CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - September 2015
Cloudland remote Cabin Cam, September 30th - moonset and aspens
2016 Arkansas Scenic Wall Calendar (now shipping)
2016 Arkansas Scenic Engagement Calendar (now shipping)
Journal updated Wednesday morning the 30th
09/05/15 It was 43 degrees at first light this morning at our campsite 9,100 feet up in the Rocky Mountains of southwest Colorado. I'm out here for a few days working on a non-photo project, but I had to stop and take a few quick pictures of an amazing rainbow display a couple of days ago just after a thunderstorm passed through. In fact while I was out in the middle of a wildflower meadow (in the rain) taking the rainbow picture, a blast of thunder that hit nearby was so LOUD that I jumped about a foot in the air and nearly dropped my camera!
Some of you may have discovered that our web pages were down for the past couple of days. This happened while I was on the two-day drive out here and it was just now resolved this morning. Back in the "old" early days of the internet I was pretty much able to do everything myself, but now there are so many hands on things it sometimes takes a while to fix stuff that can go wrong. But all is back to normal now. Since all of our e-mails were also down during this time, if you tried to contact us and were unable to or did not hear back from us, please resend your e-mail. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a GRAND HOLIDAY WEEKEND!
09/06/15 A cool 42 degrees at first light this morning. And that light was pretty darn nice as the eastern horizon was ablaze with brilliant orange/red clouds from the approaching sunrise. I'm "camping" in the back of my van, and was lulled to sleep last night by the sounds of soft rainfall - not coming from a noise machine, but rather from the tin roof of the van.
Yesterday afternoon I hiked for an hour or two during a light rain, and as usual when the landscape got soaked the colors saturated, and everything was lush and beautiful! I say that to emphasize that I found great beauty everywhere I looked, even though I was hiking through a forest that had been completed destroyed by a massive wildfire 13 years ago - burned/killed every single tree on the mountain. The trees mostly remain - tall stately pines that cover the steep hillside I was hiking up. They are no longer breathing, but the bones of their trunks and branches glow in morning and evening light, and stand tall against the wind. I've always liked "naked" trees, and while I prefer living ones, these guy still have a lot of beauty left to give the world that will look.
Below the naked trees the forest floor has begun new life - in fact the entire forest floor was covered with tall grasses, plants of all sorts, thousands of small aspen trees that are reclaiming the mountain. And everywhere I traveled there were rose hips in full bloom - BRILLIANT red they were, some of them as large as my thumb! We have a lot of these in Arkansas, but nothing as large. I'll add a photo here later.
I climbed to the top of a small fin of rock, rock that was covered with multi-colored lichen. The rock out here in Colorado seems harder than in Arkansas - not sure what type it is - guess I'll look that up one of these days. I found a little depression and laid back against that rock and looked out across the vast landscape spread out before me - I was several hundred feet above the campsite.
Soon I was joined by not one or two, but FIVE hawks that swirled around me, riding wind currents, laughing and playing and joking around. A couple were larger than the others, so perhaps it was a family? They didn't seem to mind me being there, and were not screaming like they often do at Cloudland. Mostly they were just having fun, and swooping down to get a closer look at me. Once I looked up and one of them was only about 15 feet away - straight out in front of me - just hovering there in the wind. Hello Mr. Hawk, nice to meet ya!
09/07/15 My feet were moving along the trail in the dim light just before dawn this morning. A slight breeze moved the young aspens I was hiking through, and I think I heard a "quake" or two. It was just light enough to see movement on the trail ahead. A bird sitting on the trail moved around to see what I was. Then he just sat there, staring at me as I approached. When I was within eight or ten feet of him I stopped and stared back. What the heck do critters like this think about when they see a human I wonder? We each nodded a "good morning" and then on our separate ways.
A little while later I came upon a rabbit - it was lighter then and we got good looks at each other, although I didn't need to sniff the air like he did. Again, I got really close to this little guy before he hopped off into the woods. The wildlife here seems accepting and friendly.
There was a blast of color this morning - actually it began as a whisper, and I watched the volume increase to a peak of briliance, then the color quickly faded into dawn.
Late last night just before it was time to turn in, I realized that it was NATIONAL READ A BOOK DAY. I had been studying maps all day, but had not read a book. In fact I didn't have any books with me. As an author and book publisher I could not let this day pass without reading a book! Then I remembered the manuscript in my brief case - an unpublished novella written by a talented artist friend. He gave it to us to read and get our thoughts. That would be PERFECT for me, so I curled up in my sleeping bag, turned on my headlamp, and started page one.
