LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - SEPTEMBER 2020 (previous months)
Colorado Camp 9033' cam* September 30 - warmer (35) and breezy at dawn - time to hike - HAPPY WEDNESDAY! -
* NOTE that while I'm gone for a couple of days Pam will get most all book and even print orders processed, packed, and shipped right away as usual!
Journal updated on the 28th - a total loss
PRINT OF THE DAY SPECIAL, above (click here)
09/01/20 I'm on the run today - packing up and heading back home. We just began our new Print Of The Day Special promotion that will feature a different photo from my newest ARKANSAS GRETEST HITS picture book each day. Not sure if I can keep this up, but I'm gonna give it a shot. It will include a great sale price for FIVE different print sizes: 8x10, 11x14, 11x14 with Black Mat, 16x20, and a 20x24 CANVAS print. Fingers crossed that this will work, we'll see...
Across Colorado to New Mexico, the entire length of Oklahoma, and finally to my lovely bride - YIPPIE COYOTE!
09/03/20 Back home yesterday afternoon after a long trip. Took us three hours just to unload the camper van, including all the polished granite stones. Pam's flower bed is looking better, but it will take another trip or two before we bring home enough of the stones to cover.
Today is a long-awaited and dreaded dentist appointment early this morning, and tomorrow the camper van goes to Fayetteville for the same treatment - both trips will be cxtremely painful and expensive! GREAT to be home for sure...
09/05/20 A beautiful sunrise this morning!
09/07/20 Cool and breezy at dawn this morning, with no birds or bugs awake that I can hear. Soft and soothing colors are creeping into the landscape. It feels like a lazy summer day is upon us.
Good thing I made a hasty retreat back to Arkansas - have you seen the weather forecast for Colorado? Supposed to be down to 24 degrees Tuesday night with 5-8 inches* of snow at our 9033’ campsite! Good thing I winterized all the water lines at camp and shut off the electricity (force of habit) - only there is a case of bottled water sitting right next to my easy zero gravity chair, but those don’t mind being frozen.
My last four days in camp were spent erecting and securing a special 1200’ long plastic mesh fence that we HOPE will keep the puppies contained during future visits. After three summers of being perfect angels and staying inside the confines of the electric cow fence (we had added three more strands of fencing for the pups), this summer the pups decided to ignore the electric current and would chase chipmunks right on through and past the wires, resulting in frantic searches for them - we usually found their heads buried in a chipper hole somewhere down the hillside. But with the ever increasing population of coyotes nearby, we really need to keep the pups contained, so we’ll see how this new fence material works (it’s the same at some 8’ tall mesh that is used to contain deer - or keep them out - we’ll see).
*Updated to 15+" of snow, nearby Wolf Creek Pass is supposed to get 20-24"!
My time back in Arkansas has mostly been spent on the road - three trips out so far - an early trip to the dentist, another trip to Fayetteville to RV regular maintenance (I hike EIGHT miles on the NWA Greenway nearby while the van was being serviced), and finally a trip to Ft. Smith to collect 33 large canvas prints from our summer-long exhibit at the Ft. Smith Regional Art Museum. THANKS to everyone who attended that show - hope you enjoyed it!
Soon we’ll have the gallery here once again filled with more than 60 canvas prints, and while we won’t have any Holiday Open Houses this year, we will have the gallery open at any time we are here by appointment only. You will need to contact us ahead of time to schedule a block of time - sorry, NO DROP-INS at any time - but your time may be at any time of any day or night (as long as we are here). You will have the gallery to yourself, and ALL SALE PRICES will remain the same as they have been for more than ten years. That includes all the canvas prints (1/2 price), $50 Black Mat Prints, all books $20 each, calendars $10 each. Plus a selection of Pam’s original pastels on display and available at the marked prices. Mask, gloves, wipes, and a temperature check will be available at the front door before you are let in. ALSO, all items are available for pickup at the front door - completely contactless transaction and pickup. Just let us know what you want and we’ll have it ready for you whenever you choose to arrive for pickup. Eazy pezy!
Where was I? Oh yes, since I started typing this I had to make a run up to the gallery to check on a set of tire chains for Pam’s dad who is heading to Colorado next week for his son to go elk hunting (chains are required in Colorado for all vehicles now for the rest of the winter). AND the temp rose 10 degrees and it is now already warm and humid outside - headed towards a wee bit uncomfortable outside this afternoon.
