CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - December 2013
Cloudland Cabin Cam December 10 - a frigid dawn
JOURNAL UPDATED - Monday morning the 9th
SLIDE SHOWS THIS WEEK:
• Thursday the 12th in Russellville
• Friday the 13th in Springfield
• Sunday the 15th in Little Rock
HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE AT CLOUDLAND on Saturday the 14th
25 PRINTS OF CHRISTMAS #11 - Pinnacle Mountain Sunrise Reflection (click here for info)
Print Of The Week #51 - Boxley Moonset
12/01/13 It is late tonight and I just hiked a bit in a soft and soothing rainfall. The past several days have been quite clear, and even pretty warm for this time of year. The nights especially have been crisp and beautiful, with a zillion stars twinkling, and the Milky Way arching directly overhead. And our old lady friend, Venus, has been lighting up the evening sky in the southwest just after sunset.
Funny how time flies. We got a full extra day on Monday this past week when our program in Benton was postponed (to December 9th) due to some nasty winter weather in Central Arkansas. Then we had to cancel our annual Thanksgiving trip to the big bash in Illinois, which gave us two more full days that we did not expect. Yet, even with tree extra days, I still worked long into the night on Friday, and then up again at 5 on Saturday morning to work a few hours, and STILL did not get the gallery up to full speed in time for our open house. I'm one of those who will ALWAYS wait until the last minute to get stuff done, no matter what! Our next open house at the Canvas Gallery will be on December 14th - guess where I'll be at midnight Friday?
We had a wonderful open house with many smiling faces, including folks from as far away as Indiana and Mississippi. The weather was perfect, and in fact we had the gallery door open with cool afternoon breezes coming in counter the warm gallery flood lights. A special THANKS to everyone who brave the long and rough drive to come see us! I had a Cloudland Moment Saturday afternoon while I made a rare appearance outside while talking with some friends who had come to the gallery - a mature bald eagle circled the cabin and trees, soaring down pretty low, and sticking around for quite a while for us to get some close looks. I saw where someone mentioned that Ben Franklin was right when he wanted to make the turkey our national symbol - and while I LOVE turkey, I think they made the right choice!
For the very first time ever, my lovely bride and I spent Thanksgiving day here alone. We got up at the crack of dawn and worked for a few hours over in the gallery, then Pam prepared a delightful feast that included smoked turkey (Penguin Eds), smashed sweet 'taters, and Pam's homemade apple crisp with French vanilly ice cream. When we could hold no more, we took a nice long nap, then got up and spent the rest of the day and into the night back over at the gallery working. I made a trip or two back to the cabin for more turkey, 'taters, crisp & cream to keep my strength up. Amber joined us that evening and Cloudland filled with laughter as the girls put up the Christmas tree, hung stockings over the fireplace, and spread holiday cheer all around the cabin - it was a wonderful time for us to be together (and did I mention the turkey and 'taters?).
This was also our first holiday without our beloved Aspen. But he still got leftovers - I made sure to place a dish at his feet in the flower garden - and son-of-a-gun, it was all gone by the next morning - good dog!
We are headed to Clarksville on Monday to begin the second half of our slide program season, then programs in Springfield on Friday and Bentonville on Saturday. We hope everyone has enjoyed the shows so far, and for those who have not been able to attend yet, hope you get to do so between now and our last one on December 19th!
This was a quick snapshot I took just before sunrise on the 4th - from Firetower Road overlooking Ponca.
12/05/13 The best laid plans... We were up quite early this morning, packing the bookmobile and ready to flee the approaching winter storm and position ourselves in Springfield so that we could be there for our slide show on Friday. I came up with some pretty nifty packing schemes for cases of books, boxes of prints, and program presentation gear inside the van that would enable us to live and sleep there for the next couple of days. And then literally as we were about to back out of the carport and head up the driveway towards Missouri, the ice storm hit us square in the face, three hours early. We were unable to even get out and turned around, must less make it the first 100 yards from the cabin - the road and ground were covered with a sheet of solid ice. I had one of those moments from Apollo 13 when astronaut Jim Lovell said "We just lost the moon." I knew right away that we would not be able to get off the mountain today, or tomorrow, and probably not Saturday either - so we would have to cancel our slide programs. Bummer.
The folks at the other end of my e-mails were just so wonderful, and within a very short period of time we had both programs rescheduled. The Springfield Nature Center programs will be next Friday the 13th, and the Bentonville Library show will be on January 18th. We really hated to do this, but it appears that the winter storm hit both areas pretty hard as well, and so I think in the end it was best for everyone.
