Monday, October 30, 2017

South to Dinosaur National Monument & Beyond

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Friday, October 6th_Wednesday, the 18th, 2017; Yellowstone National Park to Dinosaur National Monument, Utah.

“Afternoon … Mount Moran”
(Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
Oil on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
6” x 8”


It was a nightmare getting my last post published, as I did it from my phone from my campsite on a cliff high above and a few miles away from Dinosaur, Colorado, the same campsite I occupied for a night back in August, as I explored Dinosaur National Monument on my way north for the Eclipse.  It may just be my favorite campsite of all just for the view, not to mention solitude.  It feels like being in Asgard (home of the Norse Gods), looking down on the earth below, especially in the evening when the lights of Dinosaur (ten miles distant) and Rangely, Colorado (twenty miles beyond that), twinkle on in the gloaming.  But I digress.  The nightmare of that posting was the hours spent trying to copy and paste from my Word document to my blog, and get the photos inserted, on the small phone screen … it took most of a day.   I’m probably going to have to cut way back on the photos in future.

The Drawing & Block-in stage of the painting.

On the Friday morning after leaving Yellowstone, I crossed into Idaho with the whole purpose of having my tires rotated at the Les Schwab Tire Center in St. Anthony, the closest Les Schwab I was likely to see for awhile, and I did need a rotation, and of course it would be free.  It was interesting to see the Tetons in the distance from their other side after so many days on the Wyoming side.   The tires were rotated by 11:30 and I was passing back through Jackson, Wyoming by mid-afternoon.  I found my campsite north of Pinedale at the south end of the Gros Ventre Range early enough to get supper cooked by dark.  This would be my last night in Grizzly country, after seven weeks and one day.

Big Horn Sheep in ...

... Sheep Creek Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Utah.
The next day I stopped off at the Mountain Man Museum in Pinedale, spending several hours there.  As I was leaving I was showing the ladies on the desk some of my small Oils, when a chap named Sam showed interest and ended up buying the one of the Pinnacles in the Afternoon at Brooks Lake.  Then on down the through Rock Springs & Green River, where I located the view that Thomas Moran had painted more than once, and on down the west side of Flaming Gorge to Sheep Creek Canyon just over the border into Utah.  Here I saw Bighorn Sheep, a first for me.  I also decided to spend the night here amongst the Gold of the Autumn Cottonwoods.  The afternoon light was wonderful.  Who knew that three hours later it would be snowing while I was having my after dinner hot chocolate!  And I thought I was leaving the snow behind for awhile!!  Incidentally, the Thomas Moran viewpoint is pretty seedy these days, with railroads and small industries past their prime clogging the view.  It would be an interesting exercise painting it, retrieving the natural scene without the modern clutter. 

I awoke (07:23), looked out and saw a ram & 5 ewes of Bighorn Sheep passing just in front of the truck.  I watched them as they gamboled through the campground … a couple of the ewes would do these stiff legged leaps straight up on occasion, like domestic lambs I’ve seen … pretty funny stuff.  The snow began melting off with the Sun of morning, and I took the Sheep Creek Canyon geological loop drive, which is signposted with the various layers of strata as they appear along the road.  I crossed over the Uinta Mountains, which is made up of the oldest rocks in this part of Utah, and is also the only east-west mountain range in the country.  By evening I was in the western sector of Dinosaur National Monument; you will remember I passed through the eastern part of it on my way north to the Eclipse two months before.  I camped that night in the Green River Campground.

On the Green River, Dinosaur National Monument.
The next day I visited several sites, beginning with Josie Morris’s cabin at the end of the road.  She lived there alone for fifty years, passing away at age 91.  In her younger days she was acquainted with the outlaw Butch Cassidy.  About three quarters of a mile before the cabin the road forks and the right fork is signposted for 4-wheel drive and high clearance only.  I found that it leads to BLM land and that the road eventually climbs onto Blue Mountain and Point of Pines where I had camped back in August, but I did not make that climb just yet.

Josie’s Cabin.

Box Canyon where Josie corralled her cattle.
I camped for four nights on the way to the mountain, after going to the Quarry, where you may see a raft of Dinosaur bones still embedded in the rock.  This boneyard has been enclosed in an exhibition hall to protect the bones, in situ, from the elements.  The following are photos of Dinosaur bones at the Quarry.

Brontosaurus Skin Impression.

I remained in camp after that completing two paintings I had begun in Grand Teton National Park.  Finally I made the desperate climb up to my old campsite at Point of Pines.  The road is one of the steepest dirt roads I have ever been on, and there is no respite once you begin the climb, for it does not ease off until you have reached the top of the four mile climb.  I easily found my cliff top campsite, which was less than five miles distant from my previous camp.  I remained there for four nights, and is one of my favorite campsites of all time.  I worked on processing my photographs and other PC work, and my last blog post which was so infuriatingly time consuming to post.  But post it I did, and during each day I camped there I drove out to some of the places on the Harpers Corner Road I had visited in August, including the two mile trail at the end of that road, 3000 feet above Echo Park, and the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. 

