CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - October 2015
Cloudland remote Cabin Cam (Colorado), October 6th - afternoon aspens near our campsite
Journal updated October 6th - nighttime visitor
2016 Arkansas Scenic Wall Calendar (now shipping)
2016 Arkansas Scenic Engagement Calendar (now shipping)
10/01/15 Autumn in the Arkansas Ozarks is one of the very BEST seasons on the planet, and I think the color display this year will be splendid! October 1st marks the beginning of fall to me, and each new day will bring with it treats to delight the eye and other senses too. We are still out west, but headed back to Arkansas in the next couple of days to begin soaking up the progression of color. When and where is the color going to be the best? I say when/wherever you are able to get out and see it! It will vary from day to day, from region to region, from drainage to drainage, and from tree to tree.
I'll be working on a marathon photography project the next nine months that will take me to every state park in Arkansas - and I plan to visit as many as I can in October and November to shoot fall colors. I'll post notes and photos here when I can. And I'll try to give some color updates - but it really will vary constantly all over the state, and especially with the type and direction of light and time of day. You just have to GET OUT and find great color where you can!
In the meantime, we are still in Colorado and the colors are pretty amazing - which is one reason why I think Arkansas colors will be so good - Colorado color has usually been a good forecaster for things to come back home.
Today we hiked to the largest tree in this part of Colorado - a giant Douglas Fir tree on a hillside just a few miles from our campsite (nearly 20 feet around at chest high). There were tons of evergreens everywhere, but also amazing stands of colorful aspen trees - including MANY orange and red ones. I think our Arkansas fall color will lean to the red side as well (vs. yellow as in recent years). RED is in this year!
Along the way to the big tree this morning I found myself down on my hands and knees looking closely for a special leaf that I knew was there somewhere. We had several hours of gentle rainfall yesterday, and so many of the leaves were still covered with tiny raindrops/dew that were turned into sparkling jewels in the sunshine. I finally found the one I was looking for, an individual leaf with a wide range of colors, and of course, all those jewels.
(I wandered around for an hour this morning looking for the most wonderful leaf in the forest. When I turned around I realized she had been with me all the time - my lovely bride, Pam! Along the way I found this nice aspen leaf covered with dew.)
Early this morning we had a wildlife encounter of sorts. I had been hiking with the puppies several miles at the break of day, and as we approached our campsite at the end of the hike, the airwaves were filled with screams from a large hawk. He swooped down towards the puppies and I feared that he might try to grab one of them. I raced towards the pups as the hawk came within a few feet of them - then he dropped something and flew off. It was a rabbit - a rabbit he had just caught (and killed). Not sure if he was leaving the rabbit as a gift for the puppies, or if he just lost hold of it accidently. Either way I was glad the puppies were safe!
This evening we gathered with other campers around a large campfire with fine food, liquid spirits, and a guy playing a guitar. As the fire cracked and he sang songs, my lovely bride and I quietly got up and wandered over to the edge of a pond - the sky was on fire, and reflected in the still waters below. And the melody of it all fit together quite nicely. HAPPY to see October come - YIPPIE COYOTE! (The photo below was taken with my iphone - please don't tell anyone!)
10/03/15 We were totally surrounded at first light. Large dark critters that breathed heavy. Mia and Wilson were not amused, and before I could grab their collars, they were out the door and headed for the herd of COWS! Our campsite is in an open grazing area, which means cows roam free wherever they choose. Turns out there was a salt lick near our campsite, and the herd wanders up to the salt every few days. Mia returned with a present for us - a new green coat!
My lovely bride and I hiked to the top of the hill in the brisk mountain air, then hiked off in opposite directions. I took Wilson with me, and Pam had the girls, Lucy and Mia. We each hiked a loop of about the same distance, but Pam beat me back to camp. Wilson spent a lot of time chasing "chippers" (chipmunks), and that slowed us down a bit.
Just as I was about to top out on a high ridge - and while being nearly totally consumed by the brilliant YELLOW of the aspen groves I was hiking through - the largest and most beautiful red fox I'd ever seen snuck across the hillside about 50 feet above me. His puffy tail was about as wide as his body, and his coat was a very bright red. He was the size of a healthy coyote, but he was all fox. Later this afternoon, we saw another red fox at our campsite - probably not the same guy, but also fat and furry and colorful. Today was fox and cow day, and thankfully the cows moved on to greener pastures. (and Mia no longer has a green coat)
10/04/15 The rain began right after first light, about half way into our four-mile hike. It was a chilly rain, with the temp about 36, but oh my it felt SO GREAT! Part of it was the delightful aroma that rain brings. But with fall colors peaking, the moisture also intensified that color - it was as if every step I took the colors got brighter and more vivid.
