Cloudland Cabin Cam, May 5 - chilly (39!) and clear

Journal updated Wednesday night the 4th




Print of the Week special - Eden Falls at Lost Valley, and Big Buffalo Creek

05/01/16 We had both a lucky strike and a lightning strike hit our last photo workshop of the season. I'd been fretting all week about where to take my workshop students on Saturday - we go to one scenic location if the Buffalo River level is low, and to a different location if the water levels are high - but I need to know the water level a couple of days before the workshop so students know where to meet. They were calling for heavy rain on Friday all week, but usually those long-range forecasts don't pan out. I went out on a limb and went ahead and told everyone to meet at the high-water location before sunrise Saturday.

And then we didn't get hardly any rain during the day Friday. Oops! A light rain had begun to fall as I went to sleep, and when I awoke at 3:30 Saturday morning to get ready for the workshop, my lovely bride informed me that it had been raining hard all night - YIPPIE!! So there was plenty of water as our workshop group waded across Clark Creek and hiked into Lost Valley, and the waterfalls there were flowing at perfect levels so everyone got some terrific images - double YIPPIE! Lucky dog. (FYI, we had the entire place to ourselves for the first four hours, on a Saturday morning! The parking lot was jammed full as we were leaving.)

So after a great BBQ lunch back at Cloudland, we all moved into the gallery classroom for an afternoon of image processing and printing. But I could not get the projector to work - tried three video cables, and then another couple of video cables; and then I called my bride to bring us the backup projector, but it too failed to work. I switched to a backup computer, and one of our students came to the rescue and finally got the main projector to work, but only by using a different video setup (THANKS Eddie!). We had several other issues come up, but finally were able to get all files processed and printed - everyone took home an incredible color print, as good as any on the planet!

It wasn't until today that I realized the main video port of the projector was knocked out by a lightning strike that hit the gallery during the storm that rolled through Friday night. Pam said several of the breakers had been tripped, and this projector was plugged into one of those circuits (it was also plugged into a surge protector - but obviously that didn't work). Nothing else in the gallery was damaged - projectors are kind of delicate.

Normally I don't shoot much during a photo workshop I'm teaching, and while I did take a few snapshots yesterday with my little camera, I didn't even carry my big camera so didn't do any serious work. I was back up at 4 this morning and hiked back into Lost Valley before daylight. A constant breeze kept me from getting the images of a group of columbine wildflowers I had wanted to shoot, but I got to spend some really nice time in the back of the big overhang called Cob Cave. The forest there was lush and beautiful, and the view was too. Again, I had the entire place to myself, and when I left sometime after 8am, mine was the only vehicle in the lot. Hint - MORNING is the best time of day to be outdoors!



The landscape really needed the drink it got, and you can see smiles all around! But with the forest gulping up billions of gallons of water daily, all that rainfall will begin to disappear. If you have your dancing shoes around, please put them on and do a tap or two once or twice a week to keep those rain clouds rolling in...

WILDLIFE NOTE. My lovely bride was hiking this afternoon with the puppies when she got pooped on by a bird flying by - landed right on top of her head. I've always heard that was good luck, but I don't think she saw it that way!


It was 15 years ago TODAY when Haley Zega was rescued by local volunteers Lytle James and William Jeff Villines of Mt. Sherman. This ended the largest search and rescue mission in Arkansas History that included more than 1,000 volunteers, 80 government agencies, and four helicopters flying day and night. Up to 60 folks from Haley's family and close friends were camped at Cloudland during the ordeal - the state police kept our driveway closed off to the public. Here are a few snapshots taken on that historic day. (We have a few copies left of THE SEARCH FOR HALEY book about the ordeal.)


Haley's parents speak to the media and plead for Haley's life (above); Haley at the rescue site (below)

haley1 haley2


Haley's family and friends celebrate at Cloudland after we got the news (below) NOTE that the guy standing next to the post in the green hat is none other than Mike Shirkey of The Pickin' Post radio show (on KUAF) fame!


05/02/16 A hike along Knuckles Creek and Big Buffalo Creek...