Evening looking East from my valley campsite.

Morning looking Southwest from camp.

Canyon Corral.

The Elephant Toes.
Finally on Wednesday, the 18th, after nine days in Dinosaur National Monument, I made my way the nine miles to the Harpers Corner Road, headed towards the town of Dinosaur, but after another nine miles turned west onto County Road 16 (the Miners Draw Road), which after 24 miles in total, took me down beneath my Point of Pines camp, now only a couple miles distant, but a couple thousand feet above.  On the way down I startled a Pronghorn, who ran down the road before me for a half, maybe, three quarters of a mile before turning off the road … at times she was going about 30 mph.  This road took me through Snake John Reef (which sinuous geological feature I had been looking at for four days), to Hwy 40, and once on the pavement, through the Reef a second time as I headed to Dinosaur from the west.  Snake John Reef is made up of three layers of late Cretaceous strata rising gently from west to east, breaking the surface of the later alluvial soils, and representing an ancient coastal shoreline.  I do not know the origin of its name … no doubt there’s a story there.

Snake John Reef in the center
from my cliff-top campsite.

Sunset at Point of Pines …

… and in the valley below.
The lights of Dinosaur, about 10 miles distant,
with those of Rangely another 15 miles beyond.
Snake John Reef from on the way down
Miners Draw Road …

… and closer …

… and closer still.
… and at the cutting on US Hwy 40.

Imprimatura: Rublev Ercolano Red;

Drawing: Ercolano Red for the foreground foliage, & W&N Cobalt Blue for the mountain & distance;

Painting: W&N Cobalt and Cerulean Blues, Cadmiums Orange & Yellow Pale;

Rublev Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Ercolano Red, Purple Ochre, and Lead White #1 & 2.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Yellowstone sucks … Yellowstone doesn’t suck ...

(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.)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017_Thursday, the 5th; Yellowstone National Park.

“Snow Showers over the Tetons”
(Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
Oil Study on Centurian Oil primed Panel
5” x 7”

I have addressed this subject before, about the differences between studies, sketches and paintings, and this is a good example of an Oil Study.  The intent of this work was to study the stormy cloudscape and snow showers sweeping over the Tetons in the afternoon light.  This I did.  I could have left out the foreground forest and sagebrush meadow, as the subject of the study was complete with the painting of the sky and mountains, and the middle distance trees and foreground sagebrush meadow were incidental to the main study.  Be that as it may, I quickly dabbed in the trees and sagebrush, and it could now be termed a sketch, but for me it remains a study, for studying the sky was the intent.

Some final shots in the Grand Tetons National Park.

Out of my way ... No you get out of my way!

OK, Mate ... let's be off to the pub.

Reflections in a backwater of the Snake.

Evening light at the Oxbow.

Well … I finally made it out of the Big Tits Grand Tetons National Park, and wended my way north the few miles to Yellowstone National Park.  Just before you enter the Park through the south entrance the  Snake River is crossed, and here I stopped for a few photo-ops and was rewarded with the sighting of an Otter.  I got a few shots, but he/she being very aware of me kept his/her very wary distance. That was my last good luck of the day, which had started out cloudless & beautiful, but began to cloud over as I entered the Park.   Here at the south entrance, I asked if any of the campgrounds had closed yet, to which the ranger replied that most of them had and directed me to a large sign telling which ones were still open.  Of course if they were full up, I would have to leave the Park overnight, I was informed … Yellowstone sucks.

After working out the four open campgrounds and where they were I steamed along to my assignation with Old Faithful.  I had seen the geyser as a teenager and was looking forward to seeing it again.  Evidently the old bugger was spouting off as I was parking, and so had a roughly 90 minute wait, according to an old Aussie who had just missed it himself.  He was on a coach tour with his wife and had never to England … must have been the only Australian of his generation not to have done so!  While awaiting we also met a solo musician from Las Vegas who had just done a gig at Teton Mountain Lodge up on top of a mountain that I could see from my previous campsites.  Lucky swine had been in the two National Parks for two days and already seen two Black Birds Bears, while I had been in Grizzly country for almost seven weeks and seen neither Grizz nor Black Bears!  Meanwhile the partly cloudy skies deteriorated while we awaited the event.  We glanced to the north and saw a wall of snow swooping past west to east.  I was about to take photos when we were hit as well.  Almost losing my hat to the wind I and the expectant crowd retreated to the visitors center, where I stood outside beneath a side porch, and continued my vigil.  Well … I suppose Old Faithful blowing off in  blizzard is an interesting sight, but at my distance it was hard to really tell when it was spouting.  Photos were taken, but I could not risk my camera out in those elements, even if I were clad in rain gear, thus my vantage beneath the porch roof.  Yellowstone sucks.

