snapshots...(sorry, the burgers and fries disappeared so fast I didn't have a chance to take a pic)


our little one, Mia


I have no idea what these are but there were thousands of them in the high country


Elwood Cabin and Red Mountain


Colorado columbine, the state flower




my boy, Wilson, sitting on the trail at 12,000' (Red Mountain in the background)

07/23/21 Another day (yesterday), another great lunch stop, another scenic drive and hike in the high country, and another harrowing weather/road event on the way back to camp!

Our daytrip yesterday took us north along the Silverthread Scenic Byway that parallels the Rio Grande River up to Creede and beyond. We had planned to get a takeout lunch at one of our most fav cafes, Kips and so parked nearby and waited until they opened. After fifteen minutes of calling and calling to place our order, we decided they must be closed for some reason. We didn’t have a plan B. But there was a hint of BBQ aroma in the air, and we realized that one of the very BEST BBQ joints in the state was a mere 100 steps away from our car - a little BBQ food truck! Ten minutes later we sat in the front seat of the car with our laps full of BBQ brisket and pulled pork sandwiches - OH MY!!! My bride could not even eat all of hers it was so large, but I had no trouble with mine! As we were leaving Creede it was clear from the crowds of folks spilling out into the street that they were not closed, just SUPER BUSY right from the time they opened. We continue to avoid groups of people - inside or out so probably would not have been able to go inside and pickup our order even if they had answered the phone.

We made the long dirt road drive up into the extreme headwaters of the mighty Rio Grande River, past three lakes and lots of great scenery. The last few miles were really bad road, but we made it to the Lost Trail Trailhead at the end. As is typical on summer days here, clouds had built and it was raining a little bit, with thunder and lightning in the area. The trail was a MESS - it was open to motorized vehicles (dirt bikes and four wheelers - only built as a hiking and horse trail though so the wheels had really done a number of the trail, oh man it was nasty!).

The forest was thick and lush and quite beautiful! I almost immediately took the dogs off the nasty trail and headed out into the woods and bushwhacked UP near the general route of the trail. We ended up in a high meadow and I was able to relax the pups a little bit and let them roam around without being so tightly leased as we normally have them while on any trail. Dark clouds swirled and spit but it was just beautiful, and the pups had a blast!


On the way back we bushwhacked down the mountain on the other side of the trail, just wandering wherever the terrain happened to take us (this is a LOT tougher with dogs on a leash since there is so much downfall they get tangled up a lot - sometimes both at the same time and in opposite directions!). As we got closer to the trailhead we moved on over to join the trail, but realized there was a group of horses there - our pups are not fond of horses (or other people for that matter), so we backed off the trail and I got them both settled down and under control. As the horses approached the lead lady instructed me to bring the dogs CLOSER to the trail! OH NO that would not be good! But she insisted and so I complied. Of course as soon as her horse took one step toward us the dogs went ballistic! At the same time a group of eight backpackers - dressed from head to tow in what must have been the BRIGHTEST colored pack covers, ponchos, and rain pants I’d ever seen on humans before! They did not disturb the pups but I just had to laugh!

Glad we got the heck out of there as we heard a lot of commotion as the horses and hikers tried to get around each other. I have many fond memories of riding on horseback while working for the forest service along the crest of the Continental Divide in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. We could literally go to sleep while on our horses - they did not seem to ever be disturbed by anyone or anything - EXCEPT LLAMAS! Those weird-looking critters would scare the horsehide off the horses and you had better be awake and under control whenever approaching a llama.

The ride back down along the Rio Grand River was quite beautiful - although it had started to rain a little more. At one point Pam pointed to a really bad looking set of BLACK clouds ahead and wondered if that was where we were headed. YES!

The river suddenly turned muddy - must have been heavy rain in a side drainage, but soon we entered the heavy rain and it was dumping on us too - we made it back to the highway with no issues, but my bride wondered if I would like to drive after a police pickup sped past us in Creede - something had happened downstream towards our camp.

