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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - April 2015

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Cloudland Cabin Cam, April 17 - cool and dry with storm clouds building

Workshop space just opened up for TOMORROW, SATURDAY THE 18th - contact us via email ASAP if you are interested...

Journal updated Thursday morning - we almost lost Wilson...

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Print Of The Week Special - redbud tree in full bloom - SPRING is here!

04/01/15 R.I.P. John Paul Hammerschmidt - one of the great Americans of our time died today at age 92. And while his long service to Arkansas and our country as a US Congressman - and especially his leadership to help create the Buffalo National River - were cornerstones of his career - it was his life after that service that really set him apart. He continued to be involved and help the people of Arkansas nearly every moment of his day. He was a genuine incredible human being, and his deeds will touch the lives of people for generations - centuries - and even far beyond that. The photo below was taken in 2008 with JPH in front of the waterfall that was named after him - Hammerschmidt Falls. The sacred waters of the Buffalo River will splash on us all. THANKS JPH! I remember he always ended his weekly radio updates from Washington with - "I invite your views."

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04/03/15 The wind has been HOWLING all night, and I just came back inside from a short moonlit stroll at 5 this morning and had to dodge flying limbs all the way. It is especially warm - or at least a lot warmer than we've been used to here for a while. Skies are clear and that big old moon is lightning up the wilderness - and all those twisting trees that are dancing to the music of the storms that are rolling to our north. It sure has been a stormy couple of weeks - two night ago we got our fourth hailstorm - the most I've ever seen in such a short time. And the rain was about as HEAVY as I'd ever seen it come down - thousands of waterfalls were born in that short period and poured off every hillside and bluff in the area. Then the storm rolled on through and all was quiet - except for the road of waterfalls all around.

We just noticed yesterday some significant hail damage from one of the storms last week - tore 2"-3" holes through some items in the front yard. That must have been from the really LOUD hailstorm.

I made a quick trip up north to Illinois the other day to surprise my sister on her 70th b-day - well, if the truth be known it was really just to go have ICE CREAM - I do love ice cream! And getting to help celebrate her big day was just icing on the cake! A big part of the night was all our family gathered around her kitchen table pouring over a scrapbook of historical family photos and newspaper clippings - there were many photos of my mom and dad, and my grandparents from St. Louis that I'd never seen (my dad's dad was a famous artist from St. Louis in the very early 1900's, and was later killed by a street car). As I stood back and tried to absorb the moment of everyone being so interested and excited to see all this family history spread out before them, it hit me that THIS was the reason why we take photos - to capture moments in time that will enlighten and delight our memories - even as we all get to be old timers!

One small note of newest family history - our lovely daughter just found out that she will graduate from her University in May as one of the top ten students in her class (not %, but her actual number at the top). She is in an advanced five-year degree program and will be graduating a year early with honors. Signed the contract for her fulltime job almost a year ago that she will begin in July. And she just took the first of four major tests this week to get her CPA license. Just like her mom, she is quite an amazing young lady, and will go far in her life and do great things for a lot of people along the way. It will be fun to sit back and watch her ride.

Speaking of rides, I had a Cloudland moment just before dark last night. I heard cries from the airwaves in back of the cabin, and when I stepped out on the deck I was buzzed by a GIANT hawk that was about as large as an eagle. The wind was blowing hard like it is this morning, and this bird was being tossed around quite a bit by it. But the cries were coming from a CROW that was hot on the hawk's tail, also flying within just a few feet of the cabin. And there was also an even larger buzzard in the mix - all three of them darting back and forth - almost like they were playing with each other - is that possible? The crow soon peeled off and headed across the canyon; the buzzard rose into the sky and disappeared; but the hawk continued to make passes very close to the cabin, looping around one of the big pine trees at the lower end of Mom's meadow - I think he was trying to see how close he could get to the limbs without crashing into them in the heavy winds. Such a delight to see all of them in flight!

SPRING OPEN HOUSE, Saturday April 11th, 10am-4pm. I've been printing canvas prints and will stretch them next week - we'll have more than 50 of these prints on the wall for the open house - one of them is EIGHT FEET WIDE! All will be on sale at HALF PRICE. We'll also have all of our books and Black Mat Prints on sale too. It should be a spectacular weekend to get outdoors and go hiking and waterfall hunting - stop by the gallery first while you are still clean, ha, ha!

