LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - JANUARY 2018
Little Bluff future cabin site cam January 15 - Here is the cooncrete footing to the foundation of our new cabin and garage. It will be smaller than Cloudland, but all on one floor (except that Pam will have a small studio over part of the garage).
Journal updated January 14
1/01/18 We had a wild time last night for our first New Year's Eve at Little Bluff - watched a Robert Redford/Jane Fonda movie on Pam's computer, then headed for the van at 8:30 to go to bed. OOPS! Something happened and the heater had shut down and it was pretty cold inside our camper van! It took me a while to figure out what the problem was (blew a breaker while cooking pasta in the convection microwave), then another hour to get the van warm enough for my bride to crawl under her down comforter.
Then I realized I had been pretty lazy all day and was nearly two miles short of my walking goal, so I put on my newly-rediscovered snowmobile suit and headed out to hike a few laps. It was quite BEAUTIFUL out there with the bright moon, tree shadows, and CRISPY air. The puppies ran and played like it was a day on the beach. I stayed toasty warm, although my eyelids nearly froze shut a time or two. Ding, ding, DING - I reached my goal while the temp was about four degrees.
It was ZERO when I got up and out before dawn this morning to begin a new day of walking - that was the coldest temp ever recorded here at Little Bluff in modern history (no one has lived on this property since before WWII). No doubt we'll have colder temps in the months and years to come, but it is still worth noting the first 0 temp.
The pups were up for more running and playing. I leaned into the brisk wind and put my feet on auto pilot. Wind chill was down to 20 below zero or even colder - high winds at zero degrees will keep ya movin'. After a few laps and a mile or two of hiking, the first rays of sunshine for 2018 appeared and lit up our future cabin site. Wilson stopped to eat a little dirt. Mia ran off in search of another squirrel. I took a snapshot with my bride's pocket camera I borrowed, then made my way back to the gallery to have a cup of hot chocolate. HAPPY 2018 TO EVERYONE!
01/02/18 The full moon rise last night happened as I was wandering around our property with the pups. The moonrise was extra colorful with the orange moon against a deep blue sky that blended into a wide band of pink and then more blue. The sight, and temperature, took my breath away. (And froze my whiskers!)
I rather enjoy hiking when the temps are cold. Seems like this is the first time in a number of years that we've had such cold temps and frozen earth though - frozen SOLID earth. I had to laugh today while outside with the air feeling OK at temps that just last week would have been FRIGID. Like a lot of life, the temp is kind of relative.
Another beautiful moonrise tonight, about an hour later so the sky was pretty dark with a few clouds - and the moon lit up the landscape right away and we walked silently through towering tree shadows. It is amazing how quiet it is in the winter - at times completely void of all sound other than your own heart beating.
As you will see, I'm going back to the original format for this Journal where new posts are added at the end instead of at the beginning like you see in "blogs" everywhere. There's just something unnatural about scrolling down and having to read backwards in time. This Journal will turn 20 in a few months, the longest running Journal of its kind. I'm hoping to fill it with a lot more material than I've produced lately - and I'm getting a new pocket snapshot camera and hope to be able to show you a lot more of my travels this year.
And I'll add a few snaps of the cabin building project and things move along. We're hoping February will be a big month in that regard, although progress will be very slow - hoping to be done by this summer. And in case you were wondering, since the temp has been so cold, they covered the concrete foundation footings they poured last week with a sandwich of black plastic and hay to help insulate the concrete while it cured - that's what you see on the ground in the last photo. Next will be concrete blocks that will define the shape and height of the foundation. We can't wait!
01/03/18 Sometimes I wander off the driveway into the woods in search of new things to see. Mostly what I find are trees - lots and lots of trees. I LOVE trees! Someday there will be a trail that loops around near the outside of the property, and I've been exploring to see what the best route will be. Often these things just sort of make themselves - as in I tend to go the same way across that bench, or in between these trees, up and around that little knoll. I'm hoping to find the most natural route and eventually clear out a corridor to be easy to follow. I've been bypassing a small patch of forest because it is so darn thick in there. But today while my bride and I were getting some fresh air I took off after Mia who seemed to have something very important up a tree. I found myself on a narrow game trail and heading right into the thick of that patch of forest - the trail followed the natural flow of things - wildlife often does that - they like easy too.