If you’ve ever driven this scenic byway between Creede and South Fork you know the spot I’m talking about - the narrow highway is cut across a very steep stone hillside, and it’s equally steep on the other side that plummets straight down to the Rio Grande River. This area is especially prone to rock slides, and in fact there are signs warning you not to stop (no place to pull over anyway). It’s one of those two fisted, white knuckle spots you want to drive through as fast as you can, yet it is also a really spectacular view into the gorge above and below.

As it rained harder we could see lots of traffic and flashing red lights ahead - not only had there been several landslides that just happened, they were actually IN PROGRESS! Not enough to block the highway entirely, but there were so many rocks on the road it was tough to pick a route through them. At one point tumbling rocks landed just a few feet from us - the pucker factor increased quite a bit just then. It was all both exciting and terrifying at the same time!

We made it through OK and were glad to see some daylight ahead - and also a giant snow plow that passed us headed back into the rockslide area. We heard they had to close the road for a while as the landslides continued into the evening. We just had to laugh as we turned off the highway for the three mile drive up to our campsite on gravel roads - not a drop of rain and LOTS of DUST!

One wildlife note. My bride LOVES hummers, and brought along on small feeder to see what she could attract. We learned there is a very special species here right now that is said to look like a flying shiny copper penny, and called a “rufus” hummer. Turns out we had them appear at the feeder within an hour of Pam first setting it up. The way the light plays on their colorful feathers is quite amazing, especially as they dart back and forth and the shiny pennies really show off!

Only problem is they are BULLIES, even more so that most hummers. They just won’t let any other hummers at the feeder, even though they don’t stop to drink much themselves. At one point as Pam was hanging the feeder back up in the morning (we always bring it in at night - don’t want to feed any bears), one of the little green/blue hummers landed on the feeder while Pam was trying to hang it. Turns out the big bully rufus hummers would not attack the little hummer as long as Pam was holding the feeder, so the little guy was able to sit and feed as long as he wanted.


07/26/21 The cows have returned to the high country! We love them, as long as they stay on their side of the fence - our pups tend to roll in the green, slimy stuff they leave behind. Our campsite is located within a 1,500-acre former cattle ranch in the mountains, and during the summer there are 80 head of cattle that roam the meadows and forests around us - because of this "agriculture status" the property tax on our lot is less than $50 a year...



07/31/21 July wrap up. It’s been a great month with lots of ups and downs, heat and cold, and many miles on foot and on the road. We’re still at our campsite in Colorado.

Before we left Arkansas I was trying to hike each morning on my new “summer” route that takes me down the county road at our property 2.5 miles to the bottom of the hill where the road crosses Panther Branch, or what is left of it. There is only one residence along the way so I almost never see anyone, thank goodness. The decent is just over 1,000 feet in elevation, which of course means the 2.5 mile climb back to the cabin is more than 1,000 foot gain! Actually that is the part I really enjoy - leaning into the hillside that gets pretty steep at times. I try to maintain my full pace. This route keeps me out of the woods so I don’t pick up any ticks and it has worked well. The heat doesn’t bother me much, although it is most enjoyable at first light when the air is still pretty cool and sweet - the BEST time of day, especially in the summer! As we loaded up to head to Colorado for a few weeks I weighed in at 154#s, a good weight for me.

Speaking of driving, the temps were rather warm for Colorado the other day (81) and we made a drive up into thinner and cooler air (11,000’, Pool Table Mountain area) and found a delightful spot to just sit and enjoy the cool breezes and hike around a little bit - with no people around. And OH MY the wildflowers had taken over and the lush forest floor was covered with them, especially lots of GIANT columbines! We’ve had several days like that - trying to find places without people, and the Subaru is able to get us there. One hike we did was more than five miles through a forest of giant TOWERING aspen trees, then through a large meadow with hundreds of lilies I’d never seen before. On some of these hikes we’re able to use longer leashes on the pups (no people around) and once even let them romp and play in the meadow - until they spot a “chipper” to chase, then we have to reel them in.

