Monday, July 9, 2018

Garnets, Hickison Petroglyphs and Big Den Creek.

Monday, 21st May to the 31st May, 2018; from Ely, to Big Den Creek, Nevada.

“Late Afternoon Light on the Canyon Walls”
(Big Den Creek, Nevada)
Oil Study on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
5” x 7”

Pigments used in the painting:

Imprimatura: Rublev Ercolano Red;

Drawing: W&N Cobalt & Ultramarine Deep Blues;

Pigments: W&N Cerulean, Cobalt and Ultramarine Deep Blues, Cadmiums Orange & Yellow Pale;

Rublev: Ercolano Red, Purple Ochre, Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Orange Molybdate & Lead White #2.

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West of Ely, about five or six miles, there is a rock hounding site called Garnet Hill, about three miles up a gravel road.  I went to see what it was all about, and spent an hour turning over rocks looking for garnets. I did find several small crystals embedded in the rhyolite rocks, and of no great quality, but I had fulfilled what I had wanted to do … to find an example or two within the base rock, as a souvenir. I think a fun day of it could be had here with a shovel, hammer and chisel, and probably a few decent garnets might be found.  By the end of my hour on Garnet Hill, I had got my eye in, so what would a whole day be like?

Another thirty miles down the road, I turned south onto the Hamilton Road, another gravel road, leading to the ghost town of Hamilton, ten miles in.  I had no intention of going to Hamilton … I was just looking for a decent campsite.  I found several, but deemed them too muddy, and after I crossed over the pass, I found myself on the west slopes of the Mokomoke Mountains, part of the White Pine Range.  And here things got hairy, as the road was quite slick with clay, and even in 4-wheel drive, the truck would fish-tail, I drove extremely slowly, with a dry mouth and throat, as I have experienced lack of control sliding down an incline on clay.  But extreme slowness was the key in this case.

So? … What? … I like flowers.

Derelict building
in the ghost town of Hamilton.

As stated I found myself on the side of the mountain, and as there was no good places to camp, I found myself in Hamilton, or what's left of it … there are a scattering of stone building, most fallen in, some collapsed wooden structures, and one modern sheet metal barn, by the look of it.  It was late, so I didn't hang around in Hamilton, but found a lower road, not so muddy or slick with clay.  It turns out I was on the Lincoln Highway, which was the first automobile road across the entire USA, from New York to San Francisco, conceived in 1912 and dedicated in 1913; I remember seeing a documentary, with Model Tees chugging along a dirt road … much like I was doing there on the Hamilton road.    I drove very carefully … just in case.  Four or five miles on I found a good campsite, which turned out not to be muddy, thankfully.

Lincoln Highway.

A mixed flock of birds flew through my camp, the next morning, which included a Western Tanager, a pair of Mountain Bluebirds, a several Cassins Finches (both male and female), a Rufous-sided Towhee, and a male Mountain Chickadee.  The Cassins Finches were a first for me.  I decided to spend the day here, and let the intermittent showers pass through, and head out the next morning.  I would paint, and keep my eye out for birdlife.  A few yards from camp, I found a butterfly that blended into the earth it was sitting on.  Just then the Sun went in, and the butterfly folded its wings.  I watched as the Sun reappeared, and shortly, the wings unfolded, soaking up the Sun's rays, warming enough to fly, but not before I got a couple of photos.

Sadly, my butterfly book is packed away.

For a desert state,
sure has a lot of showers floating about …

… but it brings out the flowers
at this time of year.

Although tempted to stay longer, at this excellent camp, I headed out after my second night.  Stopping in the town of Eureka (much smaller than Ely), I failed to make a blog posting, since the local library, although connected to the Internet through their own computers, did not have Wi-Fi!  The library did, however, have a water pump outside, which allowed my water bottles to be filled.  Thus stymied the westward “Loneliest road in America” beckoned.  Hickison Petroglyphs were the next stop.  A trail leads to several groupings of these insisted drawings in the cliffs and boulders, as well as to various viewpoints, of the surrounding landscape.  My favorite petroglyphs was of the “mad cyclist,” (my interpretation), who obviously represents the yellow jersey holder in an ancestral Native American Tour de Southwest cycle race!!!  There is a campground here (no water), but I followed a forest road and camped for three nights 1.4 miles in from the highway, topping up my AGM battery, and painting away.

