I went backpacking for a few days last week up in a new pocket of the Sierras for me. I was intrigued by some of the lake names: Disappointment, Hell-for-Sure, Mosquito. Sometimes the less inviting the lake name, the more spectacular the lake… someone, in naming it, wanted to keep it from becoming the overcrowded Yosemite Valley. I couldn’t have been any less disappointed with Disappointment Lake and if that’s what Hell-for-Sure looks like, I know where I’m going. They were right about one thing, though. The mosquitos were hungry everywhere this season, as are all the late season wildflowers from the heavy snows this year.
16×20″ oil on canvas– This is one of my favorite spots on the John Muir Trail– which is saying something because there are so many gorgeous lakes strung like turquoise beads on the path from Whitney to Yosemite. But these lakes just below timber line at the base of several granite peaks and the play of light on them is dramatic. Have you hiked this section of trail? You might recognize Glen Pass in the top right corner.
I love looking back at this sketchbook from backpacking this summer. When you take the time to sit down and make a drawing or a painting of something, all your senses are absorbed. The sketchbook becomes a time machine and can flash you right back to that vivid moment… even years later as I’ve found with my old college sketchbooks.
Oil on Canvas 25.5×34″ –This is the first backpacking sketch that I’ve turned into a finished oil painting. Lauren named this place on the east side of Sawtooth Pass “Marmot Paradise” for all the happy groundhogs who call this place home who were whistling, running amok and eating the vibrant grasses in these high meadows. I took pictures of the original sketch and my backpacking painting kit so people can see the setup. I used a lightweight sheet of corrugated plastic as a laptop desk with a clip-on water container. Notice the wet paper towel that I squeeze my paints onto… it wicks water up into the paints to keep the dry mountain air from solidifying them. No stand up easel this trip, but after hiking fifteen miles over a pass, who wants to stand?
20×48″ Oil on Canvas– This is a big studio painting I have been working on based on a sketch of Hamilton Lake in Sequoia National Forest this summer. My tent was in a flat spot near the pines on the right and I woke up and watched the warm light crawl across this wonderland. There is another lake at the top of the cascade in the center of the painting that was still snowbound… and miles and miles of mountains and lakes for us still to explore to the north and south beyond. (Detail)(Detail)
So, the lakes out of Big Pine don’t have the most creative names. (First Lake, Second Lake, Third… through Seventh.) This has nothing to do with their beauty, though. Don’t judge a lake by its title. My daughters took the liberty of renaming them all and swimming in most on a recent backpack adventure. I snuck away three times to paint Third Lake, our base camp. (all are 10×20″ acrylics)
Lauren prefers her flowers wild and unpicked in the meadow… it is one of the many things I love about her. One nice thing about painting is I can still bring them home for her.
16×20″ Oil on Canvas– This bend in the creek was down the hill in my backyard growing up. I have known it for thirty-three years now. This winter the meadow flooded and I got to see first hand how oxbows form and a creek finds a new path. It could be seen as distress to the landscape or it could just be seen as change. I think of many of my favorite places over the years that have been subject to avalanches, forest fires and other setbacks and have realized that in most cases this is a way of setting the clock back and allowing those areas to spring back and regenerate. Nature is patient and distress simply provides a blank canvas.
10×20″ acrylic– So nice to watch the sun rise over the large snowmelt mirror of Hamilton Lake. I wished that I could freeze time as the light and shadows creeped far too quickly across the granite faces. Thanks to photographer Cameron Wolfe who I met backpacking up there for the pictures he took!
10×20″ acrylic– This is the first pass you come to heading east from Sequoia. The meadows, creeks and rivers down the back side are well worth the trek. To the west, smog and haze from the many wildfires in California right now have settled in the central valley… the visibility is only a mile or two. On the flip side, it makes for some incredible sunsets.