And while I never did find Mia (she had already run off to another squirrel in the treetops), I did find a bent tree. We got lots of bent trees on this narrow ridgetop, but I don't recall ever seeing this one before, and it just struck me. The game trail ran right under it. (It's not an Indian thong or marker tree, just a tree that happens to be bent.) I took a few moments to sit down and have a talk with this bent pine tree, and took its picture against the setting sun. Maybe I'll run the trail along the game trail so I can say hello to this pine on a regular basis.
I guess this little trail of ours will feature many trees - run in between many pairs of trees, alongside double and triple and quadruple trees, and right up next to the biggest trees that will tower high above. I'm a tree hugger for sure, only I actually do walk right up and hug them - you can tell a lot about a tree by wrapping your arms around it.
Pam and I went to town today to pick up a load of guidebooks that had been reprint - nearly 5,000 pounds of them. On the way back through Boxley Valley we stopped to admire the one-legged trumpeter swan (he really has both legs, but stands on just one sometimes). the Mill Pond was frozen all the way across in one spot, and Mr. Swan was standing right in the middle of it. I didn't have a real camera with me, but I did have my new snapshot camera with me so I got a few pictures. In my younger years it would have been an hour or two with a big camera and lens and some really terrific pictures. But today I just got this one to give you an idea of what our one-legged trumpeter swan was up to this afternoon.
01/04/18 Rather chilly again at dawn, but the fire in the sky made up for it - there was a BRILLIANT splash of color at dawn! Temp was up in the lower teens, but the wind was an icy gale. Last night before as my bride and I walked across the barren cabin site after dark we noticed that for the first time in a while the earth underfoot was soft instead of frozen.
We brought home about 5,000 pounds of a guidebook reprint yesterday eve, and I made the mistake of not unloading it at the time - and by this morning I was unable to get the old forklift started. It took me a while to get the heavy seat up and out of the way so I could get to the battery to recharge it. A couple hours later no go. I figured it was too cold for the propane to work, so I unhitched the tank and wrestled it down and into the gallery to warm it up. (the battery wore down while I was trying to start the forklift a second time, so it was back up with the seat for another recharge) After a couple of hours I hoisted the propane tank up onto the forklift, lowered the heavy seat, and gave it another go. Still nothing - the propane must will be too cold so I bright the tank back inside again.
Then I had a stroke of genius - put a heating pad under the propane tank - that would warm it up quicker! Time was of the essence since I had an appointment with a customer coming by the gallery to pick up a book, and I didn't want to be in mid-unload process when they arrived.
About ten minutes after a fired up the heating pad under the propane tank inside the book warehouse, I realized that my plan could lead to a Darwin Award for a guy who blew up a propane tank by heating it up inside a book warehouse. With time slipping away, I remounted the propane tank on the forklift, lowered the giant seat, and son of a gun, the forklift fired right up! Turns out that while the battery was dead at first, all my other woes were due to me not getting the propane connection on correctly. Duh.
It took me about an hour to unload the three pallets from the trailer that we borrowed from Pam's dad and get the safely stowed in the book warehouse. Just as my customers were about to arrive for their gallery visit, I brushed up against something on the forklift and covered half one leg of my jeans with thick, black grease - how delightful an impression that would make on my guests! But then as I scrambled to change my jeans before they arrived, I realized that the early-warning device on our driveway might not be working and it would be possible that the guests had already arrived and might step into the book warehouse any moment - getting a glimpse of my super-moon! These are the things that bounce around in my head. All was well, and they left without seeing any unnatural moons, and a pair of new picture books.