I only made it to chapter 10 before sleep caught up with me - must have been the half bag of BBQ 'tater chips and slice of German chocolate cake I had as a late-night snack. But what I read was pretty darn terrific, in fact quite magical. I found myself transported to the very same places where the main character was - the story is based in a wilderness area not unlike Cloudland. I'm not a big reader, yet the writing and story line kept me captivated and anxious to turn each page. I shall continue reading...
09/08/15 I'm sitting outside about an hour after sunset - it is almost too dark to see. The trees and hills all around are black, silhouetted against the darkest of blues. A few stars are just now beginning the fade in. There is a soft cool breeze and leaves sway. There are no night bugs here in Colorado like there is in Arkansas. In fact I can't hear a thing - I guess that's the sound of silence.
And then all of a sudden SOMETHING runs across my foot! I would just barely make out some dark motion on the ground. And then all heck broke loose in the bushes - robins, those cheery, fluffy, friendly birds, were chasing each other all over the place and causing quite a ruckus.
I finished the book last night, the novella. It was quite amazing. And if the author asks what I thought, I would ask him WHEN it was going to be for sale! It was a really great read. The only problem was that it kept me up all night thinking about different parts of the book, the descriptions, how he painted the landscape with words.
And tonight, just before something ran across my foot, I rushed over to the base of a ridge that loomed above my campsite - there was spectacular light in the clouds from the setting sun, and I wanted to see the silhouetted trees through the lens of my camera. I stood in the middle of a wildflower meadow and looked up in awe.
And now there is a BUG on my computer screen!
09/09/15 While sitting here in the dark just now savoring the last taste of chocolate fudge cake, I looked up just in time to see a meteor streak across Cassiopeia in the northeastern sky. I had been sitting in the dark for a while and my eyes had adjusted well. As the tail of the meteor faded, there was a giant beam of light that stretched from horizon to horizon- the Milky Way. It was SO bright!
Today was a wildlife day. There was a hawk in a tree nearby. Blue sky behind. Sunshine in his eyes. Then a large shadow slowly crossed the ground in front of me. A second hawk was above me, working the wind currents so he could ease on over me to have a good look. The bright sun shone through the bird's feathers, and I was able to look straight into his face and make eye contact. Satisfied that I was no menace, he dipped one wing and in a couple of seconds he was all the way over to the other hawk - buzzed him so close he nearly knocked the other hawk out of the tree. I guess that was the point. (Maybe the other hawk was a her?)
A third hawk soon came along, then a fourth, each taking a turn at the other hawk in the tree. Eventually the four flew off together. I watched them soar and sail and dip down into the distant forest.
This is kind of funny. Another one of those tiny bugs just landed on my computer screen - same kind and size as last night. I should take a picture of the bug on the screen next to the picture of the other bug on the screen in the Journal. There have been no other bugs on my computer screen - just those two. One each night. Or is it possible it's the same little bug?
I've seen marmots around this past week, and have always enjoyed watching them scamper across meadows. Today one popped up really close by. I'm used to seeing marmots that are shades of brown and yellow, but this guy was quite dark - almost black. After watching this and a couple of other guys, I've decided that when they run - or scamper - they flip their long tails up. But when they are just hiking around at a normal pace their tail is held low, perhaps even drug along the grass.
One time I looked up and right there in front of me was a marmot sitting on top of a log in the middle of the meadow. I never saw him arrive, in fact had not seen a critter of any sort on that log before. By the end of the day I'd seen four or five marmots on that log. Is it possible for a family of marmots to move in in a single day? I'm hoping they are there tomorrow.
And for the last wildlife note of the day, I saw a coyote up close this afternoon. He was one of the most colorful coyotes I recall ever seeing - in fact, he looked like a gray fox, alhtough larger. Pretty healthy too. I'd heard them off in the distance a time or two this week, but it wasn't until just a few mintues ago tonight that I really HEARD them up close! I'm camping in a large "bowl" of sorts, with mountains on both sides and behind me. When they let er rip, it was almost 3D - can you have 3D sound? It began to my left, then behind, then off to the right. Penetrating to the bone. Not chilling really - for it was beautiful music. But kind of sharp. And then they just stopped.
We got word today that the two 2016 Arkansas calendars are en route from the printers and should arrive next week - YIPPIE! And the new Rare Light picture book is also en route, but it will still be several weeks before we get them. My lovely bride picked up the first three copies of this new book yesterday. I think you are going to enjoy it! I look forward to the holiday program season in November and December and hope you all can find a show to attend!