Speaking of waterfalls, if you are headed out this weekend (or any time) and need a guidebook, remember that there are about 200 retail outlets that stock many of our books including your local bookstore, outdoor store, or park office - call head to see what they have in stock if you are coming from a distance. And if you are coming to the Buffalo River area, you can find our guidebooks in Jasper at the Elk Information Center and Chamber of Commerce office; plus in Ponca at the Elk Information Center, and they also stock some of the guidebooks at the Buffalo Outdoor Center. Of course you can also order direct from us online, and my lovely bride will package and ship your order within 24 hours! No matter where you get your guidebooks, the most important thing is that you are able to GET OUT AND ENJOY springtime here in Arkansas - one of the very best seasons anywhere on the planet!

04/06/15 Dense fog here this morning, wet and cool. Should get rain several days this week, which the landscape will enjoy! And so will waterfall hunters. After spending the weekend down in the central part of Arkansas, we were kind of shocked at how far behind springtime is up in the Ozarks - most trees have not budded out, redbuds are coming along slowly, dogwoods haven't popped yet, and the overall landscape remains mostly brown. Contrast that with the lush GREEN landscapes of everywhere else in the state - but it won't be long now!

We spent the weekend camped at Burns Park in North Little Rock, at one time considered the largest city park in the United States, complete with their own "RV" campground (that means each site has water and electric hookups - we don't require either). Good friends just purchased their own version of the Book/PhotoMobile, and this was their first overnight trip with it - we wanted to be along to share their joy, and also compare models (they got a different brand then ours, but the same van chassis only newer, and MUCH more upscale inside, but not as much electrical power to camp without hookups as the Photomobile). I think they LOVE their new van, and we did too!

Anyway, I was up and taking our three pups out for a spin (always on leashes in the park) just after 5am Saturday morning when I met with a rude awakening. I stepped off the edge of the paved road and busted my ankle really good (or would that be BAD?). I heard the pop while on the way to the ground, and then my knee impacted the pavement with a thud, then I slid into the ground on the side of the pavement. I was immediately entangled with all three dogs and their associated leashes, and the more I screamed in pain the move twisted up they got. Took me a while to get the entire mess sorted out and back on my feet - that's when I realized I had done more damage then usual with a popped/twisted ankle like this. My jeans had ripped and I could feel blood running down my leg, and my foot on the other leg would not go down straight - I felt like a clown has I hobbled on down the road back to the van with my right foot pointing at a 45 degree angle.

We knew they locked the gates to this park at midnight and would not reopen them until 6am, which was much too late for me to have gone out to a suitable location to try and photograph the blood moon eclipse, so I was not planning to shoot the moon. But while I was on the ground wriggling around trying to get free, I realized the moon was actually much higher than I was thinking it to be, and also that the eclipse had started and the dark part of the moon had begun to glow red. Duh, I probably should get myself in gear and go see if I could take pictures of the eclipse from INSIDE the park!

My lovely bride was already awake and approved my plan enthusiastically, so we fired up the photomobile and drove off, having no idea where to go. But I knew from looking at the park map there might be a possible scene with the red covered bridge just a mile or two away (inside the park - this is a really BIG park!). So that is where we headed. Son of a gun, the setup could not have been better - we were able to drive across the bridge and park on the other side with a great view of the covered bridge - AND winds were calm so there was a perfect reflection of the bridge in the creek/pool below.

The lunar eclipse was not nearly as "bloody" as previous ones last year, but it still was nice - not much red at all since the event happened so close to sunrise - the good views were along the west coast of the US. But I was happy with the covered bridge glowing at dawn as the main subject, with the eclipsed moon hanging up there in the background playing a minor role was a bonus.

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It is pea-soup fog here this morning, with everything soaking wet and drippy - just the way I like the landscape to be! I'll be in a two-day rush to get the gallery set up for our Spring Open House this Saturday. Then I'll recycle the gallery into a classroom as our spring workshops are less than two weeks away. I hope to be able to break away at least once to get out and enjoy some of the wonderful waterfalls that will be flowing in Arkansas this week and next and - hope you get to too!

04/11/15 The moon is not up yet tonight but the coyotes are out in full force and howling at the stars! I've never heard so many different tones coming from a single species. There seem to be three different packs I can hear - all of them below the bluffline that runs through the wilderness. One pack is especially large - or perhaps has many more vocal members than the other two.

And WHIPPOORWILLS fill the airwaves tonight also - one distant caller, and one in the NEXT tree! You know how those guys operate - when you are camping there is always one in the tree directly above your tent!