“Mad Cyclist?”
There was a large anthill about twelve feet away from my car, and on the first evening I inadvertently stepped on a corner of it.  I was surprised to see that I had opened up access to several galleries.  I thought that there would have been several inches between the surface of the mound and the first tunnels, but evidently not.  Over the next days I watched them working on repairing the damage.  To make amends I also distributed a couple of ounces of Bob's Red Mill TVP (textured vegetable protein), which they hoiked away into the tunnels with great alacrity!  I'm assuming they were suitably grateful, and that mitigated to some extent my accidental misstep.  If I remember correctly, I understand that ants communicate with pheromones and scents, maybe through touch.  Sometimes I would watch an individual carrying a grain of sand, seemingly aimlessly, wondering if there was some plan he was following, but I could discern no logic as to where he finally placed it; sometimes within my damaging footprint and sometimes up on the sides or top of the mound.  Sometimes they would drop their load independently, but more than half the time I observed that at some point in their meandering, another ant, seemingly at random, would touch them and the load bearing ant would, at that point, drop his burden.  Was a message passed by touch; by scent; by pheromones?  Was there a logic to it?  For the time being, the ways of the ant remains a mystery to me. 

View from my campsite
near Hickison Petroglyphs,
looking back the way I had come.


Sorry, Guys!

Austin was the next town encountered on Hwy 50, and is the smallest of the three between Baker (outside Great Basin National Park, and just inside the Nevada/Utah border), and Fallon, NV.  Built on a steep hill, with two petrol stations, and no real grocery store, I was only able to top up my water supply from the garden hose outside the closed Ranger Station, at the bottom of the hill.

I drove up this valley,
from left to right, back in ’13, it was.

Loneliest Road in America.

From here I proceeded on Old Hwy 50 through the Desatoya Mountain Range, to Eastgate, on the western flank of the range, and followed a forest road five miles to the entrance of Big Den Creek Canyon.  Thus ensconced amongst the Junipers and Pinyon Pines, I remained for the next six days including the Memorial Day weekend.  There is a rough trail that leads up the canyon to a lower waterfall (where I discovered a geo-caching box), and somewhere beyond that an upper waterfall (that I did not get to).  I learned of the upper falls by reading entries in the geo-cache log, which also mentions a rattlesnake seen ten feet from the box back in `07; I had wondered about rattlesnakes when negotiating several scree-slopes that the footpath crosses.  Evidently it was just a tad too early for them to be out yet.  But the lizards were out here; three in residence in the large campfire ring I camped next to.  The trailhead, the trail itself and the waterfalls are not marked on my maps, and there is only a small sign out on the highway, five miles away, that says “wildlife viewing area,” to indicate anything of interest up this way.  I found the site through the free campsites app.

Looking west from my Big Den Creek camp.

Shower fading away.

The entrance to Big Den Creek Canyon,
in the Evening Light.

In the gloaming.

What did I say before ‘bout flowers?!


The lower waterfall …
not spectacular,
but pleasant enough.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Further into the Basin & Range.

Friday, 18th May to Monday, 21st May, 2018; to the Schell Creek Mountains.

“Desert Rain”
Oil Study on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
3½” x 9¼”

Pigments used in the painting:

Imprimatura: Rublev Ercolano Red;

Drawing: W&N Cobalt & Ultramarine Deep Blues;

Pigments: W&N Cobalt and Ultramarine Deep Blues, Cadmium Orange;

Rublev: Ercolano Red, Purple Ochre, Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, & Lead White #2.