I took a trail up towards the top of the hill this evening - my plan was to munch on a custom turkey-pepperoni wrap that I had just prepared, taking my time to savor both the view and dinner. I hadn't gone 100 feet before I realized the sky was on fire! Low-lying clouds were lighting up a remarkable shade of - I don't know, red/orange/pink? I need a word for that color. I only grabbed the camera while walking away as an afterthought, but seeing that color, and the silhouetted trees all around, the wrap moved down on the priority list. I stood in about the same spot for the next five minutes trying to frame the color and silhouettes. Each time I looked through the camera the scene had changed. It was another dramatic color display - whatever color that is. As the colors faded, I realized the wrap was gone - in all the excitement I must have eaten it just to get it out of my hands. Ummm, that was the most colorful wrap I ever tasted!
09/12/15 The wildlife today was larger than before - lots of mule deer wandering through my neck of the woods. Mostly big does, a couple of fawns, and one pretty good size buck - all of them sporting those giant ears. One small doe went springing through the meadow just below my campsite - kind of like an antelope will spring. Or in Africa, a spring buck. Sometimes when mule deer get up to speed they just go boing, boing, boing...Come to think of it we have two dogs that do the same thing, but usually just once or twice at a time, not springing along like the mule deer.
Speaking of the puppies, they are all close-shaved once again, and life is much better. They had become burr magnets, and the burs had been getting pretty difficult to remove. Now they are all trim and skinny again and the burs don't stick nearly as much.
As I was wandering along a hillside this evening I came upon three mule deer feeding in the meadow below. Each took turn to raise up and study me, then go back to grazing. Made me feel good that some of the deer don't consider me a threat.
Speaking of deer, the muzzle-loader elk season started today in Colorado. So did grouse season. I talked to a lady who was on her way to elk hunt with a bow. My lovely bride saw that she tried to shoot a grouse with her bow and reported the score was "Grouse - 1; Me - 0" (Suzy is an excellent shot with a bow, but a grouse is a pretty small target.) I shot a grouse one time while I was lost in northern Ontario, Canada. I had been moose hunting and hiked a long way in the wrong direction from our camp. I ran out of food and decided to have grouse for lunch. Not wanting to blow up one of the poor birds with my high-powered moose rifle, I instead used one of those "wrist rocket" sling shots that I happened to have along. As a child spending summers on my grandparent's farm in Minnesota, granddad would make me a sling shot out of wood and an inner tube for the sling. I used to be pretty good by the time our visit was over. But when I was lost in Canada there were no rocks to use as ammo, and while the grouse or "fool hens" were sitting on the low branches, the only ammo I could find was small pine cones. Turns out small pine cones don't make very good sling shot ammo - they veer off course wildly and never go where you want them to. Needless to say I shot a LOT of pine cones at the grouse, and after probably 100 or more attempts, I finally hit one and had my lunch. "Grouse - 99; Me - 1"
Tonight's sky was quite different than before, and at first began as a series of weird cloud formations. I knew SOMETHING was up, so I hiked back to the van and grabbed my camera gear, just as the clouds began to gain color. As I looked around for a suitable shooting location, more and more color arrived. And before I could take a single picture, the entire sky around me in all directions was smeared with this amazing light. I had a little bit of camera trouble in the process. This is not a photo trip for me, but I do have three cameras with me, but only one tripod. I will grab a camera depending on the subject and how good the scene is.
My first camera stopped working - just like that. And of course it was at the very peak of the most beautiful and dramatic clouds. I RAN back to the van to get another camera, but turns out the lens I had mounted on it was too long for the scene that I wanted to shoot. So it was back to the van again, where I grabbed a different lens and also my third camera. It was that third camera that did the trick, and I shot for a couple of minutes while the light was still good. And then it was all over.
Pam was telling me there was a rainstorm raging literally on the other side of the mountain that she could see on radar. It was almost dark by then, and when I looked up, the off clouds were still in the same place. I think they were sitting there and dumping their load on the other side of the mountain. I never got a drop.
But while I was out keeping tabs on the clouds, it had grown dark and the Milky Way was rising behind the very same ridge. So I had to take a few more pictures - using camera #2. This is my tenth night camping at this same spot, and I believe there has been a spectacular light show at sunset every night. I think this might be one of those places with magical light..
09/20/15 I was just out wandering around the cabin late tonight and almost got lost in the front yard - HEAVY fog all around. Feels GREAT! We got some nice soaking rains today, and it didn't take long for a sea of clouds to develop in the canyons below. Lush saturated landscape colors (still mostly green though). Cool and quiet hiking too. My lovely bride and I with puppies in tow walked a while early this morning and you could smell and feel that tinge of fall in the air - won't be long now. Not much color yet, just a few small black gums showing nice brilliant red - a sign of things to come!
