PART B - October 16th - present (see PART A here)



Cloudland remote Cabin Cam October 31, 7:01am - predawn in the swamps.

FALL COLOR UPDATE: the peak of color is spreading across the High Ozarks this week with some areas already done while others still have green. The southern Ozarks are seeing some nice color as well. My advice - GET OUT AND ENJOY whenever and wherever you can! Each individual area peaks at a different time, and looks different throughout the day and with changing weather. HIGH winds and the approaching cold front will change the landscape in the days ahead - what was good yesterday may not be good tomorrow, and what was green yesterday may be COLORFUL tomorrow!

Journal updated Sunday morning - student photographers capture great beauty

10/16/12 We didn't have much time to get out and explore yesterday, but my lovely bride and I went to the south end of Boxley Valley just after sunrise and hiked over to one of the local swimming holes known as the Whitely Hole (it is on page 64 of the Swimming Holes Of The Ozarks guidebook that we publish, by Glenn Wheeler). We were there for about 30 minutes as the sun was rising and lighting up more and more trees as it went - and casting new reflections each minute. It was calm and still and quiet and just beautiful.


Once breezes began and the reflections went away, we hiked upstream and spent a little bit of time in a large meadow with a single bull elk out in the middle doing his thing - he would bugle, scratch the ground and stomp his feet, but no ladies came to answer his call. Poor guy.

We drove the loop from Mossville to Deer - some AMAZING colors along the way, especially black gums and dogwoods. (It did not look like there was much color to the south at all - still lots of great color to come in the next week or two!) Then on down Hwy. 7 to Jasper - more and more brilliant colors. Then on through Mt. Sherman to Boxley and then back to the cabin. Some of the colors along the narrow gravel road were hanging right over the road, and at one point we stopped, shut of the car, and looked straight up through the big hole in the roof at some maple trees that were blazing away - wow, such beautiful color!


After working a few hours back at the cabin, I made a quick trip back down to the river and hiked upstream along the top of the towering Bee Bluff (NOT RECOMMENDED - there is no trail, and one slip and you are DEAD!!!). I actually got turned around one time trying to locate this narrow ledge where I sometimes stand to view the river, and the brush and cedar tangles were so thick that I was down on my hands and knees crawling around - the big camera backpack I was carrying did not help. When I finally did find my little spot, I carefully slid down to and crawled out onto the narrow ledge, then set up my tripod and spent some time working with the camera. The brilliant afternoon sunshine was lighting up bluff, and many of the golden sweetgums down along the river. I could see one really nice reflecting pool far below, and zoomed with a really long lens to focus in on the reflections. I would loved to have hiked to this pool, but time was short and soon I was back on the road headed for home.



As I was standing on top of the bluff I noticed there was a bright yellow tree growing right out of the bluff directly below me - and it was leaning out over the river! I had to point my camera straight down to get this shot - very unusual. I wish there had been a canoe underneath it!


There remains lots of incredible color in the upper Buffalo River area, but even though some of the color has advanced the past couple of days, it also does not seem to be as colorful as it had been - moisture content in the air has a lot to do with the richness of color, which is why those days during and just after rainfall really makes the color POP. Still a ton of green left in the landscape around here, and I suspect we'll see great color for a while now. I prefer overcast, misty days when I can shoot all day, but sometimes the reflections are better at the very edges of daylight both beginning and end, so I'll take these brilliant blue days too!


10/17/12 EVENING UPDATE - we are hunkered down at the edge of Lake Chicot in southeast Arkansas, with severe storms crashing down on us. I think we stopped at just the right time as the worst storm is passing just south of us (with a tornado), and another bad storm is passing just north of us (we hope!). We're on our way to Gulf Shores, Alabama for Pam's college graduation ceremony on Friday. We have a pair of cabin-sitters on hand to take care of the pups - thanks "Bullet Bob" and Terry...(Later evening update - everyone in the campground was ushered into the ladies bathroom by the state park rangers to wait out a passing storm - we all survived. That is the longest I've been in a ladies bathroom in my life! KUDOS to Jonathan and the park staff for making the efforts to not only get everyone to safety, but also for clearing the road of debris in the middle of the storm!)

LOST HIKER UPDATE - the lost hikers were found by Terry Hope of the forest service and they are OK - YIPPIE! Terry brought them out of the wilderness at Cloudland. THANKS TO ALL of the folks who helped with this successful search and rescue mission!

10/19/12 Pam graduates!My lovely bride received a Bachelor of Science Business Administration degree (Summa Cum Laude) from Columbia Southern University this morning at a lavish (and very crowded) ceremony in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama. She began her college education 20 years ago as a struggling single parent going to night school while working fulltime to support herself and her daughter. After moving into the Arkansas wilderness she continued her education by taking some really difficult online courses, completing her degree after several more years of intense work. What can I say - I am SO PROUD of her, and life has been so much greater for all as a result of her being here - CONTRATS TO PAM!!! I could have never accomplished what she has done...