Just down the hill from Great Basin National Park, a couple of miles north of Baker, is the Baker Archaeological Site.  It is worth a twenty minute visit to stroll to the site of the former dig, reading the guide, provided in the steel box at the beginning of the trail, and to think about and visualize those who have gone before.  At the dig site there are low adobe walls marking the layout of the building that were excavated here, and on the way features in the landscape and plants have been brought to your attention that have a bearing on the Fremont Culture whose community this was.  The Fremont Culture was contemporaneous with the Anisazi peoples (otherwise known as the Ancestral Puebloans), of Hovenweep, Mesa Verde & Chaco Canyon, but occupied the territories north and west from them.  They have been considered as the country hicks of era, but the excavations done here were instrumental in changing that perspective.  It appears that they were more sophisticated than previously thought, and that they were victims of the less long-lasting materials they had at their disposal (adobe, wood, etc.), compared to the stone buildings of the Ancestral Puebloans. 

From here I moved on to Ely, Nevada, on US Hwy 50, billed as the loneliest road in America (the Extra-terrestrial Highway further south is lonelier, as far as I am concerned).  For the past couple of days I had been studying the map and mulling over where I might look for campsite to continue charging my AGM deep-cycle battery, for a day or two, after I filled up my petrol tank, and got some dry ice to delay the melting of the remaining normal ice I had left in my cooler.  I had spotted a road marked the Success Scenic Loop, northeast of Ely, and on the west side of the Schell Creek Mountains, but the high pass on the route was marked “closed in Winter.”  After checking with the Ranger Station in Ely, I drove north on Hwy 63, for 18 miles, turning right onto County Road 486 for 8 miles, or so, and then left 5 miles to Berry Creek where there were a few campsites, and free, as far as I could see.

Sunlit mountains in the middle distance
are the Duck Creek Mountains,
with the Schell Creek Mountains beyond.

Snow ...
still on the Schell Creek Mountains …
Berry Creek Canyon right of center
where I will set up camp

I settled in at the first site just after crossing the Ford at the creek, and that provided enough open space to keep the Solar array clear for much of the day, considering the canyon here is only about a hundred yards wide at this point.  This seems to be a transition zone between the Junipers and Pinyons, and the Firs, Pines and Aspens of the higher altitudes; there is also a grove of those Mountain-Mahoganies on the opposite slope from my camp.  I hadn't intended to camp this high, but found myself at 8100'; I had thought I would be camping at about  6000’ – 6500’, and thus at warmer temperature, but it's a nice camp, so we'll see how the battery charging goes.  A crescent New Moon and Venus, graced the evening sky that evening.

In the morning … a butterfly.

Frost on the vegetation in the morning!  Several mid-ninety degree days last week at Zion, and now frosty mornings, but I am 3800' higher, so I shouldn't be surprised.  The vault toilet, across the way, is a mixed blessing.  Upon opening the door there were scored of black flies dropping off the door jamb and walls and milling about on the floor, too cold to fly.  After ascertaining there was no toilet paper (the camp is not yet officially open), I went back to the truck to get my own.  Since there is really no real place to dig a convenient hole in this narrow valley, the vault toilet was the place, so I girder my loins to wreak slaughter on the dozy flies.  I crushed dozens underfoot, leaving those few left on the walls to deal with the next day,  and then went and scraped the soles of my boots across the grave, in the shallows of the nearby stream, to clean them of the un-illustrious dead.

The ford as seen from my camp …
the blue skies belie the cloud
and showers to come.

The battery charging went better than expected, considering that it clouded over by mid-day.  I have discovered that the Solar array works even through an overcast, although slowly.  And then it rained for a couple of hours.  I recalled that when researching the Solar array, it was safe to leave it out if it rained, since the controller is on the underside of the panels which are set at an angle, when set up, and thus protected from the falling rain.  This was the first time I had ever tested this, and it turned out to be true.  I did unplug it from the battery, however, just in case.  After the rainfall, I plugged it back in, and everything was fine … good to know, but even so I won't make a habit of it.  This evening as I write, the cloud is clearing away, and the stars are appearing.

Water Violets.

A second day was spent at Berry Creek, recharging the AGM battery further, throughout another series of cloud and showers, and an Oil Sketch completed.  No stars that night. 

A walk among the Aspens.

