Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taking a Break

Hey there...I've reached a point where I need to take a break from all the writing and spend more time doing other for the next month or six weeks or so I'm going to do some fishing, picture taking, a few hikes, and even work in the yard some, plus concentrate on my bill paying job more as it has been elevated into the can't keep my head above water phase.

See ya sometime maybe end of April...middle of May...have a great Spring!


Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Out There

Somewhere out there it hides ready for discovery, waiting for the right moment.  I see it every day in my mind…a vision filled with wonder and awe, where light dances across amazing moments and where time stands silent for a single breath.  I know it’s there…unseen…challenging my senses to seek it out…taunting each day as it whispers its call, ‘Not today…not yet.’

Never before has it been captured…where it lies not yet discovered.  Yet, I know it is there, and someday I will find it….just me and the moment…with camera in hand…everything will fall into place…and that which I seek will reveal itself and I know that I belong in that moment…alone with favored light, together with a moment of the heart like no other, when all the missed opportunities are again revealed in one breathless age of light that will exist in a magnificent revelation…just for my eyes…then be gone forever.

It’s out there…that one photograph like no other…that one moment in time just for me.  When…I do not know…but one thing stands for certain…I will keep searching…perfecting technique…tuning my eye…listening for its silent melody that, when it finally sings its revealing song, ‘Now…I am here’…I, will be there.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Runestone Mystery

The smooth water-worn surface of the small flat rock was faintly etched with some kind of design…too far worn to fully visualize, but enough there to indicate that those lines could easily be thought of as not natural and must have been manmade.  The rock was maybe seven or eight inches across on the long side and five or six on the short side.  The strange etchings stirred the imaginative mind of a 10 - 11 year old boy who saw the outline of a Spanish conquistador holding a long lance as he sat high riding a horse.  

I’m not sure who actually found the rock, I believe my grandfather found it along one of the many creeks that run through the hills of southeastern Oklahoma, and the 50 plus years since that time has blurred my memory enough to where I can barely visualize the image…but to the best of my recollection, that is the way I remember it.  The moment my grandfather pulled the rock out of the filing cabinet and handed it to me, my world was changed.  It became one of those moments where science and history became one in my young, still exploring mind.  It stimulated an interest in both of those subjects that has yet to subside, and I even today find such things interesting and thought provoking. 

I’m not sure what happened to that old rock.  Some years later, a devastating flood engulfed that small community of Wister Oklahoma, not once but twice within a few years, as a result along with age, my grandparents retired from the business they had owned and operated for many years.  It must have been lost and I vaguely remember my grandmother saying that she gave it to the curator of a local historical society/museum…I hope that is what happened to it and it may yet today be sitting inside a collection drawer someplace.

It was at that time I first learned about a place called “The Heavner Runestone”.  Heavner is a small community maybe 20 miles to the south and east of Wister and is surrounded by large rolling hills…mountains the locals call them…Poteau Mountain being one of the more dominant.  On the flanks of Poteau Mountain deep within a horseshoe shaped ravine a large monolithic stone stands 12 feet wide, 10 feet high, and 16 inches thick.  Across the face of this tombstone like structure are carved 8 runic style inscriptions each deeply carved into the extremely hard surface of the stone yet heavily weathered through untold ages of time.

 Gloria Farley ( ) of Heavner spent many years researching this oddity and was instrumental in getting the Runestone protected as a park. Throiugh her research and others, the writings suggest they were made by Viking explorers. The Runestone has been known to exist for about 200 years first being identified back in the early 1800’s by local indigenous Indians.

They have been identified as an ancient Nordic script that are designed as a cryptic multi-meaning message and interpreted as a date in one sense:  November 11, 1012, A.D
…and also as a land claim:  Glome's Valley

Another more recent explanation comes from a Dr. Lee W. Woodard ( who researched the expeditions of Rene Robert Cavelier de La Salle who made a couple of excursions into the area back in 1686 -1687.  La Salle , along with several others in his party, was eventually murdered in 1687 by a mutinous crew.  Current historical reference places that event in Eastern Texas, but Dr. Woodard’s research indicates that it more than likely actually took place near where the Runestone is located in southeastern Oklahoma.  He believes, and makes a very strong case for, that the Runestone was actually carved by a talented French linguist named Jimmy Hiens of La Salles ill fated 1687 expedition and points out many compelling facts to support that theory. 

I've also heard of another interpretation that indicates the runes are a marker for a burial site, possibly Viking in nature.  Indeed there is evidence of collapsed underground chambers near the my knowledge no one has ever tried to excavate or research if anything was there.