LOTS of acorns coming down!
While visiting with neighbor Kennie and brothers Woods, he noted the pawpaws had all been robbed from his trees - bear or coons? (Kennie and Billy and friend unloaded a GIANT box from my van - I'm getting old and frail at times, but they yanked that 10' x 4' x 4' box out like it was kindling - it is a replacement canvas printer.) This afternoon we discovered that almost all of the pawpaws in our own pawpaw patch were missing as well - I only found a single pawpaw fruit. Looked like a bear had beat me to them - one of the main pawpaw trees had been broken down by what was probably a bear - going after the delicious fruit up high. (Kennie has photographed five different bears nearby this summer on his game camera.) 'Tis the sweetest wild fruit I've ever tasted, so I can't really blame the bears.
We had a false alarm on Friday - the reason why I drove 16 hours back home from Colorado was to pick up two tons of our new 2016 Arkansas Scenic Calendars that were supposed to arrive in Springdale on Friday (I have to collect them from a receiving warehouse there and truck them to our warehouse here at Cloudland). They never showed, and the printers finally admitted that they actually had no idea where they were or when they would be delivered! I discovered the hidden pallets on my own at a warehouse in Little Rock, and we're hoping they will arrive in Springdale Monday - which means all pre-orders will ship on Tuesday - YIPPIE! The new picture books will be several weeks behind, and we should have them by mid-October.
One note about the Print Of The Week that I just posted this evening - it is a special image and one of my most favorite photos (and moments) of all time - taken this week of the fall equinox at sunrise several years ago. It was actually the very first Print Of The Month we ever offered (is now the Print Of The Week series). I offer it as a tribute to this most iconic outdoor scene of Arkansas - but it will only be available for the next few days at the special low price.
Early autumn is upon us, a transition from summer to fall, warm to cool, green to RED/ORANGE/YELLOW. The landscape is holding its breath in anticipation of one of the most spectacular seasons on the planet - fall in Arkansas. I hope you get the chance to get out and soak in some of the delights - especially early morning or late evening when the air is the sweetest...Perhaps I'll reach down to grab a ripe pawpaw and find you in the same patch - the bear will leave enough to share...
09/25/15 We only saw a single critter on our hike early this morning at first light - a FAT cottontail that seemed to understand that the puppies were leashed. Bugs Bunny hopped across the trail in front of them, stopped, turned and sat up with this wide grin. At first the puppies were perplexed, then realized they were supposed to charge Bugs, yet they were unable to due to the leash. Bugs twitched his nose a couple of times then turned and hopped on away into the forest.
Speaking of the pups, the other day there was a LOUD noise coming from the deck. Mia ran towards the noise and the sound stopped. She then hurried into the house and laid down in the middle of the room. When she opened wide a bright green Katydid crawled out of her mouth and onto the floor, perfectly unharmed. We guessed that Mia just wanted a little playmate. I escorted Katy back out to the deck and she continued her song.
The calendars never made it to Springdale - they somehow ended up in Ft. Smith on Monday, and drove over and picked them up and got them home. That's about all I could do with them. A couple days later Jason and Jeff were able to get them all unloaded into our warehouse (I'm pretty much worthless these days), and all preorders have gone out. Don't know what I would do without all the extra help we've been getting these days. Pam's dad continues to help as always, even after knee surgery. My lovely bride keeps talking about getting a foreign exchange student, a burly guy in high school, but they probably would not allow us to have him do manual labor after school, ha, ha.
Not a lot of color in the landscape yet - usually the underbrush and lots of smaller trees have already turned by now. I think we're going to have one of those fall color seasons where everything turns at once instead of in layers. Only time will tell, but the forest certainly is healthy and whatever we get next month will be worth the trip...
09/29/15 Kind of wet and chilly tonight, the bright moon has just risen into a mix of clouds and open sky, and a few hundred stars twinkled back at me. My lovely bride and I, along with the puppies, are in Colorado for a few days. Aspens and cottonwoods are peaking at all elevations showing brilliant yellows, oranges and even reds; and there is a lot of wildlife on the move. I don't recall seeing THIS much color at the same time here before. I literally don't know which direction to point my camera, so I haven't.
It was cloudy for the "Blood Moon" eclipse a couple of nights ago - at least for the first half of the event. That normally would be a huge disappointment, but while the clouds were playing hide and seek with the rising moon, something quite wonderful happened. I got to spend some quality time with my lovely bride just BEING TOGETHER outside during the night - I NEVER get to do that since I'm always running around frantically trying to get pictures. But with the blood moon hidden, what else was a guy to do? Grab a hold of his sweetheart and hold tight! Who would blame me.
