Cloudland Deck Cam, 5/31/06, 7:35am, a little rain this morning to get the clouds moving
CABIN JOURNAL, updated 05/31/06, a quick update at the end of the month
05/22/06 It was a nice quick weekend with hot temps and no rain. I spent much of the day on Saturday trying to recycle and get a few chores done inside and outside of the cabin. Then it was off to Eureka Springs to give a presentation to the annual symposium of the Photographic Society of Northwest Arkansas. It was great to get to hobnob with some of the finest photogs in the area, and talk a few pixels with them. It was nearly midnight when I got back home but who's counting.
We took it easy on Sunday and my lovely bride and I went to tour a few new locations for the guidebook in the Eureka Springs area (all of them were commercial places, but I feel are well worth inclusion in the guidebook - there will not be too many of these). Our first stop was to the Blue Spring Heritage Center. Holy moly this place was GORGEOUS! I was expecting a really neat giant spring there, but the gardens surrounding this beautiful water feature were equally inviting, and makes a great place for photographers, nature lovers, and anyone who simply wants to spend some time in a lovely outdoor area with nature. And there is a great deal of history to go along with this place to boot.
The next stop was to the famous Turpentine Creek Big Cat Preserve. They have more than 100 BIG cats that have been rescued from one venue or another - most of them lions and tigers from other countries - but they also have quite a few cougars, black bears, and bobcats that are native to Arkansas - all of them having been rescued. This is a terrific spot for young or old alike to get to see these magnificent critters up close and personal. (I shot a few photos of the lions and tigers, but did not take any of the bears, bobcats or cougars - maybe next time.) Some are in cages, but an increasing number of them are allowed to live in more open "habitats" where you can view them in the woods and fields environments. One of the most incredible things to me was the fact of how GIGANTIC these tigers and lions really are - especially their heads and feet! The staff there is wonderful, and includes full time staff, interns, and many volunteers. This is a non-profit organization, and is really done up first class - and the place is, well, very clean, and you won't find too much tiger poop on the sidewalk! They also have some bed and breakfast rooms, and a special "treehouse" that you can rent, all within earshot of the critters.
And I have decided to included a limited number of caves in this guidebook. I grew up in caves, worked in the best commercial cave in the country, and have crawled around in many wild ones much of my life. We have a number of commercial caves in Arkansas but most of them are little more than holes in the wall. But I like three of them, plus will include two wild caves in the guidebook. Folks get really touchy about giving out any info about wild caves - and with good reason since it is so easy to destroy a million years worth of delicate growth with a single touch, and kill hundreds of endangered bats by the simple act of a human in a cave. And even though I continue to be asked to develop a guidebook specifically on wild caves, that will never happen. The pair of wild caves that will be included in the guidebook have already pretty much been visited to death and not a lot more damage will happen to them. Anyway, the first commercial cave we went to was Cosmic Caverns just north of Berryville. It is a pretty small cave by Blanchard Springs Caverns standards, but has a beautiful series of underground lakes that the guided tour takes you to. I have known the owner of this cave since the 1970's, and in fact went scuba diving in one of the lakes way back then. It is a neat cave experience, especially if this is the first or only commercial cave you will visit.
After getting out of the cave and picking up Amber in Missouri we made it home a little before dark. There was a twinkle of evil in Amber's eyes as she got out of the car, and I knew I was in trouble. A few minutes later she presented me with my own squirt gun, and the massacre was on. An hour later we both returned to the cabin, soaked. I realized that most grownups simply don't have the time for such horse play and it is quite beneath them, but you can never take away the great joy you will receive by spending an hour with your child having a squirt-gun fight! As this young lady continues to grow up at a rapid pace, these times for me will be few and far between, so I will take advantage as often as I can, no matter how wet I get.
It was very still and clear this morning at first light, with already warm temps signaling another hot day. It must be getting close to summer in Arkansas! It is going to be a long week and a very long next month or so for me as I try to finish up the fieldwork for the new guidebook. I plan to make a few long trips out into the wilds and you may not hear from me from time to time. In some cases I may simply only be gone a day or two at a time but won't have time to update the Journal when I am here for a few hours in between trips to recycle - so don't get worried if I go a week without posting, I promise not to get eaten by an alligator or bear or tiger!
LATE NIGHT UPDATE. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY CLOUDLAND JOURNAL! It is only a week late, but what the heck. I failed to recognize the fact that last Tuesday began the 9th YEAR of this online Journal! I can't belive it has been so long, and so many words have been written. If you want to go back and have a look at those very first words, here is the link.
05/23/06 The sun has disappeared into the dark woods this evening, and there are pink clouds drifting overhead, reflecting the very last color of the day. There is no wind. No sounds. The air is warm and heavy with moisture. A hundred yards of hiking uphill brings on sweat. There are no fireflies out here so far this summer that I have seen, although they were out and keeping me awake when I camped out last week down along the Arkansas River. I guess the mountain fireflies don't wake up as early as those down in the river valley.