Speaking of the scene getting brighter, I was sitting in the forest a couple of days ago killing time until first light, when the landscape around me began to lighten up. Pretty typical an hour before sunrise, but this was a couple of hours before sunrise - and the light was coming from the WEST instead of from the east. It took me a minute or two to realize that something was amiss and to figure out what it was. The light was moonlight - it had been cloudy with no moonlight, then the clouds moved and uncovered the moon - and for about out twenty minutes it was moonlight from the west that lit up the landscape before the light from the approaching sunrise caught up with the moonlight, eventually overpowering it from the east as normal. Note - fall color becomes richer when the air is moist.
There was a coyote in the meadow just below our campsite this morning while I had the dogs out hiking. It left a few minutes before we returned to camp. Thirty minutes later we realized that Mia had wandered off from camp - something she does frequently, but she had never gotten out of sight like this before. Then we heard her scream - she was far away, but it was certainly her voice. Then she screamed again, and all was silent. We had been told by others that the coyotes in this area stalked dogs and to be alert to them, and since Pam had just seen one nearby we immediately feared the worst. I took off running across the meadow in the direction of Mia's screams, through the forest of small aspens, and through the next meadow, calling out her name as loud as I could. I stopped several times to scour the steep hillside beyond, hoping that I did not see a coyote up there with Mia in its grasp. Nothing. I circled and yelled, hiked a wider circle, but still nothing. Pam was out doing the same thing, both of us desperate to find our little Mia. And then I heard "I've got HER!" Pam found Mia, safe and sound, and we were able to breathe once again. (Mia had probably been chasing chipmunks and just kept going and going and going...)
'Tis one of those times when we really don't know what to do. We've kept a pretty tight rein on the puppies out here, keeping them tethered most of the time at camp, and almost always on a leash while we are hiking. But we've also been giving them a little more freedom to hike around within sight of our camp - it just makes their life so much more pleasant not to be tied up all the time. But we let our guard down and let Mia get out of sight - and it could have cost us dearly. Mia spent the rest of the day within a few feet of us - but oh my goodness did she want to run out and chase chipmunks!
10/06/15 We just had a bizarre thing happen tonight. It was dark and cold when we returned to our campsite. While sitting in the front seat of our van Pam said that Lucy was shaking. So was Mia. Then we heard a very weird noise - kind of like a blood-curdling screem you hear in the movies, only shorter. I opened the door of the van and we heard it again, only this time it sounded pretty close. It was unlike anything we’d ever heard before - sounded a little like a combination of deer whistle, owl, and a mountain lion scream. I grabbed two flashlights and a coat and headed towards the sound, up the hill, and in-between stands of small aspens. The scream stopped me in my tracks. Again. And again. Whatever it was was not bothered by my approach. I had to see what it was - I wanted to know.
I continued up the steep hill and the sound continued. (and Pam began to think this might end as the script for a horro movie) Got louder and faster. And then there it was - a pair of eyes glowing back at me from the middle of the aspen trees, and a chill ran down my spine. I couldn’t see anything else, just the eyes. I switched to the more powerful flashlight and shone it into the trees, but the eyes were gone. Then it screamed again, and again, and I saw the eyes moving off to my left, back and forth, pacing - kind of like a caged lion. My light was not powerful enough to light up a body, just the eyes, but it was obvious it was no winged critter. The screams and movement continued but it walked back into the woods and I lost contact with the eyes - the sound was coming closer. YIKES!
I started to backtrack towards camp and the screams continued, but I still could not see the eyes. It kept getting louder, I continued to back off. Then I heard the noise coming from the direction of our van, where Pam and the dogs where - I ran and opened the front door and the screams were right THERE! Pam was playing a recording of a lynx that she just found on uTube. It was clearly a lynx that was pacing around our campsite - an exact match. The real lynx continued to scream and move across the hillside just above us, but I never saw the eyes again.
Lynx are loaners and usually hunt at night. They leap onto their victim and bite the back of the neck of their prey.
Turn your volume up all the way and listen to this short utube video - it is exactly what the lynx sounded like, only louder, and well, in real life...