And when the clouds did finally move on, the moon was in total eclipse, and the "blood" red was just incredible! Sorry honey, time to take pictures! The clouds soon returned so I didn't get many pictures, but I was able to catch the eclipsed moon rising behind a stand of naked/burned out fir trees high up on a ridge overlooking our campsite. This was not the main focus of our trip, but it was certainly a little bit of icing on the cake.
Last night after sunset I took the puppies for a hike during the twilight hour. We climbed several hundred feet up the hillside, and when we topped out on the ridge above we were nearly blinded by the BRILLIANT light of the still-full moon! And oh my goodness, I turned around and it was as if the entire world had lit up behind me - all of it beaming from the bright moonlight. It was somewhat of a shock to see all that bright light - we had been hiking in the shadow of the tall hill so our eyes were adjusted to the dark. And then BAM, full moonlight! It was like hiking through another world then until our eyes adjusted - and even then it was just incredible.
Temps will be down in the 30's at night here for the rest of the week.
I do have one puppy note to share with you. We had just set up a two-person hammock in a grove of aspen trees and were testing it out when Wilson arrived at our side. He is a very timid dog, afraid of his own shadow (literally), and of most things that go bump in the day or night. On his behalf I will say that if you approach us while he is there this wall flower will turn into godzilla and open a can of you-know-what that would curl your hair! He does not mess around when anyone tries to mess with either us or with Lucy or Mia - he is very protective and fearless. Anyway, so he walks right up to this hammock suspended in the trees above his head, with both Pam and I in the hammock, and just like that, he LEAPS into the air and lands right on top of us! He took a flying leap of several feet and landed on all fours like a cat. And the hammock didn't even budge (I expected it to flip us over and out). I don't think he knew what he was doing, or what he had just done when he landed - you should have seen the look on his face! You should have seen the look on OUR faces! Good dog...
There was some spectacular thunderstorm activity and light way out there above the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (30+ miles away) - here was the scene from our campsite:
One hike note from today - actually this evening. The entire family headed out for a hike near dark, and about half way around a mile loop that we do, the air filled with this amazing aroma - RAIN!!! It has been pretty dry here, and oh that smelled so great! Of course, actual rain followed, and before long we were all soaked. No one bothered to take a raincoat, but it didn't really matter - it was just delightful! Just as we were leaving on this hike my lovely bride noted that I might want to put away my big camera that I had set up to photograph the giant thunderhead - it was still on the tripod out in the open. I did as instructed, then hit the trail to catch up. Normally it doesn't take me too long to catch up to anyone on a hike, but son of a gun - my bride has already acclimated to this altitude, and has gotten so strong during a year of yoga, that I didn't catch up to them for more than a MILE (and I was going full speed)! She is a wonder woman...
09/30/15 We were up early and out for a long hike - a couple hours before sunrise and it was SO BRIGHT! The 7/8's moon lit up the landscape almost like midday. As we hiked along, a scream came from the sky - a bald eagle, probably the one we saw yesterday, soared above, proclaiming the dawn of the new day. Or perhaps he was just yelling at us for disturbing his nap so early!
During the hike the opposite effect of the "moonglow" that I noted back in August happened (it's the time at night when moonlight overtakes the light from a glowing sunset). The main light source on the landscape changed from moonlight to the glow of the approaching sunrise - very subtle, but there was a distinct moment when it happened. It's something I'd never noticed before - I'll be on the lookout for it now whenever I hike before dawn during a bright moon.
Later on after we got back to camp, as the sun was rising, the opposite ridge above our campsite began to light up. The skies up there were pure blue, and that big ol' moon was approaching the ridgetop. I saw a potential photo, grabbed my camera and long lens, then scrambled up a VERY steep hillside meadow that was covered with young aspen trees - all in full yellow bloom. I was nearly out of breath when I found a spot up there I liked, paused for a few minutes and shot the moon as it began to sink into the aspens. Then I sat down in the tall meadow grass with our puppies, turned around and soaked up the spectacular landscape that was spread out before me - the views went on for 30 miles or more. Of course, the main reason I sat down was to catch my breath!
When I returned to camp I found my lovely bride had set up her tripod and had started a pastel of aspens all lit up with those first rays of sunshine. I have no idea how in only a few minutes she can create something from nothing - I guess that is what an artist does! I think it's going to be a grand day in the high country - hope YOURS is too!