05/04/16 The alarm went off at 2am and I jumped out of bed, sat there in the dark sipping a cup of Keurig, then shouldered my camera backpack and stepped out of the van into an ocean of bright stars above. (Can you have an "ocean" of stars above I wonder? There were a LOT of stars, seemed like about the number of drops of water in an ocean, hence the reference.)

My night vision grew better with each step, although not nearly as fast as normal - with all the leaves on the trees and bushes now there was not much starlight reaching my level in the forest. I was using a single-LED red light headlamp to navigate since I wanted to hike quickly (and not run into a big fat tree!). And then I caught a whiff of campfire smoke. Someone had pitched their tent not three feet from the trail! A then there was a hammock a few feet beyond on the other side of the trail - I almost ran into that guy! Normally I would make some sort of growling bear sound at this point, but these days you don't know if someone would imply wet their pants, or just start shooting, so I eased right on by without a whisper.

I spent the next 30 minutes or so taking pictures of Hawksbill Crag and a wonderful Milky Way that was rising behind it. Once I got the star pictures completed, I did a series of really long exposures of several minutes each.

This is a first for me - but rather than just sit there on top of the bluff wondering how long it was until the picture ended, I did yoga - just a single pose - and held the pose until the long exposure ended. My body has been a mess this past couple of months and I've not been able to attend yoga class with the ladies at the historic Boxley Baptist Church, and my body has grown the worse for neglect for sure. But it felt great to be doing something, anything, even if it was only a single pose. While I normally close my eyes during yoga class, I figured it would be better if I kept them open this time. Seeing someone doing yoga in the woods is not that uncommon - but if you happen upon someone doing yoga in the woods at night, it might be me!


A light came on over near the hammock, so I figured it was time for me to leave, so I packed up my gear and headed up the hillside through the thick brush - wondering what the campers thought of the red light moving through the woods.

It was a great workout on the way back, and I leaned into the hillside and hiked as fast as I could - my lovely bride brought home some waffle fries from chick-filet that I really needed to work off (they are great micro'ed). The forest was so peaceful this morning, not a critter was stirring, 'cept for this grizzled old woodsboy with a single glowing red eye.

Next I spent a while in a nearby meadow taking more photos of the Milky Way as it climbed high in the sky. There was a nice pair of walnut trees that wanted to silhouette, and I was happy to include them. I shot some giant hay bales, and also our RV van, where I had been napping until 2am. And then I realized the stars were fading - "astronomical twilight" had begun - and it was still almost two hours before sunrise! (This is the point in time when the rising sun around the corner of the earth begins to light up the sky and stars begin to fade - normally about 90 minutes before sunrise, but this morning it was even sooner.)



And then I noticed a glow of orange on the distant horizon - it was the crescent moon arriving, only about 8% of it illuminated by the very same sunshine. It glowed and rose right on up into what had become a dark blue sky, and behind another tree that was in prefect silhouette. I always enjoy taking pictures of trees, but I LOVE taking pictures of SILHOUETTED trees!


This afternoon I made a quick trip into town to deliver some books and maps to the elk center in Jasper (the elk center in Ponca stocks our books too), and also stopped by the new property to check on progress of the new warehouse/gallery building - they are just getting started on the foundation - no due date yet, but we're hoping it will be done sometime this summer (terrible light - sorry). (Cloudland For Sale update - we have not made a deal with anyone yet and are still looking for the perfect match. We have a university considering the property for use as a remote campus with advanced students working on nature, geological, botany, or other science-related projects - AND student artists (we have not one, but two buildings that are art studios!). A couple of folks have inquired about a helicopter pad - YES, you can land those at Cloudland! (A big PLUS for emergency air-evac.)


You might chuckle at me for this. I used at least four different cameras today, from an ultra-wide angle lens to capture the Milky Way to a long telephoto to shoot a dead armadillo, I mean PHOTOGRAPH a dead armadillo). The older I get the more my camera gear gets spread out all over the place. So I just had to laugh after getting myself all prepared to go for a hike to take some afternoon pictures - when I realized I didn't have the correct camera with me - I had left it in a drawer of the RV when I had removed that camera to make room for the "Milky Way" camera early this morning. Too many cameras!


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