I heard a barred owl at noon yesterday hooting - I wonder if he had the same problem I do sometimes and can't tell if the time 12pm is midnight or noon?

And I finally did hear some gobblers gobbling. Or maybe they were turkey hunters? A lot of folks have asked us over the years about all the turkeys we must hear gobbling from our cabin, but I really can't ever recall hearing ANY - must be something about the wind patterns, although we have no issues hearing those coyotes a mile or more away. There do seem to be a LOT more turkeys this year - and extra large ones at that.

The landscape took a great step towards spring GREENS today up here on the mountain. As I hiked through the forest early this morning at dawn it appeared most of the mature trees were still naked; by noon there seemed to be a fuzz covering the hillsides; and by sunset many trees were actually tree shaped - they had grown clothes in just a few hours!

Redbud trees are the most intense and colorful right no I've seen in a while, but I've been too busy (read - lazy) to stop and take any pictures. I find that happens to me a lot. The landscape may be filled with incredible beauty, but unless I stop what I'm doing and devote my entire self and attention to my work behind the camera, I just can't take pictures. I know a lot of guys who run around with cameras or phones taking anything and everything and fill up their memory cards. But for me I need to become totally immersed - or perhaps it is just more enjoyable for me to get as close to becoming one with the subject and the landscape as possible - then the photos I take are more like an extension of my own personal experience of being there. At least, that is what I strive for . My goal is for the viewer to become a part of the scene and feel like they were there. I'm kind of weird I guess - I don't really take pictures for ME. I take pictures so that someone else can share that experience (and gain a greater appreciation for the wonderful natural beauty that we have around us.). The great Ansel Adams said that there are always two people in each of his photographs - the photographer and the viewer. My photographs wouldn't really mean much with you.

Speaking of YOU, we had a lot more brave souls make the rough trip up and out to our Spring Open House at the gallery today. The county roads have dried out a great deal this past couple of days, but still rough and rutted and lots of jiggle, but I think folks were so glad to finally arrive at the end of their journey they were happy - kind of the Spam factor kicking i (glad to be ANYwhere!). Anyway, it was GREAT to see to many folks who have been here before, but also so many new faces.

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One funny note. It wasn't until after everyone left that it dawned on me some folks may have seen the blue and purple wounds in my arm from the general anesthesia needle during some minor surgery I had a couple of days ago - and thought I must have been a drug addict! Note to self - wear a long-sleeve shirt after surgery when going out in public! I was hyped up on pain killers and probably slurring my speech a bit, but someone noted that was just my normal voice.

Neither my lovely bride or I like mushrooms - of any size or species. But when Pam found a flock of morel mushrooms in our yard yesterday evening we both were THRILLED! It's because Pam's mom would probably kill to get them. We saved them and let Judy/Ron pick them when they arrived for Open House Duty this morning, and I'm happy to report that my good standing as a son in law remains in tact - at least for today. While I can't stand to taste one, they are very interesting subjects to photograph.

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04/13/15 A few snapshots from Turkey Run State Park in Indiana - I'll add a writeup of our short visit there in the next day or two.

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04/15/15 We made a quick trip up to Indiana a few days ago to visit and study and be awe-inspired by the amazing artwork of Zaria Foreman (here is her facebook page). It was a 12-hour drive, but we stopped for a few hours in an Illinois rest stop during the night (note to self - puppies stay up ALL night and tend to announce every new vehicle that arrives at the rest area - it was not too restful at all!).

Zaria had four pastels on exhibit in a small gallery on the campus of Perdue University. We drove right to the building and found a parking spot easily - amazing to see the change of classes - it was like being in the middle of a giant ant colony! Anyway, walking into that gallery with her work on the wall was like entering a grand cathedral - we were the only ones there, and it was one of the more amazing moments of pure art I'd ever experienced. Standing in front of one of her large pastels I could hear the ocean, feel the crashing waves, and was struck with an intense emotion - it was like seeing a giant Ansel Adams print in person for the first time. WOW!!! I was mostly a bystander on this trip - my lovely bride is the artist in our family, and she is getting more involved with pastels all the time (she is the chairman of the regional show this year for the Ozark Pastel Society). Pam has somewhat of a girl-crush on Zaria, and a giant crush and admiration of her work - and after standing in front of such genius in that little gallery, I became an instant fan. Did I say WOW!!!???

Why would we drive so far just to see four pastels? Her next exhibit is in London...