We've had sleet nearly all day long, and into the night as well, with several inches of the stuff blanketing the landscape. At one point the sleet turned into rain, and some parts of the road to slush, even though the temp was 28 degrees. I took the opportunity to take our mail out to the mailbox (a mile and a half) - the post office in Pettigrew told us that our mail carrier was going to try and make it - and HE DID, yippie! I made another run out late in the day to pickup our incoming mail (the road was back to being completely frozen), and was able to make it back to the cabin OK. Funny thing about that - I have one of the most technological 4WD wonders available (a fancy jeep), yet it is broken down due to a glitch in its adjustable air suspension system, so I could not drive it. But my lovely bride's soccer-mom Toyota SUV worked like a charm - in fact I think it is a better vehicle in these conditions than the jeep is - go figure!
At one point this afternoon the three of us were all outside doing something (me, Pam, and Lucy), and we just sort of ended up out in the woods doing a mile hike through the ice and snow. It was very easy walking - as long as we stayed on leaves that would give and crunch when we stepped - everything else was solid ice and pretty slick. It was bitter cold with a brisk north wind howling, but after a few minutes it did not seem too cold. Other than a few deer we saw, I think we were the only critters stirring. It turned out to be a delightful hike.
12/06/13 We've had snow most of today, and the wilderness landscape is covered with a blanket of soft, fluffy snow - about 8-9 inches the last time that I checked.
I put on a pair of snowshoes and made my way through the thick forest on over to Hawksbill Crag this afternoon (about a mile each way as the crow flies, or five miles the way I slip and slide all the time!). It was the most snow I'd seen on the Crag in a while, which was somewhat of a surprise since the snow has been so dry and not really clinging to the sides of things. It is a very fine snow too.
It felt kind of odd underfoot as I made my way down and across a couple of the steep hillsides towards the Crag. That deep powder had a solid bottom of ice. And then when I put my weight into each step the ice layer would give way and I'd sink in another several inches - breaking through the crust of ice and down into the thick bed of leaves.
It was still snowing pretty hard when I reached the Crag, but the light was beautiful and so I set up my camera and tripod. I spent the next hour or so taking pictures - part of the time trying to blow off all the snow from the camera. At one point the snow let up and nearly stopped, the sky got lighter, then the canyon was flooded with the warm glow from sunshine above - the sun was trying to break through the clouds. WOW, it was pretty magical being there! The color did not last long though, and soon the light had faded back and snow returned.
And then something really odd happened. The honking I heard could only be coming from one source - geese! At first I only heard them, but suddenly I caught some motion out of the corner of my vision and I turned to see a small flock of snow geese BELOW the clouds - they were so low, and only slightly above me! I'm not sure if they were just trying to get their bearings and look for a landing spot, or if someone in the group had told them about Hawksbill Crag and they were doing a low fly-by. Either way, it was quite a sight! Honk, HONK!
A little while later I packed up my camera gear, removed the light down jacket I had been wearing (it was 18 degrees with a stiff wind blowing, so in other words, kind of chilly), and headed on up the hill back home. The forest was completely silent, except for the crunch, crunch, crunch of my snowshoes breaking through that layer of ice hidden beneath the snow.
12/07/13 Mom would have been proud of me. At 4am this morning I was already down on my knees, and was in one of the grandest cathedrals ever - the great outdoors! I was out working on a new picture book, and I had to get down in the deep show for a low-angle shot of a neat tree and snow and stars. I guess you could say I was "knee-deep" in snow!
The temp was about 3 degrees, and the winds were howling with a wind chill way below zero - hum, I guess that meant I was freezing my you-know-what off! Actually I was pretty toasty though. I had on an old, thin long-John, a down vest, and all wrapped up inside my Jellystone snowmobile suit (I got it several years ago for a winter photography trip to Yellowstone). But what really helped was the fact that for one of the pictures I was working on I only had ten seconds to push the camera shutter button, run out across the snow in the dark (there was no moon, only starlight), find the exact predetermined spot, then turn on a dim blue light for two seconds - AND THEN run all the way back to the camera to check the exposure before it went away! All the running back and forth got my blood pumping, and brought back come circulation and warmth to my fingers (my fingers always go first).
My next stop was to a wide meadow about a mile away, where I was back down in the snow for more scenes looking up towards the stars - first of an old barn, then of a John Deere tractor.