The last of the flies were slain at the vault toilet, on the Monday, although there were a few that managed to warm up enough to fly off during the time I was at this camp.  Packed and ready to leave, I strolled up the creek towards another campsite, about three hundred yards from my own.  Another camper had come in on the Saturday, and I thought to ask him a question or two, if he knew the area.  He was just driving down as I started up his road.  His name was Pete, from California, and this was his first time in the area.  We chatted for awhile, and parted ways, as we both were heading out that morning.  I had wanted to know about the road south, but he had come in from the north, just as I had.

Aspen grove.

Nevertheless, south I went on the gravel road, with the Schell Creek Mountains to the east and the Duck Creek Mountains to the west, climbing to 9000' before the descent towards Cave Lake State Park, where I refilled my water bottles.  It was a beautiful drive, especially through groves of Aspens before the summit of the pass.  After watering up, I completed the scenic loop back to Ely, with desert rains sweeping across the Steptoe Valley to the south.

Dropping down the pass …

… to the valley floor.

Desert Rain.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Wednesday, 16th May 2018 to Friday, 18th May; Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

“Forest Waters”
(Great Basin National Park, Nevada)
Oil Study on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
5” x 7”

(Take Note: for those of you who have signed up to be notified by email of new postings to this blog, you have been receiving not just a notification, but an actual copy of the new blog posting as the email.  As this does not show the images of the paintings in the best possible light, you should click on the title of the latest blog posting at the top of the post, and not the title of the painting itself; this will open up the actual blog itself, and you may then enjoy the paintings at their best.)

To refresh your memory … the campground at Baker Creek, Great Basin NP is down there in amongst the Spring Aspens.

Except for my three weeks down in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, and the couple of days spent in the Sedona area, my Winter and Spring was spent on the Colorado Plateau.  This geographical province, roughly centered on the four corners region, has been rising for some millions of years as a unit, and has generally maintained its layers of strata in the horizontal sequence in which they were laid down.  From the west of this area all the way across the remaining part of Utah, and all of Nevada, to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, lies the Basin & Range geographical province, which I am crossing to reach Oregon, and in which lies the Great Basin National Park, just inside the Nevada border from Utah.  The Earth's crust within the Basin & Range is being stretched and thus thinned, causing north/south faults, which in turn cause the land in between these faults (fault blocks), to be either tilted and uplifted, in the form of “horsts” and mountain ranges, or to subside in the form of “grabens” and valleys between the mountain ranges; there are some three hundred north/south mountain ranges and their flanking valleys within the Basin & Range, making Nevada the most mountainous State in the Union.  I will let you look up on the Internet the terms “graben” and “horst.”  The sediments eroding down from all these mountain ranges have filled the original deep valleys, changing them into broad flat plains, or basins of alluvial soil.

View of Mt. Wheeler
from the Baker Creek Trailhead,
a mile up the road from the campground
… we are at 8000’ here.

Oregon Grape in blossom …
the leaves resemble Holly,
and the berry clusters will be reminiscent
of blue berries in colour and size,
and the clusters like grapes.

Orange-yellow flowers.

The Great Basin National Park has several peaks over 11,000’, with the highest, Mount Wheeler, at just over 13,000'.  Thus as I approached the Snake Range, which these mountains are a part of, they loomed six to eight thousand feet above he roughly mile high valley I was travelling down.  Once you leave the town of Baker, Nevada, within the valley, and climb up to the Visitors Center, you ascend about 1800’ during those intervening six miles; Baker Creek Campground, where I have my campsite is at about 7700’.

In the morning I proceeded to the trailhead at the end of the road above the campground, and after consulting the signs there, decided on a short walk; or so I thought.  I had been thinking of a mile at the most, kind of stroll, and then on to another part of the Park, but it turned out to be 3.2 miles, ascending from 8000' to just under 9000'.  It was worth it in the end, even though I spent four hours doing it, what with all my photo-stops and Nature observations.  At the high point there was a lovely alpine meadow, with a small creek running through the grass.  After time spent taking photos from various spots, I spotted movement on the far side, which I at first took to be a Porcupine, but which turned out to be a Turkey, once I trained my binoculars on it.  Later, on the descending part of the loop trail, I spotted three more, and further observations and photos ensued.

Spring Aspens, near the beginning of the trail.