But I digress. Yesterday I got to spend some time on the tractor mowing while my lovely bride mowed the front yard - everything looks neat and trim and the pups love romping around in the fresh-cut grass. As many of you have noticed I’m sure, there is an explosion of mushrooms all over the place right now - in the forest and in open fields and lawns. Some are the traditional “fairy circles” while others are individual shrooms that are foot tall and/or wide!
Last night at dusk I took my bride on kind-of a date - we went on a scouting trip to downtown Jasper and nearby looking for interesting scenes for “nocturne” paintings - those are simply a plein air painting done after dark with a specific light source - usually a streetlight. Turns out there are many great nocturne scenes in beautiful downtown Jasper - though they are difficult to photograph with a camera, haha. One of these nights we’ll venture out again and set up easels in the dark and see what happens.
OK, the boss is already on the job at the gallery and I better get on up there or get into trouble. Hope you have a SPLENDID holiday today and a wonderful week ahead! If in Colorado watch out tomorrow night and Wednesday! If in Arkansas I hope you find a cool swimming hole to jump into...
09/10/20 Another colorful dawn!
09/19/20 Temp is down to 51 today at dawn - since the beginning of autumn is on Tuesday I guess it really DOES feel like fall around here - great sleeping and hiking weather. Only problem with hiking right now are seed ticks - usually only seen as dark spots on your leg, but then the spot begins to expand and move out in all directions and you realize those are thousands of tiny ticks - YIKES! I’ve managed to escape them so far this year, but we check the pups several times a day and then give them a special shampoo if any are spotted.
The smoke from western wildfires moved in pretty thick yesterday, although it really didn’t feel like forest fire smoke, rather more like a heavy haze. It helped keep the temp cool no doubt, but it also had an impact I don’t recall happening before. It was later in the day when we realized there were NO birds, butterflies, nor bugs of any kind - not even at the bird feeders. And it was like that all day. Just cool and calm and hazy.
A couple of days ago my lovely bride sent a text saying “YOU GOTTA SEE THIS - IT’S AS BIG AS MY HEAD!” I thought she’d found a world record tick, but it turned out to be a GIANT mushroom that literally was larger than her head - it was HUGE! We’ve had an explosion of mushrooms of different sizes, shapes, and colors this past couple of weeks, although haven’t seen a full “fairy ring” circle of them in the forest, but I bet there are lots in pastures, which is where they prefer to live around cow poop.
The WEEKEND is here and our gallery is available for appointments - in fact that’s the case literally 24/7 - any time of any day, if we are available, we can open up the gallery for you. The other morning we opened up at 6am for a young lady to drop by and pick up a book order she had placed online (we are also happy to leave orders outside in a protecte tub for pickup at any time). She also wanted to see the gallery but needed to not see anyone, so we gladly left the door open and she and her hubby enjoyed aprivate look at the prints (I met them later for a few mnutes, at a distance of course!).
So far we’ve only had three customers take advantage of our gallery appointments, but are hopeful more will take advantage - just let us know by email if you are interested...
Last night was PIZZA NIGHT! (special thanks to Kennie who continues to supply us with hickory slabs to fuel the wood-fired pizza oven - he delivered a huge bundle a year ago). It is so easy - mix dough, salt, sugar, yeast, water and knead for five minutes and let rise for 45 minutes. Collect a few dead sticks for kindling and build a fire in the oven with the sticks and Kennie’s hickory slabs and let them burn down for about 45 minutes. Roll out the dough, add toppings (olive oil, cheap pizza sauce, pepperoni, olives, two kinds of packaged graded cheese, and sometimes slices of fresh tomato), then cook* for about 90 seconds at 600 degrees and the first pizza is DONE! Second pizza takes about 2 minutes. I started out with a 2-cup flour dough recipe when we first got the oven, but have since cut that in half, and each of our personal pizzas is only 1/2 cup flour. It’s just perfect for us since we each get to eat an ENTIRE thin-crust pizza (lots of dough bubbles!), yet it’s not a large pizza so we’re able to get up and move around after.
