CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - SEPTEMBER 2012 Journal Archives
Part B, September 19 - present (see Part A here)
Cloudland Cabin Journal September 30, 7:11am - cool and calm - lots of crickets singing at dawn
JOURNAL UPDATED Sunday morning the 30th - maples in the mist
Our new 2013 ARKANSAS SCENIC WALL CALENDAR is now shipping!
September 2012 Print of the Month - Waterton Lake, Canada
09/18/12 EVENING UPDATE. I have to share one observation with you - oops, make that two, maybe three. First, I wanted to show you something I found today while out hiking near the cabin. The sky was about as clear and pure-blue as I'd ever seen it, the air crisp and clean, and when I stepped around a tree at the edge of a meadow and looked up and there it was - a stunning jewel - and a hint of what is to come later this fall. A beautiful sweetgum leaf in full fall dress! These trees are some of the first to turn color in the fall, and I always love them not only for the star shape of the leaves, but because the color can very from pure yellow to blood red not only on the same tree, but also on the same branch! This guy was by himself - the rest were still green.
As I was sitting here at my little cabin computer this evening I thought I heard another sign of fall - geese honking overhead. But when I rushed outside to spot them, I never could - nor did I hear them again. I did have to run back into the cabin to grab a pair of binocs though - to try and focus on something that was just out there in the air, floating, lit up by the setting sun, against a very dark Beagle Point that was in shadow. I think they were bugs of some sort, and there were dozens of them, just hanging there in the air - enjoying the spectacular evening light I guess.
And then I looked around and saw a POPCORN tree IN BLOOM - WHAT? Is it fall, or spring, or ? And to think so many people have been saying for months that we won't have any color this fall - heck, we may not only have some terrific color, but we are also getting springtime with blooming wildflowers and spring!
One last note - I am happy to report that the pair of trumpeter swans have been reunited and are together again, swimming around what remains of the Mill Pond in Boxley (These are the last two of the "zoo" swans that were put there several years ago). Life is grand in the High Ozarks...
09/21/12 I had a vision today of a conversation I had with a guy way up in the highest parts of the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming more than 20 years ago. He was my forest service boss (Bill Konicek), and I was going to be spending the summer working with volunteers to fix a bunch of horse and hiking trails in the Popo Agie Wilderness Area. It was late May, and we were going to meet up at one of the trail locations where the volunteers would be working. He was a horse guy, and so he took the long route in, staying low along a very nice creek. I was a hiker dude, and so I took the shorter route. I'm sure he realized I was a real greenhorn and must have laughed his fanny off - knowing that I would encounter deep snow - and indeed I struggled in waist and even chest-deep snow for nearly a full day just trying to make it up and over a pass and down the other side, where I eventually met up with my boss. Greenhorn, yes, but I was a very strong hiker and made good time when I was not digging out of the snow, and I met him at the pre-determined point on time!
Anyway - and this is the moment that I can remember as if it were yesterday - while we were standing there in the trail discussing what work needed to be done and how we were going to do it, a cloud of mosquitoes surrounded both of us. They were so thick, and so loud, that we had to lean in towards each other - until we were just a foot or two away - so that we could see and hear each other - the clouds of new mosquitoes were that THICK! And since they had just been born in the pools created by melting snow, they were ready for some fresh BLOOD! Fortunately, by the time our volunteers arrived a couple of weeks later and we moved into the backcounry to spend the next five weeks, that first giant population of bugs had already died out, and the bugs were not too bad the rest of the summer.
The reason I would bring this is now is because the swarming NATS happening right now in our area are also SO THICK that it reminds me of those mosquito clouds - only these guys seem to be WORSE! (thank goodness the nats don't bite!) My recommendation - at least for the next few days or a week - is to wear a headnet if you go hiking in the Ozarks - the nats will drive you crazy otherwise!
I actually spent most of today on the road and away from the nats, delivering our new 2013 ARKANSAS SCENIC WALL CALENDAR to Hastings bookstores in Fayetteville, Russellville, and Conway. They should have them on the shelf and available for viewing and sale now - if you don't see them, be sure to ask - they may have them in a different location. There are some really amazing scenes in this calendar (all new and never before published), and this year we have included an extra bonus - a 14th picture (most monthly calendars have 12 photos inside, plus the front cover - we have an extra picture inside, and it is one of my most favorite of all!). You can also order these calendars direct through our online store, or order the Holiday Special online, which includes the new picture book (not available yet), and also a very nice fine art matted print. The new books are on the boat and should arrive here in the next couple of weeks - I'll keep you posted.
In the meantime, the early fall air is crisp and clean and just wonderful right now, and I hope you get the chance to get out and hike - especially early or late in the day. I was just outside a few minutes ago (it is late at night), and the half-moon and stars made the night air especially wonderful!