As the stars began to disappear and hints of daylight crept into the landscape, I shed my down vest (because I knew it would get to hot), and headed into the woods and back down the steep slope to Hawksbill Crag. I wanted to photograph sunrise there with all the snow. Just moments after I arrived and got my big camera and heavy tripod (really, my tripod alone weights eight pounds), the eastern sky began to glow and then light up with brilliant reds, oranges, and blues - it was a magical light show at dawn!
A few icicles had formed along the bottom of the Crag, which kind of made it look like a bear with teeth. Soon after the sun appeared, I could see a few drips of water, which soon turned into a stream of water - it looked like the Crag was drooling! But the temp was below 10 degrees!?
Once the sun arrived I spent a little more time taking pictures, then made my way back to the car, stopping to take a few pictures along the way (an excuse to stop and catch my breath more likely). I did happen upon two sets of critter tracks in the snow that were right next to each other - kind of like a pair of footprints, only one foot was completely different than the other. I had stopped on a very steep hillside that I was climbing, and had to dig into the snow and ice while taking the pictures to keep myself from sliding down the hill. Anyone know what these tracks might be from?
It was a delightful early-morning photo trip into the deep freeze, and I think I got a couple of pictures for my new book project. The more time I spend outdoors in the winter, the easier it is to take the cool temps, and the less clothing I have to wear. I just need some heated gloves though!
The photo of Hawksbill Crag at dawn turned out pretty well...
Thanks Mom!!! (While I don't always bundle up like you would have liked for me to, I did pay attention to a lot of the life lessons you taught me.........)
FYI, we remain kind of isolated up here on Cave Mountain. According to the main county road up here - mine were the only tire tracks even late today - no one has gotten up to Cave Mountain from the outside world since the snow began, nor left the mountain. That includes the mail - our mailman tried with 4WD and chains today to make it, but was foiled by the snow and ice. Bummer. My bride has been busy processing orders and packing boxes for shipment - thank goodness the internet and power have remained on. We're hoping road conditions improve somewhat on Monday - so that the mail can get in and out, and so that we can make it to our program in Benton!
12/09/13 The roads have gotten worse out here on the mountain if that is possible. I put chains on yesterday and could not even make it up to the warehouse due to solid ice in the road ruts. The mailman was unable to get out here on Saturday with the same issues. And it was with great reluctance that last night we decided to cancel our Benton program tonight for the second time. Then I learned that Jimmy Buffet also had to cancel his show in Central Arkansas so I didn't feel so bad. We are working with the library to reschedule that one and I will let you know.
We are assuming we'll be able to get out of here tomorrow and make it to the show in Ft. Smith, as well as the other programs this week, although Ft. Smith may be a game-time decision. We also have a HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE here at the gallery this coming Saturday the 14th - with three NEW METAL PRINTS!!! (stunning) In the meantime, we have been keeping pretty busy here with print processing and book and calendar orders. Every day is a Monday here, but I happen to LOVE Mondays, so today should be a great day!
As for the landscape, it is little changed since Friday - deep snow and cold temps, and white all around. LOTS and lots of critter tracks everywhere - for them all the snow is just another day at the office - they still spend most of their time in search of food. Although I do believe some of them tend to have more fun and play a lot (just like people) when there is snow, at least for a little while.
We never did get any ice in the trees - just on the ground - so power has not been an issue, thank goodness! We keep the cabin and gallery pretty cool though, and both my lovely bride and I usually wear at least a sweater and heavy pants, and me almost always a stocking cap while indoors - we just hate to waste electricity keeping the place heated so much when the temps are so cold outdoors.
It has actually been quite nice outside wandering around - the soft snow is easy to hike through - as long as you are not trying to walk along a road, since those are solid ice. The key to being outdoors in winter (or at any time for that matter) is simply to dress for the weather - AND also for your activity. I load up with lots of layers if I'm just going to be standing around and not producing any heat; yet if I hiking and especially packing heavy camera gear then I usually just have a light wrap on. Of course, when the temp reaches zero I pack a down vest to add when I'm standing around waiting for great light or something (and my snowmobile suit!).
Pam has been able to keep up with all book orders and all print orders, although the mail has not run since Thursday - we're hopeful the packages will go out today or tomorrow. Same with UPS shipments - they are all boxed up and ready to go, just waiting for roads to become passable.
In the meantime, we hope the heat is on where you are, and you have been able to get out and enjoy some of this balmy December weather - and most importantly hope you are safe and sound! HAPPY MONDAY, and have a terrific week!