We’ve only been able to get takeout food once this past week - at the little bakery/bistro at the bottom of the hill. It is a tiny place but everything they have is great, although always a long line out the door - and I won’t stand in line for food, especially inside. But we discovered that if I’m at the front door when they open at 7am, I can dash in and grab what we need, pay, then get back outside again before anyone else gets there! But literally as I’m walking back to the car with our food the lot begins to fill up, and by 7:05 it is packed. Otherwise we’ve been grilling veggie (black bean) burgers and such, and I usually have my normal smoothie for bfast and wrap for lunch, with a lot of ramen and veggies for dinner.

Today was my last hike of the month, and after I dashed into the local Dollar General store right when they opened up (to get some ant bait - they have attacked our storage shed - the ants, not Dollar General folks, Pam dropped me off at a trailhead a few miles away. The trail took me up, up, and more UP - 1,400’ elevation gain through fields of wildflowers and across five small streams and through burned out forests with a zillion young aspen trees making a comeback (same big wildfire that consumed our neighborhood and burned everything to the ground). I was surprised that the steepness of the trail and my pace kind of knocked me down a notch - I was sweating like a hog and huffing and puffing, but I kept going and only stopped once - to take a snapshot of the glorious aster wildflowers that covered the landscape. As luck would have it, while I was just off the trail using my little iphone, I heard VOICES. A couple were RUNNING up the trail from behind me! Boy did i feel like a slacker! They didn’t actually keep running long and as I got back on the trail I could see them now and then, but they were pretty quick hikers and beat me to the top by about 30 seconds. They noted how steep the trail was and that they were unable to run the entire way - I gave them some suggestions for less steep trails. Nice folks.


From that high point it was downhill all the way back to camp for me, a total of 5.1 mile hike. Just as I was taking a breather and gobbling down my turkey & veggie wrap for lunch, thee black clouds that had gathered split open wide and it began to pour - really COLD raindrops. Then the raindrops turned into HAIL, and the four of us (my bride and two pups) retreated into the camper van for the duration of the storm, which lasted a couple of hours. (Pam tried to sit out and read her book under the gazebo a while, but the storm was just too intense even for her). The temp dropped from 72 down into the 40’s and remained cool for the rest of the day.

Pam had taken the pups on a good long hike while I was gone, and for the first time in a long while they were totally relaxed and behaved like good dogs are supposed to - even through “chipper alley” where large numbers of chipmunks taunted them. And one final wildlife note for the month, we saw the very first coyote of the summer in our meadow (locals say the mountain lion that’s been in the area has kept coyotes away all summer). He seemed kind of agitated as he hurried across the meadow and disappeared up the opposite hillside - then we heard one of the weirdest animal noises - loud and just WEIRD. Then all was silent. We never saw the coyote again. Not sure if he had gotten some critter in his grasp, or the other way around...

Pam’s shoulder update. My bride has been dealing with a shoulder issue for most of 2021 (possible torn rotator). She did a couple months of physical therapy with a little progress, and has continued her exercises while we’ve been on the road. We have an eight-foot folding table set up in the aspens where she lifts and stretches and dangles, plus she has a couple of those wide elastic bands attached high and low to the metal frame of our gazebo. Cans of beans and bottles of water have been her tools and she continues to make slow progress. She hasn’t figured out yet how to combine her exercises with napping in the hammock, but she has been able to do a pastel while sitting with her pastels in her lap.

Oh, one business note. I was able to complete the order for our new 2022 ARKANSAS wall calendar and they should be available to order sometime in the next week or two. It has been a long and troublesome process working with our printer in Montana this year for some reason, but we’re hopeful this will be our BEST calendar ever! (sorry, no engagement calendar this year though)

July has been a grand month - THANKS FOR READING!

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