Poteau Mountain
Regardless of where it came from, its historical significance is of a high value.  Today a protective building surrounds the Runestone, but when I first saw the stone it was surrounded by a simple chain-link fence and you could see it as it appeared in its natural surroundings.  I was captivated by it and imagined seeing someone standing there for what must have been hours carving those inscriptions by hand into the diamond hard surface of this gigantic stone standing like a monolith at the base of a ravine.  When I discovered that other such stones had also been discovered in the area…all quite imagination went through the roof believing that someday I could find such a marker.  I never did.

Who carved them?  Why were they carved?  What true ancient message is it trying to say to us today?  Those are questions that time alone will answer…maybe never.  Even so, fifty years after first discovering this fascinating relic of ancient history, I am as captivated by its story as I was as a young boy.  It’s one of those growing up moments that became pivotal in shaping the thoughts and dreams of one so young.  Even so, I suppose there are things we will never understand completely...maybe its just as well, because an imagination is far more  valuable and certainly more enjoyable to have.


Friday, March 9, 2012

A Fresh New Day

Taking a hike the day after an all day rain...well...not too many things can compare to the experience.  Seems the weather cleanses the air, refreshes the woods, and imparts the already fresh scent of the country air with a newness of life.

A steady rain fell pretty much all day yesterday and well into the evening.  The already saturated soil allowed for a lot of runoff and puddles to form. I knew from past experience that Shanty Hollow falls would be flowing at near capacity as a result, so I scheduled a single vacation day to take advantage of the opportunity.  The alarm went off just before 5:00 5:15 I was out the door full of anticipation in spite of the sleep that still clung to my eyes.  

Many times after a rain like that, the next morning will produce some fog...several times I had made the drive up to Shanty Hollow only to be greeted by clear air.  This morning would be different.  As I wound my way through the country roads that lead to the lake, light fog floated in the valleys and poured off ponds and creeks.  A good sign.  When I pulled into the parking area at Shanty Hollow in the pre-dawn light, whiffs of light fog floated through the trees and rolled off the water.

That nagging sleep deprived feeling evaporated as I hurried down the trail...then turned to climb to the top of the ridge, stopping ever so often to allow my near 60 year old lungs to catch up...lugging a few extra pounds of camera gear on my back, and few more around my mid-section does that too you.  I made my way through tangles of thorns and blow downs and eventually found the private access road that led to where the creek feeds the falls.  I could hear the falls long before I saw it as I slipped down an incline to eventually stand atop the ridge that dominated the narrow outlet valley of Shanty Hollow Falls.

Too often I catch myself acting rather neurotically scurry about taking pictures trying to take advantage of the great light and scenic value...never nearly enough time just enjoying the moment.  After firing off a few dozen shots, I managed to stop for a few moments and simply breath in the clean moist air and allow some the buggery's of the past few months evaporate.  I suppose I needed that more than anything else.

I could see the sun beginning to penetrate through the fog and overcast...soon a bright blue sky would appear...not exactly good for photography, but nice to be around.   I backtracked to where I had climbed up to the top of the ridge, and half slid and half stumbled down to the trail.  By the time I had worked my way back to the base of the falls, most of the fog had lifted, but was hovering high in the canopy of trees still softening the harsh effects of the sun.  For the next two hours I drifted around this area searching for new ways to re-photograph familiar subjects.  The light remained good for most of that time, but by 9:00am, blue sky was beginning to poke through as was bright light effectively ending my photo shoot.

By 10:30ish I was back home.  I'm not sure which is more fun, being out taking the pictures, or downloading them later to see the results...yeah, I'd pick the first one too.  Surely it is a blessing to have such a wonderful place like Shanty Hollow so close to home where one can go for a morning and get away for a while.  Sometimes simply taking a day off can work wonders...I could use few more wonders to be worked...even so, I enjoyed the morning more than I should be allowed certainly was a wonderfully fresh new start to a great day off.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Hunting for Old Treasures

It’s not unusual for me to bring home odds and ends I might find while out and about.  My garage holds an assorted collection of feathers, animal skull’s, a horseshoe or two, knurly sticks and rocks, old fishing bobbers, and other assort objects of like kind.  While hardly treasures of real value, it is fun to do such things, and even more fun to research something about them. One of my favorites is an old bottle I found around an old ship wreck way back in the mid-1970’s while I was stationed in Winchester Bay, Oregon during my Coast Guard days.

The Oregon Coast is littered with shipwrecks.  Along that stretch of the Pacific one can find some of the stormiest weather around which plays havoc with vessels of all sizes…that’s why the Coast Guard is there.  Many of them ran aground near the mouth of the Umpqua River at Winchester Bay.  South of the Umpqua River Bar, sometime during the early part of the 1900’s, a schooner ran aground and was lost.  Over the years, its remains were reclaimed by the elements and the frame was covered by the encroaching sands. 

I don’t remember the exact date, but during my tenure in that location probably in 1975 sometime a particular storm blew in that disrupted a stretch of beach for several miles in either direction.    The storm washed a lot of the sand away around where the schooner ran aground and exposed what remained of the wooden frame.