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We headed home from Perdue and took a side trip to view a few of the many covered bridges in that part of Indiana, stopping at Turkey Run State Park for the afternoon. It had been raining, and everything was wet and lush and SUPER saturated. Before looking for bridges, we leashed the dogs and headed out for a hike to give everyone some exercise. FYI, this park must have the most per-capita squirrels of ANYWHERE on earth - they were everywhere, and seemed to know and enjoy the fact that dogs were on leases and could not chase them - in fact I think they rather enjoyed taunting our puppies - sometimes they would run and stop just a few feet away, knowing the puppies were going nuts wanting to give chase.

We crossed a high suspension bridge over a flooded and raging river, then started off on one of the main trails in the park that would lead into a narrow canyon. I had Wilson and Lucy on leashes, Mia was with Pam in the lead. At one point Wilson was standing at the edge of the trail overlooking the river, when all of a sudden the land he was standing on gave way, and he plummeted over the side and out of sight - OH NO! In the split second before I felt the tug of him reaching the end of the leach I had to decide if I was going to hold on tight - possibly hanging him or breaking his neck while doing so; or just turn the leash loose. Fate stepped in and the leash snapped the instant he got to the end of it. Our puppy went over the edge and he plummeted into the raging river below.

I had no idea what had happened to him since I could not see or get to him right away. There were a few frantic moments when I tried to figure out what to do next. I handed Lucy off to Pam and scrambled around trying to find some access down to the edge of the river - there were signs all around warning of the danger, no swimming, etc. (we were on the main trail when this happened) I was finally able to slide down part of the hillside that was no so steep and make my way to the edge of the river, and there was our poor wilson about 30 feet downstream. He was in the water, clinging to the base of the cliff, and scared to death.

It seemed to be a simple matter for him to swim upstream to me to safety, but the current was pretty strong, and he was in shock from the fall no doubt. The river was muddy, but what little I could see appeared to slope steeply away from the bank into deep water right away, so I was not able to wade in and go get him. Other hikers arrived and tried to help, but it was a dangerous spot for people to be in as the bank was not too stable. Every time Wilson would cry out for help Mia would kick into female mother mode and try to get to him to help.

After a few minutes I was able to work my way along the base of the cliff by using exposed roots as handholds that took me within a few feet of Wilson. Then I reached out as far as I could and grabbed him by the collar and drug him out into the water and upstream to me and got him safely back to the bank and on shore. He appeared to have suffered no ill effects from the fall, but his momma was not a happy camper! Pam and I both wondered if this were the first of more "adventures" like our beloved Aspen was so famous for - we hoped not!

OK, dog safe, wife and dogs back to the van, fog rolling in, and the canyon ahead seemed to be quite beautiful, so I returned with my camera gear and spent the next couple of hours working different scenes that included giant sandstone blocks covered with brilliant moos, a waterfall or two, and what turned into a slot canyon with a clear-running creek flowing. And that fog just kept moving in and out, in and out, like the canyon was breathing. Actually the entire area reminded me a lot of the Ozarks, only the big trees were spruce and hemlock, but there were also a lot of sycamores. (See photos from this canyon above.) Same wildflowers as here in bloom - bloodroot, toothwort, bellworts, etc. All in all this was a very nice state park, although it's a shame they had to pick our pockets for an entrance fee - I guess not all state parks can be as good as the ones we have here in Arkansas!

Yesterday I made another quick trip into a canyon, this time it was Lost Valley here in the Buffalo River area. Same conditions though - wet and LUSH everywhere! And the waterfalls were running well, so I spent a good bit of time at Eden Falls and also the natural bridge. This was the first time I'd been into Lost Valley since they reconstructed the hiking trail there - it is now a handicapped/wheelchair accessible trail for nearly a mile - almost all the way to the natural bridge - VERY NICE! (although I'm not too sure about getting a wheelchair across the stone walkway at the parking lot)

Eden Falls was a spiritual as ever, and I had the place to myself almost the entire time. Funny how not too many folks venture out when it is raining - even though that is when the colors are the most intense, and the wilderness shows its true character. As the rains moved on and things began to dry out, a few folks ventured into the valley to enjoy it all - everyone seemed to be having a grand time!

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While we continue to be in the peak of waterfall season, it is also the peak of wildflower season in the High Ozarks. I stopped on the way home and photographed some rare Ozark spiderworts just as the sun was setting. The common spiderworts will put on quite a colorful display in a few weeks - dark blues and brilliant purples. But these Ozark spiderworts can be almost white, and sometimes pink/light purple. I enjoyed getting down on my hands and knees to spend a little bit of time with them.

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