Since I enjoyed my little inflatable kayak so much down in the swamps I decided to go ahead and order a real one for use up here on the rivers. It arrived yesterday and we took it on its maiden voyage today. It is not really a kayak, nor a canoe, but rather a new sort of beast that is more a kin to a catamaran sailing vessel than anything else - you could say it is a very narrow "cat" - there are two pontoons that are joined at the bow, yet separate the rest of the way back, and sit about a foot and a half apart, with a floor of thick rubber connecting them - that rubber is where the seats are attached to. One reason I got it was because of the advertised stability of the craft, although you can seldom believe all that hype.
My bride dropped me off at the river and drove on down to the takeout point where her dad picked her up and brought her back to me. In the meantime I blew up the new boat and took her out for a spin. Holy cow I was both sold and very impressed within the first ten seconds - I literally could step right on deck and walk to the far end without tipping a bit! Yessiree it did indeed live up the advertising! I got in and paddled around a large pool of water while waiting for my first mate to return. This boat uses kayak paddles but you could also use normal canoe paddles.
I almost immediately saw flowers floating by on the surface of the water, and so I headed on upstream to find their source. It didn't take me long to find a large catalpa tree that was loaded with lush bright flowers, and its limbs were hanging right on down to the water level. The blooms were at that point where some of them were just peaking and bursting with flavor, while others were dropping off and beginning a long journey downstream to parts unknown. On the way back I passed really close to one of the bluffs and stuck up a conversation with a gray squirrel that was making a home right out there in the middle of the bluff. And high overhead there were many bright yellow wildflowers growing right out of the rock and draping down over the bluff. All in all it was quite a colorful bluffline that disappeared into the deep turquoise waters of the Buffalo River.
Once Pam arrived we loaded up and went sailing downstream. At first we charged into the first set of rapids, but later we decided it was quite nice to just let the current carry us on our lazy and merry way. The river was very quiet, and we never saw another boat. We did see a few water snakes, and a buzzard or two - those giant birds seemed to be looking directly at Pam as we drifted on by them (see note below). While it was not a long float - we really just wanted to see how the boat performed and if we liked it enough to keep it - we both decided the boat was a keeper (we had it on a 30-day trial), and everything went just fine other than the one time I slapped my lovely bride on the back of the head with the paddle. When we arrived at the takeout point the boat was deflated, rolled up and in the back of the car in just under five minutes flat. I really like, no LOVE these inflatable boats!
Speaking of Pam and big birds, while on her way into town yesterday she came up over a hill and startled a group of rare and endangered Ozark eagles that were feasting on an armadillo in the middle of the road. The birds scattered and Pam did the best she could to avoid them, but one of them crashed into the side mirror on her car - neither the buzzard nor the mirror survived the collision. I wish I could have been at the car store later on when the service guy had to come out and remove the buzzard brains in order to get to the broken mirror! It was a $280 crash. Ever since then it seems buzzards have been following her - including all along our little float trip today, and even back at the cabin this evening while we were all sitting around the pool - Amber noticed a group of at least a dozen of them circling overhead, something they never do around here.
It looks like I will not be able to make another post here for the next few days, in fact you might wait to check back until next week - I will get something posted by the last day of the month. In the meantime, I hope you are able to get out and enjoy some of our great outdoors either on the water or in the woods - just watch out for those rare Ozark eagles!
The new "Kitty Cat" boat
The mighty Buffalo River at rest
BY THE WAY I wanted to add the following link that will give you some really fine reading - HAP'S HIKES. It is the online journal of an infant that goes on hikes with his dad (following Pam's guidebook). Just click on the "Arkansas Dayhikes For Kids" link to read about his adventures...
05/31/06 It is dark and cool with a little bit of rain at first light this morning. There are a few baby clouds being born in the canyons below. The air is sweet and heavy, and it feels like a wet and lazy summer day here in the Ozarks.
Yesterday evening just before dark I was out wandering around in the woods. The forest was very quiet and almost like it was holding its collective breath. What was happening was all the forest plants and critters were holding their breaths - and had all of their fingers and toes and branches crossed - hoping for just a little bit of rainfall to come down. And they nailed it right on as a few minutes later a light rain began to fall and the forest was turned into a magic land of the delicate sound raindrops make as they gently arrive at the ground or on the leaves on the way to the ground. And those little raindrops slowly began to release the wonderful aroma of the deep woods. And right before my eyes all the greens and browns and yellows and grays of the landscape got greener, browner, yellower, and grayer (probably not all real words, but what the heck, that is what happened). Not only does moisture provide life for the forest, but it also brings out all the richness of the color and smells.
Soon the light rainfall turned into a downpour, and all that quiet serenty got really LOUD! I was caught in a summer thunderstorm and there were cracks and flashes of lightning to go along with the heavy rain. Ahhhhh, it felt so great! It was no use trying to keep dry, and all I could do was enjoy and soak it all in (pun intended). I could see the trees begin to smile as they too soaked up as much as they could - it takes a lot of rain to keep them sastified. The wilderness is lush right now, and continues to grow at a rapid rate. Soon that growth will settle down and the monotone greens of summer will take over and dominate the view until the cool breezes of early October will signal a time for change.
The rain only lasted a few minutes, but it was enough to get the baby cloud factory down in the canyons all fired up, and within minutes there were clouds of all sizes and shapes forming down there and moving around. I returned to the cabin and grabbed a tall glass of bourbon and coke and plopped myself right down on the back deck to watch. It has been a terrific month of May, and I look forward to the next page on the calendar...
The new clouds being born after the rain