Speaking of the moon, the pups and I had a delightful hour hiking in the moonlight this evening - almost balmy temps with no wind. LOTS of moonshadows all around...
01/05/18 I FOUND IT! The southeast corner of our property. I've never actually gone to look for it before, but have always wondered about it (I knew where it was on the map, just not in person). To get to it I hiked to the far end of the little ridge here, then turned south and hiked/slid as straight down the hill as I could manage. The "little bluff" near the top of the ridge was broken up enough so that I could get down through it - in fact the only part of the bluff that is solid and impassable is the last couple hundred feet that wraps around the very tip of the ridge, and that part is not our property. But there are some large blocks of sandstone on our part - I plan to make the top of one of them my sun and moonrise shooting location whenever the moon/sun rises in the northeast (like the full moon did this past Monday). We won't have an open view to the northeast from our cabin site.
Below the broken bluffline the terrain was VERY steep, then leveled out across a bench for less than 100 feet and then returned to steepness. There is a county road down there, and it ended up being farther down the hill than I figured. But before I reached the road, I started to see orange flagging tape - and finally, the actual surveyed corner of our property. The landscape leveled out a little bit where the corner is located, and a tiny stream begins within a few feet of it. Otherwise, the corner is in the middle of nowhere, with heavy timber all around - my kind of corner.
I knew where the northeast corner of our property was, and had it marked on my GPS (it's REALLY in the middle of no where, and is a difficult spot to reach do to the steepness of the terrain and severity of ice damage from the big storm in 2009). But I did not know the boundary line between the two corners (our east line). So I pulled out my GPS and started to hike straight at the northeast corner - straight back up the hill I had just come down.
On the way up the hillside I passed many large trees of different types, including a giant walnut tree. It's the only walnut tree I've seen on our new property (and we didn't have any at Cloudland - so our first walnut tree!). There were also places where some of those sandstone blocks broke loose and came tumbling down the mountain in the not too distant past. And there were many game trails, all but one of them crossing my route.
As I stood there on the side of the hill looking around at the rugged terrain, it felt great to be climbing up a steep hillside and sucking air once again - it had been quite a while since I'd been able to hike anything that required sucking air.
When I got back to the top of the narrow ridge I continued across it to the far bluffline - and I was delighted to discover that some of the most interesting parts of the bluff were on our property. The trail I'm laying out will visit that small area of broken bluff before dropping down to the creek below where our waterfall is. There are still many parts of Little Bluff where I've not set foot, but it was great to finally get to see that southeast corner.
01/06/18 When I awoke at 4-somethiong this morning my first thought was about ICE. There have been many great ice photos posted on social media from our area lately, but I've not lifted a finger to capture any myself. Then I thought about our own waterfall here, Little luff Falls. But surely there wouldn't be any ice left on it after the warm temps yesterday?
Sunrise was just about to happen as I disappeared down into the woods headed towards the falls. I knew the little creek would be mostly dry, but "seeps" are what make the very best ice formations, built up during below-freezing weather over time - many days and night below freezing, a week even better.
I was thrilled when I arrived at the top of Little Bluff Falls and found a sheet of ice flowing over the edge, and even more thrilled when I scrambled down the far side and landed below to discover magical curtains of ice. I had my new pocket snapshot camera and no tripod, and spent the next ten minutes trying to capture some of that beauty of it all. First I shot from the front, then crawled around behind it, squeezing myself as far back into the overhang as I could get to capture a wide-angle view looking out. It was a frozen fairlyland.
There were many different pictures I wanted to take, but without tripod or much time, I only made snapshots, and worked quickly. Satisfied with enough for at least one good photo for the Journal, I slipped the camera back into my pocket and began the steep but not long trek up and out to the driveway. It was a refreshing hike, a bit of a challenge, but we made it back in time to complete some chores to get the gallery open by 10am. A couple ice curtain photos turned out, so I was a happy camper.