It was a decent hike down to it, but one day I did just that, took a hike to see if I could find it.  Sure enough, I managed to find it a few miles down the beach, along with several others who had the luxury of driving down there in 4x4 rigs.  I searched around the blackened old timbers and found an iron spike and a brass spike, but nothing much of interest.  That is until I began to look along the wall of sand that extended along the beach at the high water mark.  Two old medicine bottles were sticking out of the sand both still retaining their cork stoppers.  One was a small round Listerine bottle, the other a typical medicine bottle of the early 1900 era.

At first I thought the Listerine bottle must be more modern, but after closer examination, it became apparent that it was of an older design with numerous air bubbles embedded in the glass and it had a pale purplish hue.  The top or lid was an obvious give away as to its age as it was clearly applied after the bottle had been blown.  The medicine bottle also retained many of the same traits.

Over the years, I misplaced and rediscovered both bottles numerous times.  I still have the Listerine bottle, and somewhere the other one lurks hidden inside of a box probably in the attic.  Resent research indicates that the schooner remains where I discovered the bottles might be one of three vessels.  The San Gabriel which ran aground 4 to 5 miles south of the Umpqua River Bar in Jan of 1913 (I remember hiking a couple miles from the last parking area south that was accessible at the time), or the Caroline which is listed as running aground just south of the bar in June 1913, or The Novelty which ran aground south of the bar in 1907.   Other than that, I really don’t have much information about the name of the actual vessel, it could have been either of them, or possibly another one entirely.  Research on the Listerine bottle also indicates that the style of bottle was manufactured from sometime before 1900 to around 1915, which would place it well inside the date ranges of all three of those vessels.

Some years later another small treasure I found was discovered in Oklahoma near a Civil War battle field just north of Skiatook.  Believe it or not, there were a few Civil War battles fought in what was then Indian Territory.  Although they had little influence on the outcome of the war, they did affect the lives of the native populations who were engaged as a result.  Here is a brief description of one of the battles known as The Battle of Chustenahlah.

Confederate troops had undertaken a campaign to subdue the Native American Union sympathizers in Indian Territory and consolidate control. They had attacked Chief Opothleyahola’s band of Creeks and Seminoles earlier at Round Mountain and Chusto-Talasah, not far from present day Tulsa. Now, they wanted to finish them off by assaulting them in their camp at Chustenahlah in a well-protected cove on Battle Creek. Col. James McQueen McIntosh and Col. Douglas H. Cooper, commanding the Indian Department, planned a combined attack with each of their columns moving on the camp from different directions. McIntosh left Fort Gibson on December 22, with 1,380 men. On the 25th, he was informed that Cooper’s force could not join for a while, but he decided to attack the next day, despite being outnumbered. McIntosh attacked the camp at noon on the 26th. The Union defenders were secluded in the underbrush along the slope of a rugged hill, but as the Confederate attack came forward, the Native Americans began to fall back, taking cover for a while and then moving back. The retreat became a rout as the Federals reached their camp. They attempted to make a stand there but were forced away again. The survivors fled;  many went all the way to Kansas where they found loyal Unionists. Chief Opothleyahola’s band of Creeks and Seminoles mounted no resistance again.

Today, the battle site lies on private property.  One summer day 10 or 12 years ago, I drove over there and talked to the owner who granted me permission to look around.  I found nothing of consequence on that day, but did return several times.  On one of those return trips, my friend Ralph wondered why a rose bush would be growing out in the middle of this one field and he thought there might have been an old shed or building there at one time.  So we began to work the metal detector around that area and almost immediately started getting hits…some of them quite deep.  

What we began to find were old wagon parts…hubs, broken pieces, harness rings…things of that nature.  One thing we learned was that during the battle, many of the encamped wagons were overturned and burned.  We were suspecting that we had stumbled onto one of those old wagons…which oddly enough could have been carrying a rose bush as these were mostly civilians trying to escape the ravages of a war that had been thrust upon them.  Somehow, over the years, that rose bush must have taken root and survived until modern times.  I also read from the original officer’s account of the battle that many of those who were killed in buried in a common shallow grave.  At the time I was doing the research, no one knew for sure where that burial site was located.

While searching and between the loud solid hits on the large metal wagon parts, I picked up a very faint signal…so weak that I almost ignored it, but I dug around and discovered what appeared to be a decorative piece from possibly a purse.  I believe it was probably made of brass, but was very delicately made and showed no real signs of corrosion.  I kept the part in an old cigar box…if I could old find that old cigar box, I’m sure it will still be in there.

Eventually, I gave up the search having not found really anything of consequence, but it was fun to look around.  Hunting for old treasures can be as simple or complex as you want...I've never really made much of an effort to do so, just superficial, but those superficial moments were full of anticipation.  There's a good probability I might do so again soon.