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.

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