01/07/18 Cool and cloudy this morning, with rain on the way - that would be a great BIG YIPPIE COYOTE. What follows is mostly from yesterday afternoon, although I had written part of it late last night and posted it here while under the influence - of my nine-cent sleeping pill (I'm a touch typist and my home position was not where it shoul have been!). If any of you saw that before I got up at 3:30am and deleted it, please forgive. And if you actually understood any of it, then you probably should not drink so much, ha, ha! (I hadn't had a sip.)
After we closed the gallery yesterday the pups and I went for an extended ramble and spend a good bit of time exploring what I'm going to call the Bluff Jumble. This is one part of the bluff that is broken up into dozens of pieces - some parts still being part of the bluff, while other parts being sandstone blocks or boulders, with some of those having slipped part way down the slope. During the summer it is an area no meant for man or beast to wander into - I could image millions of snakes living there, all waiting for lunch! But in the dead of winter it is a delightful place to spend some time. The area is overall pretty small - probably less than a half-acre - but every foot of it is different and I just find the place interesting on several levels. The puppies like it too - actually the LOVE it - so many nooks and crannies to explore! During leaf-off there are also many views through the naked canopy of treetops out into the no-mans-land wilderness below and beyond.
If I can remember to do so I hope to take an aerial photo of this rocky area - probably best viewed with a light snowfall on the ground to show up the features best. I walked around shooting a "snapshot" video for a couple of minutes yesterday, but it was really just a test to see how my camera would do and I probably won't post it anywhere for human consumption. One of the things on my bucket list is to start shooting landscape videos - not just from the air, but from the ground as well. Timelapses and videos - I LOVE them! Along the way perhaps.
While stumbling around in the Jumble just sort of moving from one spot to the next, something caught my eye downslope a ways. It was a tiny white something in a tree branch about 10-12 feet in the air. If it were spring I would have thought it to be a dogwood or popcorn tree bloom. But upon closer inspection - and then really close inspection - I decided it was a pure-white bit of down from a passing goose. Is that even possible? I was able to reach up and bend the little branch it was on down to right in front of my nose, then used the macro function on my little snapshot camera to take a macro picture. Kind of funny though - the wind was blowing at a pretty good clip and changing directions with every puff, so the down fibers would change directions all together with each puff - reminded me of a school of fish in the ocean all changing direction at the same time.
With rain moving in today I'm headed outside to try and get a few things cleaned up that have been left out in the open lately. Then get the book warehouse prepared for muddy puppy feet. Once rain arrives I suspect we'll be out roaming around to soak in the sights and aromas of a freshly cleansed forest - rain always brings out more saturated colors and odors. Maybe we'll visit the Bluff Jumble again...
01/08/18 It was about 9pm tonight when I realized I still needed more than 6,000 steps to meet my daily goal - YIKES! So I got all wrapped up and the pups and I headed out into the night. It was really foggy, and even with my headlamp I could only see a few feet in front of me. Making things worse was the fact the wind blew so hard I had the hood of my jacket pulled tight around my face, so I didn't have much of a sight window. I LOVE hiking in fog though, so it was all good. One lap, two laps, three laps. On my way back up the hill on the third lap I turned off the headlamp and had to stop moving for a few moments while my night vision started to kick in. Funny, but once I turned off that light and walked on I could see a lot better, and the fog didn't seem too thick after all. It felt great and my wrist buzzed me past the goal line in no time - so I kept on hiking another couple of laps just for good measure.
01/10/18 We headed out for a couple days of guidebook research and camped at one alongside the North Fork River below the Lake Norfork Dam. We visited quite a few campgrounds - nearly all of them closed - but found two or three we really liked. One highlight of the trip was when we reached the far end of a campground that had been gated way back at the highway. It stuck out into the lake almost completely surrounded by water. The tip of the area was mostly bare - washed away by high water this past year no doubt. So the entire point of land was covered with a sort of "beach," and there were small mussel shells all over the place. We laughed and sent text messages to friends telling them we were hiking on the beach collecting shells (no one believed us). Anyway, we turned the puppies loose and they ran around at full tilt across the beach, into the lake, back across the beach, and on and on. It was like one of the beaches on the Oregon coast that allows dogs off leach - where Mia took off several years ago and ran nearly to Mexico! It was a rare treat for our pups, and we enjoyed their laughter.