After that it was driving off through the snow showers to the ‘Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,’ taking in Prismatic Pool on the way.  I was eager to see the Lower Falls, that I was familiar with through the paintings of various artists, but especially those of Thomas Moran.  Even with the overcast it is impressive, so much so that I returned the next afternoon, with a clear sky, to get even better shots. 

Lower Falls ...

... of ...
... The Yellowstone. 

On the way to the Canyon, I had checked out the Madison Campground.  It was awful … no space between campsites … a true campground suburbia!!!  I now headed for the primitive Slough Campground in the northeast sector of the Park.  It was full even though it was at the end of a five mile dirt road … Yellowstone sucks.

I drove back down the road and stopped in a lay-by half a mile from the highway to heat up my breakfast water, and heat up some soup for supper, and think about my options.  I was tired.  I had followed caravans of people to the various sites and at the various sites … and this is slow season!  Removing myself from the Park was not part of my petrol budget.   I shudder about the Summer here … Yellowstone sucks.  

While heating my water  I kept surveying the surrounding landscape with my headlamp on red ... I am in Grizzly country after all, and in the middle of heating my first kettle, sure enough there was a pair of eyes reflecting off in the dark!  I quickly turned my headlamp from red to white and then to full beam.  Now the eyes glowed silver, but we're too far away to see what  they belonged to.  I drew my bear spray, removing the safety.  The eyes were moving ... and coming towards my position, but at an angle.  Too low to the ground and too close together to be a bear, I reckoned.  Could be a Mountain Lion, but I figured it was too bouncy ... more likely a Coyote or a Wolf.  Wolves don't bother me ... I've camped with them nearby with my brother Doug up in the Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  If a Coyote, should be no problem either, unless rabid.  I finger ed the trigger og my cannister of spray.  They came on more straightforward, and the Coyote materialized on the edge of the lay-by 15 or 20 feet away.  It circled around the perimeter. Of the lay-by 180°, pausing occasionally trying to get a handle on what I was, but of course it was blinded by my bright beam of light.  I had been talking to it ever since I identified it as a Coyote, putting on my British Lobby's voice of authority,  "Move along now ... no nothing to see here ... there's a. Good laddie, now ... move along."  And so by and by Mr. Coyote did just that.  I noticed he was a bit scruffy, unlike the magnificent Coyotes out in the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Oregon, of three years ago ... those were all bushy and in top condition by the look of them.  After this Coyote had moved along,  I debated whether I should go ahead and heat up my chunky soup ... I decided to do so, without incident.  This really was the highlight of a suckie day.

After supper I headed down the highway, thinking I would pull into some layby and get a few hours dozing in the driver’s seat, but I found a side road with a place to pull into the trees about a quarter mile from the highway.  It was about 23:00 by this time so I decided to crawl into my sleeping bags.  I did not expect to see any Rangers out looking for errant sleepers, especially at this time of the year.  I was right, but I would not do this in the height of the season.  And so well rested I awoke to a new day and headed for the Mammoth Hot Springs, with a couple of stops on the way.  The hot springs are quite impressive, but you have to realize that only some of the various springs in the complex are active at any one time.  Those that are active are quite beautiful, but those that are no longer active can be quit drab as the travertine deposits crumble away, but even those are impressive memorials of their former selves.

On the Upper Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Angel Terrace.
As the day progressed the overcast of morning became partially cloudy to clear during the afternoon, and by the time I retraced my steps to the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, the lighting was magical in the Canyon.  Then on to the Artists Paint Pots and Gibbon Falls before egressing from the West Exit of Yellowstone; I also enjoyed seeing the steam rising out of an otherwise normal forest mountain landscape … a bit surreal.  That night I dispersed camped six miles west of Yellowstone.

On the Artists Paint Pots trail.

Gibbon Falls.

Yellowstone sucks mainly because of its popularity, and so, as stated, you find yourself following small crowds (at this time of the year), from wonder to wonder.  I expected that although I had lived in hope, but the main problem is that it is difficult to experience this Park on an extreme budget as I must do.  This is partly because of the size of the Park so it is not conducive to leave it at night and disperse camp in the surrounding National Forests.  The larger campgrounds are a suburbia nightmare, and the one small out of the way CG filled too early.  I think if those smaller campgrounds that had closed were still able to be used as just non fee overnight stops, as many National Forest campgrounds seem to be, that would be a help.