My Lovely Bride gets her diploma (above), moonset and the Milky Way at Gulf Shores (below)



Personalized copies of this great coffee table picture book are available here!

10/22/12 Just a quick update early this morning before I head to the woods in search of fall color. We had a TERRIFIC trip to the Alabama gulf coast for my lovely bride's graduation ceremony, which included a couple days at our friend's house on the beach there to wind down and soak up some sunshine and chase a few crabs. Our trip down was not so relaxing though as we got caught in the middle of two powerful storms that both produced tornadoes - one of them causing a bit of damage on the opposite side of the campground we were staying in (as noted in a post above).

We got home yesterday and spent the afternoon our driving around the High Ozarks in search of fall color - which was EVERYWHERE! We've heard the Boxley and Steele Creek areas are past peak color now, but man there is tons of color elsewhere. It is one of those times where you really don't know where to stop or look because there is intense color in all directions. Bright sunshine is not the best viewing condition, or all that good for photography, so I'm hoping today and tomorrow will bring some moisture into the air for even better color. The only problem is - WHERE do I go? Some of the best color remains within a mile of our cabin, but you all have seen thousands of my photos from here and I hate to keep posting them. Yet it is tough to drive away and leave all that color behind! Pam is busy catching up with all the book orders and other business that happened while we were gone, and we both have a ton of other stuff to do this week.

It is going to be one of those typical crazy times around here for a while, but we WILL get all book, print, and calendar orders out the door within 24 hours so keep those orders coming! And when you order a book be sure to let us know if you want it personalized to someone - even if it is 3 in the morning I can still manage to sign my name with a smile. Today is my favorite day of the week, and I hope YOU can take at least a moment or two today to step outside and enjoy part of it.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, please do something nice for a total stranger today - and you can help make their Monday feel good too!

Here are a couple photos from today:





10/25/12 HIGH winds early this morning, and there are millions of brightly colored leaves setting out on a quick trip from their home branches to the forest floor somewhere nearby - or perhaps somewhere a mile away in this wind! It is still pretty warm out, but they say the temps will drop 40 degrees into the upper 20s by tomorrow night. Pretty typical fall weather for the High Ozarks.

I noted in my last post about it being Monday, my favorite day of the week, and that I was headed out to go find some fall color. Something told me it was the time to hike over to Hawksbill Crag, and so that is where I headed, even though the skies were overcast - but it seemed like there were some breaks in those clouds, and sometimes that can yield a nice surprise or two. The old short-cut trail route down to the Crag was closed off a couple of years ago (and now the trail has been completely covered up so that it can revert back to a natural state), so I just took off out the back door and bushwhacked my way almost a mile through dense forest until I had made it to the Crag.

When I arrived I had the place to myself - not a soul around. I figured there had been hundreds of folks enjoying the spot over the weekend - a great time to be there. I'm always struck by the fact that there is almost NO trash at the Crag - THANKS TO EVERYONE who has ever visited and left it clean, as it should be!

The skies were overcast, but were in constant motion. I set up my camera gear and got ready. And then I waited - a few rare moments when I was able to simply sit there and soak in all the wonderful scenery around me. Normally when I am out taking pictures the magical light is fleeting, and it is a scramble for me to capture it before it is gone. But I just sat down on the ground, leaned up against a tree, and took a few deep breaths.

And then a lone shaft of light broke through the clouds and moved across the landscape behind the Crag. Another one appeared and moved across soon after. Then another. Soon there were several shafts that appeared at the same time, moving, always moving with the speed of the cloud "holes" above. Most of the light shafts were dim, muted, soft, and they did not show up too well in photographs. But every now and then a BRILLIANT shaft would appear from nowhere and sweep across the landscape, lighting up the colorful forest far below as it went. These were the light shafts I was hoping for! And they came and went, and put on quite a show!

You've seen them here before, and I hope will so again many more times. I don't know who coined the term, but I've been calling them "God Beams" for a long time. It does indeed seem like they are shining down from the heavens above.

I stood there at the edge of the 100 foot cliff for more than an hour as wave after wave of God Beams moved through the canyons below. Each photo was unique, a little different than the one before. I had two different cameras with me and so kept switching them out on the tripod, trying different exposures, zooming in or out a little bit for different compositions. Seemed like each scene was better than the one before - although I knew I had captured something wonderful, I stood there and continued to shoot and shoot until I could shoot no more, then I packed everything up and headed back home. But wait, there were MORE beams, and perhaps there was a better picture waiting for me, so I turned around and set up my equipment again - and shot more pictures of this glorious event that may only happen once in my lifetime. It was everything I had ever dreamed it would be - God Beams, Hawksbill Crag, and fall color - what more could a nature photographer - or anyone else - ask for!