Our campsite along the river (above), Hwy. 101 bridge on Lake Norfork (below)
08/11/18 Another puppy story today. It took me a while to catch up to my lovely bride who had the pups out for a hike mid-day. As I approached the dogs took off into the woods and pounced on something near the end of a fallen tree. Both started digging - another mole we thought. When I got closer to investigate, I realized they had chased an armadillo underneath the root ball of that large fallen tree. Armadillos are known for being able to completely bury themselves within a minute or two when trouble finds them. Thus guy was only able to burro into the rootball about a foot, which left his hand end and tail sticking out - much to the delight of the puppies!
08/12/18 WINTER HAS RETURNED - holy MOLY! The temp was only in the teens this morning, but the wind was howling and sent the wind chill down below zero. The frigid air continued all day, and I had to suit up in my snowmobile suit anytime I got out to wander around. And the ground was frozen solid once again. I think we've already had more winter this year than all of last and the year before and the year before.
As I headed out to make up a couple thousand more steps for the day late night I almost quit after just the first lap the BITE of the frigid wind was so cold. But I decided not to yield to wimppieness, and went back for another lap, and then another. That second lap was OK, but the third lap was actually very nice - seems like when I turn off my headlamp and let the forest take over everything just feels better. My night vision has always been pretty good, and I LOVE carrots!
Cabin construction update. There has been no progress since they poured the foundation footing. Maybe next week.
08/13/18 Quick update this morning. I could see COLOR about to happen along the eastern horizon, so I made sure my snapshot camera was in my pocket when the pups and I headed out early this morning for a few laps. As I was in the middle of the second lap I had to turn around and run back to the cabin site - the sky had turned brilliant RED, with even a "sun pillar" in the scene. I took a series of photos for the next several minutes until the peak of color had come and gone - HOLY MOLY that was BRIGHT RED!!!
When I got back to the computer I was unable to make the pictures look like what I had just witnessed - couldn't get the correct color that was so intense and RED. My workshop folks know that I preach to only shoot RAW files, but this was a case where I was just not good enough to reproduce the scene with a RAW file. But as luck would have it, on this new snapshot camera I also have it set to shoot JPGS - which are almost always incorrect as far as color goes. Yet somehow the camera software processed the RAW data that it shot perfectly, and what you see posted here is pretty much the scene that I saw, and also the file that came out of the camera without any changes (this depends on your monitor - the colors may not always display correctly). I may have to continue shooting RAW plus JPG files, just in case.
01/14/18 Since the ground was already frozen solid, seems like every flake that fell stuck, and we woke to about an inch of white powder covering the landscape. It was the perfect snowfall to help visually define the boulder jumble sandstone blocks that are piled one on top of another and side by side at the far end of our property. I made several trips there today, on the ground with the puppies, and also one from the air to take a few snapshots. I found myself wandering around in the jumble again and again. It is not a big place, but some of the boulder blocks are 15' tall and 30' wide. A partial snow covering made it all the more interesting for both man and beast.
In this aerial photo you can kind of see where the boulder jumble area is in relation to where our cabin will be - the red dot in the clearing is where the cabin is going. The boulders are lined up along the edge of the little bluff near the point of the ridge (which is off to the left in these photos - the gallery building is 1/4 mile back towards the right and uphill on the ridge a little). Click on the photo to see a 20" wide version that is also cropped in a little.
The temp got up to 30 and melted a lot of the landscape by mid-afternoon. Most south-facing slopes turned dead-leaf-colored pretty quickly, but the north-facing slopes - and stuff down in the hollow - didn't melt much if at all - so much of our landscape remains white. It was a GREAT day to be in the woods!
(CLICK HERE to see larger version of rocks)