*My sister got us an odd device last year that was supposed to be able to pick up a fully-topped pizza and place it into the oven without messing anything up. Yeah, right. After a couple times with distasterous results I finalkly got the hang of it and son of a gun - I can pick up a fully-topped pizza cleanly and place it into the oven without messing anything up! I practaced by picking up my phone off the counter and placing it on top of a book - it really is easy now and saves the pizza!
OOPS, there’s a redball sun rising into a smoky sky right now so I gotta go......
One note especially for those who have been following for a long while and remember our an amazing daughter (that we don't get to see much) - with her long-time beau (she was a bride's maid at his little brother's wedding, a Thursday evening, outdoor, socially-distanced wedding...)
09/22/20 Had some visitors to the gallery this morning (thank you Andrea & Co.!), then went on a short hike this afterenoon. It was one of those lazy days with soft light and a little wet and misty - I just LOVE misty days. Colors seem to pop a lot more when things are wet. We can see Round Top Mountain from our cabin, and it seemded like a perfect hike for today so off I went. I was surprised to find four cars at the trailhead (all from different states), 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon. It is so great to see others enjoying our trails when it’s not so busy.
The first part of this trail is steep switchbacks but soon levels off near the bottom of a long sandstone bluff. I turned left to hike it counter-clockwise, then hiked along the base of the bluff for a while until I came to a wild plum right in the middle of the trail! I knew it was ripe even before I picked it up - the aroma filled the air. I set it on a little moss ledge and took a picture. One thing about a ripe wild plum - if you cropped the photo to just a small section of it you’d probably still know it was a wild plum from the color.
The trail quickly went up and over a small ridge and leveled out along the other side of the mountain just below the bluff. When the leaves are off the trees (like in November) you get a long view across the Little Buffalo River far below and up the Henson Creek drainage towards our cabin and the hills and ridges beyond (Roundtop Mtn. is usually in the photo I post here each morning - though it is just a ridge). But right now it’s more like a jungle, with thick vegetation all the way - maybe some open forest now and then - but otherwise it is THICK!
As I was making my way through some giant boulders I noticed the motion of a large critter out the corner of my eye - uh oh! It was a GIRL! I had just a moment more notice than she did, and when she gasped at me I noted that I was not a bear, nor where there any bears behind me along the trail that she was headed towards. She seemed releived and said no bears behind her either!
A little while later I passed the site of the terrible bomber crash in the 1940’s, paused to pay my respects, then continued on. I soon heard voices, and looked up to see a family half-hidden up there under the overhang of the bluff. There were a few giggles, so I waved and moved on. 100 feet later I spotted something bright RED on the forest floor just off the trail - a cell phone! I see comments about people finding them in the river all the time but I’ve never seen on along a trail before. I just new it had to be theirs, so I hiked back and waved to the ladies again (mom and two daughters I think), and they said it was theirs. I set the phone down next to a tree and motored on.
When I made it back down to the trailhead there was a fifth vehicle there. It was a lovely hike, and even with five vehicles I only saw one hiker, plus the phoneless ladies under the bluff. And got a wild plum too! Most folks zoom right on past this great little trail, but I highly recommend you stop and visit some day - especially if it is a cool, wet, and misty day... (there is a trailhead sign on Hwy, 7 just south of Jasper going up the hill, and it’s also in both the Arkansas Hiking Trails and Buffalo River Hiking Trails guidebooks)
Today was the Autumnal Equinox (equal amount of day and night) - HAPPY FIRST DAY OF FALL!
09/23/20 Lots of fog today!
09/24/20 We have some color! And I am prepared to make a prediction for when the peak of fall color will happen in Arkansas this year. I’ve already had numerous e-mails asking for this, which is nearly imossible to do - actually it IS impossible to do - no one has ever been able predict this - it happens when it happpens. Those that get it correct are just lucky. BUT I have perfected a formula that I think will work and I’m going to go out on a limb (literallly) this year - the peak of fall color will happen on October 27th at noon. I guarantee it! So it turns out the day and time are actually pretty easy to predict. The LOCATION is not. The peak will happen on the 27th at noon for sure, but I have no idea where - that will be up to you to figure out, hahahahaha... Anyone who says differrent is just guessing. Wow, that was pretty easy - maybe I'll work on a weather forecast next....
09/26/20 The sun is inching to the south/right a little bit each day bringing beautiful light and color to the word!