And many have been asking - there are quite a few bull elk roaming in Boxley Valley with their harems - and many smaller bulls trying to claim their own group of ladies. The annual elk rut show is in full swing, and echoes from their bugling can be heard throughout the valley - very early in the day (before sunrise, and right at dawn), and sometimes in the evening also, after the sun goes down. If you have never been to Boxley for the elk rut, I highly recommend it! Just be careful where you park - there is only one official parking spot along the road, and you normally don't see elk there. Legally, you can't park your vehicle on the pavement, yet you can't park on the private property along the fields either - you kind of have to park on the shoulder if you can find enough room. Usually there is a crows of cars and folks if there is a great elk show going on. But sometimes you can find a herd all by themselves - try upstream of the Boxley bridge across the buffalo, in the south part of the valley - there has been a nice herd there lately, although they move around quite a bit and those may have moved on.
The main thing is to get out and ENJOY this great time of the year - but if you venture very far from your car, be sure to wear a headnet!
09/23/12 We are on the road tonight doing research for a new guidebook we are working on - a guide to the most scenic campgrounds in Arkansas. A brilliant red ball is sinking into the rolling hills; the beautiful and soothing music of Joel Sebag drifts through our little camper van (Pam is playing a u-tube video of Joel performing his piece - "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"); and the rest of the airwaves are filled with the HEAVY BASS of lions ROARING at each other - they are within 50 feet of us! (Joel - have you ever played a gig with LIONS on bass?)
Oh my gosh, this is the most surreal camping experience ever! We are camped at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge south of Eureka Springs - they have a small camping area (for tents and small RVs) that is literally at the edge of the big cat "habitats" where the cats roam in large enclosures. A Bengal tiger that is closest to us is splashing in his water tub having a blast. A large grizzly bear is standing on his hind feet right now looking our direction. No doubt this is the most unique camping experience in Arkansas, and this place will probably make it into the new guidebook. (The refuge is open to the public during the day, and I highly recommend being here at feeding time - 5pm in the summer, 4pm in the winter - WOW!). We also visited several really scenic campgrounds today in the area that we plan to return to later this winter for a night or two. I suspect we will be back to Turpentine Creek again...
One funny thing happened while everyone was milling around the wildlife cages waiting for dinner to be passed out (to the wildlife). One of the largest lions at the refuge decided to get the attention of a line of folks (with their backs turned to him) who were watching the big grizzly bear in the opposite direction - he turned around and pointed his rear end at the people and MARKED them with his pee! I bet he shot it 15 feet in a straight line! You should have seen those folks MOVE! The very same lion did that again about 30 minutes later to a different group of visitors - my lovely bride named him squirt! The moral of the story is - don't turn your back on a big lion at feeding time, especially when his is in a humorous mood.
One other note before I get back to the symphony (we expect to hear the lions "caroling" all night - they have cabins for nightly rental here next to the enclosures also). When we first arrived at the refuge today about 4:30, all the lions and tigers and bears and bobcats and cougars were pacing around, fighting with each other, making all sorts of noise. As a crowd gathered outside their enclosures, the wildlife got even more animated, and kind agitated a bit. And then from behind one of their cages we could hear a squeaking noise - it was the wheel of an oncoming wheel-barrel full of food for them! And oh man the bobcats started running all over the place - they knew that noise meant dinner!
One by one each animal got hand fulls of fresh meat (and the big grizzly got all sorts of things, including a watermelon - which he loved!). Within a few minutes all of the animals were busy munching, and there was almost no critter sound at all. Eventually all of them cleaned their plates - and the floor of their enclosures - the crowd of people left, and it was just Pam and I and a staff member or two roaming around. All of the lions and tigers and bears and bobcats and cougars rolled over and went to SLEEP! And there was nearly total silence. How odd.
Here is the BONUS photo from our new 2013 ARKANSAS SCENIC WALL CALENDAR that is now shipping - the Milky Way rising behing the Big Piney Bridge along the Ozark Highlands Trail:
09/27/12 We have been on the road all day visiting six or seven different campsites for possible inclusion in our new scenic campgrounds guidebook. The weather has been just grand, with cool temps, nice breezes, and even a few sprinkles here and there. At each campground we spend a good bit of time looking at all the facilities and other things we feel are desired for a really nice campsite - both for tenters as well as small RVs. Pam types everything up as we go along, using a spreadsheet that her and Amber developed over the summer that has a couple of dozen different criteria. She also checks the directions and facts that Amber has gathered online and from various other sources - it is amazing how much published campground info is incorrect. We also talk to campground hosts and visitor center staff if there are any around, and also gather additional printed material if we don't already have it. But the most important data we collect is how the both of us feel about a campsite - some campgrounds may not have anything super-spectacular that hits you in the face, but they may just "feel" great being there. At the end of our visit we each rate the campground from 1-5 - only the 4's and 5's will make it into the guidebook, and perhaps only the 5's.