I have selected one of my favorite images from this shoot as a new limited-edition poster print that is on sale at a very special price - only $99.95 for a 24" x 36" fine art, archival, print. This is the second God Beams print I've made available this month, and both look pretty darn nice in this larger size on the wall (both are shown below). Each is limited to only 20 of these poster-size prints. For more info and to order, click here.



With the weird weather, high winds, and warm/cold fronts that are about to collide, the peak of fall color is a moving target in the High Ozarks. Many places have already peaked - those are the colorful leaves that are being ripped off by the high winds today and taking flight. It is great to be standing in the middle of a maple grove or other stand of hardwood trees here and have the leaves blowing all around you - magical moments for sure that are always free of the taking. But where will the best color be this weekend? Who knows. Some areas will be just perfect, others will be mostly green, and the next hillside over may be almost bare of leaves. I find ALL of the above to be worth seeing, so my advice is to just get out and visit a favorite location and enjoy what you find. Pick up a guidebook at the local bookstore that will lead you to a forest trail.

And for those who wish to visit the upper Buffalo River area this weekend, be sure to stop by the Ponca Elk Center right in beautiful downtown Ponca for their annual COLOR FEST (Friday and Saturday, 10am - 4:30pm). There will be a gathering of artists with their work on display, lots of great info on ELK inside the center, PLUS there will be a hamburger grill working (proceeds to benefit the Senior Center in Jasper) that will fill the valley with a delightful aroma! One of the special guest artists will be Bill Garrison, one of the best oil painters in Arkansas. (also his wife, Gloria, another talented painter!) Oh yes, and if you drive through Boxley Valley early or late in the day, you might get to see some of the famous elk out, and they can put on quite a show - not much going on in the middle of the day though, so best to be there at the edges of the day. And PLEASE DRIVE SLOW through the valley - there continue to be many folks who seem oblivious to the 55mph traffic that speeds through this highway and cross the road without looking - or stand in the middle of the road just waiting to be hit by a car. Also be sure you can get completely off the pavement if you decide to park - blocking the highway just adds to the trouble, and might cost you a ticket as well. It will be a terrific weekend in the High Ozarks, so just get out and ENJOY!

10/28/12 It is clear and crispy-cool early this morning before dawn, about 29 degrees. There is a frost on the meadows, but the deep woods are protected and frost free, although the leaves are moist and soft, and a gentle hike in the forest is silent. The crisp air easily fills your lungs with the sweetness of fall, and perhaps a touch of early winter too!

We've had a busy week here on the mountain, filled with two photo workshops and lots of prep work getting ready for our open houses and slide programs. Plus we made a visit to the Color Fest in Ponca on Friday - great to see the artists there, and of course their work (hey Glenn - I just missed ya!). One fun note - while I was standing there talking with Bill Garrison, he looked up and saw a deer coming down the hillside to the creek that flows behind the Elk Center. The doe paused, then scampered across the creek right up next to the building. A few seconds later a buck appeared, stood at the edge of the creek for a moment or two - giving a nod in our direction - then followed the doe across the creek and to the other side of the building - all of this happening just 100 feet or so from all the booths and folks at the festival! Bill had just been telling me that he might go do a little painting down at the creek...(Color Fest ended yesterday, but the Elk Center is open today. The old grist mill in Boxley Valley will be open today for those who want a peek at the lower level of this historic structure that is being restored.)

We spent a couple of hours early yesterday morning taking pictures with our photo workshop at Steele Creek along the Buffalo River. I always find this location one of the most magical spots in Arkansas. And even though many folks have given it up for dead as far as fall color goes, my oh my did the students get some TERRIFIC scenes from our time spent there! Each student produced an amazing print, and even though we were all there together shooting basically the same area, you would have thought the prints all came from different locations. Part of being a good artist is seeing with your own vision, and willing to embrace that is a good thing - and it showed with these students.

There is still some good color around the High Ozarks - plenty of green trees in fact. But there are many areas past peak and already fully dressed for winter and naked. Brilliant fall color is certainly something to behold, but I also enjoy the coming of the winter season - bare trees have so much personality, and I am really looking forward to the next few months of exploring the hillsides and valleys of Arkansas.

10/30/12 We are in the swamps down south looking for color and doing research for our scenic campgrounds guidebook. There is some color here, but not peak color, and you have to find it in just the right light, which we had early this morning - this view is just a few feet away from where we camped. Aspen and I took a hike late last night with everything lit up by the full moon - it was quite stunning, and both hikers had a great time...


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