Now that I have experienced the suckie things about Yellowstone, I can form a strategy for next time, should there be one.  Come early or late in the season, as now, disperse camp just outside and enter early in the morning, so as to make a day of it.  Choose your wonders to see in advance and go to them, but be open to serendipity as always.  Shoot through in a day or two, using the Park as a way to get somewhere else, such as the Grand Tetons National Park.  Of course if I was younger and fitter there is the whole back country for backpacking and camping.  Yellowstone does have a surfeit of wonders to experience, and rightly so, and thus in spite of feeling like you are at a ‘natural funfair’ & following the crowds hither & thither … Yellowstone sucks … and yet Yellowstone does not suck!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Autumn Willows & the Grand Tetons.

(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.)

Friday, September 15, 2017_Sunday, October 1, 2017; Into Jackson Hole and the Tetons Range.

“Autumn Willows & the Grand Tetons”
(Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
Oil Sketch on Pannelli Telati fine Cotton Panel
5” x 7”

As you know from a previous post, I finally trundled into Jackson Hole on Friday, September 15th and immediately had a dusting of snow on me that night.  I mean, one day it’s 80°F and a couple of days later it’s Winter with snow falling and below freezing temperatures at night.  I expected it all to pass over within a few days, but heavier snowfalls occurred a couple more times during the following week, one of which I wrote about.  I spent all of the following week in the library, catching up on photo processing & filing, blog-work, emails and assorted PC work.  I also dabbed about town checking out the  Galleries & Shops, even though it was mostly just window shopping; I managed to get an offcut of leather for free, to make a case for my fork, knife & spoon set, that I have had since I ‘were a wee lad,’ the case for which has finally been falling apart, and has been held together with duct tape for the past 18 months.  Could I find a case that i might adapt for the purpose?  Not in all these months.  Now I need to find some time to work on it.  

Even though the library took up so much time, I was able to get a certain amount of photo-recon accomplished, while to-ing & fro-ing from my campsites up above Curtiss Canyon & town, and also in the mornings around camp.  Curtiss Canyon is on the eastern side of Jackson Hole, and thus in the Gros Ventre Range (pronounced ‘Gro Vaunt’, in these parts), and with views of the Tetons across the valley.  Now that I’ve finally begun exploring the National  Park itself, with extensive photo-recon, and painting, I am even more impressed with the area.  The Teton Range is one of the finest series of peaks that I have seen, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps; only the High Peaks of the Wind River Range on the west side might compare, or perhaps the Sierra Nevada of California, which I’ve not yet seen.

And there is wildlife to be seen too(!): Bison, Elk (the same as Red Deer in Europe, although ours are larger … in Oregon, larger still), Pronghorn Antelope, and one cow Moose.  Oh, and wild people too who brake suddenly and swerve to the side of the road, without warning, leaping out of their vehicles, cameras in hand, to click away at the hard-pressed wildlife studiously ignoring the clickers.  I have clicked away myself, but have pretty much avoided the sudden braking and swerving … I have usually seen the hap-hazard parking along the roadsides well in advance for me to sedately slow down and calmly choose my parking spot for my clicking endeavors … many times without needing to leave my vehicle.  I have heard coyotes in Curtiss Canyon, but have yet to see them or the Wolves or Bears that make this area their home.  Oh, I did see a nonchalant Red Fox, lying on a rock not 15’ from the roadside, as I drove slowly drove through Jenny Lake Campground last Monday.  I managed four photos, two of which were rushed as he decided to move off after my two shots while he still lay on the boulder.  

As I write this I am camped at dispersed site #2 on Shadow Mountain, seven miles from the main Visitors Center at the south end of the Park, and with the rain just beginning to fall.  It will turn to snow sometime later in the night, and the temperature will only get a couple of degrees above freezing tomorrow.  I am going to attempt to post this blog entry from my phone, as I have intermittent 4G, but a weak signal.  Not many photos, I’m afraid.  

It is now two days later, Monday, and in the intervening time there have been intermittent snow showers (continuing throughout today), and I saw a young bull moose not a mile down the road as I was leaving camp.  I was going to try posting this last night, but I was not able to access the Internet.  

Mt. Moran from near Moosehead Ranch.

Storm over Mount Moran.

Stormlight on the Gros Ventre side of the valley.

Storm over the Tetons.

Afternoon … Grand Teton.

Of course the Tetons were named by the Mountain Men in the very early 1800s (think Leonardo di Capprio as Hugh Glass in “the Revenant,”), many of whom were French Canadians, and means ‘tits,’ and the biggest of them all, the Grand Teton … ‘Big Tit’ ... all I’ve got to say about that is pretty gnarly tits … those Mountain geezers were out there … perhaps a bit too long … one might think.

Well ... posting this from my phone is really trying, especially getting the photos into the mix ... luckily a flock of Juncos just flew in and are pecking around in the bare patches between clumps of melting snow, providing a calm in this storm of blog posting from this small device!!