09/28/20 It’s 29 degrees here an hour before sunrise (and at dawn) as I sit in the front of the camper van waiting on a few rays of warming sunshine to appear. Obviously I’m not in Kansas any more ey!
Several days ago back home in Arkansas I got to see the first pure-blue skies I’d seen in quite a while and it was SO NICE! While I love cloudy, misty atmospheric conditions for nature photograpy - and for general hiking - those old dull gray skies do get a bit old after a while. This late summer has been filled with haze and some smoke from western fires in all three states where I’ve been - Idaho, Colorado, and Arkansas. So when it all got swept clear the other day at home I ran out into the yard and just sat down to soak it all up! Of course, then it started to warm up and I headed to shade - but still got to enjoy the blue color all around.
Friday night was pizza night (of course!) and this time I added a little more heat to the wood-fired pizza oven. I normally cook our little pizzas (10-11”) at 650-750 degrees F - only takes about 90 seconds until done at that temp. But this time I increased the size of the hickory sticks a little bit and then cooked at 750-850 degrees F - YIKES it was BLAZING HOT in there! 60 seconds cook time and the pizzas took on notably more texture and flavor - wow! But that also was right at the burn point for the dough so I had to be fast. Only problem with these sorts of little pizzas that are cooked to perfection so quickly - they also disappear really fast - they are not as good when cooled. (my excuse anyway)
While we were outside tending the fire my lovely bride decided it was time to harvest whatever the giant plant that had spread out three feet wide in the veggie garden had produced - she planted a single half sweet potato in hopes it would do something, but since it never flowered figured it was not going to produce anything. SURPRISE!!! She dug up 15 or more sweet taters!!! Most were on the small side, but still - we could not believe how much this actually produced. Next year she’ll have a full crop I bet (we both love sweet taters).
Saturday morning I loaded up the camper van and drove to Fayetteville to drop off a couple of canvas prints, then headed west to our Colorado camp 9033’ to decommission it for the year and get it ready for a long winter ahead. I drove 650 miles and stopped for the night near the base of the volcano in New Mexico (Capulin Volcano National Monument). Most of the last several hours of driving were in 95-degree heat, but oh my the temp dropped like a rock when the sun went down and it was a pleasant night’s sleep. As I was back on the road again the next morning (another 200 miles to the campsite) I could see some beautiful clouds begin to glow in the rear view mirror, so I pulled over and took this snapshot - I LOVE this volcano, and northwest New Mexico in general - but we never get to spend any time there - just passing through - maybe next year...
I arrived at Camp 9033’ mid morning and the hillsides all around were blazing with peaking aspens of gold, yellow, red, and orange - a classic Rocky Mountain fall color season! We had been concerned about the fabric roof of our four-year old gazebo at the campsite - if it would withstand what turned out to be 24” of wet snow during a freak winter blizzard three weeks ago. One of the things I do each fall to decommission the campsite is to remove that fabric roof and store it for the winter, leaving only the steel frame standing - which has held up perfectly all these years.
I was expecting the roof to have weathered the storm just fine, although when I drove up it was a bit of a shocker - totally destroyed - roof, walls and the steel frame had buckled! (I wonder how much 120 square feet of wet snow two feet deep weighs?) So I spent the rest of yesterday trying to clean up the tangled mess to get it into managable pieces that I could handle, put into the camper van for transport, and take down to the dumpsters for removal. It was sad - we’ve spent so many early mornings, days, and evenings with that gazebo - it was like an old friend - and now just a blank space is left behind.
After being back home at low altitude for nearly a month now (and not doing hardly any exercise) I was a little conderned about my physical strength and lung capacity being at high altitude. After dinner of ramen and peas and carrots (I should have brought some sweet taters with me darn it!), I headed UP the hillside to the top to see how well my body could handle it - and I’m happy to report that I made the trip to the top at full speed with no issues, YIPPIE! I’m still an official geezer, but at least my legs and lungs are in pretty good shape. Today I plan to put in 8-10 miles of hiking above 9,000’ here, and gather up the remains of the gazebo and go to the dump.
It’s MONDAY, my favorite day of all!
*Note that for some strange reason the spellcheck feature in the software I write with quit working a week or two ago, so an extra apology for having to sometimes deciphur what I’ve written here!
09/29/20 My morning coffee view...
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