One thing that has surprised us is that there are a lot of folks in some of these campgrounds right now (which is certainly considered off-season), while other campgrounds are deserted. Tyler Bend was one of those today - it is one of the largest campground facilities in the area and we only saw one person anywhere in the park (the visitor center was closed). Yet at one of the smallest campgrounds we visited, it was nearly full. (It got a "5" from both of us, and I guess the other campers already knew that!)
Some color near Tyler Bend on the Buffalo
Our pups are with us and we've been spending quite a bit of time out hiking with them in the campgrounds, and on some of the trails if they are allowed. Aspen has been able to swim in three different rivers today! The poor guy - the nerves to his hips are all but gone, and while he is still able to walk, he has a great deal of trouble getting his butt up off the ground, and he does not like to be helped in any way. Once we get him up and moving he is fine - until he slips or something and his hind end goes down - then he has to struggle to get back up. This is so sad for us to see - he was once able to chase bears and other critters away with ease, and was indeed king of his environment. I think he enjoyed his time out today, as did we.
At one point we were sitting on the banks of North Sylamore Creek - if you have not been here I will tell ya that these waters are some of the most pristine and unique in the state - not sure what it is about the Sylamore, but that water is magical! Anyway, we were sitting there just watching the ripples in the water and how they created art from the smooth stones that shone up from the bottom, then a single BRILLIANT yellow leaf came floating by, all by itself. It was rotating as it moved on, as if it was looking all around to take in all the same beauty that we were looking at. A quiet and reflective moment for all of us to lock away and recall in the years to come.
We saw a good bit of early color along our route today - deep red black gums and dogwoods, multi-colored sweet gums that had everything from pure yellow to orange to bright red all on the same limb, and sassafras leaves that were about the brightest RED I'd ever seen. There was a lot of yellow beginning to show in places, and we could just feel the onset of fall color about to really happen. And when I say "soon" or "about to happen" - what I really mean is sometime in the next month - might be next week, perhaps the week after, or maybe not until the middle of October. But I do believe we'll see some really spectacular color this year.
We are camped at Buffalo Point on the lower Buffalo River tonight. I like this campground because it has so many different types of campsites as you move from one end to the other - all of them lined up along the banks of the Buffalo (lush open meadows for tents, forested steep hillsides with tent pads mixed with limestone outcrops, and many level slabs for RVs and little campers). There are also a lot of different things to see and do here - of course the Indian Rockhouse Trail is one of the best and most scenic. After we had dinner I took the pups down to the river and we hiked along for a good long ways both up and downstream. The evening light was soft and colorful, and the later it got the more everything glowed. The water was moving right along - and crystal clear as ever. It is a wonderful time of year to get out and enjoy our great Arkansas outdoors - I hope you get to splash a little somewhere this weekend!
09/29/12 We have heavy fog here early this morning, created after a bit of rain overnight. And such a LOVELY rain it was! Not much total, but it was one of those slow soothing rains that just barely goes pitter-patter on the roof and lulls you to sleep and keeps you there. All the baby clouds that were born at the bottom of the Buffalo
River canyon as a result already started to rise up and join forces by daylight this morning, and our cabin is totally engulfed in fog. I just LOVE these magical days when the air is thick and you can wander around for hours not really knowing where you are going, or where you are - the limited sight window forces you to just see and enjoy and experience the forest directly around you.
I was up and out early yesterday morning hiking along the banks of the lower Buffalo River near Buffalo Point. It had rained some during the night, and there were fog banks hanging low over the river, but they were not solid and some areas were clear. This sort of wet air really helps to bring out whatever color there is in trees and underbrush - this is often the very best time to view and photograph nice rich fall color.
I saw a really nice set of giant boulders on the opposite river bank up ahead, with a great reflection in the still pool before them. Since I had my camera with me my anticipation grew with each step towards the pool. There was some nice yellow color in the small trees and underbrush around the rocks too, which just added to the scene. Wow, it was just about perfect - the water was so still and colorful! And just a hint of magicalness hung in the air (is that really a word?). When I reached the bank right across from the boulders I started looking around for the best spot to take a picture from. Got it. Since I did not have a tripod with me I had to use a special technique to get the camera steady enough for a high-quality picture, and then I held my breath and got ready to take the picture.
And then BAM!!! I couldn't believe it! This pool belonged to a resident beaver, and he was not happy for me to be taking a picture of his pool so he slapped his wide tail on the surface of the water, which created lots of ripples and messed up my perfect reflection! I just had to laugh, and I'm sure he was too - I could see little bubbles as he swam away underwater.