Manzanita blossoms.

Butterfly absorbing some mineral
or other.

Down at my campsite, a thousand feet below, I had noticed the Aspen leaves were a lovely Spring green, and pretty much full size.  At the trailhead, they were a bit less further along, but still of goodly size and shape.  As I had worked my way up the trail, I had noticed they were less and less developed, until they were just small leaflets breaking out of their buds, and finally at the altitude of the alpine meadow, they were just buds awaiting the right temperature before risking opening themselves to the World; all in a thousand feet.  Interesting to think that these higher altitude Aspens will also be turning colour in the Autumn before their brethren lower down, so their growing season is more compressed.

Spring Aspens further up the trail,
with less advanced leaves.

Now … patches of snow.

On the descent there was a grove of deciduous trees that was not aware of ever having seen before.  They reminded me, superficially, of the Hackberry trees I had first seen at Hovenweep in January.  The bark was a dark charcoal grey, deeply furrowed on the more mature specimens, and a lighter blue grey, and smoother on the young trees.  The leaves were about an inch and a half long, and lanceolate in shape.  The older trees were about twenty feet tall with decent sized boles, and beneath them old fallen leaves were red and yellow.  Later at the Visitors Center, a Ranger and I worked out that it was Curl-leafed Mountain-Mahogany that I had seen; not a true Mahogany, which is a tropical tree; always nice to learn a new tree.

In a grove of Curl Leafed Mountain Mahogany.

Curl leafed Mountain Mahogany.

Mountain Meadow.

Stream in the meadow.

Turkey through the Aspens.


Blue Flowers.

Indian Paintbrush.

After the hike and spending time at the Visitors Center, it was really too late to take the drive up to the Mather Overlook, so I left that for the morning, where I had breakfast.  There at the Overlook you have just crossed the 9000’ mark and have a view across the valley to Jeff Davis Peak (12,771'), and Wheeler Peak (13,063'), the patterns highest in the Park.  Beyond this point the road is closed, being expected to open by Memorial Day, at month's end.  It goes for another five miles and gains another thousand feet to just over ten thousand, to the Wheeler Peak Trailhead.  There you can walk to groves of Bristlecone Pines, a couple of which I saw at Bryce Canyon.  These ancient trees are in eminent danger through Global Warming, for where can they go from their various mountaintops?  Animals and birds and even many plants can migrate north, but you're kind of stuck on the top of a mountain, if that is your only habitat.  I should have liked to go see the better specimens here; perhaps in a future Autumn, when the Aspens are glowing gold, and before the return of the Winter snows.
From Mather Viewpoint …
Jeff Davis Peak on the left, Wheeler Peak on the Right.

Note the barren Aspens down below,
at this 9000’ altitude.


They call this the Thumb, so I’m told …
looks like a finger to me.

An hour later.

At the Overlook I met Tom from North Carolina, who was doing an extensive circular driving tour of Nevada.  He had been in parts of Nevada in the past, and was enjoying the chance to see more of it.  We talked about lonely roads and myriad mountain ranges, desert valleys and the fact that the majority of people, sadly, think of Las Vegas & Reno and gambling when Nevada is mentioned.  He had left his disabled brother at a cathouse near Pahrump, for the duration of his travels, which was the reason for his opportunity to visit Nevada again … his brother needed help to travel to Nevada brothel; bucket list I guess.  I hope he doesn't return to find his brother has suffered a heart attack from all the excitement, when he picks him up in a few days’ time!

Jeff Davis Peak on the right,
from the lower Visitors’ Center in Baker.

Great Basin NP as seen from the
700 year old Baker Archaeological Site,
a mile from town.

Pigments used in the painting:

Imprimatura: Rublev  Ercolano Red;

Drawing: Rublev Cyprus Dark Umber, and W&N Ultra Deep Blue;

Pigments: W&N Cerulean, Cobalt and Ultramarine Deep Blues, Cadmiums Orange & Yellow Pale;

Rublev: Ercolano Red, Purple Ochre, Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Italian Burnt Sienna, Cyrus Dark Umber, Orange Molybdate (just a tad) & Lead White #2.