I patiently waited for the ripples to subside and the reflection to return, and just when I was ready to take the picture, again, BAM!!! He got me a second time. And a third. And a fourth. I swear he was just sitting there under the surface waiting for the right moment. But I guess he got bored with me and never did appear again, so after more than five minutes of waiting, I finally got a nice smooth reflection. Thanks Mr. Beaver!
We explored a couple more campgrounds as we worked our way back home - and found some really nice color in spots (see sassafras photo below). Seems like we visited at least 20 of them on this short trip, and found several really nice ones that will end up in the guidebook. We have a LOT of great campgrounds in Arkansas!
I am in the print gallery today and starting to work on new canvas prints for our holiday open houses that begin in November. So many folks seemed surprised to discover that I do all of my own work right here. I could not imagine sending this off for some lab to do - how in the world do those photographers control the final quality of the print and stretching and finishing job? I have made three really beautiful large canvas prints from our trip out west a few weeks ago, and today I will spray them with several coats of a special protecting coating, and also build the wood frames that the canvas prints will be stretched around. It will take several days for the protecting coatings to dry, and then I'll do the final step of stretching the canvas on the frames later next week. We have a special canvas-stretching machine that can do up to an 8-foot wide print - and this machine really helps pull the canvas very tight and even all the way around so the print will hang and look perfect for generations.
Speaking of those three new canvas prints, all three were magic moments for me photographically. I did not take my "big" camera with me on this trip, but the point-and-shoot camera I had with me is capable of producing extremely high quality digital images that can be enlarged into really big prints. And while I shoot pretty much everything with high-quality in mind no matter what camera I'm using, I was especially aware that each of these moments were magical and so I put just a little extra effort into taking each one, and perhaps used some extreme techniques that would not normally be used with such a little camera. The results are nothing short of STUNNING! Oh my goodness you should see these prints - WOW!!! (one is 30x40, two are 30x48) Most of the canvas prints on display at our holiday open houses will be scenes from Arkansas - including many brand new ones from the ARKANSAS LANDSCAPES II picture book (available in a couple of weeks). But I wanted to include these three scenes from Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park since they were so special.
A couple of computer notes. First, I figured out my issue with uploading this Journal while on the road and was able to successfully get that accomplished yesterday, so now when we are on the road I'll be able to update this Journal when needed (and when I have cell service) - YIPPIE! The only problem is that doing photo editing on a laptop computer screen is not a good idea, and I won't be able to tell if the images are exposed correctly, or have the right color balance - sorry about that, but laptop screens are never good for this sort of thing but are my only option. And secondly, I am now using my laptop as my main computer at the cabin as well as on the road(it's an older MacBook Pro that I have for a couple of years). I've done away with my desktop iMac computer at the cabin. When I get home from a trip I just attach a single cord from a Mac Thunderbolt 27" monitor, and I'm able to use my normal keyboard, wacom pen and tablet (they remain attached to the monitor), and the ethernet/internet is already plugged into the screen as well. When I need to hit the road I just unplug that same single cord and I'm off! I have not calibrated the larger monitor yet but I will do that today and then I hope the Journal images will be the best they can be.
OK, time to get to work. I hope you have a grand weekend!
09/30/12 I was sitting on the back deck sipping some warm java early this morning as I watched the night turn into day. The airwaves were filled with chirping crickets - so many in fact that after a while it all seemed to melt together into one continuous tone. I think they were happy for the cool weather, but sad that winter would be here before too long and they would have to go to bed for a few months!
There was a sea of clouds covering the valley floor below that extended far up the main Buffalo River channel as far as I could see, and also backed up into the Whitaker Creek canyon as far as I could see. And then something kind of odd happened. Back up in Whitaker Creek a bit of fog gathered itself together and rose up in a column out of the sea, but never quite broke away from it. The column leaned forward a little bit and then began to move downstream towards the Buffalo River. It kind of took on the shape of a dolphin - you know, when they come up out of the water like Flipper used to do back in the 1960s TV show. The tail of the cloud remained attached to the sea of clouds, and was going forward instead of backwards like the dolphins do. The dolphin cloud moved all the way across in front of me and eventually entered the main Buffalo River canyon, then it just sort of sank into the sea there.
Lucy and I took a short hike out to the mailbox and back yesterday in the fog. Everything was dripping wet and the colors were rich and saturated. Most of the landscape around here remains green, but there were a few individual maple trees that had just popped and were brilliant red. I stopped to take a picture or two along the way. And on the way back I found one of those ground spiders that weave a web that "funnels" their lunch into their lair - they don't have to go very far to dine, just sit in the living room and wait for food to come to them! This guy's apartment was the bast of a tree, and I bet he is well sheltered from any storm that comes through.
We are headed out to do a bit of trail research today - working on a revision to one of our guidebooks and have some new trail to document. It will be a soggy day, but I love the wet woods. September has been a wonderful month, and I thank all of you here for sharing a part of it with us!